Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A year ago (October 2011)

Thinking back to what we were up to a year ago is sort of my way of always keeping life in perspective. And October of 2011 was a serious pivot point in our lives.

For the first part of the month we took an 11 day "babymoon."  We hadn't really planned it in advance, but took advantage of our stockpile of airmiles and found a great deal on a Mediterranean cruise. We had enough airmiles to fly first class - to say it was amazing would be an understatement. I was in the beginning of my second trimester and sitting was becoming a little uncomfortable sometimes.  On Trans-Atlantic flights, the seats are set up to recline far enough to be a bed. Bliss for this then-pregnant mama. We flew to Barcelona, hung out for a few days and then took a week long cruise along the Mediterranean down Italy's west coast. Our ports included Florence, Rome, Naples and Palma de Majorca. Our favorite by far was Naples, because we visited the archaeological site of Pompeii and took a drive down the absolutely gorgeous Amalfi coast to the town of Sorrento. I was 17 weeks pregnant and just crossed the bridge to where food tasted good again.. Just in time! You can read more about our trip here. Oh, and my favorite facebook status from the entire trip: "While waiting for the first leg of our flight, which is from Seattle to LA, I asked Adam if he thinks we'll get food in first class on such a short flight. He says "I don't know but I certainly expect an ice sculpture." Ahhh, the life.

During our trip I felt Pierogie's kicks for the first time! They felt like soft little waves, similar to what you feel underwater at the pool.

We found out that our little Pierogie is... a girl! I was so ecstatic! Our chinese gender chart pointed towards us having a boy, and of course I was going to be happy either way, but I wanted a little girl deep down in my heart. Our family was going through a bit of a baby boom and out of about 10 kids born, Penny was one of two girls.

On Halloween Adam started his new job and moved 3 hours away from home. Our plan was for me to continue working at my job until I took maternity leave. It just didn't make sense to quit a good job half way through my pregnancy and try to find a new job in the Seattle area when ultimately I planned on being a stay at home mom. Adam alternated his weeks staying with different family members and drove home on weekends to be with the dogs and I, so that we could finish working on our house. It wasn't easy, but we both saw the long term benefits of going this route so we stuck it out.

Friday, October 26, 2012


I've decided that Penelope is one of those chronic teethers. She had her first episodes of teething pain back in July (at four months old), but we knew that she was nowhere near pushing those chompers out.  At almost 8 months old, she has finally sprouted her first pearlies (post to come soon!). A few months ago, my parents visited our family in Poland and the main item I asked for them to bring back was a teething amber necklace for Penny.

Although I have personally grown up with amber all around me, when I became a part of the Natural Parenting community I read about many parents using amber during a baby's teething phase to help ease the pain naturally. I began to wonder how does a stone help with that?

Well for starters, amber is petrified resin, not a stone. It warms to the touch fairly quickly and is comfortable to wear for babies, which might be a part of the reason why they don't mind wearing it so much. Amber has been used as a medicinal property for as long as history has been recorded. Peoples from around the world have used amber in various ways, all to cure ailments of the body.

I personally have grown up around amber because of my Polish heritage. Baltic amber is lauded to be the best in the world and the Poles use a lot of amber in their jewelry and art. My mother's house has several gorgeous vases which present Polish amber wrapped in curvaceous silver. Her jewelry chest also features amber of varying colors and designs, from the common knotted rope to large stones in broaches (yes, she has broaches) and rings.

Amber presents itself in different colors based on several factors, including what kind of resin it is made from, degree of oxidation, inclusions inside and how it has weathered over the few million years. Different shades of amber depict their healing power and therefore quality. If you're not looking to use amber medicinally, then you've got a broad range of amber colors to choose from - ranging from yellow to sage green, to even black. Most commonly it is light or dark brown in color, clear to fully opaque. It can have flecks of organic material (read: fossils!) inside.

