As I was puttering around and thinking about the nursery, I realized that I don’t have any crib sheets that fit my new color scheme of pale teal and orange. Not even a single white crib sheet to be found…
But I did have a designer twin-sized fitted sheet from a thrift store set I had bought a couple years ago for just such projects. It was a pinky peachy orange paisley. I had been putting off using it in excess for the nursery even though I love the pattern, if only because we are not finding out the gender of this baby until the big day arrives and, in truth, it seems a teeny tiny bit girly to me. I used some of it for the disappearing nine patch quilt I made earlier in the pregnancy. But then I rationalized that any boy of mine would still be proud to sleep on a handmade crib sheet (or not care anyway), no matter the color. I decided this would be the fabric to test a DIY fitted crib sheet tutorial I had found recently linked to on the Michael Miller fabrics website. I took liberties with teh specific instructions, using it mainly as a guide for the actual size for fabric cutting.
So, here is my fabric… it’s been cut to 45” by 69”, folded into quarters, and 8” by 8” squares have been cut out of each corner (lovely basement floor background, no?).
Then I serged each corner, right sides together… I was lazy and just used the red/gray combo thread that was already threaded in my machine.
Then I serged the raw edges to finish them, incorporating the elastic all the way around as I sewed.
And here it is… on the crib mattress, with the quilt, in the nursery. The sheet was just a little roomy on the mattress, if we want to get picky, but it wasn’t worth adjusting it to perfection and I won’t do anything differently next time (yes, I’m lazy). In total, it took about 30 minutes to make.
I love how it all works together, aesthetically and economically. The crib was purchased (in perfect shape, with mattress and owners manual!) at a garage sale for $35 before we had our first child. It happens to match our garage-sale-found changing table (not shown) exactly, though we did not buy them at the same time. The all white crib bumper was a Value World special at $1.75, and the crib skirt (a white and teal stripe that matches the wall color perfectly) was a Goodwill find for $2.35. Both pristine and completely washable (a thrift store must!). The wool Karastan rug, originally $900, cost me a meager $40 at a garage sale. The little animal hanging off the crib side is a travel-sized Sleep Sheep by Cloud b… purchased new from Amazon for about $20, but worth every penny since it lulls baby to sleep at home or on the go (purchased after our 3rd child). The crucifix was a wedding gift from thoughtful friends, but you really can’t put a price on eternal salvation, now can you? All we need now is a baby! Well, and to finish tidying and arranging the parts of the nursery you can’t see in this picture…
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
As I was puttering around and thinking about the nursery, I realized that I don’t have any crib sheets that fit my new color scheme of pale teal and orange. Not even a single white crib sheet to be found…
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
This past weekend was a lazy one (though “lazy” implies that I was willingly shirking other duties, and I’m not sure that was the case). I had a backache and was very tired, so I spent most of it napping, reading and watching BBC miniseries. Since it’s been a few years since I did the whole “labor & delivery” thing, I find myself in a position to brush up on my knowledge about the process and consider my current thoughts on pain management.
First, some personal history (TMI? Meh. After 3 deliveries, I defy you to find someone who hasn’t seen me in a hospital gown)…
My first child was delivered after a necessary induction at 39 weeks. After taking a birth class (I suppose it was closer to Lamaze than anything else, but it was more generally informative rather than a particular philosophy, like Bradley classes, for example), I had a birth plan… no IV (I hate needles), no planned pain meds but an open mind, and I asked that everyone knock before they entered the room and ask before bringing in students (ours is a teaching hospital). But when I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia and found out that I was going to require continuous IV medication and a catheter, I opted for an epidural. My OB had recommended it since epidurals have a side-effect of lowering blood pressure, and that is the main concern with preeclampsia. The epidural worked like magic… I went from pain-induced vomiting to complete relief. I managed to take a nap, wake up fully dilated and push effectively for 20 minutes until my daughter popped into the world. Overall, the outcome was as good as could be hoped, and the recovery went well.
