Pumpkin Waffles

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I’ve been sitting on a gold mine of thoughts but I’ve had little to no mental space to sort them out on paper, on-screen or preferably with a good friend.  My heart is growing and evolving, in need of unraveling and sharing, it’s just been hard to grow enough energy to do so.  I suppose this is my attempt.

Friday night I took a dance class from a friend, mentor and inspiring teacher from my past.  Being his student again was refreshing and good for my soul.  For the first time in a long time I was not teaching, giving or serving.  I was taking, absorbing and feeling. I was learning, observing and focusing on something outside of the daily grind.  There was time and space for me to sort out the intangible.  Movement has always been the catalyst for unlocking the truest parts of myself, while connecting all my missing links.  It’s also brought out a critic, full of expectations and judgements. But two babies and some years later, I have dropped my judgements. It feels as though I have nothing to prove, even to myself, only much to feel and everything to experience.

I am not sure whether it’s age or motherhood, time or exhaustion, but perhaps one or all have given me freedom.   Some of the things that seem to stir up conflict, create a heated debate, or leave me feeling like I have to prove or explain myself, have come and gone.  My babies have been born and there is no more talk of how, when and where they will be born.  There are only stories. The decision to vaccinate or not vaccinate has already been made, and our car has been gone for well over a year now.  Whether some think it is innovative, sacrificial or just plain crazy, we already survived living in a one bedroom apartment.  All four of us.

My lifestyle choices are commonly found in the minority.  My beliefs and decisions surrounding faith, childbirth, parenting, transportation, consumption, food, and money are often under scrutiny.  In the past I’ve been quick to react and I’ve felt the need to defend myself.  But now being on the other side of a few big milestones I see how silly and exhausting it is to keep up with worrying how my life choices are going to be perceived by others.  I’m settling into a humble confidence, probably because nothing has ever begged me to know myself more than motherhood.

These pumpkin waffles have little to do with my thoughts, and more to do with the season in which I am redefining myself.  Its fall and I am letting go of the things I don’t need, and creating more space inside my head, while eating lots of pumpkin waffles and diving head first into the pumpkin craze.  Pumpkin ale, pumpkin chips, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin butter… how have I underestimated pumpkin all these years? Sometimes it feels good to join the masses and surrender to the seasonal indulgences, especially when they taste this good.  Happy Fall friends!

Pumpkin Waffles

Makes about 16 waffles

Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

2 1/4 tsp, baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. sea salt

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

4 eggs, separated

2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup packed pumpkin puree

Spray oil for waffle iron

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 250. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Separate eggs.  Combine yolks with milk, pumpkin, vanilla and melted butter. Whisk the egg whites together with a stand or hand mixer, until soft peaks begin to form.  Gently fold the egg whites into the batter until everything is fully combined.  Spray your waffle iron with oil of choice and cook as directed by your waffle iron.  As waffles cook, place them in the heated oven so they can stay warm and crispy.  Serve with maple syrup.

 

Jane’s Bruschetta

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Bruschetta was the very first recipe and story I posted on this blog.  It seemed so fitting that it would be the very beginning, because it was the very first thing I ever made, unless you count cinnamon toast and cereal.  I learned to make Bruschetta from my cousin Jane, on my first visit to Italy.  I was sixteen, eager and impressionable.

The last few weeks I have missed her dearly and so I went back into the archives to re read my very first post.  I found nothing.  Somehow it got deleted and now there is no memory of her in this collection of recipes.  It is heartbreaking when anything gets deleted, but this story is especially unsettling.  It was a good one!  And seven years ago Jane died of cancer, leaving behind a husband and two beautiful little children.  One day I wanted to give her children my collection of recipes and stories, because their mother was the very first person who inspired me to cook.  Not only that but she opened up my entire world and now after becoming a mother myself, I have more respect and understanding for Jane than ever before.

Last weekend I arrived to a potluck with this bruschetta after a bus ride from hell.  I was already stressed about taking the bus for an hour, by myself with the girls.  I was annoyed that I wouldn’t be able to serve my appetizers on pretty dishes.  I was upset that our bike was not yet set up to safely ride with both girls and taking a cab or a zipcar in this instance would not have been an affordable option.  It was 10 am and I was already having a pity party about the reality of my transportation options.  I could either take the bus to my potluck, or I could stay home.  I opted to take the bus but not without admitting to my husband how much I wish we had a car.  (I should note that this was the second day within our second year of living car free that I completely questioned and then doubted our lifestyle.)  After some reflection I can see that those feelings come up when I feel stuck, and I usually feel stuck when I unable to ride my bike.  Still, those feeling were real.  Very real.

