Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Home Birth of Jillian Rose


                It all started with a dirty rug. One Saturday afternoon when I was 39 weeks pregnant, Chris and I decided to haul both of our large area rugs out to the backyard to give them a much needed cleaning. When we lifted one, we noticed the mold growing underneath it, which immediately triggered an allergic response, but the job had to be done. The next day, while searching for lunch for my daughter Addalyn, a rogue orange also covered in mold dropped from the top shelf of the pantry onto my shirt, sending a cloud of mold spores into my face.  That was all it took. For the next week, I was miserable with one coughing fit after another. Bronchitis is difficult enough to deal with on its own, let alone at very full-term pregnancy. By Friday, I was begging for assistance with child care and my prenatal care provider came to my rescue so that I could rest. Saturday evening, I had several strong contractions which picked up again on Sunday morning, only to come to a frustrating halt mid-afternoon, chalked up to an irritated uterus from all the coughing I’d been doing.

                Even though that Friday, May 24 was my 40ish-week guess-date, neither I nor my husband or care provider thought we would be having a baby that week. After all, Addalyn had been born a full three weeks beyond her guess-date, and at her newborn exam she really did have all the indicators of being a 43 week baby. So I definitely expected to cook this one a little longer than 40 weeks and 3 days. I didn’t really consider the fact that my coughing fits might trigger labor. In fact, when the contractions stopped on Sunday afternoon, I sent Tracie (my care provider) a text around 3pm telling her to please go and visit her kids in Texas (about a 3 hour drive), because it was her birthday weekend and I didn’t feel like anything was going to happen. In fact, my words were, “There is no baby in my immediate future. Please go!” As it turned out, I was wrong. Really wrong. Because unbeknownst to me, in about 18 hours I would be welcoming my baby girl earthside.

                The contractions started getting heavy when I went to bed on Sunday night. We went to bed around 10pm and when I wasn’t asleep an hour later due to the repeated discomfort, I decided to fiddle with my phone and find a contraction timer app, because I couldn’t really tell yet whether these contractions were any different than the prodromal ones I’d been having all weekend.  Over the next few hours, they got closer and longer and stronger and by 2am, I texted my birth attendant that I was 99% sure I was in labor, and that I was going to take a warm bath and try to relax. She immediately sent a text back that she was on her way and leaving her daughter’s house, which is almost 3 hours away from my house.  I sent her a screen shot of my contraction timer, which only proved to make her foot a little heavier on the gas pedal knowing that I’d been in labor now for three hours, and this was the first I’d mentioned it to her.  (Hey, it’s serious business to wake someone up at 2am! I wanted to make sure it was the real deal and not just our fourth very convincing false alarm in the space of a week!)

So I took a bath. Poured in my Epsom salts and a few drops of my favorite lavender essential oil, and I tried to relax. It worked to a point, but it didn’t do anything to lessen the intensity of the contractions. About 10 minutes into my bath, I realized I hadn’t washed my hair in a few days (in typical mom fashion, especially since I had been sick) and somehow decided that was a point of concern, so I washed my hair so that my birth support team wouldn’t think I was a slimy greasy slob. (Because that is what close friends focus on when they come to your birth…NOT!!  Well, I felt better anyway!). I stayed in the tub about 45 minutes. Got out and dried off between blowing through contractions, got dressed around a couple waves that nearly dropped me to the floor, and texted back “Yep, there is DEFINITELY a baby on the way!”

At that point (around 3am), I decided to let Chris know that it was go time. I had left him sleeping because I needed the quiet just to focus on myself and my baby until I was sure.  I walked back into the bedroom to hear him jokingly ask “Are ya gonna live?”  I told him I was definitely in labor and he was out of bed in two seconds.

