Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book Review: The First Husband by Laura Dave

From the back of the book: Los Angeles-based travel writer Annie Adams thinks she has it all: Nick, her longtime film director boyfriend has finally hit the big time, her column is nationally syndicated, and they've got a great dog. Life is good--until Nick announces that he's reconnected with a woman from his past and he's moving out.

Reeling from his exit, Annie meets Griffin, a down-to-earth chef who's everything she didn't know she wanted. Three months later, they're married and living in the Berkshires. But Annie wonders if she's picked a life on the rebound. When Nick asks for a second chance, Annie's stuck--torn between her husband, and the man she thought she'd marry.


If you need a fun book to toss in your vacation/beach/lake/pool bag this summer, look no further. This is it. 

In The First Husband, Laura Dave brings us smack into the middle of Annie Adams' enchanting and hysterical world, and doesn't let us go for the next 240ish pages.We're with Annie as she goes through a miserable break-up. We're with her as she meets a gorgeous chef who cooks her a from-scratch meal of lobster and eggs in the middle of the night as she sits on the counter in a beautiful dress (the from scratch, middle of the night meal just happens to be a secret fantasy of mine...minus the lobster. And the egg, darn allergies!). We're with her as she and the gorgeous chef decide within months to get married and move across the country. We're with her as she begins to settle into real life and say to herself, 'Woah, you mean it's not all middle of the night lobster and eggs?!' As she begins to wonder if the grass is greener, and whether she made the best decision of her life, or the worst.

Just as in real life, it's at times sad, and at others hysterically funny. But what makes The First Husband great, is that it's told in such a way that Annie almost begins to feel like your best friend. You know, the one who confides all her deepest, darkest, funniest, loveliest secrets...absolutely uncensored.

And then the ending. I'm notoriously picky about the endings of novels, and I knew from the moment that I read the title that it could go either way for me--I'd probably either love it or hate it. But, suffice to say, I loved it.


Think you might be interested in The First Husband? Come on over to BlogHer Book Club and join us!

Disclosure Statement: This was a paid review as part of BlogHer Book Club. I received both the book to review, and compensation for this review post. That said, as always, the thoughts and opinions are my own--I don't think I could lie about a book even if I wanted to!

Pregnancy #2: 16 weeks


and compared to 16 weeks with Lizzy:

How far along: 16 weeks.

Size of baby: Both BabyCenter and The Bump finally agree and say the kiddo is the size of an avocado, or about 4.5 inches long.

Weight Gain: -1 by the doctor's scale yesterday, -3 by mine at home. It's kind of weird to think that next week I'll probably be in the "positive" category--that's not something I've had to deal with mentally yet this time! In looking back through updates when I was pregnant with Lizzy, I didn't consistently track weight gain, and I wish I would have!

Symptoms:  I've had another migraine. They suck. Other than that, this is the period in pregnancy where I start to generally feel okay :) I don't know whether I mentioned that I stopped my allergy shots this time around, and this is the first week that my allergies feel bad.

Exercise: Yes! There's actually a reason why I'm dressed in work out clothes in this week's photo--because I'd just worked out! I've done 20 minutes on the elliptical for the last two days in a row. Though, let it be said that working out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach is no longer an option, even if it's because you're racing the 90 degree temps in the garage. Eating something is now a MUST, self.

Clothes: Still going back and forth. My workout clothes in this week's photo are all "normal" clothes, but they stretch more than average, no?

Cravings/Aversions:Not really.

Movement: Little popcorns, but nothing super consistent.

Worries: I'm thrilled that for the third week in a row, I'm able to write, "I'm feeling pretty at peace, which is obviously not of my own doing. Thank you Lord!"

Milestones: Baby has started growing toenails, eyelashes, and hair, as well as forming tastebuds. At this point, tiny bones are forming in his or her ears, which means that he or she can now hear those of us on the 'outside'.

Best moment of the week:We got to hear baby via doppler yesterday (heart rate was 160). I also conquered my first OB appointment without Justin and also with a toddler by myself. I straight up bribed her with a ring pop, and it worked surprisingly well. Oh! And I got to schedule our "big" ultrasound for June 26th! It's kind of crazy to think that by Justin's birthday on the 27th, we'll know whether this one is a boy or a girl! I have no real gut feeling either way...the famed Chinese Gender Predictor says boy (and yes, it was correct with Lizzy), but beyond that I've got nothing. Feel free to cast your vote in the comments if you think you know!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Random Things- Version 1.0

1. I like stale marshmallows better than regular ones.

2. When I was growing up, I remember my dad making us peanut butter and sweet pickle sandwiches. They sound disgusting, but I still think they're good.

3. My second toe is longer than my big toe.

4. Lately, a lot of people have been asking me if I'll go back to work when our kids are grown. I don't know. But I do know that if our local college has a law school by then, I'll totally go, just because I genuinely think law classes are fun. I KNOW.

5. I know I'm probably not going to feel this way in a few weeks once baseball season is in full swing (and we're busier than all get out), but for now, I'm enjoying watching Justin play baseball. It just may tide me over from not being able to play co-ed softball this year.

6. I don't usually like 3D movies because I have to wear the 3D glasses over my normal glasses, and it's a pain. But, we got to see The Avengers in 3D this weekend thanks to a rain check from my parents...and it was totally worth it.