19 months later, when I was checking into triage for the induction of my second labor for pregnancy-induced hypertension (basically pre-preeclampsia) at 39.5 weeks, I let them know that I was planning to get an epidural at some point. I did not require preeclampsia treatment as I had the first time, but the point did come when I was ready for an epidural. Like the first, it was complete relief… until it wasn’t. I don’t remember everything in stark detail (I was in a lot of pain, after all), but what I do remember is having increased pain with every contraction until I was sure I was getting no relief at all. Unlike the first epidural, this time I had a button to push every so often when I thought I needed a boost for the pain relief, but I was in a situation where this little boost was not nearly enough to do anything for the pain. I let the nurses know this as it was happening, but I don’t recall anyone taking action to get the anesthesiologist back to fix the situation. I don’t think it lasted very long though, and after some very painful but short-lived pushing, my second daughter was born.
Then, 13 months later (“the lipstick was still on”, as my grandmotherly neighbor would say), I found myself back at the hospital with my third birth experience. This time labor began spontaneously at 38 weeks, and I was admitted by a resident who first lectured that my contractions were probably brought on by being dehydrated before conceding that I was dilating and, in fact, actually in labor. I had meant to do more research about pain options during that pregnancy, but with a baby and a toddler and all the joys of pregnancy, it just hadn't happened. I was hoping that my bad epidural was just a one-time thing, but it happened almost exactly the same with the third as it did with the second. Again, I had a beautiful baby (a boy this time) and an ideal recovery, but the pain was not handled well and my “satisfaction” with pain management by my hospital was nothing to write home about.
So… here I am again! Very excited for baby #4, looking forward to labor with more anticipation that worry, but very interested in knowing all my options for pain relief and a sincere desire to have a better birth experience this time. In discussing it with my OB, he made a good point… some women want to carefully orchestrate all elements of their birth experience, and others just want to get through it. He likened it to vacuuming… some people want to see a pattern in the carpet when they’re done vacuuming, and some people just want the vacuuming done so they can enjoy the tidy room. I’m more of a get-it-done person, and this time, I’d like to be more comfortable as I deliver. My OB agrees that I was probably in the most intense pain but without the advantage of having gotten there more gradually, as would have been the case without an improperly functioning epidural, so my two bad epidural experiences may have essentially been my worst case scenario in terms of pain. I certainly survived without emotional scarring, but this time I’d prefer to save the suffering for the first twelve months of sleep-deprivation and the teenage years, thank you very much.
I don’t think that everyone needs pain medication to get through labor… childbirth is certainly natural and undeniably survivable. But also personal and individual. And pain and suffering are not the same thing, and felt differently by different people. Some pain can be good, and many people think this of labor pain. Personally, I am not afraid of labor. But many are, and justifiably so. It is exquisitely painful. There have been documented cases of painless labors without medication, but no one should have any expectation of completely avoiding pain, no matter what sort of philosophies are employed to mentally and physically prepare. Every labor is different, and any number of unpredictable factors might come into play to change the experience (preeclampsia, dystocia, back labor, issues with the baby’s heart rate, etc). Ultimately, the only things that can be counted upon during labor are confidence that it can be done and trust in the people caring for you.
And since knowledge is power, I picked up a couple books at our local library to explore pain relief and coping mechanisms for labor. I have a few books around already, like the ubiquitous What to Expect When You’re Expecting and The Birth Book, but I wanted a more targeted selection. I wanted books that respected women’s decisions to manage their own births, as well as providing actual data… given my biology degree, I understand the importance of proper research in forming conclusions, and I want real data to back up claims of safety or danger, especially the effect of certain medications on the health of the newborn.
