Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On Honesty

I've just discovered The Chalkboard Mag, the blog from L.A.'s Pressed Juicery.  This gorgeous, inspiring online destination is so much more than juice bar social media!  The Chalkboard is a great resource for nutrition information, recipes, wellness tips, holistic beauty recommendations, and meditation inspiration.  They have a weekly breakdown on toxic ingredients that is fascinating (but not in a preachy or fear-mongering way) and an impressive list of guest editors from the healthy living and organic style community.  I've only just started visiting the site, but can tell it is going to be a favorite (although it takes being in a kumbaya, I'm drinking my kombucha and wearing my yoga pants and juicing my kale mood to really properly get into it -- so you've been warned).

This week's Mantra Monday post really got my attention, and I wanted to share it with you:

SATYA means truth and honesty.  It is one of the yamas, which are these great universal vows that tell us how to interact with the world.  In this sutra, Patanjali, the father of yoga and the man responsible for codifying yoga in the Yoga Sutras, is explaining the benefits of practicing satya/truthfulness.
When we are honest at all times, we mean what we say and say what we mean. There is no separation between the words that come out of our mouths and our actions. And the fruits of our actions reflect this honesty by fulfilling our will.  When you can break down the separation between your words, thoughts and actions by infusing everything you do with honesty, you manifest your will and live the truth. What you say happens. What you think becomes. You manifest and create the life you want.  Start simply… be honest to everyone, including yourself.
This is one of those things that you really need to let sink in for a minute.  In the rush of daily living and striving to do right by all the people and obligations in one's life, it's amazing how easy it is to be less than honest with yourself and others.  Sure, a certain amount of sacrifice and compromise is required to make it as a functioning member of society, but there is a fine line that exists between that place of compromise and the one where you just bury your honest opinion.  There is this great Mark Twain quote that I have always loved: "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."  I think that quote and this meditation kind of tie up the visceral need for honesty quite neatly.  This simple concept is something I want to strive to improve on every day.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Happy Friday + Pasta Giveaway Winner!

Happy Friday!
First things first: it is pasta winner time!  I used the Random Integer Generator at random.org to pick a winner, and the pasta haul goes to Katherine Gunter!  Katherine, please shoot your mailing address to sweetmamajane@gmail and we'll get your package to you right away.  Thanks to everyone who left a comment, and especially those with links to yummy recipes.

Speaking of which, you must try this chicken recipe ASAP.  I've had it pinned on my Pinterest board forever, and decided to make it this week as a final nod to creative cooking before the baby comes.  This is one of those recipes that takes almost no time, energy, effort or cost, but packs a punch on flavor and wow factor.  You simply whisk together dijon mustard, maple syrup and rice vinegar, cover the chicken with it and bake it all in a foil-lined pan.  There's next to no clean up, and this was some of the most flavorful, tender chicken I've ever prepared.  This definitely needs to be in the culinary arsenal of every weeknight cook I know.  Check it out...
"Man Pleasing Chicken" via Witty in the City
Disregard or embrace the name as it suits you... all that matters is the deliciousness!
With that, I'm off to spend the weekend embracing labor-inducing old wives' tales and gathering my energy for what's to come.  More next week!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Home Stretch

There is nothing else in life that compares to being nine months pregnant.  
Imagine knowing that the Publisher's Clearing House guys and the lottery and Oprah are all about to show up at your house with the most incredible of prizes... something you know is going to change your life completely, in innumerable ways, forever.  Except you have no idea when they'll show up... it could be tonight at 3am or next Tuesday when you actually had some plans, or not for two more weeks.  You're constantly on pins and needles, knowing that massive life change is imminent, but having not even the foggiest of clues of when this massive sea change is coming your way. Oh, and PS: when Oprah does finally arrive, she's going to viscerally torture you for some undetermined amount of time...anywhere from two to twelve to twenty-four hours or more...by pounding on your midsection and lady parts with a spiky mallet before handing over said dream prize.  She may or may not arbitrarily deem that you need surgery to deliver this prize, or drugs that make the spiky mallet feel like a flame-throwing spiky mallet, or any other of a million variables that could make this experience everything or nothing like you thought it would be.  Childbirth is truly a great unknown, and especially for those of us who take comfort in planning and preparation, the overall effect of this mass of unknowns is entirely unnerving.

