Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Star for my Star!



A little incentive for Ms. Serafin to do certain "big girl" things, . . . aren't stars fun! We haven't decided wether or not she will get a prize once she fills on all the blanks, we want to see how she reacts when (if) she manages to complete it. She seems to be warming to the idea that if she washes her hands or goes potty she will get a star, at dinnertime, however, forget it!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Amazing Women of Wombservice Midwifery!



Yesterday , we had our final postpartum visit with the beautiful ladies of Wombservice Midwifery. I was sad to see them go. My experience with them was amazing and empowering and I felt the need to spread the word. They are well-educated, sincere and trustworthy women and if you are in the market for a midwife, I recommend these ladies hands down!

In the nine months that I worked with Ellen, Jamie and Hannah, I always felt safe. During their visits to our home, my questions were answered and I felt I could always express myself. Pregnancy and childbirth is an emotional ride and I felt supported and loved by these women throughout. I look forward to continuing our work together with the well-women care that they provide.

Womb Service provided all the tests we needed, including blood tests with blood with-drawls right in our home. They taught me about my body, teaching me how to palpate my belly during pregnancy, showing me how to do breast exams properly and even how to feel for my cervix (which I have always had difficulty doing). They always had suggestions for whatever issues I brought up and worked on each other's strengths to come up with a good game plan for me. They were on time and respectful of our space. They always seemed happy to come to our house and put up with our crazy dogs and noisy birds without a single complaint. They addressed all my fears and made space for them, I never felt disregarded or shamed. They are truly amazing women! Thank you for a wonderful experience ladies!


Monday, December 12, 2011

My X-Mas Angel



I've been slightly melancholic these days, not in a bad way, just feeling the ebb and flow of life. Winter is a time to go inside, to hibernate. This will be my second x-mas ever without my mom around and I'm definitely feeling the loss of her. This holiday was very special to my mom and she always planned it out practically to the minute. Last year when we had the first real x-mas celebration at our home (we usually did it at mom and dad's house) I asked Dad for the "x-mas angel". My mom had embroidered this angel that would sit on top of the family tree every year since I can remember. Then one evening while we were enjoying some x-mas spirit Gary pointed out that the Angel actually kind of looked like my mom. It so made me feel like my mom was standing on top of the tree watching over us. And once again, this year, I put the angel on the tree and my mom is shining down on us. Miss you mom, love you. xoxo

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Home for the holidays!





(Sweet Serafin getting into the Christmas spirit. I made some stuffed felt stars and she is decorating them to give away as gifts, . . . I love being a mom!)

Happy Holidays to everybody!

This year has been very different. With a newborn in the house it has been hard to really think about doing much besides breastfeeding, eating, sleeping and changing dirty diapers! That said, I have managed to pull out the x-mas decorations and jazz up the house. How could I not? Serafin is enjoying the festivities and I think X-mas day will be fun. In fact, I think mostly I will get joy out of watching her wonder and awe at everything. She is amazing. Before I know it we will have two crazy kids running around! Here is a brief holiday tour of our crazy house!

The hearth, . . . it's a family tradition to have handmade stockings. My mom made mine when I was little and I've made one for each of the rest of my family. Silas' isn't quite finished yet (note the bear is missing his head!), but I figure I have a little while before he wonders what's going on! On top of the fireplace is our snow-globe collection! We probably have about 8 or 9 Christmas snow-globes, the ones up there are mostly the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade globes. This is the first year that Serafin has been intrigued by them, she wants them to "play" and sits there pointing out all the charters she sees. They will be hers and Silas' one day.



The Tree!! (and the munchkin!)




Snowflakes in California??



Friday, December 2, 2011

Homemade Massage Oil


(My jars of steeped lavender flowers just itching to be made into massage oil.)


I FINALLY got around to pressing out my herbs to make my massage oil (just in time for christmas presents)! I used to do this on a regular basis, but since I became a mom it has not been on the top of the list of things to do.

I have made oils from a number of plants, but the ones I go back to frequently are Lavender, St. John's Wort (wonderful for strained muscles and depression) and Calendula (great for any skin conditions as it's filled with vitamin E).

In brief, here's a quick outline of my oil making process, . . .
When you clip your flowers, be nice to them, don't butcher the plant, take what you need and that's it. Dampen flowers in a bit of pure grain alcohol or (90 proof vodka if you don't have the other) and place in a large jar. Poor in organic olive oil just so oil covers the top of the flowers. Clean a river rock and place it in the jar over the flowers so that the flowers stay pressed into the jar. Leave jars for a few months in a dark place.

