Monday, August 30, 2010

Meditation: Success

It takes courage to buck the tide, but once you start to experience the freedom that comes from actively creating your own interpretation of success, you’ll find it easy to move on from people who haven’t yet figured out that having it all or spending long hours at an unsatisfying job will never define who they truly are, no matter how high the pay.
~Elaine St. James
It is a constant challenge to put aside the little voices (real or imaginary) that I hear telling me what it means to be a successful woman.  I'm slowly learning that everyone does have a different interpretation of what success is what they want out of their own lives.  For me, it's about finding balance in the things that bring me joy: raising my daughter, running a productive household, teaching theater classes, learning a new instrument, socializing with friends, being active in my community... there are a million things on my "fullfilling things to do list" and I'm always trying to prioritize. 

The idea of defining oneself is fascinating to me (as a culture I think we're uber-obsessed about defining ourselves through music, fashion, Tweets, etc.).  How do you define who you really are? I'm not sure it has so much to do with what you do or what you buy... just who you are and how you reflect your inner grace.  The challenge is being true to yourself, I suppose! 

Friday, August 27, 2010

{this moment}

a friday ritual (inspired by soulemama). a single photo capturing a moment from the week. a simple, special, extraordinary moment. a moment to pause, savor and remember. if you're inspired to do the same, share a link to your 'moment' in the comments!

Wishing you a lovely weekend!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Oishii: Some Thoughts on Local, Sustainable Food

I'm a fan of Joel Salatin.  In a recent newsletter from his Polyface Farm he articulated the excerpt below.  If you have ever been skeptical about paying more for local, organic, sustainably grown food, perhaps this will change your mind:

"Can you really feed the world?"
"What about price? Am I really an elitist to buy your food?"

Those are by far and away the two most common questions we get asked. Right here, right now, let's address them briefly. We'll take the feeding the world one first, then move to price.

1. Nobody in the world goes hungry because there isn't enough food. Half the food that enters India seaports is eaten by sacred rats. That's not a food production problem. In Africa , tribal leaders and thugs won't let Red Cross trucks get to starving people. That's not a production problem. Food deserts in the U.S. (where supermarkets won't locate), are high crime areas that scare off potential businesses. That is not a production problem. Plenty of food is available; it's not being distributed for various and sundry reasons. All the food in the world won't solve these distribution problems.

2. Scientific ecological farming is only as old as scientific chemical farming. If you visit any living history farm circa 1900, you will not see a compost pile. That's because modern scientific composting was not widely used until Sir Albert Howard did his trials in India during the 1920s and 1930s, subsequently popularizing the nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, moisture, and microbial formulas in what many see as the beginning of the ecological farming movement. His AN AGRICULTURAL TESTAMENT was first printed in 1943.

Remember, worldwide soil depletion, desertification, and land degradation predates chemical and industrial agriculture by a long shot. The American answer to soil degradation was simply to move west. When Americans ran out of west, and began urbanizing during the industrial revolution, many people began studying soil restoration. Although Howard may have been the big dog in that effort, he was by no means alone.

After World War II, chemical fertilizers beat out the composters due to several unfair advantages:

a. Ammonium nitrate, super triple phosphate and other chemical fertilizer formulations were the same as ammunition and explosives formulations— well proven, well known science and easier to learn than composting.

b. Bombs had already paid for the chemical manufacturing infrastructure, so the true cost of these fertilizers never expressed itself on the price tag. The military industrial complex capitalized chemical farming.

c. Composting required biomass pulverizing and transport, which had not yet been perfected.

d. Advertising inertia favored the chemical companies, who ended the war with stashes of cash to leverage on a duplicitous public.

e. Bombs are sexy; compost isn't--although more sex happens in a compost pile than in an explosion. As the industrial revolution permeated the national psyche, American culture embraced factories, manufacturing, and store bought. Even breast feeding fell into disrepute for a couple of decades until the back-to-the- land mother earth revivals of the early 1970s. Free love eventually trumped bombs.

