My baby was born on Monday. William Emeth (the ‘h’ is silent), 7 lbs 7 oz, after 12 hours of labor. John is basically the best dad ever– he is literally the baby whisperer, somehow a lactation expert (multiple times he’s come over and re-attached the baby for me, shown me a better way to hold him, etc.), and also has changed 99% of the diapers so far. And is waiting on me hand and foot. Amazing. My precious mom has been in town for a few days and has been selflessly washing every dish, doing all the laundry, and giving our little place a thorough scrubbing down. So thankful and completely in baby heaven. It might be awhile before I write more, but I just wanted to let everyone know.
38 weeks pregnant. Haven’t cooked a real thing in the kitchen in weeks. It’s been toast with avocado smushed on it, or toast with liverwurst from the Piggery, or toast with scrambled eggs or toast with cheese or toast with sardines or beans with tortillas. And collard greens. And celery with hummus. That is literally all we have eaten for weeks I’m pretty sure. So not much to write about in that department.
I am experiencing a weird, not quite out of body but close, kind of feeling. Just super loose and a little clumsy and I can feel my brain encased in a fog. It’s bizarre but also kind of awesome. The baby’s head is down (thank goodness) but posterior (hopefully he’ll roll over at some point?!). Doing cat/cow pose as much as my wrists and knees will allow. We’ll see.
Anyway, since I don’t have much else to write about I thought I would share some of my favorite books about pregnancy and birth. Most of these I checked out from the library, many of them more than once. I read several others but these are the ones that stand out. (Actual photo of my huge self below.)
Health, Herbalism, and Nutrition
Real Food for Mother and Baby, Nina Plank. Great book about prenatal nutrition, and not just the typical “eat lean protein and drink skim milk” kind of stuff– Nina talks about raw milk, eating chocolate and having the occasional glass of wine. She also talks about foods for fertility, breastfeeding and first foods for baby. Really enjoyable read.
The Natural Pregnancy Book: Herbs, Nutrition, and Other Holistic Choices, Aviva Jill Romm. This is a wonderful reference book for pregnancy. (This was probably my version of What to Expect, which I didn’t read, and I wouldn’t recommend.) The first half contains a ton of information about what to expect during pregnancy, information about diet, posture, exercise, even a chapter called “Emotional Changes by Trimester,” which is incredibly affirming and helpful. The second half is basically a reference for various ailments that commonly occur during pregnancy (backaches, constipation, fatigue, heartburn, etc.), and how to treat them naturally. She gives herbal and nutritional remedies and includes recipes for different teas, etc. I followed her guidelines for a mild UTI early in pregnancy (rather than taking the antibiotics that my first doctor prescribed) and it healed up in no time. I’ve been using the library’s copy of this, but it would be worth buying as a reference.
Herbal Healing for Women Rosemary Gladstar. Oh, this book, how I love it. How I do not love the taste of red raspberry & nettle leaf tea, but I do love this book. Recipes for salves and lotions and mostly teas and tinctures to help with various issues and ailments. A TON of great information on herbs to take for fertility issues through the end of pregnancy, covering specific ailments during pregnancy as well as general teas and formulas for toning the uterus, etc.
Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year Susan Weed. Another great book on herbalism, focused exclusively on (obviously) the childbearing year.
Pregnancy & Childbirth
Spiritual Midwifery, Ina May Gaskin. Part midwifery manual, part collection of amazing birth stories from the Farm, this book is a must-read for pregnancy. The birth stories at the beginning are beautiful and inspiring. No birthing horror stories– just positive, encouraging narratives of natural births. The rest of the book gives you a lot of great detailed information about labor and delivery, written as an actual manual for midwives, but also good stuff to know. John read all the way through this one and knows more about birth at this point than I do.
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Ina May Gaskin. This book also contains a lot of birth stories but doesn’t include all the super technical instructions for midwives that Spiritual Midwifery does. Just really great information about birth from a perspective that you’re not going to get in What to Expect or other mainstream books. A must-read. This book also has some great pictures, including one of a baby emerging face up (p. 58), which ladies, you must show to your husbands at some point to startle them out of their minds.
