Friday, January 23, 2009

Me at 3 or 4

Finally learning how to use my scanner!

Here's me as a little girl . . . My hair looks like it's double strand twisted but my mom actually used thread to kind of wrap my hair (a popular traditional hairstyle). I love this picture and when I look at it now (indeed all my many childhood and teenage pictures), I can't even understand how I believed the lie that I was ugly! Here's to embracing the truth and eschewing the lie! What a cutie!!

A Book and A Burger: Two Recommendations

First the book. I really love reading and books. Sometimes I think I'd like to go back to school to become a librarian just so I could always be around books. I know that the times are rapidly changing and with things like Kindle, books will most likely go the way of tapes and compact disks. But I still love to hold a book, smell its pages, lay it on a table with a bookmark stuck in it, close it shut, thoroughly satisfied after I've read it. But I digress . . .

More than the romance of book reading, I love the usefulness of books. Reading is how I learn best. In my quest to live a more natural life, reading has been the one tool that has really informed and enlightened me.

So today I'd like to share one book that has really helped me keep my house a non-toxic place and I'm recommending it today after cleaning my hardwood floor with a recipe from this book: Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan. Sometimes we think chemicals will do a better job of cleaning because they are harsh and are marketed as able to do "all the work" for us with little or no effort on our part. But no chemical laden wood floor cleaner has come close to the one I made up here at home using basic ingredients. This is the best cleaner bar none for cleaning hardwood floors. And the greatest thing about it is that I don't have to hold my nose or brave an all out allergy attack episode in order to have sparkling, beautiful hardwood floors. There are many other recipes in the book but it also gives lots of useful information about commercial cleaners and rates the effectiveness of all the recipes she gives. She also recommends natural cleaners. But with just vinegar, baking soda, Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap, and essential oils, the whole house can be sparkling clean and fresh smelling without the dangers of chemicals. Now, I'm going to be completely honest: I still have bleach and Ajax powder cleaner in the house but these are very rarely used nowadays. I have a white enameled cast iron sink and mostly, these two chemical cleaners are the only things that will get it white, i.e. the stains out. (More and more, the non-whiteness bothers me less and less.) I also use Bio-Kleen All-Purpose Cleaner in the Kitchen for the stove and appliances (Dr. Bronner's Sal's Suds is just a bit too strong for me and basic castile soap is not strong enough on the grease). So essentially what I'm saying is that you don't have to be a purist but it's a great step in the right direction in terms of your own health and the Earth's health when you quit using chemical concoctions to clean your whole house. There are plenty of effective alternatives and this book is a nice guide to helping you find the one's that work for you.

Now the burger. I found the recipe on Vegan Dad, a fabulous and creative blog. The burger is called the Perfect Tempeh Burger and that it is. It is flavorful and has a great texture that is similar to the texture of Amy's California Veggie Burger. Also, if you buy your tempeh at Trader Joe's where it's less than $2, for the price of one box of Amy's burgers, you can make this recipe twice, i.e. about 12 burgers. Unfortunately for me, it's obvious that I cannot tolerate wheat gluten so this recipe is not one I can eat. I'll be sticking to The Absolute Best Homemade Veggie Burger. But this is a great one to make for the hubby and I think with a little tweaking of the spices, it could be a nice breakfast patty.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reuse

A few months ago, we went to Costco and bought these organic animal crackers to go with our evening tea. It's actually a pretty durable tub and we were so hesitant to throw it away so we held on to it at the risk of feeling packrat-ish. Our basement, where the washing machine and dryer are, is a bit damp and so any powdered laundry detergent that is not in an airtight container will get really clumpy. It's just not fun breaking up big clumps of soap to do laundry (diapers specifically). So we bought the latest box of powdered detergent and I had resolved to just take the soap down any time I needed to do the wash. Then the hubby remembered the Costco cookie container. We re-used it to hold soap powder.

The packaging for some of the stuff we buy as Americans is just really unnecessary. Too much plastic. Too much paper. Just too much. Personally, I hate all the waste. I hate that we are living in such a throw-away society. One-time use this and disposable that.

But I love to be able to re-use things, I mean really usefully re-use things. I saved all the wrapping paper and gift bags from Z1's baby shower. He's 3 now and I am just now running out of gift wrapping stuff! I always save the wrapping paper, ribbons and stuff because to me, it's just not garbage. I go to the thrift store not only because it's thrifty but because the clothes there are usually very slightly used. I know we could get so much more out of them before they go in the trash.

