Best Intentions

I have a BPA-free water bottle. I threw out all damaged plastic containers. I even plan on switching to metal measuring cups and spoons. But the best of intentions cannot prevent stupidity: I did in fact light a small amount of plastic wrap on fire today. The top of the stove is the best place to let bread dough rise, okay? And I didn’t see that the plastic wrap protecting my dough was that close to the gas burner I was using to reheat my super healthy oatmeal!

This whole thing would be awful if I didn’t have a sense of humor.

A Sacrifice for Baby

Really? Already? Yes. Already. I got a voicemail on Thursday reminding me that I had a hair appointment on Saturday afternoon. I’d originally made the appointment for highlights and a haircut. Then, two things occurred to me–I don’t know what I’m doing this fall in terms of work! And–How can I read about all these chemicals to avoid, including food coloring, and then go and soak my head in them? Does anyone even know how long it takes these chemicals to leave my body? Will it matter that the dyed hair may not be grown out by the time I’m pregnant? Do I sound completely insane or just mildly neurotic?

Of course I knew that I would not want to dye my hair while pregnant. What never occurred to me was that I would have to get it dyed back to something resembling it’s natural color, make sure that the roots matched that color and, if not, get it done all over again. I tried just letting it grow out once, and it just made me hate looking in the mirror once the roots became truly obvious. And then there’s the money–I don’t do cheap haircuts. When things get tight, I can stop buying new clothes. I can give up going out to eat. I can go months without a hair cut. I cannot get a cheap haircut. Same goes for color. Badly dyed hair makes my skin crawl. The price tag on a good haircut plus a good set of highlights makes Nathan’s skin turn really, really, abnormally pale. I need to get my haircut in order to keep it healthy and looking nice. I do not need to dye it. My natural hair color is lovely–and it’s a medium brown. (Judy, you have, in fact, seen me without dyed hair.)

Today, therefore, I bid my highlights adieu. I had fun with a new set of straight-across bangs to take advantage of the drama of my darker hair agains my pale skin. But I will miss the highlights. I will miss making the appointments to get the highlights. I will miss watching my colorist make up some weird goop that magically turns segments of brown hair into shades of ash blonde. I will miss sipping cappuccino in the middle of the salon at the “Color Bar” with foils in my hair. I may even miss hearing complaints about the absence of good men for my colorist to date in the New Haven area. I will definitely miss having two to three salon employees examine my color and “ooh” and “aww” at the results. From now on, it’ll just be me and Trinity, the stylist who cuts my hair. I’ll come in quietly and leave quietly. But I am grateful for one thing–when I leave, it may be with less fanfare, but it will be after under one hour, not three.

Before:

Summer Highlights

And after:

Back to Brunette

Mmm Mmm GOOD… to the Grain

Last night, I needed something sweet. Plus, after being sick all week, I was feeling itchy to do something. For me, that often means baking. Last night, that meant going back to Good to the Grain (by Kim Boyce) for Ginger Snaps!

My new favorite cookbook.

Oh, cookbook, you are so beautiful! Everything I make from you is so delicious! How do you explain everything so simply, Kim Boyce? Can I come to your house, please?

Whole wheat flour makes these cookies complex–if I think about it, I can taste the nuttiness of the wheat under the spices and molasses. But they’re so light on the outside and so chewy on the inside that I can see why Boyce kept it half and half (half all purpose flour, half whole wheat flour). These are loaded with sugar, so they are definitely my kind of treat. But they’re beautiful and fill the house with a gingerbread smell that makes even August feel like Christmas. Good to the Grain, you win 2 out of 2. Kim Boyce, you may find me on your doorstep one day soon, begging for whatever divine knowledge you possess!

These three are the only ones left after the first batch!

Water Bobble

There is a new love in my life. It’s name is Bobble. Water Bobble. Isn’t it sexy?

Mine is red like this one, but I can change it up when it's time for a new filter!

