Thursday, April 27, 2017

What I’m Loving Lately 83

Hi, friends! Happy Friday!

I feel like I haven’t written a What I’m Loving Lately post in ages. WHERE does the time go? Ha! Well, since it’s been a few weeks now, I have quite the round-up for you. SO MANY FAVORITES. Seriously, these are things that I am really crazy about right now! Feel free to check ’em out or let me know if you have questions about any of them. Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Whey 2 Be Cookie – My gosh, this cookie is amazing… well, ok, it’s amazing for a protein cookie. I’ve tried other brands, and they usually taste pretty artificial, but the Chocolate Chip one from Whey 2 Be is the bomb. It really was like eating dessert!

IMG_4015 (1)

The Ultimate Book of Vehicles – Qman is LOVING this book lately! It’s actually really cool. Even Mal and I had a fun time playing with it! 🙂

It’s basically the ultimate flap-book with all sorts of pop-ups, pull-tabs, rotating wheels, and more!

Check out all of the moving pieces!

And all of the cool stuff you can see inside the various vehicles!

Quinn especially loves the space ship that takes off into space. Guys, this book rules in so many ways! It’s perfect for the kid that love all kinds of vehicles and flap-books!

Our new DTFN video –  It’s awesome and explains how our software works! Definitely check it out if you’re thinking about signing up!

Orangetheory – Ahhhhh, I’m so in love! It’s THE BEST workout. You’re moving the entire time you’re in class, so you really do get the most bang for your buck. The workouts are a combo of running (or walking) on the treadmill + strength (dumbbells, body weight movements, BOSU, TRX) and rowing. The strength part is almost like mini CrossFit AMRAPs. I’m truly obsessed and, now that my hip is feeling better, I want to go ALL THE TIME!

15 Pantry Staples for 15-minute Dinners – Lots of great ideas in this round-up!

Big Little Lies – THIS SHOW. Holy cow. It’s no The OA (I still think that might be my favorite show ever), but, man, it’s up there for sucking you in! Mal and I plowed through this series in about a week. It’s about a bunch of mothers (of first graders), who live in California and have seemly perfect lives, but they eventually unravel into a murder. It’s really good!

Collapsible food container – I shared a photo of this collapsible food container when I was on my way down to NYC last week. I got a few questions about it, so I wanted to share the details here. It’s an awesome little container and it collapses down nice and neat after you’re finished with it. It awesome for travel and even comes with a fork/spoon!

Nutrition in Immune Balance (NiMBAL) – I just heard about this website and just had to share. It’s devoted to using diet to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and it’s a great resource.

Spring favorites – Now that it’s officially spring in southern Massachusetts, I’m loving all of my new fashion finds!

favorite spring looks

Top left: Brooks Heritage Vanguard (on sale for $52.99 + free shipping)

Top right: Brooks Ghost Crop (best EVER) + Champion Women’s French Terry Funnel Neck Top (I wear this ALL the time and it costs less than $20)

Lower left: Sanctuary Pilot Bomber Jacket (true to size, 30% off right now) + Ganesh Classic Tank (on sale for $29.99)

Lower right: Sperry Seaside Perfs (they run a little small, so order 1/2 size up)

Question of the Day

What are you loving lately?

What’s up for the weekend?

We have ZERO plans other than friends coming over on Sunday afternoon.

 

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Darth Vader Piggypack

I wasn’t planning on publishing a second post today, but I had time + photos from my morning so in the spirit of this morning’s post, why not!? Thank you all for your comments and kind words. It’s crazy how many of you have been reading for so many years!

As seen above, I had a pancake, egg, and mango for breakfast. I used the Great Harvest pancake mix, and I guess I made one-too-many chocolate chip pancakes for Mazen because that silly boy found me while I was getting dressed and said (in his cutest grown-up delivery): “Mommy, you forgot someping in my breakfast. The chocolate chips. So I got them for you and put them back already.” He had gotten them out of the pantry, unscrewed the lid, poured a handful on his pancake and returned the jar to its spot. I wasn’t sure whether to be super proud of this independence or remind him that I am the chocolate gatekeeper!

I recently bought this bulletin board at Target (with these marble and rose gold push pins!!) and hung it in the kitchen to display M’s school calendars and other papers we might need to reference. He has decided it’s his new job to cross off each day with a marker now, and I’m pretty sure this task is the highlight of his day!

Darth Vader wanted to come to school today, and he was too big for the backback, so I tucked him into M’s shirt and he rode piggyback-style all the way there! It was quite the site with the R2D2 helmet to match : )

I spent the morning working and then went for a run around noon on the greenway with Gussers.

