State of the Garden

Two years ago we rebuilt our garden from scratch. Installation of a 45×65′ 8 foot tall deer fence was only the start. We then had to rip out well established grass, add tons of compost, and start to figure out a useful layout.

That first year we only planted about half of our usable space. Last year we changed prep methods again and planted 3/4 of our fenced area. Winter cover crops became part of our routine and the soil is dramatically different than when we started.

What is also dramatically different this year is the amount of time we can devote to this garden. We are 9 weeks out from Grain’s due date (eek!) and we are pouring 100% of our time and focus into the house. So, as you might imagine, our garden is a bit neglected. The cover crop is waist high and very happy (and thankfully doing good things for our soil and keeping weeds at bay!), our garlic that was planted in the fall looks great, and the raspberries are taking off like crazy. We have been harvesting the spring greens from our over wintered kale and chard…but the whole thing looks pretty messy. Bolting kale “trees” are tall and buzzing with bees.

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Messy, overgrown garden this spring. but check out those second year asparagus in the raised bed! We are looking forward to our first harvest next year.

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Matt taking a house project break with Alki

We do have roughly 70 tomato starts in our living room, alongside zucchini and pumpkins. We plan to get them in the ground towards the end of May (it is still pretty chilly at night). Tuck in some of our favorite beans and call it good for this planting season. Whatever we don’t plant we will (hopefully) at least scuffle hoe to rip up weeds and throw down some more cover crop. It may not look “pretty” but will be a garden that still works to improve the soil and make next year even better.

If anyone wants to come work in a garden, you have an open invitation!

PS – baby Grain update. We are 31 weeks. Baby is moving a TON, and I felt hiccups for the first time today!

10 Week Countdown

Today we hit 30 weeks in our pregnancy with Grain. My belly is a basketball and Matt is constantly cracking good hearted jokes about me being a turtle with my shell on backwards.

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Matt is cranking away on the remodel…we are going to need every last day to get this thing done. What is left? A lot:

-finish building/installing kitchen cabinets

-clean blackboard slate (old glue from when they were installed in a school)

-demo existing counters and backsplash

-install new counters and backsplash

-refinish hardwood floors

-install crown/baseboard and other molding

-paint kitchen cabinets, pantry and new fireplace builtins (this may be a post baby project)

Ambitious? Yes, but it is what we need to do. We scheduled the crowning piece for the final week in June: refinishing the hardwood floors! Two weeks before my due date could be an issue, but we have a place to stay nearby, with backup plans if baby has decided to come early. People keep asking about the nursery and I just have to laugh…not till the upstairs is done!

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We decided to put open bookshelves for cookbooks etc on the end of our new cabinet section. When all trimmed out and painted white, this kitchen is going to look SO GOOD!

Spring is still taking it’s time in arriving in the PNW. We still have not hit 60 more than a few times! The garden is so far behind and it has been so wet that there has not been much motivation to do anything. We have some tomatoes and squash started in the house, so when it does warm up we will get them outside (and free up space!).

Living in a remodel has been not comfortable, but we are managing it pretty darn well. Luckily our master bedroom is still an untouched retreat where we can have some sense of normalcy in our house. I have been doing a lot of sleeping, resting, taking baths…Matt has been fabulous at just letting me be however I need to be to grow little Grain. It is exhausting!

Since I do not have a direct role in the remodel physically, I am supporting with a constant stream of supplies, research, food and project management (ha!). Getting bids on hardwood floors was a focus last month and we are thrilled with the team we found. I need to order backsplash tile soon, and measure for crown and baseboard molding (I misplaced my list of lengths many months ago…ugh!)

Wish us luck in this last stretch! It is slightly intimidating, but we can see the light at the end of this long long tunnel. And there will be a baby to snuggle when we get there!

Finally, an attractive nursing bra! Yootoo Maternity Nursing Bra Review

Oh the trial and error of finding a bra that fits during pregnancy!

