Friday, July 30, 2010

Naked Baby Party!

I started a parent's group on that has turned out really great.  I was talking to one of the other moms in the group and telling her that I had some clothes that might fit her daughter, then I realized that we probably all had clothes that would fit one of the other kids in the group.  So today I hosted a "Naked Baby" party, inspired by the Naked Lady party concept.  I put out a lovely vegan spread of lemon blueberry muffins, oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips and pecans, hummus with homemade rosemary foccacia and celery, homegrown tomatoes brought by another mom, cherries, plums, and "candy" (that means dates in our house).

We all brought boxes of clothes and everyone went home with something.  The leftovers are going to be sold to a local consignment shop to help pay the dues for our MeetUp group.  Overall, a great success.

The best part was probably having a house full of babies and toddlers.  My little Violet is almost one and already such a social little hostess.  She was in her room with the other babies showing them her toys, playing with all the new stuff that was out, and munching on good food.

I recommend joining or starting a MeetUp group for any parent of a young child.  It's a great way for the babies to interact, but it's also such a good opportunity for parents to get out of the house and spend time with their kids AND spend time with adults.  We have a weekly hiking group, Taiga Trekkers, Monday music at the zoo, and outdoor play group, and various other MeetUps to welcome all different interests.

What a joy for my little social butterfly to get out and have fun!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Swimming Baby!

I can't remember a time in my own life when I couldn't swim, and I have always felt a need to be close to water sources.  When I was deciding on a college, I chose mine for two water-based reasons.  First, I saw a poster for Humboldt State that featured a fountain in an open area with people sitting on the edge studying. The fountain was not pretty (I have since seen a documentary about it called "The World's Ugliest Fountain"), and it seemed like the kind of fountain you could get in and dance around without anyone minding.  This was essential to me, especially after I had attempted to dance in a fountain in Rome only to be yelled at by police.  So the fountain was the draw.  Then, when I went to visit, I took a tour.  I saw the fountain and it seemed to fit the bill.  I saw the campus and the town and everything about both fit my needs and personality perfectly, but I still wasn't sure.  Finally, I asked the tour guide for directions to the closest beach, about 5 minutes away.  As soon as my feet touched the water of the Pacific I knew I was home.  It was that simple for me.  

So, for me, it was important that my daughter be connected to water as well.  I swam in the lake while pregnant, and was kayaking as close as 5 days before I gave birth.  Sometimes I joke that I paddled her right out.  We had a home water birth, and the three of us bonded in the tub for a good half hour before she left that warm water.  She bathed with me the next day, and instantly loved being in water.  When she was old enough, we signed her up for swim classes, and it has been so amazing to see her fall in love with swimming.

As soon as she sees the pool, she starts smiling and waving her arms.  Once she's in the water it's all smiles and splashes.  And even when she goes under water, she smiles there too!  

I highly recommend swimming classes for infants.   One of my baby books says that they don't suggest swimming classes for infants and toddlers, but that seems silly to me.  You can't treat it like it will train a baby to swim on their own without supervision, but you can get water safety, skills, and comfort through classes early and often.  

I am including two videos of my daughter Violet swimming, and one of a child who is far more advanced using the ISR method.

Violet Swimming 1

Violet Swimming 2

ISR Method, taken from YouTube.  Our instructor doesn't teach this method, but I am interested in it and love the results seen in this video.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Uncheese Cookbook

I have to say this is one of my favorite books late.  Yes, I have been making cookies and cupcakes as usual, and I have Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar to thank for that.  Sometimes, though, you want something savory, tangy, cheesy.  The uncheese cookbook takes *nooch to a whole new level and uses ingredients like miso, umeboshi paste, lemon, and nut butters to replicate the smooth and piquant flavors that we associate with rotting cow's milk (I mean cheese).  I love Daiya, but there is a laundry list of ingredients in Daiya and at the end of the day I'd rather feed my family something I made.  I recently made a great pizza using shredded "Brie" uncheese from this cookbook and I liked it better than Daiya as a pizza topping.  Of course I also had roasted eggplant as my base, so this pizza had a leg up on the competition to start with.

I don't want to share any of their recipes, because I feel that is unfair to the author and since I would someday like to write my own cookbook, I have to put out all the good karma I can into the cookbook author world.

I will, however, share a recipe I adapted from reading many of these recipes and combining methods and flavors to create something all my own.  This recipe makes a hard cheese, or "block cheese" that can be sliced, grated, of chopped up and eaten in cubes.  It will melt eventually, and melts best if grated and then broiled.  A spray of cooking oil will help if you want a browned top.  It will not get stretchy melty, so try to have realistic expectations.

