September 17, 2017

You’re Eating Plant-Based…Why?

First off, let me say that eating plant-based isn’t a new thing for me so much as a reoccurring theme that has waxed and wained a bit over the years. My parents were kind of leftover 70’s hippies when they were raising 3 kids in the 80’s and they did things like grind up mushroom lentil stroganoff leftovers for our baby food meals. The story goes that my sister was over at my cousin’s house and when she asked what was for lunch my aunt jokingly said “lentils” and my sister replied, “yum!” Anyways, we definitely had more meat come into our family diet as the years went on but still not nearly as much as is probably common in other households. I guess I was never a giant fan of meat to begin with since my Mom says I would always pick out a lot of ground beef from stews or only eat a small portion of a steak, etc. Once I was old enough to be interested in reading about food, I remember pouring through one of my parents books on more plant-based eating (Diet For A New America) and just being fascinated by the material. The author of that book, John Robbins, was actually one of the heirs to the Baskin and Robbins ice cream empire so for him to make a full 360° on how he viewed milk in particular was pretty astonishing.

I was a bit on and off to say the least with my eating during college and for a few years after. I didn’t think animal based products were healthy for me based on what I had read earlier, buuuut I was also in my early 20’s and I guess everyone thinks nothing can really harm them and they will live forever at that age so I wasn’t too strict about it. Most big life events can also trigger other changes in its wake and getting married at 25 helped me to rethink how I wanted to eat. It was partially because I read Skinny Bitch around that time (a great book!) and partially because Todd’s bachelor diet had always been less than stellar to say the least (a lot of ramen, grilled cheese, candy, and soda) and I wanted him to eat healthier as well, but either way I asked him if he would be interested in trying a more plant-based diet with me and he agreed to give it a shot. After a few weeks of eating that way I asked him what he thought of the new plan and he said that he felt less heavy after a meal and had more energy to go for a walk or something rather than just sink into the couch after dinner—he really liked it!

We followed that eating path pretty well with a few regression periods here and there, but I really got away from eating plant based when I got pregnant last year. I actually did a pre-pregnancy detox to prepare my body after reading How to Conceive Naturally: and Have a Healthy Pregnancy After 30. They do use a lot of animal protein in that book but they talk about a lot of other things that I thought were fascinating too so I just did all the things that they recommended. Once I did get pregnant I think I just really felt the pressure that is directed towards pregnant women to consume pretty high levels of protein. It was recommended that I have upwards of 80-90 grams of protein a day and I struggled so much with trying to get that all from plant-based eating. Let me tell you, there’s not enough time in the day, or room in my stomach for that matter, to eat 90 grams of plant based protein. You would have to eat a literal mountain of food. Add that in with being nauseous and not wanting to eat much and a shrinking stomach as Baby grew and it really felt impossible. So, what did I do? I increased the meat, egg, and dairy intake at a level that I have never eaten before just to try and reach that protein number (although most days I could still barely get to 70 grams).

I continued eating that way through the pregnancy but the whole time I was just frustrated and kind of sad about it. I just kept thinking about the Blue Zones book I had read that summer before where they find the top areas of the world where people live the longest with the best quality of life and study what they eat and how they live. Guess what? They are mostly plant-based eating cultures (with a few pescatarian elements in some locations). And in case you were wondering, one of the zones is actually in California too so it’s not a gene pool lottery that Americans can’t achieve. Anyways, that’s how I wanted to eat, but I felt there was this magic protein number floating out there that I had to reach to be a good Mom-to-be so what choice did I have? And the food recommendations for breastfeeding aren’t that different so I didn’t feel like I could get back to plant-based anytime soon after birth which made me feel worse.

Anyways, it was always in the back of my mind, this problem that I didn’t know how to solve, but once Lola was born I was reminded about The China Study book and I remembered hearing about some of the research it contains in the Forks Over Knives documentary I have watched several times over the years. I was so curious to read the whole thing, and while it is a dry book to be honest, it’s heavily focused on research and studies and pretty overwhelming with results that point to a whole foods plant-based diet as the key to healthy living and avoiding most of the “common” major diseases that befall Americans. Again, all things and conclusions that I had read several times over the last 15 years from different sources, but just insanely supported with scientific data. I was so curious to read the sections on protein because of my current eating conundrum and I was fascinated to read about how much protein they conclude we really need (hint: it’s nowhere near 80 grams a day) and how our health compares with other people groups that eat way less protein (most of it being plant-based) and have much better health than we do as a nation. Reading all that along with watching a newer documentary called What the Health (a little intense but still thought provoking) just really put me back on the path of wanting to eat primarily plant based again for our health but also for all the environmental factors as well (if you’re interested in being more eco-friendly, look into the effects of raising crazy quantities of animals just to eat —it’s pretty nuts).