Not to get on any high horses or be preachy but I think we are all coming to see now that we are to be guardians and stewards of the Earth in whatever little or (and big) ways we can. A whole bunch of little gestures make a grand one.

Anyway, what have you re-used lately?

Extending the Life of My Digital Camera

So yesterday I wanted to upload some pictures of me wearing Z2 in the carrier from my camera. No matter how I held the cord or jiggled it, I couldn't get the pictures on to the computer. I figured it was time to finally bite the bullet and get a new camera. I already know the one I would get. No more than $100 with good reviews. But I thought I would go to Best Buy and see if maybe I could find another cord thinking that maybe the cord was worn out and that was the problem. Well, Best Buy didn't have a cord but they did have a memory card reader which cost me about $18 with tax. Not bad. So basically all I have to do is pop the memory card out of the camera and into the reader and I can transfer my pictures this way. The hubby doesn't hold out much hope for this alternate method because he thinks that soon enough, the camera will stop being able to use the memory card altogether. Too much moving of parts and eventually the port will get worn out or break--there's only so much you can do to get around planned obsoleteness. I think if it extends the life of the camera another year or so, it's cool. We might see the price of the camera we want go down a few bucks. In any case, I will probably not be popping it in and out all the time so I'll try to wait till I have a few pictures taken before I transfer them. So anyway, here's to posting more pictures on the blog.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What if?

The Inaugural Poem was hard for me to listen to. It was a bit too, ummm, prose-y. Sounded like a speech or a creative story. But I had said that I would find the text and read it because I had read a post by Anxious Black Woman about the poet Elizabeth Alexander as a poet to watch. I searched for and found the text of the poem and I think the problem was just the delivery because it was a beautiful, just beautiful (actual) poem:

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

I absolutely love it.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.


What if??

There's Freedom in Babywearing

This post has been a long time coming. I had a draft saved from November and am now taking the time to write about the one thing that has so powerfully influenced my experience as a mother: babywearing.
Now, "babywearing" is just the new, modern term applied to something that is ancient and original to African peoples (as well as to other people all over the world). In many places, the primary form of transportation for babies is not strollers, "bucket" car seats or cars. It is mama's back. There's nothing new under the sun and today "babwearing" is all the rage. You can even find designer baby carriers and, at the risk of sounding snarky, folks who get all on their high horse about how much better carrying babies is for the baby as if we, the original peoples, haven't been carrying babies on our backs for millenia. As if they've just "discovered" a la Christopher Columbus style, something new and fascinating in it's "primitiveness".

You see, carrying your baby on your person is just practical. In our traditional African society (and in many other traditional societies), women didn't leave their babies to go to work. Your baby went everywhere with you. And the way this was achieved was through babywearing. When baby was ready to nurse or use the bathroom, you just undid the fabric and tended to his/her needs. It was simple. Fluid. Part of every day life. Not a part of "attachment parenting" or any kind of showy demonstration of how "in touch" a mother was with her child. It was natural. It was original. It was naturally and originally and authentically attachment parenting.

Since I had been born and raised in the U.S., I did not know many aspects of Igbo culture. The food we ate was predominantly foods we would have eaten in Nigeria but for the most part, culturally speaking, I grew up as an American with Nigerian parents. As a child, my grandmother spent extended time with us on two occasions: once when my little sister was born and once when my little brother was born and it was during these times that I learned a lot about the culture I came from. "Mama" would sometimes go outside to hang clothes on the line (after washing them by hand because she felt the machine didn't get them clean) without a top on, breasts exposed. My mother promptly told her that here in America, that would be indecent exposure. Mama found underwear (panties) to be extremely uncomfortable and wouldn't wear them. My mother told her that here in America, people wear underwear. Most importantly for me to see, though, was Mama carrying my brother on her back with a wrapper, a simple piece of fabric, part of an old dress. She carried him to do everything: cook, clean, wash clothes. He would fall asleep back there and be most comfortable and content. I didn't think about that again until I had my first son.

