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1Aug/141

Real Food Friday: Fast Food

I get that there are times when the prep work for a real food meal didn't happen and time is not on our side. I do.

For those times, I would say there are real food options that can be obtained relatively quickly and at least somewhat healthfully.

There are a couple of options in my area that I would consider when wanting something quick, "real," and satisfying. You might have different options in your area, and if so, I'd love to hear about them!

Chipotle. While I'm not a fan of everything they serve, Chipotle does a great job of being transparent about their food. You can make your own informed decision by checking out their ingredient statement here. Everything, with the exception of tortilla chips, tortillas, and possibly white rice, looks like real food to me.

Elevation Burger. While not quite as transparent as Chipotle, Elevation Burger does offer100% grassfed burger patties, organic bacon, aged & unprocessed cheddar, fresh-cut fries cooked in 100% olive oil, and organic milk, all of which pass my real food test.

If you're from the Reading, PA area, what am I missing?

If you're not, I'm curious- what fast real food options do you have in your area?

31Jul/143

two things to check out NOW for more affordable slave-free fashion

Okay, so I'm no fashion queen, and I've maybe a little bit (a lot) fallen out of the practice of being creative with my clothing choices. I enjoy fashion, but up until recently, I didn't think I could really be into it in a way I could afford, avoid supporting business practices I don't agree with, and even support the ones I really DO want to get behind. (My "being into fashion" may be very different than yours. I am talking about feeling good and like "me" in my clothes here).

I am slowly getting back into having fun with my outfits again. If you want to support slave-free and fair trade practices when you make fashion choices, too, I highly recommend hopping on the following ASAP.

Seriously, sign up for thredUp (link is my referral code). And get the app. I previously mentioned that  I opted to pay $20 to cover shipping for the entire year. I also discovered that signing up for the app means that return shipping is free, making purchases fairly risk-free. I posted my first purchases on Facebook, earning me $20 dollars in referral credits. So, this morning, when my very pregnant self needed a little pick-me-up, I opened up the app and ordered a completely FREE outfit for post baby days- larger than I would wear in normal, non-pregnant life because I'm not dumb. And I STILL have a few dollars in credit left in my account.

Have you checked out the awesomeness that is Noonday? I'm not an ambassador (yet), but the new line is launching on August 7th. Ambassadors and Noonday in general are looking to sell off last season's wares, so it's a good time to score some discounted gorgeousness while STILL being a part of sustainable fair trade practices and orphan care. Check out the sales at Noonday's main site here or a local ambassador's sample sale here.

29Jul/142

Holding This Season Loosely When I’d Rather Clench my Fists

This holding what I have loosely thing is a continual practice.

Definitely not a once and done "this is what I'm going to do, that's final, I've got it down, moving on" type of decisions.

It reminds me of my yoga practice (which I'm now feeling a little anxious to get back into. I do some prenatal yoga, but it's not quite the same. Any locals have affordable ideas for a mama in need of regular yoga, including childcare?).

Sometimes it's several times in one moment that I have to consciously determine whether I'm doing what I can on my part and then let the rest go. I have to open my hands, sometimes physically to let this trusting parts of my life that I cannot control to someone or something else happen.

Y'all, I want to control parts of my life that I can't, even though I don't really know how they are going to turn out best. I don't like that in-between discomfort that comes with letting life unravel. I want the comfort of knowing.

I don't know when my Selah girl is going to show up. I want to tell her any day but one, because I don't know how her being born then will effect others' feelings. I want to control her birth and I how other people feel about it.

My sweet niece was born yesterday to one of my favorite people in the world. She sleeps 1,450 miles away, and I don't know when I'm going to get to snuggle her.

I've been spending quite a bit of time researching Noonday, wondering if it's the right fit for me and my family. There's only so far I can go until I get the answers I need, and the one or two people who are assigned to answer them for me are currently occupied with other things.

Yesterday, I found out that one of my dearest, kindred-spirit-type friends is moving 1,600 miles away in less than 3 weeks.

Y'all. I can't control any of that, and it's hard.

I can keep playing my own part and opening up my hands, even when I have to pry them open (several times in one moment).

I will. I'm going to practice that.

I have to believe that there are beautiful things to be had in

practicing openness, not shutting down

doing the best I can with what is mine to control

look for reasons to be grateful

for parts of life I don't love right now.

That is the hope I am holding onto.