7. I love most superhero movies-- all the X-Men movies, The Avengers, Transformers, Batman, etc. But I never did like Spider-man all that much.

8. If it were up to me (and snow weren't an issue), I'd wear flip flops year round. My favorites are the Teva Mush flip flops--I have high arches, and these give support while being soft and gooey on your feet. Goodness, I used to probably have 15 pairs...sadly, now I can only find two.

Source: via Meredith on Pinterest

9. Sometimes, I miss developing black and white photos in a darkroom. I actually have all the stuff to set up a darkroom (though I'd guess I probably need new chemicals by now) at home, but realistically, I'm not sure whether I'll ever actually set it all up again, especially since our bathrooms are so small! It's just a lot of work compared to digital, ha!

10. I could easily go a week without drinking milk. I could NOT go a week without fresh fruits and veggies.

11. Nine times out of ten, you'll find my toenails painted with some sort of glitter polish...which is a trick I picked up back when I worked at a rafting company and was wakeboarding all the time--if the glitter can handle going in and out of wakeboard boots all day, you can bet your pedicure will last for weeks, if not a whole month! 

12. I miss wakeboarding every weekend. One day, if we win the lottery, we are so buying a boat.

13. I'm a total book collector. I haven't bought a book (other than with a gift card) in over a year. I miss having physical copies of books I love, even though it's rare for me to re-read a book.

14. Number 13 was my number when I played softball. Number 20 was my number when I played basketball. I didn't have a "number" when I rowed, obviously.

PS- I just happened to come across This Little Mama's blog today and saw she was hosting a "speed dating" link-up. And then I realized that I was speed dating on this post and just didn't know it yet, so I'm linking up. Hi y'all :)

This Little Momma

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

If You Do One Thing Today....

If you do one thing today, do this-- go to the Environmental Working Group's Sunscreen Guide. Search for the brand of sunscreen that you usually use (for both you and your kids), and read about it.

Now tell me--what rating does your sunscreen have? (0-2 is a low hazard, 3-6 is a moderate hazard, and 7-10 is a high hazard). Did any of the info you saw surprise you?

I'm not affiliated with the EWG at all, nor did I receive compensation for this post--I was shown this list a few years ago by my dermatologist after I mentioned to her that I seemed to be getting burnt more when I was wearing sunscreen than when I wasn't wearing any at all. It turns out that I'd actually been experiencing chemical burns from the sunscreen I was using--many of which appear on the EWG's "Hall of Shame" and/or had high hazard ratings due to the fact that they contained ingredients that commonly cause allergic reactions, and that researchers are finding actually make you more likely to develop melanoma rather than less. Or that they contained Vitamin A, which can actually make skin tumors grow more quickly when coupled with sun exposure. Hello, isn't sunscreen usually coupled with sun exposure? So why in the world do many sunscreens contain Vitamin A, which is BAD for you when coupled with sun exposure?! I was angry. Why didn't more people know about this info?

So, now I simply try to share it once a year. I hope it helps someone else the way it has helped me. Because since I switched to this sunscreen, which was suggested by my derm and has a rating of 2, I haven't been burnt once, unless I just plum forget to put it on. And, I feel a lot better about what I'm slathering on my skin several times every day. It's a bit more expensive, but worth every penny.

Source: via Meredith on Pinterest

That's what works for me. I have no doubt that there are hundreds of other options that work just as well. But the point is, that we care what we put in our bodies in terms of food, but what we put on our bodies (i.e. sunscreen) is just as important!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Do Certain Recipes Intimidate Anyone Else?

I didn't cook a lot growing up, not because my mom didn't cook (she is an awesome cook and cooked all the time), but just because I had no interest in it. Sometime in college, I discovered that I actually do like to cook, and if I do say so myself, I think I've made quite a bit of progress cooking wise in just over 5 years! That said, there have always been a few recipes out there that just straight up intimidated me for some reason. I'd watch other people make them and profess how easy they are, but I was still scared to give them a shot.

Freezer Jam was one such instance, but I think I've conquered that one now thanks to this recipe (step-by-step with photos!). Beef roasts were another, but again, I think I've got that down now. If you can believe it, homemade ice cream even intimidated me for awhile, but now it's no biggie. Homemade bread--specifically yeast bread--was one that intimidated me for a LONG time, but a birthday gift of this book (non-affiliate link) from Justin last year made me love to bake artisan breads.

But cinnamon rolls? They were still intimidating. I'd attempted them once before, and they just didn't turn out as I'd hoped. They tasted good, but it was just a sticky, gooey, pain-in-the-butt mess that took FOREVER. But leave it to pregnancy to cause another inconvenient craving, which is how I found myself cleaning the kitchen last night at 6pm so that I could make cinnamon rolls from scratch. I enlisted Lizzy's help, and it actually wasn't too bad. Justin and I were each munching on a warm cinnamon roll by about 9:15pm (well, I was munching on one, he was munching on five).


