HuffPost Live with Rachel Ray

As some of you may or may not know, I have always thought that Rachel Ray and I would make excellent friends. Well, apparently the universe agrees because it FINALLY bought us together.

Quick story: about two years ago, when I was pregnant, Rachel Ray had a contest for her talk show, which had to do with cooking. I sent in my tape and filled out the application, and actually got a call back from her staff, which was SO COOL. They ultimately passed on me, which was fine because we would have been taping, like, hours before I gave birth. So it all worked out.

Anyway, the fabulous Ms. Ray has a new book called "Everyone Is Italian on Sunday"--catchy, right?! And so HuffPost Live asked me if I wanted to be part of the segment. It's been a while since I've had the opportunity to do anything with HuffPost because, well, having an 18 month old and all that jazz. So being back in the HuffPost saddle was amazing!!!

Check us out by CLICKING HERE. (I'm at the end, and they call me "Stephanie"--this is my life, people, what can I say?!) 

FIRE CIDER!!!!!!!!!! {With Recipe}

How do you all find your immunity these days? Mine used to feel strong as nails, but since my daughter was born...well, not so much.

Over the last year, my immune system has been in the doldrums of its existence. I have heard other women talk about how they felt so healthy while they are breastfeeding, but I just haven't found this to be true for myself. In fact, last winter was a particularly difficult one for me in the illness department, as I got the flu so bad that I actually got shingles!

Coming into the summer, I began to notice that my digestive system just ain't what it used to be. Turns out, over the last several months, I have become lactose intolerant. But I am skeptical of this....even though I have gotten MAJORLY ill from eating ice cream (not once, but twice.) Rather than throwing in the dairy towel completely, I got it in my head that I could heal my gut.

In my journey to healing my gut, I came across fire cider. This awesome concoction is not only great for your immune system, but it's also said to help heal your gut. And since I am such a fan of Mother's Vinegar, which is the main ingredient, I really wanted to give this home remedy a whirl.

It's said to be an old folk remedy, actually, and it takes up to a month to steep, which is why it's taken me sooo long to write this post (well, okay, maybe not, but we'll go with it). For me, living in a small town, the ingredient list was a little challenging to find, but given the challenges, I think I did pretty well and I am totally stoked on my fire cider. I have given this a couple of whirls now, and so I have been able to tweak my recipe a little. It's obviously best if you can use organic and/or homegrown ingredients, but like I learned with my horseradish root, this isn't always going to be possible. Just do your best.

I wanted to share my recipe, which was adapted from Mommypotamous (who, by the way, is amazing) in the hopes that some of you might be interested in making fire cider as well. After giving my first batch a taste, I have to say it's pretty spicy, but I do enjoy the taste. I mixed in some raw honey to give it that extra BAZINGA. My mom felt it wasn't quite as tasty I did, but she still drank it and said, "I think it did something!" I'll take it!

Notice the wax paper on the lids? For whatever reason, you can't have the metal lids touching your infusion. I don't ask questions when directions like this are given, I just follow. Call me a sheep...baaaaa. Now I don't refrigerate this while it's infusing--and let's talk a moment about that; it's not a fermentation, it's an infusion. These are different processes, or so I'm told. I've not tackled fermentation yet. All you need to know is that vinegar is a heck of a thing, and it's not going to go bad. But you do need to shake it every day. If you forget on your first batch (like I totally did) it'll be okay. More important than the shaking part is the storing it in a cool dark place part. 

After waiting...and waiting...and waiting...for a whole month...then you strain out the solids, add some raw honey and VIOLA! Fire cider! YAY! 

Then you can take it several ways. Add it to dressing. Add it to juice. Add it to tea. Or just do like I do and take a shot with lunch. It's how I roll. I mean, seriously, who has time to drink a whole cup of juice with an 18 month old running around? Not me, that's who. What I can say is that in the first week of taking my cider, I was able to eat smaller amounts of dairy without any ill digestive consequences. So I am going to say I'm impressed so far. 

