Sunday, July 19, 2015

Random Musings on Food, Nature, and Culture from Our One Month Stay in California


Hello! We are on an extended stay in SF Bay Area, California, and it's been more than a month since we came. While my husband is working, I take my 3.5 year old daughter (and the baby of course) to explore new places around the area. Life is a bit more hectic but we love it just the way it is. Here are some random musings of our lives these past month:

Weather

I love the weather here! Though it gets hot during the day, it is really cool at night, even though it is summer time. It feels nice to go out everyday because unlike in Singapore, we don't sweat the moment we step out of the house, the air is really fresh, and there are no mosquitoes. The grass is lush and green, even my daughter who doesn't like to get dirty asked me if she can roll down the grass field. haha..



Parks

There are plentiful of parks complete with playgrounds and water play areas, libraries with pretend-play sections and story-telling sessions, children discovery museums, children theme parks with kiddy rides, etc. They are clean and well maintained. I love meeting old (and new) friends and having playdates with them. My daughter gets to meet friends her age too.



My daughter no longer naps on most days, especially when we are out the whole day. We usually go out after breakfast and come back before dinner, and she usually crashes in the car on the way home. In this picture, she was so tired but she didn't want to sleep and asked for snacks instead. Halfway through the ride, I found her already sleeping with her mouth full of snacks, hands full of crumbs, and an open water bottle. Haha!


Grocery

We bring our own grocery bags whether we shop in the farmers' markets, supermarket, or department stores. They charge a fee if we need to get plastic bags from them. It's a really good incentive to reuse plastics and reduce waste. I wonder if a law like this can be implemented in Singapore, hmm...

Farmers' Market

On weekends, we go to the farmers' market and enjoy the local organic produce. They only sell those that are in season, so everything is sweet and cheaper. A 5 kg bag of organic carrots cost $5. I couldn't believe my eyes. They also sell organic grass fed products (meat and bones) and I made the thickest, the most gelatinous beef bone broth ever, using grass fed knuckle bones and bone marrows. It is like jello. I was one happy mama. Bone broth is nourishing and detoxifying.


It's also my first time trying local raw cow's milk. Unpasteurized, unhomogenized, straight from the cow, less than 24 hours fresh from when they milked the cow. It tastes mildly sweet and light. 


Music

We enrolled my daughter in a music class once a week. On the day of our trial class, she was being particularly difficult before going to the class and I didn't feel like going, but I was glad I did. There is something about music that soothes the soul. Maybe it was the teacher who sang wild and free. Maybe it was all the children who danced around like there is nobody watching. I thouroughly enjoyed the session and I forgot all about the hard morning I had. Music cheered me up almost instantly.

Culture

I notice how people here spend a lot of time outdoors and while they are with their family, they actually are with them: they talk to each other and they play together. My friends and I were joking how we search frantically for a phone or an iPad even as we are running to the bathroom to do number 2. We rarely see magazines in people's bathroom nowadays, I guess because people now browse on their phones instead of reading. haha.. 

Having a tendency to keep checking my phone, it's a reminder to myself to put away my phone when I am spending time with my family.

My 3.5 Year Old Daughter

Little children are so funny sometimes.


We passed by a waterfall and my daughter quickly pointed it out to me "Mommy, I see a watermelon!" No darling, it's a waterfall. She cracks me up.

The other day she asked me "Mommy, can you read me the story of the lion in the Daniel's den?" LOL!!

My daughter, the baby boy, and I were cuddling:
Me: Elin, do you love your baby brother?
Elin: Yes, I love my baby brother
Me: Can I give him to someone else?
Elin: No
Me: So you want him?
Elin: I want ham, Mommy

Me: ?!?!? (Maybe she eats too much ham here)

While in America, we had to celebrate the 4th of July. And she celebrated US Independence Day in style ;)


Motherhood

My baby boy is growing up so fast before my eyes and I am treasuring this precious moment when he still want and can fall asleep in my arms. 


4.5 months old

I love this picture of my children. My daughter adores and loves her little brother. She wakes up and gives him a hug first thing in the morning.


Marriage

We celebrated our seventh year wedding anniversary last month. Twelve years since we knew each other, seven years of marriage, and two kids later. Thank you, Lord.




