Friday, March 30, 2012

A Few for Friday

...I just got done using our pool for the first time! We bought a $13 inflatable chair at Wal-Mart today, which was an awesome investment! I laid on it and floated around the pool for quite a while. My feet and bottom of my legs were the only part of me that got wet. The chair even has a cup holder! I can see many days spent floating around in the pool, fruity drink with umbrella in hand, and not a care in the world. I might not get much housework done, but that can wait until rainy days. :)

...We are going to the beach tomorrow! I have been anxious to get to the beach since we moved here and especially since the weather has been so beautiful! Well, that's a bit redundant, because the weather has been beautiful since we moved here. As I just said, we took a trip to Wal-Mart today to stock up on our beach gear. I can't wait!

...I've started taking the dog for a short walk in the mornings. There is a golf course right behind the houses across the street from us. If we walk about 4 houses down, there is a nice open view of the course. I love listening to the birds, soaking in the warm sun, and watching the golfers on the bright green course as I wait for the dog to do his business. There's something peaceful and beautiful about a golf course and I don't play golf!

...I. LOVE. Florida! The weather has been amazing since we moved here in December. I'm told that I probably won't have such affectionate feelings for my new home once August hits, but we'll deal with that when the time comes. There are so many birds here! I'm sure I look like a crazy schoolgirl on a tour at the zoo with the way I stare in amazement at the different birds. I was sitting at Starbucks the other day and a little lizard came up next to me. I just sat there watching it for a while. We don't have lizards in Illinois, unless you go to the pet store or zoo.

...I love when I have a "brilliant" moment (it happens very rarely). I made breakfast for supper last night. We had a breakfast ring...sausage, eggs, spinach and cheese in crescent rolls shaped into a circle. Once I got done putting it together, I had a little bit of everything left over. I remember that I had 2 tortilla shells in the refrigerator, so I put together two breakfast burritos to throw in the freezer. It worked out perfectly and made my night.

....Another thought from breakfast last night...I love watching The Pioneer Woman on the Food Network on Saturday mornings. A few weeks ago she was making breakfast and showed these frozen fruit cups. I don't remember everything she put in hers, but it was basically a combination of canned and fresh fruit frozen in their juices, then taken out a while before eating. They end up being kind of a slushy-like texture. I did this last night with a can of peaches, a can of mixed fruit cocktail, and banana slices. I had some for a bedtime snack, when it was just starting to freeze. Then I had some this morning for breakfast. It was so yummy! I think this will be a new go-to summer snack. Frozen bananas kind of have a vanilla ice cream texture and taste, plus the juice from the canned fruit makes it slushy. Very good!

And that's all the randomness I'll bore you with on this lovely Friday afternoon!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Book Review - "Pushed" and a rant about childbirth

***Disclaimer: This post is in no way making an announcement or hinting at anything. It's just simply me sharing my thoughts and opinions with you. When I become interested in something, I enjoy reading and learning as much as I can on the topic. So, the only announcement I have to make is that I hope and pray this information will be useful to me at some point in the near future. :)

Ironing is a task that can be dreadful, but also enjoyable. The only reason I enjoy it is because it gives me a good excuse to watch TV for 2 or 3 hours straight. A few weeks ago, I had a major mound of ironing needing my attention. There wasn't anything interesting on TV at the time, so I turned to Netflix. I found the documentary, The Business of Being Born, and selected it for my ironing entertainment. I was thoroughly fascinated! The documentary was produced by Ricki Lake. I was surprised to find out she is very much an advocate for natural birth. The documentary looks at modern maternity care; the pros and cons of hospital births, natural births, birthing centers, and home births. It is a bit graphic at points, but incredibly interesting.

Natural birth has always been fascinating to me and I am a big advocate. After watching this documentary, I was even more interested in learning about modern maternity care and strengthening my personal argument for natural birth. I was at the library picking up Inconceivable when I noticed another book next to it on the shelf. Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care grabbed my attention. At first glance inside the book, I was a little intimidated. I noticed a lot of numbers and statistics. However, once I got started, it was hard to put down. (I know I'm odd for enjoying a book about childbirth when there's not even a hint of necessity. But, that's how I roll).

I enjoyed reading about the history of childbirth and maternity care. It is amazing to think that women were once put into a "twilight sleep" to birth their babies or restrained at the wrists and ankles during labor. Can you imagine!?!?! The author, Jennifer Block, did a great job writing about the progression of intervention used in hospitals and the varying practices doctors use in maternity care.

