Friday, March 30, 2012

Vacation...All I Ever Wanted.

Hi.  I'm Maribeth, and I'm addicted to vacations.  

They don't need to be extravagant, or lengthy, or too far from home.  They just need to be a time out from the daily grind.

At the risk of sounding like a total snob, I never realized how blessed we were as kids, and even as adults, to be able to see so much of the world.  This was before car repairs set us back a year's salary (it feels like!) and babygirl came to be.  Now I completely understand how precious and incredible each second of those vacations were!  Naturally, having acclimated to such lovely traditions, I have a built-in radar that lets me know when I am overdue.  It works quite nicely.

Unless you're living on a budget.  Like, an extreme budget. You see, we are trying hard to kick our debt.  And every sacrifice is worth it to us; rinsing off aluminum foil and using cloth napkins instead of paper, not buying new clothes or shoes, and even switching Hank to the cheap dog food (I know, I know!) are little things that are adding up to help us conquer what we owe.  WE CAN'T WAIT TO BE OUT OF DEBT!!!!  Okay.

Keeping all of that in mind, lets add a new baby to the equation.  Easy math.

And....I have a secret. 

We aren't going on vacation.

But I am trying to trick myself into thinking that the packing lunch for roadtrips and the strolling through antiquated junk shops and the carefree feeling of just being on vacation, can be mine for one easy payment of $65!

That's right!

We had some more leftover Christmas money from Grandma that we had stashed away for our vacation fund, crossing our fingers that "our ship would come in," as Ben loves to say.  We didn't actually play or win the lotto, and Ben didn't get picked up by Justin Beiber to drum for his world tour, so sadly, that money made up our vacation fund in its entirety. 

I'm pretty sure this idea was God-inspired.  We are going to buy a County Park Pass!  Our county offers three parks at the beach, which translates into free parking, bathrooms, etc., as well as three other great parks in the area.  They also include free admission to six big festivals.  It's not Tahiti or anything, but I am determined to make the best of it.  Rest assured, I am planning on getting my money's worth, and you guys will hear all about it!

I am going to transport myself to another world during the 15 minute car-ride to the beach or park.  I am going to pack a bag so I feel like it is a real trip.  I am going to take snacks in case we get stranded on the side of the road (which will probably happen--ha!).  I am going to enjoy every second of relaxation, even if it isn't a "real vacation".

For now, I am reminiscing our trip to Disney last fall for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon.  Ran my first half at 13 weeks pregnant, and then sludged around Disney for the next three days like a dummy.  

Ben's most favorite part of Epcot.  He immediately regretted it.
We used to find an awesome condo for the week.  Major savings!
This is also when we announced our pregnancy to the whole wide world via this awkward pose.
This isn't from the same trip but I just think it is cute that Hank travels like a human.

Have fantastic weekend everybody!  What are ya'll doing to save money on vacation this year?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring is Great But...

I absolutely






Stay tuned.  

Tomorrow, I am posting about how we're saving on our summer vacation this year.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

38 Weeks Pregnant Means...


 (Please excuse this foul picture of all parties involved.) 

Picking out matching outfits for Ella and Olivia. 

 (While we're being real and sharing unflattering pictures...)

Spending a little bit of time in the afternoon lying on my left side...totally alleviates swelling because it gets the baby off of a major artery or blood vessel or something.  It works, I don't care much for the details.

 Remembering to wipe the crumbs off of my TV tray.

 Savoring what could be our last date night, whenever they happen to pop up!
Using a Groupon to make it free/very cheap is frosting on the cake!

AND because what would a weekly pregnancy post be without pictures of food?

FINISHING the built in!!!  I am so stinkin' proud of Ben.  I definitely married up.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why yes, we are having our baby in a bathtub.


"A natural birth, are you crazy?!"

We get that a lot.  People are opinionated and defensive about the way they choose (or are forced because of medical reasons) to bring their children into the world.  And rightly made the choice for a reason, and if you weren't passionate about the choice, you wouldn't have taken that route.

That being said, we have chosen to birth our girl at a birthing center, as opposed to a hospital, and we couldn't be more excited!  We never would have even known there were other options if it weren't for my sister and brother-in-law, who had their baby at a birth center.  When we walked in to meet her for the first time, we knew that is where we would have our baby when the time came (little did we know it would be less than a year later!).

If you are considering the natural birth route, or are just curious as to why we chose this way, read on.  And keep in mind, I am in no way a medical professional, and this is all just a quick summary of what I think we've learned thus far.  The purpose of this post is to raise awareness of other options, and to answer the many questions about why we are going this road.

