Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chicken-tendering, Zenchilada-style

I invite you all to take a minute and check out the most recent edition of online food magazine "Zenchilada." I was approached by editor Ronni Lundy several months ago about contributing to both their Fall 2010 and Winter '10-11 issues. You can find the fall edition, entirely devoted to all things chicken, here. My article begins on page 32, with a bio listed on page 161.

The magazine (for which I've posted the July 2010 cover above; couldn't find the most recent cover available in jpg form to save my life) is gorgeously and thoughtfully curated. Those new to keeping chickens will find just as much valuable information here as those who've been dyed-in-the-feathers for some time. There are also recipes and anecdotes aplenty. Enjoy!

*Image from here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Wild Ride

Whoa. That wasn't the week I had planned. Not even close.

The thing I'm learning, and rather quickly, about this whole parenting game, is that you just can't plan for it. At all. Big thanks go out to Hubs for giving you all little updates as the labor and delivery progressed. What it taught me, in a life-altering way, is to just step into the current, allow myself to be carried along, and be thankful to arrive at the destination, wherever it may take me.

I'd like to share with you what happened. It's a harrowing tale, full of unexpected twists, hairpin turns, and near collisions. Ultimately, it was a wild ride. Strap in folks, this one's a long tale.

To say that things didn't quite go according to my plans/ideas/expectations is the ultimate understatement. In fact, things went all very, very wrong, beginning last Thursday morning. I awoke around 12:45 a.m. with cramping in the side, exactly like what I'd felt 3 weeks ago when I ended up in the hospital. Within 15 minutes, it had gotten horrible. I could barely walk and I began to become physically, and violently, ill. We arrived at the hospital around 2 a.m.. My midwife, who met us there, said I actually wasn't in labor. She didn't know what was causing the pain, only that my preeclampsia was getting out of control, so they induced (my liver and kidneys were failing and my b/p was getting higher and higher so they also hooked me up to a magnesium sulfate IV to keep me from going into eclampsia and then having seizures, which I'd just began to experience as full body tremors).

I had the baby naturally a good bit later, at 10:20 p.m. (my epidural didn't totally take, which I'm glad for, because I felt all of the contractions, as well as the urge to push). I labored for 6 hours and pushed for 40 minutes. All seemed well and they transferred us to the "Mother and Baby" floor around 3 a.m. Suddenly, six hours after the delivery, I began to massively hemorrhage. About six nurses filled the room, pushing very, very, very hard on my already tender abdomen. To hemorrhage so late after a delivery is really, really rare.

The next morning the pain that I'd experienced Thursday that sent me to the hospital initially returned with a vengeance. At first we thought it was a kidney stone. It wasn't until Saturday evening, though, following an X-ray, a CT scan, and an ultrasound that we learned what was causing such horrific pain. It turned out I had a twisted ovary, known in medical parlance as an "ovarian torsion." This, apparently, is also exceedingly rare (the surgeon that ultimately took it out said I was only the 3rd one he'd seen at such a late stage of labor in his 20 years of medicine). The ovary had become necrotic, and had began causing me to bleed internally. Emergency surgery was performed, which saved my life, and the ovary and its fallopian tube removed. We left the hospital Sunday evening and I've been home recovering since.

Clearly, none of this was what I'd planned. Honestly though, I am so, so very glad for how it all worked out. Had I labored and delivered at home, the midwives would have been gone by the time that I hemorrhaged. Also, I might not have had my god-awful pain (the ovarian pain was way worse than labor) dealt with as expediently, professionally, and superbly as it was. The surgeon told me I dodged a bullet-twice. In the old days, I'd have been one of those ladies that didn't make it through labor. And so, I am so eternally grateful for the way it all manifested, what I learned in the process, and for the love muffin Hubs and I received in return.

Huxley Wild English is great, and, given the circumstances surrounding his arrival, muchly deserving of his middle name! The hospital staff and my midwives are absolute angels masquerading as humans. Things are beginning to balance out. My mother-in-law, another angel, is with us until next Wednesday, visiting from Florida. She's been truly wonderful!

It was certainly an epic ride. I'm absolutely loving being a mother. I even love the late-night feedings, multiple diaper changes, and intermittent sleep. I love calling Huxley "peanut sauce" (this one even has its own song!), "monkey", "pea pod", "chicken", "nugget" and more. I love staring at this tiny eyelashes, listening to his soft breath, and smelling his sweet smell. All's truly well that ends well. I'm utterly smitten.

