Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Recipe Week Post #2: When Two Tastes Collide

When I first met my husband, I thought he was an adventurous eater. He happily accompanied me to Indian and Thai restaurants, and suffered through my disastrous first attempts at cooking (anything other than boxed Mac & Cheese and chicken nuggets). We started dating soon after I was back from a trip to Thailand, and I was eager to expand my somewhat limited repertoire of teenage recipes (by the way, I STILL use my Clueless in the Kitchen cookbook on a regular basis. It's amazing for simple, go-to recipes).

However, I later discovered that my husband was, in fact, just trying to woo me, and really had little interest in the alternatives. He was raised on meat, potatoes and veggies, and his favourite meal is still barbecued chicken breast with some kind of sugar-laden sauce gooped all over it. Over the years, he has had to endure my commitment to buying only humanely-raised local meat, sourcing a cow for raw milk (and attempting to make my own cheese, yogurt and butter), and cooking with copious amounts of legumes. And he has been very supportive...truly.

It's tough, however, to spend a lot of time on recipes and meals that are not enjoyed by the whole family. Hubby eats my forays into vegetarianism and veganism to be polite, but darling daughter doesn't even bother.  While I'm moaning and oohing over the tasty things I throw together, husband is blandly picking away at his plate, and daughter is throwing hers at the wall.

It's been a REAL struggle trying to find recipes that please us all, and most of the time I just fail - I often end up making my own dish, and pairing it with a hunka meat (local, pasture-raised) that's been thrown on the bbq. However, there is one dish so far that's been a winner for the whole family. Every time I make this, we all gobble it up!

Warning: You must be open to eating lotsa butta if you want to try this recipe. I strongly feel that, unless you have dairy allergies, butter should be part of a well-rounded diet. It's silly to shun all saturated fats, especially in favour of chemically-laden margarines (ick!!). However, if you DO need an alternative, check out Earth Balance. They don't work as well in this dish, but it could certainly be a substitute!

Pasta with Red Lentils and Spinach
(taken from Didi Emmons Vegetarian Planet)

1 lb whole wheat pasta (or your fav gluten free variety)
8 tbsp of butter or butter alternative - don't even think about skimping here!!
2 garlic cloves, smooshed
2 inches of ginger, cut into thin strips (hubby detests big pieces of ginger, so I've sometimes resorted to using 1 tsp of dried ginger or pre-processed mashed ginger)
1/2 tsp dried sage
3/4 cup red lentils
1 cup water
3 cups spinach, packed
salt and pepper to taste (I personally find I need at least 1/2 tsp salt for this dish)

Cook pasta, and set aside. In large skillet, melt butter over medium heat, just until it begins to brown. Add ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant. Next, add sage, lentils, water and salt. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer (covered) for 10 minutes or until lentils are just tender (they can still be slightly crunchy).  Stir in spinach and cook until wilted. Add pasta, and cook until heated through. Season with pepper and watch with pleasure as your family devours it.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Recipe Week: Eating for Two

Clearly, I'm not a food photographer, because if you head over to Oh She Glows (where I got this recipe), you will see a much prettier picture of the dish above. My friend and fellow blogger Jayda Siggers, has inspired my choices of recipes this week!

This week I'll be sharing the meals that I'm cooking up, to feed my babies' demand for more protein and iron (and my own demand for more fibre!!) My goal with all the meals this week will be to add:

- more greens
- a rainbow of colours
- as much fibre as I can take (pregnant gals, you know what I'm talking about!)
- non-dairy, non-meat sources of protein

Today's dish - which was eaten for dinner last night - is called the Lightened Up Protein Power Goddess Bowl (lightened up because the blogger has adapted this recipe to include less fat). Gotta love that name! I made some adjustments to the recipe, based on what I had in the veggie drawer:

1 cup green lentils, cooked ahead of time
1 cup quinoa, cooked ahead of time
1/2 tbsp veggie oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 head of purple cabbage, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
3 cups kale, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
1 batch Tahini-Lemon Dressing (see below)
salt and pepper to taste
squeeze of lemon juice

Make dressing, and cook lentils and quinoa in advance. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic for 5 minutes, and then add cabbage and tomato. Saute for another 7-8 minutes. Stir in chopped kale and cook just until tender. Add the tahini-lemon dressing, lentils and quinoa. Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Serve warm with a squirt of lemon juice on top (Makes 6 cupes - I cut the recipe in half last night!)