The author focused a lot on the sad truth that most women are not given many options when considering childbirth. Today's norm is for a woman to go to a hospital, be given Pitocin if labor is progressing as the doctor would like, get an epidural to deal with the pain, be hooked up to all kinds of machines, stay on her back for the duration of labor and delivery. And if all that doesn't flow just as the doctor would like, she is wheeled in for a cesarean section. A woman is often looked strangely or questioned if she expresses interest in anything but this plan. Natural childbirth is often frowned upon, let alone using a midwife in a birthing center. The real kicker is if a woman wants to give birth at home! How dare she!

Now, I'm not here to pass judgement or put other women down. If a woman wants to have an epidural or even schedule a c-section, then go for it! Just don't judge me if I want to do it differently. It boggles my mind to think that it has become so controversial for a woman to want to give birth the way women have for hundreds of years! Why is something "natural" frowned upon? In my opinion, the answer can be summed up in two words: money and liability. Doctors and hospitals are in business and they're scared of being sued. I don't blame them, but that doesn't mean it's right.

I am a supporter of midwives, birthing centers, and home births. I'm not ashamed to say it. One statistic the author gave in Pushed was especially interesting to me. There are only 175 independent birthing centers in all of the United States. In 12 states, there are no birthing centers at all. In 11 states, midwifery is illegal. (Pushed, p. 179) This information is astounding to me. I'm thankful to live in a state where there are still a few birthing centers and even more thankful there is one close to us!

Women should be able to have a choice in how they want to labor and where and how they want to deliver their baby. If a woman wants to schedule a c-section, then she should have that right. But, why is it considered acceptable (and sometimes encouraged) for a woman to schedule a c-section, but not acceptable for a woman to have her baby at home? If a woman can choose to take birth control, kill her baby by abortion, or be cut open to remove her baby, then she should have the right to choose to have a baby at home. Unfortunately, most of society doesn't agree. Did you know that there have been instances where women who have had home births were turned in to social services? That is absolutely ridiculous! There have also been instances where doctors felt that a woman was putting her baby in danger by choosing to have a home birth or refusing a c-section (when the baby was showing NO signs of distress) and the doctors performed a court-ordered cesarean. A court-ordered cesarean! The thought makes my stomach turn!
I understand that the two examples I just gave are extremes, but they are still happening. Such tragedy has occurred within the past 15 years.

I understand that are circumstances that make it difficult or even impossible for a woman to give birth naturally. C-sections are necessary in certain situations. However, I strongly believe that most of the c-sections performed are done so unnecessarily or could be prevented. I'm not going to tell anyone what they can or can't do. I just encourage women to educate themselves and know their facts. Reading this book gave me a lot of insight as to questions I need to ask when I am seeking an obstetrician or midwife. I am thankful for the knowledge I gained. I am thankful women like Jennifer Block are willing to do their research and confront issues such as this.

Since reading this book, I have come across a few websites that have been especially interesting and speak to this issue. Childbirth Connection is a site mentioned several times in Pushed. It contains a wealth of information regarding maternity care and childbirth. Several of the statistics and studies referenced in Pushed can be found on this site.

One last piece of information and I'll get off my soapbox. There was a study published in 2005 by Johnson and Daviss titled "Outcomes of Planned Home Births." The study looked at 5000 planned home births attended by CPW (certified professional midwives). 95% of the women gave birth vaginally and all of the babies were born healthy. (Pushed, p. 264) That says a lot for the support of midwives, natural birth, and home births.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Recipe Reviews - Chicken Pot Pie, Alice Springs Chicken, and Energy Balls

****Editing Notes: After I posted this and went into the kitchen, I saw the recipe for Alice Springs Chicken on the refrigerator. Then it hit me, I didn't make Smokehouse Chicken, I made the Alice Springs Chicken. They're basically the same recipe, but I thought I would fix my review anyway. I'm definitely having a "duh" morning....

3 recipes to share with you today....

Chicken Pot Pie

Kerry first pinned this recipe on Pinterest. Chicken pot pie isn't something I think about making very often, mainly because I've been disappointed with recipes I've tried in the past. This recipe from Pillsbury sounded like it might be a winner because 1). It was easy, 2). Didn't use cream of chicken soup (which I try to avoid if possible), 3). Had a flaky crust instead of a biscuit-type crust I've seen in several recipes.

It really was very tasty and easy to put together. It was super creamy and flavorful! I did add a few extra spices to the filling (garlic, thyme, and oregano). One mistake I made was not letting the vegetables thaw out first. I thought they would be fine since the pot pie had to bake for 30-40 minutes. I was wrong. They were a bit crunchy!