The next hour or so are a blur in my memory as I went back and forth between the bed, the couch, my birth ball, walking and rocking and trying to labor as quietly as possible so I wouldn’t wake Addy.  I told Chris I was fine on my own for the time being, and asked him to work on filling the birth pool. Tracie arrived shortly before 4:30, having handily made that three-hour drive in a mere two hours and fifteen minutes. (She says she wasn’t speeding!)  I think I was laying down when she arrived, but as with my first labor, I soon realized that the bed was not my happy place and for a moment, I empathized with moms everywhere who are forced to labor on their back in a bed attached to IV bags and monitors for a doctor’s convenience, and in that moment I was so grateful that I had the freedom to own my birth.  I was so glad Tracie was there and felt like I could relax.  I said through my entire pregnancy that I was perfectly comfortable with having an unattended, unassisted family birth, and that was true – but I REALLY appreciate having a motherly figure for support while I am laboring, and especially someone who had taken care of me during my pregnancy.

I think my friend Hannah, who had also been with me during Addy’s birth (even let me chew on HER fingernails while I was pushing the baby out! See Addy's birth story), arrived somewhere between 5 and 6 am.  All I remember is that I needed warm water and I know she and Tracie were both there and resting in the living room when I headed for the shower. I turned on the water about as hot as I could stand it, got in fully clothed in a tank top and shorts (I didn’t even care!) and rocked on my hands and knees with the stream of water hitting the small of my back and stayed there until it started getting cool. In hindsight, that probably didn’t take long since Chris was busy filling up the birth pool and also using the water. (He was also checking on me periodically, but I discovered with this labor that it was good for me to be alone during this stage with my Lord and my body and my baby.)  While I was under the water, I found myself singing and worshiping my Lord and Creator, praising Him for the miracle of birth and for the baby I was soon to meet, taking strength in the calm before the storm of transition into hard labor. I remember telling God that it would be so cool if my baby were born in the caul (inside the amniotic sac, in other words, that my water wouldn’t break until she was being born).  I remember singing these lyrics:

"In Christ alone, my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand."
”In Christ alone, my hope is found.
He is my light, my strength, my song.
This Cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest draught and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace
Where fears are stilled, when strivings cease.
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ, I stand.”

 

When my hot water ran out, Chris helped me out of the shower and into dry clothes. I combed my hair (another definite point of concern during labor – I remembered feeling embarrassed after having Addy when I looked in the mirror and discovered I looked like a psychopath with my wet hair that had dried in crazy wild ringlets all over my head!). Deciding I was ready for some company and support, I opted for my birth ball in the living room, where I could hang out with Tracie and Hannah.  I was quickly learning that laboring with a posterior baby (her spine against my spine, instead of her back being nestled in my belly) is not very fun. Tracie improvised a few rebozo techniques with a bed sheet (a rebozo is a long Mexican scarf that, when handled and moved in a certain fashion, can provide some relief from discomfort and sometimes help a baby to turn).  That helped a little, but it did not last long.  I had one contraction right there that almost undid me and that I will probably not forget, ever!  It sent me rolling frantically to my side and as far forward as I could get, but I was not in any position to try to brace myself to blow through it like I had been previously.  It felt like I was being cut in half and I think both Tracie and Hannah felt it with me, because something that painful definitely had to LOOK painful!



                Addy woke up around 6:45 after all the noise of that horrendous contraction, followed by the traditional (for me) throwing up just before I hit transition stage.  Hannah took over her childcare duties, periodically ducking in the room to take pictures, since she was pulling double duty as my birth photographer also.

 


 
I laid on the bed with Tracie sitting next to me, and she reassured me as I began to shake uncontrollably.  It was that point of transition where I was hot one moment and FREEZING the next and my body was on overload and getting ready to do a big job. A few minutes later I sat up on the bed and cuddled Addy for a few minutes before another wave of contractions hit. I wanted to get in the pool so badly, but I also didn’t want to move because my mind was already moving into my dazed “labor zone” and I couldn’t focus on real life long enough to actually move between contractions.  Chris and Tracie talked me into the pool and I immediately felt so much better – for about ten seconds!

