Saturday, September 27, 2014

Dr. Dolittle - Like Animals!

I must confess that I've never seen Dr. Dolittle, but I do remember reading the book in elementary school. I ran across this video a couple of years ago, and it does make a good point. Check out this scene from the movie, filmed in 1967. All of it is still applicable even today, and the message is clear: Why do we treat animals like animals?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Business of Being Born

Even before I was ready to start a family, I stumbled across this movie and was convinced that I'd one day use a midwife throughout my pregnancy. If you have Netflix, you can view this movie and the extended More Business of Being Born series with four more episodes. After researching for hours and hours, I had made up my mind. When we moved to the Houston area, one of the first things I looked up were birth centers. I found one in West Houston and it ended being only a mile away from my new job. 

In the last several visits, it's been a pleasure to work with such loving, caring midwives, and I couldn't imagine any other experience. I know I have absolutely nothing to compare my experience with, as this is my first child. But this feels right. I feel well-cared for, the midwives are personal, and the office feels much more like a home than a white-walled doctor's office. I trust the knowledge they've acquired and the head midwife has delivered nearly 600 babies (including 16 breeched babies).

When I happily announced my pregnancy to friends and family a few months ago, I was met with fear and concern from some. Was it safe? Would they know what to do during an emergency? What is the baby was breeched? What if I needed to be immediately transferred? Why did I choose NOT to get an epidural?! What the hell was wrong with me?!

So, without further ado, if you're remotely interested in an alternative to hospital births, check out the trailer below. It's one of my favorites, and I watch it every so often just because it's that interesting...

Ready to watch the full movie? Here it is below!

Monday, September 22, 2014

My First Trimester Lifesaver: The Bellaband

I remember the day I stepped into my jeans and realized that they weren't going to button. I also remember panicking. I had yet to tell my boss or coworkers that I was pregnant, and i was only 7 weeks along. That evening, I drove straight to Babies R' Us, and purchased a Bellaband. This thing was a miracle for me. As most of you know, I'm a minimalist, so I only owned one pair of jeans, two pairs of khakis for work, and a pair of brown slacks. I used it so religiously during weeks 7 through 14 and it allowed me hold off on buying maternity pants.

I really didn't want to have to purchase maternity pants, but for whatever reason, my belly was growing fast and my comfort level was beginning to go down. I highly recommend the Bellaband for anyone with a growing belly out there, and will definitely use it postpartum as I transition back into my prepregnancy jeans. Check out the video below for how it's used.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Work Like a Captain. Play Like a Pirate.

I've chosen a nautical theme for our baby's non-existent nursery. I say non-existent because we're currently saving up to buy a house and don't have anywhere to put a baby as of now. Alas, I have another five months before I pop, so it's not a problem right now. I've been on the look out for nautical-themed items and found this tin sign below on the Hobby Lobby website.

Cute, right?! I loved it and thought about going by there this week to snag one for $15.99. Most of their stuff is usually 50% off, so it would be about $8 if I bought it on sale. Then I remembered that our budget is really, really tight since we're saving $2,700 a month for the aforementioned house. So I set to work in my free Paint.NET program to design one for myself. 

I was able to completely customize it with my own spin on it. I found some great inspiration while Googling things like "pirate vector", "pirate eye patch", and yes, even "duck dynasty beard". I'll head to Office Depot or Office Max this week to print off the 8 in. × 10 in. image and pop it into a frame. Heck, I may even spray paint a cheap frame white just to set it all off. I'm planning on designing some more custom artwork before the baby arrives so I'll have plenty of items to decorate with once we move in to our first home.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Vegan Slow Cooker Black Bean & Pumpkin Chili

Red Gold Tomatoes reached out to me with an offer to send over some Red Gold products to make a chili. I was immediately drawn to their Black Bean & Pumpkin Chili recipe, but replaced the turkey with textured vegetable protein (TVP). Red Gold graciously sent me a pack of goodies and I set to work on my recipe. Luckily, it's been chilly outside (ok, the pun was totally intended), and it was a perfect meal to fill my tummy and keep us warm. I highly recommend Red Gold Tomatoes and all of their products and have incorporated their tomatoes into many of my dishes since discovering them.