We walk/ran about 4 miles, and it was a hot one out there!! I think this was the reddest my face has been since last summer:

Post-shower lunch was a quesadilla with leftover roasted veggies mixed with some leftover chili beans from a Blue Apron dinner. The mole spice was SO epic that I must re-create this recipe! I love how they show you what’s actually in the spice blend on the website so you can make this dish again. (See it here!)

I’m going out to dinner tonight with a friend or two, so check Instagram for the dinner recap!!

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Natural Pain Relief During Labor: 7 Proven Techniques

130eddb5-6180-4bbc-bb2a-81099bf6e20cToday’s guest post is offered up by a good friend of Mark’s Daily Apple—Genevieve Howland, aka Mama Natural.

Very few people embrace pain. Sure, we’ve all said “no pain no gain” at the gym. But, as humans, we have a primal, hardwired instinct to seek pleasure and avoid pain. And that’s what makes childbirth such a loaded experience. Because, yes, there is usually pain (some like to say discomfort) involved in childbirth.

And, unfortunately, the process of childbirth seems to be getting harder… or at least longer. Based on 140,000 childbirths, research shows that today’s moms labor an average of 2-3 hours longer than the mothers of 50 years ago. Births in the late 1950s and 60s were compared to births from 2002 to 2008. The study points out that moms are now heavier, older, and are more likely to use epidural anesthesia.

Why does childbirth last longer these days?

Two potential culprits:

  1. Sedentary lifestyles. Our bodies weren’t made to sit in desk chairs for 40 hours a week or recline in a carseat for several hours a day. This is doubly true for pregnant women. Childbirth is a marathon event, and mama needs to train. Also, an active lifestyle encourages baby to assume a more optimal position for birth.
  2. Epidurals. Epidurals increase the amount of time a mom spends laboring by at least two or three hours according to a 2014 study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology. Epidurals can come with other side effects too, like longer recovery times and slower initiation of breastfeeding. Not to mention the discomfort of being confined to your bed during labor while hooked up to a catheter.

So, what’s a primal mama to do? Well, thankfully, there are many natural (and proven) ways to offset the pain of childbirth.

Here are 7 proven natural pain relief techniques during childbirth.

1. Hydrotherapy

Women are instinctively drawn to water during childbirth for the feeling of buoyancy and comfort it provides. And turns out, water birth can also be a great pain reliever.

In several studies, women who gave birth in water had less need for pain medication, and in some cases, no need at all.

Giving birth in water also reduced overall labor time by about 90 minutes per this study as well as this one.

Not only do water births result in less use of pain medication, women’s perceptions of pain are also significantly lower. In one study, women giving birth out of water ranked their pain score at nearly 7 on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the most painful). The moms who gave birth in water reported a pain score of only 3½.

Mama Natural Week By Week Guide to Pregnancy book water birth illustration tub mama labor delivery

2. Touch

Touch stimulates the release of oxytocin, an incredible hormone that stimulates uterine contractions, boosts mood and feelings of optimism and you guessed it, acts as a pain reliever. Have your partner hug or hold you in-between contractions to help ease the discomfort of labor. You could even employ a massage therapist.

In one study, laboring moms who received massage therapy had less pain, anxiety, and significantly shorter childbirths. These moms also suffered less from postpartum depression, too.

Another way to incorporate touch is with acupuncture or acupressure. Acupuncture is effective for chronic pain so it would make sense that pressing on certain acupuncture points may help during childbirth. (For example, focusing on the Urinary Bladder 60 point is often used to increase circulation and provide pain relief in the body.)

You can also have your partner or midwife apply counter pressure to your lower back and do a double hip squeeze to help manually open your pelvis during labor to get a stuck or stalled labor (and baby) moving!

Acupressure during labor - Illustration from The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth

3. Breath work

In any good childbirth education class, you’ll hear about “breathing” as a way to cope with the pain. I was a bit skeptical of this one, but I’ve been proven wrong by a boatload of medical research.

For example, a study from St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center found that women with painful conditions such as fibromyalgia experienced less pain when they focused on controlled breathing at a slow rate.

Why? Probably because focused breathing calms the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for—you guessed it—pain.

On the flip side, other studies have demonstrated that focused breathing actually increases our pain threshold.

Your breath has a rhythm that’s actually quite similar to a birth contraction. There’s a peak (the top of inhalation) and then a release (exhalation). If you can stay “on top of your breath”—that is, stay in charge of the pace of your breathing—then you’ve got a good shot that your labor will be more manageable.