And after Lizzy and I each had one this morning, there were only 2 of fifteen left (as a side note, cinnamon rolls are very hard to photograph!). Hopefully, Justin took some to work to share! Otherwise, I'm very jealous that he can eat 10 cinnamon rolls within 24 hours and not instantly gain 10 pounds. But I digress. If you're interested, here's the recipe, which was modified slightly from Kaitlyn Cooks, because I don't think some of the steps are absolutely necessary--will they improve your end result? I'm sure they will...but you'll still get a good result leaving the dough in your mixer rather than using both a mixer AND turning it out on a wood board...and I'm just all about simple.Which probably explains why I don't have nearly as making baking successes as cooking successes, since baking tends to require being a bit more precise, and you know, actually following the recipe. But, adding my own little spin on things worked here, so I'm gonna roll with it.

Dough Ingredients:
  • 1 cup milk, warmed in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
  • 2 1/2 tsp of active dry yeast (for me, this was about 1.5 packages)
  • 1/2 cup of white sugar
  • 2 room temperature eggs (they can't be cold, let them sit in warm water for a few minutes)
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 cups AP flour
Filling Ingredients:
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened

Cream Cheese Glaze:
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3-4 tbsp of milk
Directions: Add the warm milk to the bowl of a stand mixer and stir in the sugar, sprinkle with the yeast. Wait about 5-10 minutes. Add the melted butter, eggs and salt and mix together using the paddle attachment for a Kitchenaid mixer. Mix in the flour cup by cup switching over to the dough hook when the dough forms a ball. Knead in the stand mixer, adding a little more flour if the dough is too sticky (the original recipe said to knead the dough in the mixer for 8 minutes--I didn't time it, and probably only kneaded for 4 or 5). The dough should be smooth and elastic. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise about 1-1.5 hours. Punch down, re-cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.
Put dough on a lightly floured (and preferably clean) counter/table Roll dough into a 16x21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough lengthwise and cut into at least 12 rolls (I got 15 easily). Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13 inch glass baking pan.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 F.  Bake rolls for 15 minutes or until golden brown (see original recipe for an overnight option). While the cinnamon rolls are baking. Add the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla to your stand mixer bowl and beat with the whisk attachment until smooth, remembering to scrape down the sides and bottom. Add the milk tbsp by tbsp to thin out the glaze. Top hot rolls, fresh out of the oven, with a spoonful of glaze. Use the backside of the spoon to spread it. Enjoy these little guys warm.

They were worth cleaning the kitchen for the first time in weeks, for sure! 

As far as intimidating recipes go, anyone out there relate and have something that intimidates you to make? I think for me, the only one left that really makes me nervous is Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon, which I have wanted to make since I saw Julie & Julia, but still haven't attempted even though I really, really want to! I know there are simplified recipes out there, but I really want to go big and try the "original".

Someday...I will make it, even though it's sort of an all-day affair. I WILL, and it will be delicious. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pregnancy #2: 15 Weeks


I had the best intentions to get showered and dressed for the photo this morning, but instead you get yoga pants, dirty hair, my Legend of Zelda t-shirt, and Lizzy in her timeout chair for dumping her bowl of yogurt on the floor at breakfast. That's pretty much been my morning! And compared to 15 weeks with Lizzy:

How far along: 15 weeks

Size of baby: An apple (Baby Center) or a navel orange (The Bump). Either way, she's about 4 inches long and 2.5 ounces.

Weight Gain: -7 by my scale, so up 3 pounds this week...which feels like a lot in one week! I think it's probably that this is the first week I've actually been feeling hungry, and I've been eating everything I'm hungry for. It's probably time to get back to eating the HEALTHY stuff! Also, I noticed this last time with Lizzy and am noticing it again now too--the "bump" totally changes sizes throughout the day. Sometimes it feels huge, sometimes it's barely there! So weird!

Symptoms: Just really tired. REALLY REALLY tired.

Exercise: I'm hoping to get some elliptical time in this afternoon if Lizzy naps.

Clothes: Regular stuff, though I'm now starting to want my Bella Band (which I still can't find darn it) or some maternity stuff when it comes to jeans.

Cravings/Aversions: I'm not really into spicy food...but lately, I had been straight up craving sriracha, which is kind of funny because I'd never even had it before, and how can you crave something you've never had before?! Anyway, I bought some on Tuesday, tried a little on some orange chicken, and have now eaten it on just about everything I've had since. Pregnancy does weird things to a person! But seriously, is there anything that sriracha doesn't taste good on?!

Movement: I do think I'm feeling that "popcorn" movement for sure now, though it's not with any consistency. Definitely not full-on kicks or anything Justin could feel.

Worries: This isn't so much a worry as it is an annoyance...but lately when Lizzy is mad, she tries to kick me in the stomach. Especially if I have to pick her up and set her in her timeout chair. We've told her that she cannot kick me in the stomach and explained why, but she still does it any time she's mad.

Milestones: The baby's still growing away! Lungs are being prepared of oxygen, and the baby can now start to sense light, even though her eyes are still fused shut.

Best moment of the week:Though we have a boy name picked out and ready to go, we're stumped on a girl name (Lizzy votes Hoo-Hoo). Justin and I sat down Tuesday evening and browsed this website that lets you say yes or no to particular names, and then suggests more. It was HILARIOUS. I had such a fun time laughing hysterically with Justin about some of the names it kept suggesting for us, like "Elizabet", which would not work for obvious reasons. Still no girl's name to speak of though!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A few random things...