After giving birth to Z1, I was immediately impressed by how much he needed to be held. Other babies seemed to sleep and sleep some more. Z1 slept for 5 minute intervals and then would wake up screaming and inconsolable. For one month, I was completely unable to do anything other than hold Z1. I'd try to do things one handed or else leave him in his bouncer screaming just so I could get something done. My babywearing was a result of necessity. We'd tried the Baby Bjorn and if he was angry before, he was positively irate at being placed in that thing. Add to that the fact that to me, it felt cold and mechanical with all the straps and buckles. It didn't feel right. So I went online and started to search for something that would hold him close to me so that he'd feel secure and tight. That's when I realized just how many various kinds of ways there are to wear your baby. The theme though is that they are all just pieces of fabric. Some are more complex then others but all of them keep baby close and secure. I won't try here to talk about every kind of baby carrier because there are fabulous resources online where you can learn anything and everything you ever wanted to know about babywearing. I'm just going to speak on the the types of carriers I've used.

The first type of carrier I bought was a stretchy wrap called a Moby Wrap. A wrap is basically a long piece of narrow cotton fabric (about 5 yards long). There are two main kinds: stretchy or woven. I opted for the Moby Wrap because it was cheaper than any of the woven wraps on the market at the time and I loved it for a newborn. It was soft and pliable. Z1 also loved it and spent the majority of the day in his wrap. It was perfect for him as a newborn. As he got older though, the stretchiness of the wrap made it difficult for me to wear him comfortably. Also, because of the length of the wrap, I couldn't put him on comfortably if we were out without the fabric dragging all over the floor. By the time he hit 16 lbs (at 16 weeks), I was on to the next carrier.

The next carrier I used was a sling. I bought an Ellaroo Lightly Padded Sling on Ebay and it was very handy in that I could put it on and pop Z1 in quickly. By this time, he could support his head well and would sit upright. (Z1 didn't tolerate the sling as a newborn because he did not like to be lying down.) The Ellaroo was nice but I didn't feel like I could tighten it as tight as I would like. So I took out my sewing machine and sewed a sling using this pattern. It was an easy project considering that all I really knew in the way of sewing was how to thread the machine. The sling I sewed was perfect and met my needs for a long time. Slings, however, have the drawback of not distributing weight evenly and so by the time I'd carried him for about 30 minutes, I was in pain.

It was at this point that I thought about my grandmother and how she carried my brother. I really don't know what took me so long. Since I hadn't paid all that much attention to how my grandmother actually got him up there, I hit the web to try to figure out how to carry Z1 using a wrapper. I found excellent videos on The Mamatoto Project that jogged my memory. As soon as I figured out how to carry Z1 with my wrapper (which doubled as my summer blanket and bathrobe), I quickly abandoned the sling. I felt liberated with Z1 safely out of the way on my back but with him so happy and content back there. I felt so close to him and he felt so safe back there. He never cried back there. Could stay there for hours. And, even though it had come in such a roundabout way, I felt so connected to my grandmother and all Igbo and West African mothers who were wearing their babies this way. It felt so natural and so right. The other carriers I had tried were great but nothing could compare to carrying my baby the way my great grandmother carried my grandmother and the way my grandmother carried my mother and my baby brother. It is to this day my favorite carrier. Two years ago when we visited Ghana, Z1 was two and I was pregnant with Z1. This simple piece of fabric came with me to Ghana and was how I carried my little one there. I felt so connected to all the other mothers I saw on the road who held their babies this way--such a commonplace sight. Nobody gawked and told me how cool I was to carry the baby that way. It was so powerful and fabulous. It's a great bonus that the wrapper is so small. It takes up no space in my bag and I can use it as a blanket for the baby if I need to.

I have tried other carriers including an Asian Baby Carrier which I sewed myself using this pattern. I love this carrier too even though I am not as emotionally and spiritually attached to it. It is, still, a traditional carrier and so I do have a soft spot in my heart for it. This carrier is great because the weight is evenly distributed and for older, more active babies it gives them a little bit more room to wiggle their legs and arms while not needed to be retied which means it feels a bit more secure. It's also a little bit more rugged--I feel more comfortable running around after Z1 with Z2 on my back in the ABC carrier. Before I sewed the ABC carrier I tried an Ergo baby carrier and while many people swear by the Ergo, it was uncomfortable for me and Z1 and also felt a little to "un-roots", i.e. un-authentic (very similar feeling to the Baby Bjorn).