While there are plenty of breath patterns you can learn about and research, I think simplest is best: steady inhale through your nose for a few seconds, followed by a calm and steady exhale for a few seconds.

4. Meditation

As you focus on deep breathing, you may want to drift into a meditative state. Just as your body will release stress hormones and adrenaline if you’re watching, say, a scary movie, it will release positive endorphins when you’re focused on gentle breathing or a peaceful image.

In one small study, participants with chronic pain who meditated reduced their discomfort by a whopping 44%! (In contrast, past research indicates that opioid morphine reduces physical pain by only 22%.) You can learn more about meditation with this great beginner guide.

Meditation during pregnancy - Illustration from The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth

5. Movement

As Mark has covered before, sitting is the new smoking. No doubt about it, the human body is not designed to sit from 9 to 5 in an office, and yet many pregnant moms (myself included) are in this camp during their first pregnancy. By moving regularly, we may encourage baby to position him or herself better in our womb.

You can try these desk sitting hacks or special pelvic exercises to keep your hips open and aligned. Regular acupuncture or chiropractic care may also help avoid baby resting in the “occiput posterior position,” otherwise known as a “sunny side up” presentation.

In studies, sunny side up births are associated with:

  • prolonged first and second stages of labor
  • oxytocin augmentation
  • use of epidural analgesia
  • chorioamnionitis
  • assisted vaginal delivery
  • third and fourth degree perineal lacerations
  • cesarean delivery
  • excessive blood loss
  • and postpartum infection

The remedy? Keep your body moving during pregnancy! Movement can encourage your baby to engage in a more favorable position for birth. It also lowers your risk for preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.

6. Special foods/beverages

Starting in the second trimester, moms can incorporate a few special foods to help with childbirth. While these items may not be natural pain relievers per se, they can help moms:

  • have a quicker birth with fewer interventions
  • reduce the length of discomfort during labor
  • plus reduce postpartum pain/healing time

Red Raspberry Tea FTW!

If you talk to any midwife, doula, or crunchy mama you’re practically guaranteed to hear about the importance of drinking red raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy. Known by herbalists for centuries as a uterine tonic, science is now backing up the benefits of this herbal tea.

According to a study from the Australian College of Midwives Journal, red raspberry leaf tea consumption during pregnancy, when compared with a control group, can:

  • decrease the likelihood of pre- and post-term gestation
  • make artificial rupture of membranes less likely
  • reduce the need for a Cesarean section, forceps, or vacuum birth

Perhaps even more convincing is the anecdotal evidence from countless moms who’ve relied on this herbal tea during preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum. Moms have used red raspberry leaf tea to:

  • reduce morning sickness
  • fortify the uterus in VBAC moms
  • strengthen the bags of water
  • balance postpartum hormones
  • and boost early milk production due to its high mineral content

It’s best to talk with your midwife or OB/GYN to see if RRL tea is right for you. The general protocol is to drink 1-2 cups daily starting in the second trimester.

6 Dates a Day?

Another potentially beneficial (and quite delicious) food particularly for childbirth is dates during pregnancy.

According to this study, women who ate 6 dates a day for the four weeks leading up to their due date were significantly more dilated and more likely to:

  • Have intact membranes upon admission to the hospital
  • Go into labor spontaneously
  • Avoid Pitocin
  • And have a shorter first phase of labor

Pretty awesome for just eating some dates, huh?

Researchers have found that date fruit has an oxytocin-like effect on the body, leading to increased sensitivity of the uterus. It also helps stimulate uterine contractions, and reduces postpartum hemorrhage the way oxytocin does. They also found that it contains many nutritional benefits for pregnant mamas.

“Date fruit contains saturated and unsaturated fatty acids such as oleic, linoleic, and linolenic acids, which are involved in saving and supplying energy and construction of prostaglandins. In addition, serotonin, tannin, and calcium in date fruit contribute to the contraction of smooth muscles of the uterus. Date fruit also has a laxative effect, which stimulates uterine contractions.”

Of course these studies are limited, but there’s no real harm in eating dates during pregnancy, so why not give it a try?

It’s best to consume your 6 dates a day with protein or fat rich foods like nuts, aged cheese, or coconut flakes. If you have blood sugar issues or gestational diabetes, talk to your midwife or doctor.

7. Doulas

Where you give birth is important, since around 6% of birth centers and home births end in cesarean versus the national average of 33%. But who is on your birth team is equally if not more important.