We make it on the bus.  Octave is terrified by some incredibly colorful riders and so for the first time in her life, she is quiet.  So far so good.  Until right around the time my motion sickness goes into full effect, and a homeless man spills his bottle of booze all over the girls and I.  It’s 11 am and we smell like a bar.  A few minutes later a woman boards the bus and sits across from us with a big bucket boldly labeled “potty pail.”  I have no idea what that means, and I don’t want to know.  As if that weren’t enough, the  next 20 minutes consist of me, (motion sick, hot, boozy, and uncomfortable,) listening to an older man unfold a tragic story of his twin brother blowing his brains out last week.  Look, I love hearing people’s stories, in fact usually I ask for them, but clearly my hands are full and there is no room left in these bones to engage.  I am barely hanging on here people.  I had enough and I pulled the cord early.  Two miles early.  I walked in 95 degree heat with Bijou on my chest and Octave in the stroller.  I watched the cars zoom past us and tears started rolling down my cheeks.  Who’s idea was it to sell our car?  Oh yeah, that was actually mine.

As I pushed my stroller with bruschetta, and a few extra huffs and puffs, I thought of Jane, and not just because I was bringing a part of her to my potluck.  I had flash backs of watching her mother her small children, and while I didn’t get to be around her day in and day out, I saw enough over my many visits to know that in that moment she would have identified with me deeply. Living as a foreigner and raising small children in the heart of Naples, was most definitely not easy.  And while I may not be raising my children in the heart of Naples, raising them in North Portland, (where it often feels like children are despised,) and sans automobile can some days feel like no easy feat.  And truthfully some days I feel like a foreigner inside my own city.  Some days I am not sure where I belong.  If Jane were still alive I would write her a handwritten letter, all the way to Italy, only to say…I get it!

I remember one night after a long day of whinny babes, Jane and I escaped for gelato.  She almost always walked or took public transit, but that night she stormed out the door, quicker than I could keep up, jumped behind the wheel and exhaled the biggest sigh of relief.  She cursed and then exclaimed “I just want to feel like a normal human being. I just want to get in a car and drive.”  Of course, the act of driving cannot or should not make someone feel human, but now I can understand exactly what she meant.

While I realize normal is a relative term and is largely shaped by our culture, in this moment I couldn’t help but want to feel “normal.” I just wanted to arrive to the potluck in an air-conditioned car, somewhat put together, with my food on pretty dishes. I didn’t want to be so exhausted from the journey that I couldn’t enjoy the actual event. I also wanted to arrive wearing clothes that actually fit me, but that is a whole other story.

Now that it’s passed it all seems rather silly when I think about Jane.  Even the hard days and bad bus experiences are beautiful because they are spent with my girls.  I am alive to love them well.  I’m sure Jane would live a thousand days on that bus, and endure many bottles of spilled booze if it meant she could still hold her babies.  I was with her in her last days, holding her hand, massaging her feet.  I am thankful I was not yet a mother and was not capable of comprehending what her heart was feeling.  Surely it would have taken my breath away.  It does, right here and now.  They say, time heals, but the more time that passes, the deeper my heart breaks.

As I navigate my kitchen and motherhood, Jane floods my memory.  I remember  how she was practical and wise and far less emotional than I.  She was strong and grounded, and so dang smart.  She was passionate and serious but when she laughed I felt so accepted and welcomed into her life.  Oh how I wish we could sit across from each other and talk about New York and dance and art and books.  I wish I could hear her complain about how horrible italian television is.  I wish I could hear her vent about the cheapness and roughness of  the toilet paper her mother in law would stock her apartment with.  I would laugh so hard I would snort, but she never laughed because it really bothered her.  I wish I could introduce her to my husband and babies.  I wish I could bake her loaves of bread. She would be so proud of me.  I wish I could vent to a woman who could understand the complexities of this mammas heart. I wish I could hear her cheer me on and support the way I’ve chosen to live.  I can almost hear her… “brava bella!” And it would mean the world, because she was one of the most incredible women I ever had the privilege to know.

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Jane’s Bruschetta

1 baguette, thinly sliced (or ciabatta cut into slices and then halves)

1 pint of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1 large clove of garlic, minced

2 tbsp. finely chopped red onion

3 tbsp. chopped basil

1 tbsp. oregano

1 tsp. sea salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste

3 tbsp. good quality olive oil

1 1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

*1 clove of garlic for rubbing

Usually I use ciabatta bread, cut into slices and then halved but because I was trekking this across town, I chose to use smaller baguette and assemble once I got there.

Cut tomatoes in half and place in a medium size bowl.  Add all other ingredients, oil, and vinegar. Mix until combined.  Let marinate for at least 20 minutes, but the longer the better.  Meanwhile, slice bread and place on a large baking sheet.  Jane would rub the clove of garlic on top of each slice of bread.  Depending on my commitment to my bruschetta, I may or may not skip this step.  Depending on size of bread, scoop 2-4 tbsp. of tomatoes on top of bread.  Broil in the oven for 5-7 minutes or until tomatoes are slightly blistered and bread is toasted.