I carry it everywhere, and since I purchased it at the New Haven American Apparel (along with some truly adorable “I could belong to a boy” style undies), I have been drinking lots of water every day. Why my water Bobble has become the third thing to remember when I leave the house, after keys and purse:

  • It filters as you drink via a charcoal filter just like the one in your Brita filter. Suddenly, all water tastes like Brita water! I am one of those people who trusts her tap water, but all the preconception literature says to drink filtered water.
  • It’s BPA-free. BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a chemical that mimics estrogen, so even tiny amounts can do serious damage, since our bodies don’t know the difference between small amounts of BPA and the real hormone. (Origins by Annie Murphy Paul explains this and lots of other complicated science very neatly.) It’s used in some plastics to make them shatterproof but gets released when the container is cleaned too harshly, scratched, heated up or even just reused. This is one really good reason NOT to reuse the water bottle you bought. It’s also a good excuse to throw out your old plastic food-storage containers. Ladies, I’m talking to you–we’re talking about a definite carcinogen that gets into your body by mimicking estrogen, so if you’re picturing the cancers that scare women the most, you’re on the right track.
  • The $10 I spent on my Bobble is a whole lot cheaper than buying a drink every time I realize I’m dehydrated and far from home.
  • It’s really light-weight. I am outside a lot. Lately, that means I sweat a lot. I simply have to carry something.
  • Last but not least? I can change the color of my filter when I get a new one! (They last 90 days.)
Go get one. You don’t even have to get up, because their website says “enter code FREE WATER when purchasing online and receive 25% off your order.”
*This blogger was not paid to endorse this product. She just loves it enough to devote a whole post to it.

Light and Delicious Whole Grain Baking

I recently purchased a cookbook called Good to the Grain: Cooking with Whole Grain Flours, by Kim Boyce. It’s beautiful and a project I can get behind, since I know much more about rising times and proper muffin textures than I know about cooking quinoa or marinating vegetables. That’s Nathan’s territory, and he’s so good at it that I have no desire to start cooking (sorry, Honey). The book is organized by flour, with a chapter for each kind of whole grain flour available and one on a multigrain flour the author herself developed. I decided to start with the chapter on spelt flour, because it says in the introduction that this is as close to all-purpose flour as it gets in the whole grain world. In fact, if you adjust your flavor expectations a little, you can apparently substitute spelt flour for all-purpose in just about any recipe.

Within the chapter on spelt, I settled on a recipe for Ricotta Crepes and began gathering ingredients. Whole milk, raw honey, two eggs, organic spelt flour, fresh and local ricotta cheese. [My research suggests that because ricotta is not aged it does not contribute to migraine headaches the way cheddar and mozzarella can.] It couldn’t have gotten any easier–combine the first four ingredients in the blender (yes, blender–good thing I got a new one!) and let it sit for an hour. Stir in the cheese. Start cookin’ crepes!

I have loved crepes since I was a little girl, when my big sister learned how to make them in France and came back toting her recipe and some Nutella. Yummy! This time for my filling, I sauteed some peaches in clarified butter just until they began to release liquid, added a little honey and some spices and let them sit overnight. Boyce recommends something savory like wilted greens, but I just couldn’t resist the peaches/ricotta combo.

It’s been awhile since I turned a crepe, but they came out very prettily, if I do say so myself! Oh, and the taste? Out of this world. I am spelt flour’s newest fan. Bonus perk: four grams of protein in just a quarter cup of spelt flour, not to mention all the vitamins B2 & B3 and other goodness.

My pile of crepes and bowl of peaches.

Sorry about the photo, but the light was bad and we had eaten a few before I remembered to snap this. Not reading the recipe in advance meant crepes for dinner, because I didn’t have time to wait an hour on that batter in the morning. Worth the wait, though! These were light as air, but filling and hearty. The crepes we didn’t eat are in the freezer, wrapped tightly with plastic wrap, a sheet of parchment separating each one. They’re super easy to pull out and toast up! A+, Kim Boyce!

The Whole Truth: Planning a Pregnancy + Mood Disorder = Change, Part II

Just the name of my most helpful prescription medication used to bring me comfort: Klonopin. Also known by the generic name clonazepam, it’s an anti-anxiety medication, and about an hour after I take it in the morning, I can feel it kick in. My heart rate slows, and my thoughts proceed at a more leisurely pace. While I used to take it three times a day, I take a much smaller dose, now, and only in the mornings, mainly because I wake up feeling more anxious than I feel at any other time of day. It was supposed to be a “bridge” drug. It was supposed to help me transition from no medication to the SNRI [Serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor] that needed time to build up in my system before becoming effective. This plan, like so many made in a doctor’s office, was interrupted.