I figured out pretty early on in my pregnancy with Grain that my favorite bras were no longer reliable options. My B cup self was just not a reality any more! I managed to get by with a few bigger bras that were lurking in my lingerie drawer, but by week 25 I was desperate for something that actually fit. It was not pretty.

But I was stumped. Was it worth buying a “maternity” bra, or better to go straight to a nursing bra? I read reviews online, surfed Amazon, and then started getting bombarded on social media feeds for advertisements of all brands, shapes and styles. It was just overwhelming.

I finally opted to go into a local nursing focused mama boutique and get fitted for a nursing bra and ask all my questions. I tried on nearly 10 bras…and they were all terrible. Big and bulky and so wide on the sides that they threatened to chafe my armpits. Yuck! I did settle on one that worked: the Bravado (which was also highly praised on Amazon). For reference, I got a large and it fits with some space to still grow when baby is here…I hope at least! It is comfortable and high quality, but not very…attractive.

This led me back to a bra that kept popping up on my Instagram feed: a maternity/nursing bra that promised to be both cute and functional and grow with you. Yootoo is out of Australia, and I could not find many independent (ie: not on their website reviews) but I was still wanting to give them a try. I liked that it has some feminine details and was lower cut in the front. Since I wear mostly V neck dresses, this was key for me.

As a pre-pregnancy 36B, I have never really ventured into “large” bra sizes. Based on their size chart I figured a large was the right size. Particularly since that was what my Bravado bra was. I ordered two colors: chai and black. I was particularly impressed that they offer such a diverse assortment of skin toned colors!

When they arrived, the wrapping was beautiful and the bras were in perfect condition. However, when I put the first one on it instantly knew it was the wrong size. The cups were not bad, but the band was WAY too tight. I could barely get it to fasten! Thankfully the customer service team at Yootoo is excellent (as was alluded to in the website testimonials) and they quickly sent me a return label and shipped out two XL bras.

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When that next purple box arrived, I was crossing my fingers for a good fit. As I mentioned, I really loved the style of these Yootoo bras and was getting frustrated with just how much fabric there was on the Bravado bra that I was wearing every.single.day.

Yootoo (top) compared to Bravado (bottom) for comparison

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You can see how much higher cut the sides are on the Bravado, and how the neckline would stick out of low cut tops

Low and behold, these XL bras fit perfectly, are comfortable AND (dare I say it?) even look attractive! I feel more like my old self with these bras and yet they are still functional for breastfeeding once baby arrives. I am thrilled!

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Yootoo: feminine details!

Since this is my first pregnancy, and I still have some growing to do, I plan to stick with just one of the XL bras for now. The cups themselves do not have much stretch, and I am unsure how much space I will really need when milk comes in. I am saving the second bra just in case I need to swap it out and size up again when baby arrives.

Overall: these bras rock! They are soft and feminine and low cut with not to wide sides…like a NORMAL bra! They do provide extra support than I am used to but the girls do need it now. I am thrilled to have them as the foundation for my mama wardrobe.

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Thank you to Yootoo for providing me samples of this bra for this review. I did not receive any additional compensation or have any influence from them over this review. All thoughts, opinions and recommendations are strictly my own. Thank you for allowing me to spread the word!

Some Favorite Recipes

We were down all last week with a terrible, horrible, no good very bad stomach bug. It was awful. Matt and I are rarely sick at the same time, but this round took us both out for the whole week. We could barely eat, drink or even move…let alone work on the mountain of projects that we have in the works.

But that sickness is starting to become a memory, and we are regaining our stregth. Last night we celebrated a dear friend’s birthday with a homemade cake. I have been on the search for a really excellent basic, from scratch yellow cake. They are always too dense and almost cornbread like. This one make have proved me wrong. For good measure, I also threw in our favorite cookie recipe below.