So, how do I feel eating this way? I don’t really have a list of a million things that I feel when I’m eating well to be honest, BUT, I really notice a difference when I’m not eating quality meals. I can only go so many days around holidays or vacations of eating crappy food and animal based products before I feel sluggish and start craving fresh and healthy meals instead. I do eat more frequently throughout the day when eating plant-based as I get hungry faster after meals, but I think that’s because the food is easier for me to digest than a heavier meal that is harder for it to process. I love this plant-based food blog for recipes over the years and lately I’ve been cooking a lot from this cookbook where there are so many recipes that I love so far (the falafal tacos, black bean soup, buffalo cauliflower bites, and saffron cream sauce are delish). And just to also be clear, while I want the large majority of what I eat to be free of animal protein, there are times in the week that I have pizza with real cheese or an egg out at brunch and I’m ok with that. Based on what I’ve read, if we all ate 95% plant-based it would still solve a lot of the health and ecological problems that come with the traditional American diet while still affording indulgence in those areas here and there. So, if you see a slice of regular pizza on my Instagram stories, chill out, I’m aware that it has cheese.

Obviously this is my personal history of food and everyone has to (and should) put a lot of thought into coming to their own conclusions about what’s the best way to stay healthy and responsibly kind to the planet, but I just wanted to put a few resources out there since people seemed really interested in why I like eating this way. Believe me, I know that sometimes we are too scared to look into something if we think it may change or take away something we love (like eating cheese because cheese tastes amazing) but don’t ever let that stop you from learning something new! At the end of the day you can take or leave the information but don’t let fear be what makes your food decisions especially when what you put in your body can really be the biggest contribution (or detriment) to your overall quality of life and health. If you have any plant-based cookbooks you love to use, let me know! I’d love to check them out!

xo. Laura

Opening photo from (photographer not listed)

September 10, 2017

Fall Overalls (And A Mini Date)

Welp, fall is definitely here in Nashville. The nights are in the 50’s, there’s frost on the windows as the sun comes up, and the cement back porch is freezing on my bare feet if I wander out there in the morning to catch a few rays of sun. I’m definitely more of a summer person, but I do love those early fall days when the temperature is in the low 70’s and sunny- it’s basically perfect park weather if you ask me. I also am a sucker for pretty boots and big furry coats sooo I do kind of love getting all of those out each year too. Anyways, I did a bit of shopping while Todd was in Europe for two weeks to find a cute fallish outfit for an afternoon date when he came back. Having little things like that to look forward to are really important for me when he’s gone. While I was so glad to get to spend some one-on-one time with our sweet Lola, it was certainly exhausting to say the least to take care of her and work and run the house all by myself. It felt like the longest two weeks of my life for sure!

Anyways, when he did return we got to go to our fave brunch spot in town (Sky Blue Cafe!) which was a big treat since we hadn’t been there since Lola was born and it was so nice to catch up a bit and grab a coffee soda afterwards and enjoy the perfect weather together.

Overall Dress/ Forever 21, Boots/ Aldo (similar), Bag c/o the Fix, Sunnies/ Forever 21 (similar)

To add some subtle fun to the bag (I love round purses lately BTW) I added a furry pom pom in the same color (like this one). Probably my fave 90’s trend right now is the choker comeback. I can get a little weird about having tight things near my neck so I tend to do the more delicate ones and layer a gold choker set instead of the super thick ones. Maybe I’ll ease into the more dramatic designs later? Overall dresses are great for the transition from summer to fall since you can wear them with tank tops or long sleeve shirts as the weather changes so I may get a few more pairs (maybe in white perhaps?) and it will be so cute when Lola can fit into cute pink ones like these. I’ve already gotten her some furry coats and boots so I can’t wait to see her in those in a few months!

Our friends Stacy and Darren were kind enough to watch Lola for the afternoon for our date and they said she was a perfect angel and didn’t make a peep the whole time. She did however, as you can see above, have her first cuddle session with her gal pals and it’s so sweet that it just melts my heart! It’s so important to have a few hours here and there to reconnect with Todd so I want to make sure that we keep doing that as she gets older. And going out for brunch isn’t exactly punishment either so that’s a good motivation as well.

