Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Zombee San Gris-Gris ♥

This past weekend was one for the books! I am so proud to be a part of The Agora Borealis here in Shreveport. It is a beautiful art market filled with wonderful artwork and other items by local artists and craftspeople, like myself. On Sunday, I hosted one of my Candles & Cocktails parties here and got to meet lots of new Zombee fans. 

As usual, I wanted to have a new, themed cocktail for the occasion, so I went with sangria. It turned out so lovely, that I thought I'd post the recipe for you to enjoy! Here's what you'll need to create this delicious concoction I like to call Zombee San Gris-Gris.

2 red pears, diced
1 pkg raspberries
1 bottle Verdi Spumante
3 bottles of crisp white wine
1/2 cup 100% pomegranate juice
edible flowers
[you can add a shot or two of gin for an extra boost!]

As with all the sangria recipes I've posted, just mix these ingredients to taste! They aren't exact. My one piece of advice, however, is to dice the pears and mix them with the raspberries and let them sit in the wine for an hour or two before your event. The fruit will soak up the alcohol and make for a nice burst of wine flavor! 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

When Love Isn't Enough

Well ... he's gone.

I was torn as to whether or not I should address this issue publicly, but to be honest ... it's happening and I have to deal with it, so I'm going to be honest with those of you who have kept up with my life so far.

This [new and improved!] blog is now a place for me to vent my frustrations, show my gratitude, visualize my new life, and of course, still post about Halloween, food, and parties.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband left after 9 years together; 6 of them married. We have a 14 month old daughter together. ::deep breath:: There, I said it. I can't put it any other way. He changed; lost faith in me, in us. It sounds absurd, it really does ... especially from us. But, that is what happened. It's important to me that people I care about know that I didn't want this. I still don't. There may have been pain in the past; this year alone has been full of big life changes, but I don't believe any of our issues are worth giving up our commitment to each other. But, I'm only one part of our us.

As being dumped goes, I'm doing okay. He still sees Wednesday every day, of course and we don't yell and scream like crazy exes. It just doesn't feel right. I wish we weren't in this situation, but I'm going to make the best of it. I have to!

I have Wednesday with me every night; she breathes life back into my soul as I rock her to sleep and she starts my day off with a beautiful smile and a big hug each morning as I sing our wake-up song. People always say, "it's the little things that mean so much." I'm living off of those little things now and they're becoming bigger and bigger. I'm now a full-time working single mother with a small business. Holy hell.

I don't know what the future holds, but whatever happens, I know that I'll always be there for my daughter. And she for me. Nothing can ever change that. Onward and upward, right?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Maca, Maca, Maca! ♥ [Bonus: Green Smoothie Tips!]

So, my smoothie game has been on point lately, as the kids say. Every week day, I make a green smoothie. I recently started working more [more on that later] and I was worried that it would throw off my rhythm, but it has really worked out so far! Even if I don't get my hair all the way done, or my lipstick on, I make sure I whip up the smoothie to bring with me on the way out the door.

I am not a super health nut, as you know. Most of my food recipes are classic, in that they are not augmented toward lowering calories, but I am working on getting a little more balance in my intake. When I was pregnant, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and I had to attend a day-long class on changing your diet to manage diabetes without having to take insulin or any other kinds of medicine. I remember the women in the class admitting that they'd rather just take the medicine. I, however, did NOT want to inject myself every time I wanted to pig out, so I adhered to the strict, though totally doable diet with great results. So, I'm hoping when I stop breastfeeding, I'll be able to get back to that diet. I don't like to deprive myself of certain things, which is why the diabetes diet is great ... there is very little you can't have; it is all about moderation and balance. 