Alice Springs Chicken

This recipe is supposed to be a knock-off of Outback's Alice Springs Chicken. I've never had it at Outback, so I can't make much of a comparison. This recipe was pretty tasty though! It could be a bit time consuming for those who might have to get supper on the table quickly, since you have to grill the chicken first, then broil it to finish it off. I loved the flavor of the Lawry's Seasoned Salt marinade with the dijon mustard. And anything with cheese and bacon is always delicious!

Energy Balls

I've seen this recipe floating around Pinterest and have been wanting to make it. I often get the munchies throughout the day (who doesn't?), so I like to find healthy snack ideas. The basic recipe is nut butter, oats, coconut, honey, and whatever you want to add in. I used peanut butter, oats, honey, coconut, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips, raisins, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon. They are so addicting! Next time I make them, I might try a few changes. I would like to get some local, raw honey, try an all-natural peanut butter, and use dark chocolate chips. I thought they would also be yummy with dried cranberries. I kept a small container in the refrigerator and put the rest in the freezer until I was ready for them. The whole batch (about 15-20 balls) only lasted about 5 days!

Monday, March 19, 2012

For the Home, Made at Home

I've posted previously about making homemade laundry detergent. I'm still making it and using it, although I have tweaked the recipe some. I still like using it for the cost efficiency, but I've been having some problems with the clothes smelling a little sour. I'm not sure if it's the water here or something about the detergent. I've tried adding essential oil, which helped some. My next thought is to try the Downy Unstoppables or Gain Scent Booster products. But, that would kind of take away from the cost efficiency and chemical free aspects.

I have recently added 2 more products to my homemade list: fabric softener and makeup remover. I found the idea and recipe for the fabric softener from the blog, One Good Thing. I used 1 bottle of Suave conditioner, 6 cups of water, and 3 cups of white vinegar. I mixed up well and poured it into a clean milk carton. I keep a mason jar filled about 2/3 full of the softener with a strip of an old t-shirt. I just pull the t-shirt strip out and throw it into the dryer with my clothes. I don't notice any difference from using this compared to using the store bought dryer sheets. It cost me around a dollar to make 1/2 a gallon of fabric softener!

The makeup remover recipe also came from One Good Thing blog. (This is a blog, by the way!) I heated 1 cup of water for about a minute, dissolved 1 Tbsp coconut oil in the water, and added 1 1/2 Tbsp baby shampoo. I'm storing it in a pint size mason jar. I just dip a cotton ball into the makeup remover and wipe off the makeup. It really works great and smells wonderful! I keep coconut oil on hand, so all I had to buy for this was the baby shampoo. I found a big bottle for about $1.50 at Wal-Mart.

Since I've mentioned it, I want to tell you how much I love coconut oil! I keep a jar and use it on my face, legs, hands, and even on my hair for smoothness. A little bit goes a long way! It is the only thing I have found that I can use on my legs after shaving that doesn't burn like crazy. Heres a list of 52 Uses for Coconut Oil. And here is a whole website dedicated to the use of coconut oil.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Last Saturday, we visited the Strawberry Festival here in Plant City. These folks around here are really proud of their strawberries! Not that it's a bad thing, because they certainly are delicious! As we were leaving the Festival I bought us a flat of the prettiest strawberries you ever have seen. Once I got them home and realized just how many strawberries are in a flat, the wheels started turning trying to figure out what I was going to do with all of them before they started going bad.

I found this idea on Pinterest for dried strawberries in the oven. The directions say to dry halved or quartered strawberries for 3 hours at 100C/210F. Well, I had a blonde moment and tried to set the oven at 100 degrees. My oven would only let me turn it down to 170, so I dried them at that temperature for around 3 hours. My dried strawberries didn't turn out as vibrant and plump as the picture from the website makes them look. They were kind of mushy, but still tasted pretty good. Maybe if I try baking them at the right temperature, they might not be so mushy.

Their strawberries...

My strawberries.

I also attempted to make some strawberry jelly. I found Martha Stewart's recipe for Quick Strawberry Jam. It sounded easy enough and I had all the ingredients. I was a little skeptical that it didn't use any pectin or gelling agent, but I thought if Martha Stewart approved then it was good enough for me!

My jelly/jam turned out a little thin. It's more like syrup than jam. Grandma and I had it on some pancakes this morning and it is delicious! It did thicken up some in the refrigerator, but still not quite as thick as jam.
Strawberry jam/syrup on pancakes. Yum, yum!

We have been eating a fair amount of strawberries for breakfast and snacks. I also froze some to use in smoothies after the season is over.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book Review - "Inconceivable"

From the synopsis on the back of the book:

"When Carolyn and Sean Savage learned in February 2009 that their fertility doctor had transferred the wrong embryos into Carolyn's body and she was now pregnant with another couple's child, they embarked on a journey unlike any other. Inconceivable is a riveting story of sacrifice, love, and the meaning of motherhood."

