Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A letter to my son on his first birthday

Dear Quentin,

Your first birthday is fast approaching and you're becoming such an amazing little person. In honor of your first year, I thought I'd make a list of the things I wish for you:

I wish that you'll find beauty and humor in what can sometimes be a scary, confusing world. I hope that when you feel self-doubt, anger, and anxiety creeping into your life, you'll find solace in faith in something bigger than yourself, whatever you decide to believe.

I want you to respect yourself, and treat yourself kindly. I hope that you will not allow an overly critical inner voice to abuse you so badly that you feel the need to use drugs or alcohol to dull the pain.

I want you to respect your body for the amazing things it allows you to do, and not base your self worth on some arbitrary ideal of physical beauty.

I hope you will know that perfection is not required of you, but giving your all is, even if less than your best will be enough for success. I hope you will always give 100% even when you don't have to.

I hope you will grow up to respect women and their bodies. Women are the creators and nurturers of life, not objects for your amusement. I hope you will make sure every girl in your life knows she is valued for more than her appearance.

I hope that you will feel that standing up for those weaker than you will bring you more fulfillment than looking out for number one ever could.

I hope you will forgive your parents for being less than perfect. I know we aren't always the best examples of what a grownup should be. I hope you will not hold it against us and rise above it anyway.

I hope that you won't let fear of failure, or the pressure of success get in the way of your dreams. I hope that whatever you do, you want to make the world a better place.

I hope you will know that you are always loved, treasured, and valued beyond compare. I hope you will know that the world is lucky to have you in it.

Happy birthday, my sweet boy.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What I've Learned About Breastfeeding

When I was pregnant the one thing that intimidated me most was the idea of breastfeeding. I only knew one person who was breastfeeding at the time, and I didn't feel like I had much support. I read everything I could find which mostly just added fuel to the fire. Cracked nipples, no booze, careful eating- it sounded like a huge miserable sacrifice. But I kept hearing ”breast is best”, and we were going from 2 full time incomes to one (formula is EXPENSIVE), so I was determined to make it work. I took a class at the local hospital which helped to alleviate some of my fears, but the biggest factor to my success was simply what I learned from experience! I want to share some of my new-found knowledge to help calm any fears you moms-to-be might have and maybe even get you a little pumped (pardon the pun) for breastfeeding. Here are the little jewels of wisdom I've picked up along the way:

What they don't teach you in breastfeeding class:

1. It is easy! If it weren't, we would have gone extinct long ago! There is a learning curve though. Find yourself a buddy who has breastfed successfully to help guide you while you're still learning.

2. The sweet buzz! Breastfeeding causes your body to produce oxytocin, the bonding hormone. You feel happy, lovey-dovey, and wonderful from it. This is one reason breastfeeding moms have lower rates of postpartum depression.

3. The awesome rack! Your boobs will look phenomenal due to the increased volume and bloodflow. I may just keep pumping forever just to keep the boobs.

Lies debunked:

1. Breastfeeding is painful. FALSE. If it hurts, you're doing it wrong. The most common reason for pain is a bad latch. This is what causes the cracked nipples, clogged ducts and the complications that go with them. My munchkin had a really hard time latching effectively at first. I discovered that if I pinched my areola so my nipple stuck out and waited for him to open his mouth ALL THE WAY, then stuck my entire boob in there (well, that's how it felt anyway) he got a good latch more often. Then I tipped his head so his chin pressed into my breast and his nose just barely grazed it. Latch first, position second. It's backwards from what they teach you, but it worked for me. I've never had a nipple sore enough to need nipple cream. I've had clogged ducts a few times, but Tylenol and a warm compress combined with frequent nursing got rid of it quickly.

2. You can't drink alcohol. False. A drink or 2 occasionally will not affect your breastmilk. The amount of alcohol from one drink that transfers to breastmilk is extremely small and won't affect a healthy full term baby. If you feel tipsy, wait until you don't anymore before breastfeeding just to be on the safe side. Once it's out of your bloodstream it's out of your breastmilk too.

3. It's hard to do in public, or illegal. False to the point of silliness. All you need for discreet public nursing is a nursing cover or shawl. I use a light cotton sarong with two corners knotted together. Most people don't even realize what you're doing under there. And most states have laws protecting a mother's right to breastfeed her child in public. In Indiana, a nursing mother has the right to nurse her child whereever they are both legally allowed to be- cover or not!