Taking Baby Lola out on the tour bus this week to start the fall tour with Todd! Wish us luck!!

xo. Laura

August 29, 2017

It’s Getting Better All The Time

Lately I keep thinking about that Beatles song, “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, it’s getting better all the time…” While life with a new baby is still never easy, it feels pretty night-and-day different compared to the first few months. I would say that things started to really turn a corner at the two month mark when we started to get more of a daily schedule in place based on when she naturally would wake, want to eat, and get sleepy for naps. Once I actually took note of all those cues I could see a loose pattern emerging so I made a schedule off of that and she took to it pretty quickly. I found it so helpful for me because once I realized when she was getting sleepy around the same time each day I could remember that the corresponding fussiness was due to her being tired rather than hungry and put her down for a nap instead of feeding her to try and solve the problem. It definitely explained why she would just fall asleep those times when I fed her guessing she was hungry instead. Another thing that also helped was swaddling her for naps during the day. I was just swaddling at night before that but once we swaddled during those nap times she went from only doing 45 min naps to 1.5-2 hour naps instead-YES! We have a few swaddlers but since she’s a summer baby it’s nice to have some lightweight ones as well like this breathable swaddler that Ergobaby sent us. Lola is basically baby Houdini because she can wiggle her arms out of all of them if she really wants to, but these swaddlers have the arm pockets which help slow her down a bit on that front and they have a lilac one that matches her nursery perfectly which I love too.Trying to get out for little adventures more and more. The Five Daughters donuts in town sells vegan donuts that are SO good!Lola’s also started sucking on her fingers and hands a lot and drooling more so I’m wondering if she’s started teething?!I don’t usually get to see my parents all that much since they live 9 hours away in Pittsburgh, PA, but with Lola being born I’ve seen them a bunch of times this year and it’s been so nice. They came through town this month on their way to and from visiting my aunt in AL and it warms my heart in such a huge way to see them spend time with Lola. I have to alert my Mom know every time I wake Lola up from a nap when they are here because she loves to watch her smile and stretch once she is released from her swaddle- it’s so cute!Man, does this girl love her Daddy! Also, what is it with guys and pretending babies are exercising? I thought it was just a Todd thing to have her do leg squats and reps of things like she’s at the gym but my Dad does the same thing when he holds her so maybe it’s a general guy thing. Todd also loves to prop her up with pillows on the couch so it looks like she’s a real human sitting by herself and I’ve been told other Dads do that a lot too…             Dress/ Shein, Boots/ Public Desire, Umbrella/ Totes, Sunnies/ LuLu’s (similar here)

Still trying to get out of the house dressed up now and then for coffee or lunch to refresh the old spirit. The overall outings still can’t last too long (I tried to run several errands the other day and I think I overloaded her) but even just a few hours out make me feel a little more normal.LOVE this new rug from Arro Home in our den. It’s bright, fun, and great for Lola to play on since it’s a flat weave and she won’t get shag rug fuzzies stuck all over her sticky drool hands. I’m sure I’ll be moving this one all around the house since it basically matches every room too!Lots of pool days lately! This inflatable pool is probably the best thing we bought this summer-it’s amazing for the price and we’ve had at least 4 adults and Lola in it at one time. She loves splashing in the water and I like how surprised she gets when she splashes herself in the face! As you can see though, sometimes a girl just has to nap no matter where you are…             Outfit/ Shein, Shoes/ Steve Madden, Purse/ Shein, Sunnies/ Forever 21 (similar)

Todd’s been wanting to mini-golf all summer (usually one of our main summer activities) so we had a date night where we we got Thai food and then played a round together and it was really fun. I will say though that even though it’s nice to get out just the two of us, it is hard to totally enjoy it since my brain feels like it’s only partially there and the other half is thinking or worrying about Lola at home. I’m sure that totally normal but I do want to feel a little more present in the date nights so hopefully I can let that anxiety go a bit more as time goes on…

While having a schedule has made life a lot more manageable, Lola has been going through some sleep regression the past few weeks so it’s been a little more tiring than usual. She may very well go back to a better sleep schedule soon or this may just be her new normal for a bit or forever- we’ll see! Until then, I may be going out for coffee a bit more than usual 😉

August 22, 2017

What I Actually Used in My Birth Bag

I’ve had a few people request that I do an updated post on what I actually used from my birth bag packing list after Lola was born so here you go! I think unless it’s your second baby you really have no idea what you will want when the time comes so I really wanted to be prepared with a list of options so I could have some choices in the moment. I had to have a bit of a “double scenario” bag since I was giving birth at a birth center with the chance of being transferred to the hospital in case of complications, but thankfully I felt prepared for that since that’s exactly what ended up happening. Here’s what I ended up using the most from the original list:

Long t-shirt for laboring
Slip on shoes (flip flops please!)
Change of underwear and socks
Sports bra for birthing tub
Nursing sleep bra and deep V-neck tops that are easy to nurse in
Pajamas (nursing friendly)
Going home outfit (I added a button up cotton dress and leggings and stretchy tank top as options)
Toiletries bag (have lots of giant pads and adult diapers at home for post partum but birth center and hospital provide those types of things along with peri bottle while there)

WHAT I USED: I did spend the first half of labor in my long t-shirt (and I wore that over to the birth center too) but eventually I was just in my nursing sleep bra since it was the most comfortable for the second half of labor. I wore the hospital gown the first night but eventually changed into a deep V-neck for the rest of the stay (so much more comfortable!) when I wasn’t doing skin-to-skin with Lola and I wore the leggings and a tank top for the ride home.

