Quick Fix: Taco Salad

If there is one food that I could eat nonstop during this pregnancy it's tacos. But a lady can't get by on tacos alone, of course...as part of my healthy pregnancy, I have ben trying to enjoy a salad daily, if not twice a day. I am keeping my veggie level up and that makes me feel great. That's not to say I don't throw in a cheat every now and again, though, and I consider this salad a cheat.

The fact remains: every time I make tacos, I end up with leftover meat and a shell or two. While leftover tacos are nothing to roll your eyes at, putting them in a salad is somehow easier. And yet, the taco salad is simply overlooked. So this post is a quick fix, but also a reminder. Do not let your leftover tacos fixings go to waste--make them into your cheat salad, like me! 

And really, we're still getting some good veggies in here...because I am adding avocado. Can't we feel good about that?! I think so. Also? I don't dress the salad...unless you count the salsa and sour cream, so that sort of makes me feel okay too. Eh, justification is justification no matter how you look at it.

I'm going to do this recipe in pictures with captions, and skip the formal recipe at the end. I hope no one has a problem with that. If you do, please see the complaint department. (Er, there is no complaint department.) Hehe.

Start with a base of iceberg lettuce. Or as my mom calls it, "the unhealthy lettuce." I love when she says unhealthy lettuce because it's like an oxymoron, but she insists that it's "just water." And maybe she's right, but nothing crunches like iceberg. It's the only lettuce to use. 

Next, slice half an avocado and a nice tomato and layer them on in there. Grab a handful of cheddar or cheddar jack cheese and throw it on there, too. 

I heat my leftover meat and once it's done, I put it on top of the cheese...but there are really no rules here; if you want to put your cheese on top of your hot meat, you can do that too! No. Rules. Then do a bit of sour cream (actually, it's a dollop of Daisy sour cream, if you must know) along with some yummy salsa. This is my salsa verde, but the next day I used chipotle salsa. Because, as I said, there are no rules! 

Now you go for the gold: top it with a crumbled leftover taco shell! Or, if you are out of taco shells use some tortilla chips! 

Ain't no salad like a taco salad, 'cause a taco salad don't stop! Oh yea!! 

Hearty Vegetable Soup Recipe

I served my soup with a slice of bread with mashed avocado & hardboiled
egg! YUM! 
Holy frigid temperatures with a side BRRRRRRRRR! This winter has been cold, but honestly, for me it's just a great excuse to eat more soup! It's really one of my favorite foods to eat in the world. Soup has so much flavor packed into each flavorful bite. These days, I am trying to keep it healthy for me and my little baby bump, so I'm trying to pack in as many vegetables as I can.

So what in the world could be better than a vegetable soup?!?!?!?! It's a classic, and it's packed with lots and lots of great veggies. There are no hard and fast rules to what you can put in this soup, but I am going to offer some great suggestions. You can do more, you can do less. This is up to you.

Also: I enjoy using a variety of veggies both fresh and frozen. Some of them I froze in season myself and others I store bought. Really, I draw no distinction between fresh and frozen vegetables--they are all good to me! I love frozen vegetables because they are available all the year long and that makes me happy. I love fresh because, c'mon, who doesn't?

Ready to make some soup that'll warm your toes? Yes, me too!

Olive oil adn garlic: meet some carrots, celery, and onion! 

I cook these for just a couple of minutes, and then I add.... 

My tomato and vegetable broth. Sorry this picture is out of focus. Deal with it. 

Once that is all boiling, I add my frozen veggies and the cabbage and then reduce the heat and simmer until it's all done. 

I served my soup with a slice of toast topped with mashed avocado and a sliced hard-boiled egg. It was the perfect lunch....in fact I'll be eating it all week. 

Hearty Vegetable Soup 

Time: Just over an hour | Makes 1 big pot | Difficulty: Easy 

You Will Need: 

5 cups (1 quart plus one pint) crushed tomatoes (NOTE: If you like it "less tomatoy, you can use 4 cups)
4 cups vegetable broth 
Glug of olive oil
1 onion, diced 
3 cloves garlic, minced 
2 carrots, sliced 
2 celery stalks, sliced small 
Shredded cabbage (a couple of good handfuls)
Frozen veggies: (I add these by the handful and according to what I have on hand, so rules here!!) shredded zucchini, corn, green beans, cauliflower, and broccoli 
1 bay leaf 
a few dashes cayenne pepper (optional) 
salt and pepper to taste 


In a big old soup pot, add your glug of olive oil and allow it to heat over medium high heat. Add your garlic, onion, carrot and celery and cook for 3-5 minutes or until onions are becoming translucent. 

Add your crushed tomatoes. But before you do, let's talk about it: if you like a thicker, heartier vegetable soup, then add five cups of the tomatoes. If you want a more brothy soup, then go for four cups of tomato. The choice is yours and yours alone. 

Add four cups of vegetable broth. I made mine with Better Than Bullion because it packs the most flavor. It's so awesome. But you can use whatever you want. Bring it all to a boil. 

Once it's boiling, add the rest of your ingredients. That's the frozen veggies (and really, the above vegetables are suggestions, feel free to throw in peas, lima beans, or whatever else you have on hand!!), the bay leaf, the cabbage, some cayenne, and salt and pepper. 

Let it come back to a boil and once it does, reduce the heat to simmer and cover. Allow it to simmer away for about an hour. I like to let my soup cool and then refrigerate it overnight. I feel the flavors really have time to mingle and get extra yummy. If you want to serve it right away, knock yourself out! It'll taste great! 