4. You have to watch what you eat. Mostly false. Obviously, you should try to eat right anyway, but you don't need to be fanatical about it. If you're eating a relatively healthy diet and filling in any nutritional gaps with a prenatal vitamin, you're good. Some babies do have sensitivities to proteins from the foods mom eats that are transferred to breastmilk, so if baby is fussy or extra gassy, temporarily eliminating a food can sometimes help. Common offenders are dairy, onions, beans and gassy vegetables. Most babies outgrow this pretty quickly though. You can probably go a couple weeks without ice cream, can't you?

The human body is incredibly adept at producing nutritionally ideal food for babies. Your body will take nutrients from YOU to make your  milk perfect. If you don't eat right, it'll hurt you before it hurts your baby.

My little dude is now 8 months old and still nursing. It's been an amazing, fantastic experience for me and I want that for every mom!

That said, I do not judge women who choose to feed their babies formula. Formula is FINE. It's not poison, save for the occasional tainted batch. :/ It's such a small amount of time in a person's life that the breast-or-formula debate is even an issue. It's hardly something that will make or break how successful you're child will be in the rest of his life. But breastfeeding can be such a wonderful experience and empowering source of pride for a new mom- I just don't want anyone to miss out on it!

Monday, April 9, 2012

How to fake a cake

I'm not a baker as a rule. Anything that requires precise measuring and timing is not really my thing. But the one thing I can do is make cupcakes from a boxed mix. And with a couple substitutions, no one would ever suspect they weren't from scratch!

I decided to try this with my nieces, so we made Shamrock Shake cupcakes (which taste almost exactly like their namesake and are insanely good). Here's the ”recipe”:


1 box French vanilla cake mix
1 box French vanilla instant pudding mix
3 eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 stick of butter, melted and cooled
10-20 drops green food coloring
1 teaspoon mint extract

Mix ingredients and bake according to box directions. If your are using fancy paper baking cups, I recommend banking the cupcakes in plain cheap ones and setting them in the fancy ones after the fact. These cupcakes are very decadent (which is code for ass-widening) and the oil soaks through the paper. Setting the cupcakes in the cute cups after they're baked eliminates that greasy see-through fast food bag look.


1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 can vanilla cake frosting (I like to use the whipped kind, but any kind will do.)
1/2 teaspoon mint extract

Whip cream and sugar until it starts to look clumpy. If you dip a fork into it and pull it out, it should leave little peaks that stand up. Then fold in (this means GENTLY stir with a rubber spatula or big mixing spoon) the canned frosting and mint extract. Spoon into a gallon freezer bag and cut off a corner. Squirt a blob of icing onto each cupcake and top with a cherry if desired. You can also just spoon the icing onto the cupcakes like we did. It looks a little messier, but let's face it, all that matters is they taste DIVINE.

I've also done orange creamsicle cupcakes (substitute orange extract for the mint and orange food coloring for the green in the cake, and omit the flavoring completely from the icing leaving it vanilla), and double chocolate milkshake (substitute dark chocolate cake mix and chocolate pudding mix in the cake, and milk chocolate canned frosting in the icing). If you make these for a party, people will go crazy for them and think you're some kind of cake-baking genius and you never have to tell them it's from a box!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Message From the Universe

Sometimes when I'm doing housework I zone out and ponder the mysteries of the universe (aka thinking about random stuff). I was thinking about why I'm driven to do the things I do and what my purpose in life is. And this thought floated across my mind:

It's not about you. Nothing is just about you except the things you make about you.

I thought about this for a minute trying to figure out what it meant. This is what I came up with:

Each of our purposes in life is about connecting with other people, affecting them in some way. For me that means making life happier, prettier and more whimsical for the people around me. I feel most fulfilled and purposeful when I give something I've made to someone and see that it makes them smile, whether that's a veil I've made for a bride or a plate of food I've made for my husband.

When you sit alone and try to "find yourself" a lot of the time it gets you further from who you really are. It's not about who you are as an individual. Our value comes from who we are as part of the world.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Monday, April 12, 2010

How To Plan a Platinum Wedding Reception On a Tin Foil Budget

When you first get engaged, it seems like the possibilities for your wedding are endless. You flip through bridal magazines for ideas, watch all the wedding shows on TV, peruse wedding-planning websites. From spectacular lighting, to breathtaking flowers, to cakes so big you could house a family inside them, over the top weddings are everywhere.