Essential oils (the birth center has a diffusor in each room so I’m taking lavender and orange oils)
Headphones for playlists, relaxing music, etc (birth center also has speakers for playing tracks out loud too )
Rice heating pad (they also have electric heating pads at birth center but you have to stay near the outlet to use that)
Pool noodle (sliced down one side to put over rim of birth tub for softer surface to lean on)
Washable bath pillow for birth tub
Massage Oil
Battery-operated candles for mood (aren’t allowed to have real ones!)

*Birth center has a ton of stuff already there like birth balls, rebozo scarves, birth stools, wall-mounted rungs to hang on, water birth tub, etc.)

WHAT I USED: I did use some peppermint essential oil on a washcloth to help with the nausea (I threw up a lot) but I didn’t end of wanting the rice heating pad at any point. Since we were there mostly during daylight hours and had a big window in the room I didn’t use the candles but I was glad to have the bath pillow in the birth tub to lean on (I didn’t use the pool noodle since I was leaning over the rounded end of the tub instead of the long straight side).

Snacks for during labor (I have protein bars, almond butter packetshoney sticks, popsicles, and chicken broth as options and then coconut water and electrolyte water to drink)
Meals/snacks for Todd during labor (he needs to keep his strength up too!)
Frozen meal for after labor

*Definitely something that we would use more or less of certain items if we were at birth center (where Mom can eat and drink) vs. hospital (where they are a lot more restrictive on that and would serve meals while we were there). Birth center has fridge and small kitchen area where we can keep and prepare food.

WHAT I USED: I was really glad I had brought different kinds of food so I could pick what I something that I felt I could handle at the moment. I don’t think I ever actually felt hungry so it was more our doula or midwife suggesting I try and eat something when I felt weak. I ended up eating parts of a protein bar, almond butter pack, honey stick, and a popsicle as well. I think the popsicle was the easier item to get down and we didn’t end up needing the frozen meals since we were transferred to the hospital. Saved those for later!

Charger for phones and camera
Change of clothes/toiletries bag for Todd
Swimming suit for Todd (birth center has a walk in shower for hydrotherapy)
Cooler for placenta (doing placenta encapsulation)
Nipple butter
Dermoplast for pain relief and stool softener (hey, no one said this was a glamorous process right? I also have organic sitz spray, but I’ll probably use that more once at home)

WHAT I USED:  I think I used everything on this list except Todd didn’t need his swimsuit since I was only in the tub and he stayed outside the tub while helping me. That nipple butter is great though…

3 outfits/hats for Baby
2-3 receiving blankets/swaddlers
Car seat (love that this one is really safe but also really light to carry!)
Nursing pillow
Coconut oil (putting some on her bottom right away will help get the meconium off easier during those first diaper changes)

WHAT I USED: I was really surprised that all the tiny outfits I brought for her were actually giant when I tried to put them on her- even the newborn ones! I’ll take a pack of newborn onesies just in case next time. Also, I bought a bunch of hats for her being convinced I would have a bald baby, but she had so much hair and most of them were so big, so I guess I didn’t need all of those! Love those swaddlers though as well as her car seat. I ended up taking that pillow but after a month or so of nursing I like this one a lot better (just wish it was organic though).

Being in the hospital meant that they did provide some after care things that the birth center wouldn’t have (like meals and some postpartum care items like numbing sprays) so I had some purchases that I didn’t end up needing for that reason. I think if we ever get to Baby #2 (which sounds literally insane to me at this moment) I’ll definitely look back at this list as my starting point for packing again. If you’re in this stage of life (or will be soon) I hope it’s helpful for you as well!

P.S. If you missed Lola’s birth story, you can read all about it here!

August 11, 2017

Home Sweet Home Tours!

Hey Guys! Just wanted to let you know that I added all my “before + after” home tours to the Home Sweet Home section of the blog. We’ve been in our Nashville house two years now and it’s gone through quite a transformation, let me tell you! I’d been sharing each room as I finished it over at A Beautiful Mess but I figured some of you may have missed them as they’ve gone up or be a new reader since then (yay!). Before and afters are one of my favorite things in the world to look through so I hope you have fun checking out our progress as well!