But a word to the wise: remove that bay leaf before serving! Once, as a child, I choked on a bay leaf. It was unpleasant and it scarred me for life. Remove. The. Bay. Leaf. 

And enjoy with a crusty piece of bread! 

Stuff I Use: Better Than Bullion Vegetable Base

During the first trimester of my pregnancy, I was so sick I could barely cook. So I called my mama and begged her to come and help me. I couldn't find anything I wanted to eat, let alone cook it! She came and whisked me away to the grocery store where we searched for things I could stomach. One thing I wanted: lentil soup. But we needed vegetable broth. That was when we began to search for an MSG free, healthy bullion or broth, and this is what we found.

I had never used it before, but I figured, hey, I'll give anything a try. My mom insisted that according to the label (and we read a ton of them that day) this was the healthiest one. Turns out, it was also the most flavorful!! I used up that first bottle of it, and I'm on my second one now. After testing it on multiple recipes, I have decided this a product I just can't live without.

It makes life easy, first of all, and this a point about vegetable broth in general, I guess. While I do like to make my own stocks whenever I can (hey, check out this great trick!), it's not always possible. And who wants to keep their pantry stocked with beef, chicken, and vegetable stocks? Not me! But this particular base easily translates between beef, chicken or vegetable recipes. AND IT DOES NOT SKIP ON FLAVOR!

The flavor packed into this base is amazing. I actually did a side by side with another vegetable broth, and I felt that the lentil soup I made with the other broth left me lacking flavor. So, if you are passionate about your flavors as I am, and you love having convenient products on hand that just make sense in your life, then this is one you will just love!

Just add one teaspoon of the base to a cup of water and BRAVA! You've got a great vegetable broth you can add to anything from risotto to soup and beyond!!! And tomorrow, since I know it's going to be positively arctic throughout most of the country, I am going to make a hearty vegetable soup to warm your bones using this awesome product!!! 

The Disturbing Judgment of Other Mothers....

I knew before I got pregnant that parenthood came with a lot of shame; I had read about it over and over in Brene Brown’s books. I had the unpleasant opportunity to experience such shame when I wrote about my experience with my sexuality and pregnancy and a small placenta issue several weeks ago.

When my doctor told me to refrain from sexual intercourse, I was distressed. I wanted to talk about the medical necessity of it--I wanted facts. My husband and I did our research, weighed the facts and decided to follow to the doctor’s advice while remaining positively optimistic about this being a temporary situation. In the meantime, we got creative in the intimacy department. Oh, and BlogHer picked up the piece I wrote to feature in their family section (fuck me, I was actually excited!)

That was when other mothers started weighing in on my story. I was called selfish. I was told that my child would never know a loving home. After someone else reposted the BlogHer piece on Thebump.com, women commented in that they wanted to “cunt punch” me (that was a new one) as well as  many, many other nasty things I dare not repeat. All of this for merely considering that I had any type of sexual needs. All of this for wanting to be spoken to by a doctor like the educated, insightful woman that I am.

Mother after mother came out in the comments section to tell me just how awful I was-- already a failure as a parent-- for wanting to simultaneously maintain a little autonomy while being a parent. They said that I should be there to serve my children and that they should always come first. I guess these things work for them, and so that is how every mother in America should function. Step out of line with that rhetoric and you’re likely to catch a case of cold hard shame in the very worst ways.

When I became pregnant, I knew that dipping my toes into the mommy blogging world was going to come with some controversy. When it comes to parenting, people feel very strongly about their views. It’s a deeply personal journey. But I resolved to be candid, and to try my best to be nonjudgmental toward other women and their personal views because, frankly, as those commenters showed me, there is enough shame to go around.

What I keep coming back to is why? Why do we, as women or mothers, feel the need to vehemently defend our parenting choices by downgrading others and being generally disgusting human beings? If something works for one woman, but is vastly different than what we do, why do we automatically feel  threatened? Why is it that when one woman is in distress, and expresses her vulnerabilities, she is seen as selfish and the question of who comes first is never “the mother?”

Why are mothers so goddamned judgmental toward other mothers? Where is our sense of sisterhood?!

For me, it’s very much like feminism...(which you can read about HERE)...we are so busy being self righteous that we lose sight of the fact that we can embrace diversity and support one another in the process. We shouldn’t reject something because it’s different from what we do. Can’t we just say, “I don’t feel the same way” without having to call names or feeling somehow personally affronted? Is there really only just one way to be a parent or a mother for that matter?

And while I’m on it, what in the world is so bad about suggesting that parents deserve a life of their own outside of parenting? Some of the most successful parents I know (who have been married the longest, by the way) subscribe to this belief. They take date nights. They send the kids to grandma’s house once a month. They let their children cry it out a little (sometimes a lot). They set clear boundaries with their children when it comes to adult time. And their children are happy, secure and well adjusted.

For me, it is no better or worse than the soccer moms out there who devote time to their children and feel that “being mom” is their number one job in life. If it works for them, who am I to say otherwise? We aren’t all the same and one way of doing things won’t work for all of us. But we are all sharing a universal experience of parenting, right?

As a writer, it’s tough to walk the judgment tightrope. As a woman, and a new mother, I’m learning it’s even harder than I imagined. What I have learned so far is that being pregnant is an incredibly vulnerable experience. I imagine that being a parent will find much of the same...but what I don’t understand is why other women pick up on that vulnerability and seek to crush it with searing shame.

Is there really not a moment when these women said to themselves, “Gosh, I know I am pregnant but I really want to feel like a sexy woman?” Can they honestly dig within themselves and find no compassion for  a woman who feels like doctors sometimes bark at her and tell her about her own body as if she had no knowledge or intuition?