Slightly Smokey Cheddar
4 small red peppers or one large red pepper, sliced and sautteed until soft.
1 1/2 cups water
1 Tbsp agar agar powder (NOT FLAKES)
1/2 cup raw almonds (or blanched, they are just expensive so I used regular raw ones)
1 Tbsp tahini
1/2 cup silken tofu
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp smoked paprika (you can used unsmoked for "not smokey cheddar")
1 tsp light miso (light color, not low-fat... I don't think there is a low-fat miso)
1 tsp salt

First you will want to sautte your peppers.  You could substitute roasted red peppers from a jar for this and it would be good as well, just not as sweet, which is fine.  Boil the water in a small pot and add the agar agar.  Stir vigorously and reduce heat to a simmer.  You want all the powder to completely disolve. Then add ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth.  Once it's fully blended, put in a plastic container that has been sprayed with cooking oil.  I used a cleaned out Earth Balance tub and it was the exact right size.  Chill for at least an hour and then slice/shred/enjoy.

*nooch= nutritional yeast or a sauce containing nutritional yeast.  Red Star nutrtional yeast is a great way for vegans to get a healthy dose of B12

Saturday, July 10, 2010

HypnoBirthing and Parenting

I have recently been thinking more and more about doing the training to become a HypnoBirthing educator.  The woman who taught the class I attended changed my entire pregnancy, she changed my life.  HypnoBirthing, I can say with complete confidence, changed my life.

When I was about 18 weeks pregnant, I was reading one of those pregnancy books that follows your weekly progress and tells what might be going on with you.  Well, one week there wasn't a lot of new information about baby, so the book had a not about appendicitis.  It explained that at that particular part in my pregnancy, if I had to have an appendectomy, it would be a major surgery instead of the laproscopic procedure that is common now.  I was up for nights, restless, worried about having major surgery.  Of course, there's nothing you can do to prevent appendicitis.  The worry worry worry was spreading to all aspects of my pregnancy.  I got into a fear cycle, and I felt trapped.  The pinacle of this fear was that I was going to deliver my baby in a hospital, which terrified me.

Luckily, I had a great midwife (who has since become a HypnoBirthing educator) who recommended I look into HypnoBirthing.  She said it might help a bit.  Understatement.  After my first class of HypnoBirthing, I felt confident and fearless.  I knew what I had always known- that my body was designed to make and birth this child.  My confidence was wonderful, and highlighted by the confidence my husband had in me as a result of the class.  He then knew that I was going to birth our child gently and calmly.  In addition, I knew that he was going to support me and be my partner in this birth.  It brought us closer, reduced our stress, and brought joy and calm to our home.

I have shared my birth story with many friends and family because I feel like positive stories like mine need to be out there and spoken about.  We hear the horror stories, but so often the gentle birthing mothers gently keep to themselves about their stories.  There are many reasons for this, not the least of which being the envy from others that leads them to treat a gentle birthing mother like she is either a liar or a trickster.  My father-in-law said that when he hears women talk about their birthing experiences, it unites them like soldiers who have been through the same war.  The "horror" of it seems to be what they feel makes them closer.  He says that although his wife had two children, he was in the other room and totally detached from the experience, so he can't relate in any way.  I reminded him that his son was who "caught" his granddaughter and was there for every aspect of the birth.  There is a whole generation of men who are experiencing the birth with their partners and have their own stories to share.  Let's share our positive stories.  Let's not scare pregnant women.  They are too busy peeing to be scared.

So now I am seriously considering taking this course so that I can teach HypnoBirthing to other moms and share this gift of calm and gentle birthing.  The only thing that is holding me back is that it is a 4 day course in another state.  I would have to be away from my daughter for 6 days including travel time.  Last night was the first time I was away from her for more than two hours.  The other option would be for my husband and daughter to come with me so that I would just be away from them during the day.  This is my preference, but might not work out monetarily.  We'll see.

I'm trying to take the calm and gentle birthing skills into the rest of my life, into my parenting.  I remind myself of what we are capable of as a family and as individuals, and not be fearful of those things that we can do.  My daughter will be 1 year old at the time of the class, and she can handle 6 days with just dad.  I can do this to give her a better life.  I can do this to help other mothers.  My husband can care for her with love and joy.  It will just be hard.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Grilled Pepper Caprese

One time I made it with orange slices too.  I like it better without.

I used to love caprese salad with layers of perfectly ripe tomatoes and mozzerela cheese.  Last night I was thinking about caprese as I made dinner, and I kept coming back to my perfectly ripe avocados.  The avocado has such a rich and fatty flavor, and I realized it's not unlike cheese in many ways.  I recently made a pizza with a layer of thinly sliced avocado as a base and it was amazing.  So, I just needed my pairing.  If I had some fresh herbs, tomato would have been great, but I didn't.  What I did have was a bag of sweet mini peppers in yellow, orange and red.  I sliced the peppers along one end and spread them out flat then tossed them with salt, pepper and olive oil.  Then, I placed them on a foil covered sheet pan in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes, flipping them over half way.  They would have been great on the grill too, but I didn't want to fight the fire.

I layerd the peppers hot out of the oven with the cool thinly sliced avocado (three slices fanned in between each pepper) and let the avocado cool the peppers and the peppers slightly warm the avocado.  It was the perfect starter with the sweetness of the pepper fully released in the cooking and the decadence of the avocado balancing it perfectly.