Saturday, July 30, 2011

Snapshot Sunday: The Trio

LioTen points if you know what television show baddies I am referencing with this post's title.  Happy snapshotting Sunday!

"Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am." ~ Philippians 5:14

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

You're Worth Loving: 6 Practices to Cultivate Self-Love

In a recent post, Missy (who struggles with anorexia) talked about how she can love other people, but finds it practically impossible to love herself.  I can't say that I was surprised to read this -- I would guess that the majority, if not all, of the people who battle eating disorders have difficulty viewing themselves in a positive light.  After all, eating disorders are defined by abusive of self.

I also struggle with loving myself.  I can't say that I do.  I don't know if I ever have.  However, I'm working on it.  And . . . I'm making progress.  It's difficult to recognize the thoughts that disparage my self, let alone combat them, but I try.

Missy asked her readers how they cultivate a sense of self-love.  After thinking about that question and leaving a lengthy response on her blog, I thought that I'd devote a post to the same topic here.  So, based on my own experience grappling with the self-hating hell that is an eating disordered life, here are the ways that I practice self-love.

  • spending time with God (I read The Message version of the Bible, which is much more blunt about how God feels about us, and it always brings me to tears with passages like Ephesians 5:1 — “Mostly what God does is love you”)

  • being mindful about negative self-talk, and replacing it with self-loving thoughts and affirmations

  • loving myself for my self, not my body or my productivity or my mood or my job

  • taking time to do something that I truly love, that makes me come alive (and while exercise makes me feel good, it is not my passion in life, and I doubt it’s most over-exerciser’s true passion, if they’re honest)

  • doing what I need to do for my health, even if I don’t like it or don't want to or I'm afraid of it

  • spending time with other people, especially other people who love me — their love shows me that I am indeed loveable, and that helps lead to self-love

This is by no means an exhaustive list of practices that, if used over time (and that's the key -- this will take time), will cultivate self-love.  I dream of the day when women will not be afflicted by eating disorders and negative body image and low self-esteem, as so many of us are now.  And since I definitely don't have all the answers, I must ask -- how do you cultivate love for your self?

(Oh, and in case you were wondering -- the ants are gone.  :) )

"So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well." ~ Philippians 1: 9

Monday, July 25, 2011

We Have Ants . . . Again

Ants . . . again
It's true.  Once again, our patio is being taken over by ants.  Yuck.  At least the swarm is pretty small, unlike last time.  Last year's mega invasion had me dumping gallons of boiling water over the unsuspecting creatures without much lasting success, this year I have a better anti-ant measure.  A surefire method.  One that does not require any noxious chemicals.  Behold the natural(ish) solution:

Anti-ant measure

Grits.  Instant grits.

Last year a reader left a comment on my ant invasion post suggesting that I use instant grits instead of hiring an exterminator.  She said that once the ants take the grits back to their nest-mates (including the all-important queen), the moisture in the ants' digestive systems makes the grits expand, which in turn causes the ants to essentially explode.

I'm not sure how humane that is, but it seems far better than using chemicals.  What I do know is that when I used the grits last year, the ants disappeared virtually overnight, and we haven't seen them again until now.  So right now our patio is littered with instant grits, and I will feel much better when the ants are gone.

 How would you deal with an ant invasion?

"God had plunged them into a sea of joy."~ Ezra 6:22

Friday, July 22, 2011

[Mostly] Artsy Friday Find

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="346" caption="I love this piece (click image for photo source)."]Your Heart Will Never Be Alone[/caption]

I've been enjoying how the internet is opening me up to a lot of different kinds of art-making.  I get stuck thinking that art "should be" one way, or perfect, or ultra-realistic . . . but that isn't necessarily true.  I'm thankful for how the internet is allowing me to glimpse other artists' processes, studios, and challenges.  So this Friday Finds is mostly art-themed . . . with a few other lovely links thrown in.  Awesomely, almost all of the "art" posts can be applied in far larger ways than relegating them to art-making advice.  Enjoy!



  • [untitled] | The Journey (this simple post is profound and heartbreaking and beautiful, and every bit a work of art)

Eating Disorders & Recovery




Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How to Accidentally Make Blueberry Pie Oats

Blueberry pie oatsBegin in the usual fashion -- 1/4 cup oat bran and 1/8+ cup oats into a cute bowl.  Add:

  • dash of cinnamon

  • spoonful of pumpkin puree

  • dribble of applesauce

  • 2 packets of Truvia

  • 1/4 cup (ish) of water

Taste test.  Discover that it is too sweet.  Shrug; it tastes like apple pie, at least, which is no bad thing.