The very mystery of the timing makes every moment seem incredibly loaded.  You might go into labor fresh off of eight hours of sleep, having just triumphantly shaved your own legs and finished a wholesome breakfast of Greek yogurt and multi-grain toast thinking, "bring it on, universe."  Or things might get rolling when you've just caught a cold from your preschooler, are suffering a raging sore throat and night sweats, and have a massive case of heartburn to boot from drowning your sorrows in a double helping of Ina Garten's Apple Crisp sometime just before midnight.  You'll wake up with pain at 4am thinking "is this it?  Or do I just really have to pee (again)?" Every twinge and tweak of your body seems significant.

The physicality of it all is insanely intense.  Right now, there is no part of my body that feels like any approximation of normal.  I'm permanently hot.  My hands feel like mighty, massive, man-hand meat hooks, and my feet aren't far behind.  My normally quite functional digestive system is completely on the fritz due to my massive uterus having squashed my stomach and intestines into disarray like so many bugs on a car's grill.  When I lie down to sleep at night, everything shifts just slightly upward into my diaphragm, making breathing seem impossible.  Unfortunately, my husband reports that I'm snoring like a drunk frat boy.  And the weight gain.  Good God.  It's not about a number on a scale, but rather the feeling of actual weight on my joints and bones.  Imagine strapping eight five pound bags of sugar on your body and then attempting to go about your day.  I'll just leave it at that.  Intense.

The days seem hyper-colored and filled with electricity.  All your loved ones are on this same level of red alert as you are, tinging things with a light undercurrent of mass hysteria.  Is tonight the night I have to rouse my parents at 2am to come over and be with little J when we dash to the hospital?  They are already leaping a mile each time their phone rings.  Will I fortuitously have this baby during my mother-in-law's visit this week, or will she be forced to board a plane home mid-labor like when she came around my due date with J (who was born just hours after their plane landed back at home, of course).

This hyper awareness extends over your whole household.  Suddenly every bit of dust on the radiator, every speck of mildew in the shower grout, every errant crumb in the fridge must be eradicated in order to achieve inner peace.  You make crazily specific and random lists of things to do like "clean out cup holder in car" and "install dimmer light bulb in front hallway" and you do more hot loads of laundry than you ever thought possible.  You try not to drive your significant other crazy with your attention to arbitrary detail.  This is only augmented when part of your "go time" plan involves people coming to your house to watch your existing little one... I have this adamant passion that no one know how much dog hair usually graces our floors.  They must be ever dog hair free (a nearly impossible task, as any pet owner knows). Why this matters to me so much I don't know. This has to be part primal mammalian instinct around creating a safe and disease-free environment for your infant, and part modern woman's need to exert any element of control possible when swimming in a sea of out-of-control.

And then there is the fashion situation, or lack thereof.  At this point literally nothing fits, even your biggest maternity gear, and you staunchly refuse to buy anything else or anything bigger because you may only need it for twenty-four hours.  Or two weeks.  Right now, all I want to wear is my favorite pair of yoga pants and a soft striped maternity shirt on loan from a dearest friend which feels like having a bit of her with me each day (the outfit you see pictured above).  I wash these things almost nightly so I don't have to chose something else the next day.  Any outfit I put together seems to belie my underlying feeling of madness.  Yet, clothes must be worn.

But all of these little quirks, trials, pains, and worries are merely distractions against something so much bigger that is about to happen to your life and the life of your family.  This is it.  This is the stuff of life.  All those times in your life when you said, "yes, I want to have kids someday"... today (or tomorrow) is that day.  This is the physical work, the literal labor of love, that it takes to manifest this dream.  You're actively building the family that you want and have chosen. This person who is about  to arrive is going to be an elemental part of that, with tastes, opinions, idiosyncrasies and politics all their own.  They're going to have an identity, a family role, and a life path which is going to shape the rest of your life, and for these last few days, all of that is unknown, and they're still just this glimmer of hope and promise resting quietly inside you.  No wonder everything looks more vibrant and feels more significant at this time... there is truly no more profound moment in life than this one right here.

I don't know that I'll have the opportunity or that we'll make the choice to be pregnant again, so this time feels especially sweet and loaded to me.  As intensely uncomfortable as I am, I know how lucky I am to have this experience and I just wanted to take a moment to document and record it, from the swollen hands to the ill-fitting clothes to the housecleaning projects to the sappy emotions.  I wouldn't trade this adventure for anything.  Bring it on, universe.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Portobello and Leek Carbonara + Pasta GIVEAWAY!