3. The infrastructure and scientific understanding developing around ecological agriculture paralleled the chemical approach in magnitude and time. Industrial food advocates consistently rail against Polyface that our practices are a return to hog cholera, poultry Newcastle's disease, brucellosis in cattle, and tuberculosis in humans, as if our farming represents the epitome of Luddite mentality.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The urbanization occurring in the 1920s and 1930s predated electrification, refrigeration, stainless steel, sewage systems, and basic sanitation knowledge and practice. Innovation never occurs simultaneously along all the ancillary edges of the change. It's a ragged edge. The point of the innovation always extends far beyond the support infrastructure; thought and hardware to fully metabolize the innovation. Related innovation takes awhile—like a slinky effect.

Farm labor migrated to cities by the hundreds of thousands during this urbanization, pushing farmers to embrace industrial practices before electrification, stainless steel, refrigeration, pharmaceuticals, nutrient cycling, building design and machinery developed to metabolize the new industrial farming conditions. This lag created mud lots and hog cholera epidemics around the nation. Ditto for dirty dairy. Ditto for poultry diseases. Routinely feeding antibiotics to farm animals in order to keep them alive in crowded mono-species conditions was still two decades away.

Meanwhile, in the quiet revolution occurring at Malabar Farm in Ohio (Louis Bromfield), the Rodale Research Center in Pennsylvania , Ed Faulkner's trials (Plowman's Folly), William Albrecht in Missouri and other giants of the ecological farming movement, the infrastructure and understanding to complement Howard's composting innovations were gaining ground. Efficient chippers to reduce biomass into decomposable and easy-to-handle pieces became widely available.

Hydraulics finally made their way onto farms in the early 1960s. By the 1970s, 4-wheel drive tractors were available, which made hydraulic front end loaders affordable and efficient even for a small farm.

Meanwhile, electric fence came of age in New Zealand during the early 1970s. What had been a cumbersome and undependable innovation became highly dependable, energy efficient, and incredibly portable. For the first time in human history, large scale commercial herds and flocks could be controlled efficiently to mimic the movement patterns of massive natural flocks and herds. Ration exchange capacity, magnetized foliar feeding, and a host of other earth-shattering developments occurred in this renegade world.

But the culture was fixated on irradiation, genetically modified organisms, DDT, Agent Orange, oxytetracyclene and the techno-glitzy innovations coming from the chemical-industrial paradigm. The Polyface paradigm was shunned like an ugly stepsister. You didn't read about it on the front page of the New York Times.

From 15-year UV-stabilized canvas covers, extruded steel tubing for hoophouses, meticulous planting and harvesting machinery to our own pigaerator compost innovations utilizing symbiosis and synergism, the innovation and high-tech natural solutions to food production were just as profound—and certainly less risky—than the highly publicized chemical-industrial discoveries. So when the industrial food advocates accuse Polyface of wanting to return to hog cholera, it's disingenuous in the extreme—nothing could be further from the truth. They assume that while the chemical-industrial system innovated, the ecologically- sensitive system remained static. That's ridiculous. Polyface is not Grandpa's farm. Anyone visiting Polyface will see, in just a few minutes, a dozen high tech innovations Grandpa could not even have imagined.

And the truth is that if the same time, energy, and creativity invested in chemical-industrial models had been leveraged on composting, chipping, and portable infrastructure, America would be producing far more food today than chemicalized mono-cultures, with more nutrient density, building soil instead of continuing to erode it, without a Rhode Island-sized dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, and would not have poisoned eagles, frogs, and salamanders. That was a long sentence. Now catch your breath.

4. Western research does not measure whole systems. The naysayers from the United Nations and corporatized research institutions like land grant colleges measure only one component when they study indigenous, diversified food production systems. They only measure rice production; they don't measure rice plus ducks, plus duck eggs, plus tilapia, plus arugula and bok choy. The fact is that these highly choreographed symbiotic systems produce more food per acre, in aggregate, than the most heavily fertilized genetically modified rice because to produce that rice, the paddy is too toxic to support ducks, fish, and salad greens.