I think the green smoothies are going to help me transition into balancing my intake, but the real reason I am so happy with this rhythm is ... MACA! I'm quite obsessed with this "superfood." I was doing some research on aiding hormone imbalance during breastfeeding when I came across this South American food. It is touted as a male hormone enhancer as well as an energy booster, but the other benefits seemed worth a try. I put a heaping tablespoon in my smoothies and within a week, I noticed that I had more energy past noon, which is a big deal for me as a first time mom. But more importantly ... I'm 78% sure that this stuff is curing my IBS. As several of you may know, I have suffered from IBS [irritable bowel syndrome] for about 8 years. It is stress related, so I have to be careful of what I eat or I will get a very upset stomach! It is debilitating. A lot of people suffer from it in different capacities. It almost completely went away while I was pregnant, which is crazy, and another on the long list of reasons why I loved being pregnant! Anyway, I've noticed that my stomach and bowels seem downright normal lately and I think it has something to do with the maca, since that is the only thing that has changed, diet-wise. 

I'm going to keep an eye on it and see if this is just a fluke month where my insides are normal, or if the maca truly is helping as much as I think it is. And in baby-related news, the maca does seem to be helping me regulate my hormone levels!

Here are some of my smoothie tips. I am by no means an expert, but I enjoy learning from other people's experiences, so these are some thing I've learned ...

* you don't need no stinkin' fancy blender! My friend gave me a Magic Bullet years ago and I've only ever used it for frozen margaritas until last year, when I found that it works perfectly for blending fruit and veggie smoothies. I'm pretty sure any decent blender will work. 
* think in terms of the whole week. It can get overwhelming when you're trying to plan your food week, so just go shopping for one smoothie recipe to make all week that way all your fruits/veggies will be fresh and won't go bad because you're trying to have a different smoothie every day. 
* the main part of your smoothie needs to be green. Don't make a sugary smoothie, add two leaves of spinach and call it green. Totally cheating. I start with at least two cups of spinach or whatever green I am feeling that week. The other stuff is secondary. The smoothie should be ... green.
* throw your vitamins and herbs in there! Some people like chia seeds, but they kind of mess with me sometimes, so I only use them occasionally. Others like hemp, but I haven't noticed any benefits with that.  I add fenugreek, biotin, apple cider vinegar, maca, dandelion when my skin issues flare up, red raspberry leaf when I'm on my period, etc. There are so many things you can add and it is so much easier than having to remember to take pill. Just open up the capsules and add it in! Fair warning, depending on the size of your smoothie, it can't always mask the dry taste of the herbs. 
* drink it cold. I blend my smoothie, and add it to a blender bottle sans blender ball, plus ice; just makes it tastier, I think. Just to be clear, I don't blend the ice IN the smoothie. I pour the smoothie over ice and drink it with a straw from my blender bottle.
* don't be annoying! To be fair, this is more like life advice, but anyway ... besides this blog, I don't try and push people onto the smoothie train. It is pretty trendy right now, so they're seeing enough of it on Pinterest and Facebook, trust me. Just DO YOU and if someone asks about it, you can spread the gospel. I have done smoothies here and there for awhile, but I have just in the last year or so made an effort to do it on a schedule and I've only been doing it 5 days in a row for a few months, so everyone has their own style of doing things. I'm glad this trend stuck with me, but it isn't for everyone and there is nothing worse than a person trying to convince you to do something that they are still experimenting with. That is why it has taken this long for me to blog about it! I want to be sure it is something I'd like to promote and not just something I'm flirting with. 

Here is an easy way to "build" a smoothie: 

Pick a green [about 2 cups]:
spinach [my go-to]
kale [meh]
romaine heart
bib lettuce

Pick some fruit [I usually do 2 different, about 1/2 cup of each]:
strawberries [my go-to]
pineapple [acidic, be careful]
banana [makes everything smooth and sweet]
avocado [so good!]

Pick a liquid to blend [I have never measured this]:
almond milk
coconut water
greek yogurt
*some people use plain milk, but I don't because it doesn't go well with the ice
*I also see where some people add juice, but I think that is adding way too much sugar ... you already have the fruit and yogurt, so adding fruit juice might just use up all your sweets for the day in one drink ... plus a lot of fruit juice is acidic and doesn't blend well with everything else.

Add your herbs/vitamins & smooth it up!