Open bag of frozen berries.  Begin to shuffle a few out.  Shriek when shuffling turns into a blueberry avalanche.

Scowl, cuss, then rescue uncontaminated blueberries from the bowl.  Stir.  Microwave for 2 (or more) minutes.

Stir again.  Taste test.  Decide that it's not too sweet after all.  Delight in the blueberry pie-ness of it all.  Photograph, blog, and devour.

What's your favorite accidental recipe?

Blueberry pie oats"He heals your diseases—every one." ~ Psalm 103:3-5

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

8 Things I Wish I'd Known About the First Trimester Before Living It

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="275" caption="I have a tiny bump!"]Finishing up trimester #1[/caption]

This week I am finally leaving the first trimester of my first pregnancy.  Yay!  And I say "finally" because I miscalculated.  I thought, "Hm, pregnancy is nine months, so once I hit the third month (or 12 week) mark, I'm out of trimester #1.  Yippee!"  But pregnancy isn't about months -- it's about weeks, 40 weeks to be precise.  And 40 weeks divided by 3 trimesters equals about 13.3 weeks, which is where I am at now.  I look forward to leaving pervasive nausea and extreme fatigue behind!

Now that I've experienced pregnancy (well, the first part of it, anyway), there are quite a few things that I found surprising.  It seems strange that these things do not seem to be commonly talked about -- I mean, if we can talk about things like morning sickness and sore breasts and frequent urination, why not talk about the other intricacies of first trimester life?

So, as you've probably guessed, I decided to dedicate this post to sharing all of those odd little things that surprised me about the first trimester of pregnancy.  Be warned -- if you don't like things like mucus, then this post is not for you.  If you are curious to find out more about the first trimester, however, read on.  (Also, another disclaimer: this is a totally subjective reflection on my personal experiences.  The first trimester may not be like this for every woman.)

Things I Wish I'd Known About the First Trimester Before Living It:

  1. Weird and random nausea.  Normally I really enjoy being out in the sunshine during the summer.  As soon as I became pregnant, however, exposure to the sun (especially the morning sun) seemed to trigger my normally (for my pregnancy) low-grade nausea into an oh-my-goodness-I'm-going-to-puke-right-now experience.  Fun.  I've only survived a few trips to the weekend farmer's market this year.

  2. Snacks defeat nausea.  I'm lucky in that, while I did experience pervasive low level nausea, I was not physically sick during my first trimester (and I'm not complaining!).  However, I did notice that eating regularly helped manage my nausea.  The day I discovered I was pregnant, I hadn't eaten anything all day because I felt so lousy.  Not eating makes my nausea worse, while keeping my metabolism steady makes it better, and apparently this is not an uncommon coping strategy for pregnant women.

  3. Unexpected food revulsions.  I expected to have odd food cravings during pregnancy (and I have had a few -- think ketchup and mustard on scrambled eggs).  I did not, however, expect to be unable to tolerate certain foods -- and healthy foods at that!  I was devastated to find out early on that vegetables made me gag.  I love my salads, and the idea of not being able to stomach something as nutritious and vitamin-rich as my beloved veggies was rather scary.  However, I soon discovered that what my body (and baby?) was craving was healthy fat.  When I added low-fat dressings to my salads, I was able to keep vegetables down again.  I also had some major beef cravings early on, which is interesting since I ordinarily eat beef twice a year.  I think my body was sending me a message!

  4. Rise of the super sniffer.  So I expected morning sickness.  I expected having to pee every five seconds.  I expected food cravings, and so the food revulsions weren't all that surprising.  But I definitely did not expect to suddenly develop the world's most sensitive sense of smell.  Early on, before I even knew that I was pregnant, I told the Best Husband Ever that the rainy day smelled polluted or metallic.  I could almost taste it, and it was gross.  Other smells that now bother me (that never did) include: window cleaner, our dogs, and my own breath.  Delightful.

  5. More mucus.  Expect to have a very wet vagina if you become pregnant.  When a woman becomes pregnant, a mucus plug appears in her cervix to prevent bacteria from entering the uterus.  So expect to very, ah, juicy.  It is normal.  I have never used so many panty liners in such a short time.