Natural Hospital Birth, Cynthia Gabriel. If you’ve read a lot of other books about natural birth, parts of this can be a little repetitive, but I found most of this book to be really clearly written and a helpful overview of what to expect during labor, ways to cope with pain, etc. A really, really good read for women wanting to give birth naturally in a hospital (and a great section on why hiring a doula is the best idea ever, if your partner needs convincing, which blessedly mine didn’t).
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, Henci Goer. Great and super informative overview of a lot of the medical stuff surrounding birth.
Hypnobirthing This one is a little out there, I’ll admit, and the cover is a little creepy, but it also might be my favorite book about labor. The premise (which the author adopted from Grantly Dick-Read) is that fear of pain during labor actually causes more pain. It’s a little seductive, because the author says that birth doesn’t have to be painful, so I think it would be possible to read this and then get really discouraged when labor turns out to be, well, painful. But there are some great exercises in it for breathing and staying calm during labor, and this is one of the few books that I still care to read at this point– no super technical terminology or worst case scenarios. Just calm, encouraging, positive perspective on the birthing process and super practical, if totally out-there, exercises to practice for labor.
Anyway, I’d love to hear if any of y’all have great pregnancy book recommendations, or if anyone has a different perspective on any of these books!
(This is a repeat post. Sorry, guys!! Life has been busy here, between nannying 3 year old twins, being 8 and a half months pregnant, and all the rest of it. I’ve realized that we’ve been eating super, super simple meals lately so I thought I’d post this one again.)
So here are some simple meals that require between 2 and 3 ingredients and take less than 10 minutes to make and cost less than $2/serving.
The success to a simple meal lies in the quality of its ingredients. Organic eggs, some good cheese. This philosophy of eating was inspired by the time I spent with a precious French family who I worked for as a nanny in college. They took me with them to France a few times where a meal would often be: some bread, butter, cheese, and radishes. And a glass of wine. But it was really, really good bread, really, really good cheese and butter, etc. There is something sort of beautiful to me about eating this way, especially during busy/tired seasons like this.
Just spread onto sprouted bread, add the tiniest amount of real sea salt, and voila. It is the most delicious thing ever.
Bread and Cheese
Has anyone ever read Heidi? The toasted cheese and bread, anyone? This meal just makes you want to be a goat-herd in the Swiss alps and sleep on a bale of hay covered with a cotton sheet in the loft of a little cabin.
The only necessary thing here is to not buy reduced fat cheese. Please, please trust me.
I like Cabot cheese a lot– it’s pretty economical, and delicious. For bread: I have been particularly fond of sprouted bread for the past few years. Has a nice, toothy, rustic quality to it. Variation: corn tortillas and cheese, ie, quesadillas. If you haven’t discovered the absolute magic of corn tortillas, please, please try again. La Banderita is the best.
Eggs and Tortillas
Doesn’t need much explanation. Buy the best eggs you can afford. The secret is to cook the tortillas for 3-4 minutes on low heat with some olive oil in a pan to soften them up. (In this picture: sprouted corn tortillas. Super fancy, and this will probably be the last time I buy them because they’re too expensive. But I just wanted to give them a try and they are amazing. You can find them in the fridge or freezer section in health food stores.) Serve with Texas Pete or some salsa, if you want.
Beans and Tortillas
I’ve written a post on a great recipe for refried beans, and it’s delicious. But I usually have a few cans of pre-made refried beans in the pantry for nights when chopping up half an onion seems too much. Just heat them up in a pan, warm some corn tortillas in a skillet with some olive oil. And voila. Just add hot sauce. (Obviously you can dress these up with some salsa, avocado slices, cheese, etc.)
Pasta with Olive Oil and Garlic
This is a beautiful recipe, the terrible photograph above notwithstanding. I promise I am not filming a horror video about food; it’s just that it is always dark in Ithaca and it’s hard to take decent pictures. Just avert your eyes. Anyway, when I was in divinity school I lived briefly with two engineering students, one of whom was a visiting scholar from Italy. We only had dinner together a handful of times, but each time this is what it consisted of: a bottle or two of red wine and some real salami (or some kind of Italian cured meat) on the table. The other non-Italian roommate and I would eat salami and drink wine while the Italian would cook pasta, sautee some garlic in olive oil with a little bit of fresh red pepper, and then we would eat. It was divine.