 

 
 
Once I was in the pool, my body meant business. One hard contraction after another until I broke and started moaning (and then yelling!) “NOWWW!!  I want my baby NOWWW!!” Tracie squatted at eye level (for a really long time…serious squatting skills!), locked eye contact, held my hands and helped me remember to blow and gave me the eye contact, focus, and grounding that I desperately needed and wanted but couldn’t seem to find on my own.  I shifted between kneeling with my arms draped over the side of the pool, holding onto the side and squatting, laying back with Chris supporting me with his arms hooked under mine, and rocking on all fours.  All the while, I was absolutely yelling at my body to give me my baby NOWWW because I wanted to be DONE with this labor business!  I remember asking myself (and maybe everybody else) why I had been looking forward to labor and agreeing with ladies everywhere that an epidural sounded really great right then, although I was really quite grateful that I did not have that option because I might have given in to temptation. Birthing a posterior baby is sooo not fun!!
 
 
 


Every time I questioned my bent toward completely natural childbirth, my wonderful friend Tracie would ask me to remind myself why I was doing this: because un-medicated birth was the very best start in life that I could give to my baby. Even though I was so under the influence of labor that my speech was slurred, she prompted me to tell myself again that my body is specifically designed for birth and encouraged me to visualize what was happening inside as I waited for my body to do its job. My body was doing the work completely on its own, with little to no voluntary pushing on my part. I couldn’t have stopped it or slowed it down if I’d wanted to, and at that point I simultaneously wanted to stop it or speed it up so I could be done with the hard work and meet the little lady who was doing just as much work inside as I was doing on the outside. 

To this point, Hannah had been in and out of the room snapping photos and tending to Addy. Tracie called her in when she felt I was getting close, and she got Addy settled on the bed to watch her sister be born (along with Lucy who had been laying on the bed the entire time, and came nose-to-nose with me like a little furry labor coach while I was draped over the side of the pool).
 

After an eternity of the gut-wrenching contractions that, to me, were still feeling kind of unproductive, I begged for help and Tracie gently suggested that I try standing and rocking my hips a bit.  I did NOT want to stand up.  I whined like a two year old and said “Nooooo!”  But, when I got up, I suddenly felt the baby begin to drop into the birth canal. That was the moment of purpose when I snapped out of my la-la-land for a minute and realized that I knew how to get that baby out, and instead of just trying to zone it out and survive it, my brain finally buckled down to focus on helping her out.  I didn’t manage to stand up for long – maybe a minute – before I was back down on one knee, then squatting, and then kneeling on the other knee.  I don’t remember how many times I changed positions, but I stayed up on my knees and finally, FINALLY, the baby began crowning. And I don’t mean gently – I mean, she crowned so fast that I thought she was going to shoot out of me before I was ready and for a moment I was scared I might tear.  I think Tracie is still laughing at the irony of me immediately changing my tune from “Baby, come out NOWWWW!!”  to “WAIT! NO!! NOT YET!! SLOW DOWN!”  I reached down and touched that downy soft head, and then I had just enough time to rock back on one leg and give one good push as my hips automatically flicked forward and she shot out into my hands. What a dream come true! I had been determined that I would catch my own baby as she entered the world and I had done it! 

 

Another answer to prayer was that she was still wrapped in the caul, although it had broken just as her shoulders cleared, and Tracie pulled it over her face as I brought her up to my chest.  Oh, what a moment!  The sheer joy of pulling my sleeping baby (who could sleep through all that?!) onto my chest made that whole ordeal worthwhile. She was covered in vernix so thick and creamy that she looked as if someone had lathered shampoo all over her and forgot to rinse it off. I could see right away that she looked like a mini Chris.  I was completely oblivious to Hannah taking pictures and capturing that precious moment of Chris looking at her over my shoulder while Tracie brought Addy around the other side of me to see the new baby. A minute or so passed before I even thought to check gender, because even with my strong instinct of a girl from the beginning of my pregnancy and an accidental reading of a gender-revealing ultrasound, I had had so many third-trimester dreams of having a boy that I truly got a surprise when I discovered I was indeed holding a perfect baby girl. 
 