  6. Vaginal ultrasounds.  When the Best Husband Ever and I went to our first maternity appointment, I was excited at the prospect of having an early ultrasound photo of our baby.  What I was not excited about was the fact that, as we entered the exam room, the nurse instructed me to strip down for a vaginal ultrasound.  Um, what?!  Now, let me first say that the vaginal probe -- er, I mean ultrasound ;) did not hurt and turned out to be fairly comfortable.  But I did not like being surprised with the procedure.  I mean, I hadn't even known that such a thing existed.  I wish I had known to preserve my mental health while we waited for the doctor to come and administer said procedure.

  7. Navigating to the truth.  In researching pregnancy and childbirth, I have found it difficult to suss out what is actually best for the baby, and for me, from the rather rabid battle being fought between home birth advocates and medical birth advocates.  I don't know if I'm gullible in nature, but when I read a book published on something as important as birth, I assume that its writers are legit and the editors did not allow the skewing of facts.  Unfortunately, this does not seem to always be the case.  I have had to be really, really careful about what I believe, because I think that many (but definitely not all!) of the most active home birth supporters are unfortunately more interested in being right than preserving the health and safety of new babies and their mothers.  I was so sad to have to come to that conclusion.

  8. New fears.  When I found out I was pregnant, I initially felt bombarded by new fears -- miscarriage, developmental disorders, and cesareans topped the list, not to mention the worries that come with the daunting challenge of parenthood.  But I was not surprised by those fears.  I was, however, surprised to experience fear during procedures at my doctor appointments that I had been looking forward to -- namely ultrasounds and listening to the baby's heartbeat (which I already wrote about here).  Even with our first uncomplicated ultrasound, there was a brief moment while the doctor was searching for the baby that I thought a horrified, "What if . . . ?"  Deep breathing and prayer have gone a long way to help in those situations, and I imagine it will remain so for our exciting finding-out-the-baby's-sex ultrasound in a month and a half.  I have had to be careful not to allow the what-ifs to flood over me, but just to breathe and pray and trust.

For more first trimester insight, I recommend watching Goddess Leonie's Pregnant Goddess Diaries videos and her three-part Best Friend's Guide to Pregnancy.  The latter series has some excellent tips on the wearing of underwear.  ;)

If you've been pregnant before, what things surprised you about the experience?  If you haven't been pregnant, do you have any questions?  Maybe I can help! :)

"Hannah prayed: I'm bursting with God-news! I'm walking on air. I'm laughing at my rivals. I'm dancing my salvation." ~ 1 Samuel 2:1

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Snapshot Sunday: In With the New

I did a variety of new things this week.  First, I started on a new identity painting for a friend:


I decided to take my blogging out to a coffee shop (important: an air-conditioned coffee shop!), and packed a lunch in Mr. Bento lunchbox for the first time in ages.  Contents include a salad with bleu cheese dressing, baby carrots, two cooked turkey hotdogs in barbecue sauce, and unsweetened applesauce with chocolate Amazing Grass:


The most exciting new thing that I began this week was a new online art class called Paint Free.  This is the result of my first assignment, which was a coloring project:

IMG_6115At first I tried to color in the line perfectly, but that made me frustrated and angry.  Finally I let go and used lots of scribbling lines, words, and symbols, and it felt so much better.  Is there a life lesson in there?  Probably . . .

Did you participate in Snapshot Sunday?  I'd love to see your snapshots!

"It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life!" ~ Galatians 6:14

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Freedom Exercise

I have exercise ADD (which you probably already guessed from this post, and others).  But for good reason -- different kinds of exercise bring me different results.  An elliptical session is a sure stress-buster, yoga is a challenge that leaves me feeling so profoundly still, walking is meditative, and intense cardio and interval workouts make me feel like an Amazon warrioress.  I love feel de-stressed and challenged and peaceful and strong, and I don't want to trade in any of the workouts that make me feel those ways!

But there is one kind of exercise that brings me a different benefit -- a sense of freedom.  I bet you can already guess what it is . . .

Hooping is so singularly awesome because it not only works my body and unleashes my creativity, but when I'm in the flow it makes me feel like I'm flying.  It sets me free from all my earthly insecurities so that I can just be.  It's a beautiful gift.