Ina May Gaskin is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating people I have come across in my research on natural birth.  She is considered the mother of authentic midwifery; her books are phenomenal and give the best, most down to earth explanations of the Midwifery Model of Care.  If you are pregnant or considering pregnancy, "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth" is an absolute must-read.

Ricki Lake's documentary, "The Business of Being Born" was also another eye-opening learning experience for us.  It is on Netflix if anybody else wants to see Ricki Lake give birth to her kids in a bathtub.

Natural birth is different from mainstream America's idea of birth, in that no drugs are used to induce labor or to inhibit "labor pains".  That means no epidural, no pitocin, no nothing.  The idea is that when women are left alone, the naturally occurring hormone, oxytocin, is way more effective than when superseded with man-made drugs.  Mothers are left alone to labor how they feel most comfortable.  Eating, drinking, and changing positions during birth are all encouraged.  Techniques such as light touch massage and different positions on a birthing ball are used to cope with discomforts during labor.  The tub is kept at body temperature and serves as a comfort during labor.  I have heard that the warm water also helps to prevent tearing.

You can give birth at most birth centers when you reach 37 weeks, all the way until 42 weeks.  It is my understanding that they will induce you sometime right before the end of 42 weeks, because there is apparently a time that the placenta stops working. Also, most birth centers will only accept patients who are considered low-risk.  I think that typically means no prior C-sections, no multiples, below a certain BMI, and no gestational diabetes.  This may be different for each different center, but definitely something you would have to check out on your own.

We did all of our prenatal care at Charleston Birth Place, and will be birthing there if all continues to go well.  If for no other reason, we have LOVED being able to walk in for an appointment, never once having to wait even a minute to be seen.  They are efficient and careful with their patient's time.  There are four midwives at CBP, and we have loved getting to know each and every one of them.  We don't know who will be on call for us when the time comes, but we are 100% confident in each and every one of them.

If complications do arise during labor, they are located less than a mile from a hospital, and we were required to meet with the Doctor who will deliver us in case we do necessitate a transfer. 

This is a difficult question, since we almost didn't even consider other options.  As soon as we found out we were pregnant, we went to the informational session at CBP, and we felt immediately that we were drawn to their model of care.  After doing a lot of reading, our feelings and thoughts were confirmed.  We never went to a hospital or visited with any OB/GYNs.  So, just like most people tour hospitals and never give it another thought, we basically toured the birth center and never gave it another thought.

Nutrition plays a huge role in preparation for birth.  It makes total sense.  It wasn't easy to skip out on donuts and Chick-fil-A, but I did it because I wanted to take my commitment to natural birth seriously.  I have enjoyed a bit more flexibility towards the end of the pregnancy since I did so well at the beginning.  Totally worth it.

Another big premise of the natural route is eliminating fear of childbirth.  Our generation has "enjoyed" unprecedented access to births on TV, whether real or staged.  Most of the time, for the sake of drama, these births are surrounded by fear and panic.  Something everything goes wrong, resulting in an emergency procedure, etc.  Of course, these things do happen in reality, but it is not a cause for fear in every situation.  I remember being terrified of birth, and now that we have been in such a calming, non-medical environment, I don't feel like something is "wrong" with me.  I know that women have been doing this for thousands of years, and that God made my body to do this.

Again, we know that this isn't the route for everyone!  I am just so grateful that I was introduced to another option, and wouldn't miss the chance to share with others what we have learned thus far.  There are pros and cons to every option, and something that each family must weigh on their own.  We have gotten so many questions about our choice to go natural, so summarizing in a public format was an easy way to answer those inquiries.

Of course, baby girl is still incubating, so I will have a full report detailing our actual experience after her birth day. 

Has anybody else out there experienced natural birth?  Or are there any questions I can answer thus far?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Eating Out on the Cheap(er)

We live in one of the best food cities in the South, and going out for dinner can be an absolutely incredible experience.  Having a love for food that someone else prepared AND being on a budget is a real challenge, but one that I take very seriously...

1.  Use Groupon or Living Social.  Your money typically goes twice as far.  Today after church, we went to Mellow Mushroom and spent a $20 Groupon, which I only paid $10 for (plus I got cash back through Ebates...PLUS a $10 gift card when you join).  We spend almost half of our food budget on Daily Deals each month, which literally doubles our eating out budget--and also allows us to try lots of new places.

Love love love frozen yogurt spots.
We are waiting for a special occasion to use up our Yobe Groupon!