I had this fear of being a parent before I got pregnant...I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to take the leap. Once I found that faith in myself to do so, I dove in wholeheartedly and with abandon. But I think, looking at this particular situation (which is seemingly small in the scheme of life) that some of my fears about joining the mom-club were justified, especially the fears that revolved around other mothers. Sometimes other mothers are the ones who we come to fear the most, and perhaps with good reason.

What we perhaps SHOULD be ashamed of, is the shame machine itself and our own participation in it. I am guessing that if I have experienced it already, that there are lots of other women who have, too. These other women who are out there saying nasty things are the commentators; they are, as Brene Brown says, the critics. They aren’t in the arena...they aren’t putting their own stories, fears, mistakes and triumphs out there for me to comment on. They are just the ones saying they want to “cunt punch” me for being honest and authentic.

So, if you want to reject the shame machine, join me in the comments section and tell me YOUR SHAME STORY. Tell me about a time when someone tried to shame you (mother, non mother, whatever) and how it made you feel. By talking about these things, our shame magically dissolves and has no place to live. Take that! Hahah!!! 

Ladies & Gentlemen, We Have Lift Off!!!

Me at about 20 weeks! (I'm a wee more preggo now!)
So, I took a ton of heat for talking about my own sexual needs during this pregnancy when a placenta issue came into play several weeks ago. I'm gonna talk a little more about my lovely experience with those crazy commenters on Monday, but today I have some GREAT news to share. That pesky placenta of mine? Totally moved up! We have lift off!!

Call it intuition, but I had a sneaking suspicion that it had moved because of where I felt the baby kicking in my abdomen. This past Monday was our "big day" to get it re-checked and we were given the "all clear!!" This means I am now free to resume my sex life and some light lifting (I have been DYING to pick up my friend's kid who weighs 18 pounds). The funniest part was that our midwife said, "Some people do it in the bathroom!" Haha! I assured her that we would wait until we got home, and I think she was relieved.

She also gave me a few more pointers for the rest of the pregnancy. In fact, she was a much much much much much needed breath of fresh air in my experience so far. She said keep on doing what I am doing: working out, eating healthy, and HAVE SEX, she said! (Yes, I know, perhaps I'm too excited, but hey, it was a looooong four weeks!!!)

She also said something else that surprised me: no more ultrasounds! The midwife said that unless they are medically necessary (which they aren't in my case, mah baby and I are reallllly healthy!) then they just cause more anxiety than they alleviate. I was really happy with this outcome. For me, less is more! Another suggestion was to avoid induction unless I come to 42 weeks. She informed me that it just isn't medically necessary unless there is a clear threat to the baby's life (or mine.)

She also encouraged me to just see the midwives because they fit with my personal birthing philosophies. She said, "Let's face it, if you have to have a cesarean, you don't care who it is!" And she's right, at that point, my biggest concern would be safety and I trust all the OB/GYNS there to do a great job--who cares which one (not that you have a choice, anyway)! She also did a fabulous job putting my anxieties about a hospital birth to rest and in the biggest twist of YES-AND-THANK-YOU she said that she (or the midwife on call) will clear my doula to come to the delivery!!!

My, my how things can change in a pregnancy! This time was not without reflection, though. So I wanted to share some of the great things I learned during these last several weeks; you know, in case you can relate or want to leave me a nasty comment or something. *wink, wink*

One of the best lessons I got about this whole thing was that even without sex for four weeks, life goes on. Some people will not understand what I am talking about, and others will totally understand what I mean. I always knew that after I gave birth we were facing 4-6 weeks without it, and the thought of it always made me nervous. I have never gone that long without it since I've been in this relationship. I never imaged that I would have to abstain during pregnancy, especially once my libido was back in full swing! I feel particularly empowered by my sexuality, so I just couldn't imagine it....but now I can and I feel okay with it. It deepened my appreciation for my husband (who was super cool) and gave us a totally new experience as a couple!

Another great lesson was about how unpredictable pregnancy can be and how you have to bob and weave. I've been letting go of expectations a lot in the process of becoming a parent--some lessons have been easier than others. The last four weeks, between the placenta thing and the hospital birth thing, were a little hard for me. There are likely to be more times where things will change, and I am prepared for that. Ultimately, my journey to being a mommy is going really well--the baby is healthy, so what more could I ask for?

Also: wowser do I trust my body like never before! It's astounded me how much intuition has come into play in this pregnancy, and I am learning to trust in my body like I never have before. I have been surprised at how little I worry, and I think it goes back to knowing in my heart that my body is doing what it was made to do. If I listen carefully to what my body is saying, I find I know just what to do. Yes, sometimes the doctors will tell you things you weren't prepared for, but in the end, I knew everything would be just fine.

Lastly, I really learned that no matter what other people say--and people have a lot to say--you have to march to the beat of your own drum. I'm going to touch more on this Monday, but the situation (and the blogging about it, of course) shed light on the fact that before anything else, you've got to be secure with yourself. I know that this is a trait that my daughter can be proud of....

What lessons have/did you learn during your pregnancy? Were they hard or did they come easy? Share yours in the comments section below! 

Stuff I Use: Snapware Storage Containers

A couple of weeks ago, I did a Huff Post Live Segment with Emeril Lagasse which was a lot of fun. He was talking about Snapware, which is great for transporting all kinds of otherwise difficult foods, and he was specifically referencing soups. I have been a Snapware user for a few years, and I have to say, they are some of my favorite storage containers that I own.