(And yes, I know that I'm mostly headless in the above video, but I wanted to share it anyway.  I really like some of the things I do -- things I didn't realize were happening in the moment! -- and I also wanted to share a few moments of first trimester pregnancy hooping!)

What is your favorite form of exercise?

"Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you." ~ Galatians 5:1

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Faith Versus Fear

Baby's first photo I was planning on blogging about my first experiences as a renewed member of our local YMCA . . . until this morning's doctor's appointment.

I just had my basic prenatal testing done. This included the joy of a pap smear (ugh) as well as gonorrhea and chlamydia tests (which feels like getting three pap smears done in a row), a very complex urine sample, and getting six tubes of blood taken. Yikes.

But the worse part happened before all that (well, except for the urine sampling). The doctor decided she wanted to listen to the baby's heartbeat. And then couldn't find it.

As she searched, I tried to breathe deep and not panic. But of course I couldn't help but wonder – what if it's gone? What if the baby is dead? What if something awful happened and I didn't even know about it? I think that was the most terrifying thought – that something as drastic as a miscarriage had happened to me, and I didn't even realize it.

The doctor continued to search for a heartbeat. She told the nurse to prepare the ultrasound machine. I tried not to hold my breath, and I tried not to panic.

And then she smiled at me. “There it is,” she said, and there it was – our baby's heartbeat, healthy and safe. I smiled, too.

Here's what I think – God has a plan. Maybe His plan is for the Best Husband Ever and I to become the parents of a child, or many children. Maybe His plan is for us to miscarry. Maybe His plan is something entirely different that I can't even begin to imagine right now.

I believe that whatever happens, God is in it. Good or bad, we will get through it, and perhaps (or probably!) we will grow, learn, mature, live deeper. It won't be easy, I know – even now, I am still struggling not to cry at this morning's scare – but we will not be alone. We will not be enslaved to our loss, to despair.

I have faith. This baby is a miracle baby – after my eating disorder, we were told to expect never to have our own children. And yet here I am, pregnant. It's crazy. It's miraculous. It's a gift. And whatever happens, God is in it. God is here.

What are you recklessly believing right now, blog friends?

Long before he laid down the earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.” ~ Ephesians 1:3-6

Monday, July 11, 2011

This is Why He's the Best Husband Ever


It's summer, and it's hot.  And that means that I'm once again hearing the siren song of . . . the gym.  Oh air-conditioned haven of elliptical machines and yoga classes, how I want to come back to you.

Most people might think that's not a bad thing.  Why not heed the call of the fitness center, the urge to get into better share, right?  But with me, I'm not always sure that I can trust that urge.  I have to examine my motives and make sure that I'm not joining to I can returning to the old chains of my over-exercising, under-eating eating disordered mania.

Right now, I want to join because it's really hot in our house.  Which means that working out at any time after six thirty in the morning is a very sweaty affair -- even yoga!  Normally I would try to ignore my need for the gym, especially since this past March we invested in a treadmill in lieu of gym memberships.  I would feel pretty lame running back into the arms of my Y membership after such a short time together!

But now there's another factor that we didn't count on when we bought the treadmill in March -- pregnancy!  Since I wasn't in running shape pre-pregnancy, I don't want to start now, even if it does make the treadmill feel more loved.  The high-impact interval workouts that I'd been doing up until last week are starting to make me uncomfortable.  Even the yoga that I've been doing leaves me feeling eager for something a little more heart-pounding while remaining low-impact.

Meaning . . . I miss the elliptical.  And I also miss swimming, an exercise form that I hear will become extremely soothing as my belly grows bigger and my body grows more uncomfortable.  I don't want to join so I can elliptical away for hours at a time, but so that I can more effectively work my heart (um, in the air-conditioning) and relieve pregnancy aches.  No over-exercising mania for me, thanks!

I miss the gym.

Yesterday I mentioned all this to the Best Husband Ever.  Can you guess what he said?  He told me that I should join the gym.

That's it.  No I wish we hadn't gotten that darn treadmill or Make up your mind! or anything like that.  I don't know why I was so surprised (I mean, he is the Best Husband Ever), but I was.  He thinks, because we hadn't known about Baby at the time of replacing the gym with a treadmill, that a gym membership is completely, totally, awesomely the thing to do if my body needs that.

