Monday, November 29, 2010

Conscious Shopping

I'm totally digging this website I came across while doing research for my forthcoming Design Sponge "Fifteen Eco Finds Under $100" gift guide (look for it next week!). Based in Boulder, Colorado, Econscious Market scours the internet looking for the most environment-friendly and socially-responsible products. Upon purchase, Econscious allows you, the shopper, to donate 10% of your total purchase to the Non-profit organization of your choice. The above graphic gives a sample of your cost, the amount that would go to the non-profit, and then a drop-down list of numerous organizations to select from.

You get a responsibly made item and a worthwhile organization gets a little cha-ching in the process. How cool is that? Perfect for holiday gift-giving with a conscience! That's a small measure I can definitely get behind!

*Images from here and here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Where Women Cook

I'm so excited to share with you the debut of my "Homemade Living" column in the brand spanking new quarterly periodical Where Women Cook!

The premiere issue features a cover story on Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman fame along with a regular column by the original farm girl herself, Mary Jane Butters, penning her lifetime of wisdom in "Farm Love."

The spring issue promises to offer up tasty recipes and writing from Molly Wizenberg, my food blogger girl crush and the powerhouse behind Orangette and A Homemade Life.

I'm amazed at the good fortune afforded me to be in such illustrious company. What an auspicious beginning, right???

Where Women Cook can be found in bookstores nationwide. Check it!

Papa's Got A Brand New Baby

Here's what I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Baby Days

SO excited to begin using this gorgeous baby journal from Nikki McClure for Huxley! I just adore her work. She painstakingly uses an X-Acto knife to carve her images from paper. I admire that sort of patient, persistent, persevering artwork more than I could ever hope to convey.

Check out all of Nikki's work here (many of these items would make fabulous holiday gifts!!!).

*Image from here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Days of Our Lives

As I write this, a tiny being is sleeping beside me. We're in bed, it's early morning, and, after our 3rd nursing session of the night (4th, really, if you include the first, which started at 10:15 p.m., then resumed at 1:30 a.m., 3:30 a.m., and 6:00 a.m., respectively), Huxley is crashed out yet again while I'm seizing on the opportunity to lay him down and make a post.

I know my posts have been few and far between these past few months. What with the challenges of the pregnancy, coupled with a seriously traumatic birth, let alone an absolutely pint-sized wee one to care for, I think you understand if my focus has been squarely fixed outside the blogosphere. That said, I think about blogging all the time. I continually craft new posts in my head, detailing property and pet going's on and household antics (including all of the successes and failures). It's just the getting around to the writing them down part that proves challenging.

We're really turning a corner, though. So, since my "tiny tyrant" (I say this with deep and abiding love in my heart, of course-but, seriously, dude can go from the calm of a Buddhist monk to a screeching, famished fiend if I miss his early "time to eat!" cues!) is off in the land of Nod, I figured I'd post a round-up of changes, shifts, and emergent activities chez English:

*Diet: Probably biggest of all, aside from having birthed a child, is the shift that has occurred in my diet. After an 18 year moratorium on red meat-eating, I resumed the consumption of grass-fed meat the day I was discharged from the hospital. This wasn't a planned gesture, it was more of what I would refer to as an "inherent bodily wisdom" dictate. I literally felt a craving for it unlike any food craving I've experienced in decades. The thought shot through my head, literally lighting up my brain (or so it seemed), telling me to do so. Given that my hemoglobin and platelet levels were dangerously low following the hemorrhage and ovarian torsion, eating red meat seemed the most expedient, and intuitive, means of ramping up my iron levels (I'm also on a prescription iron supplement).

This wasn't a decision I made lightly. It was discussed with Hubs (a widely read grass-fed meat proponent who has done extensive research on the topic) throughout my pregnancy, but the urge to consume red meat never came (the urge to eat poultry, however, did, and after a 14 year break, I resumed eating turkey and chicken around the 4th month in). I always maintained to him that, should the urge come, I would absolutely honor it. That is just the relationship I have with my body. I believe that, given the time, attention, and willingness, my body will cue me in as to what it does, or does not, need. This is why I have, in my lifetime, adopted and later abandoned vegan, macrobiotic, raw, and now expressly vegetarian diets. I don't believe that one dietary habit suits us all. I have an undergraduate degree in nutrition and served as a nutrition consultant at a medical practice for several years before leaving that career to become a full-time writer. Different bodies have different needs. Mine needs protein-from animals. It's as simple as that.