 

Jillian Rose arrived earth-side at 9:08am on Monday, May 27, 2013, which just so happened to be Memorial Day.  She came after approximately nine hours of labor and 25 minutes of involuntary pushing.  Thanks to Hannah, we were able to determine that I had only been in the pool for 45 minutes (WHAAAT?!) before Jilli arrived, based on the fact that Addy had watched “a whole Baby Einstein and half of a Veggie Tales.” It makes me smile so big that my labor and birth were so unmonitored that no one had any real clue how long it had actually taken. I think Tracie may have used the fetoscope once or twice, but there were no Dopplers or vaginal exams or interventions or interruptions to my body’s process. And Hannah got some stunning photos of birth and the moments following.
 

 

My placenta came very quickly, within five to ten minutes of birth, and I was ready to get out of the pool and lay down with my little one.  Soon we were snuggling skin-to-skin in our bed. I think I dozed off for a little while and when I awoke I still could not believe that I had spent all night in labor and given birth to this beautiful little baby laying on top of me, still covered in vernix and trying to nurse.  We cut the cord about 2 hours after her birth and weighed her the next day at 7lbs 8oz.

I had absolutely the best birth I could have asked for. Completely unhindered and undisturbed and without fear of anything going wrong. Would I do it again? Absolutely. In the words of my husband mere moments after I delivered my second child, “Two down, six to go!”
 
 
 
(For more photos, please send me a message on Facebook to be given access to my private album.)

 


Friday, August 3, 2012

Freezer and Slow Cooker Recipes

Last week I bragged a bit on Facebook about the fact that I had just prepped four great, healthy meals for the slow cooker and put them in the freezer for later use, all for just a little bit of money.  Everybody instantly wanted the recipes.  I have to give my bestie Sarah all the credit for sharing these recipe ideas.  Here's the list she sent me a couple of weeks ago.  (Please note you may need to increase the recipe for a larger family.)

Freezer meals for the slow cooker:
2 - BBQ Chicken
2 - Teriyaki Chicken


Freezer Meal / SlowCooker Meal Ideas

*I consider one meal enough to feed 2 adults for dinner plus have some leftovers for lunch the next day!*

Italian Crockpot Chicken (1 Freezer Meal)

*Everything for this recipe goes into the bag raw*

4 Chicken Breast

16 oz Fat Free Italian Dressing

1 Packet Dry Italian Seasoning

½ C Parmesan Cheese

4-6 Red Potatoes

½ bag mini carrots

Close up the bag, mix and bit, and Voila!

Reheating: This can go in the Crockpot while still frozen. Add about ¾ C Water or Chicken Broth. Cook on low for 8 hours, or high for 4 hours.

Chicken Macaroni Bake (1 freezer meal)

¼ C Onions, chopped

2 Tablespoon butter

½ C Milk

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 ½ C Chicken (or turkey), cooked and cubed

4 oz shredded cheese

8 oz pasta (any kind)

½ C Bread Crumbs

Directions: Prepare pasta according to package direction. Brown onion in butter. Stir in Soup, chicken, milk and ¾ cup cheese; heat until cheese melts. Blend sauce with cooked noodles; pour into buttered 8x8baking dish (I use the throw-away aluminum ones you buy at the store). Mix the remaining cheese and bread crumbs and place on top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until hot.

Freezing Instructions: Prepare up to the point of baking - DO NOT BAKE. Place foil on baking dish and write the following instructions: "Remove Foil. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes (if thawed) or 1 hour (if frozen) or until hot.