Reflection

Because our time in the Bay Area is short, i.e. we know that we will have to leave on a certain date, I really want to make good use of our time here, exploring new places, trying new things and food, especially those that I can't get back home, exposing my daughter to new people, new environment, new culture, and do as much as we can before we have to leave this place.

Maybe if we know how long more (or how short) we have on earth, we would also make use of the time well. Maybe I will try to see the big picture and not worry on the small things. Maybe I will try to be happier and be more thankful instead of grumbling on something small. Maybe I will use my time more wisely and live life purposefully. Hmm.. Something I have been pondering about lately.

What are you up to these days?


Friday, May 8, 2015

Recipe: Orange Carrot Muffins Using Carrot Juice Pulp and Almond Pulp


These orange carrot muffins are so delicious and soft. The freshly squeezed orange juice in these muffins make them so fragrant and moist. This recipe may just be my all-time favorite. Best of all, it uses my leftover organic carrot juice pulp that I don't have the heart to throw and leftover almond pulp from making almond milkSuch a great satisfaction to be able to use leftover pulp and not waste them. They have been sitting in my fridge for a week and I have been dying to get rid of them. I'm glad I didn't and turned them into delicious muffins. So if you make almond milk often and do not know what to do with the pulp, give this a try. I hope you like them as much as we did!


Almond Pulp


Ingredients

1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup sucanat (natural sugar)
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup almond pulp (you can substitute for white/whole wheat flour)
2 cups carrot juice pulp (you can substitute for shredded carrots)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Directions

1. Using a mixer, beat egg lightly. Then add butter, sugar, and sucanat. Mix well.
2. Sift white flour. Add in the rest of the dry ingredients (I didn't sift the almond pulp - it came straight from the fridge - and the texture of the muffins turned out very well). Mix until they are well incorporated.
3. Spoon the batter 2/3 full into muffin pans. I used mini muffin pans and it made about 20 mini muffins.
4. Bake at
 200 Celsius for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.


Bon app├ętit!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Effects of Positive Ions and Negative Ions on Human Health


What are ions?

Ions are electrically charged particles that are present in the air around us. They are created when energy is transferred into the air through UV rays from the sun, friction between blowing sand, dust, wind, or rain, radioactive elements in the soil, lightning and storms, evaporating water, waterfalls, and ocean surf. Ions affects our body's capacity to absorb and utilize oxygen. Our body's cells naturally contain a negative charge. They enter the body through inhalation. Breathing negative ions in significant concentration improves our mood, energy, and overall health, while too much exposure to positive ions will make us depressed, distressed, and our bodies to be overloaded with toxins. Like a magnet, opposites attract, and our body pulls these positive ions towards ourselves, causing harm. Crime and suicide rates are higher, the elderly experience respiratory problems, and children grow irritable when exposed to too much positive ions.


Where are positive ions found?

- Pollutants such as dust, pollen, bacteria, heavy metals, and toxins carry a positive charge. 
- Free radicals. Smoking, overexposure to radiation, the use of randic or unstable fats to cook, such as vegetable oils, can form harmful free radicals. Free radicals are the cause of so many diseases and they carry a positive charge.
- Electronic gagdets, electronics, and home appliances all emit positive ions. It's a good idea to keep these items away from your bedroom, as an example.
- Synthetic fabrics/fibers (e.g. in carpet, clothing, and furniture) attract positive ions. 
- Fumes and smoke from car, factory exhaust, and even cigarette smoke.
- Air-conditioned buildings, trains and planes. All the metals, filters, and air-con systems deplete negative ions and thus these areas become supercharged with positive ions.

Generally the more populated a city is, the fewer negative ions and the more positive ions.




How to Get Exposure to Negative Ions Naturally?

- Ventilate. A good start to expose yourself to negative ions daily is by opening up the windows and use less air-con. If you drive, lower the car windows. Fresh air contains negative ions.
- Spend time in nature. Spend time in the garden and surround yourself with trees, go camping, hiking, get close to waterfalls, spend time by the ocean and play in the water. Plant life, fresh air, ocean surf and the crashing pure water from the waterfalls are charged with negative ions. 



- Walk barefoot in the sand and on the grass. The earth is charged with negative ions and our feet are conductors to absorb negative ions.


