Healthy, Natural Pregnancy: Prenatal Vitamins

Sweet smiling newborn girl 

I’m interested to know which, if any, prenatals you would take or recommend. In all my past pregnancies, I’ve taken Opti-natals (aka Vita-natals), made by the Eclectic Institute, but they’re unavailable to me now, so I’d like some other suggestions.

Amy

About a week before delivering my first child, I had a sudden panic attack. What if there was something wrong with her? What if she hadn’t developed properly because of that one month when I didn’t take any prenatal vitamins, or because I enjoyed a few ice creams during the hot, Japanese summer afternoons? Did I eat enough green and orange veggies? Did I get all my protein? Had I always remembered to drink my 8-10 glasses of water a day?

Thankfully, the big day came, and she was not only beautiful, but just perfect and incredibly healthy. Phew!Although I am a big proponent of health and good nutrition and I believe that a healthier mom and diet makes for a much healthier baby, it may surprise you to know that I actually don’t take a typical prenatal supplement. I do, however, pay even closer attention to my diet than usual, and focus on supplementing my whole foods diet with a few specifics that I think are especially important.

Quite a while back, I wrote a series called “Isn’t Good Food Good Enough?” and explored the idea of whether supplements are even necessary, when eating an excellent diet. Overall, I don’t believe that many should be necessary if you are eating optimally, although I do believe they are especially helpful for overcoming specific ailments or issues, and also for seasons of life (such as pregnancy and nursing) that require significantly more from our bodies.

I personally choose to opt out of a standard prenatal vitamin for the simple reason that the ones on the cheaper side are full of synthetic vitamins and minerals (not taken from whole food sources), often have undesirables in them (dyes, preservatives, corn or soy products, etc.) and are not well-absorbed by most bodies in general. The ones that I believe are high quality (made entirely from whole food sources, at lower temperatures, in a digestible format, with pure ingredients) are also very high cost.

I prefer instead to spend my money on excellent quality foods, also including superfoods (raw colostrum, spirulina and other greens, butter oil, etc.) whenever I can, and then purchase quality supplements that provide me with specific nutrients that I or my midwife or naturopath think that I specifically need at that time.

With that in mind, and reminding you that I am not a doctor, midwife or certified nutritionist or naturopath (ie. I’m not qualified to give you medical advice), I’ll just let you know what works for me during pregnancy.

Cod Liver Oil

Twinlab cod liver oil This is a regular supplement for me, pregnant or not, but I feel it’s especially important during pregnancy. It provides me with an excellent source of essential fatty acids (omega 3s, in particular DHA and EPA, which we know to be crucial for good health and development of children, especially brain development), as well as Vitamin D (difficult to get enough of in the winter months) and Vitamin A.

Note that the Vitamin A is NOT synthetic, and there is no associated risk of birth defects with naturally occurring, fat-soluble Vitamin A. Read this article to understand it’s importance and safety during pregnancy. As well, true Vitamin A is different from carotene. In optimal conditions, carotene (such as beta-carotene, found in orange colored veggies) can be converted to Vitamin A in the upper intestinal tract, however, most of us do not have bodies in optimal conditions, nor do we eat enough fruits and vegetables to ensure a high enough conversion rate and therefore adequate Vitamin A. If you’re really interested, you can check out this looong (but helpful) article on Vitamin A.

I usually use TwinLab Norwegian Cod Liver Oil (my preferred flavor is mint and I do not recommend cherry!), because it is very affordable and I notice a real difference when I take it. I am currently trying out Super Cod Liver Oil softgels, but am so far unconvinced (their liquid is wonderful, though). Personally, I feel that the liquid is more effective, or else I need to go well above the recommend serving size of the softgels.

**Update- I now take and recommend Green Pasture fermented cod liver oil**

Floradix Liquid Iron

This is one of my all-time favorite supplements, simply because it is easy to take and it really, truly works! The problem with most iron supplements is usually three-fold:

  1. They cause nausea
  2. They cause constipation
  3. The iron isn’t well absorbed, so the nausea and constipation are a waste

Floradix iron Not so with Floradix Liquid Iron! It has never once made me either nauseas or constipated (gosh, that’s just such an unpleasant word, isn’t it?). Even better, I have always felt a difference in my energy level within days of starting to take it. Quite often, one bottle is enough to bring me back from borderline anemia, provided I maintain the iron intake in my diet afterwords.