Hope this helps any of you looking to try the smoothie craze. It is a great way to get a good breakfast, lunch, or snack on the go and it is super versatile, so you can make it to fulfill your specific needs. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

DIY Baby Food ❤️

Wednesday ate nothing but breastmilk until she turned six months when we decided to start her on solid food. The whole time I was pregnant, I always said we would get a fancy pants Beaba baby food maker. We never did. Instead, I just decided to take the long road by steaming and mashing veggies and it has gone really smoothly so far. Skip the fancy [expensive] stuff, you can make baby food quite easily without it. 

Here's how we do it, using squash as an example:

1 butternut squash
1/2 cup of water 
2oz breastmilk [formula if you're not BF]
shallow pan for roasting 
food processor or blender
 [I use a Magic Bullet!]

The heat the oven to 400°. Slice your butternut squash in half, longways. Place the butternut squash have facedown in the pan and add about a 1/2 cup of water. Depending on how big your pan is, you might want to use more or less water. Basically, you want the squash to be sitting facedown in about a quarter of an inch of water.

Roast the squash for about an hour. When it's finished, take it out and let it cool. When it is mostly done cooling [I'm never patient enough to let it cool all the way], scoop out the fibrous stringy parts and seeds; do not add this part to your baby's food. Then, scoop out the flesh of the roasted squash into your blender/processor and purée. Add breastmilk to get to your desired consistency. Wednesday liked a smooth purée to begin with side she was just learning to chew, so we used about 2 oz per full squash. It's up to you how much, if any, that you add. I think that adding the breast milk also helped her stomach make the transition to something new, but again, your choice! 

This method will work with pretty much any squash or steam-able veggie. I make a big batch and store it in an airtight Tupperware for use all week. If you're using breastmilk and your recipe, you can use the breastmilk storage guidelines for storing the food. That means it is good for about a week in the fridge.

I'll add some more recipes later, but I think this is a great way to get started. 

We have since moved on to blending fruits and veggies and oatmeal. Wednesday loves oatmeal. She does not like sweets, however. She's the only baby I've ever met that won't eat bananas. But, I'm okay with that. She is a veggie lover like her Pop! 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Quick, Seared Tuna ♥

I make this quite often and I get lots of questions about it. So, here is the "recipe" ... I use that term lightly because it is so simple! I love to get tuna tataki at Sushi Gen here in Shreveport and one of my favorite pastimes is trying to mimic my favorite meals from my favorite restaurants. I started with my spin dip, modeling it after the amazing tip at the Oyster Bar [which they no longer serve!] and had great success. Since then, I've been able to recreate several recipes that I can make for less than going out on the town. [such a homebody]

Tuna tataki is served over pickled onions and fresh cucumber and with a sauce that is distinctively Asian, so I'm just showing the tuna prep/recipe only which will make it up to you how to serve it. I think that it is a super versatile protein [about 7g per oz - same as beef!] that can be incorporated into any style or palate. We put it over different salads, wrap it up with veggies, serve it as an appetizer when guests are over, dip into ginger sauce and eat with noodles for a heavier choice. So many options!

You'll need:
1 tuna steak - thicker the better, about 6oz
roughly 1 cup spice/herb mix of your choice 
1 tbsp olive oil
medium sized tupperware

Fish have their own natural oil, so you won't need to dredge the steak in anything to get the spice mixture to stick. Mix your spices/herbs in the tupperware dish, add the tuna steak and press the mixture into all sides, covering the steak completely.

Get your pan nice and hot, you're going to want to have a good, quick sear on this. I add just a little bit of olive oil [tbsp or so] while it is warming. Sear the steak for about 2 minutes on each side. I think it is easier just to use my hands and start with the thin sides first, finishing with the broad sides. Tongs are helpful if you're new to the technique and silicon tipped tongs are best since they won't cut into the sides of the steak. 

When you're done, place the tuna steak back in the tupperware [where your spice mix was], seal it and stick it in the freezer for about 45 minutes or if you're planning well in advance, a few hour in the fridge will have the same effect. Cooking it did will ensure the crust stays solid and the steak will slice beautifully. 