Tahini-Lemon Dressing

1/4 cup tahini
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (had no idea what this was, but found it at Bulk Barn!)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp of water (or as much as needed to achieve desired consistency)

In a food processor, combine all ingredients. Makes about 1 cup of dressing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Postpartum Adjustment: My Plan of Attack

In my last post, I talked a bit about our plan to keep A in preschool/daycare while I'm on maternity leave.

This may seem like a crazy decision for a couple as cash-strapped as we are, but both my husband and I agree that it may save our collective sanity.

When you are pregnant, levels of the female hormone estrogen and progesterone increase greatly. For some of you, this may lead to shiny hair, clear skin and that pregnant "glow" everyone talks about (unfortunately for me, the clear skin is nowhere to be found). But in the days following the birth of your child, your hormones take a bit of a nosedive:

Image Source
That's right - they go back to their pre-pregnancy state in a jiffy, even though you had a good 10 months to adjust to their increased levels. Nature likes to play cruel tricks on us women.

It is thought that these drastic hormonal changes are what cause women to experience the baby blues; and, if you happen to be extra sensitive to all this bodily chaos, you may go on to develop postpartum depression or anxiety.

I knew all of this in theory when I was pregnant with my first child, but unrealistic expectations and lack of experience set me up for some serious postpartum adjustment in the days following A’s birth. So for this pregnancy, we’ve thought a lot about how to avoid some of the issues we (and I say “we” because my partner had to go through this change with me) faced the first time around. I like to call this my postpartum plan of attack or Plan Red. Because truly, I do sometimes feel that I’m going to battle with my emotions:

Zones of Operation
We will be planning for a home birth again. We toyed with idea of going to the hospital this time (just to avoid having A wake up in the night or be disturbed by the birth), but when I brought up the idea, my husband looked at me, aghast, and said “don’t make me go there” in a little boy voice.

So we are staying home, because apparently my husband needs it more than I do.

It is imperative to have decent help on hand following the birth of a baby, even more so when there are other children that need taking care of.

These have to be helpful people, though. Don’t invite anyone you feel slightly uncomfortable around (as they will be seeing you in your most vulnerable state), and make sure they’re there to cook and clean. Holding the baby is only an option when I am tired and would like a break to take a shower or a snooze. I will be calling in the troops, in the form of my mother, mother-in-law, and sisters-in-law (if they can spare the time). The hope is to have someone staying with us for the entire first month.

I am also hiring a postpartum doula, who will be there as an objective support person. She will support me with breastfeeding, suggest resources/tips I might need, and basically be a good listener (someone that is not scared of listening to me cry or blubber).

Yep, I’m taking the plunge, and doing something that even the crunchiest of crunchy finds slightly repulsive. I am going to eat my placenta. I have a doula friend who will be taking my baby's hunka meat, drying it in a dehydrator, grinding it down, and then putting it into capsules for me to consume. I’ve written about this before, but never thought I’d actually do it. I’m desperate enough to see if it makes any difference in my emotions/mood following the birth – I would probably eat fried monkey if someone told me it could help.

It’s always best to have a contingency plan in place in case something unexpected comes up. Although we’re hoping that this little baby does not have reflux, we’re open to the idea that it may happen. Which is where preschool comes in – taking care of a child who cries all day (and night) and does not sleep is difficult in the best of times. We want our older daughter to have some sense of structure and routine, just in case we are hit once again with the “reflux blues.”

We’ve also thought about what might happen if I have to transfer to hospital or have a baby who is sick. Again, we’re counting on our “allies” to pitch in and help. The past three years in Ottawa has given me time to meet many wonderful parents, some of whom have become great friends. So although we’re planning for the worst, we’re also hoping for the best – this time, we have reinforcements!

Thursday, July 19, 2012


It's official! A. has been registered in preschool.

This may not sound like anything newsworthy to you, but for our family, it's a big step.

A's reflux troubles forced me to look for childcare that offered her a lot of one-on-one time. I needed a childcare provider who believed in attachment parenting, because my daughter did not respond to anything else. At one year of age (when I was preparing to head back to work), she still could not put herself to sleep for a nap, and had to be rocked. Her reflux issues had gotten better, but she was on a restricted diet, with no soy or dairy products.