Fortunately, I live in an area abundant with sources of local, humanely-raised, grass-fed meat. I'm supporting family farms, endorsing and helping to perpetuate the most ethical means of meat production I know, and giving myself, and my young son, a source of rich iron and protein that is healing me and helping him grow. My friend Jenna recently took the time to pen a post on her reasons for returning to eating meat (also after a very lengthy break). I highly encourage you to check it out. The many reasons she articulates exactly mirror my own.

*Chickens: The flock has merged expertly! There are still occasional squabbles, and fights over who gets first dibs at the waterer or feeder, and every night seems to present a variation on who sits where on the roosts, but overall, Hubs assures me that all is well in the avian world outside our doorstep. The three newest members, who arrived with names, have since been "born again", emerging here anew as: Joan of Arc, Jackie O., and, well, we just keep calling the newest Barred Rock "New Georgette", after our existing Barred Rock, um, Georgette! Several of the older ladies have molted, one is in the process, and the newbies continue to gain in size daily.

*Dogs: Fly and Dexter, our German Shepherd and Black Lab mix, have been absolute champs with Huxley. We'd been a bit concerned about how they would react to him, given how closely bonded they are with me. Back in July, we bought a Moses basket and kept it beside the bed. We allowed them to see it, but stopped letting them get into bed with us at night. We talked regularly about the coming baby. I did all I could to positively prep them for things, so that, once Huxley was on the scene, there wouldn't be any negative associations with him (i.e. any abrupt cessation of their routine, or our display of affection with them). The night we came home from the hospital, exactly four weeks ago last night, they heard Huxley cry and so began their amazing behavior towards him. They come into the bedroom to greet us and get head pats, but they don't try to jump and bother him, or act too heavily affectionate with me when I'm holding him.

Fly, especially, seems to have decided it is her new role to be the family's defender. She no longer runs off up the mountainside beside our house (with Dexter in excited "Where are we going? What are we chasing?" pursuit) like she used to when we'd walk back from the chicken coop each morning (well, I should qualify that; she no longer runs off as often as she used to, according to Hubs, probably owing to his genius idea of using delicious "treats" offered to her once she returns indoors to serve as enticement for sticking around). I've made sure to give both dogs plenty of full-body rubs when I'm not holding Huxley and continuously offer up "Good girl!" and "Good boy!" shout outs. So, so far, so good!

*Honeybees: The bees are safely tucked in for the colder months. I didn't take off any honey this year, as both of my hives swarmed in the spring. I was so nauseous and deliriously exhausted in the early part of my pregnancy that I got empty honey supers on both hives about a week past when I ideally ought to have. Accordingly, the hives had already decided to swarm and they did so one day apart, both times when I was outdoors. It was almost as though they wanted us to know they were leaving, making sure that I witnessed their departure on both occasions.

While I know that it was getting the supers on a bit belatedly that most realistically accounts for their swarming, I have another theory, albeit a more esoteric one. There's an old wive's tale, or bit of folklore, or whatever you want to call it about "telling the bees" about going's on in your home, especially as those going's on relate to the arrival or departure of a family member (i.e. births and deaths). Well, I neglected to "tell" my bees about the pregnancy. Maybe they left because of that. Maybe that sounds utterly cuckoo. In any event, after the swarmings occurred, I made an absolute point the next time I was working the hives to put my hands on the side of the supers and whisper "There's a baby coming. My own baby bee. I'm sorry for not telling you sooner."

Say what you will, but after that, my bees seemed to buzz about all spring, summer, and fall with happiness and a sense of purpose. Come spring time, the hives should be bumping (my Italians get a leg up on the action characteristically earlier, taking advantage of each and every warm spring day to ramp up baby-making and nectar-foraging). By the way, my book on "Keeping Bees" will be out in March 2011, right in time for your own honeybee-keeping adventures ("Home Dairy" debuts then, as well! It's gonna be a good spring, folks!).