Anyway, if by now you've read this entire post and are ready to tackle fire cider, here's the recipe. I have to suggest that when you fall in love with your first batch, immediately make a second batch. This way, when you work your way through the first, another will be waiting! Also, wouldn't this make a great gift for Christmas?! 

Fire Cider Recipe 
Time: 30 ish minutes +1 month | Makes: 1.5 pints | Difficulty: Easy

You Will Need:

1/2 cup horseradish root, peeled and diced
1/2 cup organic ginger root, peeled and diced
1 organic lemon, sliced into rings 
1/2 (or up to 1 whole) organic onion 
1 bulb organic garlic, minced (you can use much more, up to 1/2 cup) 
1 tablespoon ground turmeric 
1 sprig fresh organic rosemary 
2 organic jalapeƱos, sliced 
Bragg's vinegar to fill 1 quart 

Glass quart jar with lid 
Wax paper 

Raw honey, to taste. 


Add all your herbs and solid ingredients to the jar. Fill with the vinegar. cover the lid with wax paper and then the lid. Give a little shake to combine.

Store in a cool, dark place, shaking once a day for a month.

You may need to top it off after a day or two, just keep a good eye on it, and make sure the solids are covered by the vinegar.

When the month has finally passed, strain out the solids. Add raw honey to taste (I used about two tablespoons) and shake to combine. Store in the refrigerator and take about a shot glass worth each day, more if you are feeling sick! 

Make This Apple Cake {Happy Fall Y'all}

The Criswell house has been quite busy these days! My husband started a new job at the local high school (which, I have to brag, I am so proud of him), I've been working, and Ruby has been busy growing like a weed...which seems to all manifest in her bangs, which, no, we don't want to cut, thankyouverymuch.

In all the hullaballoo, I haven't really had much to blog. Because my "free time" (hahahaha) has been taken up with canning the end of season goodies like apples and peppers, working, and podcasting with my buddy Paul. If you haven't checked out my podcast, Honestly, please do, I'm pretty proud of it, and we're now in our second season.

And here we are: it's fall! I love fall. It's just a beautiful season with cooler breezes and falling leaves. I feel a sense of energy in the fall season, and I love how I naturally begin cooking differently. YES, I have been cooking, in case you were wondering. It's just that these days, it's a challenge to get a recipe down (with pictures, no less) when I have a tiny person clinging to my legs and yelling "MILK!"

Speaking of the fall season and all it's bounty: APPLES!

After purchasing a box of apples from my favorite local farmer, Paul Parsons, over at Parsons Farm in Dagsboro, well, it seemed logical that I would make a cake. Because my sweet tooth is alive and well (read: it's a son-of-a-bitch monster that is out to kill me.)

So, of course, I went to Pinterest to find one, and what I came up with was THIS RECIPE. I substituted oil for the butter, but otherwise followed it to the letter. And it was so good I was like, ermagerd, I have to share this on my blog.

This cake is *trigger word alert* SO MOIST! It's perfectly sweet, too, without a ton of sugar being added, which I think is a true accomplishment. So if you are looking for a simple and excellent apple cake, this is the best thing that could happen to you all week. Seriously.

Also, if you are hankering for more of my original recipes (or, like me, you haven't quite satisfied your apple sweet tooth), you can check out this good one from the archives for apple dump cake! Either way, I want to wish you happy fall, and a happy apple season!

We Need To Talk: You Can't "Invite" Rape

The other day a friend of mine posted THIS LINK on Facebook. It's a good read (quick, with good bolded headlines--haha), that basically says we have to stop judging other mothers about what they are or aren't doing. Which I totally agree with.

But some people misunderstood the exercise...and took it as an opportunity to get up on their weird-ass soap boxes. One woman in particular went OFF about how breastfeeding mothers need to cover up in public or (oh my god!) take it to the bathroom. To the bathroom. I can't even. When I tried to explain to her (nicely) about how eating in a bathroom is gross, the conversation got EVEN MORE STRANGE, and she talked about how not covering up when breastfeeding was inviting rape. Rape.