27Jul/140

39 Weeks: Holding This Season Loosely

Still waiting on our Selah girl.

Look, Selah, your daddy and I went on a date to Wyebrook Farm- last thing on my pre-baby bucket list. You can come any time now!

Except I'm not just waiting. I thought I was going into labor about 2 weeks ago, and it's been confirmed: just waiting will drive me mad. I always like to have projects/a plan/something to contribute to this life.

I'm nestled into the in-between of mothering one child and two. I'm writing, reading, cooking lots from scratch, drinking somewhat peaceful cups of coffee, accepting and making dinner invitations, working toward adoption approval, exploring the possibility of getting involved with Noonday (I'm writing up a Q&A post on that, so please send me your questions if you have any), keeping our house somewhat clean, sending out actual stamped mail, and our new Sunday ritual of a church we might want to be a part of (we haven't regularly attended an established church in a couple of years- another blog post?), followed by the farmers market to talk with and buy from our favorite vendors.

There are always fun things to do with Nolan: play dates, painting, playgrounds, his gymnastics class (which is really an open gym for toddlers), a free movie at a local theater, swimming, picking fruits and vegetables and then creating something out of them.

I'm settled into this sweet spot that I'm trying to hold loosely.

I have no idea what it is like to be the mom of more than one child while my husband- my biggest support- works his regular job, studies for his PhD, and teaches classes.

I do know that life comes in seasons. Friends move away, jobs change, and winter comes, everything changes at least a little bit.

When the next season comes, I hope that I will have appreciated and reveled in this one. I hope I will have held it in the palm of my hand, not too tight, so that I can grab onto the next one when it comes and live it for all its worth, too.

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25Jul/143

Real Food Friday: Gelatin

This post is not for vegetarians. Grass fed gelatin, as discussed in the following post, is derived from grass fed cows and should not be consumed by those wishing to avoid some or all animal products.

Okay...I'm about to put my crunchy-real food- off the beaten path weirdness on display for you.

I bought a container of gelatin. Like, powdered plain gelatin made from grass fed cows.

Before you click away, remember gelatin is in marshmallows. And jello (which I don't love, but Tim and Nolan do). And fudgsicles. That makes it not so weird, right?

Besides the fact that, unless you're vegetarian, you're likely eating gelatin in some form (smores, anyone?), the stuff that comes from grass fed cows is really, really good for you.

After hearing a few casual mentions about how beneficial the stuff is, I decided to look up more info for myself, and I found out that gelatin can

-help tighten loose skin (hello, post-baby belly!)

-support better digestion and even help heal some digestive disorders

-help the body relax and sleep well at night

-promote joint health

-promote healthier skin, hair, and nails

-add protein to the diet without any of the weird, non-real food additives a lot of protein powders tend to have

Sold.

So far, I've added it to banana soft serve and smoothies. I've also tried it in Against All Grain's recipe for fudge pops.

On my to-try list of recipes using gelatin are

Strawberry Lemonade Gummies by Stupid Easy Paleo

Healthy Sour Watermelon Gummies by Meatified

Dirt Worm Pudding, a guest post by Fed & Fit on Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind (This one looks like it would be a lot of work, but I'd love to try it once!)

Rustic Homemade Marshmallows with Honey by The Urban Poser

There's a lot more yummy-looking, gelatin-utilizing recipes out there; these are some of the most delicious- looking to me at the moment.

So, really, what's NOT appealing about doing something beneficial for your body while eating your pudding/marshmallows/gummies?

21Jul/146

Coffee Date!

I love, love coffee dates. I'm particular to those in my home because I'm not quite sure where to get a good cup of fair trade coffee around here ,other than Haute Chocolate, but they don't open til 11. It's 6 as I type this. Also, I really want organic half and half, too, and while I will admit to carrying my own with me from time to time just come over to my house for coffee, please. It's cheaper. Easier on my conscience. And you can stay as long as you want.

Once in a while, I like to host these virtual coffee dates. Maybe that's weird. But basically, I tell you some random stuff about me that I feel like spilling this morning and then it's your turn.  This works out because maybe you're not awake at 6 and/or maybe you're pretty picky about your coffee, too, but I don't make it like you like or I don't have your favorite creamer.

So.