The first book, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, was written by a very well respected American midwife, Ina May Gaskin. It was published in 2003. She has delivered thousands of babies with amazing statistics in terms of minimal interventions, cesareans, etc. Her goal is to educate women about their bodies and the amazing things they do during labor and delivery, to replace fear and ignorance with knowledge and to encourage them to have faith that they can do it, successfully and satisfactorily. I found the book to be very reassuring, but possibly not the very best resource for first time moms. Since I’ve had 3 labors already, I know what level of pain to expect. Her book discusses the concept of “orgasmic birth” in addition to outlining many, many alternative pain coping options. I think that presenting the possibility of a natural yet pain-free birth could set some women up for unrealistic expectations which will not serve them well when they find themselves facing the worst of labor pain. I know several wonderful women who had very difficult, prolonged labors, whose pre-labor plans certainly didn’t help them have a “satisfying” labor experience and, truly, made their deliveries and recoveries more difficult than would have been had there been more medical “interventions”. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth aims to empower women to be in control of their labor decisions rather than succumbing to the whims of the medical community at large, and I think that is a good thing, especially given the turbulent history of obstetrics. She has a lot of good advice for laboring without interventions, in a manner that provides emotional comfort and physical support… again, this information is incredibly valuable and makes this book a very worthwhile read, even if you’re planning to get an epidural the minute you’re admitted. But pregnant women should also be well informed of medical pain relief options and be made aware of potential complications in addition to coping mechanisms, and this book does not cover those thoroughly or in a very positive way. Some of the data she provides seems at odds with the research documented in the second book (below), and I can’t help but be suspicious that the studies she cites regarding medical interventions, an area of care she does not provide, were presented in a way that supports her personal view that pain relief is not necessary in a normal delivery and could cause guilt, disappointment and possibly fear to women who ultimately choose medical pain relief in the course of their normal delivery.
The second book I read is Easy Labor: Every Woman’s Guide to Choosing Less Pain and More Joy During Childbirth. Written by William Camann, MD, the director of obstetric anesthesia at a large Boston Hospital, it was published in 2006. This book is much more “medical” than Ina May’s Guide, but offers a very thorough look at all the analgesic and anesthetic pain relief options currently available, as well as many alternative methods (water immersion, birth ball, doulas, etc.). I immediately felt that this book had a bit less of an agenda than Ina May’s Guide, but, being written by an anesthesiologist, was not shy to describe and tout the pain eliminating powers of modern medicine. Perhaps I only felt that way because most American women currently choose medical pain relief so Ina May had to be defensive… the jury is still out. I found it very interesting though, and I appreciated the regular inclusion and citation of research studies that described neonatal outcomes as well as overall patient satisfaction with their labor and delivery experiences. It was interesting to read what decisions doctors and midwives chose for their own labors, and seeing data I felt I could trust about the relative safety of pain medications. I was surprised to learn that there are several types of epidurals, and this might have led to my differing experiences with my 3 labors. I will certainly be more informed when I talk to the anesthesiologist this time around, and I have formed some opinions that will hopefully help me make the right decisions to get satisfactory pain relief when the time is right. This book stressed the ultimate goals of healthy baby and healthy mom, satisfying birth experience and the concept of flexibility when it comes to envisioning your perfect birth, regardless of your pain preferences and initial labor expectations.
After all this educational reading, I am feeling more confident about delivery. I think one of the most interesting new things that caught my attention (from Ina May) was the fact that privacy is a key factor in keeping labor progressing smoothly. During labor, your body is working hard to get a chubby baby out a small space, and this requires concentration and hard work. This feat of womankind is generally accomplished faster and easier without an endless stream of strangers parading through and observing your discomfort. Food for thought…
Friday, January 14, 2011
Last summer, my husband and I travelled to Kansas City for the wedding of my college roommate. It was a great trip for a variety of reasons, a big one being that we did not take the kids (!!). The wedding was lovely and sweet... just like my friend. The reception included a climbing wall, BB guns and an archery range... the perfect party for an outdoorsy couple (she thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail!).
Whilst free of our parental obligations, we also had the opportunity to visit the National WWI Memorial (at our leisure!) and roam a bit of the city (without stopping for bathroom breaks every 20 minutes!). In our wanderings, we just happened to choose a well-reviewed restaurant called McCormick and Schmick’s for an impromptu date. I don’t remember what my husband chose, but I opted for the Salmon Stuffed with Crab and Shrimp. It was SO GOOD! Just the perfect combination, and the thing that really got me was the sauce that topped it. I should have paid more attention to the menu at the time, but the pre-dinner beverages may have had a part to play in that. Anyway, weeks later I was recounting this meal to my older sister, a well-travelled fellow appreciator of delicious food, and she said, “You know, I have a cookbook from that restaurant… ” And it just happened to include the recipe for both the salmon and the fantastic sauce. A buerre blanc, as it turn out. How fortunate!