When the jars are ready strain oil into a ceramic (heatable) pot being sure to keep plant material out of oil. Heat oil on low heat to burn off alcohol, you know your finished when the smell of alcohol disappears. Slowly pour oil into an appropriate jar. Sometimes you will notice a fluid collecting underneath the oil after it has been heated, try to avoid adding this to the jar. Let jars cool and add a few drops of benzoin to preserve. When you're ready to give some away, find a nice container to pour it in and jazz it up with some pretty ribbon!



(Now, . . . go get yourself a massage you deserve it!)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cold and Flu season is here!

(Above is my mom meticulously measuring out her tinctures to make herbal medicine. I learned what I know from her and always noticed how happy she was when she was putting her concoctions together.)


Here we go! We are already in the thick of it, germs that is! Silas was born just about three weeks ago and this week poor little Serafin came down with Croup! Ugh. Not fun. Fingers crossed the little one doesn't get it.

Anyway, this unlucky turn of events has inspired me to write a blog entry, perhaps just to vent a bit or remind myself that there is stuff that I can do! In this house we do our best to stick with old school remedies that promote good immune health and healing. I have so many herbs in my kitchen, but these are our staples and the easier things to find for those that don't really want to go looking to hard, . . .

Tinctures:
Echinacea Tincture (both children's and adult): Helps boost immune system
Elderberry Tincture, (or dried Elderberry Berries which make a nice tea if you add honey) another immune booster and is filled with Vitamin C
Meadowsweet Tincture: For headaches

Teas:
Chamomile: Great for settling the stomach as well as helping you sleep
Cat Nip: Not just for your cats! An excellent stress reliever as well as sleep aid
Lemon Balm: Another stress reliever, this one doesn't make you sleepy though.
Mullen: lines the bronchial tubes during a dry cough
Nettles: A nourishing source of iron and calcium, also a diuretic.

Oils:
Olbas Oil: Helps loosen cough
Arnica Oil: Great for bruises
Lavender Oil: Helps relax, reduce stress and relieves headaches
St. John's Wort: Wonderful for releasing tight muscles or reducing nerve pain.
Tea Tree Oil: Good for disinfecting nasty cuts, also treats vaginal infections, such as yeast or BV


Other:
Lemons: good for Vitamin C, mixed with Manuka honey
Manuka Honey: Used to treat many ailments and is a very high quality raw honey
Homeopathic Meds for cold and flu: various, mostly for the little ones



Book Recommendation, . . .

I also have to plug a book of which I consider a natural parenting bible, Naturally Healthy Babies and Children written by herbalist and midwife Aviva Jill Romm. It has a wide variety of suggestions for many common childhood ailments. Of course I wouldn't trust just anybody, but my Mom was an avid follower of this woman and her books, she would always rave about her and at one point even met her in the herbalist community. So if my mom gave her the thumbs up, I do to.

You can check out her other books here. Her book on pregnancy got me through my nine months of gestation with both kids and I do recommend her her book on Vaccinations; her thoughts are honest, always backed up with clinical research, and resinate with my inclination to be aware and cautious when deciding to administer vaccinations.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Silas' Birth in all it's glory!



Silas Mikel Dorrington: Born October 30th, 11:19 AM, 7 lbs, 11 oz

I woke up around midnight on my due date. I had gone to bed early that night, I knew labor was coming soon. My body was tired of being pregnant and I had aches and pains everywhere. The surges woke me up, they were not the practice surges that I had been experiencing for the last few weeks, they were a stronger, lower wave that made my body sing.

I looked at the clock, I watched them come and go for about an hour. "Give it an hour" my midwife had said, "then call me". Yup, it was definitely labor. I went upstairs to tell Gary, I was excited. "Are you sure?" he said. During the next surge, the upright position I was in made it a stronger one. "Uh huh!"

I called our midwife, Ellen, it was a little after one in the morning. "Good morning!" I said to her, "It's starting, and I just wanted to keep you updated." She advised me to try and get some rest, start filling the tub and that she would see me soon. Gary and I went downstairs, he made the birthing bed and started filling up the tub. We both laid in bed while the tub was filling up. I was breathing through the surges. They weren't that strong yet, but I did remember thinking, "How the heck am I going to do this again! Here we go!"

