Brand Removal: Cheese Crackers

Last night, I took the plunge into promoting my writing- so for everyone who “liked” the Feed Me, Mama Facebook Page or followed the Twitter account, thank you! I am so excited to be on this journey with all of you, and I can’t wait to see what conversations and community develop!

cheesecrackers

A few weeks ago, a streak of motivation hit me and I decided to take on a new household endeavor: learning how to homemake as many of the things in my home as I can! Food, cleaning supplies, beauty and hygiene items, clothing, you name it- I want to know how to make it. I’ve been overcome with this vision of a kitchen filled with glass jars of whole foods and homemade things, bottles with small labels on them, and no advertisements or brand tags to be found. How peaceful, right? Crazy? Maybe…

While I understand how daunting this task is, I am trying to approach it with grace and just learn what I can, as I can. Some things have turned out great- like this recipe- others, like homemade almond butter, really just didn’t work out, and that’s okay. I am confident that this new ‘mission’ is a move of good stewardship and learning how to care for my home and my family in the most responsible way that I can.

Today, I want to share my very first “brand removal” project: cheese crackers! I think we all know what I’m referring to here 🙂 Pregnancy and snacking go hand in hand, and a little something crunchy and cheesy and salty is just what I’m loving these days.

These crackers turned out amazingly well- the taste was so good, and I know exactly what’s in them! The best part that I found (unlike the original cheese cracker) is that they aren’t addictive or habit forming- meaning, I could have three or four, and that would fulfill my craving. I didn’t feel the need to eat the entire batch in one sitting and mindlessly snack- I think it’s because the quality of the ingredients is so high!

I used this recipe from Girl vs. Dough, and they were phenomenal! Next time, I’m going to work on rolling the dough as thin as possible to make them more crispy 🙂

PIN THIS RECIPE!

Call the Midwives

We began my pregnancy by seeing my normal OBGYN, one member of a large practice in Owings Mills. The practice delivers at Sinai and I’m sure would’ve provided me with state-of-the-art medical treatment. This is the same practice that walked me through my missed miscarriage last year, as well as the scary diagnosis and eventual removal of the large mass on my right ovary.

When I went in for my first prenatal appointment, I expected to be met with smiles and perhaps even a shocked reaction- after all, it was less than a month since my surgery, and I was already pregnant! However, I was met with blank stares, eyes staring at a computer screen that didn’t recognize me or remember me. In fact, the very doctor who I had seen just a month before several times for my ovarian mass had to look at my records to confirm that I did in fact have the surgery I claimed to have had. The doctor had no recollection of me.

My second appointment was the “ever-important” internal exam. Little did I know that I had been switched from my normal female doctor (who, unbeknownst to me, retired from OB practice) to a male doctor without my permission- and had to endure yet another uncomfortable situation as my poor husband sat in a small chair while I was examined. It was mortifying for us both.

It was around this time that I began researching other birth options in Maryland- everything from simply switching OB practices to home birth. I quickly learned that Maryland is an extremely difficult place to have an intervention-free birth for several reasons:

-Having a midwife attend a home birth is “illegal” unless it is a Certified Nurse Midwife who is backed by an Obstetrician. To my knowledge, there are only a few that practice in the entire state, and I’m not sure that any of them are taking new clients, particularly first time mothers. This leaves mothers with dismal options for home birth- having an “illegally attended” birth with a midwife (which many women do and have great success and healthy babies), or having an unassisted home birth. I’m not exactly sure what the “illegality” of the whole thing can lead to- probably that you can be charged with negligence if something happens to your baby, or perhaps the midwife can be held liable- I’m not 100% sure. But, I think that, for some women, these are the right choices- to have a home birth, with a midwife or unassisted- but not for everyone.

-There are only a handful of free-standing birth centers in the state- two that I am familiar with. There are various hospital “birth centers”, staffed by midwives and outfitted with more natural birth tools, such as tubs, but because they are attached/part of hospitals, their clients must adhere to hospital guidelines- which, depending on the hospital, can significantly change the birth experience for many mothers (though many mothers absolutely love this experience, and I don’t discount that whatsoever). This also effects the after-birth experience for the parents and baby, with certain interventions being much more routine (vaxing/Vit K/eye gel given without parental consent, pitocin for placenta delivery and uterine shrinkage, formula supplementation without parental advisement). Again, these choices are completely right for some families, and many people choose to include all of those things in their after-birth care plans. However, not every family chooses these things.