It's been on my mind for days. Not because it was infuriating, which it was, but because of the inaccuracies and the belief that women can invite rape in the first place. The entire breastfeeding issue aside, I was completely bowled over that someone would lay responsibility of even an imaginary assault at the feet of a woman...

Some might say that this is a matter of opinion, which is precisely my issue. YOU ABSOLUTELY CANNOT INVITE RAPE. PERIOD. FULL STOP. 

If we presume that women can somehow prevent rape, the flip side of that is the belief that men cannot control themselves and their sexual urges. I believe this was the cornerstone of the argument the woman on Facebook was presenting...that breastfeeding publicly without covering up entices men to then assault women. The danger (aside from the total inaccuracy) in this kind of thinking that is that it absolves assailants of of their personal responsibility when it comes to this vicious crime and instead places it on the victims.

But that isn't how rape really works. From what science and research tell us, sexual assault is rarely (if ever) about sex--it's about control. And women (or men, who can also be victims of rape) cannot possibly know how rapists think, what turns them toward a particular victim, or any of the rest of it. The best way to prevent rape is for rapists to stop raping. And in our culture, that has to start with good foundations of parenting, sexual education, and ultimately, removing the stigma from victims who come forward.

How on earth can we remove the stigma if our attitudes are that women can prevent their own assaults? It's egregious to me that any woman would be so  unsupportive of other women in this regard...and maybe it's belief born of fear. Maybe it's some religious thing. Maybe it's a lot of things. But what it's NOT is okay with me.

I know that rape isn't a pleasant topic. Sexual assault isn't something people want to hear about or think about, but the reality is that is happens, whether we ignore it or not. It's a huge issue for women at home and abroad. Luckily, some celebrities are beginning to help shed light on the topic, like Lady Gaga's new music video. But there are also set the fact that Ke$ha is being essentially blackballed for coming forward about her own sexual abuse. 

So what can we do? Well, for one, we can continue talking about it, unapologetically. Mothers and fathers need to talk to their sons and daughters about what sexual consent means (and does not mean.) When you see or hear someone victim blaming, don't tolerate it. Share this blog post. Or write your own. But don't sit idol as people say these things, whether it's online or in real life.

Because an attitude that women can prevent their own sexual assaults is dangerous for all of us. 

I'm Not "Back" (And I Don't Want To Be)

I remember when my daughter was about a month old and I kept thinking "if I can get back to my old routine, I'll be okay." Ha! Sure. That type of thinking was naive and it was never gonna happen. But in hindsight, I have to ask myself,"why did I feel that way to begin with?"

I think it's because our expectation is that we--as women-- need to get ourselves "back" after childbirth... Back to work. Back to body. Back to life... As though it never happened. Part of this has to do with the fact that we are completely discombobulated by the entire experience. We are irrevocably changed, hormonally on the ropes, and it's all a little disconcerting at the start.

But the truth is that childbirth is a singular experience. It's unlike anything else and, once you've come through it, the icing on the cake is you've got a whole new family member. Life will never be the same.

So what does going back really mean, anyway?

I found myself thinking about this as I simultaneously kept my child from jumping off the settee in the living room and read THIS Hello Giggles article about Kerry Washington speaking about how utterly unproductive the language of "going back" is. And I couldn't agree more.

The day my daughter was born, a new version of me was also born; only I didn't know it then. It took me a while to grow into and accept my new roles as a mom and person. I was changed in some unexpected and great ways. Sure, I sometimes mourned the changes, but mostly, I celebrate them. There is, as Washington says, no going back. There was never a way to go back, and we've got to stop telling women this outright lie

A lot of emphasis on this theme has to do with our bodies. On that note all I can say is that my body now is a thing if wonder. I have stretched myself to the brink of its capability and I'm so proud. Breastfeeding is an amazing weight loss regimen (inadvertently I had to give up dairy and lost even more!) I don't mourn a single second for my prebaby body. I know that some women do, but I want to urge self acceptance.