I was listening to the water filling up the tub, then Gary started snoring, I was obsessing over every little sound, I needed to be alone and get into the zone. I took a candle with me up to our spare bedroom. I called my friend Mel who was going to be at the birth, told her it was going to be soon. I was emotional, I was missing my mom.

When I got off the phone with her I closed my eyes and drifted in and out of sleep, my surges building in strength and my body getting ready to birth. I remember letting go and just thinking of them as energy. It helped me relax and let the surge move through my body. Gary buzzed up at some point to let me know the tub was ready, I felt better knowing that everything was in place. I breathed through the surges. I moaned through some. I just laid in bed on my side and let my body do what it was mean tot do. It was amazing.

Around 7:00 I went back to our bedroom. The surges were getting stronger. I had been drinking a ton of fluid so I was going to the bathroom a lot. Every time I would stand up, Silas' head would push down and my surges would get stronger. I called Ellen again around 8. "Their getting stronger, but I just don't know when it will be. I will keep you posted." She asked me what I was doing. I told her just laying on my side. She asked me if I had tried the tub and I told her I really didn't feel like moving much. She said a good indicator would be when I felt like getting up and moving around or getting in the tub. She was right. An hour later I was ready to move.

I called my friend Mel, I still thought the birth was going to be a while, I told her to bring a book and we could hang out, she was on her way over. I got into the tub. Labor intensified. The tub really got things moving. The water felt wonderful, the weightlessness. I had Gary call Ellen again, she was going to head over. Before Ellen and the other midwives, Jamie and Hannah, arrived I told Gary I wanted some family time. He went and got Serafin and brought her into our bedroom. Of course she wanted to get into the water. He stripped off her clothes and plopped her in. I continued to labor and she played around me. Gary showed her how to poor water on my back while I had surges. I felt so close to my family.

Out of nowhere, something in me unleashed, I began to wail for my mom. I heard my voice, it felt like an ancient wail, such a primitive sound coming from inside me, not a cry, not a sob, a wail. I had never wailed like that. I had been holding it in, afraid to let it out, afraid to feel it. I missed my mom so much. I knew I had to feel it, I knew that feeling it would allow me to open up and release into birth. I don't know how long I wailed for, but I knew that at some point I started to come out of it. I was back to being with my surges and family again.

I started to get too hot, so I got out and layed on my side. Ellen arrived. "I think this is it." I said to her. "I hope he comes soon". I added as I moaned through a surge. "You look like a woman in labor to me!" said Ellen. "I hope it's today" I added. "Oh, I think it's going to be today." Replied Ellen. It was 10:00ish. Hannah arrived. They were bringing in equipment. From then on it becomes a bit of a blur.

I got back into the tub. I began moaning. I remember sensations. I was so in my body. They had put a cold wash cloth on the edge of the tub which I couldn't pull my head away from, it felt so good. I remember them checking the babies heart rate. I remember them prompting me and telling me how good I was doing. At this point Gary was upstairs with Serafin, he was coming down and checking on me on and off. I could hear Serafin jumping around on the floor above us. I moaned. I was in laborland.

I remember Jamie arriving and then Mel. I remember feeling Mel's hands on my head, massaging my scalp. I remember Hannah saying "breath him down". Then I felt the bodies natural urge to push. "Let your body do the work, go with your body" Ellen told me. My body was doing it. The next surge was here, I was toning, I remember hearing Jamie toning with me. A deep, loud "Om" is what it sounded like. Jamie's voice was music to my ears. Somehow, her toning with me made me feel like I was not alone. Like she was right there with me, laboring along side with me. I felt like I had angels around me.

I remember Ellen saying, "I think it might be time to get your Dad here". He was supposed to take care of Serafin. I actually had to think about it for a minute, I still thought it was going to be a while (don't ask me why!), then I agreed. Gary came downstairs, I could hear him on the phone with my Dad, a surge was coming, "ooooooooooooooooooooooooooo" I heard my voice say, I felt my body bare down and then suddenly felt Silas' head crowning. "Get off the phone!" I shouted to Gary. "His head is coming!" More moaning.

My clit felt like it was going to tear in half. I felt myself tensing. My midwives suggested either I or they put pressure on the area. I reached down and literally pushed down on my sons head, away from my clitoris. Relief. Another surge. His head came out. More relief. He was here! I couldn't believe it. Jamie reached down and got him from the water. Silas was born in the caul, which means he was born in his water sac. This is said to be good luck. Jamie pulled the membrane off his head. "I'm glad that's over!" I remember saying.