Although I don’t take this throughout my entire pregnancy (as it is fairly expensive), I do use at least a couple of bottles over the course of each pregnancy, and then take one after the birth as well, to help with my recovery and replenish my iron stores once again.

B Vitamins

My midwife is also not big on prescribing many supplements, but her main concern is adequate B vitamins during first trimester. Not only are B vitamins crucial for babies early development (think folic acid, among others), but getting enough B6 and B12 also helps to reduce nausea and fatigue, so it’s important for mamas, too.

This pregnancy, I was thrilled to find a liquid B vitamin, rather than try to choke down the pills which make me gag during morning sickness. Problem was, within a week of the nausea hitting, I knew that I was going to struggle with it’s strong cherry flavor. Ugh. I did my very best, but next time I will try something different.

Regardless of the form that you prefer to take it in, this is a very important supplement for when you’re trying to conceive and throughout the entirety of 1st trimester. Feel free to continue taking it afterwords, though it may not be necessary if you eat a balanced diet with plenty of whole grains, eggs, raw milk products, fish, butter, green leafies and legumes, which are all excellent sources of B vitamins.

Calcium/Magnesium

Liquid calcium

This is one that is important on a number of levels. First of all, a growing baby needs much calcium to develop strong bones as well as healthy hearth, nerves and muscles. Secondly, if this calcium is not available through mom’s diet, it will be leached from her bones in order to make sure baby isn’t severely lacking in it- yikes! This means we need to be on guard both for our babies, and for ourselves, to prevent weak bones and osteoporosis down the road.

As well, a lack of calcium and magnesium can lead to some discomforts and difficulties for mama, such as painful leg cramps, sore muscles in general, and insomnia. Magnesium also plays a role in developing strong bones and teeth, as well as helping to regulate blood-sugar levels. It may also help to prevent pre-term labor because of it’s ability to help relax muscles, and research suggests that low levels may be associated with early contractions.

Personally, I prefer a liquid source, and my supplement of choice is Lifetime Liquid Calcium Magnesium. If you’d prefer a pill, ask a reputable health food store for their recommendation. Calcium is best taken in the evening, before bed, as this is when it will be most readily absorbed, and will also help to calm and prepare your body for a restful sleep.

Prenatal Vitamins

Innate vitamins If you’re really keen on taking a prenatal vitamin and looking for a recommendation, the one that has come most highly recommended to me by my midwife and naturopath is Innate Response Formulas Prenatal.

Though I haven’t taken them myself, my sister-in-law did for a couple of months when she was struggling to get enough food in due to strong aversions. She felt that they really helped her to feel better and more energetic, even though she wasn’t eating enough.

Innate Prenatal Vitamins are taken from whole foods and botanical sources, are more digestible and absorbable than most, and do not contain any of the usual fillers, preservatives, coloring, etc.

In Conclusion

There are some wonderful options available to us, for those times when we need the additional support of a supplement, and I’m thankful for that!

In general, though, I would suggest making a nourishing, whole foods diet the focus of your efforts and money, as this is where truly optimal nutrition will come from!

Do you use a prenatal vitamin during pregnancy? Or do you do as I do, taking individual supplements as needed? Which brands have you found to be particularly effective?

Top image by tiarescott

Gratituesday: He even cares about the groceries

Gratituesday22
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will
drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than
food, and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Matthew 6:25-27

God is so good…

I am continually amazed at the ways that His providential hand shows in so many of the "little" areas of life. On Saturday, I decided to get a whole bunch of grocery shopping and errands out of the way, to give my husband peace and quiet in the house to work on his own Getting Things Done system.

For the last year or two, I have made a conscious effort to commit both my grocery budget and my shopping days to the Lord, asking Him to help me wisely steward what I have been given, to bless my efforts and to provide for our family's needs. Over and over again, He does so in abundance!