Part of the amber color range -  source
One of my favorite birthday gifts from Adam is a little necklace with a droplet of honey amber, which looks like milky honey. It has a little honey bee and flower charm. My niece, Pammy, who is five, once asked me "Auntie B, why is there a bee on your necklace?" She's so damn cute.

Although there are several hundred different variations of amber cataloged in the world, Baltic amber is considered to be the most valuable.  Baltic amber is sought after the most for medicinal use due to its high concentration of succinic acid. Our bodies naturally produce succinic acid in the Krebs Cycle (I'm not even going to pretend to completely understand how the Krebs Cycle works, or attempt to explain it - read about it here.) which is a part of our metabolism. However, the little bit of succinic acid that we produce is automatically used for daily function. Adding a little bit of extra succinic acid into our systems has been linked to many health benefits, such as pain relief. The FDA has approved succinic acid in foods as an additive or supplement, preservatives, cosmetics, you name it. However, second to producing succinic acid ourselves, absorbing it via amber is the most natural way to get additional succinic acid.

Like I mentioned before, Penny had a few unhappy episodes prior to wearing the necklace full time.  Overall she is a happy and very easy going baby, so when she cries or fusses I know that there is something really bothering her. With the amber necklace, she has shown almost no signs of discomfort related to teething.  Adam and I were sort of reserved about it, figured "hey, if it works it works!" But lately, now that Penny is in full teething mode - I am a 100% believer.  There have been two times where at the end of the day, I look back and think "wow, she was really fussy today.." and realize that her amber necklace wasn't put on after bath time the night before. I really can't say that it's coincidence.

What do you think, does wearing amber really make teething better? 
Does/did your baby wear amber?

Monday, October 22, 2012


This exemplifies fall for me.
A quiet country road,
leaves fallen on the ground
and crisp blue skies.

We've been taking walks in our local nature reserve
this summer and fall.
It's been interesting to watch the seasons 
change the landscape naturally. 
Sometimes, there isn't much change from one week to another. 
Other times, it feels like a drastic overnight change.

You know there's a change in season when creatures start behaving differently. Last week was one of those weeks where it seemed like nothing had changed, but literally hundreds upon hundreds of these black and orange caterpillars were crossing that country road - from the field into the woods.

Interacting with Penny has taken a turn as well - she loves being played with, and has a concept of "fun" now. She loves being tossed in the air.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Festival of Food: I'm possesive over my homemade applesauce

Welcome to the Festival of Food Carnival. In celebration of autumn and Halloween, we're sharing recipe ideas for healthy treats, or anything you would enjoy this time of year. Hosted by Diary of a First Child and Hybrid Rasta Mama, you're welcome to join us next time, or if you have a previously published recipe you'd like to share, add it to the linky below. 
 Festival of Food Carnival

Mmmmm..can you smell it? The sweet combination of baked apples with a touch of cinnamon, cardamom or chai spice? Applesauce is my tradition for the start of fall. A warm bowl on a rainy afternoon, while curled up reading a book (or, lately - snuggled up with my hubs, baby or dogs.. sometimes all together) perfectly represents this glorious season. That, and brisk walks, apple cider, aromatic pies, scarves, sweaters and seeing my baby in a cute knitted hat.

We're what you might call applesauce snobs. I have a hierarchy for my applesauce. I use applesauce in a lot of my baking (as a replacement for oil and calories), but will only use the store bought stuff. I jealously guard reserve the homemade variety so that it is only enjoyed in a bowl, by itself. Why? Because I painstakingly peeled, cored, chopped, and cooked each one of those apples and I'll be damned if each bite isn't savored.  I even ration my husband's portions, because in my mind if he has too much at one time, it isn't special anymore. Yea, he thinks I'm crazy and controlling over my applesauce. I'm not afraid to admit it, either.