So, imagine how very excited I was when they contacted me and offered to send me some of their new Snapware!! I was seriously stoked on many levels. 1) A gal can always use more food storage and 2) I have this problem: 

I seriously needed to clean out my plastic ware cabinet. Where in the world did all these to go containers come from? We hardly ever eat out! I guess we are just good at keeping things hanging around. Don't get me wrong, these come in handy and all, but the lids get warped and I can't heat food in the microwave in them. Let's say that I was all to happy to replace this giant stack with these snazzy new pieces: 

And can we talk about a few awesome points of new favorite food storage solutions?! First of all, they are pyrex glass! I love having glass storage containers and these babies can go in the fridge or freezer as well as in the microwave or even in the oven! And because of the "snap" closures, you can bet your bottom dollar that these are closed--sealed--and will not pop open by surprise. (And you won't have one of those incidences where you think you've closed it and then, OOPS, you have not.) 

One of my favorite uses (or at least one of my first ones)? 

Marinating meat!! I'm a shaker. I like to put my meat and marinade in and then periodically shake it up. Snapware is perfect for this, among its many other talents. Oh, AND, if you fancy Snapware as much as I do, you can enter their contest on their FaceBook Page. You can win a trip to Orlando to dine in Emeril's restaurant along with a ton of other great prizes and their contest ends on January 31st. 

So tell me, have you tried Snapware? What's your favorite way to store your food? Share in the comments section below! 

*All opinions expressed are my own and I have not been compensated for my opinion of this awesome product. Over and out 

Bossy Italian Book Review: Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

Before I was pregnant, this book made my reading list. I kid you not. I am not sure if it's part of my obsession with France, or my obsession with NOT being an obsessed parent. Either way, this book appeals to both of those obsessions. A little background: this book is about Pamela Druckerman, an American living in Paris with her British husband. It didn't take her long to start noticing that there was something very different about her Parisian counterparts...and like any good writer, once she got curious, it blossomed. 

This book is the story of how she learned to strike a balance between American and French parenting with a slightly French slant. I love this book SO MUCH. I have so many great things to say about this book as an expectant parent, I almost don't know where to begin...let me start here: I'm not worried as much about getting sleep after the baby is born. That's got to be HUGE right?! I think so. 

Also, the French parenting methods (which the French, Druckerman is quick to say, would not consider methods) are just so sensible and so straightforward. They aren't fussy, they aren't obsessive, but they are precise and deliberate. French parents see their children as little learners and they are "educating" them from the time they are little. 

For instance, French children don't eat that bland rice cereal as one of their first solid foods--they eat fruits and vegetables (gee, how sensible!) and when their parents feed them, they talk to them about the food they are eating. What does it taste like, how is the texture, etc. 

Parents in France, unlike many American parents, also see their children as entering THEIR families...where I feel like here we see children as the CENTER of the family.  This is something that my husband and I have been on the same page about from the beginning. We want to have our adult lives still, and have our child fit into our structure. It's a basic concept of letting your child know that the world does not revolve around them. Sometimes they will have to be patient, or wait, or feel disappointed. That is life, as the French would say, and I agree. 

Will my husband and I follow everything in the book? I doubt it, but I think it's a great place to start. This book not only gave me some great techniques, but it put my mind at ease, and that is simply priceless!!! 

From sleeping to eating and having autonomous lives, it seems like the French know how to build a framework that makes their children more enjoyable. French parents command respect and they do it with confidence. This is the guidebook on how to get there. 

I recommend this book to ANYONE who has small children or is pregnant. If you are thinking of someday having a family, log this one in your mental notes and come back to it later. You will be SO happy you did! 

An Awesome [Little] Stock Trick

I've used frozen chicken feet for a stock in the past--and it was awesome!
I love making my own stocks, but sometimes I find that I have all the fixings for the stock before I am ready to devote my time to making it. This, in the past, I am sorry to say, has resulted in me throwing out some perfectly good stock bases. That is, until I got a better idea: freeze it!

Now, we all know that really into preserving and freezing, so for most of you, this tip should come as no surprise. But even with my habit of stocking up and preserving and all that jazz, I swear this didn't occur to me until a couple of months ago. And then it took me two more months before the lightbulb went off and I shared it with you guys....I know, I need to catch up to myself sometimes.

Anyway,  this trick is great for vegetable, seafood, chicken, or any other type of stock you are making. What you do is get your carcass or bones, vegetable scraps, or whatever else you don't want to spoil and throw it in a freezer bag. Put it in the freezer until you are ready to make a stock and when you are ready: BAM! Instant stock! Well, okay, not instant, but you have everything basically prepped and you can just add water and let it simmer away!

Most recently I used this trick for some venison chops. Since I can't eat my meat medium rare like I like it (thanks a lot, fetus!), I decided to cut the venison chops away from the bones and use them to make a stroganoff. But I couldn't just discard those lovely bones, so I threw them in a freezer bag for later use. I will add the veggies to them later with a little water and make a great venison stock. I have also used this trick with a chicken I was done with....I threw it in a bag with some kale stalks, celery trimming and carrots peels. It was perfect for a full pot of stock!!!

Happy stock making! 

Coming To Grips With A Hospital Delivery

Did you all know that I was born at home? I was. My mom is a natural kind of woman and when it came to her babies, I was born at home (when we lived in New York) and my brother was born at the birthing center (in Delaware.) When I got pregnant, call me crazy, the last thing that was on my mind was how in the world I was going to give birth.

At first, all I could think about was how sick I was and about getting through that. Then there was the joys of being done with the sickness part and it being time to tell everyone. Once the fanfare died down slightly, and I started showing, they handed me a packet at the OB/GYN called "pre check in papers" and sent me on my merry way. A couple weeks ago, as I am nearing my third trimester, I finally felt ready to open that packet. (Up to that point, I had been avoiding thinking about the delivery at all.)