Why do I keep forgetting that my husband is not a man of guilt trips, of mind games, of snark and passive aggression?  I don't know how I managed to end up with someone so understanding, loving, and kind, when I am prone to playing mind games myself -- only that God is super-awesome, and loves us all more than we can understand.  The Best Husband Ever is the perfect husband for me, and knowing him is helping me to grow out of my old, unhealthy relational behavior patterns.  It's pretty darn cool.

So . . . I'm joining the gym!  See you at the club, peeps.  Uh, the YMCA club, that is.  ;)

Is there a person in your life you is the perfect spouse/partner/friend for you?

"Doing something for you, bringing something to you—that's not what you're after.  Being religious, acting pious—that's not what you're asking for.  You've opened my ears so I can listen." ~ Psalm 40:6


It's summer, and it's hot.  And that means that I'm once again

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Snapshot Sunday: Real or Fake?


This is not my photo, but I'm totally obsessed with it.  I can't decide if I find it totally adorable or totally weird.  More importantly, I can't decide if it's real or fake.  The Best Husband Ever votes for fake.

What do you think?

". . . We will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original." ~ Galatians 5:26

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Blog By Another Other Name -- Or, I Can't Make Up My Mind

I changed this blog's title.  Again.

But I think this new one is going to stick.  I hope.  Anyway, even if it doesn't, my title ambivalence is exactly why I decided to snag non-title-specific domain.

Seriously, though, I really like this new title.

When I switched over to the deliciousness that is a WordPress-hosted blog, I began with the name Messy Vibrant Lovely Life.  After all, that's what my life feels like most of the time -- messy and complex, but sweet.  But I don't think I was being true to myself.  Instead, I was carried on the inspiration of the truly messy, vibrant, lovely, life-livers that are SARK and Goddess Leonie.

But just because I was inspired by these luscious women doesn't mean I should try to make my blog more like theirs.  Oops.  I guess I got carried away.  I'm not sure that I'm good at blogging about living a messy, vibrant, lovely, life specifically -- but I know that I am good at (and, perhaps more importantly, comfortable with) blogging about life after an eating disorder.

So that's the new blog name (for now ;)) -- Life After Eating Disorder.  It will still be the exact same content that I planned for Messy Vibrant Lovely Life, but it will feel more real to me, and more on point with my personal goals, as well as more true to the history of this blog's past content and incarnations.  I've also updated the blog's Facebook page.  So . . . welcome!  Um, again.  :)

I have a hard time with naming.  Do you?  :)  What do you think of the new blog name versus the old one?

"Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good." ~ Galatians 2: 16

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I'm So Tired! Or, a Small Rant + New Artwork

I am so tired.  I know, I know, it shouldn't surprise me, given that I'm pregnant and all.  But I've been consistently feeling better -- less nauseous, more energized.  Plus I'm all set to enter trimester two tomorrow (yay!), so shouldn't that mean that I'm on the fast track to the famous pregnancy glow?

Apparently not.  At least, not today.  Or yesterday.  I am currently sitting in Barnes & Noble's cafe, all ready to do some serious writing and reading.  But I'm so tired.  I'm barely able to spell and string together intelligible phrases (sorry about that in advance).  All I want to do is lay my head down on the table and sleep.

So why the heck am I so tired?  Well, I started my new yoga regimen on Tuesday, so that could have something to do with it -- perhaps my body just isn't used to that kind of workout at the moment.  Or maybe it's because I spent a large portion of the past week working on a new piece of mixed media artwork.

I turned this:

Something new . . .

. . . into this:

In progress

. . . into this:

Identity"This" being my first completed big art project since getting knocked up, and my first piece done on canvas! Yay!

Helping out

Lio helped with the photographing process.

It is certainly strange to experience the effect act-making is having on my body, though.  Pre-pregnancy, creating visual art energized me in an amazing and unexpected way.  Now, it seems to be draining my energy.  But not in a totally bad way -- I'm only three months along, and I'm already sleeping more poorly than usual.  Anything that will help me sleep soundly is most welcome!

I created this piece with a specific person in mind, as a part of a painting adventure I'm both excited and a little nervous to embark on.  My goal is this: to create paintings that will depict aspects of the true identity of a specific person.  Each painting will be different, completely unique.  If you'd like to nab one for yourself, or for a loved one, comment below or email me at escagnel04 (at) yahoo (dot) com (that's a zero, not the letter "o" in my username).  I think that the things which truly define our most real, eternal selves are often forgotten or lost against the clamor and airbrushed lies of the media.  I hope that such a painting series will help combat those lies, one gorgeous person at a time.