This kind of compartmentalized, agenda driven research permeates countless official findings and government reports. This junk science finds a home every day in the media and the minds of duplicitous people.

5. Contrary to popular thought, Polyface pastured systems do not take one iota more land than Tyson factory chicken houses—or any other Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) for that matter. The alleged land efficiency of a CAFO is a charade. What do you think those animals eat? They eat grain. And where do you think the grain is grown? Somewhere. Maybe not there, but somewhere. The point is that those CAFOs are not stand-alone entities. Imagine, extending out from each one, acres and acres, even square miles, of subsidized annual grain production.

At Polyface, the omnivores that do eat grain substitute a portion of it with perennial salad bars, so if anything, our production model requires less land than CAFOs when all is said and done. And beyond that, perennials thrive on land that would not be suitable for tillage. This difference opens up countless more acreage to the food production pool. The bottom line is that empirically, Polyface produces more food per acre than industrial-chemical systems, and is in fact the most efficacious way to feed the world. You can sleep peacefully, knowing that you really are part of the solution.

Now let's talk about price, and specifically why Polyface food costs more than industrial-chemical supermarket counterparts.

1. Polyface receives no subsidies. Period. No handouts, no drought assistance, no crop insurance, no direct payments, no grants, no nothing. Polyface will not encourage your taxes to rise.

2. Our food is worth more. Is anyone angry that a BMW costs more than a Camry? Why do we assume we should have BMW food at Camry prices? People who think everyone should drive a BMW at Camry prices is living in la-la land.

3. All the costs are figured in. Supermarket prices are notoriously externalized. The cost of stinky air, antibiotic-resistan t super bugs, pollution de-tox, Type II diabetes, obesity, subsidies, cheap fuel, and horrendous working conditions are not paid for at the cash register. At Polyface, the food is honestly priced. When all the externalized costs are figured in, ours is the cheapest food in the world.

4. People should pay more for food. Why do people need $100 designer jeans with holes already in the knees? Who needs Starbucks? Who needs Disney? Who needs soda, tobacco, frozen pizza and McDonald's? Candy? Flat screen TVs? iPods? The point is, plenty of money exists for everyone to eat like kings. It might mean doing without some items, but most of us could do without stupid things if we gain health and treasure. That seems like a legitimate tradeoff.

5. Buying unprocessed changes the picture. Processed food is not cheap. You can buy 10 pounds of potatoes for the cost of one bag of potato chips. You can buy a whole pound of Polyface grass-finished ground beef for the cost of a Happy Meal. When you buy unprocessed food and discover the joy of domestic culinary arts, you can afford top of the line everything compared to eating processed junk. Rules of thumb: if the label contains anything you can't pronounce, the cost just shot through the roof. If you can't make it in your kitchen, you just subcontracted something expensive and mysterious. Everything you buy should rot. If it doesn't, it's not food. And if it was not available before 1900, it's foreign to your internal 3 trillion member digestive bacterial community. Hot dogs were introduced at the 1890 World's Fair, so eat up.

6. Unscalable government regulations account of many of the higher costs in local foods. The food police are heaping on more burdensome regulations that increase overheads for small processing facilities. When a small abattoir receives the same paperwork from the food police each week as a mega-facility, the costs to read, fill out, and process that paperwork are the same whether the plant does 5,000 pounds a week or 100,000 pounds. Food safety regulations always discriminate against small producers and create prejudicial pricing in the marketplace.

Every time you ask for more government regulations to police the food industry, Polyface prices rise twice as much as industry prices. The Food Safety and Inspection Service has overhauled regulations three times since its inception in 1908: 1947, 1967, and 2000. Within 18 months of each of those events, the U.S. lost half of its neighborhood processing facilities. Regulations always, always, always, hurt the little guys more than the big guys. For more information, read Everything I Want to do is Illegal, by Joel Salatin. Ha!

