Monday, March 28, 2011

Uneventful events of life

This is a baby #3 update. Just giving you fair warning.

I am 35 weeks and 5 days today, putting me 2 days past the day that Iain was born. Hurray! I just read (and enjoyed) a very accurate blog post by my friend Karen on The Point at which pregnant women just want the baby to be here already.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Best Granola EVER

Note: italicized words "link" and "coconut granola" are links that may or may not appear to be links.

We get 5 lbs of oatmeal per month from the government food fairy and, as much as I like a warm bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, it's a lot to go through in a month. I know there are a multitude of ways to use oatmeal but my favorite tends to be sweet rounds of tastiness commonly called cookies (or biscuits for my foreign readers.) Unfortunately for me, and most of the rest of the world, this is not the best way to consume 5 lbs of oatmeal.

On to a new idea: Granola.

I've known a number of people that have made granola themselves, but my limited experience with the homemade variety had me convinced it wasn't worth the hassle. ...Until one day when I remembered the jar of coconut oil that my sister gave me for Christmas. Yes, coconut oil. Now, before I continue and before you start praying for my arteries, check out this link (not comprehensive, but makes my point...and if you still have doubts, google it yourself or talk to my sister Heidi who will tell you everything you (n)ever wanted to know about its benefit. Just kidding Heidi, I'm so glad you introduced us to coconut oil!)

My recipe was an adaptation of this Coconut Granola recipe. Being the first time I made it, I mostly followed the directions, and next time I will change a few things (mainly the sugar content which doesn't need to be as high as it is, though it's pretty awesomely tasty!)

I'll let you follow the recipe yourself, but in case you're interested, here are the modifications I made this time around:

- No oat bran (didn't have any)
- sweetened flaked coconut and used a bit more than a cup (that's what we happened to have)
- no almonds (don't know if Iain can eat them)
- light coconut milk (happened to be leftover from a Thai dinner a few nights before)
- all coconut oil instead of splitting it w/ veggie oil (Iain's allergic to soy)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar instead of maltose syrup

I also toasted the plain oats/coconut at 350 only until they were just a light honey color - about 10 min, stirring 1/2-way through; if you over-toast them they get very bitter. Also, because coconut oil has a low smoking temp (350) I didn't want to toast the final product for very long - 15 min stirring every 5 min when coated with the syrup. It comes out of the oven feeling soft and chewy, but crisps up beautifully when cooled (make sure to stir it once or twice when cooling so you don't find yourself with a huge rectangular granola brick).

The result: YUM. Yum. yum! Everyone in the house is a fan!

Modifications I would make in the future?

- unsweetened coconut flakes (sweetened is really delicious, but unnecessary)
- try cutting honey/brn sugar down to 3/4 cup total and then maybe 1/2 cup total if possible

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Gift of Waiting

I realized, after I chose this title, that it sounds like I'm writing a piece for an abstinence campaign. Not so much, so you can all breathe a sigh of relief. ;)

I really don't like waiting, so saying that it is a "gift" is really just my way of trying to acknowledge that God has a bigger/better plan that I can't see and for the moment it involves waiting...

...5-7 more weeks to meet my baby
...5-7 more weeks of this awful preterm labor diet*
...4 more weeks of 2x weekly shots in my bum
...4-ish more weeks of modified bedrest
...for Spring to arrive
...for Easter

*My doctor is doing an independent study of sorts with me and her other preterm labor patients, to see if going Hurdite...

(daily)
3 servings of 1/2 cup legumes
3 glasses of psylium husk nastiness (I put it in very diluted cran. juice - yes, I know that's sugar)
5-7 serving veggies
No refined carbs, alcohol (duh), sugar, caffeine

...can reduce irritation/inflammation that may result in preterm labor. I really do feel quite a bit better, but it's a rather Lenten feat to try to eat/drink all that nastiness.
Note: I quickly became very lax about the whole thing, eating pasta/pizza/fruits when those are my meal options. But I did successfully delete caffeine and almost always have beans for lunch/snack and am amazed how much better I feel, despite being 3rd trimester tired; guess who's taking more naps these days? (Also probably why I'm feeling better).

Back to waiting... So I'm waiting, and I know that 5-7 weeks, which is really the longest I'm going to have to wait for any of the things listed above, is a ridiculously short amount of time and I should just get over it and settle in for a bit more gestating/shots/lenten diets/winter.

But the real challenge is feeling like a complete and utter failure as a mother right now and knowing that my children have to put up with this for another 5-7 weeks. Here's the equation:

Up and moving = I feel great, want to "nest" and play with kids...
Sitting/resting = immediate disappearance of all of the above replaced by extreme exhaustion and complete mental vacuity re how to occupy their time.

...and guess which one I'm supposed to be doing for the majority of each day? Yep.

So I either rest on the couch while the kids bounce on me and each other, or I hand them off to my saintly sister and am out like a light for nearly 3 hours (this is more what's been happening to the last week or so). I wake up feeling so much better, but it also means I'm sleeping through 1/2 my children's waking hours. I just don't feel like a great parent, for some reason.

So, I wait for this to be over, and I wish that I could just be full-term already. And I wonder what on earth God is trying to teach me during this season...

- That's it's ok to a sleeping bum and a 1/2-involved parent?
- That I should ignore my doctor and just keep moving so I can parent?
- That I need to just accept that I don't have the vaguest idea/energy re. how to make Iain's and Lydia's days productive (I don't really think God wants my children watching movies all day long, do you?)