Chicken and Black Bean Chili (4 freezer meals)

4 Chicken Breast, Boiled and Shredded

56. oz tomato sauce

30 oz. Black Beans

30 oz Corn

2 Onion, Diced

4 stalks of celery

Garlic Powder

Directions: Chop everything up, put into a gallon sized freezer bag and put into freezer. When ready to cook, de-thaw and put into Crockpot on low. (Everything is already cooked; it will just need to be heated up)

BBQ Chicken (Crock Pot) (2 freezer meals)

*Everything for this recipe goes into the bag raw*

Chop the following ingredients and divide them between2 bags…

3 sweet potatoes (cubed)

1 Zucchini, chopped

1 onion, sliced

2 green bell peppers, sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

4-5 chicken breasts, diced

In each bag place…

8oz Tomato Paste

1 T Worcetshire

2 T Brown sugar

1 T Mustard Powder

1 Garlic Clove

½ t Salt

Close up the bag, mix and bit, and Voila! Reheating: This can go in the Crockpot while still frozen. Add about ¾ C Water or Chicken Broth. Cook on low for 8 hours, or high for 4 hours.

Layered Enchilada Casserole (1 freezer meal)

1 lbs of ground beef (or turkey), browned

1 can diced tomatoes, drained (15 oz)

1 can black beans, drained (15 oz)

1 10oz pkg Cream Cheese

1 Packets Taco Seasoning

3 flour tortillas (I used 6 inch)

Directions: Mix the ground beef, tomatoes, beans, and cream cheese in a bowl. Combine Well. Place a ½ C Mixture on bottom of an 8x8 pan (I use the throw-away aluminum ones you buy at the store). Top with 1 flour tortilla. Top tortilla with beef mixture and cheese .Repeat layers and end with beef mixture on top and top with last bit of cheese. Wrap in aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn. Label.

Cooking Instructions: Thaw and bake uncovered at 350 degrees 30 minutes or until heated through.

Teriyaki Chicken (2 freezer meals)

*Everything for this recipe goes into the bag raw*

Chop the following ingredients and divide them between 2 bags…

1 Large Bag of Baby Carrots1

1 Red Onion (cut into large chunks)

1 20z can pineapple (undrained)

2 Garlic Cloves

4 Chicken Breasts

In each bag place…

½ C Teriyaki Sauce in each bag

Directions: Unthaw Meal; add ½ cup teriyaki sauce to mixture. Cook on High for 4 hours or Low for 8 hours. Serve over Rice.

Tater Tot Casserole (1 freezer meal)

1lb ground beef, browned

1 can cream of mushroom soup

½ C Milk

1 small package of Tater Tots

3 C Shredded Cheese

Directions: In a small bowl mix 1 can of soup and fill the empty can 1/3 full of milk. Mix the milk, soup, and 2 handfuls of shredded cheese. Microwave about 2 min and stir in the browned beef. Put the beef mixture in a freezer bag. In a separate bag, put 1 C of Cheese. You will also have 1 bag of frozen tater tots.

Cooking Instructions: Remove the beef mixture and cheese from the freezer and let thaw. Pour into an 8x8 pan and then cover with frozen tater tots. Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot in the center. Remove from oven and sprinkle the top with shredded cheese. Return to oven for about 5 min, or until cheese is melted.

Lazy Day Stew (4 freezer meals)

*Everything for this recipe goes into the bag raw*

Chop the following ingredients and divide them between 4 bags…

4lb cubed stewing beef

4 C Baby Carrots

4 C Baby Red Potatoes (Cut in ½)

2 Medium Onions, chopped

4 stalks of celery, chopped

4 tsp quick-cooking tapioca

2 tsp salt

2 15oz can tomato sauce (1/2 a can in each bag)

2 C water

2 Tbs brown sugar

Directions: Put everything into four one gallon freezer bags, shake it up, seal, label, and put into the freezer

Cooking Instructions: Thaw; cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. Eat as a soup or serve over hot noodles or rice.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sewing Projects

Who says sewing is hard??  This girl.  There are a lot of things that my brain does well, like play music and learn foreign languages, but piecing fabric together in the right order is NOT one of them.  My brain just doesn't think logically like that!  It hadn't really occurred to me when I started out that I would be doing math (see kids? stay in school!) and engineering just to fix up a set of curtains & make a baby sling.  But hey, all that aside, I'm doing just fine! 