I just finished reading this fascinating and heart-wrenching book. The story of Carolyn and Sean Savage is remarkable and unimaginable. The idea of conceiving, carrying, and delivering a child to whom you have no legal rights, yet do so with as much love and nurture as if it is your own, is beyond comprehension. I found myself riding the journey with this couple as they passionately wrote of the emotions experienced throughout the pregnancy and months following the birth.

My mind was forced to entertain the question of motherhood and what exactly it means to be a mother. Is not a woman who loves, nurtures, and carries a child in her womb for nine months, yet is forced to give that child up, still a mother? What about a woman who is chosen to be a surrogate for another couple? What about a woman who dumps her newborn in a trashcan because she doesn't want to face the responsibility? Or the woman who shakes her child to death because his crying is too much for her to handle?

The title of the book, Inconceivable, holds a bit of a double meaning. The authors, Carolyn and Sean Savage, struggled with fertility. They were blessed to conceive two children naturally before choosing to turn to infertility treatments to expand their family. Through several IVF treatments, the couple experienced three miscarriages before successfully conceiving their daughter. After the traumatic birth of their daughter, the couple wanted to try IVF with their remaining embryos. That attempt led to Carolyn being pregnant with another couple's child. Inconceivable also describes the magnitude of this medical mistake and the choices the couple were forced to make as a result.

It is impossible to read this book and not feel overcome with emotions. The depth of strength, sacrifice, and forgiveness this couple displayed is inspiring. On their website for the book, Sean and Carolyn write a blog about their story and document their life after the book.

New Blogs

I am very excited to share with a you a new blog I added to my blogroll. My brother and sister-in-law have started a family blog! YAY! Being the only member of my family who lives far away (everyone else is within 3 hours), it's great to be able to stay connected through technology. My brother and SIL are expecting their first baby in September, so I'm extra excited to be able to follow along with the pregnancy and as my new niece or nephew arrives! Hop on over and check out Sweet Corns!

Also, a good friend has reentered the blogging world after a short hiatus. Melanie over at At Home with the Hodges is writing again! I really enjoy reading what Melanie has to share. She is very spiritual and insightful, plus her kids are hilarious and pretty darn cute!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Manatee Viewing

Friday was Grandma's 89th birthday. We were excited to have her son and daughter-in-law visiting for the weekend. I had heard about a manatee viewing center near us and thought it sounded interesting. It was free, not too far away, and something none of us had done before. It was a beautiful day to be out by the water!

Our first sighting of a manatee. We just looked for the dark blobs in the water and waited for one to pop its head up for a second.

Chris pointing out the manatees to Grandma.

Standing up to get a better look.

Marilyn, Grandma, and Dave

Grandma and her son

We also saw a few little sharks!

Chris showing Grandma the shark.

It was so exciting when one would decide to stick its nose or tail up for a second.

Manatees are kind of ugly creatures, but still interesting to watch. One came close enough to see some of the scars on its back. Because manatees are such calm animals, they often get hit by boat propellers. The researchers use the scar patterns to identify the manatees.

A pretty flower and butterfly

One manatee had a tracking device attached. Another manatee sanctuary attached the tracking device a couple weeks ago and has been in contact with this sanctuary since the manatee made its way to Apollo Beach. Researchers can tell by its scar pattern that it is a manatee first sighted in the late 1970s.

These two guys were called in to rescue a manatee caught up in a buoy. They were trying to get close enough to put a marker on it, then they would go out later with a bigger boat to catch it in a net and remove the buoy. The manatee was not interested in letting them get close!

This is about as close to a shark as I would like to be!

Little crabs

One last shot of one sticking its nose out of the water to catch a breath.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Recipe Reviews

I've tried several new recipes over the past few weeks. Most of them were good, but a few weren't so good.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who isn't on the hunt for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe? I had a craving for some a few weeks ago and really wanted to make good ones. I usually follow the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag. Those turn out alright, but not memorable. I came across this recipe on Pinterest (did you expect anything less?). It claimed to be "the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever" by another pinner. So I gave it a try.! Heavenly! I whipped the dough together fairly easily and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. I followed the recipe exactly, using sea salt where it calls for either sea salt or table salt. After it sat in the refrigerator overnight, I baked the cookies for 12 minutes exactly. They turned out perfectly crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The sea salt gave them the perfect sweet/salty taste. I definitely ate more than my fair share!