Enough of my melodrama, homemade applesauce isn't that hard. It's time consuming. It can be painful, when your hands are tired or you've accidentally nicked yourself one too many times with the peeler. Or when your hands are all pruney from the juice and the slices slip out of your hands over and over. Applesauce isn't technically difficult - it's just not for the faint of heart ;) I truly see it as one of my labors of love for my family.

Growing up, my mom made applesauce in a pot and it felt like it took days. And a lot of attention. I'm definitely a "set it and forget it" kind of cook (whenever possible) - so that wasn't going to work for me. And lo - behold, the crockpot.  My sister in law taught me how to make applesauce in this manner, otherwise I probably would either a)still be a slave to the stove and pot or b)not making applesauce at all.

So since that first fall where she came over with her own crockpot and borrowed my father in law's crockpot, I've sort of grown my own little crockpot army. I think I have 5 total. And they all range in different sizes, from the tiny party-dip size to the humongous cook-a-turkey size. Whenever possible, I use all of them to my advantage come applesauce time. The smaller crockpots cook the apples faster, so I use them to "flash-heat" the pieces and eventually move them into bigger crockpots as I chop more apples. It's my own crazy little science, and perhaps in my attempt to efficiently cook apple pieces as quickly as possible I've also wasted a lot of time and energy in coordinating the mush between crockpots, but hey- to each her own. You don't need 5 crockpots to make applesauce. I just like to make a production out of it :)

Had enough of my babble? Ready to embark on your own applesauce adventure? Read on.

What you'll need:
  • Organic apples (rule of thumb: 1 lb of apples = 1 cup of applesauce)
  • crockpot(s)
  • Tools to core, peel, chop apples: I use a corer, a peeler and a knife. Although, one of these days I need to get an actual apple peeler and corer
  • Optional: hot water to heat up your crock pot quickly 
  • Optional spices (any combination of your choice): cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, chai spice, apple/pumpkin pie spice blends **No sugar needed! :)
  • Containers to store your applesauce - tupperware for freezing, jars for canning (see this link from PickYourOwn.Org on canning)
  • Depending on how many apples you have, expect to spend about 1-2 hours coring, peeling and chopping, and about 5-8 hours of cook time depending on your crockpot. 
What you'll do:
1. Start with your apples. I keep an eye out for good prices on organic apples at the start of September. Besides the feel-good portion of choosing organic, it is SO important to use organic apples because they are the #1 fruit in the Dirty Dozen List. The Dirty Dozen is a list of foods that have the highest level of pesticides. Sometimes organic fruits/veggies go on super-sale at your local grocery store, but you can also venture out to your farmer's market or fruit stands that are popular this time of year.  We've always used Golden Delicious apples because they are so naturally sweet, but this year I picked the apples off the tree in my parents' yard (another reason why I should be possessive over my applesauce - I picked these apples with my own two hands! They didn't magically appear one day from the grocery store). But the bottom line is use the type of apples that you find tasty. The amount of apples you use is up to you. Remember, 1 pound of apples will produce about 1 cup of applesauce (see what I meant by labor of love??).

2. Core and peel your apples.

3. While coring and peeling, prep your crock pot. One of my efficient-applesauce-secrets: turn the crockpot on HIGH, and fill it about half way with already hot water. This will heat the ceramic quickly and as soon as you pop your first apple chunks in there they will immediately start to cook.  Keep it closed.

3. For the chopping part, I like to chop them relatively thin and uniformally (another of my efficient apple sauce secrets!) because the apple chunks cook quickly and the applesauce will be pretty smooth. If you like chunky, chop them in varying thickness and sizes. Once you have accumulated a decent sized apple chunk pile, dump the hot water and turn the crockpot to LOW. Keep the lid closed as much as possible.

4. Chop, chop, chop away. You'll be here a while. Transfer into the crockpot when necessary, but don't open the lid too often!