-Lastly, C-Section rates throughout the state of Maryland are higher than the national average. Nationwide, close to 1 in 3 women
gives birth via cesarean- and that’s not including elective/planned cesareans. Induction before truly necessary is wildly popular, even though a recent Harvard study found that the average gestational period for a caucasian woman is 41 weeks 1 day. I have seen far too many family members and friends get induced, get epidurals, and get cesareans- it just seems normal at this point. I think that’s the problem- in most places, it IS normal. And sometimes it is completely necessary. But it doesn’t have to be!

So, taking all of this into consideration, we have decided to birth our sweet baby girl at Special Beginnings Birth Center in Arnold, MD. This is perhaps the most controversial choice that Matthew and I have made thus far (at least that I’m letting you in on haha)!  Staffed with Certified Nurse Midwives with years of experience, complete with three beautiful birthing suites with big beds, tubs, birth stools towel warmers, and a full kitchen, the place is absolutely stunning.  The only drawback: it’s located almost exactly an hour away from our apartment!

We began our research into this birth center first by talking to people we knew who have been there- most of whom gave glowing reviews, and those who didn’t were really looking for a home birth experience, and ended up going that direction in the end.

Next, we took a tour– and this is where everything changed. We were given a tour of the birth center and then given the opportunity to ask the midwives questions.  It was amazing! So many of the things I was prepared to fight with an OB about- movement and eating during labor, Vit K and eye gel, vaccinations, routine circumcision, delayed bathing, etc- all of the choices that I wanted to make for my child were encouraged, and even assumed to some degree, by the midwife staff. It was like breathing a sigh of relief as I realized that I could have the natural birth I wanted without having to fear that the baby would be stuck or smeared with something or treated in a way I didn’t feel was necessary.

We have had two appointments with midwives at the birth center so far, with a third coming up next week. The experience has been so encouraging and healing! I love the focus on nutrition and exercise as well as medical information. I can have as few ultrasounds as I would like (though we have actually had many more than I intended). Their holistic approach to pregnancy, as something that is natural and not a illness or medical emergency, brings so much peace to my heart as I remind myself that the Lord created women to bear children. Pregnancy isn’t a bad thing, and with the right preparation I can trust my body to do the work it needs to do.

A huge part of this decision has been learning to “insert grace” into our birth plans. Do I fault mothers who make choices that are different from my own? Absolutely not. Is it totally possible that something goes wrong and I need to have a medicated birth or a cesarean? Yes. And if that’s the case, I will take it in stride, as I know that medicine is a good thing and saves many lives- perhaps my own, or my baby’s. It’s the grace that I am striving to understand that will allow me to accept what happens, but also strive to be as prepared as possible and make the most sound decisions I can with the information I have now. It’s not easy! But I am glad to be questioning and learning and growing in this process.

I’m so excited for this journey and I can’t wait to share my experiences along the way!

The Diapering Decision: Why We Are Choosing Cloth

diapersOver the past few months, I have developed a serious diaper obsession. Call me crazy, becauseI know that’s what most parents dread about having a newborn, but I can’t stop thinking about diapers! Maybe not the diapers you’re used to, though. Cute ones. Reusable, good for the planet, will last until potty training ones. Cloth Diapers!

I have to be honest, this was a pretty easy decision for us. I had a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago who has two children and she told me how convicted she was feeling about using disposable diapers, and how she wanted to make the switch to cloth. I completely understand! Financially, thinking about spending $3,000+ on diapers for one child that would just get thrown in a landfill and would surround that precious bottom in chemicals makes me feel sick (see this article on chemicals in diapers). Even spending a bit more to get a responsible brand of diapers with less chemicals still didn’t seem environmentally responsible to us. We try to create the least amount of waste that we can in our home already, and we don’t want to change that once our baby girl arrives! Most importantly, we believe that each dollar given to us is one that we should spend to build the Kingdom, and I just can’t spend those dollars on things doing straight into a landfill. This is a conviction that the Lord has placed strongly on my heart to be part of my role as a graceful homemaker.

At the onset, cloth diapering is completely overwhelming. There are SO MANY different kinds of diapers you can choose from- different styles, from prefolds (the old-fashioned thing your mom and grandma think of while reading this) to pockets to all-in-ones (AIOs). Within each style there are countless brands at all different price points and made of different materials. It’s easy to get super confused and want to run for the nearest pack of pampers!

