Maternity leave, redux

eBay has done a very cool thing starting this January 2016.  They have really beefed up their maternity leave/family leave policies.  Last year, the policy was you could get up to 12 weeks maternity leave, but only six weeks were paid by short-term disability and it was at 80% of your base pay.  Starting in January, you can now get up to 24 weeks PAID leave (at 100% base pay!), 12 for disability and 12 for bonding time.  I was kind of miffed that I had missed this new policy, being that I had had Leo back in May.  But then! I heard some other girls in a different department talking about how they were taking advantage of the new policy, and one of the women had had her baby last March!

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I asked my manager if it was something I could take advantage of and to my surprise, eBay is allowing the new policy for anyone provided the baby is not yet a year old.  You can believe I snapped up that opportunity!  So starting on Monday, I will have the next 12 weeks off work (I already used my short-term disability when I actually gave birth to Leo)!  How cool is that?!  And eBay gives this benefit to fathers as well.  I told one of my teammates about it and he’s taking off the next 12 weeks as well.  Kind of leaves our team a bit short staffed, but I don’t feel bad about taking up this extended leave time.  Baby months are short, you know?  Leo is already on the cusp of crawling and I want to physically be there to get in on that action.  Sometimes I get irritated having to be on the phone with members who are surly, but I definitely appreciate eBay’s employee benefits.

This past month has had ups and downs.  In December I came down with a cold and had to miss the company holiday party.  I hear it was really good this year, both the food and the entertainment.

Velvet and the girls celebrated the new year with us at our house and we ate tons of junk food and watched silly movies before ringing in the new years with the folks on tv.

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On New Years morning we got the word that Velvet’s husband had passed away early that morning in a car accident.  Talk about a shock.  Not the best way to start the year.  Family and friends have been so generous with their outpouring of support, it’s been amazing.  She has some really solid people in her corner and I’m grateful for that.

Dad and Dani came for about a week after we got the news and helped Velvet with some stuff around the house and filing paperwork, that kind of thing.  It was sad circumstances but great to see them.  Dad hadn’t shaved since his foot surgery last summer so he was rocking a full-on beard, it was great!  And he and Dani had new tattoos they didn’t tell us about.  They are getting to be rebels in their old age.  (Yeah, I said old age, Dad, deal with it!)

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Jesse has started his final semester of school.  It seems like a light at the end of a loooooooong tunnel.  If it seems long to me, it probably feels longer to him.  Hopefully he can get a job straight out of graduation.  We’d like to get a job back in the Pacific NW, but I have a feeling he may get something closer to here.  Just in case, I’ve been looking up acreage in Washington.  You never know.

The whole family was hit with a stomach bug earlier this month.  I called out a couple days for myself and then Ezra was ill and then Jesse.  Leo was sick a couple times but I couldn’t tell if it was the bug or just normal baby pukes.  I’m thinking probably it was the bug because Leo is not one for just randomly spitting up.

In the past month we cleared out the junk room upstairs and moved Ezra into that room then moved Leo into Ezra’s old room.  (For those keeping track, we recently swapped rooms with Ezra, so there has been a LOT of room changing lately).  After Ezra was all moved in it still took us awhile to get the rest of our stuff out of the room.  But, now it’s all his and just has mainly his stuff in it.  It looks like a bedroom again, completely different than from the past four years.

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It’s been a little difficult for me having Leopold in his own room.  I have to check on him at night before I go to bed to make sure he’s still breathing or to rearrange him so he’s covered by blankets.  That kind of thing.

Ezra finished his skating lessons.  Or rather I should say, we went to maybe three lessons and he just didn’t want to go to more.  So that was the end of that.  Maybe he’ll be more interested next year.  However, he did just start swimming lessons and though we’ve only gone the one time, he was VERY excited about it, both before and after.  He got water in his eyes at one point and completely freaked out about that so we need to remember to bring his goggles next time.

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There is this book I’ve read several times, a romance novel if you must know, and in it they talk about chicken marsala a lot and the lead in the books tries her hand at making it.  I’ve always wanted to try it so finally purchased all the ingredients and here is the first result:

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It was good but slightly bland, so the next time I made it I about quadrupled the amount of wine and chicken stock (because the first time I had doubled it) and I also added shallots and garlic.  It was fantastic!  We are going to put this in the rotation for dinners.

I’m still debating between raised garden beds and hay bale gardening.  I think the raised garden beds look more neat but I like that after a season or two we could use the spent hay bales as mulch.  I really want to ramp up our efforts this season.  We are going to do the tomatoes and peppers, but I’d like to also do spaghetti squash again (and actually eat it this time) and maybe a bed for lettuces and one for onions and garlic.