2.  Order water.  Duh.  Think about it, even if it just two of you, two sodas will cost $5, plus our ridiculous tax rate of 10% or 11% (I've lost track) and a 20% tip, that's more than $6!  You could buy 6 two liters for that price!  If you're having beer, wine, or whatever else, the money adds up exponentially faster.  Ben enjoys something other than water, but I indulge him by buying him drinks at Costco or with coupons, and he can have them at home for MUCH less.

3.  Skip the appetizer and/or dessert.  Same deal.  Eat early on date night so you aren't famished by the time you are seated, and will be less tempted to get dessert.  Stop by the supermarket on the way home and grab a half-gallon of the most expensive ice cream you can find.  It will last you ten times longer than a restaurant dessert, and probably has ten times fewer calories ;)

4. is another great way to save, although it is a bit more confusing than Groupon or Living Social.  Basically, you are paying for a coupon to apply towards your purchase, and there is usually a minimum purchase amount.  A benefit over the daily deal sites is that there are usually A LOT of restaurants to choose from, rather than just one for the day.  To get discounts on your purchase, remember to go through Ebates!  We love to use these when we go out of town.  

5.  For fast food diners, one of our favorite tricks is to value-size one of the combos, and then order the other sandwich a la carte, with a water.  Split the fries and the drink, and go home with less calories and a few more dollars in your pocket.

Haters gonna hate.  One of my favorite foods in the entire world=McDouble.
We had them at our wedding.

6.  Go during happy hour.  Lots of specials--and no coupons required!

7.  Check out unconventional places.  One of my favorite spots to eat is IKEA!  Cheap.  Yummy.  Probably not quality food, but still fun to have an excuse to walk through the showroom=destination $3.99 Swedish Meatballs!

Ben on a date at Ikea.  Not his favorite spot but he patronizes me.

Cutting unnecessary costs when dining out requires a little bit of legwork, but it is worth it in the end.  Saving money and going to restaurants that offer specials or promotions allow you to splurge on special places for special occasions.  Whatever you do, don't cut costs by slimming down the tip.  Waitstaff works hard--take care of them!

Butcher & Bee, a fancy sandwich shop that opened this year in Charleston, is one of my favorite lunch splurges.
It doesn't happen often, but when it does,  I rejoice.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Joy of Baking

Redalert.  Does anyone here read Joy the Baker?  Even if I hated food or if her recipes were nasty, I would still be loyal to Joy.  She is hilarious.  My longest friend Anna introduced me to her.  And by introduced, I mean sent me a link to Joy's blog.  I don't know Joy in real life, and Joy doesn't know me. But I do know Anna, we've been friends since second grade.

I have made her Blueberry Blackberry Pie several times now, and I won't go into detail except to say that the secret to any fruit pie, which I have discovered thanks to Joy, is the graham cracker crumbs at the bottom of the crust.  They soak up all the juice and it just perfect.  PLUS my graham crackers always go stale so this is the perfect way to use them.  I just put them in the food processor and let it go until they are very fine, and then stash them in the freezer.

This pie was full of fresh blueberries, blackberries, AND raspberries.  I made it because Ben was working and that's what I do.

This is also the reason why my oven gets smokey sometimes.  

I made this particular pie for March supper club.  It was good, but I had to use frozen berries.  I could tell a difference.

She just came out with a cookbook.  I am anxious to get my hands on one.  Anyways, try one of her recipes, any one!  I promise you will not be sorry.

Any other JtB fans?!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

37 Weeks Pregnant Means...

Writing out our birth plan...

Indulging in a cheap date night...HFS from the one and only McDonalds.  Delicious!

Loving this "Let him have the next one" print in the bathroom at the birth center.

Making semi-homemade, totally-tacky desserts.  This is the boxed cake I referenced a few days ago...

It's an Easter egg cake!  Whatever, it tasted better than it looked.

Busting our butts to finish the nursery.  I'd like to say my patience is getting better?  

I can't wait to show you guys what he has done, it is awesome!

Monday, March 19, 2012

What Had Happened Was

I really am losing my mind.  I found a bag of Bridgeford Parkerhouse yeast roll dough in the freezer (!!!!) and got really excited.  I should mention it was about 11:30 at night and I should have been in bed 4 hours prior.  In my state of euphoria, I forgot to return them to their arctic homeland.

Then comes the next morning, and I was almost in tears when I realized that my bag of roll dough (which I probably only paid 35 cents for with coupons) was totally ruined.

I wasn't sure that after sitting out all night that it would have been able to maintain its ability to rise, or in plain terms, I thought the yeast had been killed.

But there is rarely something that a little bit of these can't fix.  Enter: raisins, sugar, and molasses.  