I love the combination of pumpkin into this chili, as it's perfect for Fall. Enjoy a bowl of chili with some vegan sour cream, chopped green onion, or crackers on top. Stay warm out there!

**The following promotion has ended**

Red Gold is hosting a giveaway of 44 Crock-Pots starting September 17, and they will be giving away two crock pots a day for three weeks on their Facebook page. Enter to win!

Vegan Black Bean & Pumpkin Chili

yields 8 servings

1 cup water
1 cup TVP
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can solid-pack pumpkin
1 (14.5 ounce) can Red Gold® Diced Tomatoes
1 (14.5 ounce) can Red Gold® Petite Diced Tomatoes w/Lime Juice & Cilantro
3 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons each cumin and oregano
Salt and black pepper to taste

1. Microwave water and pour over TVP.
2. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add TVP, onion, pepper, and garlic. Cook and stir until tender. Drain well.
3. Transfer to slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Cook, covered on low for 4 to 5 hours.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tutorial: Rice-Filled Baby Warmer

I bought a sewing machine late last year before our big move, and I went ballistic for a while on projects. Then we started packing up boxes as we prepared to change cities in less than five weeks. The sewing machine was packed up along with everything else, and then stayed upstairs in my parent's garage for nine months. I pulled it out of their garage recently to tackle some projects I had saved up our baby and other miscellaneous items.

My sister-in-law had told me how their daughter hadn't yet grown accustomed to her crib. I don't know too much about sleep schedules and four-month-old babies, but I'll definitely know by the end of winter when my own baby is born. I found a tutorial for how to make a baby snuggler, a rice-filled fleece warmer that you lay next to the baby to sort of trick them into thinking there's a warm body next to them. I immediately thought of my niece and wondered if it work for her.

Since I've been super frugal lately, I kept putting off going to the store to buy fleece fabric. I have a small stockpile of random cotton fabrics that I had purchased last year during my aforementioned sewing frenzy. As I picked through the pile, I found a fun chevron pattern with lots of bright colors that I thought I work. I think it's important to mention that I'm very much a novice when it comes to sewing, so I loosely followed the instructions in the tutorial. Here's some quick notes if you want to try making one, as well.

Rice-Filled Baby Warmer

1/2 yard cotton or fleece fabric

1. Cut two rectangular pieces of fabric (mine measured roughly 4 in. × 22 in.; I know that's random, but I just used scrap fabric that I had on hand!).
2. Lay one piece of fabric face up and the second piece on top face down.
3. Sew the edges with a 1/4 in. fabric left on two long sides and one short side. Leave one short side open to fill with rice.
4. Trim the corners off on each side.
5. Flip the fabric inside out. Your corners that you trimmed should be 90 degrees once you're done adjusting the fabric.
6. Sew a trim around the heating pad with 1/4 in. seam.
7. Fill with rice so that you can at least fold it in half to fit in the microwave.
8. Warm in the microwave for 45 seconds when ready to use.
9. Lay the warmer next to the baby.

This was a super quick project, and I made one for my niece and my own baby. I can't wait to try it out, but I'm currently only four months along, so it may be a while before little Oliver or Elanor can test this.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A story for tomorrow

A few years ago when I was working in Austin, Texas, I ran across this video. I actually spent a good 15 minutes this morning trying to track it down, as I hadn't seen it in years. I'm happy to say that I've found it and am posting it here for you to enjoy, as well as for me to find it when I need more inspiration. A fellow coworker had shared it with me, and for whatever reason, I was completely obsessed with it. I watched it dozens of times (if I'm honest... maybe more than a hundred!), and it really spoke to me.

At that time, we were living in a small, crappy two-bedroom, two bathroom apartment that was somewhat scary but all we could afford at the time. This was before I went plant-based, so I remember being unhappy with my weight and health. My husband hadn't quite graduated yet, and he was working a part-time pizza delivery job making little more than minimum wage, while I had recently taken a dollar pay cut to work at a startup company. To say the least, we were most certainly living below poverty level.