We ruled out a large daycare centre immediately. A was sensitive to everything - loud noises, too many children and bright lights would have been difficult for her to manage at such a young age. So we began to look into private (licensed and unlicensed) daycare providers in our area.

I thought the search would take months, but we found someone almost immediately. I knew right away over the phone that she was the right childcare provider for us - her voice was kind, and she sympathized with A's constant crying and fussing. Although I'm sure she was wondering what she'd gotten herself into, she took on my daughter like another child in her family!

Lately, however, there are clear signs that A needs a different environment. First of all, she's a very spirited little girl, and like most first-born children, she requires a lot of guidance with activities. Playing by herself is not something she does very often. In a home environment, there is always time needed to prepare activities and clean up messes. Daycare centres are better equipped to deal with all the painting, claying, crafting and toys, as lessons/activities are planned well in advance.

As much as I wish I had the energy to be a crafty, homeschooling Mom, I know that it's not in my nature. I'm a bookworm, I like a lot of quiet, and my idea of a fun time is to listen to music, strum away on my guitar or try a new recipe. I'm definitely not cut out for exciting, daily craft ideas or inventive/educational games. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy playing with my daughter, but I certainly don't feel capable of providing her with an enriching educational environment, day-in and day-out.

So, with maternity leave approaching, we decided it was time to transition A to a preschool centre, where she will stay until it's time for Kindergarten. Financially, it's a little silly to keep your children in daycare when you are at home and perfectly able to care for them. But mentally and emotionally, I think it makes a lot of sense. I have been saving money for over a year now, just to be able to pay to have A in part-time preschool while I'm on maternity leave (and maybe I'll explain more the reasoning behind this decision in another post!)

Like any mother, I am anxious about the transition, and fretting over how she will fit in. Will she get along with the other kids? Will she scream and cry when I drop her off? Will she learn how to nap in a roomful of children? These are all unknowns, and right now, I'm trying to tell myself that things will find their own way of working out. Until then, we are talking about "school" a lot, and discussing how things will be different in September.

How did your child transition to daycare/preschool? Did anything make it easier on you or them?

Friday, July 13, 2012

{this moment} Gatineau Hike

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Visit SouleMama to link your "moment"

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Conserving Water in a Drought

We Canadians don't think about water very much. Despite the fact that we use incredible amounts of water to groom, clean and wash, most of us don't give it a second thought. We have natural sources of water all around us, and the technology needed to purify this water for our consumption. Unless you're a farmer or live on a well, you likely consume water as though it were an infinite resource.

Currently, however, we have entered Level 2 drought conditions. Which basically means, water is NOT abundant in our region. Our city has received 19.6mm of rain since June 8th, which is barely 20% of the normal level.

The recommendations for a Level 2 drought (which will be confirmed this Friday), is that residents voluntarily reduce water consumption. By-law officials won't be patrolling your neighbourhoods to hand out tickets, but they're hoping that you will restrict water usage out of the goodness of your heart.

Do you know what a Level 3 drought means? It indicates the failure of the water supply to meet the demand, resulting in progressively more severe and widespread socioeconomic effects.

"Resulting in more severe and widespread socioeconomic effects" - does this mean we're already experiencing some severe widespread socioeconomic effects? If so, I have a hard time accepting voluntary restrictions on water usage. How about plans to prevent the Level 3 by putting some clear rules in place? Naw, clearly this is not what our society is about - we like to wait until disaster has struck before we jump to action.

As an environmentalist, I find this rather frustrating, so I wanted to share how our family plans on voluntarily reducing water consumption (note: we do a lot of these already, drought or no drought):

1) Brushing Teeth: water should NOT be running while you're brushing your teeth. What are you using it for? Here's an idea - fill a small cup with water. Dip your toothbrush in it, put your toothpaste on, and merrily go about your business. Rinse your toothbrush in the cup, and then use the same water to rinse your mouth out. It's all your own germs in there anyway, so what are you worried about?

2) If it's brown, flush it down. If it's yellow, let it mellow. Our family practices this almost all of the time. Does it mean I clean the toilets more often? You bet! But I don't see the necessity of flushing a pee, when I'm just going to need to go again in 1-2 hours (I am pregnant, after all!) If the idea of this really bothers you neat freaks out there, just put the toilet seat down - you won't notice a thing!