5. Cook until you've reached the desired consistency, stirring every 2-3 hours. If the sauce is too watery, remove the lid for about 5 minutes and stir to allow some water to evaporate. I've never had a problem with my applesauce being too thick, but I suppose if it was too thick you can add a few tablespoons water or apple juice to loosen it up a bit.

6. Now that I have a baby, I prefer to leave my applesauce unseasoned until I'm ready to serve, so that I have the option to give some to her. But if you don't mind, you can season to suit at this point.

7. When done, scoop your applesauce in your choice of storing containers. Average shelf life of applesauce in a tupperware in the fridge is less than two weeks (don't worry, it probably won't be a problem!).

Whew! See, like I said - in theory, not that hard. It's not rocket science, people. But it definitely takes some time. I look forward to one day sharing this responsibility with Penelope / kicking up my feet and watching her toil over those apple slices ;)

So what do you think, am I crazy for hoarding my applesauce? Do you hoard any food of your own?

Here are some fun ways to enjoy applesauce (besides in a festive bowl by the fire)
  • As a condiment: on pork chops, potato pancakes, oatmeal, ice cream, apple spice cake (!), waffles or pancakes
  • Mix with walnuts and golden raisins (I like to soften mine up by placing them in hot water for a few minutes prior)
  • I'm excited to try this one out - scroll about half way down for Organized Living Essential's Recipe for her Vanilla Yogurt and Applesauce with Almond Oatmeal Topping
Comment below if you have your own special way of enjoying applesauce!

Please take a moment to visit the blogs of our other Festival of Food participants. The links in this list will be live by the end of the day, as participants are all in different time zones.

Stay connected! Be sure to "Like" the 

Festival of Food Carnival Facebook page.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pumpkin Patch

Today we took a trip out to our local pumpkin patch (the largest in our county, mind you!) with our dear friends, who have a 20 month old son.. who I may have secretly betrothed to our daughter.

We brought along a wagon for the kids to ride in, and set out to find our perfect pumpkins. The kids each got their own and we also got a "family" pumpkin (nice big ones).  Penny's was a sugar pie pumpkin - which I plan to bake and have home made pumpkin puree for fall treats rather than the store-bought canned stuff - which incidentally is not real pumpkin, but squash. Home made pumpkin puree is so much tastier, not to mention healthier. After much searching, hemming and hawing over the perfect color or the best "face", we found our pumpkins, which weighed in over 40 lbs each!

It started out as a blustery day, where we weren't sure if this was such a good idea, to a fun little family outing and getting to spend time with friends.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How I am trying not to let our family be a bear family

The onset of fall makes me think about bear families.

Sort of a random thought, don't you think?

In the fall, parent-bears are busy scurrying around, doing their bear thing - getting fat for the winter. When the weather is right, they hole up into their den and hibernate. Some bear-parents have their bear-babies during the hibernation, and those bear-moms nurse and grow their babies and sleep (sometimes I wish I was a bear-mom). Eventually, things start to warm up, and the bear families emerge and they have insta-toddlers. The bear-babies are now ready to wreak havoc on the mountain side and there's no stopping them. 
C/O National Geographic
I kinda feel like that's what we're getting ready for here.

Fall in the Pacific Northwest is officially here (YAY!) and like many other families, ours is getting out there and enjoying the last few weeks (days?) of fairly decent and crisp weather while we can. We're fitting in our last walks, taking trips to the local cider mill and pumpkin patch, and cooking up some delicious apple sauce, chili and other meals that stick to your ribs (one of my favorite ways to describe food). We're getting ready for colder weather by putting away our summer clothes and reaching for those glorious sweat shirts and snuggling up to blankets. The fireplace is on in the morning. Daylight is getting shorter and pretty soon the only people you will see outside are the dog walkers. Yes, that was me last winter - faithfully walking Romeo and Squirt in all of my pregnant glory with galoshes.

Like those bear families, we're getting fat for the winter and cozy-ing up our den. And like those bear families, when spring comes, I too will have a rambunctious insta-toddler ready to wreak havoc on the mountain side.