I have two projects near completion.  Two out of three curtain panels are finished and hung, and hopefully the third will join them this weekend.  And, with the help of my friend Hannah and my next-door neighbor, my ring sling is coming right along and we'll finish it tomorrow.  Here are a couple pictures of my ring sling-in-progress.


Finished tail with pocket.



Almost ready to sew in the pleats & rings.

If you'll all pray that I can find the charger cord for my camera, I might be able to get some pictures of the curtains, because the ones I tried to take on my phone aren't great. They are super cute, though, so they certainly deserve their share of the spotlight!

Talk about feeling accomplished!  Special thanks goes to my neighbor, Barbara, who first offered to answer a few questions and then went above and beyond to actually teach me how to do this stuff.  She's awesome!

I've got a long way to go before I feel comfortable using a sewing machine, and I have a feeling I may not ever quite love sewing, but I am determined to know how to do it so that I can teach Addalyn.  If nothing else, I owe my daughter a few basic sewing skills.  If I start learning now, maybe I'll be ready to teach her by the time she's old enough...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sewing for Dummies Divas

This is getting serious. One project at a time?? Pffftt. Wimps.  I have three projects.  Better get busy. I borrowed an ancient-looking sewing machine from a friend and bought a few basic sewing supplies at Walmart.  There's a box under Addy's crib with adorable black gingham curtain panels (made by one of my mothers-in-law) that need to be pleated, shortened, hemmed, and attached to the ladybug valances that came with the crib bedding set.  There's also one set of super cute teal fabric to make myself a new ring sling, and another set of even-cuter polka-dot fabric to make one for my sister-in-law, whose baby boy is due in June.  Never mind that I don't even know how to make a ring sling yet; I just went ahead and promised her one.  Gulp.  I'm committed whether this goes well or not. 

I broke the news to my mom that I am going to try to learn how to sew.  She had the good grace not to laugh at me.  In her words, it will either "frustrate the heck out of me" or "be very enjoyable and rewarding."  I'm hoping for the latter. I have also been warned to stick to the directions on the patterns in the order they are given, and not to try to skip steps to save time. (Step #1: Learn how to thread the sewing machine.)  I'm not sure that it bodes well that I do not have a pattern for the curtain project, but I'm hoping this will be basic enough that I can watch a few Youtube videos and follow the generous and much-appreciated advice from a couple of friends and figure it out.  How hard can it be? 

Stay tuned...this could get interesting.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Domestic Diva Wannabe

The Domestic Diva. You know who I’m talking about. She’s the neighbor down the street who is always cranking out delicious meals worthy of a spread in a culinary magazine. She’s the mom in your playgroup who not only whips up a superman cape for her little guy out of a spare piece of fabric, but has a whole imagination-packed trunk of handmade dress-up clothes in her kiddos’ playroom and ornaments her entire home with cute, made-from-scratch curtains and bedding. She’s the one who has a whole room in her house dedicated to scrapbooking and its materials, who can dream up anything and then knows exactly how to create it (AND make it look good!). She's the lady with an eye for detail that is reflected in every beautifully decorated room in her house.  That gorgeous flower garden you drive by every day on your way home? She planted it. That cute blog background? She designed it. From making her own soaps and shampoos to finding natural alternatives to cure just about any common ailment to changing the oil in the car, domestic divas are popping up all over my friendship garden.

I aspire to be one of them.