But when your budget is slightly less than a bazillion dollars, how can you achieve the same effect? These are some tips for creating the wedding you're dreaming of within your budget:

1. Dream Big, Scale Back. This is my motto. Imagine the event you'd plan if money were no object, then start paring down the things you can do without. Figure out which items are your "non-negotiables", the things you're not willing to compromise. Maybe it's the gown on that magazine cover, or the flowers that have to be flown in from halfway around the world. Pick one or 2 things from your "dream wedding" that are most important to you and, more importantly realistic for your situation.
A lot of people will tell you to try to keep it simple from the beginning. The problem with this is that it's too easy to say "What's another $500? I'm only going to get married once!" Do this a few times, and your budget is out the window. It's much easier to cut things out than it is to prevent yourself from sneaking them in.

2. Pick a Theme. I don't necessarily mean a cheesy storybook-taken-too-literally theme, just a loose outline to follow. If you love all things vintage, make your theme "vintage eclectic". This will help steer you away from all of those sleek, modern doodads and keep you from blowing your money on things that you'll end up not using. The key is to keep your theme broad (like "the seaside") instead of too specific (like "dolphins"). By doing this, you'll limit your options just enough to make good design choices, but not so much that you have a hard time finding things that are appropriate.
Also, it needs to be said that a color scheme is NOT a theme. You'll need a color scheme also. Matchy-matchy colors, where the bridesmaids dresses, table linens, and flowers, etc. all match exactly, don't give the visual interest that varied hues do, so your best bet for making your dollar stretch is to pick a few colors that you love. Then go to the paint department of your local home improvement store and find those colors in a paint sample strip (the ones that go from lightest to darkest in the same color). Use these as your guide. You can match your wedding decor choices to any of the colors on those paint samples and it will all coordinate beautifully, adding depth and impact to your overall look.

3. Get Creative! Okay, the gown you had your heart set on is twice your entire wedding budget. You can still get the look you want without having to sell a kidney. Scour eBay for the dress in a size close to yours, or take a picture of the dress to some bridal shops to see if there is a "copy". A lot of wedding gown manufacturers make styles similar (almost identical, actually) to those high-end designer gowns for a tiny fraction of the price tag. You may not get the hand-dyed raw silk roses or the exquisite Austrian crystal hand-beading, but the effect will be the same- and your bank account will be intact!
Here are some other sneaky-creative ways to save a buck while getting what you want:

Have a bouquet party. The day before your wedding get your bridesmaids together for snacks and cocktails, and have them make their own bouquets. You can buy fresh flowers in bulk from your local grocery store floral department or florist for next to nothing. To keep it from being too big of a job, pick 2 or 3 flower varieties (remember that larger blooms take up more space, meaning you won't need as many!) and some greenery. Divide the flowers and greenery among your maids and let them arrange them however they like. Wrap clear elastic hairbands around the stems and trim to an even length, then wrap the stems with ribbon and secure with a pearl-head pin (you can get these in the wedding section of any craft store- sometimes called corsage pins). Make sure to leave an inch or so of the bottom of the stems exposed so you can put them in water. Place them in the refrigerator overnight to keep them fresh. If you choose to go with silk flowers, you can buy them on sale and have your bouquet party months before your wedding.
Pull a Cake Switcheroo. This is a really popular idea that I've seen done at just about every wedding reception I've ever attended, including my own. Buy a small 2 or 3 tier cake to display and cut, and a few large sheet cakes which are hidden out of sight in the venue's kitchen. The sheet cakes are cut up and distributed to guests, who usually have no idea they aren't eating THE cake. To save even more money, buy (or make) 3 cake pedestals in graduated heights. Order 3 plain white or ivory (or whatever color you want!) frosted cakes from a grocery store bakery. Some even offer fruit or creme filling. Arrange the plain cakes on the cake pedestals and top with fresh or silk flowers (make sure fresh flowers are safe for contact with food; wash silk flowers a day or 2 beforehand and let dry thoroughly). You get the look of a fancy tiered cake for possibly hundreds less than a traditional wedding cake.
Pick An "Off" Time. Having a late-evening reception means guests don't expect a full meal. Think about having a sunset ceremony around 6:30PM and start the reception around 8. All you'll need are cocktails and hors d'oeuvres (how about fondue?) and a great DJ or band to make your reception tons of fun! Bonus: if you're thinking of cutting kids from the guest list to cut costs, having a late reception will help ensure the kiddies will be left at home with a sitter. If this is the case, consider organizing a "slumber party" at a relative's house with activities and food for the munchkins. The parents can relax knowing their kids are safe, supervised, and having a great time.

These are just a few examples of how to save money without making too many sacrifices. I'll be posting tons more in the future. I'd love to hear your ideas! Also if you need any clarification or ideas, let me know. I'm happy to help!