Did you know that October is National Pasta Month?  
This seems totally appropriate, as what could be a cozier way to usher in cold weather and warm sweaters than to snuggle up with a satisfying, comforting bowl of carb-y goodness in the form of pasta?  When I married an Italian, I signed on for a life of such pleasures, and so far it has been splendid.  So, I was especially excited to tell him when I was approached by the National Pasta Association to take part in their Pasta Fits campaign to celebrate National Pasta Month on SMJ.  

The whole idea is that Pasta Fits your lifestyle, budget, and diet, and in this household that is certainly true.  There are few dishes that are as inexpensive, easy to get onto the table, and crowd pleasing as pasta.  And pasta doesn't deserve the bad rap it got during the insanity years of South Beach and Atkins... with so many whole grain and veggie-based varieties to choose from and the use of a little portion control, pasta is absolutely a base for healthy, weight-friendly recipes.  We probably eat it at least twice as week, as it is always sure to make the husband happy and produce plenty of delicious lunch-leftovers.  Needless to say, we were quite stoked to receive this awesome box of goodies from the National Pasta Association...
Here we have: Dreamfields® Spaghetti, Mueller’s® Whole Grain Spaghetti, Heartland® Gluten Free Wheat Free Penne, Heartland® Gluten Free Wheat Free Spaghetti, Ronzoni Healthy Harvest® Spaghetti, Ronzoni Garden Delight® Rotini, and an Ultragrain Pasta® Spaghetti Spoon.  Boo ya.
I was invited to prepare a healthy recipe with one of these lovely pastas to share with you in celebration of National Pasta Month.  When my mom overbought some gorgeous leeks at the farmers market and dropped the excess off at my house, I knew I had to make this Tyler Florence-inspired Portobello and Leek Carbonara I had spied on Pinterest.
We love a good carbonara in this house.  Packed with protein and savory goodness, carbonara is inexpensive to make, filling, and so soul-satisfying.  The trick to making a perfect carbonara with an eggy sauce, rather than just ending up with pasta and scrambled eggs, is to remove the pan from the heat before adding the egg mixture, and to be prepared to continue stirring rapidly until the egg is all incorporated.  The result is the most perfect silky pasta sauce of your dreams. I love the addition of some fiber-rich, flavorful and healthy veggies in this recipe.  Thanks T.Flo!  

Portobello and Leek Carbonara
Adapted from Tyler Florence and How Sweet Eats
serves 2-4
4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
2 leeks, trimmed, cleaned and patted dry
12 ounces baby portobello mushrooms, quartered
1/2 pound spaghetti or linguine (we used the Dreamfields Spaghetti in this recipe)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1) Bring water for pasta to a boil.
2) Heat a large skillet oven medium heat and add bacon. Cook until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy, about 6-7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain. Reduce heat to low.
3) Add in leeks with a pinch of salt, then toss mushrooms on top. Stir everything together to coat, then let cook until ingredients are softened, about 5 minutes. At this time, throw the pasta in the water to cook – it is really important that the pasta is hot. While the pasta is cooking, mix eggs and cheese together in a large bowl. The mixture will be thick.
4) As soon as pasta is finished, reserve 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid and drain the pasta. Remove the skillet from the heat and immediately add the pasta into the skillet. Toss with the leeks and mushrooms to coat. With a large spoon in one hand, add the egg mixture right on top and immediately begin stirring the pasta together.
The hubs has completely mastered this step.  Hats off to you, hubs.
5) At this time if desired, add the pasta water to the skillet to make things a bit more creamy and saucy. Toss in bacon. Serve immediately with extra cheese!
Mmmm, bacon.
I do think vegetarians could attempt a bacon-free carbonara, but this pregnant lady wanted all the salty little porky goodness she could hoard in one bowl.  I loved the Dreamfields Spaghetti we used as well, and would definitely purchase this brand again.  I've been trying hard to keep my fiber amped up (important for all of us, but especially for the sluggish digestion of advanced pregnancy) and pack protein into every meal.  A serving of the Dreamfields Spaghetti has 5g of fiber (regular semolina pasta has more like 2g) and 7g of protein: perfect.  Together with the meaty mushrooms, silky leeks and protein-rich egg, this was a perfect healthy comfort dinner (yes, even with the bacon... because what is life without a little decadence).