FYI: If you ever run out of brown sugar and happen to have molasses on hand, just mix a little molasses with granulated cane sugar and there you have it.  Adjust the amount of molasses according to how dark you prefer your brown sugar.  I have just started making my own and keeping it in a rubbermaid--it is definitely cheaper.

So we mix a littlelotta melted butter, a handful of sugar and some molasses.  

Then I added to the mixture a handful of walnuts and raisins.  Totally fine to leave them behind if you have picky eaters.  (They are missing out.)

So then came the next part, scraping all of the dough out of the bag and loading up my kneading surface with flour.  

Roll it out...I would go thicker next time, maybe closer to 1/2", you will see why later.

Spread on the happiness...which has congealed a bit since the butter has cooled.  Makes the process much easier.

Roll er' up, pinch the ends closed.  If it gets too sticky to work with, just add a bit more flour.

Grease and flour your pan.  Or cheat and use Pam for baking.  Because it's easier.

Tuck your dough in for a nap.  Bread dough likes to rest in a warm place.  But not too warm!

Hide the evidence.

Wait a few hours or until the dough has doubled in size.

Then bake away!  350 degrees for 30-40 minutes should do.  If you knock on the bread and it sounds hollow, it is probably done.  As soon as this comes out of the oven, I spread a little butter on top, and let it run down the sides.

Hello!  This is a good example of why I should have rolled the dough a little thicker.  It still tastes the same but eats a little more neatly and would have better contained the filling.

You can see the caramelized goodness concentrated in the bottom corner of this loaf.  And the butter that runs down the side takes this to a whole new level.

I like to store my breads in paper bags.  It doesn't stick around long enough to warrant a ziploc.  

Sometimes being accident prone isn't such a bad thing...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

In The Making

My husband is a thinker.  He likes to plan.  Take his time.  Check, and then double check.  To me, the way he does things is typically at an excruciating pace.  He is slow to start, slow to finish.

I could learn a few things from him.  

You see, he likes to be in the making.  He enjoys the process, the making sure things are correct and well suited.  In my hurried, constant state of "what's next?!?!", I am realizing this process that I so the same process that compiles into life.

I am convinced that God has been working on my lack of patience for many years now.  It manifests itself in every area of my life...everything needs to be just so.  Everything has its place.  Everything needs to hurry up and be complete, so we can move on to the next thing.  And the next thing.  And the next....well, thing.

The closet is a wreck.  The built-in isn't finished.  Her things aren't in their places.  If she arrived today, I would be awfully embarrassed.  I want so desperately to be able to take pictures of her little nest, put them in her baby book, and know that we are ready now.  We have had 9 months to prepare!

Yes, prepare.  Preparation is the process.  It is the making of.  The getting ready for.  There is so much to learn during the process of life.  Why am I here?  Why did God make me for this era, for this season, for this day?  What is my purpose?  Where do I stand?

When I think about my little life in comparison to what God has in store, well, THAT is embarrassing!

Instead of mulling about, pouting that I can't cross things off my list...I am choosing, today, to celebrate this...I will enjoy and seek to learn what I can while in the making.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

I AM Coming Back For You!

Don't worry, Julia Child's Duck with Orange Sauce.  I haven't forgotten you.  It's not that you weren't indescribably delicious the first time I made you.  It's not that I wasn't mortified when our dinner guests asked for seconds and we had run out of you.  It's just that, I can't handle three paged recipes right now.  I'm sure you can understand.  Please just know, Julia Child's Duck with Orange Sauce.  I'm coming back for you!

Don't worry, archive of family recipes.  It has been a few weeks, and you haven't seen the light of day. I wanted to be the one to tell you that I am bringing a boxed cake to Sunday lunch tomorrow.  Give me just another month or so, I promise we will be reunited as one.  It will be okay, I'm coming back for you!

Don't worry, Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook.  We haven't even gotten to know each other.  I'm not one to buy up cookbooks and leave them on the counter, all closed up, without butter spats and caked-on flour.  There will come a day, and the day is coming soon, when I will attempt the Mexican Hot Chocolate cookies, and the homemade butter mints, that are described within your binding.  I am coming back for you!

Don't worry, Raspberry White Cake recipe from the March Martha Stewart Living magazine.  Despite how things may seem, you have not been relegated solely as bathroom reading material.  I have you in the back of my mind, I am saving up enough brain power and stamina to create you for Easter.  But if babygirl comes beforehand, you and I will meet eventually.  Raspberry White Cake recipe from the March Martha Stewart Living magazine, it is just a matter of time until I come back for you!