What I was not ready for was the meltdown that came with it. You see, I am completely unfamiliar with hospitals. To me, they are mystery places reserved for when you are...I hate to say this...dying. I hate the way they smell. I hate the way they look. I want to never have to go to one if at all possible. But I happen to live in a very small community with very....how do I say this..."modern" views on childbirth.

Why "modern," you ask? Well, for me, the way I view childbirth is natural occurrence that in 90% of cases needs little to no intervention. IE- no hospital necessary. Just give me a midwife and a few good hours and you're bound to get a baby. I feel my body will know just what to do. The state of Delaware feels very differently than I do. Home birth in our state is illegal. And there is one birthing center located 2 hours away. My options are pretty limited (especially considering how quickly my mom had both my brother and I--in under 8 hours, start to finish!)

Hospital births account for 99% of the births in our country--very modern. Women are taught that they need fancy things like pitocin (used to induce labor) and epidurals (to help take away the pain) when in reality receiving either one of these interventions sky rockets your chances of getting a c-section. We are bombarded by messages that we can't trust our bodies and then when the interventions lead us to more interventions we praise modern medicine for doing what the modern woman couldn't achieve on her own.... at least this is the way I see it.

This was why I had a safeguard against this: a doula. This was my light at the end of the tunnel. I was going to have my doula and then I would be safeguarded against routine hospital interventions. I would be much more likely (22% to be exact) to have a natural birth, even in the hospital setting. And then I opened the packet, and it read only three support persons are allowed in the room while you are in labor.

This meant leaving someone out of the birth experience...either my mother, my mother-in-law, or (gulp) my doula. That was about when the meltdown began.  Why was I being told who could and couldn't be there? Why did my doula have to count as a support person? After agonizing over the decision, my husband and I decided that my doula would have to sit the main event out and help train my mother and mother-in-law to do what she would have done. We simply couldn't pick between my mother and his, and we felt this was an experience we needed to have together.

With a heartsickness I can't describe, I filled out the rest of the packet, and brought it to the hospital and asked to see the place. I smiled and the nurses were so nice to me. They answered my questions and asked a few of their own. They stayed calm when I asked how long I would have to stay. They told me that if I was breast feeding, 48 hours is customary...why? Because women often have trouble with breastfeeding. (Sheesh...again, how do these dang bodies work?!)

My mom and I left the hospital, got in the car, and again, I had another meltdown, saying through my tears, "I don't want to have my baby here! It smells like old people!!!" (Sorry, no offense old people.) The fact remains: I am having a hard time accepting the fact that I have to birth my child in a hospital. It feels wrong. The beds look uncomfortable. They want to keep me for 48 hours!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A huge part of me feels like I am being cheated by having to go this route. Another part of me feels helpless to stop the hospital machine as my due date marches closer. A large part of me worries that they won't listen to me when I say "no thank you" to the IV, or the pitocin, or whatever else. And then there is the baby...who I don't want to have to come into the world this way. I want my baby to come into the world in a calm, less germ infested place...one where whoever wants to be in the room can be there to say, "hello!"

Maybe I am old-fashioned. Maybe I am new-school. Maybe I just feel entitled to the birth experience I choose...and I don't understand why I have to be told to fit into this one-size-fits-all box. Either way, I am struggling to come to grips with the hospital delivery, and a part of me is deeply sad that I can't have my baby in the comfort of my own home, just like I came into the world.

I am perplexed by the system and having an inner crisis because of it. Why have we taken something so natural and complicated it so much? I just don't understand. I am trying desperately to push past these negative feelings in order to get to a place where I feel good about delivering at the hospital. I never thought that it would be this difficult. One would think that having no other choice would allow you to move into an acceptance phase, but for me it just hasn't been the case...at least not yet.

Quick Fix: Avocado & Chickpea Sandwich

It feels like FOREVER since I have done a quick fix! But the other day my mom and I made this sandwich and it was just too good not to share! It's also really healthy, which is always a plus in my book, especially these days as I am trying to get as much fiber as humanly possible as well as nutrients to that ever-growing baby in belly!

This filled me up and completely satisfied me. I can see myself making it again and again. Now, my mom and took the original recipe (which you can get by clicking HERE) and modified it a little...because we are rule breakers like that. We didn't really change all that much from it, and I am sure that you can put your own twist on it, too. It's one of those recipes that allows for a little preference, and we like that!

Avocado and Chickpea Mash Sandwich 
Time: 10 minutes | Makes 3 big open faced sandwiches | Difficulty: Easy! 

You Will Need:

2 ripe avocados 
1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans
1 bunch cilantro 
a couple of scallions 
two tablespoons lime juice 
a big teaspoon of chopped garlic 
4 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half 
salt and pepper to taste 
a drizzle of olive oil 
a dusting of red pepper flakes (optional)
1 crusty baguette, cut in half lengthwise 


Drain your garbanzo beans and give them a slight rinse. Remove the skin and seed from each of the avocados. Wash and chop your cilantro. 

In a food processor or blender add your lime juice, garlic, cilantro, avocado, and chickpeas. Blend slightly to mash. You don't want to puree the mixture, so be gentle! Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking. You can even transfer this to a bowl for mixing and seasoning. 

Slice your scallions and add about half to your mash and mix. 

Top your sliced baguette with the mash and cut into serving pieces, which can be as big or small as you like! Top with the sliced cherry tomatoes, remaining scallions and drizzle of olive oil. If you are feeling extra spicy, give it a dusting of red pepper flakes. 