This past Saturday was no exception:

** The wonderful organic eggs that I usually get from a local farmer for a great price (because I buy his "seconds", or non-perfect looking eggs) are not available every year from about May-July. Abbie and I were purposeful about keeping our eyes open for signs in the country that said e-g-g-s (thought we'd add in a little reading practice, too :). On the way to get our raw milk share, we happened to pass a sign for Free Range Eggs $3.00, which is a great price. Perfect! I've found my egg supplier for the next few months!

** My budget was feeling crunched this month, due to needing to do a fairly big order for some staples from the co-op I order from. I had worked my shopping trip out very carefully, with a budget for each different store I was going to. My husband didn't know this and asked at the last minute for just a few of his favorite treats from some of those stores. I smiled and said sure, inwardly wondering how on earth I was going to make it work. Even with the treats, I managed to come in slightly under budget at 3 out of 4 stores, making room for the amount I went over at the last store.

** Since we use so many bananas in our morning smoothies, I try to buy them when they are ripe and discounted, since I'm only going to freeze them anyways. Sometimes I will go weeks and weeks without finding any that are discounted, but this time I found 3 bagfuls! 

** The biggest thing: I've been saving up for about 6-8 months to purchase a front portion of grass-fed beef from my local meat shop. I was so disappointed last week when I called to double check that I had enough to place an order, and was informed that fronts never come in less than 150-180 lbs, which which was far above the 100 lbs I had been expecting to buy.

While in my meat shop purchasing some chicken and turkey, I casually asked the owner whether it was true that I couldn't get a front for less than 150 lbs, as I was hoping for more like 100 lbs. His face lit up and he said that he had just the cow for me, right there in the back of the shop. He went back and weighed it while we took a potty detour, and when I came back he told me triumphantly that it weighed almost exactly 100 lbs!!!

I quickly calculated the money that I had saved and the price per lb, and realized that I was within $4 of the cost, before tax. I've also been saving up our cans and bottles for the last few months, intending to bring them in for a refund. With the recycling refund, I should have basically exactly enough to cover the meat, with tax. I wouldn't be surprised if I end up within pennies, because sometimes God is just so precise that way. :) 

Suffice it to say, I'm just so grateful for a God who not only cares about all of the big things, but who sees to it that our family is so richly provided for as we attempt to make careful use of the finances and health that He has entrusted to us!

Join in Gratituesday over at Heavenly Homemakers!

Do you have any stories to share of how God provides for your family, down to the smallest details? I would love to hear them!

I’m joining in the Spring Cleaning Party!

Springcleaning01

Sound like fun? Actually, I'm so excited that it's finally here!

When Simple Mom announced a couple weeks ago that she was "throwing" a Spring Cleaning party, I instantly knew I was in. I had bought her Spring Cleaning ebook about a month and a half ago, and have really been wanting to get started, but it always seemed like there was something else taking first priority (planting the garden, switching my system of organization, etc.).

Well, now's the time, and I'm ready! I've actually been working ahead just a little bit, doing tasks like cleaning out my fridge and freezer, sorting through the children's clothing and cleaning under their beds, slowly gathering some of the stuff we want to get rid of, etc. so that the job wouldn't be quite as daunting when I began. I wanted to be realistic, knowing that although I feel great right now, my energy as I approach my 3rd trimester isn't quite what it would normally be.

Clean-sweep-clipboard  I
The plan for the next two weeks in my house is to take 1-3 hours each day (depending on the task at hand, and the time that I have available), and follow along with Tsh's daily tasks (here's Day 1) and with the ebook. I've got my clipboard ready, and after a fun visit with my SIL and nephew this morning, I'm ready to start cleaning!

Though I won't post about all of my fun adventures in cleaning, I'll try to put up a few posts and pictures along the way to show you what I'm up to. Hopefully I'll be able to show you a much less cluttered, more organized and of course, cleaner home when I'm finished!

I love the idea of starting fresh each spring. Cleaning out what we don't need, simplifying what we own, getting to all of those nooks and crannies that usually get missed, and just knowing that I am doing the best I can to care for the home that God has blessed us with!

Is anyone else joining in the Spring Cleaning Party? Have you already done your Spring Cleaning for the year or do you still need to get on with it?