Lemon Blackberry Olive Oil Cake

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I’ve had the image of picking berries with my family all spring and summer long.  I’ve pictured us in the good evening light that shines just before sunset.  I would wear a flowing vintage summer dress, and a sun hat providing just enough shade to keep my eyes on the ripest berries.  There would be just enough warmth, just enough breeze, a lot of laughter and buckets of berries.

Mid August we finally make our way to Sauvie’s Island.  It’s noon and there’s no breeze.  It’s the hottest time of the day on the hottest day of the summer.  I’m wearing a dirty (always dirty) frumpy black dress.  No hat and thirty extra pounds of baby love. My tired brain pretends to listen to the farmer as he verbally guides us to the blackberry fields.  I can’t seem to listen, so I just smile and nod.  I assume that finding the berry fields is fool-proof, but I am wrong because forty-five minutes later we arrive at the vines, sweaty and flushed, confused and cranky.  I wonder why I picked today of all days.  Bijou is hot, probably too hot, crying and hungry.

Just as I start to get in a tizzy I look for Octave and find her, bucket in hand with her summer hat on.  I see her eyes captivated by blackberries in their purest state as her mind fills with wonder.  All my preconceived notions start to dissipate and I decide maybe today is just right.  I notice we are completely alone because it’s Monday and everyone else knew it was too hot.  My children feel me let go.  Bijou stops crying.  Octave has never looked so smitten.  I am still sweating.

When I look through my lens I don’t see or feel all of the mornings mishaps, I just see my daughter and her perfect, untainted joy.  With no expectations she gives herself the gift of being completely present.  Full of expectations, I want what she has.  I capture these sweet moments and then I tuck away my camera, out of sight.  I want to be present.  I want to share in her joy, not just observe it. We eat sun-kissed berries that are so hot I can taste them before they ever hit my tongue.  Our fingertips start to show signs of our fun.  We stop before they stain, because we only pick what Octave can carry.

On our ride back home and in between talking with Octave about what we should bake, I wonder why picking berries with her was so important to me.  All summer I felt as though my soul could not rest until we did this.  I am honest with myself and I admit that my life feels out of balance.  Very little about the way we live as a society feels normal to me and yet I keep going along with it, because I don’t know what else to do.  I just want my babe and babies in the good evening light, without my phone and all its notifications, emails, texts, and reminders taking me everywhere but the present.  I want more wild.  I want more free.  I want more of my life, unplugged and free from meaningless distractions.  What is this need to connect with an online world I cannot see or touch? Why does it feel like I am missing something if I don’t.  And why do I feel empty if I do?   Am I cultivating a life that is rich enough for me and my classic pen and paper?  I miss my pen and paper.  I miss my photo books.  I miss the tangible.  I miss the feel.  There are still things I keep near and dear, sacred and secret, but it doesn’t feel like enough these days.  Perhaps this is why I crave moments away from the chaos and grind of life, and why I daydream perfect scenes of my family in berry fields.  It’s not the berries that I want, it’s a connection to the earth and an intimacy with the present that I crave most.

Lemon Blackberry Olive Oil Cake

Inspired by Local Milk

3 cups flour

1.5 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1.5 tsp. flaky sea salt

3 tsp. herbs de provence

2 cups sugar

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup whole milk plain yogurt (european style)

3 eggs

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup blackberries

Glaze

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

2 tbsp. lemon juice

2-3 blackberries

1/8 tsp. vanilla extract

Zest of 1 lemon

Pre heat oven to 350.  In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and herbs.  In another bowl combine olive oil, lemon juice, eggs, milk, yogurt and vanilla.  Whisk together well.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix.  Gently fold in the berries.  Oil your pound cake or bundt cake pan with olive oil.  Pour in batter and bake for 60-65 minutes or until cooked all the way through.  Test with a knife or toothpick.  Let cool for 15 minutes before turning over onto a plate or cake stand.  While cake is cooling, whisk together all ingredients for the glaze.  Put icing into a piping bag or ziploc bag (cutting a tiny hole in one side.)  Drizzle icing across cake. Slice and enjoy.

 

Roasted Corn,Tomato & Blue Cheese Summer Salad

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A friend in our apartment building made this salad and left a portion of it outside my door.  I ate it up within minutes and went to her that same day to get the recipe.  A few days later we received tomatoes, basil, and sweet onions in our farm share.  I immediately went to the store to get the few other missing ingredients and made this salad during nap time.  I was happy.  Happy that I had the energy and enthusiasm to be back in my kitchen, wrapped up in the magic of creating colors and shapes that will nourish my body and make my heart sing.  Happy that it was summer and that I wasn’t pregnant.  Happy that I have TWO healthy beautiful girls and that they were BOTH napping, and without a fight from a very passionate 2-year-old.  I was so happy that I started making faces with the tomatoes and opened up a beautiful gifted bottle of white, at 4:15 pm.