I do have to say that I learned so much from those that surrounded me while I worked at that job, and I still keep in touch with many of those same people today. They're what I would consider some of my closest friends and made it all worthwhile during our stint in Austin. But this video just screamed at me. I yearned for adventure, freedom, something... I'm still not sure, but it fueled my dwindling passion and gave me hope that one day my story would matter.

Check out the video and see if you can answer the two questions:
Is it possible to be happy with this life? 
Did you enjoy your story?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Plant-Based Pregnancy: One trimester down, two to go!

Note from The Little Red Journal: I recently published this article on the HappyCow blog and wanted to share it here, as well. Enjoy!

Earlier this year, we made a move from Austin, Texas to Houston, Texas in search of better career opportunities and to finally begin a new journey—expanding our family from two to three. I've been eating plant-based for more than two and half years by now, and when I began to think about creating a new life, I immediately looked at my diet. I knew the basics of eating plant-based and had recovered my health two years previous (and lost 30 lbs., 80 points in my cholesterol, among other great benefits).

Even before I knew I was pregnant, I began to really amp up my fruit and veggies intake, began eating breakfast every morning, and started drinking more water and avoiding caffeine. Finally, after two months of preparing my body for new life, religiously taking my prenatal and B12 vitamins, and focusing on every little detail, we knew we ready to begin trying. I was in great health, and didn't have any doubt in my mind about becoming pregnant. How hard could it be?!

Welp, for us, VERY EASY! We were shocked to find out we had conceived so quickly, but we were ready for the challenge. I was a bit overexcited and had bought a bulk pack of pregnancy test strips, so I literally found out I was pregnant the moment it was official at just three and a half weeks. We can't keep a secret at all, so I began telling very close family and friends only two days after we found out. Yes, I know that's very early in the pregnancy, but I was positive that all would go well.

I didn't eat too differently than I before I was pregnant, and just made sure I was eating more fruit in the morning and that my work desk was stocked with healthy snacks (almonds, crackers, and vegan fig newtons) to keep me satisfied. By the end of my first trimester, I had gained 10 lbs., which my midwife assures me is completely fine and healthy! (Phew, I was starting to worry a little, but I knew I was eating right...)

There wasn't a moment of "morning sickness" to be seen at all, and I happily sailed through my first trimester with only minimal symptoms including fatigue (sometimes I go to bed around 9 p.m., other times, I can hang until 11 p.m.)! And no, despite many omnivores asking me, I don't crave any animal products or nonvegan items. I've stayed true to my values and morals by eating plant-based, and have enjoyed what I would consider an "easy" first trimester compared with other people I've spoken with. Sure, every person is different, and maybe my diet only had a little bit to do with my good luck, but it was important for me to do what I felt was right.

I've enjoyed plenty of strong support from my family and friends and am now officially into my second trimester. I've researched vegan pregnancies for at least a couple of years, as I knew after I converted over, that I'd one day be experiencing it myself. I'm happy to report that the baby is doing great, has a strong heartbeat, and can do somersaults like you wouldn't believe, according to the ultrasound we had a couple of weeks ago!

To anyone out there wondering if you can stick with it, I'm here to assure you that you can.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Interview with Colin Ashby: A Determined College Freshman Who Made It Work

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a news story about a young man who spent the first year of college at Texas State University (my husband's alma mater located in San Marcos, Texas) living in his car. I was totally amazed with Colin Ashby's story, which was shared on my local news site, and immediately reached out to him to learn more about his story.

As a columnist for USA Today's College column, Colin Ashby is finishing his final semester as a senior with a mass communications major/writing minor at Texas State University. I could tell he was a hard working student who was obviously determined to do whatever it would take to earn his degree and face his college education head on. Below is our interview, and I have to say, I am impressed with his motivation and positive attitude about his experience. As I told him the first time I spoke with him, KUDOS Colin!

The Little Red Journal: How does someone who has worked so hard in high school racking up 44 course credits end up living in their car during their freshman year?