Here’s some suggestions: read up! Here’s a few blogs that were helpful to me in the beginning:
CLOTH DIAPERING 101 via View Along The Way
10 REASONS TO CLOTH DIAPER via Nourishing Joy
6 REASONS THAT CLOTH IS BETTER via Mama Natural
CLOTH DIAPER ESSENTIALS via Modern Alternative Mama
WHY WE CLOTH DIAPER via Wellness Mama

The other intimidating factor with cloth diapering is the price point. Cloth diapering is an investment! For pocket diapers (what we have chosen to stock up on), you will spend anywhere from $8-30 for a brand new diaper. One diaper. That’s crazy, right? Maybe so…but we have found ways around it and built ourself a nice stash that will last us all the way through potty training.

Find discount websites. Zulily runs great specials on cloth diapers! The BEST ones that we have bought new have been from there, and they are routinely half the retail price (so, around $10), come with all the accessories, and are completely adorable. Ebay can also get you great deals, as can overseas distributors- though, we choose to stay away from those because of labor standard concerns (full disclosure, I did buy a cheap pack of Chinese ones in the beginning, and I feel really bad about it now).

Don’t be afraid of used diapers! This was a game changer for me. Cloth diapers have to be taken care of very well, washed with specific detergents and almost always line (or at least gentle) dried. Moms know the investment that goes into these diapers, and they are good stewards of their possessions! Diapers also get put through a sterilization process called “stripping”, which many moms do before selling. Therefore, I have built a significant portion of my diaper stash by purchasing used diapers that are in very good or excellent condition- often only worn a few times. Craigslist can provide some of these for you, but the most reputable site I have used is DiaperSwappers. Moms are very honest about the condition of diapers and you can get great deals! Here’s just some of the brands I now have in my stash, thanks to Diaper Swappers:

Green Mountain Diapers
Little Bee Co
Bum Genius
Charlie Banana
Thirsties Duo
Rumparooz
Happy Heiny
Awesome Blossom

Many of these retail for $20+, but I never paid more than $10 for one diaper (and that was only one), and that was with shipping. All in all, I have about 25 diapers ready to go, and I have invested about $175 in a stash that will diaper at least 2 children through potty training. Much better than the cost of disposables, no matter how many kids we have! While this number will definitely last us, I have still registered for some more diapers- the more you have, the longer they will last, as they will be in a bigger rotation.

The best part about these diapers (ok, maybe not the best, but you get the idea) is that they can be resold AGAIN when we are done with them for about 50-75% of what I paid for them, making the investment even more worthwhile. Keep the cuteness while you need it, then make some money back!

Lastly, you could make your own!  If you are crafty, making your own diapers and accessories might be very easy for you, lowering your costs even more AND letting you create exactly the diaper you want! Prefolds are easy enough to sew, but there’s patterns even for the most intricate all-in-one or pocket styles. I can’t sew worth a lick but I hope to learn this fall, and at least make some good flannel wipes and some insert/doublers. Here’s some good sites to get started:

DIY Diaper Inserts via Rusty Cookie Cutter

DIY Diaper Detergent via The Eco Friendly Family

DIY Diaper Patterns via Keeper of the Home and via Northern Baby

Have you tried cloth? Are you interested? What questions do you have?

Happy Diapering,

Karli

READ THIS: Better World Shopping Guide

My staple tools of being a socially and environmentally conscious individual are the Better World Shopper listings.  If you have never been exposed to this educational wonder, head on over to their website immediately and figure out where your favorite products lie!

Available for personal use via their website (limited products), book (great but will need to be updated eventually) or smartphone app (best), this is a resource that you can use for just about anything.  Ellis Jones has compiled countless hours of research on different companies and ranked them overall according to human rights, environmental issues, animal protection, community involvement, and social justice.

Companies are divided into categories, like “clothing”, “fast food”, “retail stores”, or “frozen dinners”, and then ranked A-F according to the research done by Jones and his team.  Each category is also given a Best and Worst, and some specific reasons as to why they are awarded that title.  For example, did you know that Back to Nature, a staple in many supermarkets natural food aisles, is actually owned by Kraft, one of the worst companies in America?  Back to Nature gets an “F”, though its store placement might suggest otherwise.