I have been wanting to try my hand at this decadent meal as soon as it hit my inbox, but sadly that day has only just arrived. I’ve never made a buerre blanc before, but it is reportedly a wonderful accompaniment to any seafood or vegetable. As you might guess from the name, it’s a white sauce, made with wine and butter, and all I can say is WOW! The salmon was easy, just a matter of combining the right ingredients and cooking the salmon thoroughly without overdoing it. I used goat cheese instead of brie (I just forgot what to buy when I was at the store, but it was still incredibly delicious). Both recipes are straightforward and the results are just amazing. I would have bought the whole cookbook just for this. I’m going to write the original recipe, even though I made a few changes and still loved the result. After dinner, I decided that I could easily enjoy it almost as much with unstuffed salmon, and my husband decided that he could love it almost as much without the sauce. For what it’s worth…
Stuffed Salmon with Crab and Shrimp
Buerre blanc (recipe below)Directions:
4 (5 oz) salmon fillets (I used a gorgeous sockeye salmon)
6 oz Dungeness crab meat (I used canned crab)
6 oz bay shrimp (I used 4 oz fresh, pre-cooked shrimp, chopped into small chunks)
6 oz brie, cut into 1/2” cubes (I used 4 oz unflavored goat cheese)
3 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill (I use 2 tsp dried dill weed)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare buerre blanc and set aside. Split salmon fillets lengthwise to form a pocket for the stuffing. Combine crab, shrimp, brie, dill, salt and pepper. Blend in the mayonnaise to bind it together. Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts and stuff each fillet, keeping the amount of visible stuffign to a minimum (I failed at that part, as the photos show). Bake in a buttered baking dish for 10-12 minutes (I baked 12 minutes, then broiled on low for another 3). Transfer to plate and spoon buerre blanc over the fish.Buerre Blanc
6 oz white whineDirections:
3 oz white wine vinegar
3 whole black peppercorns
1 shallot, quartered
1 cup heavy cream (I used 3/4 cup)
9 oz cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (I only used 6 tbsp)
Combine wine, vinegar, peppercorns and shallot in small noncorrosive saucepan. Reduce to 1-2 tbsp of syrup. Add cream and reduce again until its 3-4 tbsp and very syrupy. Remove from heat. Add the butter pieces, a few at a time, whisking constantly, allowing each batch to melt in completely before adding more. Strain and keep warm until ready to use.
Monday, January 10, 2011
I found myself in a dinner pinch recently… no meat, no energy, and very little time. Lucky for me, I remembered a recipe I had encountered on Allrecipes. I was able to whip up a very satisfying and tasty meal in less than 30 minutes, with ingredients I had in my cupboard and freezer, and still had enough energy left over to make a cup of tea and clear the table. Ready? Here is a version of the classic casserole, made without the traditional baking step (I’m sure you could do that, if you’re a purist, but it’s not necessary if you’re in a hurry).
Tuna Noodle Supreme
1 pound uncooked pasta (I used medium shells)
1 package frozen broccoli florets
1 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1-4 oz jar chopped pimiento, drained
2 cans albacore tuna, drained
Cook pasta; add frozen broccoli to pot for last 4 minutes of cooking; drain and leave in pot. While pasta/broccoli is cooking, Microwave oil and onion in medium microwave-safe bowl for 1-2 minutes, until translucent (or cook on the stove, if you prefer). Add in all remaining ingredients and mix well. When pasta/broccoli is ready, pour cream mixture over and mix thoroughly. Serve hot! Leftovers are wonderful hot or cold (pictures were taken the next day). Enjoy :)
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Hello Third Trimester!! And, I suppose, hello as well to all the unpleasantries that come with it...
Today is the first day of Week 28… the official start of the rare and much-sought-after third trimester. The glorious 3 months during which the baby gains 5-7 pounds, the mother gains 12-15 pounds and all hell breaks loose when it comes to bodily alterations for everyone involved. Bring it on, gestation, I can take it!!
