Everything is blooming in the garden. It's so rewarding to go out there and pick some stuff and then eat it for dinner on a daily basis! Here's the beginning of the latest status on the Zemel Farm. Aside from almost daily salads (sometimes we're just too lazy to walk 20 steps to pick lettuce!), we've eaten roasted beets and their greens, radishes, spinach, swiss chard, cubanelle peppers, some onions, and 1 giant zucchini! We've got a crookneck squash that will be ready soon. Apparently it's got bigger seeds than zucchinis do so I shouldn't let it grow too big. As it was, I left the zucchini on the vine for a little too long and then I had to pick out those seeds for Bayla. There are a few other little baby zucchini and squash on the plant as well after this round is done. There are also a million green tomatoes that we're just waiting to ripen and gobble up. The peaches are still little but they're turning pink as well. I hope they grow some more but they may not since the tree itself is so little, I'm not sure. So exciting to watch. We Zemel Farmers go on a tour every day to check on the progress and it's pretty cool.

I can't wait to take Bayla swimming again in her little blow up pool. I just wish I could get in there with her. Part of what I like about the pool is that it inflates on the bottom so she's not actually sitting on the ground. A little soft cushion for her round tush. On the other hand, that inflatable bottom is the very thing that prevents me from climbing in (don't want to pop it!). She was so cute in there the first time ... playing with the water and all the inflatable toys.

Dino Pool

Last week, we were invited over to swim and have Shabbat dinner at the Hart's house. We really love going there. They're such a nice, warm, and welcoming family. It was Bayla's very first time in a pool. Zvi took her in and I just loved watching her try to figure out her new surroundings. She kicked and splashed around and didn't even get upset when she'd splash her own face with water. It was really funny watching her lick her fingers and taste salt for the first time. I know that our climate doesn't really support the need to have a backyard pool, but oh boy is it ever amazing to have one. Definitely something I dream about! Zvi told me about a conversation he had once about how people are either cottage people or pool people. I must admit, I do like cottages. It's nice to get away and being on a boat is really fun. But usually when I think about cottages I think about mosquitos and the various bug bites I tend to get and how itchy they are for weeks afterwards. I think this absolutely makes me a pool person.
Kick Kick Kick Splash Splash Splash

After swimming, while we were having dinner, Bayla piped up with her very first real talking. She said "ma ma ma ma ma". I know she wasn't talking about me, but it was adorable. And then yesterday, out of no where ... she just started talking and saying all kinds of new sounds with consonants. Zvi was sitting outside on the porch with her, singing some songs and then when they came back in she just had so much to say. It was so nice to hear her voice and we can't wait to teach her words and hear her use them. Our little girl turned 7 months yesterday and she certainly showed us what a big girl she is!

I've pretty much introduced Bayla to every kind of individual fruit and vegetable that I'm going to for now. I'm going to start preparing bigger batches and freezing cubes of mixed foods. The reason I've been making things in small batches for now is because I've been serving the same food a few times a day for a few days to make sure there were no allergic reactions. Now Bayla can start to enjoy some variety both at every meal as well as throughout the day. I introduced her to banana for the first time today which I mixed with avocado to cut some of that intense sweetness. I've named this dish Avonana ... that that may imply avocado with mint so I might call it Banacado instead. We'll see. After this I'm going to give her Papaya and then we'll be onto the mixtures. I may give her mango before the mixtures as well or I may just save the mango to mix in with bananas another time.

Over this past month, since she turned 6 months, Bayla has eaten: apples, pears, nectarines, cantaloupe, banana, avocado, carrots, sweet potato, butternut squash, zucchini, peas, parsnips, cauliflower, rice, barley and oatmeal. She has enjoyed everything except the parsnips (they weren't good and sweet like they were supposed to be ... we'll try again), nectarines (not quite in season so may have been too sour for her), and apples (either the texture was weird for her or she just didn't have a good appetite due to her 6 month shots). I don't really know how she feels about the cauliflower since I mixed a tiny bit into the squash and zucchini ... but I don't want to give her too much since it'll just cause gas anyway. It seemed to be a good mixture to sneak some into to see how it goes. Now I'll be able to include it in soups etc or other combined veggie dishes. Anyway, good on her ... she's a great eater and very willing to try new things.

