Monday, November 23, 2009

Habitat for Humanity

I've wanted to do a Habitat for Humanity build pretty much forever. So it figures that the firm I work for would sign up for one (All firm! All Friday! Busses, lunch and swanky porta-potties provided!) smack in the middle of my pregnancy. CLEARLY, certain things were going to be off limits for me: heavy lifting, climbing, scaffolding and anything involving chemicals or paint. I spent the week before the build moping around and thinking I was doomed to sit in a corner being all "pregnant" and "restful" while everyone else had fun.

I was SO FREAKING WRONG. Happily, happily wrong.

There was plenty for me to do. The volunteer team leaders were totally understanding and willing to help me find jobs that were appropriate for me and Bean. I started out the day on a team assigned to staple wire mesh over ventilation holes in what will be the attic of the duplex we were working on (I did climb a ladder (bad preggo!) but only 3 steps worth). Once we were finished with that task, my group moved on to some painting and I and another volunteer were assigned to another task: building a tent for the work area. The site manager basically showed me a pile of connectors and aluminum poles (and a METAL SAW!) and said HAVE AT IT! I had such a great time figuring out how to put the thing together and enlisting a large group of my coworkers to help hoist the tent and finish off the project.

At lunchtime, a woman who will be moving into her own Habitat house in a few weeks spoke to us. It made the whole experience so much more rewarding to hear her story and know that we were helping families like hers, in however small a way.

After lunch joined a team working on framing a new duplex. The foundations were laid and we were building a frame for the first wall. There was lots of hammering to be done, and I even got to try my hand at the fancy metal saw! By the end of the day my coworkers had lifted the wall into place (preggo skipped that step) and we all signed the beams before heading home.

I had so much fun working on the site and was amazed at the extent to which the team leaders just TRUSTED US with power tools. Even more so, to the extent which we proved WORTHY OF TRUST with power tools! The sense of accomplishment we left with was just off the charts. The word is, the firm will be volunteering for a build every year from now on . . . I can't wait for next year's!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fleur de Lis Ring

Now, honestly guys? Yes, I have taken a silversmithing course and YES I am capable of making things correctly and perfectly HOWEVER the course I took was in a real live workshop with power tools and rolling mills. Also: I AM LAZY. Which all adds up to mean that the pieces I produce at home are often made pretty quickly and in a "just throwing this together for fun" fashion rather than "OMG MUST BE PERFECT BECAUSE MY TEACHER IS WATCHING" way. And in the end? I think that works out. I like for things to look beat up, old, imperfect . . . the whole theme of my Etsy shop is upcycling things that are old and rusty.

To that end, I'm pretty fond of wonky bezels, oxidized sterling and pieces that come out looking like a Viking could've worn them. Like this one:

I made the band by stamping a strip of silver with a fleur de lis metal stamp (and a hammer!) and paired it with a bezel set onyx with an oversized back plate. I finished the piece off by oxidizing the whole thing, then polishing or a bit of shine and dimension. The whole ring took about an hour and a half to make.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Second Trimester Extra Energy . . . Going Strong!

You guys, we got SO MUCH done this weekend. Like, it is almost worth breaking it down into several blog posts. You know what? I WILL. But I'm still going to give you the overview all at once:

1) New side tables for our living room! Boy and I have a sofa and a loveseat set at a right angle to each other. For the space in between, we've been meaning to find a side table but figured we could hold off until something struck us. Over the weekend, we went to CB2 to use a store credit we had lying around and found THESE!:

They're actually stools, which is uber convenient for when we have lots of people over (Christmas Day Dinner, anyone?) and I absolutely LOVE the beat up, reclaimed wood they're made of. They're super solid and sturdy yet marred and marked up in a beautifully aged way.

Also, on our CB2 rampage, we picked up a set of 8 of these gorgeous, tall drinking glasses and four of these little guys for the Scotch Tasting night we were hosting that evening . . .