Last night, I checked on Lizzy before we went to bed. She was happily sleeping while snuggling with a stack of books that she had tucked into bed with her. Attaway kiddo.

Slowly but surely, our grass is growing. Here's what it looked like a month ago (after we brought in dirt) and then what it looked like this morning. It seems like it is taking FOR-EVER for the grass to really get going, but I'm seriously looking forward to a month or so from now when it's actually useable. I can't believe that we've never had a backyard in all the time we've lived here! I'm also super excited that Ryan and Renee are giving us their swing set that their kids have outgrown. I think we'd like to build one eventually, but I'm so excited to have one for the time being--Lizzy will LOVE it. And I have a feeling that there will be many an afternoon this summer where I'll love being able to just say, "Lizzy, go play outside!"


('scuse the plywood--we had to take down a part of the fence to get the big machinery back there)

I think my Blackberry is on it's last legs again. It's started to do this thing where I randomly get an hourglass, a white screen, and then a flashing red light, and it cycles through that for hours until the phone finally dies. Then, sometimes I'm able to charge it, and assuming it actually charges fully instead of only half-way like it often does, sometimes it works like normal until the crazy cycle begins again. Coincidentally, this is exactly the same thing that happened to my previous Blackberry, which was then replaced with the one I have now. Needless to say, if I can help it, I don't think I'll be getting another Blackberry.

Our garden is in! I'm still on the fence about how it's going to do this year--a few things died right off the bat. A few things seem to be doing really well, like the tomatoes. The weather's been tricky--alternating between cold and rainy to 80+ degrees. So, we'll see.



I'm fairly certain that our house hasn't either been clean OR tidy in the last.....oh, about 15 weeks. I keep hoping that Justin/the cleaning fairy will just clean the entire house from top to bottom some weekend while I'm napping, but so far that has not happened, despite the fact that I kept dropping hints that it would be the most excellent Mother's Day present. So, it's probably time to buck up and do it...but it's just at that point where I feel like I could clean all day long and still not really make a difference, so it just doesn't feel worth it to even start, ha!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Delicious Food & A Burning Question of the Day.

So, there's this little hamburger joint in Southern Oregon that I'm seriously campaigning for Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives to come visit. I grew up in Southern Oregon, but I'd never been to this little burger place until about two years ago, and now I'm seriously hooked because the burgers available are just so delicious and unique. It's a small little place called Jaspers Cafe, but it is always busy, and there are literally people who come every single day. It's that good.

I mean, you want to put pastrami on your burger? Yeah, they do that. You want a burger with BBQ sauce, pineapple, bacon, and an onion ring? They've got it. You want a burger with peanut butter, bacon, and raspberry chipotle? Yep, they do that too (and while I was very suspect at first, it is GOOD). You want a burger topped with chorizo, a fried egg, bacon, and avocado? Yep, it's on the menu. A burger with blue cheese, apples, red grapes, and candied pecans? Yes, you can get that. Or maybe a kangaroo burger? Why yes, you can have that too. Or maybe a burger topped with a pot sticker, and then a sriracha, sweet chili, and ginger cream cheese. Yep, they've got it (and I'm dying to try it). And even with burgers like THAT, you're still paying $6-$8 a burger. It is seriously amazing, and if you're a local reader and haven't been, you need to go immediately. I'm serious.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I saw on Facebook that they were asking people to send in photos of the food that they ordered so that they could put it on their website. We hadn't been in to eat in awhile since our eating out budget has basically been zero for the past few months, so I didn't have any photos to send in. However, I volunteered to just come in for a couple of hours one day and take photos of whatever was ordered. They said, "That would be great! We'll feed you!" and I said SOLD as fast as the words could leave my lips. So, I went in on Friday, and it was a TON of fun!

Jaspers (27)

Jaspers (3)

Jaspers (16)

Jaspers (45)

Jaspers (34)

It was pointed out to me via Facebook that you can actually see the image of a dog in this last photo. Do you see it? Obviously, it was a funny coincidence and not intentional...but now I kinda think it should be the Jaspers mascot ;) 

 Anyway, food photography is not without its own learning curve and challenges, especially when you're not styling things yourself and are just shooting on the fly. Still, I was really happy with how these turned out, and I hope Jaspers loves them too, though I haven't heard back from them yet about what they thought! The photos must have done their job to some extent, because after editing them all morning, we proceeded to go back to eat there for lunch on Saturday  :)

Do you have a local restaurant that serves food like no place else and is your absolute favorite? What's the best part about it?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pregnancy #2: 14 weeks

14 weeks
Sorry about the weird focus...self-timers can be hard with no remote! 
And compared to 14 weeks with Lizzy: 

How far along: 14 weeks. I missed a 13 week post last week because Lizzy and I both woke up with a cold/bad allergies on Thursday morning. I just wasn't in the mood to take a photo of myself :)

Size of baby: A lemon...about 3.5 inches long, and he or she just about doubled in size since last week!

Weight Gain: -10 pounds by my scale.