I have had this salad three times now and I can’t seem to get enough of it.  I am confident that when I taste it next summer, it will remind me of this current one.  Tastes do that, they take me back and saturate my senses, leaving me reminiscent of the good, bad and indifferent.  And the funny thing I’ve just recognized about the seasons in my life…once it’s past, I miss all of it.  Every single moment.  Like, biking in subzero weather while pregnant and nauseous, or walking the entire island of Manhattan because I did not even have $2 for transit fare, or more recently,  laboring and pushing out a baby.  The challenging moments in my life that can consume me, and some days eat me up, will truly be missed.  Knowing this gives me a new sense of freedom.  It gives me the freedom to be deep in the present moment, regardless of my circumstance.  Even when the days are long and tiring or when the evenings are lonely, without my husband who is working around the clock trying to make us a better future.  Surely, I’ve always known I would miss all the joyful happenings in my life, but knowing I will miss even the darkest hour, shakes me to my core and screams, be here now, live now, love now.

Roasted Corn, Tomato & Blue Cheese Salad

Serves 4-6 as a side

6 corn on the cob

1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved

1 large heirloom tomato, cut into bite sized pieces

1 large sweet onion, halved and sliced

1/2 cup chopped basil

4 oz. blue cheese crumbles

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. fresh cracked pepper

Directions:

Place corn on grill and cook for 15 minutes, turning often until all sides are chard.  Once cooled, use a large knife to cut corn off of the cob.

Put grilled corn, sliced tomatoes, sliced onions, chopped basil, and blue cheese in a large bowl.  Mix olive oil, rice vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Pour dressing over ingredients and mix well.  Let the salad marinate and sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.  This salad can be stored in the fridge in an air tight container but is best when enjoyed the same day it is prepared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing The Everyday, Movement + Light

 

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I am captivated by the way she moves.  I am moved by the light that dances in her, with her and around her.  I am tickled with the beauty that’s born from the simplest act of pouring cream in my coffee.  Little goes unnoticed, nothing goes without praise.  

I am lost and then found, or perhaps, found, forever lost, but these moments are enough.  This life is more than enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burrito’s Prepared in Advance (Tired Mama’s Burritos)

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I’ve been a mama for over two years now but I seem to wear it so differently than before.  There are signs of motherhood all over me.  Maybe they’ve been there all along, or maybe I can just appreciate them in a whole new way.  I can see my beautiful girls in the dark crescent moons beneath my eyes and a mark on my belly that whispers, life was here.  I can see them in the bizarre thinning of hair that frames my face. I can see them in all the new happy lines that frame my mouth.  Some days I am knee-deep in spit up and overflowing milk, while diffusing tantrums, and hoping scotch, but I am bathing and sometimes drowning, in the most beautiful love story I’ve ever known.  My tired body and eyes might not look so full of life, but each night I lay my head for rest with the fullest heart I’ve ever known. I am loving this season and slowly but surely I am getting the hang of it.  Most days.  Or at least I think I am until six o’clock comes around and I have no inspiration for dinner, in fact I had not even thought about it.

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It turns out, I am not alone.  I’ve asked a lot of other tired mamas lately for some ideas and inspiration.  When I ask how they make dinner happen, most of them laugh and say, “i don’t.”  Mac and cheese and take out are their dear friends.  Quite honestly, if our budget allowed that I would be taking full advantage, especially since we live on a street with some of the best food Portland has to offer.  But that is not an option in this season of our lives and I really do find so much joy in cooking for my family, I just need a little creativity these days.

And so, the tired mama’s burrito was born.  I have made these twice since Bijou was born.  I cook and prepare them one day out of the week and freeze them for later.  When reheated in the oven they become perfectly crispy and then topped with avocados, salsa and sour cream they suddenly become attractive.  The best part is that they taste great and require very little effort on the day you actually eat them. They also happen to be budget friendly, working out to be a little more than $2 a burrito (using all organic ingredients.)  You can follow the recipe or make it your own. Any type of meat would be great. I also think adding grilled corn and sliced olives would be super yummy. You get the idea. The burritos themselves are pretty simple, and I feel so tempted to want to make them fancier but I suppose simplicity is the point here. And the concept of freezing them is worthy of sharing.

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Tired Mama’s Burritos

Makes 10

10 flour tortilla’s

4 cups of cooked brown rice

1 lb. chicken breasts

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 large red onion, chopped

15 oz. can of black beans

1 cup of salsa

1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

2 packets of simply organic taco seasoning

4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

Bake, grill or boil chicken until cooked. Let cool and shred chicken into small bite sized pieces. Set aside.