I decided to give up on the milk kefir.  While I do think I was getting good probiotics, I am inherently lazy and I didn’t want to have to tend to something daily.  I’d go a week before switching the grains to new milk and I didn’t want to deal with it anymore so I fed the rest of the kefir, milk grains and all, to Benny and that is the end of that.

We did just start a ginger bug again, though.  Jesse has taken it on because we are both really into ginger ale right now and would like to make our own.  A ginger bug is the basis of this.  Right now it’s happily bubbling away with wild yeast colonizing the jar and eating the sugar.  In about a week we can take some of that liquid and make a ginger ale with it.  Exciting!  Probiotic ginger ale, yeah!

I also purchased a 2.5 gallon dispenser to brew kombucha.  Right now I have a 1-gallon container and it’s a pain trying to bottle up the brew.  This new dispenser has a spigot in it so bottling the drink should be much easier, and I won’t have to remove the scoby when making the new batch.

Over the course of the next 12 weeks I will attempt to be more active and to eat better.  Fingers crossed for me!

Exhausting week

I had a prenatal growth ultrasound the other day and my 30-week baby is measuring in at 35 weeks, and they estimate he is already five lbs.  Good times, right?  I know that ultrasounds can be fairly inaccurate but he feels huge already and with Ezra being over 11 lbs at birth, it would not surprise me in the least if this one is as large.

I had the glucose screening test that day, too, and figured all was well because they didn’t call me the next day to say I had gestational diabetes.  Well, the clinic called yesterday to say my levels were a little high so they want me to come back in and do the three-hour test.  Which I now get to do on Monday.  That’s right, folks.  I get to take the day off work to get blood drawn repeatedly.  Sounds like a dream come true, right?!  Fingers crossed I don’t actually have GD, because that would suck.  Jesse has pointed out it wouldn’t be overly surprising since I haven’t been eating the best (Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream, anyone?) for the entirety of this pregnancy.  I guess we’ll see.

The dogs have generally been driving us nuts, so that’s business as usual.  Potty-training Ezra is going nowhere, also business as usual.

I’ve been having very good luck with the kombucha and water kefir.  I finally turned on the seed starter mat which has really sped up the fermenting process.  I’m not sure why I waited to long this year to turn on the mat.  I’ve also started keeping the milk kefir in that cupboard on the heated mat as well, so we’ve been enjoying kefir smoothies on an almost daily basis.  I opened a half-filled water kefir drink last night and it had so much carbonation that the liquid geysered up, all over me and onto the floor.

it was a little like this

it was a little like this

I guess half-filled bottles should be removed from the heated mat and placed in the fridge sooner rather than later.

Have you guys ever had Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Island Lime Shrimp frozen meal?

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It is AWESOME and I haven’t had it in years, so I went online to find a recipe, and this one seems pretty close to what I imagine was in the original.  I am lacking the liquor, but it might turn out just fine without it.  Hopefully I’ll attempt it in a couple days and I’ll try to remember to take photos and let you know how it was.

We are still trying to figure out what to do with the garden this year.  We kind of want to move the strawberry plants out of their current bed and move the chicken coop to that area of the yard and fence it off so the dogs cannot get to the chickens but the chickens will still have room to roam a bit.  Then we’re thinking of sodding half the yard, and the other half will be gardening space.  We’re getting a tax return back this year so we might be able to scrounge the money to do that, but on the other hand I only get paid for six weeks maternity which means we’ll need to save up for the remaining six weeks that aren’t paid…so who knows.  We may just need to save our coins and put it all off for another year.

We made the first quiche of the year a couple nights ago, and it was DELICIOUS!  We seriously have this quiche thing down.  We make two of them when baking because then I have extra I can take to work.  Reheated quiche isn’t *quite* as good as straight from the over, but it’s still darn tasty.

Here is to spring being just around the corner!  Huzzah!

Dehydrated liver treats? Sounds yummy, right?

Jesse and I have been going back and forth whether or not to keep Luca because let’s face it, Luca’s a little crazy.  When people come over he jumps all over them whereas Benny gets really excited as well but then very quickly goes and lies down.  Luca nips at our hands while walking past, and he’s not great in the car (Benny has his issues too; face biting, anyone?).  But how can I get rid of Luca when he gives me this face?

Luca

Luca

So I’ve decided I need to start working with the dogs again.  So far I’m using up the leftover treats we bought when the dogs were wee puppies but I’ll soon be out of that.  I was trying to think of other things we can train them with.  I’ve thought of very small pieces of cheese; should be easy enough and we have a cheddar cheese block to use.  We can boil up some chicken breast and cube/shred it.  It also occurred to me that I can dehydrate liver in our new dehydrator!  There is a butcher facility not too far from my work where we got our organs last time and I do need to reorder.  I can just order extra liver and cube into small pieces and dehydrate those!  I’m pretty happy about this because I would like to get more organ meat into the dogs and this way the treats should be long-lasting, unlike the shredded chicken or the cheese.

