Henna, where for art thou?

Not trying to complain but oh, I miss putting henna in my hair at night!  My roots are so long.  I feel so much prettier without them.  But I switched to overnight henna applications because when I walk around the house with hena in, even with the mud under a plastic wrap, little specks of dried henna escape and I find them in odd places around the house… the last thing I need is for it to stain the floor or a carpet or spend more time scrubbing up stray specks while my baby is crying.  So overnight it is.  But between my 10-day-old baby and my two preschoolers I am just soooo busy right before bed.  And too tired to lie down, settle baby in to sleep with evening cluster feeding, and then get up to put it in.

Putting in henna is kind of an ordeal, even for the experienced.  The whole process takes me about 40 minutes: I seperate out my natural blond streak and put it in a little hair clip, then divide my hair into sections with regular hair clips.  I apply the henna in in the shower (without the water running).  That part is really fast: henna is on in under ten minutes. Then I wrap my hair up, then turn on the shower and rinse off both me and the shower floor, then rinse off whatever came in contact with the henna: hair clips, henna applicator bottle, etc.  Do you think I can do this without baby waking and asking for me to come back?  Moreover, I don’t think I can get out of bed once she lulls me to sleep with oxytocin 🙂

I actually stirred up some henna the night I ended up going into labour because I knew the birth was imminent and if it wasn’t going to be that night, I wanted to get it done.  Perfect example of ignoring labour, the best advice for having a lower or no medical intervention birth.  That worked out perfectly!  Counting my blessings!  Just not measuring my roots 🙂


Once a Month Meals – March 2014: first recipe done!

Y’all might as well know that I am a dedicated freezer cook.  I use the Once a Month Meals/OAMM site (né Once a Month Mom) all the time to simplify batch cooking and freezing.  It has truly enabled our family to eat healthy/healthier foods even though my husband and I both work full-time and I work 12-hour shifts half of the month.  Our family has two preschoolers and on 26 February we welcomed our third, a little baby girl!  I am a vegetarian so I always choose veggie recipes or I vegetarianize 🙂 standard recipes.  I really love that site and how much stress it has relieved from our daily lives–dinner is on the table!!!

So how about a little review of how I hit this month’s menu?  With a newborn in the house a 12-hour cooking day is totally impractical.  So I did my usual: start anywhere, usually with the recipe where I have the most ingredients currently on hand, and freely adapt ingredients and cooking instructions to what I have on hand and how much cooking time I can do.

OAMM published the March menu on the first during daytime hours in the US, and here in Europe when it appeared during my daytime hours on March 2 I cooked up Stephen’s Healthy Lentil Bowl yesterday as I already had everything for the recipe on hand.

Recipe? Stephen’s Healthy Lentil Bowl

Was it easy to make? Is it easy to serve?  Yes, easy with clear instructions.  You simply heat and serve the frozen meal so that’s easy to serve!

Any adjustments?  Yes, I used spinach instead of kale as kale is out of season here in Belgium and I can’t source it.  I always add uncooked spinach to the cooled dish since it will cook during reheating.  I used half red and half Beluga lentils as I didn’t have enough red lentils for the recipe.  I should have ground the cardamom & coriander seeds as my husband and I didn’t care for them whole.  I put them in whole as I was worried baby would wake up imminently so I skipped the spice grinder.  The recipe calls for whole coriander seeds – very traditional in India, but we would have liked it better ground.  I think it needs salt, and/or to cook the lentils in bouillon.

Would you make it again?  Would you recommend it to others?  Not for my family, no, but it was alright for lunch for me.  My preschoolers don’t like spinach yet.  I tried to influence them to eat more by asking DD to stir the spinach into the cooked lentils, and DS to serve but they just ate a little.  Only I ate my bowl.  I froze it in small size freezer bags rather than the recommended larger ones since it’s obvious no one else is going to eat this when I reheat it 😛  It’s in my Google Calendar already scheduled as a lunch for later this month.

Conclusion: A healthy dish and a change of pace recipe, but I doubt I will make it again since only I ate it.  But many, many thanks to the generousity and kindness of the recipe’s author (and husband) for sharing this unique recipe!  You can’t please everyone, and there are plenty of people out there who will like it 🙂

Save money sewing – new mothers edition

There are some great tips in blogland on how to save money sewing.  My friend Cidell sagely advised, “sew underwear, coats and activewear”.  True!  Those RTW items are on the high end, whereas the skill level and materials needed for lingerie and activewear is on the low end.  Great return on investment.  I can’t talk about sewing coats though since I’ve never tackled sewing one.