I should first tell you that I ate 3 giant marshmallows last night while sacked out on the couch with my exhausted son, watching Phineas and Ferb. Yes, I did. Those marshmallows were not the real food, homemade kind (although that needs to happen in our house!). They were the store-bought, grabbed for a trip to the mountains and stuffed in the back of our pantry kind. I tell you this not out of guilt, but because I want you to know that when I write my Real Food Fridays series, I'm not talking about perfection. I'm talking about the choices we make most of the time.

I wake up every morning wondering if this will be the day I meet my Selah girl. I am trying to keep making plans as usual, enjoy my one-on-one time with Nolan, and relax in the fact God knows the day and hour of her birth. My challenge is that the cramps and contractions I've been having don't let me forget for too long that I am about to give birth, and I've kind of stopped formally exercising because holy cramps (!).

My current obsessions include Noonday and Don't Waste the Crumbs.

Noonday is all about creating a sustainable marketplace for women around the world who are otherwise economically vulnerable or oppressed. The jewelry and accessories are gorgeous, the stories are compelling, and the work being done is redemptive and beautiful and it seems like the right place for me to be right now.

-Don't Waste the Crumbs is a blog/ website all about eating real food on a budget. I can't get enough and pour over the posts when I have the chance. As a stay at home mom (read: brings in minimal income) with a passion for quality, sustainable food systems, I am mining this site for all its worth.

Your turn!

What's something that you think about every day?

How do you like your coffee?

What are you obsessed with these days?

18Jul/145

Real Food Fridays

I've tried a few forms of eating in the past few years.

Vegetarian. Vegan. Paleo.

I was and will likely always be a die-hard fair trade enthusiast.

In all of those ventures, my main goals were (are) to be respectful of the people who make my food, the earth it comes from, and to take good care of my body and the bodies of those I love and feed.

While I no longer attach a label to my eating choices, I still want those things. I would like to one day buy all my food from the farmers market, through a CSA, or via fair trade companies that I trust, but in the meantime, I do the best I can with what I have and I focus on eating real food.

I would love to encourage you to do the same. If you want to eat better but aren't sure where to start, pick one little thing and try it out. I promise you that one "little" thing is doing much better things than throwing up your hands in defeat. If you want to eat local/organic/fair trade, find ONE way to do that, focus on that, and then when you are ready add another thing.

I'm hoping to reserve Fridays around here for talking about real food. Let's talk. Maybe we can learn from each other?

First, let's define what I mean when I say "real food." When I use the term, I am referring to food in its basic form (meat, vegetables, fruit, eggs, oatmeal) or that, given the time and a recipe, I could make myself.

Sometimes eating real food can be a little tricky. For example, bread can be real food, but you have to read the label (or make it yourself!) to know. Don't go by claims like,"low sugar", "low fat," or "all natural" or "high protein." <---Those are just a few of the claims you might fine. Just flip that baby over and read the ingredients! What are they?

If you could make the bread yourself using the ingredients listed, you're good to go.

If, however, you find something like this, skip it. It's not real food. It's a food-like product, and it's not doing you (or the environment, for that matter) any favors. I mean, really, where are you going to get calcium carbonate, calcium propionate, or stearoyl lactylate? What are they doing in your body? How is your body going to process them?

I have lots of ideas and questions to share with you in the coming weeks. I hope you'll join me on Fridays for some real food discussion!

For now, how do you define real food?

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14Jul/146

And….I’m Full Term

I'm full term + 1 day today.

That means if I go into labor, no one is going to try to stop me.  Selah's got the green light to make her entrance into the world.

Bittersweet.

I'm excited OF COURSE. But you know how it is when you know something is about to change your life forever and you can never, EVER go back and there's a still, gorgeous calm before the (however beautiful) storm?

Do you know what I mean?

I can't stop staring at my boys. I can't get away from how things are going to be SO different soon. They will still be good, richer even, and soon, I won't be able to imagine life without my two best boys AND my Selah girl.

Maybe soon none of us will. But for now, Nolan is wanting his mama more. He KNOWS life is about to change in a big way, too.

And me? I'm just soaking them up.

13Jul/140

Follow up: Buying Less Crap while Still Looking Cute in Your Clothes

I did it.

I created an account with thredUp. I perused the maternity section and picked out 5 things in my size. Most items ended up being under $5 each and every item was less than $10 each.

No sweatshops involved:-).

My clothes arrived in a sweet little package, which OF COURSE I neglected to photograph because even after years of blogging, I still do not have the picture part of publishing posts down.Please trust me, it was cute, but not overly done in a why did they waste so many materials?" kind of way.