I love this guide because I can use it when I am grocery shopping- I whip out my app ($1.99) and I can see what brands of cereal are better, or toothpaste, or almond milk.  I now appreciate some well-known brands a lot more (IKEA for example) while not totally loving others that I used to trust (like Kashi).  I have also been introduced to many new brands that I has never heard of, but now have grown to love and respect.

On the whole, even if you just visit the website when necessary, this is an invaluable tool for anyone looking to make their purchases consciously.  Check it out, and tell me what you learn!  Were you surprised by anything?  I know I was…

THE FEED GIFT GUIDE!

You guys, it’s the Christmas season! Did you know? Oh…

Shopping with responsible consumerism in mind is downright terrifying, especially with Black Friday and every commercial ever and family wish lists breathing down your throat. Well, I hope to lend you a helping hand with a lovely Responsible Gift Guide!

FOR HER:

Etsy– this is a no brainer! Girls love jewelry, and no matter what her style, you can find something beautiful on Etsy. The great thing about Etsy is that it connects you directly to artisans- there isn’t any greed-crazed corporate middle man to deal with, just you and the creator. Now, in terms of materials or ingredient sourcing, you’ll have to investigate each shop to make sure that they fit your responsibility standards.

Light Gives Heat– amazing organization that partners with women in Uganda to create beautiful, handmade jewelry items, while teaching them life skills and providing counseling. Many of the women have been affected by or lost family members to the LRA forces. In addition to jewelry, the company also has many other lovely accessories, such as bags, tees, and scarves. Inventory is updated frequently and new styles come out all the time. I own several of their pieces and they are lovely! I’m loving this banana tree jewelry stand.

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Conscious Box– Full disclosure, I already know that I am getting one of these for Christmas, and I absolutely cannot wait! This is a package subscription program, and every month you are sent a box of goodies from socially responsible companies. They even have a vegan option!

Julep– Nail polish that is free of nasty chemicals, yet it affordable and on-trend. Similar to Conscious Box, they also have a monthly subscription program. Try the promo code “penny” to get your first box for, well, a penny!

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Roozt– This is a great outlet site for organizations and conscious brands to get their names and products out to consumers- and for consumers to score them for less. You can search based on “humanitarian gifts”, “eco-friendly gifts”, and more! Anything from body products to jewelry to belts to tees.

Everlane– this site operates on a new business model where they work directly with manufacturers to bring you high quality product for a lot less money. I’m not terribly sure about their sourcing, but I own a few of their tops and the quality is truly unmatched. Plus, you get rewards for referring friends!

LUSH– yes, everyone knows I love LUSH. If you’ve been my friend or read this blog for more than five seconds, you know. But do you know about their gifts? They really are spectacular. Gifts are themed and products are picked and wrapped- it’s all beautiful, colorful, and smells amazing. The recipient of a LUSH gift will be the happiest at the party, no doubt. It’s basically all I ask for for Christmas.

FOR HIM:

Dudes are intrinsically harder to shop for. Maybe its because I’m not a dude that I think this, but I really believe it’s true. However, there are some things that guys in general enjoy, and so I will try to play to those. If all else fails, check out Society6 or Roozt and find something fun there.

Patagonia– This clothing company is amazing. One of Better World Shoppers, highest rated companies for sustainability and responsible practices, they make high quality clothing, especially for outdoorsmen, that every guy on your list will love.

Society6– This is a super-cool site for artists. They upload their artwork, you pick the printing medium (canvas, card, iPhone case, etc). Really efficient way to find great artists and own some of their work for less.

REI– this is the place for a gift card. REI is every adventurers dream- if you can do it outdoors, they will have it. Another very highly ranked BWS company.

Coffee from a responsible company. Locally, we love Furnace Hills Coffee Company, a direct trade group that employs adults with disabilities, roasts here in town, and works directly with farmers worldwide. More readily available is Equal Exchange, which also makes the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.

Hello Somebody watches are a great find for the fashion-forward man in your life. They come in a variety of sizes and colors, and sometimes with interchangeable faces. Their organization focuses on providing care to children through food, hydration, education, and freedom.

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Falling Whistles is an organization that focuses on advocating for peace in the Congo. Their product is one for a particular man of fashion- a large whistle on a chain necklace cannot be rocked by just anyon. They are also great for girls, too, but work really well as a masculine piece for a male that wears things like this.

THE GIVING GIFTS

Some of my favorite gifts that I have given, or received, are what I like to call ‘giving gifts’. These are gifts that someone else receives on behalf of your loved one- someone that needs it more. They are meaningful beyond just your relationship, and they help build the Kingdom with our generosity.