In early 2007, despair grew like mold inside me. I felt increasingly hopeless, useless and helpless as rejection letters from twelve different graduate programs conspired with letters from my father, full of accusations that I had aggravated his own deteriorating mental condition. I still don’t know why I thought it would be so simple, but I actually emailed my psychiatrist, whom I had met about twice at that point, and casually mentioned that I thought I might be suicidal and could he perhaps increase my dose of daily medication. After spending a few nights involuntarily committed to the Pyschiatric ER (the worst place I have ever been, without question), I voluntarily entered an inpatient program at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital.

I worked harder during my two weeks in that hospital than I had ever worked at anything. I put my body and soul into therapy, group therapy, art therapy, journalling, knitting, playing their out-of-tune piano–I pushed everything else aside and tried with all my might to just be. Thanks to the support of everyone from deans to faculty members at Barnard College, where I was a senior, I was able to truly put my outside activities on hold. I also took higher doses of my medication. [Note: I have never and will never take medication *without* going to therapy. My doctor has said that he would not prescribe mediation for someone with my diagnoses unless weekly or, preferably, twice-weekly psychotherapy accompanied the pharmaceutical component.] By the time I got back to my dorm room, I felt like I had gone twelve rounds in a boxing match while my friends had been on spring break. But I did get into one graduate school–a good school. I was on track to graduate. I “had a future.” Most importantly, however, I understood that “getting better” meant continuing to believe that my accomplishments were simply things that I did, not the things that make up a meaningful life. I’m still working on that one, but I’ve come a very long way since those awful nights in the Emergency Room.

When I finally went off the Klonopin, the “bridge drug” that was always supposed to be temporary, I did it properly. With the advice of my doctor, I decreased my dose by a half-milligram at a time over many weeks. When it was finally out of my system, I stopped leaving my apartment for a days at a time. I took the breakup of a long-distance relationship so badly that I actually started self-cutting. (In this state of mind, it seemed like a small cut, on the arm, in my case, would be a welcome distraction from all the pain swirling around on the inside. Yes, it’s hard to imagine for someone who has never felt the urge. Yes, it’s really unhealthy. Yes, it’s a sign that one needs help immediately. Yes, I told my doctor.) As you might imagine, I went right back on the drug.

This summer, a new crisis finally erupted, after spending almost five years as a tiny spot on the horizon. Taking less Klonopin and less often was working out well, but now that I want to have a baby, I am trying to come off of it again. We only know about its effects on a fetus from experiments on rats, but the evidence is scary enough to land Klonopin deep in the NO! category of drugs for pregnant women. A new job and a move to a new apartment meant putting on hold the difficult process of “stepping down” Klonopin; essentially, it’s hard to tell if one is dealing well with anxiety when two of life’s biggest stressors hit at once. My anxiety told me that if I put it on hold, I would never “get off” and would never be able to have a child. “Never” is a word that comes up often when my anxiety takes over my mind.

How does all this land me with a diet of whole foods and natural supplements? Well, to start with, read this nice explanation from the Mayo Clinic, and you’ll understand why I make myself swallow a half teaspoon of lemon-flavored fish oil from the fancy brand Nordic Naturals twice a day. I’m making an effort to eat small meals every two and a half to three hours (except breakfast, which, as I mentioned before, is not a small meal anymore) and this has helped decrease my “baseline” level of anxiety. Jan, The Amazing Nutritionist, explained that this is helping even out my blood sugar over the course of the day, preventing the glycemic spikes and drops that cause the body to produce adrenaline. If you’ve ever felt anxious about anything, you can understand why an immediate decrease in my adrenaline levels would be an exciting prospect!

My goal is not to replace drugs with food. What I want is to be as healthy as I can be, because with a healthy body and mind and plenty of energy, I am simply better able to deal with difficult emotions. If my life is in balance, emotionally and physically, before I get pregnant, then that balance acts like the control group in a scientific experiment. By comparing my moods and thoughts during pregnancy/trying to get pregnant to my moods and thoughts beforehand, I should be better able to spot the irrational fears and manage them. I will feel anxious. I might feel depressed. I will probably want my drugs back. But I will be as well-prepared as anyone can be for this unknown and unpredictable experience.