For new parents though, and in general most people who sew are women (a pity!), the other money savers are to sew your own:

  • Cloth nappies – try the Rita’s Rump Pocket free download, it fit my newborn son and went all the way up till he was 2.  It dries fast too, I could use it without a dryer.  Highly, highly recommended!  With a young baby I stuff these with a microfibre cleaning cloth and it did the trick, an older baby will need more absorbancy.
  • Cloth baby wipes – even easier.  You sew a square that looks the right size for your hand.  Wash with regular clothes unless very stained, then you might prefer washing with nappies, or if you don’t use cloth nappies, wash a load of regular laundry with a prewash added.
  • Cloth menstrual pads, aka ‘mama pads’ – whoa another money saver, and healthier for you and the environment.  Trace off around a disposable pad whose size/style you like, then sew with flannel and a couple layers.  If you make a winged pad you might prefer the inside layers to be without wings or the wings get too thick to wear comfortably.
  • Maternity clothes and nursing tops in particular if you are breastfeeding: they are really expensive otherwise.  Jalie has a few maternity/nursing patterns, and their nursing camisole and soft nuring bra pattern, Jalie 3131, is a real deal!  I haven’t tried their patterns yet but Lekala has a good selection of affordable download patterns for maternity: Lekala maternity patterns

Actually, all three of these projects are great to do at once with a large piece of cotton flannel (a flannel sheet also works here).  The Rump Pocket nappy will have lots of space between the winged edges, where you can cut out mama cloth or mama cloth inserts.  All of the materials are the same, and everything is the same colour, so when your nesting burst of energy hits thread your sewing machine and turn them out 🙂

Cloth diapering is much cheaper than using disposables, even when you factor in laundering them.  Personally I found them much easier to use than disposables too.  Every time I noticed we were running low on nappies, I’d put baby down and put in a load of diapers, and two hours later hang them out to dry.  It was much easier than running out after dinner to buy diapers for the morning, or taking out the trash every other day.

If you know of a good DIY nursing pad, please share in the comments!

I tried making 3 or 4 ply flannel nursing pads when preparing for the birth of my son, but wasn’t over-awed with the results, so I will recommend them conditionally as nusing pads worked best for me when they had a waterproof layer and weren’t bulky.  The DIY flannel ones were okay to wear at home, because they leave a very definite line under the bra.  They’re breathable, so good to use when dealing with irritation or candida–but you have to take out a damp nursing pad right away or the soggy flannel will just worsen the irritation – which is alright if you have several pairs to rotate.  Fortunately, pretty soon your milk production will regulate itself and you won’t have stains, so this is short-lived.  With DS I had already breastfed my DD (and used RTW nursing pads) and my supply regulated so quickly I had practically no need of nursing pads.  Yay!  Bottom line: recommended while your milk supply is adjusting as a back-up to more sophisticated nursing pads.

Breastfeeding pillow: this is probably a money saver, but I have never priced the project out as I got a great Boppy pillow from my DSIL, and DH gave me a high end organic body/nursing pillow awhile pg to make sleeping more comfortable.  Do you have any experience to share with making nursing pillows?

Ultimately, if you compare like with like you’re saving money: your custom-made projects are much cheaper than what you could hire someone to make for you.  But if you are comparing a deeply discounted tee shirt with one you made yourself, the RTW might be cheaper… although with clothing factory safety and worker protection of garment workers internationally those are other factors to consider.  If you want to sew, go sew!  Enjoy it!  If you’re on a budget, focus on items that are in your skill reach and cost a lot more to buy.

Activewear for new mothers

This time I have started planning ahead for what to wear when baby comes because I know a little bit about the whole thing.  Keep it easy.  Elastic and lycra are your friends.  Keep your hard-worked tummy covered, because it’s going to be quivery or wobbly and having it covered and supported will make you feel better.

The thing I can’t wait for (am I an alien?) is the green light to return to working out.  It’s usually six weeks after the birth. Shall we look at some workout planning together?

  • Are you going to exercise at home or outdoors with your baby, or without baby at a gym?  I.e. do you need indoor but private clothes, indoor and publically seen ones which will need to be spiffier but will get less exposure to baby stains, and do you need outdoor clothing for you and baby.
  • Are you planning on breastfeeding at this point, or would like to keep the possibilities open on this (will see how it goes)?  You might really like getting breastfeeding accessible clothes so you don’t put you and a squalling baby into a frustrating situation.  Nursing accessible clothes will also be usable for pumping, so you can get dressed, nurse, express milk for a bottle and then go do you workout with milk on standby to avoid interruption.  And of course you can expect to get the big weight loss that breastfeeding does as you transfer your pregnancy fat stores to baby.  You’ll keep the last 2kg/5lbs while doing lots of nursing, but your body won’t keep holding on to it once your baby starts taking in solid foods or you supplement with artificial baby milk.
  • Do you plan on sewing some or all of your activewear?  If you’re doing RTW you do the usual shopping around with an eye for styles and fabrics that will work best for your new body, and with sewing you’re in the driver’s and designer’s seat so you can tailor everything to your wants.

So start your calculations:

My likely birth day (after the 40-week mark) is in early March 2015–let’s make it easy for calculation purposes and say 1 March.  I plan to work out at home with primarily double kettlebell workouts since they cover strength, cardio and flexibility in the bare minimum of time.  I will also be doing some walking outside while babywearing under my husband’s big stretchy polarfleece cardigan jackets, and a little biking with baby in a carseat secured to a specialized suspension for my cargo bike (bakfiets).  Finally, I plan to be breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and I have a a double electric and portable (battery) Medela breastpump–the only way to combine nursing and going back to work, IMO!  I think I just talked myself into preparing a bottle for uninterrupted workouts… never thought of that till I was writing!  I plan to sew my clothes.