Babywearing is liberating to me in a lot of ways. With Z2 on my back I clean and cook and do so many of the things I need to do including using the bathroom sometimes and teaching or doing puzzles or other activities with Z1. Z2 is content back there on my back and I can do so much. I don't even know how folks who don't wear their babies get things accomplished.

The baby that is worn feels safe and loved. The babywearing mother is secure knowing the baby is so close. You can naturally fend off unwanted touching of your baby because people are less apt to violate your personal space. You are naturally free to use both of your hands. For those of us working to get that baby weight off, the extra weight makes mundane activities such as picking up toys or climbing stairs to do laundry calorie burning tasks.

I still have my strollers (a single and a double) which are invaluable to me especially during winter months when babywearing outside is largely impractical and uncomfortable for me and often dangerous. Deciding to wear your baby doesn't have to be an all or nothing kind of thing. Using your stroller doesn't mean that your baby will not feel safe and loved! Please understand: that is not the point I am trying to make! Some babies (like Z2) really enjoy being in the stroller (and in the pack and play for that matter). Babywearing is simply one more tool a parent has in his/her possession that makes the job of parenting easier and more joyful.

Babywearing can be as simple or as complex as you'd like. As roots or as designer as you wish. You don't have to spend hundreds of dollars on a carrier if you don't want to. If you'd like to start babywearing or if the baby carrier you're using now isn't working for you, there are so many options out there. Please check out these resources and WEAR YOUR BABY:
The Babywearer (you have to sign up but it's well worth it)
The Mamatoto Project
The Babywearing Forum at Mothering.Com
The Tummy2Tummy Project (an instructional DVD)
Wears the Baby

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History


I didn't get the time yesterday to blog about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I wanted to do the post justice. But I'm taken by the significance of yesterday (MLK Day) and today (Obama's Inauguration). This picture says so much (and also leaves a lot unsaid). As a mother, I'm especially moved by the inclusion of Emmett Till and those Four Little Girls in this picture. I pray, hoping against all odds and all history that we are well on our way to equality and justice for all.

My favorite quote from Dr. King (and the one that's under my picture in my high school year book):

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.

I am working every day to be that kind of person, a person of character. And I'm working too to raise men who stand.

Unlikely Expressions of Self-Love

I spend quite a bit of time washing little people and things so my hands are in water a lot. I know that many folks deal with dry skin during the winter, myself included. My hands being wet so often would be a recipe for really rough, painfully dry and cracked skin. So when washing dishes or cleaning, I diligently make sure to put on a pair of latex gloves. My favorite kind are Mr. Clean Mega Grip Latex Gloves with Grippers because they are durable, come up high on my arm and have little grippers that keep things from slipping out of my hands. They are also orange which is a nice change of pace from yellow (tee-hee). Wearing the gloves also allows me to wash using very hot water which is essential for cleaning things like my cast iron cookware. I'm mindful to take the moment or two to put on the gloves even though many times I'm tempted to just wash the one or two things in the sink and not bother.

After bathing the Z's or washing their hands or my hands, I'm diligent about putting on lotion. My favorite is Avalon Organics Lavender Hand and Body Lotion. It is an all-natural lotion that is luxurious. It absorbs quickly to leave my hands feeling soft and looking healthy. My second favorite is Trader Joe's Lotion which is unscented and is a little cheaper than the Avalon. It works well too.

In addition to gloves and lotions, I pay attention to keeping my nails clean and trimmed. My nails are naturally strong and grow very long. I've never worn tips or had any kind of set and every time I go to get a manicure, I'm always complimented. (This makes up somewhat for my hair issues). With young kids though, long, manicured nails are impractical but I still like to have a nice looking hand (and feet too).

Every night before I go to bed each night, I put lotion on my hands and feet and lip balm on my lips. I may not be able to go all out in terms of a beauty regimen but I want to keep things looking healthy and beautiful, keep the foundation strong. Believe it or not, these little actions of putting on gloves, lotion and lip balm are some of the ways in which I put myself first, take care of myself first. Often times, I am doing these things while a child impatiently waits to be picked up or is loudly demanding a snack. It's so easy to just try to rush to get things done and forget the tiny little things that make me feel better about me.