*Huxley: Huxley is now big enough to begin fitting into cloth diapers. When he came home from the hospital, he weighed only 5 pounds, 5 ounces. Do you have any idea how small that is? And that nothing-nothing-we'd bought for him fit? Not his many cloth diapers, hardly any of his clothes, not even his socks or hats. Fortunately, though, on account of his ravenous appetite and my willingness to tough out breast-feeding (Good LORD, it has HURT! It's getting better every day, though!), he's plumping up before our eyes. I mean, he's still TINY, smaller now at 32 days than many babies are at birth, but to us, he's getting bigger. My mom (his "Gigi") bought him several wee-sized footed onesies, so now he has more than the two outfits we had that fit to dress him in.

I scored some newborn Tiny G Pants from a local children's consignment store (we had to wait until he was at least 6 pounds to have those fit him!), so he's now able to wear cloth diapers. I'm really digging the G Diapers system, as we're doing the cloth/hemp inserts during the day, and using the biodegradable disposable inserts at night. As he ages, I intend to use the cloth inserts exclusively. For now, though, when he's such a "prolific pooper", we're going between cloth and biodegradable inserts (we're talking 10-12 diaper changes daily, you see...).

He seems to be becoming more alert all the time and is enormously strong for such a tiny tyke (everyone mentions this, including the pediatrician and midwives). His digestive system sometimes causes him distress, so we give him a homeopathic gripe water called "Colic Calm" when the occasion merits. He gulps it down greedily and then returns to his usual state of calm contemplation.

Right off the bat, we took to co-sleeping. Honestly, this surprised me. I'd planned to put him in a Moses basket beside the bed until around 3 months of age, and then transfer him upstairs to his bedroom, and his crib. Well, enough of all that. He's tiny, and needs lots of warmth, and eats often, so the best thing I've found is to put him to sleep face down (or more like face turned sideways) directly on my chest. At night, we do this skin-on-skin. I love it, and so does he. I sleep absolutely rigid (have for forever), so I'm not at all worried about moving him or having him roll off. I feel every movement he makes and usually wake up a few seconds before he does. During the night, as he begins to need to feed, I sense it in advance and get him going before he fully wakes up. It's a great system and as the pain of it begins to subside, I'm beginning to really enjoy it.

His hair is starting to come in more fully and I'm seeing hints of red in there (my secret hope, although I'll obviously be fine with whatever, is to have a redheaded little boy-it runs in Hubs' side of the family, and a bit on mine, so it's not entirely out of the question). His eyelashes are getting longer, he's gaining in body length, and his saggy skin is beginning to fill in. I typically now sleep with him during his late afternoon/evening naps, using those times he goes down during the day to attend to household chores and writing obligations.

Overall, 32 days in, things are looking good. I'm excited to watch him grow and explore him as he becomes more and more of a "baby" and less of a "newborn", but I'm savoring these tiny moments with him, as well.

So, that's my lengthy up-to-speed cataloging of events. If I missed anything you're curious about, lemme know. Otherwise, my father, his wife, my two younger sisters, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my 4 1/2 month-old nephew are all coming into town for Thanksgiving. The sisters and I will begin a bake-a-thon Wednesday night, to include pumpkin pie, apple crisp, and Deb's cranberry upside-down cake. Hubs is making the turkey that morning and then turning to side dishes on Thursday. I'll turn on the Macy's Parade that morning (which always, always, for reasons really unbeknownst to me, makes me cry-I friggin' love a parade; well, really it's the marching bands that tear me up-how weird is that?), make some coffee and get ready for family-fueled bliss!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Paying It Forward

Happy Friday, everyone! My "Small Measures with Ashley" post is up over on Design Sponge. In advance 0f Thanksgiving, I've been thinking a good deal about gratitude and thankfulness. Accordingly, today's post discusses "paying it forward," or returning a good deed done to you by bestowing kindness, thoughtfulness, and courtesy to those we interact with in the future. It's an idea I can't get enough of.

We're taking it easy again this weekend chez English. I find that passing the days at home with my little guy and his Papa (who told me the other day he'd like Huxley to call him "Daddy-O") provide more bliss and love than I ever imagined possible. It's chilly outside, but with hot tea, delicious meals, and tons of snuggling, we're all toasty inside.

I have two questions for you, and they're completely and utterly unrelated, so hopefully there will be enough variation between them for some of you to have suggestions in each camp. Here goes:

1) I've been inspired to learn how to both sew and knit now that I have a little guy. I'd love to hear your suggestions on books for beginners on both topics (also, Asheville area folks, if you know great people teaching classes on either topic, clue me in, please!).