So, how is this a gift, and what am I supposed to be learning?
How do I wait well and what are my children supposed to be doing while I wait?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Dream is Alive

Note: I wanted to include pictures of my children and our new exterior, but the only ones available to me are on Mark's facebook page which I used to be able to copy here, until Facebook changed them to a non-jpg format. So, I really do apologize for no pictures...but check out Mark's facebook page if you haven't in the last month or so. On to the post...

This seems an appropriate title for my blog post considering that the shuttle Discovery was retired yesterday. From one dream to the next and I have a MUCH grander to one to replace it. Who really cares about the vast expanse of boring old space, anyway? (Honestly, I think space is pretty amazing!)

My dream? If you recall from a few posts ago, I would really love to have a sweet cherry tree in our yard. This dream was squashed due to our harsh Minnesota winters and late arrival of Spring. Enter the Mesabi Cherry tree. It produces a semi-sweet/sour cherry somewhere between the Bing and typical sour cherries. If this is the closest I can get, I'll take it! I also decided, prior to this discovery, that even sour cherries, while nearly inedible when fresh, would be tasty treats if dried and covered with chocolate. The Mesabi however is the best of both worlds: edible when fresh or dried (or pied/tarted/jammed/sauced...). Did I mention it's a natural dwarf? It grows to about 10-12 feet with the bottom branches a mere 2 feet off the ground, making for easy picking!

I also decided that Tulameen raspberries, while not promised to thrive in our climate, were worth the risk at a mere $3 per bush. So I'm out about $10 or I'm in raspberry heaven. The Tulameen produces the giant sweet raspberries you often see for $1/ounce in the store.

Kate also asked about blueberries. I was under the uneducated impression that homegrown blueberries were basically small, tart and seedy. A simple internet search proved me wrong and introduced me to the beautiful Chandler Blueberry. These are HUGE and supposed to be sweet, juicy and all around delicious. Again, I'm not overly sure that they'll thrive here, but they're supposed to be ok up to zone 4 (which is us) and I'm willing to risk it. I'd probably have to winterize my blueberry and raspberry plants, but the hassle required is well worth it when you consider quantity, availability and cost compared to the store!

Guess who is a fruit farmer at heart? :)

Mom did mention that I should be sure to note the pH of the soil, as different plants require different soils. There's always one more thing to consider, isn't there?

And praise God it won't be spring for at least another month because I can't garden very well from the confines of modified bedrest! (Let's not talk about the difficulties of gardening with a 3 yr old, a 20 m. old, a newborn and a postpartum mom.)

By the way, re the coffee maker, thank you! to all who contributed your comments; it was very helpful. We're leaning towards a glass French Press for the cost, simplicity and excellent coffee (and we already own a grinder, so no prob there).


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Calling All Coffee Snobs!

Mark and I are increasingly snobby about our coffee. Our first coffee maker got us through our first 5 years of marriage. The hot plate began disintegrating not long after we got it and try as we might to ignore it, we increasingly found ourselves enduring pots of coffee that were either warm or burned; there was no happy hot medium.

Not long ago, we decided that it was time for a new coffee maker. Having had success in the past with small appliances from Goodwill, off we went in search of some wealthy person's castoff coffee maker. We thought we'd struck gold when we found a beautiful black and stainless model by GE. Unfortunately, it proved to be terribly inconsistent in the brewing department and the all-too-frequent "error" message provided us with a lukewarm pot of weak coffee.

Having put up with this coffee maker for far too long already, I began the hunt for the perfect coffee maker that produces a consistently strong, hot pot of coffee. I think I've narrowed it down to these two similarly priced options. (The pictures are from amazon.com):

Option A: Thermal Carafe Drip Coffee Maker.
This one is obviously made by Cuisinart, but this is more a picture of the genre rather than the specific thermal carafe drip maker that I might want.

Pros:
- No hot plate means no burned coffee; thermal carafe keeps coffee drinkable and hot.

Cons:
- Depending on the make, it could still give us inconsistently brewed coffee. We like our coffee strong and a weak cup of coffee made with lot of coffee grounds is both disappointing and frustrating.
- Large size. Our old coffee maker was a nice countertop size while our "new" Goodwill one is quite large. It would be nice to have one that is more of a sedan than an SUV of the coffee maker world.


Option B: Delonghi Electric Moka Pot (it has a longer official title)This is the specific model of electric moka pot that I think I'd like.

Pros:
- Moka pots are known for making strong coffee.
- This model makes 3 or 6 (espresso size) cups, so you don't have to waste grounds to make just enough for yourself (as you would with other non-adjustable moka pots).
- Keep-warm function keeps brewed coffee warm for 20 minutes.
- Presumably it's smaller than the "SUV" above.

Cons:
- Doesn't make large pots of coffee for guests, etc.
- I don't have any personal experience with this type of moka pot, only the stovetop variety.
- It seems like it could be a conversation-starter piece that makes you look like a hopeless snob as you describe the various faults of all other coffee makers. (Yes, I already mentioned that we are coffee snobs, but we try not to shove it other people's faces too much...instant coffee drinkers aside, Kevin.) ;)

So, fellow coffee lovers of the world, which one would you recommend? I'd really like your input.