Blueberry Syrup

Blueberries tumbling from bucket
Image by lepiaf.geo

I’ve been mulling it over since I was asked for this recipe, and realized that I don’t have an actual recipe. Just sort of a method and some not-very-accurate measurements. :) But since you asked…

Here goes:

1) Thaw frozen blueberries in the fridge overnight. Probably 3-4 cups of them.

2) In the morning, I put the still partially-frozen berries in a pot, with just a little bit of water, over low-medium heat. I stir them here and there, until they are soft and have some nice juice/syrup in the pot.

3) Next, I add sweetener. It could be honey, or Rapadura or Sucanat. I just add it until they seem sweet enough, and the fact is that some blueberries are just naturally sweeter than others (shucks- you’re just gonna have to taste it!). I would guess that it’s somewhere between 1/8-1/4 of a cup (less with honey, more with raw sugar). It also just depends on how sweet you like it! I keep the burner on low while I add the sweetener, giving time to bring out the flavors.

4) When it’s all nice and juicy and well mixed, I pour it in the blender and whiz it up. Done.

This is a yummy, healthy and frugal (at least, if you have a freezer full of berries!) option for drizzling over pancakes or waffles instead of maple syrup.

If I want something chunkier, to use as a topping along with whipped cream, I will just follow the same basic recipe but I won’t blend it. This makes a really nice berry topping, with the mixture of whole berries and sweet juice.

This also works easiliy with other berries, like raspberries, blackberries or even strawberries. I just happen to have a plethora of blueberries right now, which is not a bad problem to have! :)

Does anyone else like to make berry syrup for pancakes? Do you have an actual recipe to share with us? :) If not, how do you usually top pancakes or waffles?

The Backyard Homestead

Backyard homestead book Anyone who knows me just a little should know that a book titled “The Backyard Homestead
” is guaranteed to make me swoon!

Add in a subtitle of: “Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!” and be still. my. heart.

At the conference we attended last weekend, my darling hubby saw me practically drooling over this book, and proceeded to sneakily buy it for me and surprise me with it during one of our lunch picnics. I’ve been devouring it every since. :)

On the back of the book, it tells you that on a 1/4 acre, you can harvest:

  • 1400 eggs
  • 50 lbs of wheat (seriously? I love that!)
  • 60 lbs of fruit
  • 2000 lbs of vegetables
  • 280 lbs of pork
  • 75 lbs of nuts

It also happens to mention that you can make dandelion wine, and inside there are a whole host of other ideas for using the wild dandelions in your yard. My husband was quick to point out that in light of this, I should be viewing spring as a season of bountiful harvest, rather than being irritated by the vast sea of yellow-ness that has spread across both my front and backyard and is about to go to great lengths to further propagate itself. Thanks honey. I’ll try.

Not every idea in the book is practical for us, because although our city lot is technically pretty close to a 1/4 acre (though the house is quite large), it is a rental and therefore I can’t start going nuts (hee, hee, no pun intended), tearing out shrubs to replace them with berry bushes, or adding a small orchard along the side of the house.

Here are a few ideas that have me seriously thinking right now, though:

  • Chickens are still technically a no-no, but due to the city of Vancouver’s possible bylaw change, my days gathering fresh eggs may not be quite as far off anymore
  • I’ve been reading up on dwarf fruit trees in barrels or large pots, and especially the fact that you can get some wonderful varieties that are self-pollinating (which means you only need one, not two, trees). Cox’s Orange Pippin apples, here I come! I need to research more and see what trees I can find locally. But it’s promising! Turns out there are actually a host of dwarf trees that you can grow in containers!
  • Starting a nut tree in a pot may also be a possibility. Perhaps something that we could replant when we buy a house.
  • Crazy as it sounds, I’m tossing around the idea of raising rabbits for meat. Now, consider the fact that I don’t think I have ever eaten rabbit meat in my life. I only know that it’s edible, that she talks about it in the book, and that it’s both legal and feasible to raise lots of rabbits in our yard. I’d rather have a sheep or a goat, but I think a goat’s out on account of too little space, and a sheep most likely on account of silly old bylaws :)
  • Expanding my herb gardening, to provide for more of my cooking herbs, and well as for making teas and medicines. This is something I’ve been interested in for awhile, and am slowly adding to my repertoire.