Minestrone Soup Recipe

Do you guys know that it's National Soup Month?! I have been celebrating this joyous (month long!) occasion by eating a ton of soup, which works out well because it is one of my favorite meals. It's warm, cozy, and a great way to get a ton of veggies all at once. All of these things make me exceedingly happy.

When I was doing a Huff Post Live segment with Emeril Lagasse, (which you can watch by clicking HERE) he was talking about minestrone soup. Well, that was all my pregnant self needed to hear and I was like, "Must. Make. Minestrone!" This worked out well because as you all know I have a canning and preserving habit...so it was the perfect way for me to use up tomatoes, frozen green beans, and frozen shredded zucchini! I also threw in some kale that came FRESH from my neighbor's garden!

I may be going a little overboard here, but there is just moment in there where I am using all those preserved/frozen/homegrown food items and I just feel so happy. This is the way food is meant to be experienced, right?! I feel empowered.

Another word on this soup: to me, it is the ultimate Italian vegetable soup. It's got everything you could possibly want in a soup. And I've been eating it for days while doing the internal happy dance. I hope that it makes you feel the same way.

Billie's Minestrone Soup 

Time: 1 hour (ish) | Makes: One big old pot | Difficulty: Easy!

You Will Need:

Glug of olive oil 
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1 onion, diced 
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 quart crushed tomatoes 
a "heavy" cup of frozen, sliced green beans 
a "heavy" cup of frozen, shredded zucchini (or 1 fresh zucchini, diced) 
4 cups chicken broth (plus more for thinning) 
1-15 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained 
1-15 ounce can kidney beans, drained 
a few dashes of cayenne (optional) 
1 teaspoon dried oregano 
5 leaves of kale, torn or chopped small 
1 cup dintalini pasta (you can also use elbow pasta) 
salt and pepper to taste 


In a soup pot pour your glug of olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Add your garlic, onion, celery and carrot to the pot. Allow those to cook and sauté about 5-7 minutes. 

Add your tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, chicken broth, beans, and spices to the pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and cover. Allow it to cook for 30 or so minutes (in reality, you can let it cook as long as you want, really, but 30 minutes will totally do it!) 

Add your dintalini and kale and cook about 10-12 minutes or until pasta is done. 

Add water and broth to thin the soup back out if the pasta has absorbed some of the broth. I used about a cup extra of broth and a cup extra of water. 

Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve with a salad and a big old piece of crusty bread for dipping!!! YUM! 

Having a Healthy Pregnancy

When I say a "healthy" pregnancy, I am not talking about the baby. For the purposes of this blog post, we will assume that the baby's health is great and that he or she is growing away and getting ready for his or her big debut. For me, having a healthy pregnancy is, well, about ME! It's no secret that a lot of women use their pregnancies as an excuse to pig out and over indulge.

I want to be clear: I am not knocking these women. Maybe they have a really good reason for doing that. Maybe they are celebrities who have been dieting their whole lives. Maybe they have completely uncontrollable cravings. Maybe they have decided that they can afford a fancy trainer afterward, or just a whole new wardrobe. I don't know. To each her own. 

What I do know for sure is that I am not one of those women. One of my big concerns with getting pregnant was staying healthy and staying active. I want to be able to bounce back sooner after the baby is born because there is a life to be lived and I intend on doing just that! So here are some things that have worked for me, and maybe they will work for you too. 

Keep on Dancing! 

I have been keeping up with my Zumba routine as much as possible. Are there times when I am too tired? Of course. But for the most part, I make it into class once or twice a week. When I am not at Zumba, I try to do squats (100 per day), or take a walk (1-2 miles) or at least sneak in some leg lifts. The goal is to keep moving and stretching and keeping my body fit. Let's face it, childbirth is going to be an Olympic sport...you wouldn't run a marathon without any training would you?! 

Don't Go Calorie Crazy 

I hate this expression "eating for two." Maybe some people think it sounds cute, but I don't. I am NOT eating for two. I am adding about 300 calories (give or take because I really don't count calories) to my diet. Really though, I haven't changed all that much about my diet. I had a healthy diet before I got pregnant and I pretty much stick to that. This means, salad, soups, lots of water, a little bit of juice, and veggies whenever possible. Lots of home cooked EVERYTHING and venison in place of red meat. 

It's kind of like that saying, "if it's not broke, don't fix it." My diet worked well for me before, so I am sticking with it. Though I have added yogurt (surprise, I like yogurt now!), as well as more fiber whenever I can. 

Get Your Prenatal Vitamin (with DHA) and some extra Vitamin C 

I feel like doctors want to tell you that the prenatal vitamin is for the baby because it makes you think about it differently. No, it's not really for your baby, it's for you. That baby is sucking down all your iron and nutrients whether you are taking extra or not. And you don't want to end up anemic, or just plain depleted when this thing is all over. So take those prenatals, with DHA if possible because that stuff is good for your mood. 

Also, I take extra vitamin C, which stops my gums from bleeding (thanks pro estrogen) and gives my immune system a boost. Not to mention, it gives me an extra glass of water for the day, which is really important. 

Connecting With Your Partner 

Sometimes I feel like my husband gets left out of this pregnancy because people are always asking me, things like, "How are you feeling?" I love being asked, don't get me wrong, but shouldn't someone be asking him how he's feeling, too?! I try and make sure I ask him from time to time how he is feeling about all the change that is slowly happening. Staying connected takes work, and I will also put in this category that sex is important as well (for me). Enjoying a close relationship is even more important now that we are bringing someone else into the world, and I don't know how women go through a pregnancy with an excess of relationship stress. 

