On any given day you are most likely to find us communing with the gnomes and the fairies Under The Old Oak Tree

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Of Oak Leaves and Acorns...... A Yarn Along Post

Do you feel that slight nip on the breeze?  It's subtle....but it's there....that first hint in the air that fall is on it's way!  After this miserable, hot summer it makes my heart sing!  I always love that first glimpse that my favorite time of year is on it's way.  I start wanting to cook our family's favorite fall dishes, lots of pumpkin flavored things, cranberry, apple stuffed pork chops, soups, etc.  School starts soon and there's the anticipation of W going off to school a few mornings a week by himself for the first time and all the back to school preparations that need to be made.  His sweater and vest that he wanted for school this year are completed (and still both need to be photographed...but as I  write this he is napping and I'm afraid I will wake him if I try to get them out of his dresser drawer).  I'm working on a pair of socks for him for this year.....struggling to keep working on them.  I love the pattern, but I think the plain blue yarn is boring me to tears.  Hard to work on them when there are more exciting things to knit these days.

Our family's favorite sign that fall is around the corner though is that acorn season seems to be upon us!  W discovered acorns by a parking lot the other day and was beside himself with excitement (I might have been too actually) and we picked up quite a few to start off our yearly collection.  The following day we found more at a local park.  The child is in acorn heaven and this sign of fall is about to start taking over our nature table, and his room, and our cars.  It's just that time of year!

As luck would have it, I've been knitting more little hats for the baby, since our midwife wants us to have quite a few for it as soon as it is born.  I've made several of my favorite pilot caps, but decided a few other little caps might come in handy too.  They are quick and enjoyable to knit.  For the second one I made, I decided to use the cables from the Forever Autumn sock pattern, and repeat it five times around a little cap.  It's darling, but I think the colorway of the yarn might be a little too busy for the cables.  Still, I love that my autumn baby will have some oak leaves on one of it's first little caps, and it matches one of the little sweaters I made for the baby over the summer.

Then I decided that I really need an oak leaf cabled hat too, so I used some Andes Del Campo in Smolder Heather from knit picks that I had on hand and size 8 needles to make myself a cap from the same pattern.  Oh, it is love!  I adore oak trees, leaves and acorns, and I am especially fond of that orangey- golden brown that many oak leaves turn in the fall.  I didn't realize it at first, but this yarn is that color....just beautiful....and it goes with my brown winter coat too!  I couldn't stop with the hat though and also had to make myself a lovely  matching cowl to wear with it (sorry I haven't blocked the cowl yet in the picture.  It just came off my needles this morning.)  I am so excited!  It feels strange and luxurious to knit something for myself again, when I've been focusing so hard on knitting for W and for the baby.  Actually, I don't think I've knit anything for myself in over a year so this is a real special treat!  If I ever get W's socks off of my size 2 dpn's I'm going to finally cast on a pair of the Forever Autumn socks for me too.  I think they'd be a lovely thing to give myself for my birthday this fall!

Okay, so, on to the Yarn Along portion of the post.  I'm joining with Ginny of Small Things for her Yarn Along again.

I'm knitting yet another oak leaf newborn cap out of this lovely green wool tweed yarn (sorry I just cast it on this afternoon).  I'm guessing the leaf pattern should stand out better in the tweed than it did with the busy colorway of the last one I made.  I'm pretty excited about knitting yet another one of these.  I need to come up with something for W with this pattern on it too.  He says he doesn't want a hat or cowl...maybe I'll put it on a Milo vest for him (I may have already done one like this for the baby).  I've almost got the pattern memorized at this point.    Maybe that should be a birthday present for him.  I think he'd like that.