Somehow we got situated in the water and they gave me Silas, he was crying that beautiful newborn cry. Gary brought Serafin in and I felt surrounded by so much love. My Dad arrived a few minutes later and came in to meet his grandson. It was an amazing birth. After a little resting time in the water, Dad took Serafin upstairs again so that I could birth the placenta. I was eager for it to be over and done with and a bit impatient with that part. Jamie assured me that sometimes it takes a while. She gave me some herbs to help with the surges and then after a good push, I felt it gush out. More relief.

I was then helped into bed and looked over; my vitals, my yoni, everything. Silas then had his turn. He was born at 11:19, weighing 7 pounds 11 ounces. Ellen made me an omelette, I devoured it. I was then ready to rest.

It's funny, when I read over the events, it all seems so simple. In fact, it was simple. Leading up to the birth was so complex for me, I kept playing mind games with myself. Preparing, dealing with my grief, letting go of expectation. Once I was actually in the birth, I just let go. What an amazing feeling. I am still glowing from my birth experience. I feel blessed to have been able to feel and experience such a wonderful life changing moment. For me, both times that I have birthed have been an empowering and amazing experience. I have never felt more in my body and more letting go into whatever the universe is offering me. Thank you to the people that surrounded me with so much love and light. My family, my friends, my beloved midwives. I truly felt that I was surrounded by angels. I am one lucky mama.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Giving Way To Birth, . . .Before Silas Was Born


Before Silas was born, . . . .

It's hard for me to think of where to begin with this story. To just go into the details of his birth or just describing the events the day Silas was born feels like to little. There is so much more behind the story and leading up to the birthing process. From the moment I found out I was pregnant again, I began preparing for birth. A lot of this pregnancy was about facing my own mortality, looking at death and really letting go and accepting what life has to offer.

After my mom died a year and a half ago, life turned a different color for me. Everything became sharper and more vivid, I realized what was important in my life and I learned to let go of a lot of things that didn't matter. I grew up in a way that I needed. I felt pain I had never felt before. It was the hardest experience I ever went through, and I still grieve for her. At the same time, my mom's passing opened up an opportunity for me to learn about myself and grow in a way that I couldn't have done without experiencing her loss. I am grateful for that.

When I found out I was pregnant again in Febuary, the close experience I had with losing a loved one sent me into my own tunnel of fears and insecurities. Two years earlier, when my daughter was born, I had an innate trust in my body, I "knew" I could birth her. I wasn't afraid. This time was a completely different experience. Looking at death so closely, seeing my mom's body after her death really hit home to me how we are literally here one moment and gone the next. I was afraid of dying.

In the last months of pregnancy, as I got closer and closer to the birth of Silas, the fear of dying during or immediately after labor became stronger and stronger. I actually remember at one point saying to myself, "If I make it through this birth, all bets are off, life will continually surprise me with it's own path and I have no control over it." In some way, I needed to experience this birth to firmly remind me that I am powerless over life and death. That I don't get to make that decision. That life will take me where I am meant to go.

The days before Silas arrived, there was a letting go. I remember feeling more at peace. Whatever was to be would be, and by then I was feeling so uncomfortable in my body, that I was ready to face the challenges of labor. I had an amazing team in place, each of whom I loved and trusted. There was a part of me that was worried that any fear that I had left over would hinder my birthing process and make it more difficult. When in fact, I learned, that it was only during the process of birthing, that I was actually able to really let go into my fear, feel it fully and release it.

My daughter's birth was about being present and not having expectations. My son's birth was more about accepting "what is", making room for "it" in the present and not judging myself for whatever I was feeling. I am incredibly grateful to have had such wonderful birth experiences, each with their own challenges and most of all moments of pure bliss. Birth can be that as well as hard work and painful. Giving birth was transformational to me. I am incredibly blessed to have been able to experience it fully not only once, but twice in my life.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

39 weeks and the tub is ready to go!




Yes! I hope to give birth in that! So exciting! For those of you that may have read Serafin's birth story, you all know she was birthed at home, sans water (an experience I've always hoped to have). We had planned for a water birth, but didn't manage to quite make it in there on time. As a matter a fact we didn't even get around to rolling it into the room to start filling it up!