If Americans had food freedom of choice, entrepreneurial cottage-based and community-sized food businesses would run Wal-Mart right out of business. Supermarkets have only existed for 60 years. If our culture would return to the food freedom enjoyed 60 years ago, supermarkets would soon be obsolete due to the aggregating power of the internet. If that could happen, prices would plummet as efficiencies and economies of scale permeated local food businesses. In many ways, these high prices are arbitrary and capricious, created by the food police.

Many people balk at this, asking: "Isn't it really the mega-corporations that push this? You're not really saying government is to blame, are you?" Businesses don't scare Polyface at all. They don't build jails, send people with guns and handcuffs, or run courtrooms. When former Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine visited Polyface for a private tour in the fall of 2009, he asked about our interaction with Tyson and Cargill.

Here is how we answered him: "Governor, they don't scare us a bit. They can't do anything to us. But what they do is wine and dine you, fill your head with bogus pseudo-science and prejudice, and then send you out to marginalize, demonize, and criminalize agricultural and food choice. It is your responsibility, and the responsibility of every elected official, to protect those who travel the road less taken from being annihilated by the lords of the status quo. A society is known by tyranny or freedom based on how it protects the alternative thinkers. And the more fragile, precarious, and unstable a culture, the less tolerant it is toward those who think differently. "

Volume and price. There it is. We want you articulate, educated, and ready to stand self-confidently, defending the right and reason of patronizing Polyface food. Now go take over the world.

(If you haven't already, read The Omnivore's Dilemma and watch Food, Inc!)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One of these things

Just doesn't belong. Can you find it? Hint: It is pink and swirly and creamy and is supposed to go in the freezer.

I love my husband. I really, really do. I try to love him more when I find ice cream in the fridge. He's just lucky it was some crappy pomegranate ice cream. If it were my Dreyer's Mint Cookie Crunch, he would be dead meat...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Poem for Today

This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I look like a vampire

But not the sexy Twilight kind.

My eyes are SO red, puffy, irritated and bloodshot from allergies. I have developed allergies in the past few years (since I moved in across from a field full of hay), but nothing this severe. My eyes are incredibly itchy and rubbing them offers temporary relief, but also further irritates them and makes them hurt even more.

My nose has taken a beating, too. All the blowing has resulted in several bloody noses and a constant itchy, dry feeling.

I have avoided any kind of medicine since having Olive, but it got so bad last night that I popped one of my husband's Allegra pills to ease the discomfort. I  read on BabyCenter that Allegra was safe to take while breastfeeding, but am wondering if this is really true. Do any of you out there have any advice on this or know of any natural remedies?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Playtime!: Egg carton animals

Another easy (and green!) project with no instructions necessary, but that's sure to be a crowd pleaser with the little ones:

I only made a caterpillar, but this website shows you how to do other animals like ladybugs, spiders and bats (a great Halloween project!).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Not so oishii

Faithful readers know we have an occasional section called Oishii (Japanese for "yummy!") in which we post recipes and other food-related thoughts. While my wabisabi sisters always seem to make delectable fare, I've had much less luck in the kitchen. Some examples from just the past few weeks:
  • Using 1.5 tablespoons of salt instead of 1.5 teaspoons for chicken taco meat
  • Forgetting to add the mandarin oranges--the best part!--to my teriyaki pasta-spinach salad
  • Adding 1 cup instead of 1/2 cup of water for a peach cobbler, then baking it longer to cook some of it off, only to have the dish turn out very gummy
  • Using parsley when the recipe called for cilantro, making for some very weird-tasting enchiladas
My husband doesn't understand how I keep making such mistakes. When he rather unwisely asked why I put extra water in the cobbler, I gave him a look of death and snapped, "I didn't do it on purpose." 

I'm really a very detail-oriented person, so I don't know why I can't follow recipe instructions. Am I alone on this? I guess I'll just have to keep plugging away...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Meditation: New Beginnings

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.
~ Carl Bard
I've got lots of bad habits and one of them is that I sometimes tend to brood over mistakes I made in the past.  Regret is such an icky thing.  Really, what is the point?  My mantra this week?  Focus on making this moment, right now, as blissful as possible.  Then there will be no need for regret.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

3 Things I do that are really bad for Mother Earth

I really do try to be green, but it's not always easy (didn't Kermit used to say something like that?). This post is a confession of three things I do that are really naughty. I already know I need to change, but man, making change is sometimes so hard!