Fluffy, Moist Homemade Yellow Cake

source: Divas Can Cook
Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened, room temperature (do not microwave)
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated, room temperature
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325. F. (do not use convection like I did…cooked too fast to start)
  2. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar.
  4. Add in egg yolks and vanilla, mixing until fully incorporated. Set aside.
  5. In a seperate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.
  6. Gradually add dry ingredients into wet ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk.
  7. Mix until batter is fluffy but be careful not to over mix.
  8. Beat egg whites until stiff and thick. (holds a nice peak)
  9. Very gently fold egg whites into batter and mix JUST until incorporated.
  10. Pour batter into prepared pans and spread into even layers.
  11. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  12. Remove from oven and let cake cool in pans until pans are warm to the touch.
  13. Carefully remove cakes from pan and place on a cooling rack to finish cooling.
  14. When cakes are completely cooled frost with chocolate buttercream frosting.

 

Lauren’s Amazing Cookies (coconut, chocolate, oatmeal)

  • 1 cup butter (or 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup coconut oil)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 ½ cup oatmeal
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • Vanilla
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cup shredded coconut
  • 1 bag chocolate chips

 

Cream together butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Mix in coconut and chocolate chips. Make into 1-2 inch balls and flatten slightly on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until edges start to turn slightly golden. Remove from oven and cool. They will continue to darken out of the oven. Enjoy!

Nine things that have surprised me about pregnancy

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  1. How exhausting it is to grow a baby.

I had always heard that you would be tired, but I did not anticipate this level of fogginess and exhaustion until after baby arrived. I guess I am probably underestimating that as well!

  1. Loss of my abs.

Now I don’t mean them disappearing and being replaced by a bump. That I was totally prepared for. What I did not expect was not having any strength AT ALL from my core. At week 26, sitting up, rolling over or lifting anything is totally dependent on my arms or legs or Matt hauling me around. It is quite disorienting and frustrating to be honest.

  1. Needing diaper rash cream…well before the baby is here

Let’s just say that there is a lot going on with lady parts in pregnancy, and a lot of moisture that I have never before experienced. Diaper rash cream is a life saver.

  1. Pregnancy underwear.

It is a thing, and totally worth it. I have resisted the idea of buying too many maternity wardrobe pieces, but this and a few other key investments were 1000% worth it. Same goes for bras.

  1. Dates are no longer important, it is all about # of weeks

My mental calendar is no longer focused on months or dates, but around how many weeks along is baby. 40 weeks is the goal. 9 months is just a confusing common metric that somehow got thrown into how we talk about it.

  1. So.Many.Decisions.

Some of these decisions are quick and easy, others take research and sometimes difficult conversations. Where to have the baby? What kind of provider care do we want? What do we register for? Find out gender or surprise? Genetic testing? If it’s a boy, do we circumcise? How do we want our birth to go? Birth photographer? Vaccination schedule? And then finally, at the end of the day, what should we have for dinner? Because life still goes on.

  1. Increased awareness of others and pregnancy challenges.

We had a slightly bumpy road to get here, but very visibly carrying a baby has brought out a whole new level of awareness. A few weeks back a girlfriend had a miscarriage. A coworker due at nearly the same time as I am lost her twins at 5 months. Survivors guilt, empathy, sadness, happiness, love…they are a complicated bundle of emotions that all tangle together harder when you have a constant kicking reminder that you are carrying a miracle.

  1. Leg cramps.

Like terrible, debilitating, wake-up-screaming-like-a-banshee leg cramps. Not just in my calf either, but down the sides of my lower legs, quads, and even hands and fingers. My midwife was great and cleared me from any medical concerns, and got me on extra magnesium which is helping. Some local midwives I met through our birth class also added insight for Epsom salt soaks and a topical homeopathic cream that have made a huge difference.

  1. Hating salmon.

My only real food aversion would of course be one of the BEST things for me to eat while pregnant. It is getting slightly less repulsive now that I am nearly in my third trimester but it still makes me sad that of all things, this is what my body does not want to eat.