We'll see what happens this time around! So far so good! I'm feeling ready as well as the gamut of other emotions that come and go, excitement, anxiousness, curiosity, all of it, . . .


Please wish us your love and light!

xoxo

Love to you all!



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fun at the Little Farm



For those of you that don't know, Tilden Park has a lot of great attractions, the Berkeley Botanical Gardens, the steam trains, amazing trails and even a little farm. Here kids can learn about the different types of farm animals and even get a chance to feed them. Serafin loves going to it. She particularly has an affinity towards the pigs, how could you not, they're so cute, "snort snort".

Unfortunately for the munchkin, the last time we went it was a bit late in the day and the "piggies had gone to bed" already. We still had fun walking around and feeding the goats and cows. If you catch them during the week on a good day, apparently you can even get fresh eggs. They have so many chickens that they are always on the lookout for a willing taker (Me! Me! Me! Nothing like fresh eggs.). Below is a video of Serafin feeding the cows, . . . MOOOOOOOOO!


video

What to do with left-over phyllo dough???




Make some Spanakopita!

Remember the Baklava I made just a few weeks ago?? Well, I bought extra phyllo dough just incase I might need it and it has been sitting in my freezer since. Because I know I'm not going to be cooking for a little while after this baby is born (any day now!) I decided to make some Spanakopita (Greek spinach pie) to have for now and to freeze for later. It has been a regular Greek fest in this house in the past couple of months. I don't know what it is, but this pregnancy has me salivating over all the Greek goodies of my past.

I followed this recipe. The only tweaks I would make is to add some extra feta cheese, and use fresh spinach (no questions, the taste is so much better). And, . . . of course, I used whole wheat phyllo dough which I prefer. I like my Spanakopita to have a nice think layer of spinach, so I found that this recipe only made one large 9x12 dish and a smaller 8x8 portion--not two 9x12 dishes.

The Greek in me gave this recipe a thumbs up, with the extra cheese it would have been even more finger licking good! Enjoy!


Monday, October 3, 2011

Rainy day crafting, . . . Halloween decorations!


I had fun making these little Halloween candle decorations with the munchkin this afternoon! It was a rainy day so it was perfect for staying in and pulling out crafts. Serafin mostly had fun sticking tissue paper to the jars and getting messy. It was fun to see her reaction once I lit them up, her entire face smiled.

This was my first time working with Mod Podge, loved it, a glue, sealer and gloss all in one, definitely a new staple in our house! I have to give credit to the website where I found the idea, they have lots of other fun ideas I might try too! This one was fun, quick and easy!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Baklava!



Yet another family tradition! Every year my Dad would get out the baking pans and make a huge portion of Baklava to enjoy during the holidays. He would give it to friends and family as a delicious treat when they came over for visits as well as gobble up one himself. Mmmmmm. I always enjoyed this undertaking and when I could, I helped him make it.

A couple of weeks ago my hubby sent me a link to the the Honey Harvest Hootenanny on October 1st ( link ), a fundraiser for an awesome place in downtown Oakland that teaches people how to live more sustainably. They put on fun events and also have interesting classes, everything from farming, rainwater harvesting, bee keeping and even arts and crafts. If I wasn't pregnant, I would have really enjoyed partaking in their bee-keeping series. You can check out their website at http://aplaceforsustainableliving.org/

During this "Honey Harvest Hootenanny" they are holding a competition of foods made with honey that don't have any refined sugars in them. Gary then suggested some Baklava. At first I rolled my eyes and thought, "Yeah right, at 8 months pregnant? You got to be kidding me!" But as you've read in previous posts, somehow my nesting instincts have strayed away from cobwebs and dusty corners and been more geared towards cooking and crafting. I bought the ingredients and I decided to put it together.

Now Baklava has a reputation of taking forever to make, it really wasn't all that bad. Overall, from beginning to end, I think it took about 3 hours. The original recipe that came from my grandmother's cookbook was not an option because it uses white sugar, not only that, but to be honest, I always had trouble understand what the heck she was talking about. A lot of times her measurements would be along the lines of, "a spoonful of this" and "a shot full of that". Without my Dad to help me, I decided I needed a more "legit" recipe to follow. Sorry Yayoula! I started looking for alternative recipes and found this awesome blog called The Nourishing Apron. I CAN'T WAIT to try other recipes that she's posted. This Baklava recipe was inspired by hers, although not without my own tweaks and knowledge of making this scrumptious dessert.