FH Catalog– Food for the Hungry is one of the most effective Christian holistic development agencies in the world. Their Gift Catalog allows you to bless a global family with something they need- be it a cow, chicken, mosquito net, or job training.

The Hunger Strike– When you buy a Mobilization Kit, you receive a tee, necklace, and more- and 48 meals are sent to famine-stricken areas of East and West Africa, as well as funding missionary programs and anti-poverty advocacy events.

Cure International– This organization works with children worldwide suffering from Hydrocephalus- something that two of my siblings are affected by as well. Your purchase helps to fund a lifesaving surgery for one of these children.

Save the Storks– This is a great small-scale pro-life organization run by our friends, Joe and Ann Baker. They work directly with Crisis Pregnancy Centers to equip them with sonogram buses to operate outside of abortion clinics, as well as providing counseling resources, support groups, and even alternative employment for abortion clinic workers. Their clothing is beautiful and makes a great ‘giving gift’.

Easy Health Tips: Best Eco, Health, and Social Responsibility Apps!

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you all had a great weekend! We are headed to a show in West Virginia tonight, and then home for a few days. I intend to spend a great deal of time in my kitchen with friends in the next few nights, so get excited for some creative and healthy recipe reviews! Now, onto today’s fun…

The iPhone is a wonderful thing. I can’t imagine going without it anymore- it helps me keep up with my friends and family, track my diet and exercise, document my life in photographs, and find new recipes and fashions. That being said, the iPhone can be a powerful tool for the social, health, and Eco-conscious individual. I wanted to highlight some of the best apps in each category- hopefully you find something that appeals to you!

SOCIAL
Better World Shopper is one of my favorite tools- I reference them all the time while shopping. The app, especially is a great reference while shopping and allows you to quickly compare different brands on a scale of Eco-onsciousness, social responsibility, and other criteria. Browse their website for a full explanation of their ratings.

Free2Work is similar to BWS, but concentrates in social responsibility, articulately with child slavery and trafficking offenses. Created by the Not For Sale Campaign, it is self-described as the “modern day abolitionist movement”. A nice feature of this app is the barcode scanner- it will pull up that product directly and give you a full report.

GoodGuide allows you to search by products or brand, but also by different criteria- social, nutritional, environmental. Your can make your own favorites out of the 50,000+ products featured, and even make “products to avoid” lists!

ECO
IRecycle– shows you what items can be recycle, when, and where. includes recycling center maps based on your location, relevant articles, and infographics. More than 300 types of materials a reviewed. Easy to use and very visual.

Locavore– for the adventurer and local foodie at heart! Foraging tips and recipes for using local edible plants, CSAs, farmers markets, vegan and vegetarian filters, and seasons according to your location. Includes maps of local sellers, with directions! A gem of an app.

Green Book– This app doesn’t feature specific products or brands, but instead focuses on principles and how to make good green decisions, offering a plethora of eco-living tips and tricks.

Get There By Bike is an interactive bike map and directions application that helps you safely get from point A to point B by bicycle. Includes tools to mark traffic, dangerous intersections, bike parking, bike theft, record and share your own routes, and a timer.

HEALTH
Map My Run– I use this every time I run! This app uses GPS functions to tell you exactly how far you have run, shouts our your time on mile splits, and gives you an overall pace at the end of your run. You can even save runs and try for your personal best time, or search for others runs in the same area! Very useful. Especially when I think I have run five miles and actually only ran two. 😉

My Fitness Pal– I use this app almost every day, along with most people on our tour. While I personally think that calorie counting can be very dangerous (particularly for this who have struggled with eating disorders) it can be a powerful tool, particularly if you have trouble gauging portion sizing or how much to eat at one time. It allows you to input exercising, weight loss or maintenance goals, and create favorite meals. One of my most- used apps.

Hatha Yoga– while I have not personally used this app, it has received glowing reviews online as being both easy to follow and authentic to the practice of yoga. Allows for use f both preset and customized classes. Great for the yogi on the go!

BodyRock.tv -okay, these workouts are insanely good. If you want to kick your butt into shape, download this app and get started. Workouts are between 10-20 minutes, full body, cardio, killer. They have built up quite a following! They also have a full website.

Do y’all have any apps that you swear by? Anything you feel like is missing from the app world? Let’s make it happen!