If you find you have stress in your relationship that is bogging you both down, please consider seeing a therapist. Your baby will thank you later.

Get Rest & Relaxation 

During the first trimester, I had some guilt about taking such good of myself. While this may astound some people, others I know can relate. For me, I am used to being so "Type A" that slowing down seemed out of the question, but you have to listen to your body, and I eventually got the hang of it. Laying down when you need to, meditating, and just kicking back and taking time to do nothing are important...and the way I see it, it's your last chance!!!!

So what have I left out? Have you got any tips to having a healthy pregnancy? Please share them in the comments section below!!! 

Fresh Goose In The Crock Pot!

I wanted to call this post "Your Goose is Cooked!!!" But I thought that was too hokey...so I just had to say it. Now that is out of the way, let me also say that I am one lucky gal. You see, my mother and father-in-law have a friend, Danny, who always gets us a few deer to split amongst ourselves in the winter. This has allowed us to almost totally cut store bought red meat from our diets.

Venison is SUCH a healthy meat, and when the hunter is good (like Danny) it tastes simply delicious prepared just as you would any similar cut of beef. Let me just take a moment here to also get on my gamey soap box and encourage everyone to eat freshly hunted game whenever possible. It's so much healthier for you. It's free of antibiotics, has lived a natural life, and is leaner than farm raised meats. That is all.

Our hunter, besides being marvelous at hunting deer, also comes to hunt geese in our back field during the winter. This winter he's been especially lucky and on New Year's Day he got a goose for my husband and I. As he proudly handed us our (completely butchered and cleaned) goose breasts, he declared that is just like "flying roast beef!"

How awesome does that sound?!

I thought that preparation might be difficult or cumbersome, but really it's a breeze! Seriously, it's so simple I could die. I cooked up the breasts in the crock pot on a snowy day with a savory cherry jam my canners and I made this summer. All I added (besides the jam) was a couple of teaspoons of brown sugar (our jam had no sugar at all) and then I let it go all day on low. It was delicious.

If you don't have a cherry jam, you can also use an apricot jam, or a peach jam. Heck, get creative and use whatever jam you fancy!!! Or don't use jam at all, use something else. If you're a rebel.  

I laid a good base of jam and a little brown sugar (two tablespoons). 

Then more jam on top. 

Literally, that's it. 

In 6 or so hours, pull it out and slice it up. It'll look like this. 

Top with your juicy, jammy goodness that has turned into pure goodness!!!!!! 
I served mine with a cheesy cauliflower laced rice I found on Pinterest. It was amazing! 

Goose Breast in The Crock Pot 

Time: 5 minutes active, 6 hrs cook | Serves 2 (easily doubled) | Difficulty: Easy 

You Will Need:

2 goose breasts 
1 pint of jam (your choice, I suggest apricot, cherry, or peach) 
2 tablespoons brown sugar (ONLY IF YOU ARE USING A SAVORY JAM!) 

1 crock pot 


In your crock pot layer half the jam and your brown sugar (if using). Place your breasts on top. Put the rest of the jam on top of the breasts. 

Place the lid on and cook on low for 6 hours. 

Remove the breasts from the crock pot, and slice. The purpose of this is two-fold; first of all, it shreds perfectly like roast beef. Secondly, if your goose was freshly hunted as mine was, you want to be sure there is no shot left in the breast. 

Top with the jammy goodness left in the crock pot and serve with a salad and rice, or kale!!! 

Natural Wintertime Remedies

Ah, cold and flu season....she's here again. If you are anything like me, then you shun the flu shot. It's not that I don't think anyone should get the flu shot, I just don't think it's right for me. I want my body to have its own immunities. Since I have gotten pregnant (which I can't shut up about!), the flu shot seems to come up a lot more in appointments. I have refused it about 5,634 times in the past few months and heard just as many reasons why I better get it.

And yet, I have abstained. I think it's great practice for the likely 42,000 times theya re going to ask me if I want an epidural. (No, thank you, I don't!) When it come to the flu shot, I'm just not going to do something I have never done in my life (like sky diving, for instance) while I am pregnant. It just doesn't make sense. What I am doing, though, is building up my immunities naturally.

Obviously you can do this whether or not you are pregnant, but if you are pregnant, these are great alternatives to the flu shot!!!!

Thieves Essential Oil by Young Living 
This is a secret weapon in my arsenal of immunity boosting homeopathics. It's an essential oil blend consisting of cinnamon, clove, lemon, and eucalyptus from Young Living (who, in my personal opinion, has the best purest oils), that the thieves used to use during the black plague when they would rob bodies. They would cover their handkerchiefs in this oil and they wouldn't catch the plague.

Of course, I'm not robbing dead bodies, I'm just trying to stay well, so I just put a drop of it on my tongue. If I'm feeling really frisky, I'll rub 2-3 drops on my chest--feels terrific and warming!

At the beginning of my pregnancy when I was taking prenatal vitamins with a ton of vitamins in them, I didn't take the Emergen-C. But those vitamins were complete overload to my system all at once, and I finally settled on a more suitable vitamin which had less vitamins in them, overall. They don't contain vitamin C, so I now take this is a supplement pretty much daily. I love it for two reasons: 1) a gooood dose of vitamin C, which if you are pregnant not only boosts immunity but also keeps those gums from bleeding due to an increase of pro estrogen and 2) it helps me sneak in another glass of water into my day!

Raw Honey 
Yes, I know, "pregnant women aren't supposed to have raw honey." Well, I have been having raw honey for a couple of years now (long before I was pregnant) and I have been keeping it in the routine because I credit it with helping me feel good, overall. Baby and I are both doing great. Sometimes I put a teaspoon in my tea, and other times I put a teaspoon of raw honey straight into a cup of hot water with a dash of cinnamon--delish!!!