Symptoms: I had my first pregnancy migraine yesterday, which I successfully combated with caffeine...which is obviously not the normal recommendation for either treating migraines or for caffeine in pregnancy, but as my OB told me, it's one of the only available options at the moment, and an occasional increase in caffeine isn't going to be too bad. Other than that, I'm still just EXHAUSTED. And this is not pregnancy related, but I'm COVERED in bug bites, which obviously isn't very pleasant.

Overall though, I just can't get over how different this pregnancy is than my pregnancy with Lizzy. Some moms I know have told me that their pregnancies with boys were totally different than their pregnancies with girls and visa versa. It'll be interesting to see if that's the case, or if it's just different this time around.

Exercise: Ugh. No. I hate that I'm not exercising more. I *want* to be. But I'm so tired and so overwhelmed with trying to do basic cleaning and cooking, that it just hasn't happened recently, and I'm kind of irritated with myself about it!

Clothes: Still mostly regular stuff. I have a few maternity things that I've tossed into the mix, mostly just for variety than anything else.

Cravings/Aversions:Not really.

Movement:Nope, but I'd LOVE it if I were feeling some before my 16 week appointment...that way I could feel more comfortable going without Justin since it's just a regular check-up (he came to every appointment last time around). But, I know that with likely having an anterior placenta again, that may be wishful thinking.

Worries: Today, I'm feeling pretty at peace, which is obviously not of my own doing. Thank you Lord.

Milestones: According to Baby Center:  "Your baby can now squint, frown, grimace, pee, and possibly suck his thumb!" The Bump also adds that he or she is growing lanugo, the little peach-fuzz that keeps babies warm in utero. 

Best moment of the week: Getting to see both my mom and Justin's mom on Mother's Day was nice! And even though the house wasn't clean as I had asked, I still got to take a nap...which is again nice.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The State of Our Food.

2012 Farm Bill

A few years ago, if I would have heard the words "2012 Farm Bill" on the news, I would have zoned out. I'm not a farmer...why would I care about things like crop subsidies? I'll tell you why you should care about the 2012 Farm Bill--because it is about so much more than just crop subsidies. In fact, I think it probably should be named "The Food Bill" instead. In short, the Farm Bill directly affects what Americans eat. And consequently, this is one of the most important posts I'll write all year. I don't think it's an overstatement to say that every single American is affected by one of the many, many issues that fall under the umbrella of the Farm Bill (which comes up to be reviewed by the house and the senate once every five years).

In the interest of keeping this post relatively short, you can read a great post from NPR on the history of the Farm Bill here, and you can also read an explanation of all the areas included in the farm bill here. I know that the issues associated with the Farm Bill are a bit "heavy". They're not typical blog-reading material. But I think the Farm Bill is such an important issue that I feel compelled to write about it--and I promise I'll try to keep this post from getting too pedantic!

Anyway, in my humble opinion, the two most important aspects of the Farm Bill to be aware of are:

1. Nutrition: This includes areas of public assistance such as SNAP (Food Stamps), WIC, school lunch programs, etc. Many people familiar with the Farm Bill suspect that this portion of the program is likely to be cut by 50% or more this year, if not cut entirely.

Mario Batalli has been highlighting this portion of the Farm Bill on The Chew for the past week by deciding that he and his family would live on the typical food stamps allotment for their size family for one week ($31 per person, per week). Now, my goal in writing about this isn't to start a debate about government assistance. It's simply to challenge you to take the Food Stamps Challenge for one week before making a decision about whether or not you support the budget reduction for such programs. I think it's important to really understand what we're starting with before we decide whether or not it needs to be changed. Besides, it's a great opportunity for everyone to take a good hard look at their grocery budget, which in my opinion is always a good thing. We actually have a smaller food budget than the typical food stamps budget (usually $200 per month for our family compared to $496 per month as a family of four on food stamps would likely receive--and I believe since I'm pregnant, we'd be considered a family of four), so I guess you could say we participate in the food stamps challenge every week, but I tentatively plan to blog about our weekly food budget more formally in the first week of June. I'd love it if you were so inclined to take the challenge with me during that time--and please let me know in the comments if you do.

2. Food Subsidies: Currently, the Farm Bill subsidizes major commodities like meat, corn (not all of which is actually edible), cotton, rice, wheat, and soybeans. Fruits and vegetables are considered "specialty crops" and are subsidized at a much lower rate. To quote from Lunch Wars by Amy Kalafa (a book that I TOTALLY recommend and completely changed our family's approach to food and food policy),

"[F]rom 1995 to 2005, our Farm Bill allotted 74 percent of governmental agriculture subsidies to meat and dairy outfits, 13 percent for grains, 10 percent for sugar, oil, starch, and alcohol production, 1.9 percent for grains and legumes, and a mere 0.37 percent went to subsidize fruits and vegetables. This inverse subsidy pyramid explains why it's cheaper to buy a burger than a salad at most fast food restaurants," (p 127).
It also explains why it's less expensive to buy Twinkies than it is to buy carrots:

And one more video from Michael Pollan more specifically about the Farm Bill:

If that above quote and videos make you mad, then you need to care about the 2012 Farm Bill...because that's where the subsidy rates come from. That's what determines which food-related issues our government and our tax dollars fund. And which they don't fund.