Anyway, the recipe is basically: Cook the pasta in salted water according to the package directions. warm some (e.v.) olive oil in a sautee pan on low heat, add about 2 garlic cloves per person and 1 dried red chili (or some red chili flakes because who really has dried chilis on hand) and sautee until the garlic is just barely beginning to brown, less than 2 minutes. It’s better to err on the side of undercooking the garlic. Remove the chili pepper (if using a whole pepper; if using flakes, leave them). Toss the oil and garlic mixture in the pasta and enjoy.
It was in the 60s today, and the sun was out. Old hat for everyone who doesn’t live in a sub-arctic region, but for us it was pure heaven. The baby is due in a month and the “nursery” is still full of our office-y kind of stuff and all our other storage spaces have seem to run out of room. So we went on a sort of cleaning/clearing out frenzy today. Or I started to and then John graciously stepped in and helped.
So now I have a bag for Goodwill and another bag for Trader K’s (a consignment store here that gives you store credit for nice used clothes) ready to go. In the past few weeks I’ve also taken bags full of books and random, unused home goods to donate (sheets for beds we no longer have, some kitchen things that never get used, pillows we had too many of). So now we have a little more space. Though the nursery is still half office and pretty much a mess.
I think the usual thinking with having a baby is that you’re adding another person so you need a bigger car and a bigger house or apartment or whatever. Our thinking has been: let’s get rid of enough stuff so that we can bring in a baby and still have enough space to breathe. This means that we’ve had to clear out our 8.5′ x 7.5′ guest room/office to make a nursery. We’re keeping a high shelf on the wall with some office things, but we got rid of our twin bed (sorry, guests!) and we’re going to buy a new bookcase from IKEA for our living room to move the rest of our office-type things into (as well as all the books that are double stacked on our current bookshelves).
Along with getting rid of things we’re also trying not to accumulate much new stuff for the baby. We got a mini-crib instead of a full-sized one (we’ll see how long it lasts– the mattress can be adjusted and goes down almost as low as the floor). We have a desk/table that we might use for a changing table if it fits in the room once we get a little dresser in there. If it doesn’t fit, I’m going to change the baby on an old towel on the ground.
Anyway, the room is still in progress. I’ll post more pictures once everything is finished.
Also, for the record, I’m not trying to be all “look how frugal and simple we are,” because most people in the world would look at our tiny apartment and think that we must be some kind of royalty. (Running water that is clean! Electricity! Pantry and fridge full of food!) And some people we know here lived in a 400 sq ft. apartment with 2 babies– the younger of whom slept in her car seat for 6 months because there wasn’t room for two cribs. And there are people who have more space than us who are able to take care of foster kids or offer rooms for people to stay in. So I’m not saying that we’ve arrived at some holy pinnacle of simplicity or that we’re virtuous because we live in a (relatively) small apartment. Not at all.
I’m just writing this for people who for whatever reason live in a small-ish space or for people who feel like they are too cramped wherever they are. I’m just saying that you don’t (necessarily) need a bigger house or apartment. It’s possible to go through boxes and drawers and closets and find things to give away or sell or donate and carve out enough space to stay right where you are. And if any of you have ideas about how to make a nursery in a small space I would love to hear your thoughts!
Resources for clearing out clutter & living simply:
Simple Mom (blog with lots of ideas for organizing and living more simply)
Great series on simplifying:
From Clutter to Clarity (book)
(Photo from here)
Just ran across this blog called “One Hundred Dollars a Month.“ It’s about how this woman feeds her family of four on…….. one hundred dollars a month. It looks like she raises chickens and has a substantial garden, so sure. BUT she also gets huge boxes of basically free produce from a grocery store. Read about how she does it here. If I can get up the courage to ask I’m going to try to start doing that, and I’ll keep y’all posted.