For reading, I've been working my way through The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk. There are several possible reasons I had difficulties with my supply when W was a baby, and I'm trying to be prepared to get my nursing relationship with this little one off to as good of a start as I possibly can.  How I wish I had this book the last time around. You would never know it now, but it was such a struggle to feed W and to get him to actually gain weight as a baby and really I had very little support or knowledge, just a determination that I was going to feed my baby every drop of my breast milk that I could even if I still did have to supplement.  It was so emotionally and physically exhausting.  This time around I have so much more support, and knowledge and experience and I am going into nursing, knowing I've had issues in the past and with a much better idea of how to prevent/ minimize/work through them this time around.  This book is invaluable for any mom who is going through this.  Such a great resource!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Grain-Free Groaning Cake

I mentioned in a previous post that I think most of the reason I'm doing so well energy wise during this pregnancy is that I have made some major dietary changes.  With W, I had diet controlled gestational diabetes and did fine but I feel like I still ate quite a lot of junk during that pregnancy.  I ate the best I knew how at the time, but really, it wasn't great.

This time around I started with my GD diet early on in the pregnancy.  Okay...I tried to start it during the first trimester...but morning sickness and complete and total exhaustion made it really hard.  By the second trimester though I was pretty dedicated to making the GD diet work for me.  Blood work came back showing some other endocrine issues though and after meeting with my wonderful doctor and doing some research I decided that I also needed to go gluten-free.  This was a huge step for me.  I come from a family culture where gluten and wheat (and grains in general) are considered to be of the utmost importance and I really had to break with that type of thinking.

I soon learned though that gluten-free wasn't going to be enough.  Anything with rice flour spiked my blood sugar noticeably and made me not feel particularly well.  I also felt like everything just tasted like white bread and it was hard for me to adjust to that.   In time I started finding some good recipes that call for either almond or coconut flour or a mixture of the two.   I started baking again.  I fell in love with baking again.  Especially with the almond flour I can eat pancakes, bread, muffins etc and my blood sugar doesn't spike.  I feel like I am eating normal and healthy food and I am satisfied with it.  I feel wonderful and my energy is so much higher than it has been in a really long time...probably a few years.  I still get tired...I am pregnant after all, but it's not that same exhaustion I did have. 

Recently I've been trying to prepare myself for birth in many ways...and of course one of the things I've been thinking of is food.  After W was born I was given a little frozen dinner in the hospital and it was awful.  I was labor with him had been really long and hard and while I did have my support people sneak a little food to me here or there, by 12 or so hours in, I really wasn't interested in trying to eat anymore.  This time, I'm planning on being at home, and I'm planning to have some good food once this baby is here! I've decided to make myself a nice nourishing beef stew with home made bone broth in the crock pot once I'm in early labor.  I'll actually probably prep and freeze most of this ahead and then just dump it all together in when the time comes.  

I've also really wanted to make a groaning cake for this labor (since way before I even got pregnant).  I have several friends and acquaintances who have either made one or had their spouse or other support folks make one while they were in labor.  I love the idea.  It's a dense, nourishing cake with molasses and eggs to help boost the mother's iron and protein levels.

I had one major obstacle to this though.  I could not find a gluten free, much less grain free version of this cake recipe.  Not to be deterred however, I decided to go through recipes and see what I could come up with.  I used this carrot cake recipe from Elana's Pantry as my base recipe and added/substituted elements from the two groaning cake recipes I found online here and here (there are some lovely traditions and history of this cake that are shared on these links). I also substituted dried cranberries for the raisins as we have sulfite allergies at our house and while all/most raisins contain sulfites, we are usually okay with the dried cranberries.  I decided since this was pretty different from any of the recipes I had consulted that I had better do a test run before I went into labor.  So, when my midwife had to cancel our appointment as she had to attend another birth, I decided to make my cake.