Meanwhile cook your rice as directed on package.

In a large skillet on medium heat, saute onion in olive oil until soft and translucent.  Add shredded chicken, drained beans, salsa, lime juice, rice and cilantro.  Mix until combined.  Mix the taco seasoning with water (see ratios on package) and pour into large skillet.  Mix until everything is saturated in the taco seasoning.  Turn off heat and set aside.

Shred your cheese, place in a bowl and set aside.

Arrange your ingredients in a way that is easiest for you to build your burritos.  I keep the skillet on the stove, place the bowl of cheese and tortillas near by on my counter and prepare  the burritos one at a time and on a large plate or cutting board.

First start with the cheese.  This is important because it is the top of your burrito and will keep the cheese from melting out of the bottom.  Sprinkle a large handful of cheese, top to bottom inside your tortillas.   You want to leave about 3 inches on the top and bottom of your tortilla so you can wrap it well.

Next scoop out your chicken beans and rice and spread on top of cheese, top to bottom.  I have not ever measured the exact size of my scoop but I would guess it’s about 1 cup.  There really is no exact science here, you can build them as little or big as you want, however the bigger they are, the harder to wrap and keep together.  Just experiment as you go.

Fold the top and bottom parts of your tortilla into the middle.  Next bring in the sides.  Let the sides fold as needed to make an even rectangle.  It will freeze in the position you wrap it and this ensures the filling will not come out once it is reheated in the oven.  After each burrito is wrapped, transfer them, (folded side down) to a large baking sheet and place them side by side.  Repeat this process with all 10 burritos.

Place baking sheet in the freezer for 1-2 hours.  This keeps them from freezing to each other.  Once they are completely frozen you can place them in any sort of storage you prefer.  I used large ziploc bags.

On the night you want to eat them...preheat your oven to 400.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until slightly golden and crispy.  Serve with sliced avocados or guacamole, sour cream, and salsa.  Of course you can also microwave if you are in a hurry but I prefer how the oven makes it nice and crispy.

 

 

 

 

Lately

We’ve been blessed by family and friends bringing us meals in this postpartum season. If you are reading this, and that is you, thank you, thank you, thank you! Bijou is now 3 1/2 weeks old and life is starting to get real. Meaning, I am completely perplexed how anyone can cook dinner with TWO children. I know it will get easier and so I am trying to remember that no season is forever. Snuggling with my ladies is far more important than eating good food right now. However, on the nights when I’ve had help from my mom and mother in law, we’ve managed to make some pretty yummy grub over here. The nights they haven’t been here?  Complete and utter chaos, crying babes and burned frittatas that are so inedible that your husband opts for another bowl of granola.  But, here are some of things we have enjoyed lately…

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1. Pork dumplings, recipe HERE//

2. Mango Avocado Salsa: 2 ripe avocados, 1 ripe mango, handful of chopped cilantro, a few glugs of olive oil, juice from 1/2 lime, a few pinches of sea salt. 

3. Maple Balsamic Roasted Carrots:  Cut in half  and drizzle with equal parts olive oil and maple syrup (I probably used 4 tbsp each for a small bunch of carrots.)  Sprinkle a generous amount of sea salt and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar.  Bake at 425 for 30 minutes or until roasted to your liking. 

4.  The long anticipated Margarita!!  One of my favorite recipes HERE

5.  Some of the Best Burgers I’ve had in a long time (inspired by Crumbums) 1 1/2 lb. ground beef, 1 tsp. sea salt, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1/4 tsp. white pepper, 1 egg, 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese. Mix together, form into patties and grill.

6.  Iced Americano’s, an absolute daily necessity for a tired new mama.  Espresso in my bialetti is my absolute favorite!

 

The Birth of Bijou

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Disclaimer: Speaking, let alone writing intelligible sentences 3 weeks postpartum is proving to be challenging. This birth story is LONG, as was the labor and I am sure is full of typos. Please excuse them…I just needed to start somewhere before I forget the details.

Dear Bijou,

Your sister and I baked you a peach pie as a way of asking (maybe begging,) you to come meet us and join our baking adventures. You took our bait, although took your own sweet time coming into this world. The entire pie was gone before you were even born. And so, I find it most appropriate to bake another peach pie (only possible because nanny is here to help me,) and remember your beautiful birth…

On the night of June 4th at 41 + 4 days pregnant, I went to sleep begging to you start the process of coming into this world. The next morning my last midwife appointment was scheduled and I did not want to pedal 5 miles there and 5 miles back. Up until 41 weeks riding my bike was a dream. It uplifted my spirits and was probably the only time I didn’t dwell on all the aches and pains that comes at the very end of pregnancy. However, I was feeling quite emotional and tired and I did not want to wake up early and leave our apartment. So, I was giddy with excitement when I woke on Thursday morning and noticed I was loosing my mucus plug and had what is called “bloody show.” Both are two signs that labor is imminent. I started to calculate that most likely you would be born on June 7th, a day I always knew would be special. I called Angela, my midwife and told her what was happening. She thought it would be best to stay home because the mild contractions I was feeling would most likely start to escalate and she didn’t want me to tire myself out by riding my bike to her. Great news, I could stay home! I was so excited I couldn’t really rest though.