As for work, what can I say? I work from home, as I have for the past several years, and I continue to evolve in my career. My newspaper column was canceled, but at the end of the day, I had to just keep my chin up and continue to press forward in ways that felt fresh and healthy. Because it's not about getting anything back--not even the things that clearly have been lost as a result of motherhood.

All I want for myself and my family is be whole. Mothers and fathers have to find new ways to do that once a baby joins the family, and I think mothers have a few more changes to sift through than fathers. So we should support one another on our journey. No pressure. Don't strive to do anything other be yourself as the new mother who was born on your child's birthday. Scars and all, we are fabulous, strong people!

If women could stop using wrote language with one another when it comes to our childbirth/mothering experiences, it would be easier to do this. Stop asking mothers if they are feeling "back" to things...back to their old size, or back to normal. These things don't truly mean anything. It's like asking if your baby sleeps well (no one really wants to discuss this, do they?) Instead, maybe we could ask one another how we are moving forward. Ask: how has this monumental life moment changed things for you? Ask: how do you feel differently now that you're a mother (or father)?

These questions have value and they start new conversations that allow us to think and process our new challenges as women and parents.

I don't feel back to anything...and I don't want to be. I'm evolving in new ways since I've become a mother, and I'm damn proud of it! 

Breastfeeding Past 1 Year

I always knew that I was going to breastfeed. I was completely determined, which was a good thing because it's not always easy, but it's definitely worth it. When I was a baby, my mom breastfed me, and I self-weaned at 10 months. So, I figured that I would probably be breastfeeding my own daughter about that that was my goal.

As it goes with parenting, though, best laid plans go awry, and goal posts are constantly being moved. This is how I found it with breastfeeding: the 10 month mark came and went and my gal was showing no signs of slowing down. Since I found breastfeeding to not only be quite convenient, but also bonding, I felt no reason to slow down, either.

This image of us breastfeeding was also shared on
Take Back Postpartum,
     which seeks to normalize a diversity of postpartum 
        experiences and help women love their bodies.   
And now here we are: my daughter is 15 months and we are still going strong!! I'm very proud. But there are lots of things about breastfeeding after 1 year that are different from newborns and infants, so I figured, hey, I'd share my experience so that others could relate, commiserate, or maybe even get some answers.

Let's talk facts
The worldwide average for weaning is 4 years old. I know lots of moms who breastfed as long. So there is nothing wrong with breastfeeding until you and/or your baby is ready to stop. It's a personal decision. But breastmilk continually changes to give your growing tike the nutrients and immunities they need. Don't EVER let someone tell you that "if they can ask for it, they are too old." First of all, it's no one's business, and secondly, it's just plain false. Breastfeeding is the gift that keeps on giving. I've continued to lose weight and feel amazing, and I know I am nourishing my daughter.

I also find it to be the best (most effective) comfort for upset feelings, boo-boos, nap time, and bedtime. While my daughter doesn't breastfeed as much during the day at this point, she does enjoy touching base with me throughout the day and leaning in for some quick milk. And, despite still breastfeeding like a champion, she's also quite a terrific eater. She eats three solid meals a day, and sometimes a snack.

Let's talk teeth & tweaking
Ugh. The biting. It happens. It's not quite as bad as it sounds (surprisingly), but requires swift intervention. The thing that I have found the most helpful is when she bites (which, I'm sorry to say can sometimes be on purpose), is that I put her down and say "I guess you're not hungry." And it upsets her, and so she stops. I have also found the biting thing waxes and wanes. I'll have a couple weeks where she gives me trouble with it, and then she stops for a couple months.

Another annoyance can be nipple tweaking. OUCH! I am slowly breaking my daughter of this habit. I was interested to learn that the tweaking thing actually serves a purpose; it stimulates letdown in the breast they are eating out of. Ah, nature, sometimes you are a devil! Haha. Of course, it's not comfortable, so I don't encourage the behavior. You can help break it by holding your baby's hand, or offering them a blanket to twist instead.

