Saturday, August 30, 2014

Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives

In my journey through research into midwives, I found a documentary which features who I would call the nation's mother of midwifery, Ina May Gaskin. The documentary takes place at The Farm, and focuses on the history of Ina May and the midwives that reside there or have practiced there over the years. It's a truly powerful message that can give women the confidence they need to give birth in a more natural way.

I love the empowerment that I feel by taking charge of my health and pregnancy without feeling belittled or silly about any questions that I have. There's a sense of "everything is going to be OK!" when I'm speaking with the midwives, and I don't fear an epidural (because I won't be having one), or not being able to get up and move like my body wants during labor. Many women I speak with call me brave, but I don't think that's what it is. I'm being natural. I'm not saying that hospital births aren't right for anyone else, but I do feel I would be most comfortable at a birth center giving birth in water. Call me a hippie, I don't care! 

To pique your interest, check out the trailer for Birth Story below. Ina May is fighting for women to take birth back into their own hands. I felt a range of emotions when I watched this movie, and I heard a resounding "YES" in my head during many scenes.

Watch it online for $12.99! I thought it was well worth the price, and I downloaded a digital copy to share with my family.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I deleted my Facebook nearly two weeks ago. So, is my life falling apart?

I recently noted that I decided to quit Facebook. In case you haven't read, I'm over three months pregnant now (13 weeks today!) and had an awakening with how much info I wanted to share or didn't want to share about my pregnancy. Did I want to post every single baby bump photo? Share my ultrasound pictures or complain about how tired I've been for the last week? No, that's what The Little Red Journal is for! All kidding aside, I decided it was time to shut it down and focus on other things. Like my husband.

I have been really interested in why other people would quit Facebook and have been reading different studies and stories on this. I ran across this Buzzfeed video with reasons to quit Facebook. It's kind of funny that Buzzfeed would say this because I'm pretty sure they've gained their popularity by people sharing their content... ON FACEBOOK. Not sure, but I'm betting that video went viral like all of their other content on there.

Was I an addict? Hell yes. I would spend at least an hour if not more on an average day as the video claims just scrolling. Why?!?! I only had 96 friends when I permanently deleted my account. I wasn't friends with 400 like most people. I had close friends and mostly relatives, but I grew tired of the cryptic status updates such as "Oh my gosh, that totally sucks!", or "I can't believe that just happened to me!" I decided it was time to cut the addiction and start living more.

Since deleting Facebook, I've been able to:

  • focus more and not think about what my feed is up to
  • avoid following the latest drama with a friend
  • spend more time with my husband in the evenings after we get home from work
  • connect more with friends on a one-on-one basis
  • think more about how I can create content for the blog
  • be more productive at work and in my personal life.

So, what's stopping you from breaking the addiction?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I permanently deleted my Facebook. Here's Why.

I've been a heavy user of Facebook for over nine years. Even before I left for college in the summer of 2005, I heard about this site where you can connect with your classmates before you even set foot on your campus. As an eager college student, I signed up with the required ".edu" email address. For a long time, it was something that you checked maybe once a week. I added my photo, my current coursework and occasionally checked in on my high school friends and posted to their wall.

By the end of college, I was routinely temporarily blocking my access to the site during midterms or final exams. I was logging on more and more, and sometimes found it necessary to block my access during those crucial times. It was evolving and I remember more and more people joining. I can't remember the full timeline, but I think they were starting to open it up to high school students at that time, and it was beginning to become more populated.

After college, I began to connect with some old friends, remained in contact with college buddies I had befriended, and then they opened it up to just about everyone else. Over the last couple of years, my mom joined and is now very active on the site. Most of our family is on it now, and since announcing my plant-based diet a couple of years ago, I began to unfriend those that they were unsupportive, obnoxiuous, or just plain rude about my new lifestyle. I deleted most of my high school friends due to inactivity and losing interest in keeping up with them.