Has anyone else read this fantastic book?  What types of ideas have you gleaned from it and have you put any of it into action yet? And what goes through your mind when you hear the word “Backyard Homestead”?

Planting Potatoes, Pitchforks and Other Fun Things

Sometimes I think I take things too literally.

I'm pretty sure that when Laura mentioned she had put holes in the bottom of her potato planting garbage can by going to town with a pitchfork, she wasn't actually suggesting that as the best method for getting the job done! Nonetheless…

Steph-pitchfork4

…here I am. Having way too much fun with a pitchfork.

Steph-pitchfork2

Crazy pregnant lady!

Steph-pitchfork-5-slight-smile

Hey, it got the job done and I didn't even have to go find my hubby's drill! My kids got a kick out of watching me. I got some exercise. It's all good! :)

Garbage-can-empty-with-holes

The end result. You can't actually see the holes very well, but they're in there. I didn't put too many holes, actually, because if you look closely on the sides you might (or then again, might not) be able to see that there are already significant cracks that will help with the drainage.

By the way, this garbage can was scored off of Freecycle last week. I had previously had an old garbage can in mind, leftover from a previous downstairs tenant, but I think my landlord must have taken it to the dump. Suddenly, I had beautiful seed potatoes ready to go and no can (plus, no desire to fork out $15-20 to buy one). I put up a wanted add for an old can, lid or no lid, and was rewarded with this "beauty". Free is good, and recycling useful stuff that other people don't want is even better!

Potatoes-planted-in-garbage-can

Now we've added about a foot of soil and compost, and our seed potatoes. It's difficult to tell, but three of them are a yellow potato, and two of them are blue-purple potatoes. The varieties I chose are:
Sieglinde
Russian Blue

Potato-can-by-compost

We covered these up with a few more inches of compost and soil, and stuck it in a nice sunny place, right beside the garden.

As an aside, if you live in the Fraser Valley, BC, and are looking for somewhere local to buy heirloom seeds and a great variety of starter seedlings and plants (including a few heirlooms and more interesting varieties than many other garden centers), try checking out Arts Nursery. That's where I picked up my unique seed potatoes. I was so pleased to find their West Coast heirloom seed selection to fill in any gaps I have this summer, without having to do another seed order by mail.

Happy-cauliflower-seedlings-in-garden

While we were out planting potatoes, we took stock of the rest of the garden. The cauliflower seedlings that I put out last week are quite happy (they're a bit tough to see, but up close, they're perky and green).

Dead-broccoli-path

The broccoli… not so much. What broccoli, you ask? The ones that have apparently already completely died on me, after nearly two months of babying them from seed. The nerve.

Seeing as I still had over half of the seed potatoes I bought leftover from the garbage can method, I decided to leave in place the few broccoli that still had a fighting chance, and replace the rest with potatoes. It'll actually be a fun experiment, to see which produces more, the ones in the garden or in the can. Any guesses?

Peas,-herbs,-turnips-sprouting-unevenly

One last image of my happy little pea sprouts, that ended up incredibly unevenly spaced. This year I digressed from my usual Square Foot Gardening-style spacing (precise, grid like planting), and decided to try broadcasting my seeds in wide rows (ie: closing my eyes and hoping the seed lands where it's supposed to, or something to that extent). I really, truly did try to spread the seed out evenly over the whole area. Apparently the seeds on the edges are in mutiny. They're longing for a return to the olden days. Sorry little guys.

All that's left for my spring garden planting is sweet corn, cucumbers and zucchini! Whohoo! Then there are a few more herbs inside, as well as my lovely little tomato plants, one pepper plant, and a couple of Sugar Baby watermelon seedlings. I anticipate I'll get all of these ones out in another month or so.

That's my garden update. How are your gardens doing (or your garden planning and preparation, if you're still waiting for the last of the snow to melt away)?

Eczema: Solving the Underlying Causes, Part 1

Hands

Now that we’ve discussed what eczema is and some of it’s causes, as well as how to achieve some relief, it’s time to start thinking about long term and underlying causes. I think one of the first things to do in really dealing with eczema is to start ruling out possibilities of cause, to try to narrow it down to the most pressing issue(s).