3) Lawns are stupid. I wish we didn't have a lawn. It's a western invention that highlights our unhealthy need to control nature. We demand bright green, weed-free lawns, at the expense of our ecosystems. When I take a walk in the evening, it's all I can do to not scream stop watering your damned lawns!!! to my sweet old neighbours. I realize it's a cultural/generational thing, and they probably don't even realize what they're doing. But our generation? We DO know what we're doing, and watering our lawn is wasteful. If you must water something, make sure it's the vegetables and fruit that are growing in your gardens! Our food clearly takes priority over manicured grass.

4) Laundry - ah, laundry. The bane of all parents' existence. During this drought, we are committed to washing only very soiled laundry. If I don't see a visible stain, it's going back in the drawer (underwear being the exception). If you wear some nice deodorant, there's no need for you to wash a shirt that's only been worn once.

5) Dishes - this is where I get stumped. Clearly, we have to wash dishes. We own a dishwasher, and we'll stack that with all of our breakables. Pots, pans and any plastic gets washed in the sink. Is it better to hand wash all dishes, or do dishwashers actually save water? Maybe you can help me out here.

6) Showers/baths - again, most of us have an unhealthy attitude towards bathing. We believe it must be done every single day, and it's incredible how long some people will stand in the shower. When we re-did the bathroom last year, we purchased a small claw foot bathtub. I bathe every 2-3 days, and fill this up about half way. My husband showers downstairs, and he's out in under 5 minutes. Showers and baths are a GREAT place to start reducing water consumption.

So what are your tips for conserving water? Could you try any of the above?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

There's Always Indian

Today was a day that is hard to describe, because it was just so awful.

Not awful because someone died. Not awful because of a major disaster or community tragedy. And not awful, because we could still afford to feed ourselves and enjoy the comfort of our home.

However, in the land of motherhood, this day could have been called "doomsday" - a day where I honestly wondered if I may be threatening the future of the human race. Could my mothering skills somehow be contributing to a younger generation that will destroy our earth through their sheer lack of discipline and sanity?

Yes, I'm being overly dramatic. But I can't help it. I'm pregnant, and pregnant mothers of toddlers feel slightly more desperate than other pregnant or non-pregnant women.

Our day was a day of non-stop screaming and temper tantrums (save for the blissful hour or so I spent at the splash pad with some wonderful friends). Today our dog was attacked by a rampaging toddler. Today I was hit repeatedly and screamed at until my ear drums hurt. Today all attempts at discipline failed, although to give her her due, she did apologize to the dog. Today involved a Mommy who barricaded herself in the office (we have no locks on our doors) and repeatedly chanted "Om" until the risk of murdering her child passed.

And when I couldn't stand it any longer - when 5 p.m. rolled around and no dinner had been prepped, and dishes were still stacked up on the counter, I caved.

"A., get your shoes on, we're going out for dinner!"

Tears dried up in an instant. She opened her eyes, and closed her screaming mouth and said:

"Do they have mango drinks there?"

A Mango Lassi and a shit load of Indian food saved the day.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

{Ottawa Doula} Fat Chance: Being Pregnant and "Overweight"

I wrote this post a long time ago - like, 8 months ago. This was inspired by a client of mine, but I've used no identifying information and have the ultimate respect for confidentiality. This is a rant/story about an issue more of us need to be talking about - and not just for pregnant women, but for all women who dare to surpass the dreaded BMI cutoff point.

I'm angry over a policy (or perhaps a subtle tactic) by which overweight and/or obese women are routinely treated in a disrespectful and unfair way by the birthing community - I say "community" because I don't know how far this form of treatment extends. Suffice it to say, I've only heard bad experiences with OBs. But I'm sure there are nurses, midwives and even doulas out there who have crossed the line of ethical behaviour.

Picture this: you are excited for your 20 week ultrasound appointment, at which point most women will meet their obstetrician for the first time (prior to this, you have been cared for by your family doctor, who may also exhibit similar biases, but with whom you most likely have a good working relationship).

The doc walks in, sits down, and begins rattling off alarming statistics about weight and pregnancy. They advise you not only to "gain 0 pounds," but say it may be beneficial for you to lose weight over the next several months. "Don't worry, they say, "your baby will just eat you." They begin to lecture you on diet and exercise, all the while strapping the blood pressure cuff to your arm. Your blood pressure reads high (no surprise, given Dr. Destructor has just crushed you like you were an annoying bug flying around the room).