- Have a relaxing walk after the rainThe air before a thunderstorm carries a very large concentration of positive ions and the storm then releases a large concentration of negative ions afterwards. That is why we feel "heavy" before rain comes and calm after rain stops. It's the surge of negative ions we are breathing in and we feel good.


Additionally, you can increase your exposure to negative ions and decrease the positive ones in your life by choosing natural or organic materials/products such as clothings, bed sheets, towels that are made with natural fabrics, use organic bodycare products (soaps, creams, etc.) and cleaning products (laundry detergents, dishwasher soaps, etc.). Avoid synthetic materials such as commercial furniture polish and other cleaning agents paints, and furnishings.

If you live in a crowded city and find yourself hard to get exposed to nature, try getting exposed to the right kinds of technologies that produce negative ions. You can use himalayan rock salt lamps or an ion generator/purifier, wear negative ion clothing, place fresh potted plants around your living spaces (plants absorb positive ions, replenishing the healthy negative ion balance), or install a portable water fountains.

Our body will not function optimally without negative ions. Negative ions improve health, treat illness, accelerate healing, and reduce stress. I have also read that nursing moms find themselves with more higher quality milk for their babies when exposed to a lot of negative ions. 

Although topic is very new to me and I had no idea what positive or negative ion was prior to this, I know that I find myself very happy, rejuvenated, and more relaxed whenever I get a chance to hike in the forest, walk by the beach, or just resting by a waterfall. It's good for our health and well-being to feel this way whether we think it's just a coincidence of being away from the busyness of life or if it's really the negative ions playing a part. Either way, I may just start to go to the beach more often and walk barefoot in the sand. At the very least, I get to breathe some fresh air, spend time with my children, play, and get vitamin D from the sun. :)



What are your experiences wiith negative ions? Have you tried negative ion clothing?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

[15% SALE] Open Purchase Order for Green Pasture Cod Liver Oil in Singapore (Deadline: 31 March 2015)


The health benefits of taking properly fermented cod liver oil (FCLO) is astounding. Its abundance in naturally-ocurring omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin A, and D are vital for our brain, nervous system, immunity, and optimal functioning of our bodies. It's especially important for growing children, pregnant and nursing mothers.

You can learn about the differences in our in-depth study on cod liver oil here. You can see the different types of FCLO here

I'm opening a purchase order for Green Pasture Fermented Cod Liver Oil (FCLO. If you are interested in getting some, please fill out the purchase form here and send it back to me by next Tuesday, 31 March 2015. All orders received before 31 March will receive 15% discount. Prices shown are before discount. The stock will only arrive early May. 

Regular FCLO (unflavored or oslo orange), 237ml, $85

FCLO/Butteroil Blend (unflavored, chocolate, cinnamon), 240ml, $95

FCLO/Butteroil Blend (capsules), 120 capsules, $90

Emulsified FCLO, 237 ml, $85

NEW ITEM: BLUE ICE™ Infused Organic Virgin Coconut Oil (caramel, carob banana, cinnamon, unflavored), 406ml, $85
I'm adding a new item that combines FCLO with butter oil, skate oil, and coconut oil. (Research shows that consuming FCLO with saturated fats such as butteroil or coconut oil gives the best result!)

Although the cost of FCLO may seem high at first sight, it is actually not so if you understand what you are getting. You can read my post on cost and other considerations about getting Green Pasture FCLO here.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you!

Vicky


Monday, March 16, 2015

Second Pregnancy, Birth Story, and a Successful VBAC in Singapore

Waiting in the delivery room

My first birth experience did not go the way I planned. I had planned for a natural delivery with minimal medical intervention. I was relatively young, healthy, my pregnancy was smooth, and my mom was able to deliver all her four babies naturally, so I was sure I could do it. Long story short, I was 41.5 weeks along with no signs of labor, I was induced but baby's heart rate dropped, and after a long day of waiting at the delivery room (nothing happened and there wasn't any contractions), I went into an emergency cesarean under epidural. My daughter was born healthy and I was well, but I was negatively affected by my less-than-ideal birth experience and I questioned in my mind what went wrong. My heart was not set right before God and He taught me a lesson, more on this below.