I know it’s been awhile. Life has been a little busy. John and I went to the panhandle of Florida for a long weekend visit to his brother’s family. It was wonderful to see them and also wonderful to bask in 70 something degree weather for a few days. It’s funny how much you can start to miss sunshine. We came back to snow on the ground and more snow last night.
We stopped at the grocery on the way home so I could buy a bunch of collard greens. After a day of airport food all I could think about was some sauteed collards. I’ve been eating a lot of those lately. Don’t know if I’ve mentioned that. At 32 weeks pregnant I am mostly craving heaps of chocolate ice cream (which I try not to eat) and collard greens (which I do try to eat). Maybe I can write out a semblance of a recipe for them soon. (But until then here’s a good basic recipe that works for collards as well as the suggested kale or chard. For my greens I use the basic elements of her recipe, but I don’t use parmesan and I cook the stems and also usually add a little splash of apple cider vinegar and some hot sauce and maybe 1 tsp. of honey or maple syrup if I’m feeling really fancy.)
Also when we got home John wanted to check my car to make sure it would turn on (the battery has been a little temperamental lately) and sure enough the battery was dead. So at 9:00 after a full day of traveling (three separate airplanes…) and in the freezing cold he took my car to get a new battery. Incredible man.
But back to the point of this post: Heidi Swanson just posted a collection of some of her favorite soups on 101 Cookbooks, so I thought I’d share the link for any of you who live in a land of perpetual winter and might want a little inspiration. I’m trying to decide which one of these I’d like to make this week. Maybe this one? Or this garlic soup…..
First of all, everyone listen to this. (J. Kameron Carter preaching at Wheaton on Exodus 17. It is stunning.)
At a church dinner this weekend, some friends of ours (one of whom works at a farm) brought a beautiful microgreens salad. Dressed only with lemon juice and salt. It was one of the most perfect things I have ever eaten.
Microgreens are basically the very young shoots of plants such as lettuces, radishes, peas, beets, kale, etc. Research has found that microgreens contain 4-6 times the amount of vitamins as their adult counterparts. And the taste is sort of wild and fresh, the purest essence of the flavor of each plant. So delicate and flavorful that only the merest gesture of dressing is needed. Our friend said that his farm sells them for $40/pound at the farmers’ market. We could never afford to buy them, or at least not more than one individual stem at a time.
So when he gave us a bag with the leftover greens after dinner I was ecstatic. A treasure. I didn’t have any lemons today, but I made a little sauce (as the French call salad dressing) with the juice of half an orange with about 1/4 tsp. salt stirred in until it dissolved. Oh the joy.
Here’s a little information on how to grow them yourself if you’re interested.
Earlier today I saw my reflection in the glass of the map of Beaufort we have hanging on the wall, and it looked nice. So I took a picture. 10-ish weeks left to go. Already having a little trouble bending over to fasten boots, and my coat doesn’t zip.
We had a pancake feast for lunch today, which is becoming part of our family Lent tradition. (Sundays are considered feast days during Lent, days on which to break your fast and celebrate. So part of our celebration involves eating pancakes.)
Yesterday we went over to our friends’ house, where John and the guy bottled the batch of beer they’d started a few weeks ago. I stayed inside and chatted over tea with the wife while she made a chocolate cake. They had just started their maple syrup, which was simmering in the woodshed.
Last night I made a Moroccan chickpea salad (from 101 Cookbooks). With carrots and chopped up prunes, of all things. I needed something to take to a potluck, and our fridge and pantry are getting bare, but I did have some prunes, a can of chickpeas, half a lemon, and a few carrots. It was delicious and is my new obsession. Everyone, make it and tell me what you think.
On a completely unrelated note from this recipe: I just read about this organization that gives regular people a somewhat unorthodox but very practical way to help women who have been victims of sex trafficking. This gives a brief summary and includes a series that CNN did on the organization. I started tearing up when Paul the shipping guy and the truckers showed up in this story…. Truly, it is worth watching and getting involved.