Midwife practices have lower intervention rates across the board, but they also tend to attract low-risk women. Birth doulas, on the other hand, can be employed by high risk, hospital birthing moms who want to have more natural births.

The word doula comes from the ancient Greek and means “a woman who serves.” A birth doula is a trained professional who gives continuous physical (non-medical), emotional, and informational support to expectant mamas, laboring moms, and postpartum mothers and families.

A 2012 Cochrane review showed that women who had continuous support, especially from a doula, were:

  • more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth
  • less likely to have any pain medication, epidurals, vacuum or forceps-assisted births, C-sections, or negative feelings about childbirth

Other documented benefits include:

  • higher breastfeeding success rate
  • better maternal self-esteem
  • lower blood pressure during labor
  • and less pain experienced

So yes, natural pain relief during labor is possible

When you find the right support and follow some of the strategies here, you have a great chance of perceiving less pain during childbirth. There’s also a good chance you’ll experience fewer medical interventions, have easier healing postpartum, and enjoy more positive feelings about your birth.

Go, mama, go!

Want to help change the birth culture in our country?

It starts by getting informed. I’ve just published the world’s first week-by-week pregnancy guide from a natural perspective. Featuring insights from a certified nurse midwife (who happened to deliver both of my children), as well as a registered nurse and doula, the book is packed with helpful info on:

  • Natural remedies for common pregnancy symptoms
  • When to get an ultrasound (and when not to)
  • Sex during pregnancy
  • The truth about epidurals
  • How to naturalize a surgical birth
  • Natural pain relief during labor
  • What to do during every stage of labor
  • How to recover naturally
  • And so much more

This book is evidence-based, empowering and entertaining. ? (No boring text books over here!)  If pregnancy is in your future, or if you know anyone who’s pregnant, please consider picking up a copy.

Even if you aren’t pregnant…

Consider purchasing the book and…

  • Donating to your local library
  • Giving to your ob-gyn at your next wellness visit
  • Passing along at a La Leche meeting or baby carrying group
  • Sharing with a pre-med student
  • Keeping in your home library to loan out as needed

This will help us get the word out and change the face of birth in the U.S.!

Best wishes to all the future mamas out there!

I hope every mama out there gets the support and resources she needs to have an empowered and grace-filled birth.

Thanks to Genevieve Howland, aka Mama Natural.for today’s guest post. Have you or someone you know used natural birth supports? Have questions, comments, stories, or suggestions? Share them on the comment board, and have a great end to your week, everybody.

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Rhubarb, Beyond Pie

One of the few truly seasonal foods, rhubarb is available now through the summer. Long red and green stalks of rhubarb are often used as a fruit – think pie, jam, and sweet-tart sauces – but it is actually a vegetable.

Rhubarb facts

Perennial rhubarb plants must be subjected to a hard freeze in order to grow and flourish in the spring. Hearty Midwestern and Northern gardeners are rewarded for making it through the winter when rhubarb is one of the first plants – along with asparagus – to emerge from their gardens.

Rhubarb color varies by growing method and variety. At the supermarket in early spring, you may see thin stalks of bright, ruby-red rhubarb, which was probably grown in a hot house and often has a milder flavor. In late spring and summer, when many farmer’s markets open, don’t pass up the fat stalks of dull olive-green with streaks of pink. This heirloom variety rhubarb was probably grown in a garden patch and subjected to outdoor elements, thus giving it a bolder grapefruit-tart taste for which rhubarb is known.

In terms of food history, rhubarb was reportedly used in China as early as 2700 BC as a medicinal herb. According to The Rhubarb Compendium, rhubarb was introduced to America in Maine around 1800 and became popular in just two decades. During the hard times of World War I, some people were encouraged to consume rhubarb leaves because other vegetables were in short supply; unfortunately, a few people perished as rhubarb leaves are poisonous.

The stalks, however contain good nutrition. One-cup of raw rhubarb contains a good amount of vitamin C (almost 10% of the recommended daily value) and fiber (2 grams,) with only 26 calories. And yes, you can eat it raw.

What to do with rhubarb

If your grandmother was from New England or the Midwest (especially Minnesota!) you may have heard tales of how rhubarb pies were so prized, they were used as currency and swapped for services. Today, most would probably agree that a salmon-pink, sweet-tart strawberry rhubarb pie is indeed worth its in weight in gold.