First picture with my daughter after cesarean

I truly desire to have a natural delivery. When I knew I was pregnant again mid last year, I started researching for doctors who favor natural birth, reading on tips to prepare for a natural delivery, exercises to do, food to eat and avoid, and things like that. Most important of all, I fasted and prayed that 1) God willing, I could have a natural birth, if not, that I would feel peace about it all. 2) that whatever the end result will be, let His name be glorified.

My previous gyne had advised me against VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) from the beginning due to my height and cesarean experience. I went to a few doctors whom were referred to me as 'pro-natural,' but they cost an arm and a leg. I ended up going to another gyne who is not well-known as 'pro-natural' but was kind and willing to work with me on my requests.

This second pregnancy was a bit more complicated. I normally have low blood pressure, but this pregnancy made it worse. I fainted a few times in my first trimester. I had a few eye infections and swelling. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. And I was group strep B positive. Knowing all the complications I was having, my doctor warned me many times that her priority is a healthy baby, and only then a natural delivery. I agreed. And I was at peace.

A healthy baby

Starting my last trimester, when I started to feel more back pain and was diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GB) and group strep B positive, I regularly went to see a chiropractor to help relief my back pain and correct misalignments in the pelvic and lower back area to relax the uterus, thus allowing the baby to get in the right position. I also strictly controlled my diet, eating very minimal added sugar (the main issue of having GB is that the baby will be too big if I don't control my diet, which means a higher chance for cesarean), and adding a lot of protein because I read it helps to keep the water bag strong (being a group strep B positive means that if my water breaks, I have to immediately go to the hospital to get injected with antibiotics and I did not want that, especially if I am not yet in labor. It will set me up for many medical interventions and a much higher chance for another cesarean). I also started drinking red raspberry leaf teas, pineapples, food that supposedly help induce labor naturally, walked a lot, did curb walking, climbed stairs, did pelvic exercises and stretches, and 'spent time' with my husband. Basically trying my best to prepare myself for a natural delivery. My husband kept reminding me that we have to do our part the best we can, and if God grants us our request, then we can be physically and mentally prepared, if not, at least we know we have tried our best and there will be no regret. So we did. And we enjoyed many long walks, chats, and good quality time together especially towards the end of my pregnancy.

Enjoying the last few days before giving birth -
picking her up from school and spending
precious time with her, just the two of us.

Elin being my pillow while I do pelvic stretches

Forty and a half weeks along, I felt my first contraction, which continued for fifteen hours, then off we went to the hospital. After another some fifteen hours in the hospital, with the help of epidural and a forcep, I was able to deliver my baby boy naturally. It wasn't the smoothest delivery. My baby's heart rate was closely monitored because his heart rate dropped below normal a few times, I was having fever and very low blood pressure. My doctor came back a few times saying that I might have to go for cesarean if my condition didn't stabilize. I also had a really painful infection that lasted more than two weeks post birth, and hemorrhoids, but with all that happened, God still granted my heart's desire for a successful VBAC and I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. It is a lesson I learned from my first pregnancy to always set my heart right before God and that in everything we do, in all our accomplishments, that we may not boast and that God's name be glorified.

"And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." - Ephesians 2:8b-9

Having experienced both ways, I still can't decide which way is better or worse for me personally, but I know God's way is best.

In retrospect, having been diagnosed with gestational diabetes was probably a blessing in disguise because anymore than my baby's birth weight would have been impossible for a natural delivery. According to the doctor, my 3 kg baby was the maximum that my body could handle.

Note: This post is not intended to make anyone feel inferior or superior about delivery methods. Whether we give birth naturally or via cesarean do not affect our relationships with our children and their health. We have options in this modern time and we can choose whichever delivery method we prefer. The end goal is the same - to deliver the baby safely and that mama is well. I'm always thankful for doctors and medical knowledge whenever they are needed. If you are one who would like to try VBAC in Singapore, I hope you find this post encouraging. It is possible to have VBAC even though it is not common here. My advise is find a good doctor who are willing to work with you, do your part the best you can, and pray for peace to guard your heart whatever the outcome will be. God's ways are not our ways, but His ways are always best.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God,which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:6-7

Introducing our son, John Sidarto:

Fist photo after delivery

When Elin first met her baby brother

First family picture

Two weeks old John

Love


Proud Daddy
My sweet angel

First proper family picture

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Benefits of Calendula and How to Make Calendula Salve


Benefits of Calendula

Calendula is one of my favorite herbs as a mom. Since the first time I knew of it, I know I will always need it on hand. Also known as (pot or garden) marigold, a term that refers to Virgin Mary, this medicinal herb has anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antiviral properties, and has been used for centuries to heal minor wounds and skin irritations. 