After swearing to myself that I would back away from Arbonne ... I've gone ahead and done the opposite. *sigh*

I first heard of this company at a massage program for busy moms. The program was intended to allow busy moms who just couldn't get the time away from their babies to pamper themselves. 15 minutes for $15 while other moms take care of your baby. It was too good to pass up. Of course a 15 minute massage does nothing to rid me of the million knots in my neck and shoulders but at least it's a start. In any case, at this program were 2 Arbonne consultants showing off their product line. They did a complimentary skin care and make up demo on each of us. To be honest, I didn't even really want to get a makeup application in the middle of some random day but as usual, I was too shy/polite to decline. However, I'm actually pretty glad that I went with it because I was quite impressed with the products. I don't know if it was a combination of all the products or one of them in particular but my skin felt smooth, soft and despite the crazy heat was still not greasy the next morning. That's pretty impressive!

While talking with the Arbonne girls, they told me about the Arbonne opportunity. "Oh, it's like Avon," I said. And then they scoffed. The Arbonne business isn't structured in the same way so it's far more lucrative, they said. Basically Avon has expanded to sell a bunch of everything and it's all purchased from catalogue for a very cheap price. Due to the cheap price, your commissions as a consultant would be much lower. In addition, you've got to continuously hunt for the business so it's a lot more like door to door sales. Arbonne is different. First off the price point is higher so that alone gives you a higher commission. But also, once you sign someone up once all of their repeat orders get credited to you as well even though the client will actually be placing their repeat orders on their own through the phone or internet. Rather than continuously hunting for new sales, you're really just building up a network. I was intrigued ... and even more so when I realised that these Arbonne girls were young mothers like me and that through Arbonne they found a way to work part-time while still earning a very decent living and being able to spend time with their children. Now I was definitely intrigued.

I thought and thought - could I make this work for me? I thought so much that I became thoroughly obsessed with the prospect and couldn't even get a wink of sleep that night. I'm not big on sales because I lack the confidence to believe that people will buy something from me ... but the thing about Arbonne is that you're not really asking anyone to spend new money but rather to spend the money that they already spend on their skin care products on this healthier organic all-around better product. Makes sense. But then I got obsessed and annoyed and discouraged so I changed my mind about selling.

I was still impressed with the actual products though. In comes Joanna who is also kind of interested in starting up a skin care regimen. Like me, she doesn't use much of anything at this point but feels that it's probably about time to start. So I asked those Arbonne girls to come back and give us a demo. They left us with 3 days of sample so we'll see how it goes. I must say that after 2 uses I'm definitely feeling great. My skin is very soft, very smooth and very non-greasy. I'm sold.

If Joanna decides to go for it, I'm going to sign up as a Preferred Client for $35 which will allow me to purchase $840 worth of products for half price. Joanna and I would then split both the cost and the loot. It would come out to $225 for each of us and we'd get the full 6 daily skin care products plus have some spare to get a couple of more things here and there. It's pricey, I know ... but it's no more expensive than any other skin care line. I checked at Shoppers and everything was priced either the same or more expensive. The difference is that these products are natural and organic and don't have harmful chemicals. Plus I've been using NeoStrata from Shoppers which isn't really cheaper and I'm not really even seeing any results.

So Joanna and I were talking about how we probably could run this business and be consultants. We were even talking about doing it together and splitting the commissions. We probably could but she, like me, just lacks the confidence in her ability to "sell." Personally, I just don't know who I would even really ask to buy it. Becoming a preferred client costs $35 and would give me 20% all future purchases. Becoming a consultant costs $130 and would give me 35-50% off all future purchases plus I'd receive some sort of commission on all sales made. If I just had a little bit of confidence it would probably be quite a worthy venture.