1. Using disposable diapers
I didn't really even know there were other options until I attended some crunchy mother-earth-and-rainbows-type fair with MamaD and saw a display for reusable diapers. My, they've come a long way! My vision of white kitchen towels held in place with oversized safety pins was debunked. Instead there were tons of cute diapers with velcro, waterproof fabric and cute patterns. 

I didn't linger very long because I hate dealing with high-pressure salespeople, which I assume everyone at sales booths are, and also because the pricetags were a little high. But in retrospect, it's probably quite cost-effective to spend several hundred dollars on reusable diapers; I've easily spent that much for my six-month-old and I'm sure we have a long way to go before she's potty trained. Plus, the more kids you have, the better the investment, as you can use them over and over and over again. 

I know it's not too late to make the change, but I'm intimidated because I don't understand exactly how they work (I'm supposed to hook a hose up to my toilet?). A problem easily solved by an hour on the Internet, but I just haven't made the time. 

2. Cleaning wipes
You know, the kind they sell in three-packs at Costco? It's so convenient to just whip one of those babies out, wipe down the counters, then toss it in the trash. They get into those cracks and grooves better than a cloth rag and are nice and moist. But oh, how wasteful! I do feel a pang of guilt every time I use disposable cleaning wipes.

A silly reason I do is because I hate to wash my rags with regular clothes, yet I hate to waste a load of laundry on just a few rags. I could use the quick cycle, but then I feel like the rags don't really get clean. So instead of wasting water, I guess I choose to waste wipes. 

3. Not composting
Growing up, my mom composted every last scrap of food for her massive garden. She had this nasty plastic bag that always sat in a corner of the sink and when it was full, she would transfer it--dripping juices and all--to a pile on the deck. Once the pile got big enough, the bags were transported and emptied into a big compost pile in the backyard. And once the compost sat long enough, she made us kids scoop it by the wheelbarrow-full into the garden. Man, I hated that.

But now I have my own (albeit very small and humble) garden and I'd love to make my own compost. Problem is I live in a townhome and my garden is part of a community garden in the backyard of the next complex over. In other words, it's far away. And I don't want to have to get the compost from point A to B. But even if I did, where would I put it? There's no room for a compost pile. I think nowadays you can get composting buckets or something, but the only place I could keep it is in my garage and is it going to make everything smell?

Again, another problem that I could probably solve with an hour online, or even talking to my compost-knowledgeable mom or sister, but it just hasn't made it to the top of my priorities list. So I continue to chuck those banana peels and uneaten veggies in the trash...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Oishii: Caramel Goodness

Are you someone who pronounces it "carmel" or do you properly elocute "caramel"? Well, whichever way you say it, it doesn't change that heavenly taste, does it? I experimented with making caramel for the first time on Father's Day. My chocolate-covered fleur de sel caramels didn't come out that pretty, but oh, they were so divine tasting!

Because my caramel was a bit soft (not quite sure what I did wrong?) I thought they might lend themselves better to making turtles. Brilliant!

Fleur de Sel Caramel Turtles
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (or so) of whole pecans|
1 bar of dark chocolate

Line the bottom of a cookie sheet or baking pan with parchment paper, then brush the paper lightly with oil.

In a deep saucepan combine the sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil until the caramel is a warm golden brown color - avoid stirring by simply swirling the pan to mix. And be careful towards the end because it will burn quickly and you'll have to start over!

In the meantime, bring the cream, butter, and 1 teaspoon fleur de sel to a simmer in a small pan over medium heat. Remove from the heat, set aside and keep warm.

When the caramelized sugar is the right color, carefully add the cream mixture to the caramel (it will bubble up quite a bit). Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball) on a candy thermometer. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate until somewhat firm.