2) Yes, I realize that I can't currently taste Scotch. HOWEVER, pregnant ladies do have an excellent sense of smell so I contributed to the evenings festivities by smell-rating all of the Scotch varieties everyone else tasted. I also made cheese and onion pasties. And drank sparkling cranberry juice.

3) On Sunday morning I smithed a new sterling ring that I'm really proud of . . . and will show off later!

4) Then on Sunday afternoon boy and I went out with my parents to look at carpeting for our and Bean's bedrooms and for paint options for Bean's room. Did you know that decent carpet costs as much as a car? BECAUSE NOBODY ADEQUATELY PREPARED ME FOR THAT.

5) Sunday evening I made THREE Christmas presents, which of course I'm not going to post here just yet but which came out really cute and bring me one little step closer to finishing up the Christmas gift prep. I'm about 75% done! HOORAY!

6) And I finished off the weekend by tinkering with one of my favorite Smitten Kitchen recipes. The yellow squash my market had last week looked absolutely pitiful, so I picked up a few gorgeous zucchini thinking with a few tweaks, I could come up with a Winter version of this recipe (is zucchini a winter veggie? I DON'T EVEN KNOW, but the zucchini I picked up looked glorious and the yellow squash was all white and knobby looking). ANYWAYS, I subbed the green onions for shallots, the thyme for rosemary and the squash for zucchini and everything turned out marvelously.

Somewhere in there I managed to finish a book as well. My reading tastes have gone wayyyy downhill since I got pregnant. It is either childbirth and child development or really, really light and fluffy stuff. Sometimes both at once; and I can't even begin to describe the kind of bizarre dreams I come up with after reading 20 pages on breastfeeding followed by 20 on The Loch Ness Monster.

Boy and I have also gotten our feet wet in the search for a daycare center for Bean. Probably a blog post in itself, but for not let it suffice to say THE VAST AND EXPANSIVE RANGE, OMG! In everything: price, quality, facility . . . I'm so glad we started hunting early because I have a feeling we're going to have to see pretty much every available option before we'll feel prepared to make a decision on where we want Bean.

Hope everyone had a nice and productive weekend!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bean Updates

So! I had a great doctor's visit last night. Brought my mom with me so she could hear Bean's heartbeat and also because I knew they'd be drawing blood for the AFP screening and I am A BIG FAT BABY when it comes to drawing blood. It isn't a pain thing, needles just creep me out. They're morbid and freakish and bizarre and just EUGH!!!

Frankly, I'm not convinced I should have consented to the AFP screening. It is a sketchy test with a high incidence of false scary results and I don't want to be coerced into an unnecessary amnio on the basis of a crummy test. HOWEVER, Boy thought I should get it and since I was so on the fence about the whole thing, I went ahead and followed his gut instinct.

ANYWAYS, the blood letting portion of my visit went pretty smoothly and I actually was offered and accepted a Swine Flu vaccine (!!!). Yes, yes, I know this is controversial and it is up to each of us to make our own decisions for ourselves (and our beans, as applicable). I've read the research and I've decided that the Swine Flu vaccine is no less safe than the seasonal vaccine that pregnant women have been given for years. While I'm not a big fan of extra medication or medication for no reason, I feel that the benefits outweigh the risks in my own personal case. I work in a large office, live in a large, crowded city and have Bean to think about as well as myself . . . whether coworkers or others stay home when they're sick is totally outside my control. Getting the shot to protect us WAS within my control. So I chose to go for it.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS, with this whole pregnancy thing, no? Craziness!