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mother's Milk ♥

This post is for all my new mother friends and mommies to be who plan on breastfeeding. So many of my friends are becoming first time moms, I wanted to share my breastfeeding adventure in case it could help them out. Wednesday and I have been going strong for almost 8 months and I'm extremely grateful that I've been able to keep it up. For something that is supposed to come naturally, breastfeeding is a lot of work! I don't believe in bullying moms who don't choose to breastfeed or those who try and it doesn't work out. But, I do believe in offering encouragement and advice to those who are going to try.

After you have a baby [if not before], you will likely spend a lot of time Googling everything that happens to your baby. I took every single class available at the hospital and read so many books, but after Winnie got here, it was as if all that knowledge just vanished in the light of this tiny creature whose life I was in charge of. Don't worry, we have the internet. Here are some highlights of what I can remember Googling those first few weeks:

"baby wont stop hiccuping ..."
"baby shakes head back and forth ..."
"what color should my baby's poop be?"
"post partum depression symptoms"

But the one subject I Googled more than any was breastfeeding. I found it helpful to learn from other moms, but sometimes those mommy message boards can have a lot of negativity.[I actually had someone reply to one of my questions with, "she might have downs syndrome if she can't nurse correctly." In my confused and exhausted post-birth haze, I panicked and Brandon had to assure me she was fine.] So, I'm presenting you with my tips and advice, free of negativity and paranoia.

Personal Experience:
My milk didn't "drop" until about 5 days after Wednesday was born. I was prepared for this, so it was okay. But I was adamant about the nurses not feeding her formula. I fed her every couple of hours so she got the wonderful dose of colostrum everyone talks about and she was fine. The day we got home from the hospital, my boobs were ... huge! I already have sizable breasts, so this was pretty intense. They were hard and what I imagine they would feel like if I had just gotten ridiculously sized implants. No matter how hard it hurt [and it did ... like a bitch], I fed Wednesday every hour and a half or so. In between feedings, I put the Lanisoh lanolin on my nipples and laid a hot towel on my chest. Pretty soon the milk dropped in and it was a wonderful feeling. In all actuality, it felt like needles being pressed through my nipples from the inside out, and continued to feel that way every time my milk dropped until about 5 months postpartum. I'm being honest about the pain because apparently it doesn't happen that way for everyone. I just so happened to have a very forceful let down in the early months, so I feel the need to prepare someone for that just in case. But I came to love that feeling because it meant that my body was responding to my baby's needs. Nothing feels better than being able to feed your little one.

I was lucky enough never to have mastitis or blisters, so I can't offer too much on that subject. But, I was diligent about the lanolin and took really good care of my breasts, so that [and a little luck] probably helped. As gross as this sounds ... that included not washing them! Except for non-soapy water from the shower, my nipples never received any washing. Your body is equipped to do this job, so letting the natural oils build up on that area is the best way to prevent more soreness. I have also refrained from deodorant while breastfeeding. Not sure if that helps or what, but it felt natural to me and I never had to worry about her being exposed to any chemicals while breastfeeding.  

Do's and Dont's:
* DO drink a ton of water! I drink about 80-100oz of water a day to keep my supply up.
* DON'T take epsom salt baths!
* DON'T diet [you need a few hundred EXTRA calories, not fewer. I learned this the hard way by dieting and watching my milk dry up within 48 hours of my new diet.]
* DO eat lots of protein and try and get some oatmeal every day. I use Nature's Valley as well as some lactation cookies [I'll blog a recipe soon, but you can buy them online as well] and I noticed a big difference in my extra supply [pumping.]
* DON'T stress! Yoga/meditation is a great help for me. I stress quite easily and actually perform better under stress in most situations ... producing milk is not one of those situations. 
* DO get a Boppy pillow! We have 2 and they are awesome. My favorite way to nurse is laying in bed, but that is only in the mornings during snuggle time. The Boppy helps tremendously in the early months, saving your back from a lot of pain.  You'll be feeding for what seems like forever and holding your little one and trying to get everything situated is pretty difficult. Now, Wednesday like to sit straight up and nurse while slapping me in the face, but for the first 6 months or so, she loved laying back on the Boppy. 
* DO what works for you. Trial and error is okay, even in motherhood. You will not get it right every time. For example ... I drank caffeine throughout my pregnancy and breastfeeding. I just couldn't go without it. Some women think this is terrible, but I stay well below the recommended dose for pregnant/nursing mothers and Winnie and I are just fine. Do what you feel is right! If it isn't working, your body or your baby will let yo know ... very quickly. 