Here are some of the top issues that I would consider when addressing eczema:

1) Avoid All Processed Foods

Any preservatives, chemicals (like MSG), food dyes and artificial flavorings and/or sweeteners (Aspartame or Splenda) are likely candidates for causing irritation and reaction from the body, which often expresses itself outwardly through eczema. The truth of the matter is that these are not “foods” but rather chemical and often toxic substances, which our body’s are not meant to consume.

When we eat foods containing these things, it’s not uncommon for the body to have a bit of a “fight or flight” reaction, and to treat the unwanted substance as a foreign invader. This can result in skin outbreaks and irritations, upset stomachs, digestive issues (gas, bloating, cramping), aches and pains, headaches, fatigue, weakened immunity, etc.

Most packaged and processed foods contain at least one or two types of chemicals, usually for preserving purposes, but also for enhanced taste, color, texture, etc. One of the best things that you can ever do for your health, nutritionally speaking, is to move away from foods that come off of store shelves, and towards whole foods- meats, whole grains, eggs, vegetables, fruits, good fats and oils, nut and seeds, etc. A really good rule of thumb is to read the ingredients on foods, and if you can’t pronounce it or have no clue what it is, don’t buy it!

2) Look At Hydration

Are you drinking enough water? Getting enough good fats? These are common reasons for dry, itchy or flaky skin, and can even cause or exacerbate other skin conditions.

Glass of water

Image by blmurch

Good hydration begins on the inside and works its way out. Read this excellent post to learn more on proper hydration. A good thing to keep in mind is that if you’re feeling thirsty, you are already somewhat dehydrated. The time to consume more water is before you really feel like you need it!

Another important angle of this issue is that our cells are not only hydrated and nourished by taking in enough H20, but also by sufficient intake of good fats, especially the Essential Fatty Acids. EFAs are necessary for a huge number of bodily functions and systems (too many to mention, but read the above link), but also for maintaining healthy hair, nails and skin. When our body is lacking in sufficient EFAs, it will begin to show outwardly through dry and easily irritated skin.

In my own experience, I have seen the effects of this enormously. As soon as I began to supplement with flax oil several years ago, I saw improvement in my dry skin and eczema. When I switched over to cod liver oil, I noticed even more improvement. I can honestly tell whether I have been faithful to take my supplements by looking at my skin. It tells me loud and clear that I have forgotten a day or two!

Have you tried an EFA supplement, such as cod liver oil (my top recommendation), another type of fish oil, an Omega-3-6-9 blend, or flax oil? I would highly recommend that you do!

3) Consider What’s Going On the Skin

It is a very worthwhile activity to examine the ingredients in your soaps, shampoos and conditioners, lotions and creams,
anything you can think of. Unfortunately, since many toiletry and beauty products do not actually list their ingredients on the packaging, we are often unaware of just how many unnatural things are in the stuff that we use! Chances are, if the ingredients aren’t listed, it’s probably not the best product to be using.

More importantly, our skin is not just a pretty covering for our body, but rather a major organ. It absorbs what we put on it, and many of these substances actually enter our bloodstream!

For those needing a good starting place, I would suggest the Skin Deep Database. You can use it to look up the brands and products that you are currently using and find out whether they contain concerning ingredients or not. If so, then you can also do searches for alternatives that rank lower (meaning that they have less potentially dangerous ingredients).

Spearmint soaps 

Image by soapylove

Move towards the most simple, natural alternatives that you can find. Here are some ideas:

  • This is the approach that we take in our home. The post that I’ve linked to was written over a year ago and since then I have simplified what I use even more and love it. See my post on going no ‘poo (no shampoo), as well as the oil cleansing method that I use for my face. Coconut oil helps to round out my skin routine as a moisturizer (face and hands and sometimes legs). I’ve also since switched over to using this mineral makeup, which is fantastic (and make sure to order some free samples)!
  • Instead of regular soaps, try finding a castille (sold at many health food stores and coops), natural olive oil or goat’s milk soap. You won’t want to switch back, I promise!
  • Try making some of your own simple recipes! Here’s one for shampoo, and another for deodorant.
  • Keep baby products very minimal and natural. I only use a couple drops of castille soap in the bathtub, the occasional bit of olive oil or coconut oil for dry or itchy skin, and diaper creams like Weleda or Burt’s Bees for rash.