Breakfast Casserole

As we were planning for company during the Florida Fellowship, I hunted for good breakfast ideas. I knew that I wanted to do a "traditional" breakfast one morning, but I wanted other ideas for the other mornings. Breakfast casserole can be an easy breakfast idea, but it can also be tricky to find one that is tasty. This one hit the spot!

My additions/changes to this recipe were that I used a pound of Johnsonville Sage sausage. We really like the flavor of the sage sausage. I also used 6 or 7 eggs instead of just 5. For the spice mixture, I used salt, pepper, a little garlic, onion powder, oregano, rosemary, dill, and thyme. I didn't measure any of those, but I would say a healthy amount of each. Maybe 1/2 tsp. salt, garlic, onion, oregano, rosemary, dill, thyme and 1 tsp pepper. I also didn't measure my cheese (who does that?), but I think I probably used a little more than 1 cup. I assembled the casserole in a freezer pan and stuck it in the freezer a week or two before the meeting. I put it in the refrigerator overnight, then baked it like the directions say in the morning.

It was scrumptious! I loved the spice combination a lot. I have a hard time eating eggs, so the more hidden they are, the better! Several of us wanted leftovers later that night!

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

I made this recipe for church one Sunday. It was easy to put together and was very yummy! I used a 9-inch store bought graham cracker crust. The filling made WAY more than what could fit in the crust. I ended up saving some of the filling and using it later in the week. I made a 10 inch graham cracker crust and made another cheesecake with the rest of the filling. I didn't make the chocolate glaze, but I'm sure it would have added to the deliciousness!

When I made it, I put a handful of extra chocolate chips on the top of the cheesecake after it had baked for about 10 minutes. A lot of the chocolate chips from the batter sank to the bottom while it baked, so this helped it to have a layer more towards the top of the cake. Again, it was a good sweet/salty mixture with the graham cracker crust.

Country Club Chicken

We eat a lot of chicken around here, which doesn't always go over well. I like chicken a lot more than I like beef and I find it's easier to be creative with chicken. So, when I find a new chicken recipe that sounds interesting, I'm excited to try it out! This recipe was one of those that I was excited to try. At first glance, the flavor combination sounds odd: chicken (yum), bacon (yummo), cheese (yum), creamy sauce (yum), apple (saywha!?!). I make another chicken recipe with pureed apple that is pretty good, so I thought this might be good too. Well, it didn't quite live up to expectations.

It was a bit time consuming and used a lot of dishes to prepare. It was a very rich dish and it had an interesting flavor. We didnt' care for the flavor of the sauce. I'm not sure if it was the apple, or the combination of several things. I can't even describe what it was that we didn't like about the flavor. It was just odd. In an unappealing way. But, you might think differently if you try it!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Random thoughts for your Friday entertainment

Wow, it's been a b-u-s-y few weeks! Actually, our lives have been a flurry of activity since about October. I think everything finally caught up with us in the last two weeks.

The Lord blessed us with a wonderful Florida Fellowship Meeting two weekends ago. All the cleaning, grocery shopping, and preparation was definitely worth the richness of the sermons and the sweet fellowship. It was wonderful to have our dear friend, Michelle, with us for the weekend. We stayed up way too late visiting and catching up, but it was memorable! Be sure to check out Little Union's website to listen to the sermons and the congregational singing from the meeting. You will be blessed!

Every ounce of energy was completely zapped from my body by the end of the meeting. Last week was spent recouping and lounging around. I'm pretty sure the only productive things I managed to get done were a few loads of laundry, dishes, cooked one or two meals, and cleaned the bathrooms. Thankfully, we're back into the swing of things this week and life is (mostly) back to normal.
In other news, I am in the midst of working on my very first quilt. I got the quilt top sewn last week and have started quilting it this week. I'm about 1/3 of the way done. It's quite a learning experience and is in no way close to perfection. But, I think the uneven stitches and the crooked lines add the the homemade charm!

I was 1.3 miles away from my 25 mile running goal for the month of February. Bummer. Early on in the month, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to make the goal because of all we had going on. But, I managed to get a 4 mile run in on Monday and I had hope. But, when more important things came up the past two days, I said "fuhgeddaboutit!"

My good friend, Elizabeth, is made a recent debut (or comeback) to the blogging world! Hop on over to Under the Sycamore Tree to read about her adventures as a wife, momma, and gluten-free chef!

I have several recipe reviews to share with you! Hopefully, the creative juices will start flowing more rapidly and I will get those done soon. But for now, I'm off to get ready for an afternoon out with my wonderful husband!!!!

(How was that for a whole bunch of randomness!?!?)