So if baby comes in the next week or so on 1 March, for the first six weeks or so you’re in stage 1: you’ll need to recover from the exhaustion of pregnancy and rest for caring for a newborn.  Breastfeeding is nature’s way of keeping you rested since it’s generally a seated activity, and your baby will want to nurse a lot.  This is healthy and natural, and will pay you back by giving you a bountiful milk supply to speed up weight loss on your side, and weight gain on baby’s side–when you have lots of milk and bub is heavier s/he will be able to wait a little longer between feedings.  Exercise at this stage is limited to looking after baby, domestic upkeep, and short walks or shopping trips.

My Stage 1 clothes is going to be the dreaded fourth trimester–still waring some maternity clothes–and some generously cut elastic waist skirts.  Skirts are so much more flexible with weight than pants are.  I will try on my pre-baby Jalie yoga pants, which have that nice convenient wide waistband, but I am not counting on them looking good on me.

Around the six week mark it will be about the time your doctor will approve that you go back to more intense exercise than light walking.  It’s a good time to schedule getting some new toys to motivate you!  I am ordering a matching set of kettlebells to arrive then, and want my first batch of postpartum (read: larger, especially in the waist) workout clothes ready and waiting to jump into.  If you sew, look for clothes with side seams so you can take them in.  Foldover fabric waistbands are great to give your tummy some support and not pinch a soft waistline.  The downside is they visually add some bulk in an area where you’d rather not, so check if a regular elastic waistband is going to fit your legs and not give you a big, un-camouflage-able muffin top.  This is admittedly more important if you will be working out in public at a gym, where you won’t have a baby carried in a sling in front of you to camouflage fluff 🙂

If you are nursing or pumping, remember that lactating will raise your body temperature.  So plan on being a little hotter than you think you’ll be.  If you’re sewing, why not use up the last pieces and keep your hair off your neck with a matching headband, or dare I say it, scrunchy?  Are you wincing?  I read that scrunchies are less likely to leave a ponytail dent like elastics are.  That alone would be worth it…  Well, maybe for home exercisers…

Weightlifting, kettlebells, walking and biking are not high-impact sports.  So I plan on using Jalie 3131 (crosscheck) to make some basic nursing bras to wear under my criss-cross tops.  I will use them again later on in summer so I’ll make them in a basic neutral so they will look good with all of my workout clothes.

So if a mother gives birth on 1 March it will be around April 15 when you can go back to working out.  What is the weather like around you at that time?  Google your location and ‘climate’ or ‘annual weather’ to see what you find.  Early spring here in Belgium is cold enough for my morning (that is the plan) workout time that long yoga pants or knee-length crops will be msot comfortable.  I am planning to wear sleeveless, matching colorblocked versions of Jalie 2787 criss-cross top that has invisible nursing access!  It will stil be cold enough that when I start working out I’ll want to wear a big tee shirt over everything to peel off.

Stage 3:  Time to plan for a period when you will be a little trimmer, and might have noticeably gone down a size.  For my body this happens around 4 months of breastfeeding.  Your weight loss will slow down around this point so you won’t have to keep rotating your clothes every four months.  This is also the time when you can more confidently wear regular waistbands, and can branch out to clothes without side seams having a bit more confidence that you won’t have to wrangle with taking in the sides significantly.

The big thing to note is that at Stage 3, around 4 months postpartum, the weather might be very different, and your capacity to do more intense, sweaty workouts will be higher.

So a March baby will put me in Stage 3 in July.  July is hot around here.  In July 2014 I flopped onto the counch and turned the fan on whenever I was at home.  Sometimes Belgium starts summer a little later, but once it starts, it stays for a few months.  So the crisscross top will probably be too hot to even think about doing advanced double kettlebell with.  Jalie to the rescue!  3131 includes a nursing camisole pattern, which on its own for my figure won’t provide enough support, but with another layer of nursing bra underneath will be fine.  The yoga pants and clamdigger crops will be too hot though for working out at home.  I’m not going to force myself prematurely into biking shorts and a camisole though, since I think I’ll still feel fluffy then.  Nine months up, nine months down.  But the Jalie swim shorts and running skirt will be a little more flattering.  I have tried some kettlebells before in my regular clothes skirts and the skirt got in the way, so maybe more so the swim shorts.  These will absolutely be at-home, indoor use only for me because their hemline is a lot shorter than anything I’ve worn in ages over bare legs.

When fall rolls around I can pull my spring yoga pants, crops, and sleeveless criss-cross tops back out again, which will hopefully be looser by then.  But they probably will be wearable without taking in the sides or unpicking and resewing in waist elastic since I plan to make them a little snug postpartum just for this purpose.  Thus I’m going to choose fabrics that will look good in both seasons.  Because I’m not going to want to make lots of sewing and workout time with full time work, two preschoolers and a baby around.