I’m not quite finished with this topic yet. There is one more post coming, as I continue to discuss how we can solve some of the underlying causes. Next time I’ll write about food sensitivities and allergies, as well as detoxification.

Do any of these causes strike a chord with you? Have you found any of these to be factors in your own (or your family’s) eczema? What changes did you make to see improvements?

Read the other posts in this series:

Don’t Cry Over Sour Milk (Using Your Raw Milk Gone “Bad”)

A few years ago, I wouldn’t be caught dead suggesting that you use up and consume your soured milk products, let alone touch them myself. The proper place for them was down the drain!

That was until I became a raw milk advocate. Though it took a little bit of reading and researching to wrap my mind around it, raw milk or cream that has soured is actually NOT harmful or dangerous, but rather chock full of beneficial enzymes and good bacteria! (However, pasteurized milk is dangerous, as it is lacking these enzymes and bacteria, and rather than souring it putrefies- so avoid once it goes bad!)

Raw-milk-jugs-lightened

This past weekend, my MIL scored 14 gallons of raw milk on clearance at her local health food store. Being down for a conference, I was fortunate to be able to take 4 of them off her hands! Only problem was they weren’t able to be frozen immediately after purchasing, so when I opened them up the day we brought them home, 3 out of the 4 had begun to sour significantly, and the 4th one was about to. Nonetheless, I froze them, knowing I didn’t have time to deal with them immediately.

I hadn’t been planning on using it all up at once, but a freezer switchover last night (and a 24 hour wait period before plugging in the new standup freezer) left me with nowhere to even keep these frozen. By morning they were 1/2 thawed in the garage, and I knew that I had no choice but to deal with them today. Besides challenging my kitchen skills (a challenge I’m always up for!), this is a great way to practice good stewardship of the food that God has blessed us with!

Here’s my plan:

** Make 2 gallons of yogurt

** 1/2 gallon of cream cheese and whey

** If any is still fresh enough, 1 gallon of kefir. If not, it may turn into yogurt as well. Or I may get more creative and come up with a different option.

** Soak a big batch of waffles using this natural “buttermilk”, to make tomorrow and freeze all the leftovers

** Make this Custard Pudding as a treat (towards bottom of article)

** Make some chocolate milk for my kids and I this afternoon, with a bit of carob powder and rapadura (for those wondering what carob is, I am planning to write a post on it in the near future!)

** If I am able to actually separate the cream (challenging because these are jugs, not open jars, and I don’t have a basting syringe to suck it up), then I will make some cultured butter, and make less yogurt than planned. Here’s a simple tutorial for making your own butter.

Interested in learning more about using your own raw milk or cream that has soured?

Learning to Maximize the Use of Your Real Milk and Cream– from the Weston Price site. Includes some great suggestions, and a few recipes as well.

When raw milk goes sour– I found this thread in the Mothering.com forums. There’s some good discussion on the topic, and lots of ideas of how people use their soured milk and cream.

Raw Milk: Discussing it’s Merits and Safety– for those not yet sold on raw milk, or wondering about the safety of all of this.

What do you do with your raw milk and cream that has soured? I’d love to hear  your ideas (maybe it’ll change my to-do list)!

Menu Plan Monday- April 27

Mpm new red Short and sweet, here is my menu plan for most of the rest of the week. I am going to go until at least May 2 before I shop (completing my month of "Eating from the pantry and freezer" throughout April). I may or may not add some plans in for this Sunday with what I have, or I might wait until I shop. We'll see. :)

Breakfasts:

Oatmeal (raw milk, honey, cinnamon) x2
Waffles with homemade blueberry syrup
Toast and eggs
Sprouted English muffins and smoothies
Homemade soaked granola (I'm going to try out a recipe I was given, combining it somewhat with this recipe) with yogurt and berries

Dinners:

Cream of Broccoli/Cauliflower Cheese Soup
Chicken Sausages, millet, random veggies (depending on what's left!)
Macaroni and Cheese (with brown rice pasta, raw milk and raw cheese), carrot sticks
Spicy Meatloaf (Nourishing Traditions), brown rice, salad (brought by friends who are coming over)
Spaghetti squash with tomato sauce
Butternut Squash Soup with sourdough bread

Menu Plan Mondays are hosted by Organizing Junkie.