Melt chocolate in double boiler. Meanwhile, arrange pecans on separate baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut caramel rounds and drape over pecans, then drizzle with chocolate and sprinkle with a little fleur de sel if desired.

These beauties are crazy oishii, so you may want to give some away to some lucky people so you don't end up with a belly ache.

Friday, August 13, 2010

{this moment}

a friday ritual (inspired by soulemama). a single photo capturing a moment from the week. a simple, special, extraordinary moment. a moment to pause, savor and remember. if you're inspired to do the same, share a link to your 'moment' in the comments!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Stuck for Ideas?

There are lots of resources out there if you're looking for activities to do with your little ones, no matter what their age is.  One that I stumbled upon a few years ago is the Productive Parenting website.  You can sign up to receive a daily email with an age-appropriate activity to do with your child.  I actually opted to get mine on Sundays and this week the activity idea was to create a puzzle from a favorite photo.  It includes directions and describes what skills are learned. 

Granted, this is not ground-breaking stuff, but when you're stuck for ideas or just need a little boost to your rainy-day arsenal, this could be a handy resource, so I thought I'd share.  I'm sure you have other activity-ideas and resources you turn to, so share please!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Giveaway Winners!

Using the Random Number Generator commenters #3 (eileen) and #10 (jrae) have each won a Boobie Blankie!  Please email me with your mailing address so I can send you your prize. 

And thanks to everyone for your comments.  Stay tuned for our next giveaway in September!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Meditation: Fear II

The wise person in the storm prays God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear. It is the storm within which endangers us, not the storm without.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Since this is a weakness of mine, I can never have too many reminders to let go and stop worrying.  In an effort to build character I am trying to have the strength and courage to face whatever comes with grace and dignity rather than cowering in fear.  I have a tendency to avoid things that are uncomfortable for me - I dislike confrontation and I often glaze things over rather than deal with them.  But there is no growth in that, is there?  Certainly, when it comes to most things, my fear makes me my own worst enemy.

It's also a challenging thing, learning how to pray wisely.  I believe that there is a God and that He hears us and wants to help us.  I think prayers can be a powerful thing - but I also believe it makes a difference how you pray.  I'm still working on that - how to pray in a way that is humble, yet empowering and how to really nurture a relationship with deity.  Like so many things worth doing, it is a ongoing process.  How do you teach these things to a child when you're still trying to figure them out for yourself?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Playtime!: Milk Paints

Okay, our celebration of breastmilk has gone too far when we're talking about using it for crafts, but I came across this recipe for making your own milk paint and I had to smile because it sort of goes along with our theme this week. Just so you know, this is NOT about using breastmilk, just the ordinary old powdered stuff you may have in your food storage. Hurray for milk!

Powdered Milk Paint
1/2 cup powdered nonfat milk
1/2 cup water
Powdered Paint Pigments

Mix milk and water until milk is completely dissolved. Divide liquid into as many different containers as colors you want to use. Carefully and slowly add paint pigment to each container, a teaspoon at a time, until desired hue is achieved.

This paint dries quickly to a glossy, opaque finish. It does not dust, chip, or come off on your hands the way poster paint does. Use water to thin paint and to clean your brushes. Store this leftovers in airtight containers in the refrigerator and use within a week.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Oishii!: Milkshakes

Though breastmilk is great for babies, for the rest of us we're lucky to have some other options (thank you cows all over the world!). These dog days of summer call for a nice milky treat. Here's how we like to make them:

MamaQ's Mango Milkshake
1 ripe mango
2 cups cold milk
3 scoops mango ice cream

Peel and slice the mango and put in the blender. Add milk and ice cream. Blend!