Let me now rapidly and jarringly switch topics (I told you that I'm tired!).  In other blog news, I've updated (i.e., created anew) the Facebook page for this bloggity blog.  Check it out here!  And I'm still tweeting -- follow my randomness here.

What are you thinking about today, blog friends?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yoga's the Thing

Image source.

I've been worried about my pregnancy workouts.  My doctor told me that I could do any workout that I was doing before pregnancy -- that includes high intensity workouts like running or interval workouts.  However, before pregnancy I was just starting to get back into a regular routine, using Michelle Dozois' killer Peak Fit workouts.  But I was not in good shape.  I was making progress toward being extremely fit, but I had not yet achieved fitness.  That left me feeling confused as to what a just-starting-to-get-back-in-shape pregnant woman should be doing in terms of exercise.

After carefully explaining the content of Jillian Michaels' 25 minute interval workouts from 30 Day Shred and Ripped in 30 to my doctor, I felt comfortable doing those DVDs' Level One workouts.  But they were hard.  And now that I'm about to enter my second trimester, during which the stuff holding my joints together will start to soften, I don't feel quite so comfortable doing higher impact cardio.

So I started to look at yoga.  I have a few strength-based prenatal DVD workouts, but I don't think they deliver the full-body strengthening plus flexibility benefits that yoga does.  Besides, yoga will not only make me stronger and more flexible, but it will also help me specifically prepare the muscles I will use for birthing.  Which means that yoga must be the perfect prenatal workout, right?

Well, after Googling "prenatal yoga" yesterday, I wasn't so sure.  I kept finding pages and pages of warnings to NEVER DO THIS POSE EVER WHILE PREGNANT OR HORRIBLE THINGS WILL HAPPEN regarding poses that seemed safe for pregnancy.  In the end I felt afraid to do anything at all beside sit on my couch for the next six months.

I eventually turned to the circle for mothers over at Goddess Guidebook.  I posted a slightly panicked plea for help, asking what women did to move their bodies during pregnancy.  Thankfully, I got a lot of calm, knowledgeable reassurances that lined up with my doctor's original advice (which I had managed to forget during my mad Googling) -- that yoga is safe, and very beneficial to birth, and that the only poses that should be avoid are obvious ones, like anything done lying on the belly as well as deep twists, inversions, and binds.  And these are all things that I avoided intuitively anyway in a gentle practice I did yesterday, knowing that I've been out of my yoga practice and am not as flexible as I once was.

So I will be doing yoga for the rest of my pregnancy, and I will be doing it fearlessly, knowing that I can listen to my body, trust what I feel, and act accordingly.  I love how yoga strengthens my focus as well as my muscles, and how it forces me to meet my body where it is, especially now that I'm carrying a second person inside of me (which I still find incredible!).  My favorite yoga classes are all online podcast classes, the number one being YogaDownload.  I also really love the free podcast classes from Elsie Escobar and Eoin Finn.  Not only do they lead me into a delicious practice, but they have such deep wisdom to share as well.  I love it!

Do you practice yoga?  Do you have a favorite video or audio class?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Gone Baking

Blueberry-liciousI have been baking up a storm these days!  And what I mean by that is I baked twice in the past week, even though it's hot here in Montana.  Of course some of said baking had to result in a batch of muffins, given that I used to be rather obsessed with them (this blog started out with the moniker Muffin Love, after all).

Last Thursday morning I made a batch of healthy blueberry muffins for my church's women's small group.  They turned out quite well!  I started with this recipe from Eating Well, then made some changes, with the final recipe going something like this:

  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup oats

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 large egg

  • 1/4 cup egg replacer

  • 1/2 cup stevia

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1 cup buttermilk, or equivalent buttermilk powder and water

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries

Then I spooned the batter into muffin cups and baked them for about 20 minutes at 400*F.  When they were finished, I of course proceeded to eat a muffin straight from the oven for breakfast.  Delicious.