At no point in this discussion are you:

a) congratulated on your pregnancy

b) asked how you are feeling

c) probed further for evidence of your lifestyle (do you exercise, eat well, and try to lower stress?)

d) asked about your preferences, knowledge or opinions

Based on your (false) blood pressure reading and BMI, you are automatically referred to a high-risk obstetrician, who treats other women with dangerous medical conditions which can potentially put the lives of their babies and themselves at risk. Your baby, on the other hand, is thriving and by all accounts growing well.

You're out the door in 15 minutes.

The following appointments are all the same - they always begin with, "because your BMI is high, you are at a much greater risk for stillbirth. You will most likely have a c-section. You will need to speak to the anesthesiologist prior to labour so that he can tell you all about the epidural you'll be getting."

This is the part of the post where all the swearing came in, but I've done some rewriting and tried to tone it down. Hubby wants me to keep my positive outlook on life intact. I'm also reiterating here that this is all my opinion, based on anecdotal evidence. Maybe you've had a different experience - I'm happy for you. But at a hospital not-to-be-named here in Ottawa, lots of women with higher BMI's are having a shitty experience. Oops, I swore - sorry.

At NO point in anyone's care should they ever be treated as a patient without a right to respect and evidence-based information. And yes, I realize there is evidence out there that more weight on a woman can complicate a pregnancy. But is this the case for every woman? And should that evidence cloud our vision enough to lose sight of the fact that individuals deserve a shared decision-making model of care? (where a patients' values and preferences are of utmost importance - read more here)

We as a society have some serious work to do in our treatment of the "epidemic" of overweight/obese individuals. Every strategy our government and health care providers have adopted treat weight as some form of disease that needs to be eradicated. In all my work I have done with eating disorders, I know three things to be true: Weight is NOT the problem. Willpower is NOT the problem. Fat people are NOT lazy.

The problem is how we function as a community; how we market food to individuals; how the food industry prepares the crap we can buy anywhere, anytime; how our fast-paced world allows for little or no time to reconnect with our bodies and our minds. I could go on and on (and perhaps I will in another post!) about the TRUE reason for weight issues, and none of the "solutions" we have implemented come even close to dealing with the root cause.

News flash: fat women can be healthy. I will be the first to admit that I'm skinny and slightly unhealthy. I don't exercise enough, I eat a lot of junk (at least lately!), and I fail miserably at coping with stress. And yet I have met women 50 lbs (or more) heavier than me who regularly participate in activites, have ample reserves for coping with day-to-day life, and eat as well as anyone can in an environment where industrial food is available at every corner.

If you are overweight and thinking about getting pregnant, be prepared to get stuck with a care provider who will treat you for your weight, and not for who you are as a whole person. Be prepared to meet with resistance at every corner. Every decision you make will be assessed against your BMI, and you may not be "allowed" to do some of the things you want to do.

Does this mean that you are stuck in your situation? Absolutely not! Despite the fact that we live in a country with universal health care, you still have the right to shop around. You are paying for this out of your taxes, and in no way do you need to settle for prejudiced care. Make sure to find a doctor that seems to be about the "whole package" rather than the number on the scale. The last thing you need during labour and birth is to be at the whim of a doctor who is blinded by your fat. I advocate midwifery care whenever I can, but especially in these cases - you will have a much greater chance of receiving positive direction rather than negative attention. Midwives can do a "shared-care" approach in these cases, where you continue to see your high-risk team at the same time.

Listen Up: This is not just an issue for overweight individuals to deal with on their own. This is an issue we all need to face.

Women are not numbers, and many doctors have a hard time remembering that fact. Our healthcare is suffering in this country because we put all of our faith in the numbers, with little regard for individual's feelings and preferences. Doctors (and other care providers) seem bewildered by any pregnant woman who doesn't heed their unwelcome advice - they label them "problem" patients, and throw up their hands in frustration. If you think practicing obstetrics is about "saving" someone, you need to find yourself another job. Women having babies don't need to be saved - they need to be heard.

As with any prejudice, fat bias hides away in the closet, peeking its nasty head out from time-to-time. Well, it's peaked out one too many times...

Enough is enough! Open your closet doors, air out your dirty laundry and give fat a chance.