My doctor's visit was the last one of the day and since the doctor had to have my mom and I wait for a bit (seriously though, not even that long. 10 minutes maybe?) he decided to compensate by doing a quick ultrasound on a mini, portable machine. So, OMG YOU GUYS I GOT A BONUS ULTRASOUND!!! So! Freaking! Exciting! I don't have printouts or anything since it was just a portable machine but we saw the whole Bean! Arms, legs, head, beating heart and all. The doctor said he couldn't tell the gender, but he also said he wouldn't have told me because Boy wasn't there. Not to worry though, I'll know soon enough! I was told to go ahead and schedule my Level II ultrasound (the big, gender one!) for 19 weeks, a full 2 weeks earlier than I expected to be scheduled.


So, REALLY NOSY QUESTION: What is the proper doctor's office pee protocol? Like, HOW MUCH PEE do you provide? Half cup full? Just an inch? A centimeter? HOW COME NONE OF THE BABY BOOKS COVER THIS?

And I'll sign off with that thought as well as a recent belleh photo:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Random Rambling

* I took a trip to the office kitchen and saw that our Halloween candy bowl now contains a) a Dum Dum, b) a Starlight Mint and c) a blue Jolly Rancher. We should really just toss the candy and put it out of its misery, right?

* Which reminds me of the time my parents and I were on a train from York to London and we got stuck for HOURRSSS due to "leaves on the rails". You'd think trains could just GO OVER THE LEAVES and all, but you'd be wrong. So, of course, since this leaf situation has been stewing all day, there are like a million people crammed into this one train which is stuck on the rails in the middle of nowhere (with sheep). My dad and I managed to score seats but only in the "Quiet Car" where no cell phones or loud conversations are allowed. About an hour in to the delay we pool our coins and I go off to the cafe car for some crisps. When I get there I am told that they are sold out of everything but Polo Mints and Champagne. I report this back to my dad which OF COURSE, since it is hilarious and since we are in the Quiet Car, prompts a fit of uncontrollable, side splitting laughter on both our parts. We nearly got kicked off that train to hang with the sheep outside.

* I realize those two thoughts are tenuously related.

* But it is FRIDAY tomorrow, people! And I am getting a little antsy over here!

* I have a wedding to go to this weekend. Anyone want to take bets on whether any of my party dresses will fit?

* I am mostly worried about the boobs.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jumping on the preparedness train

So, as I hinted yesterday, I want to try natural childbirth. It is something I've been thinking about, in the back of my mind, pretty much forever. I've just always felt a) that I must be capable if women have been delivering without drugs since the dawn of humanity and b) that doctors and scalpels are SCARY.

Let me make this clear from the get go: I am opting to try natural childbirth mostly from a position of wanting to avoid scary doctors and their scary knives. The concept of a C Section freaks me out FAR MORE than the concept of a painful 36 hour labor.

Having said that, let me also make it clear that I have a VERY healthy respect for the fact that I have no idea what I'm getting myself into. I've never been in labor, obviously, and by many accounts I've been told it is going to be a million times more painful than I can imagine.

I'm going into this with an open mind. I do have a birth plan and I do have definite opinions on how I want things to go. I also understand that at the end of the day, a large portion of the process is up to Bean and I have no way of predicting how he is going to handle labor and delivery. He could be breech. He could come early. He could be HUGE. I just don't know, and because of that I haven't imposed any rigid "rules" on myself.

If I find myself in an extraordinarily difficult or long labor, I will accept an epidural. If Bean is in distress, I will accept the possibility of a C Section. If I leave that hospital with a healthy baby then I DID IT RIGHT. Regardless of what my ideal may be and how the actual experience may differ from my ideal.

I'm not going into this blind. I've started to do my research, and I know I have much more to learn. I've read "Your Best Birth", "Ina May's Guide To Childbirth" and watched "The Business of Being Born". I've also got a copy of "Spiritual Midwifery" in my to-be-read que, and I'm open to suggestions for more reading and viewing (hint! hint!). I know that I've barely cracked the tip of the information iceberg. I have been doing prenatal yoga almost every night and have been paying special attention to my breathing, and to how my breathing affects my body. I've been feeling out the doctors at my OB practice to determine how open they are to the concept of natural childbirth, and how supportive I can expect them to be. I'm doing my best to prepare for this experience, and to be realistic about what I'm getting into.