Today my baking extravaganza continued with some banana bread.  I had four nearly-black bananas looking for a home, so my path was obvious.  I found this nutritious recipe on, and proceeded to turn my forlorn bananas into this:

IMG_6092 This time around I didn't make many changes to the original recipe.  I only substituted applesauce for the oil, agave for most of the honey, and egg replacers for the eggs, then added a bit of cinnamon.  Once again, a glorious result.  And, also once again, I enjoyed the fruits (er, breads?) of my labor for breakfast, topped with a bit of peanut butter.

I'm in the baking groove.  I think I might even bake again for this Thursday's small group.  But I need some new [mostly] healthy recipes to try out. 

What is one of your favorite baking recipes?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Grateful To Be In the Land of the Free

Happy Fourth of July, Americans!  Although our country has its problems (spending into a deficit and rampant morbid obesity are the ones that frustrate me most), we also have a lot of good stuff going on.  Like freedom of speech.  As a writer and blogger, that one is huge for me.  If we lived nearly anywhere else, the government could legally step in and stop me from blogging, and you from reading.  So for that and many other reasons, I am grateful to live here.

Don Miller wrote a great, balanced post about the good things about being in America that I really like -- check it out here.  And while you're blog hopping, remember the star-shaped patriotic rhubarb pecan muffins I made for last year's Fourth?  Yum.

What are you up to on this sunny Fourth of July?  The Best Husband Ever and I slept in (just like last year, apparently -- our new patriotic tradition?), I already enjoyed a delicious green smoothie, and we'll be going over to the Best Inlaws Ever's house later for some barbecuing.  And I'm sure we'll be alternatively watching the fireworks from our living room window (we live up on a hill overlooking the valley where the fireworks go off) and stopping our dogs from menacing said fireworks.

Enjoy the day, friends, wherever you live!

"The last of the human freedoms; to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." ~ Viktor Frankl

Photo source

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Snapshot Sunday: The First Onesies

The first onesieI found this at Goodwill (for a dollar!) and couldn't resist.  So cute!  Um, aside from the dog hair . . . my pups are in full molt mode at the moment.

And then I saw these and figured . . .

More onesies. . . why the heck not?  (Strangely, the teddy bear onesie was one of the very few boy-appropriate items in Goodwill's baby section.  Weird, right?  For clothing cuteness alone, I sort of hope we're having a girl.  But we'll take anything.  ;))

And because this Snapshot Sunday is apparently all about baby fever, check out Clare's Snapshot Sunday, featuring a baby cozy and hat that I crocheted.  That talented photographer makes those crocheted items look way better than I remember.  And let's not even get into how cute those babies are!

I was originally selling handmade crocheted baby cozies on my Etsy shop, but have lapsed in that effort.  If you're interested in getting your hands on one, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at escagnel04 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

What are you up on this gorgeous, long-weekend Sunday?  Any big plans for the Fourth of July?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Three Book Reviews, Plus How To Write Non-Sucky Paranormal Romance

After sending yesterday's post off into the world, I realized that I'm reading much more than books on birth, parenting, and education -- I've also been devouring fiction at a rapid speed.  And not only that, I've been reading some really good fiction!

Starting somewhere around the end of my high school career, I started having a harder time finding well-written books.  Perhaps I grew into a more discerning reader, or perhaps there's less quality fiction available.  Whatever the case may be, I started becoming frustrated, because it seemed that the majority of the fiction I read was mediocre at best.

So when I read a number of books in a row that are all good, I feel deliciously delighted.  And that's what's been happening lately -- of the four fictional worlds I've entered in the past month, three of them were excellent.  Wow!

Which means that I have to toot their horn a bit.  Because these authors, who have managed to create wonderful books that don't turn me off, deserve it.  These books all fall in the category of young adult fiction, which is my favorite genre because YA publishing is hard to break into and necessitates higher quality writing than mainstream adult fiction (at least, I think so).

The first (and best) recent read that I fell in love with is Divergent by Veronica Roth.  This dystopian novel rocks.  Really.  Read it.  The premise is that in the not-too-distant future, American society is sorted into five factions, each of which values a certain trait above all others (such as bravery, or honesty).  When they come of age, individuals are testing to see which faction they would fit best into, and then may choose which faction they will join.  Protagonist Beatrice does not know where she fits into the world, and must decide or risk being factionless, which she considers worse than a death sentence.  Add to Beatrice's confusion a lurking corruption which threatens to destroy her world and you have yourself an amazing book.  Yes -- amazing.  If you don't believe me, writer friend and book blogger Kayla has already written up an excellent review.