I'll take pictures of Huxley soon and post them here once we get our whole nursing/sleeping/pooping thing down a bit more first. Thank you for your kind words of care and concern. The love surrounding my family is truly palpable, and infinitely appreciated.

Welcome to the world, wee one! You've got loads of folks with your best interests in mind!

*Image from here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

swaddled bliss

Hi all, Ashley still can't make it to the computer herself, but she appreciates all the kind thoughts. She's been having a tough time because of complications caused by the preeclampsia, but the big risks seem to be behind her and the baby is doing great. Here are a couple pics, if I can make it work...

Friday, October 22, 2010

the bon vivant est arrivee!

Huxley Wild English made his debut appearance to the outerworld yesterday, 10/21/10 at 10:20pm. He's 18.5 inches long, and weighed in at 5 lbs, 14 ounces. He's already mastered the fine art of snuggling like a tree frog. Ashley thanks you all for the kind thoughts!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

nugget can't wait

Hello all, this is Ashley's husband, Glenn. Just a quick update... Last night Ashley had to be rushed to the hospital because of side-effects from the preeclampsia. We thought it might be labor at first, but that turned out not to be the case yet. Her blood pressure was dangerously elevated and her blood platelets were dangerously low, so they decided to induce this evening to be safe. Fortunately both her blood pressure and her blood platelets have improved, and the baby's signs are all great. Everything seems to be moving along smoothly and Huxley Wild English should be making his outerworldly debut sometime late tonight or tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Best Laid Schemes

I've been accused of being stubborn. Just ask my mother. Or my husband. I prefer "resolute", "impassioned" and "determined." Furthermore, I'm a perpetual, life-long planner. I like lists, I like to schedule things in advance, I like knowing what's coming.

Well, forget all that! Nugget is here to teach me the art of letting go. Turns out I have mild preeclampsia. My mother and maternal grandmother both had it, and mine has evidenced in the past week. In light of this development, the option of a home birth no longer exists. We're scheduled to be induced this coming Sunday evening, when I'll be at 39 weeks.

Fortunately, nothing but rhapsodic praise exists for the labor & delivery ward at Mission, my nearest hospital. It's so good, in fact, that my midwives claim it's the reason there are no alternative birthing facilities in Asheville to date. There's just no demand for one. They have a water birth area (lovingly dubbed "Waterworld") and, according to one of my midwives today, they just changed their standards in August to allow women to labor in water even if they've been given pharmacological inductions (they have wireless monitors to keep check on momma and baby without being rigged up continuously to a machine).

So, faced with the reality of no longer being able to birth at home, this planned, precise, "resolute" mom-to-be could have freaked out. Could have sobbed. Could have pouted and whined and protested and felt that it's just not fair. And I did feel some fear about the whole situation. But, after talking it out with Hubs, and my folks, and three trusted lady friends, that path seemed utterly pointless. Instead, I'm opting to embrace what my dear friend Jen wrote: "You are given the birth you are meant to have, for your growth." For me, that means a hospital birth.

My Pop assures me that this is simply preparation for parenthood, when "letting go" is the order of the day. Fortunately, Hubs is an absolute ninja in all things related to letting go. He's been practicing non-attachment, specifically as it applies to outcomes, for decades. He's quite good for me that way. And, I have to say, given all that's transpired over the past few days, I've surprised myself at just how willing to let go of my hopes, plans, schemes, and attachments I've been. The prospect of the incredible gift we'll receive in the final analysis makes it all worth while. In this case, the end truly justifies the means.

I've packed a bag for the hospital. A kind soul, a new friend with a heart of gold, is primed and ready to take care of our furry friends chez English when the time comes. We're employing several means of inducing ourselves, to see if we can't get the party started without intervention. Otherwise, Hubs is making "Mushroom Mac' N Cheese" (with a hint of truffle oil-ooh wee!!!) and collard greens for dinner, I plan to watch "The Fabulous Beekman Boys" on Planet Green at 9:30, the chickens will go to bed at 7, the dogs will be fed shortly thereafter, and all is just as it's meant to be.

Steinbeck sure knew what he was talking about (by way of Robert Burns). The best laid schemes of mice and men do often go awry. Time to do away with scheming and planning and all that. Time to step into the river and be moved by the current.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday Night Special

What I'm digging this crisp autumn evening...

The Swedish sisters of
First Aid Kit are breathtakingly talented and the dudes of Fleet Foxes never fail to satisfy...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tea Staining

(Pre- tea staining)
(Post- tea staining)

Happy Friday, everyone! My "Small Measures with Ashley" post is up over at Design Sponge. Today's topic discusses using black tea to stain fabrics. It's super easy, completely affordable, and produces gorgeous results. Fire up the kettle!