I was surprised to learn that my toddler JOKES with me while breastfeeding which is sooooo funny. She'll take my nipple and say "nom nom nom" like she's eating food. It's hilarious! These little moments between us are so sweet, and I know that someday they will gone. With her getting older, there is no telling when she'll be ready, so I just enjoy the little things while I can!

It eases worry 
There are times when my daughter doesn't want to eat table food because maybe she's sick or teething  or whatever. When this happens, I find that breastfeeding eases my worry because I know that her nutritional needs are being met--what a relief!

She's a pro and so am I 
At this point, we are both breastfeeding pros. I remember in the beginning, I had to think about what to wear for easy access, or I would cautiously look around in public. Now? I hardly think about what I wear, or how to nurse in public. We are both good on the go, at home, and just about anywhere in between! We've hit a sweet spot.

So what has your experience been like breastfeeding your older baby? Please feel free to share in the comments section below! 

Hello 30!

Today, I am 30 years old. While some people might be wallowing or lamenting, I'm super excited. I have always wanted to be 30. For me, it seems like an age that has experience behind it, and I suppose I always thought that when I got here, I would be considered an adult. I don't know if I particularly feel like an adult or not--in fact, sometimes I feel 16!--but nonetheless, I am really happy to be here.

I was going to write a post that 30 focused...something about things you should've done by 30, or thing you should be over by 30, or whatever. But the truth is, in my now 30 years of experience, the whole "shoulds" and "maturity" things can be highly overrated. And while I enjoy being my bossy self, I don't want to tell anyone what they should be doing.

So instead, I'd like to tell you about 30 things I've done in my 30 years. Maybe you can relate, and maybe you can't, but it's my blog and my birthday, and I'm in a sharing mood. we gooooooo!

1. Traveled to Europe with my mom.
2. Breastfed my baby for over a year (WOOOO! Go us!)
3. Been with my husband for 12 years--married for five!
4. Had a natural childbirth experience.
5. Seen over 100 concerts in 3 countries (35 of which were Phish shows).
6. Auditioned for the local TV station....twice.
7. Not been given the job by the local TV station...twice.
8. Traveled to Europe with my best friend.
9. Failed...more than once. (Always a good learning experience!)
10. Been a massage therapist.
11. Been an office manager.
12. Worked for myself as a writer.
13. Been a stay at home mom (maybe my favorite job so far!)
14. Self published a novella. (Careful, it's awfully STEAMY!)
15. Made my own mayonnaise.
16. Developed a lactose intolerance later in!
17. Had shingles (I totally don't recommend this one!)
18. Given up dairy, and actually liked it.
19. Been in several stage productions, including my dream role as Juliet.
20. Owned chickens for the past couple of years.
21. Canned with my mother and mother-in-law, learning a ton about preserving food!
22. Learned how to let go, whether it's in friendships, or love, or family.
23. Had my own podcast--which was so fun, and something I hope to do again soon!
24. Learned new depths of love as I walk down the road of life, both in marriage and family.
25. Lived in the city, and in the country. (Country suits me best!)
26. Slept under the stars.
27. Stayed up all night so many times that I no longer feel the need.
28. Had a lot of great pet over the years, and fostered a healthy love of animals.
29. Lived with lots of interesting roommates! (Just typing that made me smile!)
30. Made lifelong friends, and formed a community of friends and family who make my life so incredibly rich, I know that I am lucky lucky LUCKY!

As I look at my list, I am so happy to have had all these experiences. I am so incredibly grateful for the things I have had, and the great things coming in my future. I love a quote I once heard--and you've probably seen it floating around the Internet-- "Do no regret getting older, it is a privilege denied to many." I like it because it helps keeps impermanence in perspective.

Also, one more thing...ever since I had my daughter, I understand the importance of my birthday for my own mother. So, I also want to say THANK YOU to my mom--for all her hard work bringing me earthside. I love being alive, and I love sharing this life's journey with her. So happy birthday TO ME and MY MOM. I hope you all have a great day today, and every day!