As for the recipe. I bought a bunch of cilantro a few days ago to put in some chicken soup. I didn’t use all of it in the soup, so I decided to make a sauce out of the rest. With garlic, lemon juice, and some good Greek yogurt. It was secretly inspired by our friend Dave’s cilantro dip, which I think he makes with sour cream and is heavenly. I didn’t measure anything, so below are somewhat approximate measurements. Add more salt or citrus at the end until it tastes delicious.
I put this on top of a bowl of lentils and rice for dinner tonight, and it was wonderful. I’ve been trying to eat a lot of lentils lately, for the baby. (One cup of cooked lentils has 90% of the daily recommended amount of folate, 36% iron, 62% fiber, plenty of protein and a host of vitamins and minerals.) Lentils are also super economical, especially if you can buy them in bulk at a health food store.
You could also use this as a dip for tortilla chips or as a great topping for tacos or burritos or anything like that.
Creamy Citrus Cilantro Sauce
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 c. cilantro
1 c. plain, whole milk yogurt (or sour cream, or sour cream plus cream cheese for a thicker consistency)*
juice of half a lemon or lime (depending on the size of the fruit and how citrus-y you want this to taste, you might want a little more)
1/2 t. salt (or to taste)
In food processor, mix garlic and cilantro until chopped very fine. (If you don’t have a food processor, just chop them up as finely as you can manage). Mix in remaining ingredients and taste to see if you need to add a pinch more salt, or a little more lemon or lime juice.
Makes about 1 cup. Plan for about half a cup per person.
*You could also use two avocados in place of the yogurt or sour cream to make this vegan/non-dairy/etc.
* To make lentils and rice: put about 1 c. lentils and 1/2 c. rice in a pot and water until the lentils and rice are covered by about an inch. Bring to a boil and then simmer until both rice and lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. (The cooking time will vary based on the kinds of each that you use.) Add 2 t. salt, or to taste. Serve with slices of avocado, some lemon or lime wedges, and this sauce. Perfect meal.
I woke up with a pretty bad sore throat this morning, so out came the elderberry syrup and honey and apple cider vinegar and ginger. I drank a spoonful of the syrup and mixed a spoon of honey with a spoon of the vinegar and drank it with a little tea. And then I cut up the ginger into tiny pieces, and put it in a pot of water to make ginger tea. (According to traditional Chinese medicine, ginger is one of the best remedies for colds and congestion.) And then I decided to throw in my last stick of cinnamon and a dozen or so peppercorns to make chai tea.
And as I’ve been drinking it this morning I decided to re-post the recipe for this, in case anyone else is a little under the weather, or just feeling cold. Because, at least in upstate New York, this is the time of year when you just start getting tired of being bone cold all the time, and you know that there’s still a long time of coldness ahead, and you realize that you need to cling to the little graces of winter, mugs of soup and hot tea and the warmth of your best friend next to you at night.
4 c. (about 1 liter) water
2-4 inches of fresh ginger, unpeeled* (exact amount not necessary)
7-10 whole cloves*
10 black peppercorns*
2 sticks of cinnamon*
10 green cardamom pods* (Optional. I’ve never actually made this with cardamom because it’s so expensive, but it is traditionally one of the dominant spices in masala chai)
1/4 t. loose black tea
milk of some kind, just not skim
sweetener of some kind (optional– 5 or 6 drops of liquid stevia work nicely with this)
* You can use powdered spices if you want, though the fresher they are, the better. (Also, if you are going to buy any of these spices, please, please check a natural grocery store’s bulk section first. You can save a ton of money buying any of these in bulk rather than the tiny, overpriced containers in the grocery store. When you buy in bulk, the price per pound is dramatically less, and you can buy smaller quantities of spices that you aren’t going to use much of.)
Bring water to a low boil and add ginger, cloves, peppercorns, and cinnamon. Boil for about 15 minutes (longer for a stronger chai) and then add a pinch of black tea. Continue boiling for a minute or two more. Strain the liquid and discard the spices. While the mixture is still warm, you can add a sweetener if you want. Add just a little at a time.