You can make calendula oil simply by infusing calendula petals with extra virgin olive oil for several weeks and it can be used for cradle cap, diaper rash, chapped skin, bruises, inflammations, and sore muscles. It is perfect as a massage oil and all-around moisturizer. You can make calendula salve using calendula oil. This helps to preserve the medicinal qualities of the herb in a form that can be easy to use and it is not messy to carry around. Calendula salve can be used for any skin irritations and inflammations such as minor cuts, scrapes, bruises, burns, acne, diaper rashes, and bee stings. It also relieves itches from eczema flare ups. 

Its naturally soothing properties and mild floral scent is gentle and safe to use on babies and children.

How to make Calendula Salve

I bought a pack of organic calendula petals and wanted to make calendula oil and salve at home. I saw a video tutorial online and have successfully made my first batch of calendula salves. Mine is a simple one - just a mixture of calendula petals that I infuse with extra virgin olive oil (for one month) and I added lavender essential oil, for an added healing power.



Ingredients and Supplies (from this tutorial)

Extra virgin olive oil
Organic calendula petals
Lavender essential oils (optional)
Organic beeswax
A mason jar
Cheesecloth
Strainer
Double boiler or a cooking pot
Measuring cup

Directions

First, make the calendula oil (see this tutorial) by infusing calendula petals with extra virgin olive oil.


Let it sit for four weeks. Make sure the glass jar is dry so mold will not grow. Check and shake the jar daily. After four weeks, the color of the oil turns golden:



Pour the oil through a cheesecloth and strainer and squeeze out all the extra oils from the petals.



Melt the beeswax in the double boiler, then add the calendula oil (I forgot to take pictures of this step). Stir until everything melts completely. Turn off fire, add lavender essential oil.
The formula is 1 cup (8 oz) of calendula oil by volume to 1 oz of beeswax by weight. If you use beeswax pastilles, it will be 2 tablespoons (reference). If you add the essential oil, add 1 teaspoon per cup of oil.
Pour into your containers immediately, otherwise the mixture will harden and you have to re-melt it. You can use any glass jars or tins like this.

I make a label using this tutorial and now it looks pretty!



If making your own calendula salve doesn't suit you, there are many brands that sell them in Singapore and one of my favorites by far is the one by Four Cow Farm. (See my reviews of their products here). Their 100% natural calendula salve also contain jojoba oil and roman chamomile, another two ingredients that are so gentle even for the most sensitive skin. 



For Pasture Living readers, take advantage of a 10% discount on Four Cow Farm balms and oils this month using this code 3UH4XN07HDVY for the whole month of March 2015. Enjoy!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Elin's Third Birthday


How time flies! My baby is now three years old. I thank Thee for another year of blessings and giving me the previlige to raise, take care, and love her as my daughter.



This year is the first year Elin understands birthdays and looks forward to her birthday, one of the last among her friends. When the day finally comes and we wished her happy birthday, I could see the pure happiness on her face as she danced away in her dress, the look of anticipation as she was about to blow the candle, and her joy in being surrounded by family and friends. I prepared goodie bags for her little friends and she kept telling me that she wanted to give them to them herself, but she doesn't even seem to notice or be consumed by the gifts she received. Oh, the innocence of a little child. Their love of simplicity and a heart of giving (than receiving) humbles my heart.

On her actual birthday, we had dinner with my family.





My sister and I made her fondant cake again this time using the same foams that I used to make her first and second birthday cakes. 



The next day, I hosted a bridal shower at home and after it was done, I changed the "bridal shower" banner to "happy birthday," replace a few things on the table, and we celebrated her birthday again with her lovely aunties. It was a quick one that involves around 20 rounds of singing "happy birthday Elin" to which she kept on asking for more.







As if two celebrations are not enough, we had another birthday session the following day at her sunday school class with all her little friends. Many candles this time, so all the kids can blow them.




"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." - Matthew 5:8



Happy birthday my dear Elin. May you grow up to be wise, gentle in spirit, and abundant in love.