Yesterday I totally rocked out my gestational diabetes blood draw. I didn’t cry or kick anyone! I have vasovagal-type needle phobia, so I determine success in these sort of situations by whether or not I break down sobbing in front of the phlebotomist and insist that I lie down. On truly special occasions, I faint. However, I do find the gestational diabetes test to be slightly less horrible than the initial prenatal panel blood draw because a) they only take 2 tubes of blood instead of 5, and b) you get all sugared up with “glu-cola” first so you’re automatically in a better mood. When it comes to needles, I’ll take all the concessions I can get.
It’s really reassuring to have some serious experience going through this pregnancy, because the changes to a pregnant body are just amazing and often frightening. My current woes include heartburn and a snappy back. Not so much painful, but it clicks when I walk and I have the sneaking suspicion that I’ll be waddling soon. Maybe I am already and no one has told me. And in the night I get terrible twinges in my belly when I attempt the act of rolling over, a sign indicating the imminent resignation of any abdominal muscle control I have left. Oh joy! But again, I know that I will be able to do a sit-up again in the future… my hips will go back to how they were… a time will again come when I won’t have to avoid bending at the waist to prevent stomach acid from running into my throat…
In the meantime, there are heartburn treatment options, a comfy couch to sit on, and a maternity support belt for those nighttime pains. I recently tried on a couple varieties of support belts at our local maternity store, but they were either highway robbery for what they were (um, $20 for a piece of cheap elastic with velcro?) or completely non-subtle. You’d need to wear two maternity sweatshirts to hide it. They were, however, quite comfortable and eased the bulging midsection aches as well as offering some back support.
So, since I had a crafting date with a friend planned, I decided to just make one myself. It wasn’t hard, and you can make one too if this unfortunate and very unglamorous item sounds appealing to you for some reason. It involves making 2 separate parts (so you don’t have to step and/or squeeze into it, a tall order when you’re round), and is quite adjustable as you grow. Here’s the low down:
- 1/2 yd mid-weight woven cotton fabric, preshrunk in hot wash
- 16” length of 2” wide elastic (cut into two 8” pieces, seal edges with heat)
- 24” length of velcro loop tape (cut into two 12” lengths)
- 8” velcro hook tape (cut into four 2” lengths, edges rounded to remove sharp corners)
- Coordinating thread
Cut 2 rectangles of fabric 22” by 12” (obviously if you are a very different size than I am, you’ll want shorter or longer rectangles). I used a random bit I had on hand... color was unimportant as I do not intend to flaunt this thing.
Fold both rectangles (separately), right sides together along the 22” length (so you now should see the wrong side of two 6” by 22” rectangles). Fold each 22” long open end back up to the fold. I didn’t take work-in-progress pictures, so I am illustrating this with paper. The last photo is what each each end should look like, “right” means the right side of fabric is visible.
For the front part, take one folded rectangle and stitch along each short end, securing all 4 layers together. Flip inside out (folded edges will come together and all raw edges will be tucked inside) and topstitch along the perimeter. Center the 12” strips of loop in the middle of the rectangle, spacing them so the outer edges are 2” apart, and stitch them on all sides securely to the fabric. It should look like this:
For the back part, take the remaining folded rectangle and tuck once piece of elastic into the center fold on each short side, as shown.
Stitch the short ends through all layers, then flip so all raw edges are tucked inside as you did with the front part, and elastic will now be sticking out of the ends. Topstitch around the perimeter. Fold each end of the elastic towards the fabric leaving 2” of single layer elastic and 3” of double layer. Place one 2” section of velcro hoop tape over the raw edge of the elastic, and stitch in place. Stitch another 2” piece at the fold of the elastic. Repeat for the other end. It should look like this:
It’s done! Just put it on, like so, and feel the relief!
Monday, January 3, 2011
I’m not feeling terribly resolute, folks, but I did spend a little time thinking about what I’d like to accomplish this year. In determining my aims, I tried to be both reasonable and quantifiable, two factors that my wise high school calculus teacher assured me are critical to the success of any plan. He also said they should be written down so you can actually tell if you’ve made progress. So here are some of my personal goals for 2011:
Finish and clean up one project before beginning another. Keep work surfaces tidy and usable.