MamaD's Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Milkshake
3 scoops vanilla ice cream
1 banana, peeled and sliced
3 tablespoons of peanut butter
2 cups chocolate milk

Add all ingredients (adjusting to your taste) into the blender and blend until smooth

MamaM's Summer Harvest Milkshake
3 scoops strawberry ice cream
1 peach, peeled and sliced
1 cup of cold milk

You know the deal - blend all ingredients together to desired consistency.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

For the Love of Milk: A Trialogue

Q: Our dear wabisabi mother breastfed her four children during a time when almost no one else was doing it - a time when doctors encouraged mothers to use formula because it was healthier for the child and gave the mother more freedom (though doctors are supposedly "experts," this proves the wisdom in questioning those in authority and doing your own research!). Now it has become practically common knowledge (as it once was) that the breast is best.

M: I like the bonding breastfeeding promotes, but in all honesty, I would rather not be a nursing mother. Having to be the sole provider of nourishment is a lot of pressure! If I ever want to go out, I have to plan ahead to have enough milk pumped for little Olive. I worry about leaking and those stupid breastpads always show through my bras. Not to mention that leaky boobs pose a slight inconvenience when doing certain activities with my husband, if you know what I mean. And my nipples--oh, my nipples. Often very sore and chaffed.

But I know the research and I know how important it is for my baby to receive the health benefits found only in breastmilk. And so I press on...

Q: What a trooper! In addition to the mental and physical health benefits of breastfeeding, isn't it also nice to NOT have to pay for formula? I'm all for FREE stuff! But M brings up a good point because though breastfeeding is the best option for both mother and infant, it is not always the easiest thing to do, and many women never get the support they need to be successful.

D: Thank goodness for lactation consultants! I'm not sure I would have been successful with breastfeeding without one or without my very loving and supporting husband. As I look back now, I can't believe that I hesitated at all in hiring a lactation consultant to come to my home. Now we are going on our 16th month of breastfeeding!

As I look back at my breastfeeding experience, I can relate a lot to what M described but now that I am nursing after the 12 month mark, I don't feel that pressure anymore, don't need breastpads, the nipples stopped hurting loooong ago, and I feel like the bond that my daughter and I share from nursing is stronger now than in her first year of life (since it seems like it is the only time I get to cuddle her in her active pursuits of walking and learning). And it is actually an extra comfort to me in knowing that she is getting valuable nutrition when her toddler appetite (or lack of) makes me worry a little about if she is getting enough to eat.

Although some people may raise an eyebrow that you are nursing past the first year, you don't have to feel like you are the only one. I attended several La Leche League meetings and witnessed the vibrant community of nursing mothers and several meetings available both during the day, the evening, for mothers or babies under 12 months and mothers of babies older than 12 months. LLL provides excellent support and may get you over some of the humps of wanting to quit breastfeeding earlier than you might have originally planned.

M: It is so key to receive support when breastfeeding. I've never been to an LLL meeting, but I did meet with a lactation consultant about a week after Olive was born. It made all the difference! You'd think breastfeeding is easy enough--just put that babe up to your nipple and she'll start sucking away--but for many it's not so. It's actually a learned art. Thank goodness I had this lactation consultant, two nursing sisters, a mom and a supportive husband to help me along the way.

D: For me, breastfeeding just made sense - I quit my job to stay at home full time when my daughter was born, am too cheap to buy expensive formula, and had read too much about the benefits of breastfeeding to go any other route. However, for some other mothers, it may not make as much sense but that doesn't mean that it isn't worth it. Breastfeeding can definitely have its challenges and although it is one of the most natural acts in the world, it is not always easy. So we encourage all future mamas to make the choice now that you will breastfeed your baby and not to be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Get recommendations on lactation consultants in your area or contact the local La Leche League. Don't feel guilty if you don't automatically (or ever) enjoy it but at least try it and try to stick with it for as long as you can! Some breastfeeding is better than none and more is even better!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Homemade: Boobie Blanket

As promised, here is the tutorial for making homemade nursing covers (is "Boobie Blanket" too tacky?).