Who knew that putting on latex gloves, applying lotion and lip balm could be such powerful expressions and affirmations of self-love?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sacred Space Changes Things

A few weeks ago, I thought I would benefit from setting up an altar. While I don't have all the things I thought I would have liked to have on it, the few things I do have are meaningful and help me to focus inwardly.

So there's a candle which represents my inner light/represents me as a light being and serves as a point of focus when I'm chanting or breathing. There's feathers which represent air, the air I'm breathing, the breath of life that cleanses and rejuvenates/energizes. There's a bamboo plant which represents life but also sustainability and renew-ability. The plant sits in water which also represents life. I have an incense holder that holds the incense I burn that helps me engage my sense of smell and the rock (from Ghana) represents the Earth and reminds me to be grounded.

I call myself "original wombman" not because I'm obsessed with my womb but because the womb is representative of creativity, love, and renewal, acceptance and embracing my femininity--embracing me. On the bottom shelf, I have a mat that I unroll and sit on cross legged. Somehow this position makes me very conscious of my womb. On the shelf above, I have my books on meditation and the chakras as well as my journal and pens.

The cloth on top I bought ages ago and never had a good use for it. I love it for this purpose--woven material is especially nice to touch and feel and the color (orange-red) is bold and engages my eyes. The table itself is an old end table that we brought up from the basement, wiped down and polished (re-using what you have already). Conveniently, it's got doors on either side and I keep my lighter in one side (away from the view of children).

The altar itself is in the living room and I had kind of wished it were somewhere more private but we just don't really have any space any where else. I was concerned about weirding my parents or other family out when they come by but whatever. I didn't realize how much I needed this altar. Chanting in front of the computer posed too much of a distraction. After 2 minutes, I'd get antsy. In front of the altar, I can easily chant for 10-15 minutes or more. I really enjoy sitting there just breathing or writing or reading. I've noticed so many changes in myself most notably that my patience has tripled and the days go by more smoothly and peacefully.

I won't recommend setting up an altar to anyone though. It's got to be a desire born inside you to be effective and not some forced spiritual exercise. For me, spending a few minutes there every morning has proven to be the most powerful and effective way to start my day.

And I'm so fascinated by the fact that the boys don't bother it at all . . . it'a almost like it's not there to them.

Sacred Space Changes Things!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Coffee Grinder: Another Useful Kitchen Tool and Millet: Another Healthy Delicious Whole Grain

I've found my coffee grinder to be a very useful tool in my kitchen. I have a Hamilton Beach Custom Grind coffee grinder which I bought at National Wholesale Liquidators for $15 or so. I use it for a number of tasks, none of which happen to be grinding coffee since I don't drink coffee much at all. (I love the way coffee smells but I'm not really fond of the taste--not even Ethiopian coffee has persuaded me although it's probably the best I've tried.) I sometimes use it to process small amounts of food for Z2 or to grind spices. My 14-cup food processor is just too large to handle small loads so it's great that the coffee grinder fills that gap. Most importantly, however, it makes short work of grinding seeds such as flax seed and grains like oats and millet.

I was introduced to millet in Cathe Olson's book The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook which I've recommended before. From Wikipedia:

The protein content in millet is very close to that of wheat; both provide about 11% protein by weight.

Millets are rich in B vitamins, especially niacin, B17 (see nitrilosides), B6 and folic acid, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Millets contain no gluten, so they are not suitable for raised bread. When combined with wheat or xanthan gum (for those who have coeliac disease), however, they can be used for raised bread. Alone, they are suited for flatbread.

As none of the millets are closely related to wheat, they are appropriate foods for those with coeliac disease or other forms of allergies/intolerance of wheat. However, millets are also a mild thyroid peroxidase inhibitor and probably should not be consumed in great quantities by those with thyroid disease.

Millet is a tasty grain that we generally eat as a porridge although you can cook it and use it in the place of rice or grind it and use as a flour in baking.

Millet Breakfast Porridge
one part millet
5 parts cold water
non-dairy milk (I use hemp or almond milk)

Start by toasting the millet over a medium flame until the millet is golden brown and fragrant. Let it cool and then grind it fine in the coffee grinder. Combine the ground millet with the water and cook over medium heat until very thickened. Add milk to loosen the millet up to desired consistency. Note: when I was working outside the house, I would toast and grind the millet while preparing dinner. That way in the morning all I'd have to do was add water and in 3-4 minutes, breakfast would be ready.