2) I'm looking for a good holistic infant/toddler/child care book, one in line with my own natural way of healing ethos. Have any suggestions?

I hope your weekend takes you away to exactly where you most wish to go! See you soon!

*Image from here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dairy Rappers Delight

Absolutely adoring this video. Dairy farmers promoting sustainable farming practices while making farming chic, modern, and especially gorgeous (because, hey, that's how it is in real life, right?????).

I'm especially fond of Ms. Exceptionally Lovely Farmer when she raps "In my wax coat and boots, I'm proper Farmer Giles; Now look, you urban folks have stole our style." So true. I love how farm clothing and gear have become fashionable in city settings. In so doing, it seems to validate the entire renewed interest in agriculture and nature and food cycles and systems and hand-crafted, handmade, home-spun modes of living so prevalent today.

For those of you curious about the lyrics (which are both hilarious and yet simultaneously quite inspiring, as
Yeo Valley is clearly making serious strides in their attempt to tread lightly on the soil they toil), check out this link.

Big up your chest!

Friday, November 12, 2010

My True Love Gave To Me

This week I've dealt with the emotional and physical challenges that come from sleep deprivation, caring for a tiny newborn, pain while nursing, the physiological pendulum swing of hormones that accompanies the shift from pregnancy to nursing, and the continued challenges of anemia and wound healing following our wild birth.

I've been weepy and then euphoric, irritated and then blissed-out. I'm fairly certain it's just the baby blues, but we're taking note of everything and discussing it with my midwives (btw, on a health update, we did learn yesterday that, in addition to Huxley's awesome weight gain, my blood pressure has gone way down-yeah! on the path towards being preeclampsia-free!!!-and my liver count is climbing steadily upwards!).

Hubs, in his eternal patience, wisdom, and love, gifted me with the above card/art piece yesterday. It couldn't have come at a better time. He is, at this very moment, mounting it onto a piece of weathered metal so that I can gaze contemplatively at it whenever I find myself needing a boost.

Spouses like mine are more than just life partners, they're true friends. Thanks, sweets.

Wabi Sabi

Hi everyone! My "Small Measures with Ashley" post is up over at Design Sponge. Today I'm examining the Japanese aesthetic philosophy of Wabi Sabi. I've long found its values to align with my own, its worldview to be one which embraces the sort of comfort and acceptance that I espouse, and it's recognition of the inextricable link between humans and the rest of the natural world to be truly inspirational. Plus, I think it's cool. There, I said it.

Have a fabulous weekend. We've got a whole bunch of nothing planned. Well, not exactly nothing, but no plans to go anywhere. Tomorrow a wonderful woman from the Asheville La Leche League is coming over to help me work on latch issues with Huxley. He latches (boy, does he ever latch!), only it kills every time he does. I know that this will all get easier in the coming weeks and months, but in the meantime, his tiny mouth feels like a vice grip each time we nurse (which, at his age, is a lot; a whole lot). Still, I'm committed to it, especially after learning yesterday at our 3-week postpartum visit that he's now 6 lbs., 7 ounces, so he's clearly getting enough nourishment! Plus, his, ahem "output" is vast. Hubs refers to him as "Sir Poops A-Lot." 'Tis true. He'll be Hercules before we know it!

Sunday my mom is coming over again to spend some q.t. with her grandson while I (hopefully) luxuriate in a hot bath and sip calming tea. Of course, as with all things lately, I'm not letting myself get too attached to that know, "best laid plans" and all...

Wherever your weekend takes you, here's hoping the destination is a bliss-filled one!

*Image from here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Eyes Wide Open

Huxley is finally ready for his close up.

That last one has "please don't eat me" written all over it, no?

Top Ten

I've never been much of one to toot my own horn. In fact, I somewhat abhor it, to use the most extreme superlative I can think of. I'm much more a fan of humility, and always admire and gravitate towards that quality in others. Hubs is the Jedi Knight of humility, as are many of my closest friends and family members.