Pumping tips:
* get a great pump! I have an Ameda double electric pump and it is so awesome! Check with your insurance provider to see if they give a discount. We have BC/BS [federal employee] and ours was paid for in full including a year's supply of milk storage bags. Do your homework on this one, it could save a lot of money. 
* pump after each feeding. Your milk is already flowing, so get what you can! I usually feed Wednesday on on breast and then when she is done, I pump on that breast to get any milk that is left [not much] and then pump the other breast to empty it as well. This signals my body to make more ... fill 'er up!
* date and store your milk for later use. Brandon gives Wednesday a bottle every night after he bathes her [yes, he is the greatest] so I have to always make sure we have back up for that. I pump in the morning and in the evening and any time she skips a feeding, which is much trickier now that we are starting solid foods.
* keep pumping even if you don't get anything. Your baby is much better at extracting milk than a pump is, so where it might take your baby 3 minutes to get 4 ounces of milk, it may take 25 minutes to pump that much! 
* go easy on the pump strength. In my 8 months of pumping [we started right away so Winnie would take a bottle and breast] I have never had to put the pump strength all the way to the max. It will cause sore nipples and does not guarantee you'll get more milk. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to pumping.
* take your pump everywhere! I try not to ever go more than a few hours without feeding or pumping. I want my body to always be producing milk. So, bring your pump wherever you go in case you get stuck somewhere. There will usually be a room you can lock yourself into and pump. 

* you are amazing! You will definitely feel like a feeding bag, a sleep-walking klutz, a failure over the tiniest mistakes,  an emotional wreck, physically out of whack, etc .... but just know that it is temporary and you're giving your child a wonderful start in the world. 
* you are bonding, even if you don't feel like you are. I didn't have that immediate "oh, this is the most wonderful thing ever" bonding experience at first. I was so discouraged by the pain and the lack of sleep [I'll be posting my birth story soon and you'll understand] that I couldn't concentrate on the moment ... plus, that "moment" happens so often that you pretty much feel like you're breastfeeding for 3 months straight until you get your bearings. Stay the course. I remember when Winnie was about 3 months and I absolutely fell in love with breastfeeding and I immediately became so thankful and proud that I stuck it out. Set goals for yourself: 3 months, 6 months, etc. Be proud of those goals and reward yourself.
* your nipples will go back to their original color/size. [I really need that laughing emoji right here] It sounds like a vain concern, but I was so worried about that. I happen to love my breasts, so I'm glad they look normal again!
* don't give up! I think that breastfeeding has been harder than actually giving birth. It is hard, but you can do it! Seek help. Lucie's List and Kelly Mom are my two favorite sites, but I also had two lactation consultants on standby. These services are FREE. 

Welp, that is just about the longest blog post I've ever written ... if it helps just ONE mama, I'm happy. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Year's Rulin's

My friend Mindy shared this with me recently, I had to share. It's a copy of Woody Guthrie's New Years resolutions, or "rulin's" from 1943.

We put so much pressure on ourselves at this type of year. I hear things like "clean slate" and "new year, new me," but isn't it true that you can always make a change, however big or small ... no matter when you start? I haven't made any grand resolutions besides "lose weight" which has been mine each new year for roughly a decade. But I like the idea of keeping a list, a set of mantras by which to keep yourself accountable to the things you'd like to change or improve. Aristotle is credited for the saying, "We are what we repeatedly do." This is a wonderful and inspiring thought. What do you repeatedly do? I think Woody was on to something here ... whatever your goal make sure you wake up and fight.