I've made certain decisions already that I feel will help up my odds of delivering naturally, or at the very least avoiding a C Section. I will not be induced. I understand that if I am extraordinarily late I will be pressured to induce, and, if that happens, I am determined to try natural induction methods before chemical methods. I will avoid Pitocin at all costs. I will flat out refuse Misoprostol / Cytotec, whatever the circumstances. This is not to judge anyone who has taken the induction route, only to say that I've seen the evidence that induction leads to a higher incidence of epidurals and C Sections, and that evidence has convinced me to avoid it.

The hardest person to convince of all this? Boy. He started out saying "I just don't want to watch you in pain for 6 hours". Of course, I laughed at him and told him WE SHOULD BE SO LUCKY to have a 6 hour labor. The next time he said it, he was up to 12 hours. Then 18. He is starting to see that I don't want to do this for egotistical reasons. No, I do NOT think that they'll send me home with a medal along with my baby if I pull this off. My main goal is to avoid unnecessary medication and intervention in order to have the safest experience and recovery for Bean and for myself.

And that, blogfriends, is where I stand.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Today, there will be bullet points.

But sharpen up your pitchforks, ladies, because tomorrow it is going to GO OFF. I'm working on a post about natural childbirth. YOU'RE WELCOME FOR THE WARNING. I've been reading a lot about it and I've formed a few opinions and I'm going to express them, right here on this blog. I'll be jumping into the deep end of the pool, so to speak . . . as I know this is one of those hot button topics, like vaccines! And breastfeeding! And going back to work!(PS: I have opinions on all those things too. My little blog is growing up! It just may stir up some controversy after all.)

Today, however, I'm going to keep it light around here:

* I'm doing a giveaway via StyleLush! Head over there to enter to win a free pair of coin earrings or a free coin bracelet . . . winner's choice!

* Last night, because I am fourteen inside, I went to Bath and Body Works to buy a stash of their new Twilight Woods stuff. Yes, because it has the word "Twilight" in the name. SHUT UP! I tried their new Winter Formula Shower Mousse, which is nice and a fun alternative to soap, but nothing groundbreaking in my opinion. I also got a tube of their newly reformulated Body Cream, which I have to say kinda blew my mind. I love how Bath and Body Works creams smell (you don't even need perfume!) but they've always been kind of irritating and not the most moisturizing thing out there. This new formula is actually a huge improvement. It contains some of the same ingredients (milk proteins, for one) that are in my favorite splurge body cream and, while it isn't quite as good as the splurge, it is a reasonable alternative for everyday. So, consider this a good ol' virtual pat on the back for B&BW! Well done, guys.

* I posted this on Flickr as well, but in case anyone didn't see it there, I thought I'd post it here too. I'd hate for anyone to miss THREE MINUTE MICROWAVE CHOCOLATE CAKE. Yep. Seriously. I printed the recipe ages ago and had it tucked in the back of my recipe binder thinking I'd NEVER try it because, seriously, like that bs is going to work, right? Then one day last week I went to the bank and there were photos of CAKE everywhere. Then my husband IM-ed me that they were having CAKE at his office for someone's birthday. And did you guys catch the part about how I'm pregnant? I wanted cake so badly I could've ripped my eyeballs out. I pulled out the recipe and to my shock and delight, a few minutes later I was eating gooey chocolate cake. Recipe reprinted below (I want to give credit where it is due, but I can't find the link where I originally printed it from! The same recipe can be found here.)

1 Coffee Mug
4 tablespoons flour (plain flour, not self-rising)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil (I used canola)
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (the recipe says optional, but DO THIS! They get all gooey and melty and fantastic.)
Small splash of vanilla

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well.
Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.
Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla, and mix again.

Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed! (Or, just use a really big mug like I did)

Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.

So, who's having cake tonight?