And now for some fun... A PASTA GIVEAWAY!!!
The National Pasta Association would like to send one SMJ reader a Pasta Fits Prize Pack identical to the one pictured above!

That's a whole lotta pasta, people.  This would be enough of a stash to get you through some serious fall entertaining, and there is something for every palate, including Gluten Free and Whole Wheat varieties.

To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment on this post.  
If you'd like, share your favorite pasta recipe!  
 You can also follow the Pasta Fits campaign on Facebook (www.facebook.com/pastafits), Twitter (@pastafits), or Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/pastafits).

I'm feeling like this little dude may arrive on the scene sooner than later, so let's get this giveaway going!  Leave your comment, and I'll randomly pick a winner this Friday morning, October 19.
Thanks for your comment, and happy Pasta Month!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Foot Love

Summer can be hard on your old tootsies.  Flip flops, hot sand, exposure to heat and dirt and water, long walks in non-supportive sandals, and funky nail polish colors can all take their toll on your dogs. My feet are a rugged, heinous mess after this long, hot summer.  In fact, I considered snapping a "before" foot photo to go with this post, but there was truly no filter or photo editing trick that was good enough to make them appropriate for public consumption.  And yet, I'm still sporting my flops around town!  Pregnancy hormones mean I'm roasting all the time, and 37+ week foot swelling means they are my only comfortable shoes.  I'm more than a little embarrassed to be showing such haggard feet to the world, so it has been on my list to give them some love.  Yesterday, with the rain pelting down and the little man down for a nap felt like the perfect time to deal with my man feet.

My goal was to give some relief to my aching soles and make my nails presentable again, but sans polish because I am physically incapable of painting my own toenails and getting any amount of polish on the actual nail.  Plus, open-toed shoe season really is drawing to an end, even for me, and I like to give my nails a nice long break from polish in the winter months for their overall health.  I just want clean, trimmed, fresh and healthy looking nails in the months to come... plus heels that don't feel like sandpaper.

All of this brings me to the point of this post: sharing an awesome little foot beautifying trick that I just learned (via Pinterest, the source of all things wonderful and useful) to get your nails looking clean and bright after a summer of abuse.  This trick removes stains left by dark polish and makes your nails look white and clean, naturally.
photo via Pinterest
Start by soaking your feet.  My favorite foot soaking elixir is about a tablespoon of Peppermint Dr. Bronner's Soap mixed with several drops of lavender essential oil in a basin of warm water. The peppermint and lavender together make a relaxing aromatherapeutic blend that fills the whole room. After a good long soak, brush and trim your nails (I also went to town on my softened heels with a pumice... what a difference).  Then here comes the trick: simply make a paste with 1 tablespoon of peroxide and 2 1/4 tablespoons of baking soda.  Rub the paste into each nail, and allow to sit for 5 minutes before rinsing.  I actually repeated this process twice, as my nails were just that awful after the summer.  The result?  White nails!  Beautiful, clean and fresh feet with healthy looking nails without any sign of discoloration.  It actually almost looks like you're wearing the perfect pale/buff polish shade.  Such an awesome little tip that costs next to nothing and can be prepared with ingredients you likely already have on hand.  I love that.

I wrapped up this whole thing process by slathering my feet with Burt's Bees Coconut Foot Cream, a soothing potion made with coconut oil and extracts of rosemary and peppermint that I got hooked on during my waitressing days when my feet were working their very hardest.  Warning: this foot cream is so thick that it needs to have socks put on over it immediately or you'll be slipping and sliding like Bugs Bunny on a banana peel.

It is amazing what just taking a little half hour to take care of yourself can do.  Getting rid of my man feet made everything seem better in the world.  If your feet are hurting after a summer of beach days and neon polish take a moment and give 'em a soak + try this cool baking soda/peroxide potion.  Lovely lady feet are right there for the taking!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Get Your Free Fro Yo Here

Remember the Stonyfield Frozen Oikos Decathlon back in July?
Bloggers competed head-to-head in ten events, looking to see who could get the most votes for their flavor in a Super Fruits vs. Peach Mango showdown.  Thanks to all of you who voted for Super Fruits, SMJ dominated in the virtual Pole Throw (you've gotta love the creative marketing...).  Woo hoo!

What did I get for winning?