I think that my aunt would maybe be interested. I think she would at least try the products. She does currently use some kind of products so it wouldn't be new money spent for her. Maybe Zvi's mom too. But aside from that, I don't think any of my friends really use much of anything yet and I think they will see it as a lot of money to spend. Never know until you try though.

Before I went on mat leave, I asked Zvi if he thought I should sign up with Avon to try to make some money while I was off. But he didn't really think so. He said he'd support me if I wanted to try but that he didn't really think that our friends would want to buy those kinds of things for me so he didn't really think I should bother. I agreed. But I was trying to find a way to supplement my income and also (in my dream world) find a way to not have to return to work when the time comes. Then Arbonne comes along.

No matter what I'm going to purchase the products for myself ... so the question really becomes is it worth it to spend $100 more and try to earn some money by spreading the word? And if Joanna and I try to do it together, then it would only be $50 more. If Zvi is reading this (I'm sure he got bored with this paragraphs ago) then his eyes are probably rolling back into his head ... but I think it's something at least worth considering.

A Return From Hiatus

I've been putting off blogging for so long that I've unfortunately forgotten about most things on my list of things to write about. I know there was a list because I emailed it to Brian at some point .... but the only thing I really remember being on there was the frog that we found hopping around our garden. We only saw it just the once and I haven't a clue of where it came from but while I'm happy I haven't run into it on my own, I am a little sad about it leaving if it didn't like our garden after all. We did take a few photos of him ... but I can't find them now. Maybe he took them with him when he left??? Ooh ... Zvi found it, here it is:
Can You See The Frog?!


I'm always a little bummed about continuing things when I haven't done them for a while. I just feel like there's so much that I haven't written about already that there's just no point to go on. I feel bad leaving the gap there but I also don't feel right about quickly summarizing everything that happened in just a few words. I feel like that kind of brevity just wouldn't do justice to the true experiences. On the other hand, I also feel way too lazy to actually write everything out properly so I'm kind of at an impasse. If Zvi were here, I'd tell him that this was a prisoner's dilemma. Yes, I know it's not really a prisoners dilemma ... but if Zvi were here, believe me, I'd definitely find a way to explain just how it really is.

I guess my only choices are to either quit (this is the option I almost always choose and then lament over it for the rest of forever) or to just accept that these things will not be perfect and that I will not be able to devote 100% of my time or energy to it and just do what I can. I have real trouble with tasks that I know I absolutely can't do perfectly. It's not that everything I do turns out perfectly - not at all ... but I at least like to know that there's a chance it will turn out that way if I try. With stuff like blogging, I just know it won't happen so it's really hard for me to stay motivated and not get depressed about it and give up. But I'm going to make a commitment right now to at least try.

Ok, Maybe Just A Little More
Well, at least it looks like Bayla is listening! 

That photo was taken after a big poopy explosion all over her bed. We haven't had many of those kind of accidents lately so I was really glad (as I'm sure was Zvi since he's the one that discovered it!) that we were both home to deal with it. It was her first time in the big bath all by herself. Luckily she's gotten to be really good at sitting up so it wasn't so difficult. Even though the bottom of the bathtub is textured, we still found it to be quite slippery so we'll have to pick up a mat before we stop getting into the tub with her for regularly scheduled bath time. The whole thing was kind of gross but it was also just really funny ... and it was the first time we've ever really bathed her in the middle of the day without having bedtime immediately after so it was a great opportunity to dress her in this very cute duckie robe and take some photos. As much as I'm not hoping for anymore poopy accidents, I do hope there are more opportunities for daytime bath tub fun because really, I want to see her in this robe some more. So cute! 

Here is a status update on our garden ... though it's already quite outdated. I'll put up another one soon. 