A word to the wise on this one, though: if you are pregnant and you've never consumed raw honey, don't start now, or at least consult your doctor before you do. Always better safe than sorry and sometimes you've just got to go with your intuition.

Turmeric Milk 
This one is a relatively new addition to my routine, and is more sporadic than some of the other suggestions here. But when I went to Florida to visit family and I knew I was going to be flying, I made sure to drink this concoction to help ward off infection. Turmeric is a wonder spice that way, and when cooked up with some spices in milk, it's quite good.

Here's my recipe:

1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons organic sugar (you could also use raw honey!)
2 cloves
1 cup almond milk
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine ingredients in a small sauce pan. Heat the milk slowly over medium low heat (don't boil).

When hot and combined, remove the cloves, pour in a glass and enjoy!!!!

"The Selfless Mother" [Who Is This Person, Anyway?!]

Most women are probably familiar with the image of the selfless mother. You might, in fact, be so familiar with it that you don't even think about a mother without automatically assuming how selfless she is. After all, the American ideal seems to scream that we women should think of nothing but our children once they are born. And I will try (and fail, right here, right now) not to mention the fact that motherhood is basically still a given in our society and those who decide they don't want children are still seen as oddballs.

Enter my own pregnancy. Yes, I know, the one I can't stop talking about. Get over it. Though I feel all baby-high and awesome and marvel at my expanding belly, I have also managed to somehow keep my head about me. I still pay attention to my husband, and being a selfless mother has never even crossed my mind because I am person, too.

And yet...I was confronted with the image of the selfless mother in the strangest of ways. I was told at 18 weeks 4 days that my placenta was lying low. It was only 7mm from my cervix and it needed to move to 2cm. "Okay," I though quite casually. "No big deal. It'll move."

Then, the doctor I was meeting for the very first time, with my husband, says he's putting me on what is called "pelvic rest." Oh it sounds restful and all, but it's doctor code for "no fun." Which for me translated to "no sex." Immediately I chortled and told him that I wasn't doing that. Like, was thsi guy serious?

Then it emerged... Like a mythical beast: the selfless mother archetype came pouring from him like a well rehearsed script straight from the 1950s. The doctor started to tell me (as if I needed to be reminded) that it "wasn't just about me," and he threw in a, "your fun is over" as the icing on his judgment cake.

Of course, at the time, I wasn't hearing any of this, nor did I care. In fact, I was too busy asking for cold hard facts as to why "pelvic rest" was necessary. I managed, in my stubbornness, to get him to agree to take a second look at my placenta in four weeks instead of six. As far as I was concerned, this was a small victory, but the fact remained: he was adamant about the no sex thing.

When I had time to cry over this, privately chastise the doctor for having a stain on his coat, google the term "low lying placenta," and think it all through, I realized: This wasn't just about the low lying placenta or the pelvic rest thing. I was very subtly being criticized for being a mom-to-be with a sex drive. I get it; there are lots of women who aren't into sex during pregnancy (as well as husbands, too, who are nervous). For a lot of women this news might be no big deal. I'm not those women, and in making that quite clear to the doctor du jour, I caught my first bona fide case of parenting guilt.

I can tell you right now: it's a load of bullshit.

First of all, I'm becoming a parent, I'm not going to war; my fun is most certainly not over. Secondly, I absolutely refuse to apologize for feeling sexy, wanting to be desired, and enjoying sex. As for this business about this not being about me? Heh, don't make me laugh... And don't get it twisted: this baby is ALL about me and my husband and the love that we share. We, like any parents who have planned a pregnancy, want a healthy pregnancy and baby. And if you want to call me crazy, or selfish, for wanting to have a healthy sex life with the life mate I've chosen, I will gladly wear the title.

My relationship (and sex life) are a priority to me--baby or no baby. I'm not trading my sexuality for mom jeans.

After getting over the initial shock about the whole "don't have sex" thing, I started to wonder what this was really about. Sure, I read a mixed bag of other women's experiences on the internet. Some doctors said take your "pelvis rest" and others did not. But what I missed out on was a candid conversation on the topic because I was too busy being shamed by a male doctor who I am quite sure has never experienced being pregnant.

I'm not entirely sure that the doctor is solely to blame. Had a seen a female midwife that day, things may or may not have gone differently.  I think American society has a ridiculous notion of what a mother should be. We are sent the message that we should, as the doctor said, forget about ourselves and make it all about baby.   But in doing so, what's the benefit?

I personally don't want to raise a child who thinks I am there to serve them. The world won't be there to serve them; they will need to learn that hard work and self reliance are the cornerstones to success. I also feel that demonstrating to my child that I take care of my needs in a variety of areas is important to nourishing my soul because I want that child to learn to do the same. I want to model that I am an adult and entitled to my own freedoms as well.

Parents have to be well-rounded humans too. Women deserve to be and feel sexy whether they are pregnant, mothers, or happily child-free. In a better, more feminized world, the doctor would have stopped--realizing my clear distress over a lack of intimacy--and explained what I could do sexually. He would have assured me, as my doula did, that orgasm is still okay. He shouldn't have left me out to dry feeling like a selfish freak for wanting to preserve my feminine sexuality.

In the end, yes, I am going to take more precaution and pray to the placenta god that this placenta gets to moving so I can resume my sex life. I also had to dig within myself to see exactly why the situation was so unnerving for me--you know beyond the hormones and the fact that I am horny, like, a lot. Selfless mother? I am not. Nor do I want to be.