 

I am so excited to meet Grain (our in-utero name for baby) and witness many many more surprises that await us on our journey as a family.

Coconut Chocolate “Ice Cream” (Dairy Free!)

I love making ice cream at home. We have tried many combinations over the years, pretty much settling on a standard base that we mix up with different flavors. In the summer, peach is a favorite, as well as fresh garden mint with cookies. Fall leans towards brown butter or whiskey or something else rich and delicious.

This weekend I wanted to try a dairy free “ice cream” and modified our standard base to accomodate. Coconut chocolate seemed to fit the bill.

Last time I attempted a coconut milk base it turned out a little more grainy than I prefer, so this time I added arrowroot powder. Also note, this is not a vegan base since it does feature rich homegrown egg yolks.

Verdict: this was pretty much perfect! I am looking forward to mixing it up again with different add-ins all summer long!

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Coconut Chocolate “Ice Cream”

  • 4 cups full fat coconut milk (we use cartons from our local Asian market)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbs good quality cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp arrowroot powder
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • pinch of salt
  • vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks

METHOD

In saucepan, heat HALF the coconut milk with sugars, cocoa, oil, and arrowroot powder, and salt until heated through, stirring or whisking constantly (not boiling). Temper egg yolks with some of the hot chocolate mixture, and add to pot. Continue cooking until the consistency is of thin pudding. Add in vanilla extract and remaining 2 cups of coconut milk.

At this point I choose to pour the ice cream mix through a mesh strainer to remove any lumps, but this is optional .

Cool ice cream base in the fridge until cold, overnight is ideal. Churn in ice cream maker for ~20 minutes or until done. Freeze in containers for at least 30 minutes before serving.

YUM!

Oh Baby! 23 Weeks

Time is flying…how are we already in mid-March!? This little Grain sure is growing…and moving a ton now! It is so fun to feel him or her doing somersaults in my tummy. So far I have been able to stay pretty comfortable, especially once I figured out how to sleep with a pregnancy body pillow.

It took nearly a week of practice (it is like having another person in bed…poor Matt has no room!) but it is seriously a life saver. Particularly because my preggo brain decided to obsess about sleeping on my left side. We were told that sleeping on either side is fine, but left is best…which meant I would wake up all night just to check which side I was on. The body pillow helps me from tossing and turning and keeps me on my left most of the time.

Another comfort saving grace? My Storq leggings. Recommended by a friend, I splurged and got a few nice basic pieces of maternity clothes from Storq. Now they are my go tos and are SO COMFORTABLE! No pilling, no stretching out, and they look fantastic. High quality and super soft and stretchy…and dare I say fashionable? No rouching or traditional “maternity” looking style here. I am sold. Now I need to find a new bra that I love as much!

I have dedicated myself to continuing to be active, getting to the pool for lap swim and water aerobics at least once a week, and working out at my office gym at least 2x per week with cardio and weights or a class. I feel so lucky to have a gym at work with trainers that can help customize a prenatal workout. It still amazes me how much weight I have gained (gulp!) but my midwife is not concerned and I still feel healthy.

Cravings: kiwi (well, fruit in general) and dairy. Cottage cheese has become my go-to snack, and chocolate milk is my favorite treat.

The biggest challenge I have had is an onslaught of leg cramps. And not your normal “just stretch out your calf” ones either. These are wake-up-screaming-and-cannot-move cramps. Poor Matt has been scared out bed so many times now to help me stretch my leg. My midwife recommended taking magnesium, which I am, and it seems to have decreased the frequency of the cramps, but they still happen about every 3 days.

Little Grain, we are so excited to meet you! Daddy and I talk to you every evening and love to feel you kick and move. You are our constant motivation to keep making house progress, eating well, staying healthy and loving and supporting each other every day.

Another bonus this week…sunshine finally came out in our rainy part of the world! Spring is close!

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