Your Dad and I started cleaning our apartment and getting things set up for your birth. I made a grocery list of the snacks and drinks I wanted for labor and your dad and Octave biked to the store and left me to rest. In the afternoon nana came to pick up your sister so that we could have a good nights rest and some time just the two of us.

That day I had contractions that were different from the Braxton hicks contractions I had experienced the weeks prior, however they were mild enough that I could continue to go about my daily activities. They continued that entire day and I went to bed slightly bummed that nothing more was happening, but excited because I knew it had to be soon.

On Friday Angela suggested I come to her for my last appointment seeing as though I still was still not in labor. While I would love to sound like a rock star and tell you that I biked there, I didn’t. Your nana came and picked me up. When Angela checked my cervix it was soft and dilated to a 3 but not yet effaced. She suggested I go get some acupuncture after my appointment with her and was hopeful that it would set me into labor. Acupuncture was exactly what I needed because as I laid on the table with needles in all my favorite points, I started feeling the most intense contraction yet. They kept coming a few minutes apart and it was almost getting hard to continue to be still on the table. When the acupuncturist came back in the room I told her the point under my knee and along the outside of my shin kept calling my name and asked to be needled. Ironically she told me she was on her way back in to stimulate the needles and add another one there. That point translates to “run three miles,” and it is a great point for endurance. My body and my acupuncturist’s intuition must have known that I was about to forgo two nights of sleep and be in labor for 48 hours. This point may have been my saving grace. I got off the table and felt like a new woman. I felt ready for labor and could feel it coming on. Before leaving my appointment the acupuncturist took me into the sunlight to examine my ears. In Chinese medicine there is a way to tell the sex of the baby based on the veins on the mothers ears. It was kind of hard to tell but she thought I had a little more on my right side (the female side.) This made your nana boast with confidence because she is the only person who was adamant you were a little girl. Everyone else, family, friends and even strangers always commented on how they thought you were a boy.

Nana drove me home and the contractions continued to get stronger. They were still very manageable but I was starting to get a little moody and did not want to be in the car anymore. Nana stayed with me until your dad got home from work and she took Octave another night for us. Your dad and I ate one our favorite meals, the Brian’s Bowl from Por Que No, and then walked our street to help keep the contractions going. The intensity of them died down but they were coming every 3-5 minutes. I went back home, took a bath and went to bed early. After an hour of lying in bed my contractions got stronger and it was too uncomfortable to lay flat. I went back into the tub and hung out there for a few hours. I woke your dad up around midnight and asked him to time my contractions. He laid down in the bathroom with me while I breathed through my contractions that were coming every 3 minutes. I was feeling more but I was trying my hardest to play it cool. I kept thinking that it was just the beginning and I didn’t want to admit that it hurt yet. But truthfully it did hurt and I was resisting these contractions rather than embracing them. I wanted to call Angela because I really felt like things might progress quickly, but I doubted myself and did not want to call her over in the middle of the night for nothing. When I eventually called her an hour later, she told me that she didn’t think I was in active labor yet and to just lay down and try to get some sleep. I was frustrated because while I may not have been in active labor, my contractions were still strong and frequent enough to keep me from sleeping. In fact, I wasn’t even able to be anywhere other than the shower for the entire night and into the early morning.

The next morning Angela and Maggie, her midwife in training, came over to check my cervix and just see how I was doing. When they got there my contractions started to calm down and come less often. They assured me I was not in active labor yet but my body was in early labor and preparing. My cervix was dilated to a 4 and I was completely effaced. I was encouraged that even though my body was moving slowly, things were happening. However I had not slept a wink that night and was pretty darn exhausted. Thankfully my contractions stopped for about an hour and I was able to sleep an hour before waking up to a good contraction. That whole day was the same story as the evening and night before. I had contractions that ranged from 3-7 minutes apart that were strong enough I couldn’t sleep or lay down but not so intense that I felt like I needed the birth tub just yet. I kept feeling like my body was ready to have you but something was holding me back.