Then I delved into an ARC of The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab.  For some reason I expected this book to be a saccharine story about a teeny bopper who wanted to be a witch, but wasn't quite.  Thankfully, the actual story was not toothache-inducing, but was instead lyrically written, with complex and realistic characters.  When a stranger comes to the town of Near (a place which never sees strangers at all, apparently), he becomes blamed when children start to disappear, and the main character is left to find out if the stranger is the kidnapper or someone (or something . . .) else.  This book was a pleasant surprise, and I fully recommend reading it upon its release on August 2 of this year.  You can read my full review on Goodreads here.

The most recent book I read was also a pleasant surprise, Unearthly by Cynthia Hand.  Let me start out by saying that I typically do NOT like paranormal romances. Especially paranormal romances that involve some sort of a love triangle. And I am leery of angel paranormal romances after reading Lauren Kate's Fallen (and being unable to complete the trilogy).  But I really liked Unearthly. And it's a paranormal romance. An angel paranormal romance with a love triangle. And it was good.

Here's why I think this book rises head and shoulders above Fallen, Twilight, and the host of other paranormal romances on the market -- the main character doesn't suck. Instead of being love-stupid or indecisive or sniveling, Clara is an intelligent teenager who is trying to come to grips with the fact that she, her mom, and her brother are angel-bloods, and that she has a predestined purpose to fulfill. She doesn't whine. She doesn't gripe. Love doesn't make her weak (I'm looking at you, Bella).  And the result of all that is that Unearthly doesn't suck.  I'll definitely be reading the sequel.  You can check out the rest of my anti-Twilight opinions on Goodreads here.

So there you have it -- more than enough awesome YA reads to keep you going through the long weekend and beyond.  Let me know if you read these books because I'd love to hear your opinions!  Now, the Best Husband Ever and I are off to buy a mattress (maybe).

What are you reading?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Busy, Busy Reader

Day 35 / In touch

How is it Friday already?  Not to mention a whole new month . . . hello, July!  This week has been a busy one for me, but definitely in a good way.  No regrets here -- except that I've been remiss in my blogging.  Oops!  Sorry, folks.

Aside from keeping on with my newly renewed green smoothie habit, I've been filling my days with a lot of reading.  Obviously, I have a huge interest in learning about pregnancy, birth (particularly natural childbirth), and newborn care.  I'm also devouring all the books, blogs, and other resources I can find on babywearing, unschooling, and parenting, among other child rearing topics.  Big stuff, and so important!

As you might imagine, there are many, many different opinions on every single one of those topics -- and it's not always easy to find a balanced, unbiased opinion.  Due to the way I was raised and educated (and this is why both the Best Husband Ever and I are thinking of unschooling), I have a lot of trouble drawing my own conclusions on hot button topics that don't have conclusive evidence for either side, like hospital versus home births.  There are rabid supporters for both sides, and they don't always deliver well-researched, evidence-based reasons for supporting a chosen side.  For me, that results in confusion and frustration.

In an effort to combat that, I have to read a lot of material before I can logically decide where I stand on whatever topic I'm researching.  Not only is that rather overwhelming, but it takes time.  A lot of time.

Which means that I haven't been getting a whole lot of writing or art-making (or blogging . . .) in.  And that, in turn, frustrates the Best Husband Ever, because he can read hundreds of pages of articles during his lunch break and doesn't understand that I can't do the same.  At least, not if I want to actually absorb any information.

Which leaves me wondering -- is reading about childbirth/parenting/education a waste of time?  Should I allow myself the luxury of hours of research while I have the time, or should I focus more on my creative career aspirations?  This, I think, is not an uncommon dilemma for the American mom -- work versus family.  Which is more important?  Because a family can't thrive if the parents aren't earning any money.

For me, I think that my research is more important.  At least for now.  I want to be as prepared as possible when Baby enters the world.  I know myself, and if I wait until after birth to start reading up on newborn care, I just won't do it.  And that, for me, is unacceptable, because I know that I have a lot to learn.  So, for now, I'm going to indulge and read read read!

(And don't worry -- I started some new art projects this week, too!  I'm just not making any money on my creations . . . yet.  Stand by!)

Where do you stand on the tension between work versus family?