We're continuing to lay low and take it super easy, chez English. There are absolutely no weekend plans scheduled, which is perfectly fine by me! It's hard to believe that I'm now a mere 2 1/2 weeks from my due date. Time stops for no one!

Have a lovely weekend, wherever it may take you!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ongoing Inspiration

Hubs just can't be stopped lately with his drawings. He's on FIRE!

I present, for your viewing pleasure, the newest additions in his ongoing bouts of inspiration.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In-between Places

Hubs and I wrapped up our final birthing class last night. It was a bittersweet conclusion. While I'm glad that we've now attended 5 classes, discussing everything from breathing techniques to complications that can arise in labor to cloth diapering, and that our Tuesday nights will now be ours again, I feel a bit saddened about leaving it all behind. I'd come to enjoy gathering with the eight other pregos and their partners, all of us first-time parents-to-be, peppering the midwives with newbie questions and then watching, in awe, each class's concluding video of live birth footage. I also really, really liked getting ice cream afterwards. Pumpkin ice cream is a thing of sheer bliss.

It's strange, this in-between space we're now in. It's more than strange-it's surreal. We reached our crucial 37 week threshold yesterday, meaning, barring any unforeseen complications, Nugget can now be safely birthed at home. To think that, at any day, a wee one will be birthed to us, made of us, gifted to us, is something I still can't quite wrap my head around. Rationally, I know there's a baby growing inside of me. That said, it seems impossible, somehow, that that's truly the case.

Each day, I look around the house thinking "there's going to be a baby in here!" I watch the dogs playing and say to them "you're not going to be the youngest beings in the house anymore." They give me quizzical looks and resume their tackling and bone chewing. I wonder how the cats, accustomed to constant doting, will respond to a newborn's cries. I worry about making sure the chickens get enough attention, the bees have their entrance reducers placed back on their hives before labor begins, and that the house will fall into disarray while Hubs and I assume our new roles during those first few days.

More than anything, though, I'm excited. I'm shedding a skin; I'm leaving behind my status of single-hood. Sure, I'm married, and Hubs and I have obligations to and responsibilities for one another. But becoming a parent takes it to an entirely different level. We will both, from Nugget's arrival ever-onward, always, continuously, ceaselessly be responsible for another being's entire welfare. It's a huge mantle to assume. It's exhilarating to consider, and intimidating, too.

Forgive me if I'm scarce around here lately. My body has moved back into sleep and slumber mode. It's challenging to find comfortable positions to sit, stand, or sleep in. I'm queasy all over again. I'm getting rounder by the hour and have assumed a seemingly ever-present waddle instead of my customary, life-long quick gait. I'm enjoying hot tea, warm blankets, epsom-salt baths, husbandly foot rubs, and quiet reflection. I'm thinking about, and talking regularly to, my future son. How awesome is that?

*For more autumnal images chez English, visit here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hosting A Design Swap

Hi everyone! My "Small Measures with Ashley" post is up on Design Sponge. Today's topic proposes hosting a "design swap" of some incarnation. Got clothes gathering dust in your drawers? Swap 'em! Got a tablecloth or platter or copy of "Friends" you no longer have any use for? Swap 'em! In short, if you lack the drive to hold a yard sale to cash in on your wares and want to allow your friends to directly enjoy things you once did, hold a swap. You'll save money, time, and fossil fuels in the process!

I'm off in a short bit to grab a bite to eat with one of my favorite ladies, Jael Rattigan, co-owner, along with her wonderful husband, Dan, of the ever-fabulous, always delightful French Broad Chocolate Lounge (their salted caramels should be canonized). Jael is a home-birth veteran, having birthed both of her sons, Sam and Max, at home, Sam whilst living in Costa Rica (and operating a beachfront cafe and bakery) and Max here in Asheville. I'm going to pick her brain and just generally enjoy her company.

After that, Hubs and I are off tonight to the art opening of a collective of Asheville ladies, including several friends of mine. The show, entitled "Ladylike: The Dark Side of Female Friendships" promises to be quite intriguing. We'll conclude our night with a celebratory "it's actually happening! we're going to be parents!" last pre-nugget hurrah dinner at the always flawless Rezaz. I'm salivating already.