It's not a lost cause. There are some great success stories out there--for example, at times, farmers who usually grow a particular crop instead receive a government subsidy not to grow in order to help control the supply and demand. However, some states like Georgia, Louisiana, and North Carolina have begun to instead offer that same subsidy rate to farmers in order to grow produce for their local school system instead of not growing anything at all. It's sort of a no-brainer--it saves the states money, and keeps what money they are spending in their own state rather than outsourcing elsewhere to buy school food.  It's a really good program, and my understanding is that it's similar to what's being advocated for in HR3286 (The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act) which is a current piece of legislation designed to reform the farm bill, including allowing states to spend a portion of their budget allocated for school lunches at local farms, which is in essence, another way to subsidize those farmers who do grow fruits and vegetables... but the government needs to hear it from you if that's what you want (if you are supportive of such a piece of legislation, you can send a form letter to your senator and representative by clicking here).

And guess what? Your senator and representatives need to hear from you even if that's not what you want. Otherwise, our politicians will know what the major food conglomerates in America want, but not what your average citizens across the nation want...and I have this little gut feeling that what your average mom and dad (or  in America might want when it comes to food policy is drastically different than what some of the big manufacturers of food in this country want.

So.  My understanding is that both the House and the Senate are currently working on the Farm Bill for 2012. It's so important that you contact them now, because it won't come up again for another 5 years.

Get involved: 

Tell them if there are any Farm Bill issues that are important to you and your family. 

If you feel like you need a bit more information about the Farm Bill and/or American Food Policy in general, may I suggest the following resources in addition to what's been linked in this article:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Little Moments

For me, one of the biggest blessings about blogging is that I have the opportunity to meet others who are in a similar stage of life as I am. And because of this, a number of us are starting to enter the two-and-a-half to three year old "wonder years". It's interesting to see and read how different every kiddo is, but I am especially thankful to have gotten to know some other mamas of children who are "strong-willed" or "spirited", because I think they're a bit of a different breed. I have no doubt that as a teenager, I'll probably be thankful that Lizzy is so self-assured, determined, and vocal about what she wants...but right now, in the thick of the weeds, it can just be hard.

I've no doubt that this stage is hard for every parent, but I imagine that it's just hard in different ways for all of us depending on the personality of our kiddo. Which is why if I told some random mom at the park that while I will always love Lizzy no matter what, that lately there are days when I don't actually like her very much, she would probably look at me like I had three heads. Because what kind of mom says that?! But when I tell Leah or Andrea (pst- Andrea...I don't know if you are okay with having your new blog linked, so let me know if you are!), they just get it.

They get what it's like to have a 50 minute, unrelenting temper tantrum at 8pm because your kid wants to run through the sprinkler, right then. To keep putting your screaming, kicking, and hitting kiddo back in a time out for 45 minutes before finally getting them to sit for the prescribed 2-3 minutes. To have your kiddo throw a temper tantrum at a restaurant because someone else is sitting in the chair that THEY want to sit in, and have to leave...and then for them to STILL be screaming mad 45 minutes later by the time you get home. To have a kid who is potty trained, but will pee on the floor on purpose (and then laugh about it) any and every time they are mad about being told to sit in a time out.

There have been days lately where I feel like we did nothing fun. We'd start to play with blocks, and then out of nowhere, Lizzy would throw a wooden block at my head, and thus would start a cycle of discipline that may not end for hours. Literally. There have been days lately, where like a teenager, I was sure that Lizzy could ruin each and every fun activity that I had planned. Sometimes, it's exhausting...and it is easy to focus on the HOURS of so, so hard, rather than the seconds where Lizzy spontaneously says, "I love you always." 

Yesterday morning was not without more than its share of tantrums. But it also had a fun little moment mixed in there, and today, that's the moment that I want to remember. I brought out the camera, and we took silly, imperfect, half-blurry self-portraits on the couch. Lizzy is just beginning to think that it is absolutely hilarious to stick our tongues out for pictures, and after seeing each one, she laughed this long belly laugh that was just absolutely contagious. And I held her close, and tried to be in the moment...forgetting about the laundry or that we were supposed to be in the car to Target already, otherwise we wouldn't make it back before lunch. And we laughed.






Today, I'm trying to remember that sometimes the little moments are as big as the big moments. Really.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

The bulbs that I planted last fall are blooming! I am beyond excited about it, and am now totally addicted to bulbs. I mean, you can't really beat flowers that come back every year and multiply on their own. It's not a lot of work for some serious pay-off! Right now, I have alliums and purple irises (naturally) coming up, along with my first ever hydrangea bush. I love them both, though I may move the alliums next year--they are a little big for the front of the house, and the foliage tends to die before they're finished blooming. I think I know a little place for them amongst some field grass in the backyard!







If you love to take macro photos like the flowers above, check out this guest post I wrote recently on Fancy Little Things that talks about how to shoot macro without buying a macro lens. All you need is a Nifty Fifty Lens, or about $15. Not too shabby, eh? 

I am so proud of Justin. He decided this month to stop chewing (I have longed and prayed for him to stop for years, but I knew it was something he had to decide on his own). He's chewed for about ten years, so this was no small feat. And I believe that as of today, it's been one week. Seriously, could not be prouder or more excited.