We bought Ezra some finger paints on Amazon and let him try them out last night.  He didn’t *quite* have the hang of how it should work.  Jesse put blobs of paint on the right side of the sheet of paper and Ez basically just ran his whole hand over the blobs to mix up the colors and then slapped his hand on the sheet to make splatters.  It was kind of a mess but I did like the finished product.

Ezra's finger painting

Ezra’s finger painting; it’s hanging upside down to dry.  The hand print slaps that have the green at the top (which would technically be the bottom), he kept calling those prints “flamingos”.

We had him naked while painting because he already had no bottoms on and we didn’t want to stain the shirt even though the paints are supposed to be washable (we need to get a painting smock for him).  By the end of the painting time he was fairly colorful so we put him in a bath.  We had also purchased some bath color tablets and he thought those were pretty neat.

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They have pretty good saturation and Ezra liked the fizziness aspect of them, he called them volcanoes.  Of course, I could probably make something similar at home, but I get lazy after a certain point, you know?  I was going to buy bath crayons as well, but apparently those *are* easy to make, so I will look up a recipe and see what’s what.  We’re trying to find anything to make bath time more fun.  He enjoys himself once he’s in the tub, but resists the idea of a bath when he’s not actually in the water.

Our chickens are giving us about four eggs a day, according to Jesse.  Velvet is going to get her own chicks this year so while she’ll probably take some eggs off our hands until summer, we will still have more than enough for the next couple months.  Here comes more quiche, yum!  We make awesome quiche.

I got some milk kefir grain and have been working to rehydrate them and transfer them onto raw milk, but it’s turning into more of a process than I feel it should be.  Probably because I keep trying to rush the process.  In any event I’ll probably try to get some extra grains from someone who already has them acclimated to raw milk.  I want to try that milk kefir!  I’m giving the dogs the cultured milk at this stage because it’s not the quality of kefir I want and the pups appear to enjoy it very much.  The cats, not so much.  Fingers crossed I can finally get it right!

A weekend for making things

Ok folks, I made so many things this weekend!  First I poured off and made some new water kefir.  I’m doing a second ferment with our homemade elderberry syrup because it actually seems to flavor it fairly strongly and it’s one flavor Jesse seems to like.  I also like adding a bit of sugar water with some vanilla, it’s like a cream soda then.  I’ll have to make that flavor again soon, maybe with the next batch.  That’s one item off the list.

Thinking about making our own snacky foods, I then made cheese crackers (think cheese nips) and they were ok, but I think I either need to let them bake longer or have them be a more uniform size.  Also I used a bit more cheese than called for.  Ezra seemed to like them but they get kind of soft after the next day, a little soggy.

cheese crackers

cheese crackers

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And remember forever ago when I said I was going to make homemade deodorant and see how that works?  Well, I finally did it.  There are a lot of recipes out there with similar ingredients, so I went with one that was 1/4 C. coconut oil, 1/4 C. baking soda, and 1/4 C. arrowroot powder.  I added a few drops of lavender essential oil for good measure.  The mix itself smells really good, kind of a light coconut/lavender scent going on.  I wore it today for the first time and doing a smell test after 8+ hours has me believing this just may work.  Some people reported that the baking soda left their skin rashy and tender but if that happens apparently you can decrease the baking soda and increase the arrowroot powder.  Other people use cornstarch in their ingredients, and others yet include shea butter or cocoa butter.  I will stick with this simple recipe unless I am forced to change it.

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Jesse wants to try it as well.  I told him I’d make him some that smelled more manly (think cedarwood) but he said he didn’t mind smelling like lavender:)  My lucky coworkers will get to let me know if I start to stink.  Although they will probably be too polite to tell me to my face and will have to go to my supervisor instead.  I’m not too worried about it if today is anything to go by.

I have a crazy sweet tooth and saw we had shredded coconut flakes, so I found a coconut cream recipe and made a pie.  I think this was a recipe Jesse had made before I wasn’t a huge fan of the pudding filling.  I’ve made a banana cream pie before and really liked that pudding base, but of course I lost that recipe.  In this coconut cream one I did about half the dairy and included a can of coconut milk to increase the coconut flavor.  It’s ok and Jesse seems to like it, but I think the flour addition gives it a more bland flavor.

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I made spaghetti last night and it was so good!  I made everything from scratch using our canned tomatoes and grass-fed beef and sausage.  Of course, we didn’t process the meat nor dry the Italian herbs, but I will still call it from scratch.  Ezra doesn’t like meat sauce (which is weird because he likes meat) so I just gave him noodles and cheese, which he loves.