I used to enjoy millet with organic cultured, pastured butter, which I had started to eat when I had eliminated all soy from my diet to get at the cause of my hair loss, a bit of pure Grade B maple syrup and a dash. Now I just sub the butter for Earth Balance or no oil at all (the boys like it this way). The hubby prefers his prepared like grits with a little bit of salt, pepper, and Earth Balance and that's it (no sweetener).

To use millet in place of rice, place 1 part toasted millet and 3 parts water with a dash of salt in the rice cooker.

I get my organic millet for the best price from the bulk food bins at Whole Foods.

Shucks!!

Z1 is a hella picky eater. If it doesn't look right, he won't eat it. He gets that trait honestly as I'm a very picky eater too.

About a month ago, he was all about fish sticks. The only place to get simple fish sticks breaded with whole grain flour is Whole Paycheck. Whatever, I paid the exorbitant price in hopes of achieving a homemade fish stick he would actually eat. he liked the store-bought and ate them without a fight. Now he won't touch them. I've got like 3 boxes in the freezer.

Well, for the past two weeks, he has been all about tofu ravioli. I tried it on him like a year ago and he looked at me as if I had acquired another head. Recently, though, he loves it. I hadn't read the ingredient list in a while and truthfully was just so happy I found something he likes and requests (i.e. I don't beg him to eat). But the flour is "enriched" which means it is bleached. So, of course, they won't work anymore as an every day kind of food. Making it should be easy enough. I just have to figure out how to make whole grain pasta dough. I would use the tofu ricotta filling which I use for lasagna to fill the ravioli's. Not quite sure how the dough process works. Kinda too tired to think about it but I already found this on making the dough.

Z1 also likes pizza a lot. When I make pizza with the tempeh sausage crumbles and the sauteed veggies, he sloughs them off and ends up eating bread and tomato sauce. I'm going to bake bread on Tuesday and will also be preparing pizza dough which I will divide into small ziploc bags to make Z1 mini-pizzas. He does eat some cheese (raw organic) and so I can sprinkle a little on that.

It's so challenging dealing with a picky eater. Z2, so far, likes whatever you give him. Thank goodness.

You know, those damn ravioli's are too damn expensive for them not to use quality flour. Shucks!!!

Macaroons-revisited with success!!

I have been on the quest to find a macaroon recipe that yielded a pastry delight that was coconut-ty, almond-y, crispy on the outside but moist and delicious on the inside. I tried not-so-long ago but the macaroons came out too cookie-like. Prior to that, I had been using the macaroon recipe from the Candle Cafe Cookbook, which was excellent for those looking to avoid cane sugar or would like a gluten-free dessert. It is wholesome and delicious and perfect just the way it is but requires quite a bit of maple syrup which is far too expensive these days for me to be using that liberally. Also the recipe calls for spelt flour and safflower oil which are also relatively expensive and difficult for me to get. So I changed the recipe around to use unbleached white flour, simple syrup and vegetable oil.

Macaroons
1 1/4 cup unbleached white flour
1 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 teaspoons arrowroot
1 cup shredded carrots (peel the carrots, chop them up into big pieces, toss them in the food processor with the s-blade)
1/2 cup sliced almonds (if you buy them whole, just chop them in the food processor using the slicing disk)
3/4 cup simple syrup*
1/3 cup vegetable oil or other flavorless oil
2 tablespoons Ener-G Egg Replacer
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, mix all wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix well. Add chips if desired. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Drop batter onto the baking sheet 1 tablespoon at a time (I use a small teaspoon to help me get the dough out in a nice round ball). Bake for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack.

*To make a simple syrup, dissolve 1 cup of sugar (turbinado or other unprocessed granulated sugar--it needs to have some depth of flavor of its own not just "sweet") into 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Note that this makes a little more than what is needed for this recipe.

To make these even more decadent and special, melt some chocolate chips and a bit of milk in a double boiler. Spread a sheet of newspaper under the cooling rack to catch any dripping chocolate. Dip each macaroon in the melted chocolate and place them on the cooling rack to set.

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So I made these yesterday and they were fabulous. I was very pleased and I can officially say the quest is over for these are the perfect macaroon in every way.