I tried everything on, and guess what?

Only one item fit over my massive pregnant belly.

Oops.

Luckily, returning the items was pretty easy. I filled out an online form explaining the return, printed a return label, and shipped the too-small items back. I've already received my refund.

The downside? I did have to pay almost $10 for the return.

HOWEVER, I have since discovered that  orders received through thredUp's Android or IOS apps are eligible for free returns. I have an Android and promptly downloaded the app because I plan on ordering again after Selah is born. The clothing I received was in great shape. In fact, I couldn't tell that it had been previously worn. The service was great, and I love that ordering through them is affordable, offers me cute quality clothes, and doesn't support sweat shops.

With that said...

Not supporting the wrong stuff is good, but sometimes supporting the right stuff takes some investment. For example, buying chocolate from companies who don't use child labor and actually build families up costs a little more than your checkout aisle candy bar because the workers are getting paid appropriately. If we can afford to be buying chocolate that we don't need anyway, we can afford to eat a little less in order to get the right stuff and be a small part of laborers receiving a living wage.

I feel this way about jewelry. I like to get my accessories from sources that support job creation and poverty alleviation. I've recently discovered another company, Noonday, who does this, and I've fallen in love. The jewelry is a little more expensive than your average Target piece, but it has SO much more character, offers a better story, and will hold up better, too. I know it's a mind shift, but I think spending a little more on fewer of what we don't actually need so we can invest in what is good and beneficial for ourselves AND others is worthwhile.

Because of this, a good chunk of time is going to pass before I purchase another piece of jewelry or a scarf, but when I do, I'm going to try out Noonday. (I'll be sure to post a review!) In the mean time, a group of bloggers just left on a trip to Rwanda with Noonday and International Justice Mission. (I highly recommend checking out both organizations.)  They'll be visiting and telling the stories of "Rwandan women who have overcome injustice and have been empowered through economic opportunity." I'll be following along with Jen Hatmaker's posts, and you can also follow along here and with the #Stylefor Justice hashtag on Twitter. (If you're feeling inspired, you can also sign up to host a Noonday Trunk show. I really want to, but am pretty sure it's a *little* too close to Selah's estimated date of arrival.)

11Jul/143

The “How are you doing?” question

My brother goes back to Alaska today after a too-short, two-week visit. I miss him already and cried when I saw this picture posted after he left.

That's really all I want to say about that, but I am about to post more  pictures of our time with him, so it might be helpful to know that the tall, dark and handsome guy in my photos is my *little* brother.

Somewhere between the heat, increased activity, upped need for water and time continuing to march on, my you are getting to close to the end of your pregnancy symptoms really ramped up this week. A lot of cramping, a lot of Braxton Hicks, soreness, and some having to stop because I could not physically continue going forward. Totally frustrating for me because I've been eating well, exercising and doing everything I can think of to take care of myself and Selah. I feel like I should feel better and that labor needs to come soon because I don't know if I can handle a lot more of this.

So when yet another acquaintance asked how I was feeling, my frustrations came bubbling to the surface. I later vented the truth to my Aunt Mary Beth, who happened to be in town on the very day I needed her, and my mom. I just don't know how to answer that question to people I don't really know these days.

Thank God for people I can just be with. I'm feeling so thankful for the people who laugh at me when I apologize because I'm worried about being draining, help me laugh at myself,  let me air my ridiculous complaints (even validate them!) and share their own stories.

Somewhere between getting in bed and getting up in the morning (I am often awake for at least a couple of hours during the night), I was reminded that I get to choose how to live out my upcoming days.

I've been experiencing some beautiful days, no matter how uncomfortable. I could choose to live with the weight of I don't think I can do this and this sucks OR I could choose to live out my days with the intention of living them and enjoying them the best I can.

Really, this is about choosing to live in misery or choosing to live in joy. Difficult choice, right?

I will still continue to be open about how I am really doing when it is the healthy choice to do so.

I will not dwell on what I don't like and can't control.

I will do what I can control, like leaving the dishes in the sink a little longer or accepting offers so I can rest when I need it.

I will make the effort to live and appreciate the life I've been given and not squander it.

This morning, I opted to go for a stroll on a new-to-me trail with 3 of my best boys instead of stay home and then my brother Steve treated us to a meal at one of our favorite restaurants in the area, Say Cheese. I am sitting and writing now. There are dishes in the sink that I will do...later.