In an age of post-feminist culture, homemaking seems to be a lost art. Today’s little girls are being raised very differently than their moms and grandmothers. Basic skills, like cooking and sewing, that girls used to learn while growing up, have died out so much that to meet someone who can sew a new cutesy duvet cover for her bed is every bit as cool as meeting the President - and he probably doesn’t even know how to sew!
I have decided recently that I am tired of not having these real-life skills in my toolbox. I’m tired of letting myself rely on other people to do things for me because I don’t know how to sew a new hem on a curtain that’s too long. Granted, I haven’t really ever had much time to learn to do these things, since I have spent much of my adult life in school or working two full-time jobs at the same time. And to my mom’s credit, she really did try to teach me to sew. The teenage me simply did not have the patience for sewing, or care to learn how to do it. 
Now that I am a stay-at-home mom of one darling baby girl, my priorities have changed and I finally have time and a need to know how to keep my home. I have an obligation and a desire to raise a daughter who knows how to cook, sew, maintain a home, and fend for herself BEFORE she marries her prince. For as much as we girls try to compete the with men in our lives to keep pace with all the things they can do, I have discovered that my husband is the most appreciative when I serve an awesome new recipe at dinner or put a button back on his shirt; not because he is chauvinistic (he’s not) or thinks I should do those things (he doesn’t), but just because it really is kind of cool to have someone in your home who can do those things.

So this summer, I am going to use this season of my life to my advantage and set a new course and a goal to learn how to do a few new things so that I can one day pass those skills to my children. For starters, this blog was sorely in need of a major facelift (tadaaaaa!!!!). I’m going to plant an herb garden (and with any luck, I’ll keep it alive!), and I’m going to figure out what in the world I’m going to do with the overgrown ivy in my front flower bed. My daughter’s room is finally going to be complete when I put the finishing touches on some curtains, and I plan to make a new ring sling or two. And in my spare time, I’m finally going to start (and finish) those fun crafty projects for my house and the nursery. 

In my quest for new knowledge, I’ll be using resources like books, Internet articles and Youtube videos, asking friends for a little tutoring, and maybe even finding some cute blogs to link up with and share. And I’ll probably be asking you, dear reader, for advice as well. And while I’m at it, I’m going to scratch the itch to write and maybe actually keep this blog somewhat current (although you’ll have to bear with me – baby’s naptimes are still somewhat short!). So I invite you to join me on my new summer school adventure and choose something new to learn and share it!


I am going to be awesome. I am a Domestic Diva in training.  (Hey, that line would look really cute on an apron…)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Homemade Greek Yogurt (Updated)

True confession: I used to think greek yogurt was waaay overrated. It was just a fad, a fancy item to add to your grocery list so you could feel like you were actually buying something healthy and not just a sugary cup of pastel-colored, ultra-pasteurized dairy product.  Then one day I gave in, feeling on the desperate side of hungry & very nauseous, thanks to about 16 weeks of pregnancy.  I stood staring into the refridgerator case, and then reached for that little blue cup that cost a whole entire dollar.  And when I put my groceries away at home, I actually decided to eat it and see if it would stay down.  It was delicious.  It was also the first food that had followed the natural flow of digestion in about four months, and remained so for about another two weeks and you can believe me when I say I really took advantage of finding ONE food that I could keep down.  I bought it in bulk and ate it for every meal. 

Yes, greek yogurt may well have saved my life (well, at least my protein intake), so it has certainly earned its place as the focus of this blog post. (I don't think I've ever written a whole paragraph about yogurt before!).  It continues to be a favorite snack, but I've gotten really tired of paying $1 or more for an individual cup of yogurt - especially on our modest grocery budget.  Then a couple of weeks ago, I had lunch with a bunch of really neat ladies at the Trust Birth conference who were talking about making yogurt. What?!  MAKE yogurt?!  As in, do it myself, in my kitchen, and possibly even save some money and preserve some nutritive value in the process?  Yes, please!  So, without further ado and a couple of experiments later, here is the process that I have found works best for me.

Oh...important fact:  Full-fat yogurt is sooooooo much better for you than low-fat.  (News flash: Your body needs good fats! Milk fat = good fat.)  Use whole milk!

You'll need exactly two ingredients:
  • Half a gallon of whole milk (as organic as possible & not ultra-pasteurized, or it will NOT set up right.) Update: I actually just used good-ole' Great Value whole milk from Walmart. It worked just fine.
  • 1/2 cup of plain greek yogurt with active yogurt cultures.  Either use a 6 oz single-serving cup of store-bought yogurt (the last cup of expensive yogurt you'll ever have to buy! YAY!), or 1/2 cup leftover from your last batch (just make sure to use it within 7-10 days, or you'll have to revisit the expensive yogurt again).