I got a call from Angela around 8 pm on Saturday the 7th. She wanted to come up with a plan for me. She asked if I knew why my labor was not progressing. Maybe she sensed I was holding back something. I burst into tears and admitted that I was scared. I wasn’t scared that you or I were unsafe, because I knew we were just fine. I was not scared that anything was going wrong, I was simply afraid of my own body. If I was having a hard time with the contractions so far and they were telling me I wasn’t even in active labor yet, I was terrified I would not be able to last through the hardest work yet. I was embarrassed that maybe I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. I started to doubt myself, especially with little to no sleep over the last few days. Crying and admitting I was scared is exactly what I needed. She guided me through some images and spoke positive, encouraging words. Within minutes I felt a change in my body. I was still on the phone with her and I started having contractions that I had to make deep low sounds though. I hung up the phone with her feeling a million times better and ready to surrender.

About 2 hours later I woke Chris up and told him I had decided it was time to have a baby. He inflated the birth tub, and started filling it with water while I rocked and moaned and moved through my contractions in the shower. Soon after we called Angela and Maggie and told them to come over. Even if I still had a long ways to go I wanted and needed their presence there. I looked at the clock when I stepped into the tub and it was 11:30pm. I was slightly sad that you would not be born on June 7th, but at that point I was too excited to meet you to really care what day you would be born. And after all, the 8th is a lucky number in the Cheney family and your Bompa and Auntie were secretly hoping you would be born on June 8th and join them in the 8 club!

By the time Angela and Maggie arrived our space was in full-out birthing mode. Lights out, candles burning, music playing and essential oils out and ready for inhaling during each contraction. I kept repeating the word “open,” under my breath as I rocked in the water on my hands and knees. As things got more intense I kept telling myself “my contractions cannot be bigger than me because they are me.” I found comfort knowing that my body was not going to give me something I couldn’t handle, and so I had to keep my mind on those words as to not lose focus. This went on for 6 or 7 hours. I told Angela that I felt a lot of pressure and things were starting to feel different. She called Brandee, my other midwife and told her to come over. The pressure started to get more intense and the contractions closer together and longer. At this point the water was my saving grace. I quickly realized that I was not getting any breaks between my contractions and Angela told me I was in transition. Hearing those words was a sigh of relief because I knew I was close. I had read hundreds of birth stories to know that transition was going to feel like the craziest thing I ever experienced but it meant I was close to the end.

Brandee arrived at some point during all of this. I can’t remember exactly because I was starting to go to a different place. I just remember being aware of her comforting touch and her signing me a song about my body opening up. As she sang I could actually feel my cervix open the last little bit it needed. I will never forget that feeling. Never in my life had I been so vulnerable and so open, emotionally and physically. Being aware of this was really powerful.

I had to get out of the tub to go to the bathroom, and once I was out the pain was almost paralyzing. It must have taken me 15 minutes to even get to the bathroom because I had to stop with every contraction. I finally made it to the bathroom and when I was finished I leaned over the sink working my way through the most intense contraction yet. It literally took my breath away and I wanted to panic. Brandee started lightly massaging my back and it was as if she put me in a trance. I was experiencing the most intense sensation in my life and yet I was the calmest I had ever been throughout labor. I cannot explain or even understand what was happening but I felt out of this world almost, looking down on myself and my body. I slowly walked to our bed and laid down. I laid there for what felt like 10 minutes, feeling but not feeling the contractions take over me. I suddenly popped straight up out of the bed and said I wanted to push. I walked to the bathroom, sat on the toilet one last time before I wanted to get in the tub to push and my water immediately broke. There was a huge pop sound and my water burst across the room and reached the tub. I went to the bathroom and then decided I wanted to take a really hot shower before getting in the tub. I was so happy that I had the complete freedom to do whatever I wanted during this process.

I got in the tub and the urge to push suddenly went away. I doubted that I was fully dilated and ready to push you out. I asked if I should just try to push or what to do next. My midwives reminded me that I was the one running the show and I was the one who was telling them what I was going to do next. I felt kind of silly at that point for not listening to my body. After all, this is exactly why I wanted to give birth this way.

I remember looking at the clock on our stove and seeing that it was almost 5 am. I always envisioned giving birth to you as the sun came up, so I was quite happy that it was actually happening. I could smell coffee steeping in the French press and I felt so happy that I was in my own home and that you were coming soon.