That said, I was pleased as punch when I came across the above "Top Ten" recognition yesterday. Whilst finally going through a backlog of mail during one of my and Huxley's 12 daily nursing/pumping sessions (dudeman can DRINK!), I opened the packet to Homestyle Books, one of two books-buying clubs to which I belong (the other, based around cookbooks, is The Good Cook-deep, steep discounts abound here, folks). Lo and behold, within the pages of their catalogue, I recognized a familiar cover.

Thank you, Homestyle Books, for giving a shout out to "Keeping Chickens." I adore the book, the whole series in fact (and not just because I wrote it-remember, humility runs in my veins-but because of the exemplary work of the entire creative team I was blessed to work with). Now that we're in between books ("Home Dairy" and "Keeping Bees" debut March 2011), I have to admit to missing working with the team, as well as writing and researching some "Homemade Living" topic on a daily basis.

Hopefully there will be more topics in the series and I'll be back to work, and elbow-rubbing with my Lark buddies, before too long. On that note, what "Homemade Living" topics would you like to see in future books? We're toying with "Beverages" and "Kitchen Gardens" right now. I've got loads of other ideas in store, but I'd love to hear your suggestions, so, bring 'em!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Community Supported Fiber (CSF) Farms

Hi Friends, and happy Sunday! I'm back in the saddle over at Design Sponge, returning after a two-week hiatus with my "Small Measures with Ashley" column. This week's topic focuses on "Community Supported Fiber" farms, more commonly referred to as C.S.F.'s. I find the topic immensely intriguing, and hope you will too, especially with the chilly months staring us in the face (my mom and grandmother, who live an hour north of here, were slated to get snow last night; I haven't yet chatted with them this morning, so I'm not sure what has transpired yet...).

We're all getting our groove back, Chez English (well, Huxley is establishing his groove...). For the most part, things are grand. I'm slowly healing, learning (not without a fight!) to take it waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay easy. I get winded pretty easily, so I take my time walking around the house, and let things slide a bit more than I usually would, house cleaning-wise. Hubs has been an absolute saint, cooking up delicious meals, taking care of our menagerie of animals (I haven't even made it out to the chicken coop in two weeks, but Glenn assures me that all is well and keeps me, ahem, abreast, of all the social goings-on out there), going to the fire department to ensure that the car seats are installed properly (would you believe we've had to purchase three-!!!-different models in search of one that fits our wee one???), and being generally awesome, per usual.

My mother-in-law stayed with us for 9 days and was an indispensable fount of assistance and advice. Huxley met his great-grandmother (my maternal grandmother), Ruby, this past Thursday. He also spent some quality time with his grandmother, Gigi (my mom), then and did so again yesterday while Hubs was at the Asheville Scrabble Club's annual tournament (I insisted that he go, which he somewhat reluctantly relented to, in an attempt at re-establishing normalcy around here, per the suggestion of our pediatricain).

Our tiny "pea pod" might not be so for too terribly much longer if he keeps up with the weight gain he managed this past week-at his weigh-in at the pediatrician's office on Tuesday, it was revealed that he'd gained 8 ounces in one week! Way to pack it up, pack it in, little Hux!

I'm learning the art and craft of breast-feeding every day. I have to admit, it's not as intuitive as I think most women are led to believe. Fortunately, the suggestions of my mother-in-law, coupled with the fantastic advice offered by the lactation consultants at the Western N.C. Breast-feeding Center found in Mission Hospital and the sage, seasoned words of Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Breastfeeding (big thanks to my sweet friend Jen for insightfully gifting us with this book at the Nugget Warming) are all aligning to get "peanut sauce" and myself on the right track.

Once I get a bit more sleep (one night this week, Huxley was up from 1:30 a.m.-4:15 a.m and then yesterday I mistakenly drank a full-strength latte-and enjoyed every drop of it, mind you-which kept him awake all day long; he's going through a growth spurt and is feeding like a tiny vampire!), a bit more recovery rest (I have to keep reminding myself that, a mere two weeks ago, the following happened: preeclampsia, induced labor, hemorrhage, and removal of a reproductive organ-sheesh!!!), and a bit more of an established sleep pattern down, I'll get busy with picture-taking and post some images here. I'm typically the sort of person who forgets to take photos anyways (at parties, on my honeymoon, almost all the time...), but I really do want to capture some images of him while he's still wee. That said, I'm cutting myself a HUGE wedge of slack, given all that's gone down recently.

Have a lovely week ahead, everyone!

* Image from here.