But uses for rhubarb go way beyond pie. Because rhubarb stalks are 95 percent water, they stew down quickly. A pot of chopped rhubarb with only a spoonful of water and a sprinkle of sugar will turn into a jam-like sauce in less than 10 minutes. Take that sauce in a sweet direction by adding more sugar and vanilla extract, then spoon over hearty whole wheat pancakes, waffles, or a Greek yogurt parfait. For a savory sauce, season with ginger, garlic and Chinese five-spice powder to top pork, fatty fish or chicken.

Chopped rhubarb naturally turns jammy when added to cakes, quick breads, and muffins. It can be mixed with raspberries, blueberries, apples and pears and baked into a big dish of cobbler, crisp, slump, bars or bread pudding.  Because rhubarb tastes lemony, it pairs well with citrus and honey. Orange zest is often added to rhubarb compotes. Rhubarb roasted with olive oil, honey and lemon is served as a side. Balsamic rhubarb quick pickles add a splash of color on a platter of charcuterie.

Rhubarb cocktails are trending. Not only does rhubarb syrup lend a pretty pink hue to a glass, but it adds natural acidic flavors to balance libations.

 

Recipes to try

Rhubarb Compote

Crepes with Blueberry Stuffing and Rhubarb Compote

Sauteed Duck Breast with Rhubarb Cherry Sauce

Pork Chops with Rhubarb, Onion and Raisin Chutney

 

Serena Ball, MS, RD is a food writer and registered dietitian nutritionist. She blogs at TeaspoonOfSpice.com sharing tips and tricks to help families find healthy living shortcuts. Follow her @TspCurry on Twitter and Snapchat.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.



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On Being Real

This is a big year for KERF – the big 10 year anniversary – and I think it’s ironic that what I want most for this site is to go back to basics, back to my roots, and keep it real.

I’ve always had two goals for my blog:

  1. Blog about what feels most natural to blog about. This could mean blogging about my meals, my life, nutrition topics, round-ups, recipes, motherhood, personal life, home organization, and more. Some of you have commented that what you like most about KERF is the variety, and I’m glad to hear it because I share your sentiments!
  2. Share the how behind living a healthy life. From the beginning, I have said that people usually know the What and Why when it comes to making healthy lifestyle choices, but it is the How that is hard to put into action. When I go back to my very first blog posts, along with the topics mentioned above, my mission is to share things that are working for me and things that aren’t. I want to be relatable and to share my tips and tricks along with my struggles and real life experiences. I love having you all along for the ride as we navigate life together as digital friends.

I listened to a Young House Love podcast (love those guys!) recently about how the internet changed and found myself nodding in agreement. I can’t remember exactly how Sherry worded it, but she spoke about how, when blogs were first getting going, their biggest draw was that the bloggers were real people. Blogs were personal, relatable, and approachable, and that’s why readers felt so connected to the writers behind them. In contrast, magazines and other big brand media were formal, polished, and uber professional, but not-so-relatable. During the past 10 years, there has been a shift for magazines to speak more to the everyday person (particularly through social media), and bloggers have upped their game by cranking out magazine-style content.

While I admire and respect the bloggers who turned into big brands with teams of people, in-house photographers, graphic designers, apps, and more, that’s never been what I wanted for KERF. I am my brand, and I like the simplicity, efficiency, and flexibility of working solo. I knew that outsourcing things would take the personality and fun out of it, so I have teetered in the middle, trying to create content that is shareable while also trying to put a realistic, personal spin on my posts. I felt somewhat pulled between the two extremes of a diary-style blogger and a site that produces evergreen, Pinterest-friendly content.

Real life on a Thursday morning –>

That same week, I read this post on A Healthy Slice Of Life and the head nodding continued, especially when Brittany said “oversharing is my love language” – haha!!! Yes. I agree with her thoughts – the only thing I am an expert on is me. (Although even that statement could be questioned…ha.) I am not an expert on nutrition, motherhood, cooking, or even blogging. Bloggers are real people who are allowed to change their minds, make mistakes, and go with the flow. I am always learning and growing and sharing the journey with you all as my friends.

I am extremely fortunate to be able to make a living blogging, and for that, I thank my lucky stars when I get up for “work” each day. When I collaborate with brands on sponsored posts, I still want the experience of real life to shine through. I try to put context on these posts as much as possible so they fit within my lifestyle in a natural way.

As a blog reader, my favorite blogs are those with real life woven throughout. That’s why I continue to share real meals that aren’t shot in a lightbox, to post photos of me and my family enjoying our weekends as they actually happened, and to write about my experiences with brands in the hopes that they are useful or inspiring to you guys in a practical way. That’s my very long-winded way of saying that I hope that me keepin’ it real is still what you guys really want to read <3

Love to you all.

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