Just minutes after I felt like I wasn’t ready to push, the most shocking noise and sensation come from my body. A gutteral, primal noise came from the deepest part of me and out of my mouth. With that noise, my entire body started to involuntarily push you out. “wooow,” I said and laughed. This happened a few more times. For a few minutes I remembering thinking “this is going to be easy, I don’t even have to try to push my baby out.” Unfortunately, those natural instincts and whole body pushes were just getting you deeper into my pelvis and preparing me for the real work. At that moment complete panic set it. I felt sensations I never thought existed and my eyes were wondering the room, desperately looking for someone to connect with, someone to save me. The world felt like it was spinning and I was desperately trying to grab on for help. I locked eyes with Brandee and started to follow her breath as much as I possibly could. I had a great support system but no one could help me, no one could save. It was the most scary and liberating thing I have ever felt. I pushed and yelled and wanted to cry, but I was felt too deep into a survival mode to let my emotions take over. I pushed a few more times and Angela said she could feel your head. She asked if I wanted to feel it too, but I was more concerned with getting you out as soon as possible. After another push your head was out and I felt a sigh of relief, because the hardest part was over. One more push and out came your entire body. You came floating up to me with your back towards me. Angela and Brandee helped guide you into my arms and on my chest. I was filled with so much emotion and cried tears of joy and tears of relief. It was over. I did it! We did it! It took a minute or two to even look to see if you were a boy or girl. We asked, “who are you?” and turned you over. Even though the very last week of pregnancy I started to think you might be a girl, I was a little surprised to see that you really were. Like I mentioned earlier, everyone other than your nana, was convinced you were a boy. It was such a wonderful surprise!

Maybe 10 minutes later, we got out of the tub together with your cord still attached and transferred to the bed. You laid on my chest skin to skin while I pushed out the placenta. We cut your cord and I remember feeling slightly emotional about that moment. You were officially your very own person in this world. You found your way to my breast very quickly and latched on immediately. After a few hours I gave you to your dad for some skin on skin time with him while I went to take a shower. I came back to bed, we ate snacks, drank some coffee and cuddled with you. The midwives checked you over and weighed you. You were 7 lbs and 9 oz. of complete perfection.

When it was all said in done it was 48 hours, 10 hours of that which were considered active labor and I slept a total of one hour during that time period. While it was much longer than I had hoped for I think somehow it was exactly what I needed to understand a deep part of myself. Birthing you into this world was without a doubt one of the most epic moments of my life. I am so happy I got to experience the home water birth I always dreamed of. I am even more excited that you are finally here, my little Bijou Haru, a little lady I had anticipated for many years. You complete our little family and we love you more than you will ever know.

Love,

Mama

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Peach Pie for Bijou

Crust

2 1/4 c. flour

3/4 tsp. sea salt

2 tsp. cane sugar

15 tbsp. unsalted very cold butter

10-12 tbsp. ice water

Egg+ splash of milk for brushing

1-2 tbsp. turbinado sugar for dusting on top of dough

Filling

6 large ripe peaches

1/4 c. cane sugar

1/4 c. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/8 tsp. ground clove

Pinch of sea salt

3 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Directions

In a food processor combine flour, salt and sugar.  Pulse until combined. Cut very cold butter into tiny bite size pieces and place in the food processor. Pulse  6-8 times, or until flour resembles tiny pebbles.  One tablespoon at a time pour in ice water and pulse.  To test the dough remove the lid and try to pinch the dough together.  It should just barely hold together.  Your dough will look more like sand and you might think that it is too dry, but as long as it just sticks together in your fingers you have achieved the correct consistency for a perfect flaky crust.

Pour crumbly dough on a large clean surface and start to frisage your dough. Watch this video to learn how.  This technique always produces a flaky crust for me.  Form two disks with the dough and wrap in seran wrap.  Place in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to two days.

While dough is chilling, cut peaches into bite sized pieces.  You can choose to peel the skins or leave them on.  I left them on but would probably choose to peel them next time.  Place them in a large bowl and spices, sugar, cornstarch, flour and lemon juice.  Mix together well and let sit at room temperature while you roll out your dough.  This is also a good time to preheat your oven to 400′.

On a well floured surface or pastry mat roll out your dough into a 10″ circle.  Place and form dough inside a 9″ pie pan.  Pour peach filling inside.  Roll out the second disk of dough into another 10″ circle.  This is the time to cut out any shapes if you desire.  Place dough on top of peaches (you want it to just come to the very edge of the pie dish.  Using your thumb and index finger on one hand and your thumb on your other, scallop the dough all the way around the dish.  Brush dough with one beaten egg and a splash of milk.  Sprinkle sugar on top.

Bake pie on top of a large baking pan.  This helps to ensure that the pie crust on the bottom gets baked all the way through.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, until golden brown on top and filling is bubbling.  Check your pie after 40 minutes to see if you need to place some foil on top to keep from browning too much.  Let your pie cool for at least 2 hours, preferably 4.

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Ride

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We started out strong, sporting our tattoos for the Cyclofemme ride, but we strayed from the group because the bladder of a 2 year old and a 38 week pregnant woman can be rather high maintenance.  We still managed to cover 15-20 miles of the city, stopped for brunch at Broder, took a family nap, enjoyed some Salt + Straw ice cream with Tay-Tay and ended our with day some play at the park.  It was the perfect way to celebrate being a Mama.