Here ya go!


Baklava:

-The night before, thaw out phyllo dough in the fridge. Keeping the dough in the box, set out an of hour before assembling Baklava so that it will come to room temperature.

- First, make the syrup

Ingredients for syrup:
2 cups of water
1 cup of dates, pitted and quartered
2 cups of honey
1 Tbs of cloves

-Simmer all ingredients, except the honey, in a covered pot for about 1/2 hour.



-Pull syrup off stove and ad honey, stir and set aside to let cool.


Ingredients for pastry:
1 lb box of whole wheat phyllo dough
2 sticks of butter
1 Tbs allspice
1 1/2 lbs of pecans
Small hand-full of whole cloves for decoration

-In food processor, coarsely grind pecans


-Add allspice to pecans and blend a few seconds more

-Melt 2 sticks of salted butter in a pot.

-Butter bottom of a 9x13 inch platter

-Take phyllo out of package and put on baking sheet, usually the phyllo sheets are large and can be cut in half to fit almost directly into your 9x13 inch platter. Important(!): Cover dough with a damp kitchen towel so that it doesn't dry out between uses.

-Add a layer of phyllo dough to bottom of platter, then drizzle and brush butter on.

-Add 6 more layers of dough the same way.

-Take a handful of pecans and spices and put a thin layer on top of doe, a bit heavier than a "sprinkle".


-Cover with another layer of phyllo dough, butter, and pecans. Note: In the beginning you may have to cut the phyllo do to fit the pan.

-Repeat process three or four times.

-Re-enforce with an extra layer of phyllo dough and butter (no pecans). Then start process again till all the nuts are gone.

-Add 4 more layers of butter and dough.

-Cut diagonally and put a clove into each square.


-Cook in oven at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes till golden brown.

-When baklava comes out of the oven, poor syrup between pieces of baklava, you should hear a nice sizzle. Be careful not to cover entire piece with syrup as it will make it soggy.

-Set aside and let it cool! It's usually best eaten room temperature after it has "firmed up" a bit and the honey has been sucked into the pastry.

Mmmmmmm! Salivating again!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nesting? or , . . . Crafting!


So I think that this pregnancy has inspired a different form of "nesting" for me. Instead of cleaning the dirty corners of the closet (which I probably should be doing) I have been getting my craft on instead. Projects I have going on, . . . making a x-mas stocking for the new addition (a family tradition), making stuffed felt red stars for Serafin to decorate and give to the family as holiday gifts, re-upholstering those dang dining room chairs (STILL and currently a no-go situation. I swear they WILL get done one day!) and last but not least, the Halloween costume for the munchkin.

Fortunately, I have finished the costume! Unfortunately, as of yet, she refuses to put it on! Who knows, I may be in labor on Halloween, so even if I can get her used to it by then, it still may have to wait till next year!

Anyway, my darling Serafin loves ladybugs, so I started to try and figure out what I can put together. I'm really no good at my sewing machine, something I aspire to improve upon, so I was determined to try and figure something. It's amazing what you can find online, after doing a search on "no sew" lady bug costumes I managed to put together a mish mash of a lady bug get up.

First, . . . the wings (no sew, all you need is the material, a pair of scissors and some glue!)



Then of course, . . . the tutu (they are surprisingly easy to make).



And, . . . last but certainly not least, lady bug antennae (not sure about these, I think they might need a re-do, any ideas?)



Add some black leggings and a black top and voila my friends, you have yourself a little lady bug! Now if I can only get her interested in wearing it--will ad a picture when I do (even if it's in the middle of May)! Bahhhhh!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monterey Bay Aquarium!



What an awesome place! By far one of the most impressive aquariums I've been to. The fish were beautiful and even more so, was watching the munchkin's awe and excitement. "Fishies, Mommy, Fishies!" She would say as she ran off. I had a moment where I really reveled in parenthood.

I love having a family and I can't wait to see what our second child brings to us. I am truly blessed.

There are times, such as when we were walking through the aquarium, that it hits me hard just how much I love watching my daughter grow. Watching how she gets excited about things and wants to explore EVERYTHING makes my heart warm. Amazing. I love being a parent. On a side note, i'll admit, at 7 and 1/2 months pregnant, it was more than exhausting trying to keep up with her, by the end of the day I was definitely ready to go home.

Here are a few more photos of our short trip as well as a little video of my favorite exhibit, the jelly fish (I had trouble taking myself away from them, they were so mesmerizing)!









video

Dolmas!