Otherwise, we've got a technician coming tomorrow to prime and service our furnace, making sure it's in top shape for the winter. We did the same to our plumbing on Monday, especially as we're planning a water birth in our large garden soaking tub. All that remains is to source some firewood (our goldmine of a firewood fella from last winter is, sadly, nowhere to be found, so we're on the hunt for a reliable supplier again) and wait...I'll be 37 weeks Tuesday, meaning Nugget can be safely born at home anytime between then and 42 weeks. His due date is November 3rd, and his Papa and I have given him the total green light for a Halloween arrival, as well.

Have a great weekend, all!

*Image from here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How I Got My Groove

(City girl-Freshly arrived in London August '06 after a red-eye flight wherein my luggage was lost for 45 days)
(Country girl-chillin' with Georgette, who's always camera-ready)

Back in early August, I sat down with Ingles grocery store dietician
Leah Mcgrath for a chat. If you've ever been curious about my back-story, moving from urbanite to country gal (or ever just wanted to know what I actually sound like in real life!!!), listen in. We had a great time. Thanks again for the opportunity, Leah!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Homemade Living Giveaway (+Apple Butter!)

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope your weekend was packed full of your favorite things. Mine included working on the forward to a book I'm penning for another author, getting all the home birth supplies packed and ready (our home visit with the midwives is this Wednesday!), eating homemade cardamom (totally my favorite spice) & orange french toast, talking out loud to Nugget a good deal (I tell him about how his Papa and I are getting all geared up for him and how he can keep cooking in there a bit longer, no rush), and curling up on the couch with Hubs and some delicious chicken pot pie. All in all, a weekend well spent.

Today, my publisher is offering a generous giveaway of two signed copies of the first two books in my "Homemade Living" series, along with a jar of the Cardamom Apple Butter I've been talking about around here lately. I invite you to drop by the site (which is a great read in its own right) and leave a comment by October 11th for a chance to win.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

50 Ways To Warm Your Nugget

So, the Warming was a delight. We've got such an amazing cast of beloved friends and family. Although no official toll was conducted, I'm guessing around 50 folks came to help us warm the hearth for the little fella. Hubs, Nugs, and I are truly blessed.

In addition to mingling and chatting and giggling and guffawing (not to mention generous gift-giving!!!), the evening consisted of gorging on these libations and victuals:

To quench the palate~
-Hard Apple Cider
-Pumpkin Ale
-Whiskeyed Fresh Apple Cider with Whole Spices & Honey
-Sparkling Apple Cider
-Fresh Apple Cider

To appeal to the savory side of life~
-Local Grit Cakes (to be topped with the next three dishes; an homage to "Hominy Valley", the area here in Candler where we live)
-Local Wild Lobster Mushroom Ragu
-Local Blackened Catfish
-Andouille Chicken Sausage with Apples
-End of Summer Ratatouille
-Local Scuppernog & Muscadine grapes
-Dried Apple Slices
-A selection of Ashe County Cheeses
-Local Pumpkin Butter
-Homemade Cardamom Apple Butter
-Homemade Fig & Orange Compote
-A selection of Farm & Sparrow breads
-Mixed Greens Salad with my mom's apples, local fennel, and a pickled cherry vinaigrette

To satiate the sweet tooth~
-Molasses Ginger Crinkles
-Fig, Pistachio, & Olive Oil Cake with Cream Cheese Orange Frosting
-DIY Smores station around the fire ring, with Cardamom & Maple marshmallows from Whimsy & Spice Confectioners, Midel graham crackers, & an assortment of chocolates

To take away, in recognition of our abiding love and gratitude~
-Tiny jars of cardamom apple butter (with lovely, custom labels generously gifted by the talented Cyn of River Dog Prints)
-Tiny brown paper sacks of Martha's Pumpkin Seed Brittle

Thanks to everyone who came, feasted, and assisted in any way. We three Englishes love you dearly.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pumpkin Bliss

Hi everyone! My "Small Measures with Ashley" post is up on Design Sponge. Today I give props to one of my most beloved signs of the times-pumpkins and their kinfolk, winter squashes! I've included a recipe for a Butternut Squash & Gorgonzola Pasta with Pumpkin Seed, Lemon Balm, & Sage Pesto we made for the "Nugget Warming" that is the stuff of dreams!

Hope your weekend is grand. I've got a whole lot of nothing planned, per the suggestion of many of you. Trust me, that's EXTREMELY difficult advice for this go-getter to adhere to, but, fortunately, I'd cleared my schedule for the 5 weeks following last weekend's "Warming." That means I've got plenty of time to write, drink red raspberry leaf tea (good for priming up the 'ole uterus for her forthcoming Olympic event!), watch movies, prop up my feet, and just enjoy these lovely autumn days.

Be well, friends!

*Image from here.