You'll also need a few basic household supplies:
  • A crockpot
  • A timer (or a good memory!)
  • A whisk
  • A bath towel (for insulation, not for clean up! :) )
  • A colander
  • 2 or 3 paper towels (good quality, thick ones) 
  • A container to put your yogurt in. (I re-used a large yogurt container)

Oh, and you'll need about 14 hours to make it.  This is a project you want to start around 5pm (or about 5.5 hours before bedtime) so that you can leave it overnight.

1.  Pour half a gallon of whole milk into the crockpot.  Put the lid on tight.  Turn the crockpot on HIGH for 1 hour, and then turn down to LOW for another 1.5 hours.  (This step takes a total of 2.5 hours to complete).

2. After 2.5 hours, unplug the crockpot.  Do NOT lift the lid. (I know it's tempting, but you must resist!!)  Let it stand on the counter for 3 hours.

3. Three hours later, you can remove the lid & whisk in the 1/2 cup of prepared yogurt.  (Don't worry that the milk still looks and feels an awful lot like...well...milk, at this point.  It will thicken up later, I promise!)  NOTE: the milk will have a very thin film (or "skin") on the surface.  This is normal - it's just what happens when you cook milk!

3b. If you want flavored yogurt, you could add a little vanilla or maple extract and whisk it in as well.

4. Replace the lid.  Wrap a thick bath towel all the way around the crockpot and over the lid to keep in as much of the remaining heat as possible.  Make a mental note of 8 hours from right now.  (Or 9.  Thankfully, yogurt is very forgiving.)  Go to bed.

5. In the morning, line a colander with papertowels, or cheesecloth if you want to get all fancy.  Place the colander in the sink or inside a larger bowl (best method, this way you can put it in the fridge) and pour the thickened, heavenly smelling yogurt into it.  Let it sit for at least an hour to strain off the liquid & to give it a chance to thicken up better.

(Update : The best yogurt I made was the batch that I put into the fridge to complete the straining process and forgot about for several hours.  The texture was FABULOUS.  Unfortunately, it was also fajita flavored, due to a bit of renegade fajita seasoning trapped in the lid of my crockpot.  Not recommended.)

6. Put it in a container in the fridge & write the date on it.  It will keep for 7-10 days.  Don't forget to reserve at least 1/2 a cup as starter for your next batch, and use that within the 7-10 days!

(Update: There is no pretty way to transfer the yogurt from the colander to the container.  I suggest doing it over the sink. The best method I have found is to spoon as much of it as possible into your container, and then carefully pick up the paper towel and scrape and/or squeeze the rest into the container.


Voila! Yogurt! And it's soooo easy. Literally, all you had to do was pour the milk and stir in yogurt and sleep. It's foolproof. (Unless you lift the lid!)  Serve it with granola or fresh fruit or jam or honey.  You can sweeten it with stevia or eat it plain.  You can even use plain yogurt in place of sour cream - it's basically the same thing except not *quite* as thick.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bonus recipe: Baked Potato Salad (soooo yummy!)

Ingredients

    • 3 large baked potatoes, cooled, peeled and cubed
    • 1/2 cup sour cream
    • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
    • 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled ( I use the precooked kind)
    • 4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese, divided
    • 2 green onions, sliced and then chopped ( green part only)
    • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
    • 1 dash celery salt or 1 dash seasoning salt
    • 1 dash garlic powder
    • 1 dash paprika
    • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley (optional)

Directions

  1. Gently stir together all the ingredients in a large bowl using a large spoon, reserving a little cheddar, green onion and bacon for garnish.
  2. Transfer to a serving dish.
  3. Top with reserved shredded cheddar, green onion slices and bacon crumbles for a beautiful presentation.