Any book recommendations? Preferably for older releases? I'm on the waiting list at the library for Insurgent, 11/22/63, and Fifty Shades of Grey. Unfortunately, our library system usually has quite a wait for almost everything, and so I'm going to be waiting for awhile, and I need something to read in the meantime.

The other day, while I was in the bathroom I could hear Lizzy getting into a drawer that I knew she wasn't supposed to. When I came out, I discovered that she had wrapped herself in tape from head to toe. She laughed and talked about getting into the drawer and how it was naughty. So, I sat her in her room for a timeout. When I went to get her, I could tell she was eating something and asked her what she was eating. She held up one of those "DO NOT EAT" silica gel packets. I have absolutely no idea where she got one of those packets or how she knew that opening it up and eating it was exactly what she was not supposed to do, but somehow she did. So, I ended up having to call poison control...and it turns out those little silica packets are just basically sand. Whew. So, now you know--if your kid eats a silica gel packet, don't worry. Needless to say, I have eaten almost an entire package of these this week (they are DELICIOUS! And Justin doesn't like them, which means more for me!):

I could wallow in them.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

From the back of the book: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. 

Simply put, The Night Circus grabbed onto me and took me to another time and place. While I was reading it, this world dropped away, and I felt like I was truly and completely somewhere else. This doesn't happen to me with every book that I read, but when it does happen (like with Outlander and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children), those books tend to be my favorites, and The Night Circus is no exception. But interestingly enough, while it transported me to a different place entirely, I also found myself remembering teenage nights in my own life when this little carnival would come to the local mall's parking lot.  We never knew when it was coming or how long it would stay--it was just there, and we'd drop everything to go because once the night became so dark and the lights so bright, it seemed absolutely magical. Like anything was possible. How much more magical then, would the Night Circus be?! I found myself desperately wishing that Le Cirque des Rêves was real, because I could absolutely picture myself there. I wanted to visit, and I still do.

Admittedly, the first fifty pages or so are a bit of a slow start--probably due to the fact that all the stellar reviews give the novel a lot to live up to, and it doesn't start off with much of a bang as you might imagine. But don't give up, because those first fifty pages or so set the stage for all that's to come. And there is a lot to come. 

Told in an alternating narrative, The Night Circus spends just the right amount of time with each character, allowing you to become invested in both. It's a romance novel, yes, but a slow burning one that felt to me like it drove the storyline rather than being the storyline. 

Now, I know you may be thinking 'I've already read the circus-romance book', but I can confidently say that The Night Circus is absolutely nothing like the other famed circus-romance book you may be thinking of. The best way that I could describe it that one is pizza and the other is pasta carbonatta--they have some of the same ingredients, but they somehow don't end up tasting much like each other at all. And both are delicious in their own right. {Leave it to the pregnant lady to work a pasta reference into a book review}. Overall?

Disclosure Statement: I checked out The Night Circus from the library. I was not compensated for my review in any way. As always, the review is my own opinion, because I couldn't lie about a book even if I wanted to.

BQOTD: Will you have a garden?

Today's Burning Question of the Day: Do you have a garden? Have you planted already? What do you/will you have growing?

Here in Oregon, most people don't plant until after Mother's Day weekend--it's not unusual to have a late May frost, so even that's pushing things a bit. One year, it snowed on the 4th of July! Anyway, we usually buy starts for most of our plants from one of the local high schools and their agriculture plant sale, which starts tomorrow. We get a serious jump-start on our plants for WAY less than we'd spend at a garden store, and it's kind of a cool way to support the local schools.

So, this year in the vegetable/fruit beds we plan to have: snap peas, carrots, radishes, green beans, spinach, lettuce, zucchini, yellow zucchini, cucumber, lemon cucumber, mint, dill, oregano, basil, jalapenos, bell peppers, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, strawberries, thornless blackberries, raspberries, and then marigolds, nasturtiums, and possibly sunflowers planted throughout as companion plants.

I'm excited, but also a little nervous! It's a bit of an ambitious garden, and since we've had our big garden beds, I've never been pregnant in the summer before!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Perfect Timing: Third Day/Matt Maher Concert

So, to continue where the last post left off, we unexpectedly found ourselves five rows back at a semi-local Third Day/ Matt Maher concert this past Saturday thanks to my friend Emily, who won some tickets and invited us. Of course, I couldn't resist taking a boat-load of photos. Usually, the nifty fifty is my go-to lens for concerts since it is so fast in low-light situations, but since I wasn't sure where we would end up sitting, I had tossed the kit lens on the camera instead, and was actually very pleasantly surprised with how well it held up for me as long as I was shooting in manual (add this to the long list of reasons why I'm a firm believer that kit lenses ARE worthwhile!).

Anyway, the concert started out with The Neverclaim who I had never heard of, but had a really interesting song about being made for such a time as this, based on Esther. It's so funny going to concerts with Justin, because while I assumed they had a guy playing a banjo, Justin leaned over and whispered to me that it was actually an electric guitar shaped like a banjo. I learn all sorts of interesting things from Justin at concerts ;)

Up next was Trevor Morgan, who was AMAZING. I actually knew several of his songs, including one of my absolute favorites currently, Jesus Rides the Subway (which you can listen to here, and I would HIGHLY suggest it! It is amazing!). I have no doubt that Trevor Morgan is someone to watch in the Christian Music scene. I loved that he said he would love to speak to anyone and everyone after the concert, and would stay as late as needed to do so. 