FIFTY coupons for free pints of Oikos Organic Nonfat Greek Frozen Yogurt to share with my readers and friends!

I'm excited to have the chance to share the wealth with all of you, and want to mail these all out as soon as possible (especially since I'm about three weeks from my due date here, and in a preemptively getting-things-done kind of mood, to say the least!).  

If you'd like to try some of this tangy, healthy, delicious fro yo, please simply send me an e-mail with your mailing address by this Friday, October 5. 
(e-mail to sweetmamajane@gmail)
I'll divide the fifty among all who have e-mailed me by then and get these out to you right away!
This frozen yogurt would be so delicious on hot apple crisp or with some homemade applesauce... it's the perfect healthy accompaniment to fall baking.  
I think you'll love it and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you!  
Drop me a line!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Gray Areas

It's time to take a moment and follow up on my post on Making My Way Back.  In that post I explained some of my ambivalence about blogging in the past few months, and my confusion over the next steps for me as a blogger and a writer.  I was getting off a rollercoaster that zoomed up-up-up with aspirations  of blogging professionally and becoming a one-woman brand, and then crashed DOWN with a boom when this pregnancy kind of knocked me on my arse and made me realize that I don't have the single-minded focus to do that right now.  In my yearning to make SMJ my professional endeavor, I wrote sometimes out of obligation instead of passion, and got caught up in what it seemed others in the blogosphere were achieving, and I didn't like the way either of those things felt.

More importantly, I realized that earning a living from this blog would mean chasing down sponsors and product endorsements on a full-time basis.  Not only do I not have the consistent time to devote to that successfully right now, but I also found that I didn't like the effect I've seen that have on other blogs I've read that have "gone pro."  Without fail, the blogs I love the most are the ones that seem written from the heart and soul and like a letter to a friend, more so than the ones that are a revolving door of sponsored product endorsements.  Some blogs I've loved were once one and became the other, and I lamented the loss of that more authentic original voice.

One thing I love about my husband is that he keeps me honest, and it was he who brought up to me the gray area that I'm approaching in seemingly frowning upon this sponsorship trend.  Not too long after that post went up, I got a FedEx from Stonyfield Farms.  Inside were 50 free coupons to share for their Oikos Organic Non-Fat Frozen Yogurt, the prize for having won my event in the Oikos Frozen Decathlon back in July.  I also was asked to do a cookbook review for a holistic health cookbook right around then, and a giveaway offer just popped up in my inbox from the National Pasta Association.  All of this caused my sweet life partner to raise a loving eyebrow at me and question just where I was going with all of this.  Admittedly, my inner Jiminy Cricket was asking me the same.
What gives, lady?
I gave it some thought, and this is what it boils down to...

For me, there is a difference between an aggressive and single-minded pursuit of partnerships, giveaways, and the like, and the occasional opportunity which presents itself to work with a company I believe in or am intrigued by towards the mutual benefit of myself and my readers.  And, to be clear, neither one is right or wrong!  Believe me, if I was presented with an opportunity to write in my authentic voice and gain sponsorship for it without feeling I'd sold my soul, I'd be doing it, and I would be thrilled for the opportunity.  It was the seeming futility of chasing after that made me frustrated and muddied my sense of purpose.  

My resolve, then, is to write from the heart, when I'm inspired, and when I have something of value to share, rather than in a quest for search engine optimization or brand awareness.  I still plan to work with companies I love when I get the opportunity, but I plan to do so in the spirit of the giddy feeling I once had of "WOW!!!  I get to share FREE frozen yogurt with my friends!  Boo ya!" rather than "Hmmm, how can I parlay this into a sponsorship and a pageview maximizing enterprise" and other such Scroogey thoughts that came along as I felt more desperate to keep up with the internet entrepreneur Joneses.  It's a subtle distinction, to be sure, and one that takes place mostly in my own head, but it is important to me that it rings true for you, my friends and readers, as well.

I'm feeling the writing bug again, and I think it is mostly because I've removed this insane pressure from myself, and am just allowing things to come naturally.  I have lots of posts brewing for the coming weeks, and yes some free fro yo and pasta may show up in the mix for ya'll while I'm at it.  I hope that when products appear here you can trust that I'm giving you an honest opinion and that I'm coming from a place of authenticity in the whole enterprise.  For me, that's what works for now.  It's a gray area, but one worth swimming in in my opinion.
Thanks, as always, for sticking with me...