Over the last couple of months, and since I had found out I was pregnant, I began to wonder: Did I really need to keep Facebook in my life? I had deleted my college account around the time I was first engaged due to a high school friend being completely overdramatic about my delayed request that she stand in my wedding. I really didn't need the added drama so I deleted her. And then deleted my account. And then I created another one.

So why permanently delete now? Why build two separate profiles, invest a total of nine years, and then all of a sudden permanently delete?

I watched the following video, and it made me start to think. Not about how I would announce my pregnancy on Facebook to those who hadn't already found out early. Not about who I should unfriend to clean up my feed. Or even about cutting down my use (which I tried earnestly for a month and failed miserably.) No, I began to wonder what my child would think if they saw me mindlessly scrolling through my feed at any free moment.

So, I ask: When will you begin to look up?

Have you been thinking about permanently deleting your Facebook? Here how:
1. Download a copy of your photos, videos, and more before switching off.
2. Disconnect all third-party apps so you won't be auto-logged and therefore null and void your deactivation. Note: Be sure to manually click the "x" to the right of each app to remove your data.
3. Permanently delete.

Still need more convincing? Here's another video, posted in June 2014 that also caught my attention.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

We're Expecting and Due in February 2015

My husband and I have been planning, saving, and paying down debt like crazy since November 2012. Once we paid off Kendan's student debt in April 2014, we knew our next challenge would be saving up for a down payment on a house. I was hired on full-time in June, and found out I expecting one week later. We're beyond excited and are preparing for the arrival of our first baby in late February 2015.

I'm now twelve weeks pregnant and ready to shout it out on the blog. I am terrible at keeping secrets and we told our close friends and family when I was only a mere three and a half weeks pregnant. I waited until I was eight and a half weeks pregnant and could not longer disguise my growing belly at work to tell my coworkers.

Since finding out we're expecting, I've been amping up our savings. We're still living with a family member, so we're currently saving $3,000 a month for a down payment on a house. We still use every day to track our spending, and we've even paid off the birth of our child in full already! I'm a big planner, so adding a little one to our family was no exception. My husband and I will be celebrating our ten-year anniversary of being together next week, and I never imagined I'd be where I am today ten years ago.

We're preparing for our biggest challenge yet and are keeping focused so we can have the best possible footing when our little one arrives. Here's a quick breakdown of our goals before our February deadline (the birth!) hits:
  • Save up a total of $25,000 by the end of December. If things go according to plan and stay on track, we'll keep $10,000 in the savings for a nest egg and put down $15,000 for a house. 
  • Stay true to our minimalism and only purchase the bare necessities for our child.
  • Find a house that is within our budget and find a mortgage that we feel completely comfortable with.
  • Move and unpack all of the boxes that have been sitting in my parent's garage for the last eight months since we moved back home. Donate anything we really don't need and keep our new home decluttered.
Some quick notes (for you and for me so I don't forget!)
  • I'm still vegan. Yes, it's completely safe. I only have to up my protein intake (hello, beans!) during my third trimester. Otherwise, it's business as usual plus a few more snacks throughout the day to keep me satisfied (crackers, a handful of almonds, or a cup of vegan yogurt.)
  • I'm seeing some wonderful midwives who are providing amazing care for my baby and I at the West Houston Birth Center.
  • I haven't had any signs of morning sickness. I credit this to my plant-based diet, but maybe it's just pure luck. No clue, but it's great either way!
  • I've had a few symptoms so far, with the most noticeable being more fatigue than usual. Sometimes I go to bed at 8:30 p.m., and other times I am fine staying up until 11:30 p.m.
  • I believe I actually felt the baby "fluttering" around on August 5th. It was a Tuesday and as I was sitting at work, I began to feel a slight buzz and then what I can only describe as fluttering. Imagine taking two tips of your fingers and lightly tapping very quickly on the inside of your arm. That's what it felt like. It would do this on and off throughout the day for up to a minute at a time. I haven't felt it since, though.
  • We heard the baby's heartbeat for the first time on July 28th during a prenatal visit. That was surreal and I just stared at my husband and smiled. I had no words.
I plan to continue sharing my story here about my vegan pregnancy, saving up for our house, and trying to stay minimalist while adhering to a very strict budget to accomplish it all. Thanks again for tuning in, and feel free to ask me questions!