Colin Ashby: I don't really know the exact answer to this. I just know that when I was applying for scholarships, a lot of them were so specific that I was not eligible for them. A lot of the scholarships I applied for were small amounts that weren't even enough to cover the cost of my textbooks, let alone tuition! Many of my friends in the top 10% who received top 10% scholarships had a hard time figuring out how to pay for their first year. Even their scholarship amounts of $1,000-5,000 weren't enough to cover college expenses.

I felt like I had done everything "right" to prepare me to get aid for school. I got good grades in high school, participated in several extra curriculars, and worked a part-time job, yet it didn't seem to be enough. My parents "made too much money" according to the FAFSA and I got very little grants and not a lot of aid.

LRJ: My husband went to Texas State, and I was also amazed at the tuition rate. After you used your federal student loans to pay for tuition, how did you pay for everything else, such as food and other expenses?

CA: It's funny because Texas State University has some of the lowest tuition rates of public universities in Texas. After using my federal loans to pay for my tuition, I had nothing left over. I had a bit of savings in my bank account that I used for buying textbooks and other school materials. During the year, I worked a part-time at McDonald's doing the graveyard shift. Making minimum wage, I obviously didn't make a bunch of money. Almost all of my paycheck went to paying for food and other bills. I was so scared of overdrafting on my bank account during the year.

LRJ: How did you manage to balance a full semester of courses, work, and find time to study?

CA: It was incredibly tough. I worked from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. shifts. I had a big time gap on Mondays and Wedesdays between classes where I would go to a private study room in the library to study for my classes. After getting out of my 8 a.m. on Mondays, I would go to the study room, take a short nap, then study for about 3–5 hours before I had to go to my next class. The biggest misconception I saw among my peers was that a student needed big chunks of time to study. I tried to fit most of my studying during the week. There would be times where I would study for 20–40 minute time periods between classes to fit it all in.

LRJ: Did you ever have a moment where you wanted to give up and go back home?

CA: During the first two months of living in my car I wanted to give up because it was so hot and humid. I live in Texas where there is super high humidity rates all the time. There would be times where I was sweating at night, unable to go to sleep because it was so hot and humid. During those humid nights were the only times where I really thought about giving up.

LRJ: What kept you motivated during that first year?

CA: What kept me motivated while living in my car was knowing that it was temporary and would lead to something better. On some late nights, I would sit in my car and write down my career goals and the different things I wanted to be remembered for in life. It's what kept me going.

LRJ: How did no one notice you were living in your car?!

CA: Besides two of my siblings, I told no one, not even my closest of friends. Whenever I got into my car, I would always make sure I was in a sparse area of the parking lot so no one would see me. I tried not to move around too much once I got inside.

LRJ: You spent lots of time in the library and focused all of your attention on school. Do you credit this experience to getting a four year degree in only two and a half years?

CA: Yes, I do. I don't really like formal schooling yet I knew I wanted to get a college degree. Getting bachelor's degree in two and a half years takes a lot of planning. I spent nights in the library carefully planning out my schedule for the next five semesters. Whenever things didn't go as planned, I readjusted. Being in the atmosphere of a library forced me to think about my direction in school and to keep moving forward.

LRJ: After graduating, what was next?

CA: I graduate this fall, December 2014. I'm looking into different places now for what I want to do after graduation. I'm looking to work in the communications agency field or social care.

LRJ: What do you hope people will take away from hearing your experience?

CA: I want people to know that the article I wrote isn't just about me living in my car. It's a call to action for college students. Be a leader of your education, not just a customer. Soak in what you're learning. If there is something that you feel you are lacking, then start learning it. Seek out mentors, try different careers through internships. School and learning isn't just about showing up, you have to do more.

LRJ: Is there any advice you'd give to those who are struggling to pay for college?

CA: See if a four-year degree is the best option for you. There are so many rewarding and great-paying careers a person can have without getting a bachelor's degree. Look into programs that community colleges have. Not just their transfer programs, but also their technical programs like nursing, web design, and electrical.

Note from LRJ: I want to thank Colin for taking the time to discuss his story further with me!

To learn more about Colin, check out his blog and personal site.