I think I'm done . . .

. . . having kids.

I always thought I wanted to have at least 3 children and 4 seemed to me to be the perfect number. I envisioned me and my husband surrounded by my four children. When the hubby and I had the talk about kids (before we got married), he made it clear that he only wanted two. I knew that four would be out of the question but got him to agree to think about having three. After our experience with high-spirited Z1, I'm pretty sure one would have been enough for him. Z1 really gave us a run for our money and the mellow, laid back hubby was really out of his element. But we got pregnant with Z2 soon after (Z1 and Z2 are 2 years and 4 months apart and while I think that's a great age difference, it wears on the hubby). Still he's come around to the idea of three except that he needs a nice big break between Z2 and Z3--say 4 or 5 years. And I completely understand and agree.

I realized last night while lying in bed that I'm done. I mean, I would love to have a little girl and do all the things you do with little girls--dresses and hair braiding and all that. I've worked so hard and I've finally gotten myself together enough mentally and spiritually to give my daughter what she needs--self-confidence, self-love, self-acceptance. But I am really looking forward to the next chapter of my life: homeschooling or going back to school and maybe even both. I finally have a clear vision for my life. It took the "derailing" of my school teacher career and my subsequent career as a homemaker/SAHM to finally figure out what it is I would love to do after this phase of my life is over and I'm thoroughly excited. My vision, as luck or grace would have it, fits right in with homeschooling and with running my household the way I'd like. But this phase of my life has to be over so that I can move on and I really don't want to drag it out because I saw how fast Z2's first year of life went. Time waits for no woman and now is the time. (How's that for a sentence of cliches?) If I did decide to get pregnant, I want to be done having children by the time I'm 30 so we'd have to have another child in 3 years. But it's so unbelievable that now that the hubby is willing and open to another baby, I'm not. I can see me and the hubby surrounded by our two boys and that being perfectly fine and complete. I know I can provide over and above for the children we have now. We have the perfect space in our house for them. The perfect space in our cars. And I have ample energy to give them what they need in terms of mothering and educating. I know love is such that it can expand and accomodate but honestly? Twins run in my family. I certainly don't want to be dealing with twins. And there's no guarantee that the next baby will actually be a girl anyway. And while I'd love whatever sex of baby I birthe, I couldn't help to be a bit ticked off it I had a boy. So why go there? And why add extra financial strain especially in these unsure economic times?

I have savored every moment of becoming a wife and a mother. I feel blessed to have been able to do it while I was relatively young. I've had the phenomenal and empowering experience of giving birth unmedicated twice. I've had the privilege to do it in the peace and comfort of my own home once. I've had and am having the opportunity to mother on my own terms and in my own unique way. The experience has been priceless.

Mothering is a noble calling and job. Oftentimes, it is self-less. I have never believed it to be "just mothering" and I know from having done it that you could commit yourself to the job of mothering full time for a lifetime and get complete fulfillment from it as your sole job (please note: it is a job and like any job you need to take a break sometimes and do things that nourish and sustain you!). There are some mothers who do devote their lives to the job of mother and I respect and honor them as much as I respect and honor any woman with advanced degrees, any female "mover and shaker". Mothers move and shake in other ways that are usually behind the scenes and rarely acknowledged. I know many beg to differ but I believe in my heart of hearts that mothering (not "being a mother" which is simply biological) is "enough". More than enough. If a woman chooses to add on more to that job, more power to her. Nobody says that someone "just" has a Ph.D. The level of respect for that person only deepens as they notches to the belt. Mothering can be "the end" like a Ph.D. or just the beginning; just the first notch.

For me, mothering is just the beginning and it has been a great, grounding start. My children have taught me so much about myself and I am strengthened in so many areas of my life because of them. But there's more for me. There's something after. And I am seeing what that something is more and more clearly each day.

Z2 is only one year old though so I don't know if he's old enough for the baby bug to hit again. It might. It hadn't quite hit yet when I found out I was pregnant with him. I hadn't recovered yet from Z1. *chuckles* But, yup, for now I think I'm done. Door is not completely locked and sealed with the key thrown away and an alarm system enabled but for right now, it's definitely closed. And, to my surprise and pleasure, and I'm fine with that. Very fine with that. :)
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