Grain-free Groaning cake
·        ½ teaspoon real salt
·        3 cups blanched almond flour
·        1 teaspoon baking soda
·        1 tablespoon cinnamon
·        1/2 teaspoon cloves
·        5 eggs
·        1 teaspoon almond extract
·        ¼ cup molasses
·        2 Tablespoon honey
·        1.5 teaspoon stevia
·        ¼ cup melted coconut oil
·        1 Tablespoon orange juice
·        Zest of one orange
·        3 cups apple, peeled and grated
·        1 cup dried cranberries
·        1 cup walnuts

1.     In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves
2.     In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, honey, molasses, stevia, orange juice, orange zest, almond extract and oil
3.     Stir apples, dried cranberries and walnuts into wet ingredients
4.     Stir wet ingredients into dry
5.     Place batter into 2 very well greased loaf pans or lined muffin tins.
6.     Bake at 350° for 45 minutes to an hour.  Tent with foil to prevent burning if necessary.     A skewer should come out mostly clean, though this is a really moist cake. Cupcakes take about 15-20 minutes to bake.

     For my trial run, I made one loaf and some cupcakes.   It's really important if you make this into cupcakes to use liners in their pans.  The loaf came out fine, but the cupcakes stuck terribly and I couldn't get most of them out in one piece.  Luckily W and DH didn't mind too much.

The results were actually really good. It's dark, dense and very moist. Both of my guys and I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to trying to make it again once I'm in labor.  I found that I especially like it with a bit of Swiss cheese.  It's still has more sugar than almost anything I've been eating during this pregnancy so I really feel like I can only have it if I have the extra added protein.  The nuttiness of the cheese is a nice contrast to the rich sweetness of the cake.  I will say this was a tad bit work intensive and  I am slightly concerned about trying to make it while I'm in labor.  i think I will try to have my dry ingredients mixed and freeze some orange juice and orange zest ahead.  I'll also try to use the food processor to grate the apples since that took forever by hand.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Yarn Along

Yet again, it's been far too long since I posted here, but blogging ideas are starting to fill my head again so I'm going to try to start out slow with a Yarn Along post, joining with Ginny of Small Things.

I think in my last post I mentioned that we have a baby coming in October.  That was months ago. In many ways this pregnancy has been really hard on me both physically and emotionally, but things are really looking up again. My health is pretty good now and somehow now that I'm in my third trimester, most days my energy is way up (this may have something to do with some major dietary changes on my part). I finally have a wonderful birth team in place with a wonderful midwife and doula and if all things go according to play we'll get the homebirth that DH and I have so desperately wanted this time around.  It's amazing how finding the right care provider changed  so much of my view of this pregnancy.  My original midwives were a very poor fit for me personally and many tears were shed on my part over how things went there.  The past two weeks, since I found my new midwife I finally feel like I can move forward and really plan for this birth.

One of the benefits of having had such a hard first half of this pregnancy is that I had lots and lots of time where the only thing I felt up to doing was knitting.  I can't wait to see this baby all snuggly in mama-knit wooly goodness.  Here is a sampling of a few of the things I've made for this baby.  I still have lots of items to block and photograph.

I've also made several items for big brother W as he gets ready for school this year.  He especially requested that I make him an owl Milo vest (and one for "his" baby to match) along with a sweater (he also wants "his baby" to have a matching one again but I need more yarn for that).  I still need to work on some rain boot liners and socks for him as well as those were his other requests.  I'm delighted that he loves wearing mama-made items so much!  It's very sweet and makes it a pleasure to knit for him.  Sometime soon I'll have to get his sweaters blocked and photographed as well.  Just maybe he'll agree to model them for me.

So, onto this Yarn Along....

I'm currently making a Buttercup Baby Cardigan.  It's such a simple and quick little sweater made from worsted weight yarn which is a nice change from all the fingerling and sport weight yarns I've been working with lately.  It's almost done.  I just have to knit the cuff on the second sleeve and make the i-cord ties.  Seems like maybe a  project I can finish this evening.

Right now I am taking a break from the books on childbirth I've recently been reading so that I can read Phillipa Gregory's The Kingmaker's Daughter.  Phillipa Gregory books are totally my not-so guilty pleasure.  I love them and eagerly await each one, so no surprise I'm over half way through this one after starting it last night.  I'll probably finish it this evening too while I work on the sweater for the baby.


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