©Gary Dorrington


Mmmmmmmm, dolma's (or stuffed grape leaves). My dad just recently went to Greece and every time we skyped he would make me drool describing all the yummy food he was eating. To satisfy my craving I decided that it was time to pull out an old favorite recipe--dolmathes (in greek) or dolmas. I've been rolling dolma's since I was a babe, my fingers actually have muscle memory after all these years. We used to always make them on special occasions, the entire family sitting down to partake in the tradition. There was never a feast without these "green turds" as I used to call them when I was little.

They really aren't that hard to make, they just take a while to roll, especially if there is only one of you, so if you can, prepare the stuffing, sit down with a friend and partake in the joy of creating delicious, healthy food for you and your family.

Another tribute to my mom, . . .

Yalangi Dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves)

Good as a main course or appetizer. Make lots because you won't be able to eat just one!

Ingredients:

1 16 oz jar of grape leaves, washed and set aside. Or about 50-60 fresh grape leaves
6 bunches of scallions, cleaned, roots removed and white parts chopped finely
3 zucchini, grated
Juice of one large lemon
1 head of red or green loose leaf lettuce, chopped in small pieces
2 cups of rice (white, long grain)
1 cup of olive oil
2-3 cubes of chicken bouillon, dissolved in a little water
About 8 oz (or to taste)feta cheese, (a tangy variety like Bulgarian or Greek), grated
1/2 bunch of fresh dill, chopped
1 big handful of mint, chopped into tiny pieces
Salt to taste

Prepare the above ingredients. When ready, put the ingredients (with the exception of the grape leaves) in a large bowl. Mix together and taste and, if necessary, adjust the seasonings. Set the bowl of ingredients down on your working space. You will also need a dinner plate, a spoon and a small knife.

Select a heavy, deep cooking pot that can go on top of the stove and has a cover. Pour a bit of olive oil in the bottom and line the bottom of the pan with some of the coarsest grape leaves from the jar. If all the leaves seem tender, you may use lettuce. Place a grape leaf, inside up, in the center of the plate. The stem should be closest to you with the leaf pointing away from you. With the knife, cut away the stem and coarse vein. Overlap any cut parts.

Mix the stuffing together with the spoon (do this before making each dolma to make sure the juice doesn't accumulate on the bottom), and then fill the spoon with stuffing. Place the stuffing about 1/3 way up from the stem. Roll by first folding the end closest to you over the stuffing then folding the sides. Roll up until complete. Place in the pot seam side down. Pack dolmas side by side until you finish one layer. Repeat again for a second later. You will accumulate a lot of cuice as you roll the dolmas. This should be added to the pot. Place a small plate on top of the second row. Do not add more rows. Put more dolmas in another pot, if necessary.

Place the pot on high heat at first and when it starts to boil, turn down to medium heat. Cook for 20-30 minutes depending on the rice and the coarseness of the grape leaves. You can also add a little water if necessary. Taste for doneness. If the rice is cooked, take the pot off the heat. Open the top and let the dolmas cool on the top of the stove. Dolmas are better served at room temperature. They may be prepared up to 4 days in advance. Refrigerate if made in advance and allow dolmas to get to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!


Monday, July 4, 2011

Kindercycle!

A couple weekends ago I had the joy of experiencing my first Kindercycle! It was awesome! I WISH I had brought my camera (next time). It was so much fun watching parents eagerly sorting through used items and finding treasures that only moments ago were somebody else's "don't needs". I came with a huge bag of clothes that Serafin has now grown out of--since we are awaiting the arrival of our little boy in October I figured I would see what I could find there. I'm not kidding when I say I found all the clothes I (hope) I'm going to need for at least the first six months of our newborns life. Cute stuff too!

Why spend loads of money on new clothes when your babe is only going to fit into them for a couple of months at a time? A friend came with me and she found a baby bouncy chair that looked practically new. The deal works like this; entry costs you five bucks if you have something to trade ($10 if you don't) and you leave with what ever you want. The event runs for a few hours and as new people arrive new items get added to the tables. I believe the event runs a few times a year. If you're interested in participating in the next swap, check out the website, maybe I will see you there!



Friday, April 29, 2011

Greek Easter Bread! Yum!