We did a lot of cooking over the weekend. It's something we both enjoy doing - especially together. Lately we've taken to eating dinner after Bayla goes to bed which has made our evenings considerably nicer and calmer. It's good because Zvi and Bayla get to spend some time together and I get a chance to rest before having to put her to bed. But it also means that Zvi and I have some nice time to spend together and don't have to rush and have a hectic dinner. All around great decision. Here's a lasagna that we made on the weekend. Zvi said it was the best ever. How nice! I just hope I can recreate in the future. 
Best Lasagna Ever

There's no real recipe here .... I just layered oven-ready lasagna noodles with a "meat" sauce (we used Italian flavoured ground round mixed into a tomato sauce), a ricotta/spinach/egg mixture, and sauteed eggplant/zucchini/mushroom mixture. Shredded mozzarella went on top. Then bake in a 350F oven for about an hour covered and 15 minutes uncovered.

The recipe for today is for a take on Thai Mango Salad. It's got all the same flavours but is prepared more like a slaw with the addition of cabbage. I got the idea from SmittenKitchen.
Mango Lime Cashew Slaw
It's not only delicious but also quite beautiful and colourful. The only thing missing from the picture above is shredded mint and coarsely chopped cashews. I didn't add them in right away because I prepared the salad in advance and those are both last minute additions right before serving. Had I used a food processor or mandoline, this would've been a really quick salad to make. Unfortunately, I value each of my fingers and am thus terrified of the mandoline I insisted to Zvi that we needed to have. Because I'm also lazy about these kinds of things, you'll see that my slices are much bigger than Smitten's. Oh well.

Mango Slaw With Cashews and Lime
2 Mangoes, peeled, pitted and julienned
1 lb Chinese Lettuce, halved and thinly sliced
1 Red Pepper, julienned
1/2 Red Onion, thinly sliced
2 Limes, juiced
1/4 Cup Rice Vinegar
1 tbsp Sesame Oil
1 tbsp Canola Oil
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Red Chilli Flakes
1/4 Cup Thinly Sliced Fresh Mint Leaves
1/4 Cup Coarsely Crushed Cashews

Whisk together lime juice, rice vinegar, oil, salt, and chilli flakes at the bottom of a large salad bowl. Mix in mangoes, chinese lettuce, red pepper and onions. Add mint and cashews prior to serving.

Focaccia

Zvi and I made our next recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible today. It was a lovely focaccia that featured our very own homegrown rosemary and thyme. Zvi says "too bad it wasn't made with our own flour - maybe next year." Haha, that's what he thinks! I'm really not planning on growing wheat in my backyard.

There are a couple of things I would do differently when making this again. I already added in thyme and more salt than was called for, but I think even more herbs would be really nice. The biggest change is that I used a large baking sheet for the focaccia, leaving a smaller baking sheet to go into the oven ... this may have contributed to a bit of uneven browning and heat distribution on the bottom. Next time I will put the dough into the smaller one and put that on top of the bigger one. Either that or buy another baking sheet in the large size. Anyway, these are just minor details. Overall, it turned out really great.

The dough needs about 6 hours of total rising time so it's best to start this process in the morning if possible, or at least before 4pm which is when I started our process. Oh well - a little taste of focaccia at 10:15pm never hurt anyone!

Zvi and I both also thought that the dough would make for an excellent pizza dough. We could both totally imagine it spread with some tomato sauce, some oregano and basil and maybe some buffalo mozzarella. Except for the cheese we could make it all from homegrown ingredients. Another time.