After Trevor Morgan, Matt Maher came on stage. I knew a couple Matt Maher songs (like Hold Us Together) and really love them. But again, he performed a number of songs that I knew, but just hadn't associated with his name. I was so impressed with the quality of his live music, and even more impressed by what he spoke about in between songs. He basically said that he often has the opportunity to speak with Christians who have really been hurt by "the church" and its members, but he encouraged us to lay those hurts at the foot of the cross, because the one requirement to be a member of the church is that we all have to recognize that we're sinners. All of us. So the fact that we hurt each other despite our best efforts to the contrary really isn't surprising. The fact that we don't love each other perfectly as God does really isn't surprising. And maybe the important thing is to lay those hurts at the cross, and forgive each other anyway. I don't know if that speaks to anyone else like it spoke to me, but it was EXACTLY what I needed to hear at that moment. 

After Matt Maher, Third Day came on. Did you know that Third Day has been a band for TWENTY YEARS?! That is a long stinking time. Once again, the quality of their music was just so amazing, and there is really just nothing like standing with such a large group of believers and singing Creed (which was originally done by Rich Mullins, but I love Third Day's version best of all--again, if you haven't heard it before, go listen to it here right now!) We don't belong to a large church--on any given Sunday, there are fewer than 100 people in hearing hundreds upon hundreds of people singing "I believe in God the Father" is really just indescribable, and powerful. For me, at that moment, it was needed.  But above all, I was struck by how absolutely gracious Third Day were as a band. 


Part-way through the concert, they went back to the lawn, and played a few requests for those sitting in the lawn seats (which is sort of incredible in and of itself that they were basically ready to play any song from their twenty-years as a band). For whatever reason, after that, they didn't have security or gates of any sort up at the front of the stage, so there were literally people hanging on the stage. Mac Powell handled that so graciously, and was continually shaking hands as he was singing, and at one point, even signed someone's t-shirt that was passed up on stage mid-song. Not only that, but towards the end of the concert, he brought both Matt Maher and Trevor Morgan back up on stage with them to sing. Now, I haven't been to THAT many concerts in my life, but I've been to a few and had never seen that happen before. I just thought it was pretty amazing. And not only that, but Third Day actually played backup for one of Trevor Morgan's songs



I don't know if you can really tell what's going on in that second picture, but Mac Powell, the lead singer of Third Day, moved his microphone out of the spotlight, and sang backup vocals and played tambourine for Trevor Morgan. It was kind of a relief to see that there are big-time bands out there who seem to have remained humble and just gracious throughout it all. 

It was just a perfect evening, to be filled and renewed spiritually. Great music by what seems like an amazing group of bands. I'm still just beyond thankful that we were able to attend--thank you again for thinking of us Emily!

Perfect Provision

Last fall, while I was walking through Sheila Walsh's "Shelter of God's Promises" Bible Study, she was talking about Philippians 4:19, and how "God knows our every need, and has proven to provide abundantly beyond what we can rightly expect." I jotted that out onto a little note card, which has taken up residence on our bathroom mirror. I have seen that provision in my own life over the past two years, and it is still my daily prayer and comfort.

This month, things were tight. We went through every budget item line by line, and said 'Is this a need or a want?' Lots of things were cut. Things were still tight. I wasn't sure how they'd work out, honestly. But I have just been blown away this past week by God's perfect provision.

As I mentioned last week, our doctor decided to make and exception and accept our supplemental insurance, which was a huge relief to us budget-wise (ps- thank you all for your comments and support on that post. I received one dissenting comment, but that person chose to comment anonymously, and consequently was not published, per the commenting policy on this blog).  For us, it was straight-up provision.

On Friday morning, I listed an old junker car of ours on Craigslist as a parts car. We had been meaning to post it for months, but just kept forgetting. I'd tried to post it on Thursday evening, but got an error message. Within three minutes of posting it on Friday morning, someone called Justin, and came and paid him cash for the car. The amount we received was almost exactly what we needed to make this month's budget work. People have since told us that they think we under-listed the car, but who knows, maybe the family that bought the car was in the same position we are this month, and it will help them to breathe easier. I just don't think it was an accident at all.

Our needs have been provided for this week, and I am so thankful. It has been amazing and humbling to watch God work in our lives this past week. And then, if that weren't enough, God also provided for a want of mine in the most amazing way that I just have to tell you about. 

On Saturday, there was a Third Day/Matt Maher concert not too far from us. On Thursday or Friday of last week, my friend Emily and I were talking about how we both really wanted to go, but how it just wasn't in the budget for either of us. It wasn't a "need". On Saturday afternoon, Emily called me just a few hours before the concert started, and told me that she had won four tickets to the concert, and that she was offering two tickets to Justin and I. I was beyond thrilled, and was looking forward to laying on the grass listening to some great music, figuring they were lawn seats.


They weren't lawn seats. We were literally 5 rows from the front. And I cannot wait to tell you more about the concert (and I will soon), because it really was another instance of perfect provision in my life. It was perfect balm for my soul. God knows what I need, and provides abundantly, beyond what I could ever expect. I am so thankful.
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