In honor of my sweet Mom, you taught me well (!) . . .
(to the left is one of my favorite pictures of my mom and I, on the docks of Hotel Bora Bora when I was nine)


Easter was hard for me this year. Not only was it the last time I saw my mom before she died last year, but it was also always one of "her" holidays. Normally I don't even give it a thought because my mom always asks me what we are doing. Of course, since we didn't "traditionally" celebrate the holiday we always used it as an excuse to hang out all together and have a good meal, usually something amazing that my mom would cook.

This year, even though I was sad, I used it as an opportunity to start a new tradition. I decided to make some Greek Easter Bread. It is a long process, not too difficult, but just takes a while. My mom used to love making it for my Dad as there are some foods he gets hankerings for being away from his homeland. I remember helping her when I was younger and then eagerly awaiting the fresh cooked bread to come out of the oven. Now it was Serafin's turn to help and enjoy the outcome!


For those of you who didn't know my mom, she was an AMAZING cook. She actually had taken lessons from Julia Child at one point. Her food was mouthwatering, diverse, and, of course, NOT non-fat. A year before she passed away she asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I told her how cool it would be to have a compilation of her huge (and very messy) cookbook. I don't know how she knew where things were in that binder of recipes, it was a huge mish-mash of hand written pages and magazine clippings. Somehow though, that Christmas, my mom produced a neatly typed binder of all my favorite recipes. Included were old family dishes, Greek food, and my childhood favorites. It was also prefaced by a sweet letter from my Mom, words that I have read many times since she passed. This cook book is a treasure to have and I am especially grateful that all the wonderful foods that my mom once cooked are not lost forever.

Straight from my mom's cookbook and into our mouths, please enjoy making some Greek Easter Bread (Tsoureki). It is most definitely worth the time and effort.


Tsoureki
Makes 4 twists

4-5 lbs white flour, sifted with 1 T. salt
4 yeast cakes or 4 packages dried yeast, dissolved in 1 cup of warm water
10 eggs beaten, with 1 1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. allspice
1 1/2 tsp. anise or 3 tsp ouzo
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/3 cup sliced almonds

Boil the allspice and anise (ouzo) in 1 cup water and set aside, reserving water. Place 4 lbs of the sifted flour and salt in a large bowl, and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the yeast with water, eggs with sugar and mix, but do not knead; add the melted butter and milk, and the reserved liquid from the allspice and anise (ouzo); mix with your hands to blend ingredients thoroughly, adding more flour as needed (you will end up using all the 5 pounds of flour).



Then knead until the dough is smooth. Place dough on a floured board and knead until firm, smooth and not sticky. Brush the dough with melted butter, cover with towels , and set in warm place to rise until double in size. Knead again, brush with butter, and allow to rise until again twice in size. Repeat this process one more time (3 times altogether).



When dough is ready, divide it into 4 balls. Divide each section into 3 small balls and roll out each ball with your hands into a long narrow rope. Take the ropes of dough, press them together at the top and braid them, then press the ends together to form a wreath or leave straight. Brush twists with egg yolks, sprinkle with sesame seeds, place in greased baking pans and bake at 325 degrees (350) until golden brown. (45 minutes plus)


Yum!



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Felt Letters!



Aren't these cute?!?


Image via Play To Learn


Well, I have a confession. I was all pumped to be making Serafin those felt letters I wrote about in an earlier post. I had the hopes to make some sort of a felt "blackboard" (which I may still make) but then I just simply got lazy and wanted to focus my crafty energy elsewhere--like on those darn dining room chairs I've been slowly re-upholstering! So I decided to make a purchase, . . .

One afternoon I was browsing on Etsy and found this awesome shop!


She does awesome felt work and her stuff is adorable. I bought Serafin a box full of felt letters and numbers. Even though Serafin doesn't know the difference between an A and B yet, she still loves the colors and they way they feel. Her work has inspired me to learn how to use my sewing machine properly. Other items she makes include felted wall clocks, travel games, kids wall decor and other fun felted items!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Easy Easel for Art Fun!





So the munchkin has been grabbing pens and drawing on anything she can find. This is my attempt to give her something to draw on with the hope (yes, I did say hope) that it may deter her from drawing on other things that are a "no-no".



So easy to make! Just cut off the top, bottom and a middle section of a cardboard box (so it has three corners instead of four), duct tape together in the form of a triangle, tape to something to give it some height, clip up some paper and add some pens held to the easel with yarn so they don't go wandering off. Then have fun creating art! Yay!