Ugh! I suffer from the common artsy ailment of too many ideas and not enough time. I’m always experimenting, so I tend to get started on projects, complete enough of it to determine success or failure, then move on without fully putting it away. This leaves me with a piles of odds and ends, tools and materials all spread out and no where to work on fresh ideas without shifting the clutter. It’s inefficient and frustrating, and I want to be better about it. Unfortunately, it tends to extend to the kitchen counters as well, so that’s another area for improvement.
To prepare, my last project of 2010 was to clean up my basement “studio”. It might not be aesthetically pleasing to work immediately beside the laundry facilities, but then, it’s pretty convenient to wash fabrics, iron projects and felt sweaters! It’s definitely a basement, but my husband has given me some very good lighting and it’s about as good a subterranean workspace as I can imagine for myself. Here are pictures of it today, just for the record. Notice that big beautiful rolling storage table for cutting fabric and working on any manner of craft! Thanks, Mom and Dad!! I want it to look that way everyday, so I can just decide what I want to work on and make it happen without the hassle of searching for the right tools or having to clear an area to work.
Give completed handmade (or store-bought) gifts rather than promising to make them.
I tend to happily offer my sewing/crafting services to friends and family without thinking about the time it takes, and then instead of it being the intended gift or favor, it becomes a chore. This is unavoidable to some extent, but I want to plan ahead more or resign myself to buying gifts instead of promising something I can’t deliver without becoming stressed or behind schedule.
Plan ahead 3-4 meals per week. Make fewer trips to the grocery store.
I have never been a very good meal planner, despite several half-hearted efforts in the past. The silver lining is that I’m generally good at making meals with whatever is around, but it’s a skill that doesn’t lend itself to trying new types of recipes. And often I’m missing enough key ingredients that I have to make extra trips to the grocery store, another situation of inefficiency and, sometimes, unnecessary expense. I have a secret project that I’ve started to help tackle this goal, and hopefully I’ll get it working and be able to blog about it for you. Tantalizing clue: I will use MS Access!! I expect this will become more of a priority as my energy levels plummet further and I need to choose projects based on the ease with which they can be accomplished while lying prone on the couch.
Update the family blog at least once every 2 weeks. Schedule at least 1 blog post per week for Domestic Bliss.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. I like to write about what I’m working on, but my family blog, which includes pictures of the kids and family outings, tends to get put on the back burner since our life is *surprise* not terribly exciting on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. But I have siblings and family members around the globe now and, since they spend the time to visit our family blog, they shouldn’t be disappointed. I imagine that after the baby is born, this blog will also be updated less frequently as my projects get put on hold, but I want to keep it up at least minimally and 1 post per week seems reasonable.
Be back at pre-pregnancy weight by the end of 2011.
I’m glad I’ll have about 9 months to accomplish this! This pregnancy is shaping up to be my biggest weight gain yet, and it has me a little edgy (or would that be “roundy”?). I have used Weight Watchers in the past to lose 20 pounds (and keep it off!), so this is my go-to tool for weight loss. Weight has never come off easily for me, so I’m hesitant to even make this goal. That said, I really would like to get back down as soon as reasonably possible (life is more fun when you feel good about how you look!), and I hope that by making it a real aim, it’ll motivate me to take the steps necessary to make it happen. Steps like not making 8 kinds of Christmas cookies…
So, this is not a huge list, as it turns out, but I think it’s just the right amount for me this year. My baby is due in April, so I’ll have plenty of time to prepare and recover (in theory!). Since this is my 4th baby, I have a pretty good idea of how little I’ll be able to accomplish before and after delivery. Years past have seen my housekeeping and cooking skills improve, so I feel pretty good about (generally) not living in a pigpen and (generally) feeding my family nutritious meals. Last year I focused on finding balance with my Etsy shop and family life, and I feel that the two now flow together well and I have achieved a working equilibrium in my motivation and long-term plans for both. Those are all very good things, and I’m feeling pretty optimistic about this year’s priorities too. Wish me luck, and be sure to remind me if you notice I’m not keeping up!!
Happy New Year, everybody!!