1 yard cotton fabric
18 inches boning
7x7 inch square piece of terry cloth
1 set of 3/4 inch D rings

Cut the cotton into:
3x42 inch rectangle (long strap)
3x6 inch rectangle (short strap to hold D rings)
38x26 inch rectangle (body of the nursing cover)

Press the two straps inside out and sew along the side with 3/4 seam allowance. For the long strap, narrow the seam towards the end to taper off. Turn the straps inside out and press with the seam centered in the back.

Fold the short strip in half with the seams facing each other. Insert the D rings and sew along the edges like so:

Double-fold the edges of the large rectangle piece and press:

Starting from the top corner of the shorter side of the rectangle, sew along the edge of the seam.

When you get to your first corner insert the terry cloth (folded in half like a triangle) and sew into the seam to create a pocket. The is the bottom corner of the nursing cover (and very handy for wiping spilled milk).

After you sew around three sides of the cover, you should be at the top of the longer side. This is the top of the nursing cover. Measure 8 inches from the corner and pin the D ring strap into place. Measure 8 inches from the opposite corner and pin the longer strap into place. At this point you can either pin the boning in under the seam or, when sewing the seam, leave an inch-wide space to insert the boning after you've finished sewing. After inserting the boning, you can either hand or machine stitch the space closed.

Once the bottom seam is finished, I like to run it through the machine again to sew along the top part of the seam to reinforce both of the straps (I only do this along the top of the cover, not on the bottom or sides).

Trim off all the access threads and press any wrinkled areas. Voila - you have a stylish, personalized nursing cover (or Boobie Blanket) of your very own!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

3 Things I Love About Breastfeeding

1. Nurturing and Bonding With My Baby
I loved those moments of quiet, skin-to-skin contact with Mayumi, the way she would look at me, the way she depended on me.  She would often reach up and caress my neck or gently pull on a strand of hair.  As she got older she liked to insert a finger into my belly button, always searching for a way to connect to me.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least the first year of a child's life (and exclusively for the first six months), because mother's milk offers nutrients and antibodies that no other milk or formula can provide.  Apparently breastfed babies are less likely to have allergies, asthma, gastrointestinal issues, respiratory problems, ear infections, childhood leukemia and type 1 diabetes.  There are even claims that breastfeeding may boost your child's intelligence and protect against obesity later in life.

2. Health Benefits for Mama
Besides helping to lose all that pregnancy weight, breastfeeding offers a slew of benefits to mama as well.  It can lower your stress levels and reduce postpartum bleeding, reduces the risk of both breast and ovarian cancer and may protect against osteoporosis later in life.  Not to mention that breastfeeding is FREE.  Granted, it may take a toll on your lovely bosoms (I admit it was a shocker when I weaned Mayumi to see what had become of my lovely ladies) but the benefits FAR outweigh the costs. 

3. Having a Rack
Sorry for the vulgarity, but having been small-breasted all my life, it was a definite bonus to finally fill out up there.  In fact, one of the compliments I most often received was that my breasts were beautiful and perfect.  I felt so feminine.  It was a nice feeling.  (No knock against small breasts - they are also beautiful and feminine and often more convenient, especially when working out!)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

August Giveaway: Nursing Cover

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, we are devoting this entire week to celebrating mama's milk!  This month's giveaway is no exception: you've probably seen stylish, devoted mommies everywhere sporting these modest nursing covers.  While I'm all for whipping those buxom tatas out, I understand that most women are a little more conservative when it comes to breastfeeding in public (and for all my talk, I'm a hooter hider as well).  These nursing covers usually run between $30-40 online and in those chic (but pricey!) boutiques.  But we'd like to give one lucky Wabisabi Mama reader their very own, handmade boobie blankie.

Not only that, but I'll be posting a tutorial on how to make one yourself later on this week.  Even if you don't need one for yourself, these handy lovelies are a great gift for a breastfeeding mom you may know.  I love to wrap one of these up with The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding to give as a shower gift to a new mom. 

To enter, simply leave a comment below.  You can gain an additional entry by becoming a follower (first-timers only!) and leaving a second comment letting us know.  Comments close by 8pm EST next Sunday the 8th.  Good luck ladies!  (Comments closed.  Thank you!)