Has anyone else continued to eat mostly from their pantry and freezer this month? How has it gone for you? Did you save money? Do you feel like you still ate well?

Rejoicing in My Role

Red tulips in field
Image by LaserGuided

Though last week was so busy with my eBook launch and baby steps that I didn't take the time to mention it, our family went to Seattle on Thursday night so that my husband and I could attend a homeschool conference.

In random, stream of consciousness form, here are some thoughts and happenings from the weekend:

1) Thank you all so much for your kind support of my eBook, and for the excitement and encouragment you offered me in regards to it's launch. I was a bit overwhelmed by it (in a good way), and as always, am so privileged to "know" and share with you all. :)

2) I had a two-day "date" with my husband at the conference this weekend, and boy, was it fun! This was our third year attending, but this year Grandma offered to stay home with the kids so that we could more fully take in the speakers. What a wonderful time we had together, listening and being challenged and inspired, talking together about what we were hearing, having picnics on the church lawn, philosophizing over our homeschooling ideologies and discussing our goals for our children, plus some fun little dates and treats mixed in. Thanks, Grandma!

3) This is my last week of "Eating from the pantry and freezer", and truthfully, I haven't had time to plan it out yet. We got home in the late afternoon yesterday, only to bring in some coop food that I had purchased while down there, and to head right back out for dinner at my Nana's house an hour away, to visit with my step-Mom (down for the weekend from up North). When I got home, meal planning was not on my horizon. But, I will put something together today and share it with you later.

4) How excited was I to come home and see more green popping up in my garden, and even in the flower pots on my deck! My tomato seedlings thrived while I was gone, and we'll be out to water seedlings later this morning (we had a weekend without rain- in the Vancouver area, that means it must be spring!). Our big task of the day is to plant a garbage can with potatoes… my first attempt. I'll take some pics, as we get it all set up in our lovely "upcycled" garbage can that I grabbed last week from Freecycle.

5) I'm hungry. I better stop blogging and go make some oatmeal! (What did I tell you? Random, stream of consciousness!)

6) But before I do, here's one quick thing that I wanted to mention, as it's been on my mind a lot since Saturday…

Do I rejoice in the role that God has given me in my home? Is it evident? Do others, and especially my children, see that I love being a woman, love caring for them, love serving my husband and love making my home a haven, both for our family and for others?

In a session by Deborah Brown, on training and raising daughters to be homemakers and helpmeets, this question really struck a chord with me. If I want my daughters to grow up embracing the Biblical role of becoming a wife, mother and homemaker someday (because although not every daughter is assured of being married or having children, this is the normative path for women in scripture, and it is what we feel that we ought to be preparing our daughters for), then I need to consider the example I set.

The role that I have now is not the one that I trained for. I spent 13 years in public school, and 4 years in a liberal arts university, preparing to be anything BUT a homemaker (because I was "way too smart to waste myself on just being at home", or so the voices around me worked to convince me). It is still a learning curve for me, balancing housework, cooking, child training, home educating, and serving my husband. I still so often feel overwhelmed and under-equipped for the task at hand.

But regardless of how I feel… what do I communicate? That I revel in the role that God has given me? That there is absolutely no where else I would rather be? That I accept with joy even the mundane parts of my day (the laundry, the toilets, etc.)?

My daughters (and my sons as well) need to see a picture of a woman that is at rest, and even better, rejoicing in her role. They need to know that I love being a wife. Love being a mom. Love caring for my home and showing hospitality. That what God has called me to do is a privilege and NOT a burden.

My goal for today? To choose joy and contentment. To purposefully express to my daughter how very good God's ways are, and how right He was to place me right where I am- in my home!

Have you ever considered the effect of your attitude, words and demeanor on your children, and the messages that are being sent to your daughters in particular? Do you also find it a challenge to display and communicate joy in your God-given roles?