To be completely truthful, although Adam and I dream about being homebodies and holing up for weeks on end, it never happens and probably will not any time soon. We're too connected with our families and we enjoy going out and doing new things. But Penny and I need to come up with fun stuff to do during the day-to-day so that she can be challenged and stimulated so that when spring does come, she'll be running with the rest of the pack. And I'll need a way to keep my sanity, of course.

We do a fair share of visits to my friends and their babes, but a only handful of babies are within a few months in age. Penny is blessed to have 3 cousins that are between 6-9 months older than her. But at this stage, 6 months is a big difference. Most of the time, we moms get to chat while managing our kids, but the kids don't really interact too much.  I feel like my social needs are being met, but Penny needs friends too!

So I've been thinking about what we can do about that. It's been sort of tough these last 7 months, Adam and I haven't made much effort to put down roots anywhere due to our temporary living situation. Now our house is sold and we're very intently working on getting the next one. Which means, relocating again. So to me, it didn't make too much sense becoming a part of a moms group, because I figured we could be out of here at any time. I'm not the most outgoing person, so making the effort to have connections with others when I know I won't be around for long just isn't my cup of tea.

I kind of decided to give up in and go for it anyways. At the suggestion of my sister in law, I checked out our local library and found that they have story telling time. They even have different age groups that keeps the kids really close in age. So this morning we ventured out and hung out with 6 other moms and their babes, all under 1 year old, but most of them between 6-9 months. Perfect for Penny!

We sang a few songs, read a book, and afterwards the moms got to chat while the babies crawled around and played with toys. Penny made me so proud today - while most of the other babies took a while to open up when released from mama's lap, Penny was already squirming away and doing her little army-man/inch-worm crawl to meet some new friends and check out some cool toys. There was no way I could have holed this social butterfly up all winter.  So I guess we'll be filling our social calendar after all.

What kinds of activities do you and your baby do when the weather isn't up to par?

Oh, and for your viewing pleasure... Penny dressed up as a bear-baby. Adorbs or what??
From 8 - 12 weeks

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Little Dziubek

def: (joo-beck): "little beak;" a term of endearment
Whenever Penny is concentrating really hard, she pooches her lips out into a little beak. My Polish mother ("Babcia" /bab-cha to Penny) calls this expression "dziubek."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lucky #7 (months)

Dear Pennybaby -

This last month has brought on quite a few changes for you! Even with all of these amazing feats, I know you won't sit still for long! I anticipate that by next month you'll be completely mobile and getting into all sorts of trouble, and likely sporting some teethies!
  • Moving: you can easily transition from sitting to going on all fours. Pulling yourself up into a seated position is still a work in progress. You do love to get help with 'walking' around the house, while someone holds your hands and you high step around with the biggest grin on your face.  You can also pull yourself up into a standing position. 
  • Crawling: it's not true crawling just yet, but it is so very close. You know how to use your arms to pull and your legs to push, you've been really good at practicing baby yoga with your downward dogs and side planks (which I am super jealous of by the way - you can out side plank me any day!). It's just that cute-as-can-be tummy is still staying low to the ground. Nonetheless, when motivated, you can truly get yourself across a room in no time - on hardwood or carpet.

  • Talking: still a lot of 'ba ba ba,' but in the tub last week you did manage a long 'ma ma ma' run - which made my heart swell with joy. It wasn't directed at me, but the fact that you can get that sound out is one step closer to calling for me. You've also started some baby babble, which is absolutely adorable.
  • Eating: You take part in dinner with us most nights per week. This month avocado has been a favorite (you are definitely your mama and daddy's creation!) adding in some of my home made apple sauce, home made pretzels, steamed carrots, broccoli, bananas, sometimes toast-fingers. You've also gotten pretty good at using the sippy cup! 
    Broccoli, bananas and avocado are a staple


    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...