Now, here's my growing belly:

My husband and I at seven weeks.
Seven and a half weeks. My herbivore tattoo is a goner!
Eight and a half weeks.
Nine and a half weeks.
Ten and a half weeks.
Eleven and a half weeks.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The HappyCow Cookbook: Recipes from Top-Rated Vegan Restaurants Around the World

One of the first websites that I found after going plant-based was HappyCow. I remember carefully selecting a restaurant to try out with my adventurous and supportive coworkers and sharing my passion for great food that is focused on keeping cows happy. And mooing. I even reached out to HappyCow to request to add my blog to their list, and upon doing so, discussed contributing a few posts to the HappyCow blog. The community there is supportive and kind, and there's always a new restaurant to be found anywhere on the globe. I also have a search on my Plant-Based Resources section that is easy to use and can query vegan and vegetarian-friendly options near you!

A couple of months ago, my dad handed me the latest issue of the The Houston Chronicle with a headline "Vegan Aloud". He saw the word vegan and immediately snagged it to show me later. When I opened up the section, I realized the article was about The Loving Hut, a vegan restaurant that I had been to a few times before. Then I squealed with joy as I realized they had been listed in The HappyCow Cookbook, which I didn't even realize was being released!

I couldn't wait to find out what amazing recipes were inside, and I received my preview copy a couple of weeks later. I was also overjoyed to see a recipe from Counter Culture, an Austin favorite of mine that I miss dearly. The cookbook includes over 80 recipes from across the globe and features interviews with the owners. It's full of beautifully photographed (and extremely yummy-looking) dishes that are approachable and easy to understand. I love that restaurants have shared their menu items for all of us to try out!

I am probably completely biased because I absolutely love dessert, but here are some of the recipes that are on my must-try list:
Chia Pudding from Luna's Living Kitchen, Charolette, NC
Chocolate Raspberry Hazelnut Cake from G-Zen, Branford, CT
Gluten-Free Coconut Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes from Chaco Canyon, Seattle, WA
Peanut Butter Blondies from Green Cuisine, Victoria, BC, Canada
Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding, Counter Culture, Austin, TX
Raw Brownie Bliss Bites from Choices Cafe, Miami, FL

If you'd like a chance to win a copy of The HappyCow Cookbook, comment below with the name of your favorite restaurant and be sure to check out others on the HappyCow site.

To give you a sneak peek into the cookbook, I've included the Spicy Cha Cha from The Loving Hut here in Houston, TX below.

From Loving Hut in Houston, TX

Spicy Cha Cha
Serves 4–8

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons and 3 cups rice oil
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons sea salt
3 cups water
2 pounds vegan sea crescents (aka “vegan shrimp”) each sliced in half*
3 cups bread crumbs
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
½ yellow onion, diced
4 stalks green onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons vegan mushroom seasoning
2 teaspoons dried hot chili powder

*Can be purchased online.

Put the all-purpose flour, sugar, cornstarch, 1 teaspoon rice oil, baking soda, and a pinch of sea salt in a large bowl. Add water slowly and mix well until it becomes a thick batter.

Dip the vegan sea crescents into the flour mixture then roll the vegan sea crescents in the bread crumbs. Make sure each vegan sea crescent is fully covered with the bread crumbs.

Add 3 cups of rice oil in a deep frying pan or a medium-size pan, then turn the burner to medium heat. Place the vegan sea crescents into the pan and fry them until they become golden in color. Take the vegan sea crescents out and set aside on a plate with a paper towel to blot any excess oil.

Add 1 teaspoon of rice oil into a hot pan. Add all diced vegetables (bell peppers, celery, onions) and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the fried vegan sea crescents. Sprinkle with vegan seasoning, sea salt, and dried hot chili powder. Stir well for an additional 10 seconds. Remove from the heat and serve alone or ideally on a bed of chopped lettuce with steamed rice.