I made us some smoothies from frozen organic cherries, frozen strawberries, and yogurt.  I want to use our Vitamix more often (that’s why I put it on our new kitchen island).  Ezra liked it, dare say.

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Of our two dogs, Benny doesn’t bark all that often.  Luca will go out at night and I don’t know what the hell he’s barking at.  If it’s some potential intruder, then I’m glad he does it.  However, I’m pretty sure he’s just barking at shadows and that gets old really quickly.  This morning around 4am I’d had enough so I went out and called in both dogs (Benny had just gone out to see what Luca was shouting about) and when they came in I tried to shut the dog door using the metal plate insert but somehow the tracks in the door had become bent so I couldn’t fit the door into the tracks.  I finally said screw it and just put them both in their kennels and went back to bed.  They did pretty well; sometimes Luca just scratches at the base of the floor but it seemed like they both just settled down and slept until I let them out around 8am.  Then a few hours later I looked outside and saw they were both in the chicken coop.  Normally this wouldn’t be an issue but for the past couple days we’ve been keeping the chickens penned up which meant the dogs had found some way to break in.  The weird thing was both dogs were eating the wilting spinach that Jesse had just given to the chickens.  Jesse had to go to school so he wrangled the dog door insert into place and we’ve had to manually let out the dogs today.  It’s not that I’m afraid the dogs with go to the bathroom inside but really they’ve had access to that dog door since they were little so haven’t learned any real method of communicating to us that they need to go outside.  So it is a wee concern.  (Haha *wee* concern, get it?  Yeah, at least I think I’m funny.)

Now I just need to focus on getting that bone broth into us on a daily basis.  Still haven’t got that ball rolling yet.  But I *DID* just get some milk kefir grains today when I picked up our raw milk at the store.  The cruddy thing is they are dehydrated, and you’re supposed to rehydrate using pasteurized milk, which we don’t have.  I had to pasteurize the milk myself heating it up to a certain point for a certain amount of time.  Pain in the ass.  Once the grains are rehydrated then I can work on transitioning to raw milk.

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Superbowl Sunday (and I couldn’t care less)

Me:  I was going to see if the guys at work wanted to do a potluck for Superbowl Sunday tomorrow, but they weren’t there at work and now it’s too late to set something up.
Jesse:  Can you watch the game at work?
Me:  Nope, but I wanted to do the food thing.
Jesse:  But why would you bring food if you can’t watch the game?  Although, the game doesn’t start until four, so you might get to watch some of it.
Me:   I don’t care about the game, I care about the food!
Jesse:  But…why can’t you just do a potluck some other Sunday, why does it have to be Superbowl Sunday?
Me:  Because it’s an excuse to eat a lot of food!  What aren’t you getting about this?!

Men, I tell you.

So, I recently said we were eating out too much and were going to focus eating more at home, remember that?  Yeah, that night we had Chinese food.  Good times.  To be fair, after that Jesse and I discussed ways to improve our eating and we are going to start having a small mug of homemade bone broth everyday.  We will have to find a way to smuggle it into Ezra because I doubt he’s going to be down for drinking warmed, meat-flavored gelatin water (sounds tasty, right?).  We’ll figure something out.  Also, I’m going to be better about drinking my kefir and kombucha.

Speaking of kefir, I think I’m going to get some kefir milk grains.  We’ve (I’ve) been drinking water kefir, but I was reading a post by another blogger and she lays out some interesting information about milk kefir vs. water kefir.  She also has a post on milk kefir vs. yogurt that seems pretty sound.  Jesse likes a certain brand of honeyed Greek yogurt but reluctantly said he would try a kefir version.  I just need to get some milk kefir grains because you cannot use the water grain variety.

water kefir grains

water kefir grains

milk kefir grains

milk kefir grains

I’ve also been looking into straw bale gardening.  Jesse has pooh-poohed this idea, but I still may want to get a couple bales and see how they do compared to the rest of the garden we’ll be doing this year.

example of straw-bale gardening

example of straw bale gardening

Speaking of the garden, Jesse wants to move the chickens and their coop from their present location to a different area of the yard, so I’m not sure what the garden will look like this year.  He’s tried to explain it to me verbally, but I really need to *see* it to understand it, so one of these days I will need to walk the yard with him to figure out where everything is going to go.

This baby boy has been very active.  Last night he was kicking around and all of a sudden it was like he was having a seizure, kicking and punching in a fury…and then nothing.  Absence.  Totally freaked me out.  I lay there for awhile all anxious before he started kicking again and I felt relieved.  Don’t do that, baby!