Focaccia
390 grams unbleached all-purpose flour (2 3/4 cups)
1.2 grams instant yeast (3/8 tsp)
442 grams room temperature water (2 cups minus 2 tbsp)
3 grams sugar (3/4 tsp)
5.2 grams salt (3/4 tsp)
36 grams extra virgin olive oil (2 tbsp plus 2 tsp divided)
2 tsp fresh rosemary
2 tsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp coarse sea salt

1. Mix Dough. Using the paddle attachment in a KitchenAid mixer, combine flour and yeast on speed 2. Gradually add water until the dough comes together - about 3 minutes. Increase speed to 4 and beat until dough changes from a wet mixture to a smooth ball - about 18 minutes. Add sugar and salt and beat until they are well incorporated - about 3 minutes.

Mixing Focaccia Dough

2. Let Dough Rise. Using an oiled spatula, scrape dough into a medium sized, lightly greased bowl. Dough will have consistency of melted mozzarella. Lightly spray oil on top of dough. Cover bowl. Allow to rise in a warm spot for about 4 hours until dough has at least doubled.

3. Shape Dough And Let Rise Again. Coat a baking sheet with a heaping tbsp of olive oil. Pour dough onto it. Coat hands with some of the remaining olive oil and spread dough as thinly as possible without tearing it. Let it relax for 10 minutes then spread it to almost fill the baking sheet. Make sure to maintain the bubbles in the dough. Cover baking sheet with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm spot for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until volume has doubled.

4. Preheat Oven. Place another baking sheet on lowest level in oven. Preheat oven to 475F 1 hour before baking (I think we only did half and hour).

5. Sprinkle Toppings And Bake. Uncover dough and drizzle remaining olive oil evenly over top. With oiled fingertips, deeply dimple the dough. Sprinkle evenly with herbs and salt. Place baking sheet directly onto baking sheet already in oven. Bake until golden - about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.
Focaccia Out Of Oven
Freshly Baked Focaccia

In other news, I'm so glad Bayla learned to put her head down sideways when she's on her tummy. She's started rolling over in her crib at night but at least now that doesn't make her wake up screaming because her face is planted flat into the mattress. Of course, she does sometimes manage to get her entire leg stuck through the slats in the crib. No clue how this even happens. It really is amazing watching her do tummy time though because she is so much stronger than when she started out. Not only can she hold her arms straight and lift her whole chest off the ground, she pretty much lifts her hips up too. It's like she's doing the cobra pose from yoga. Great for her - I'm not sure I can hold the pose for as long as she can at this point. It looks like she's at the beginning stages of figuring out how to crawl. (OMG, which means we need to tidy up the house ASAP and get a cleaning lady!!) She hasn't quite figured out how to consistently role onto her back yet either but she can spin around 360 while on her tummy. I love watching her go around and around playing with various toys as she goes. Am I supposed to be this by my child?! Here's a picture of her enjoying some sweet potatoes today. This was taken before things got really messy :-)
Sweet Potato Mess

Well, we did it ... we fed solids to Bayla. She was exclusively breastfed for 6 months which was really important to me and now we're starting to introduce her to different tastes. This milestone was a bit bittersweet for me. On one hand, I'm so excited for her to grow up because she's getting to be so much fun and I want to see what she'll be like and really be able to interact with her. But on the other hand, my baby is growing up so fast and I'm already starting to forget what she was like at her tiniest and I'm already starting to miss it and feel that incredible yearning that I'm sure all mothers feel for their little babies who need them so utterly and completely. But, I am going to continue to nurse for hopefully the rest of the year that I'm home so Bayla and I do still have lots of opportunity to cuddle and bond together.

Open Wide

We started her on organic brown rice cereal. Zvi had both the video and still cameras on hand to document the funny faces we were sure we'd get. But Bayla was so well behaved ... she was brave and tried it without a fuss. She smiled most of the way through it and let out the cutest little "mmmm" after each spoon. It was impossible not to melt for our little girl. What a cutie.
Mmmm

I know that generally you're supposed to wait a few days in between new food introductions for babies so that any sensitivities or allergies can be noticed. But I didn't want to keep her on just the rice cereal for too long because as I've heard from every mother who has been through this before me - it doesn't make for happy baby tummies. I had hoped that by choosing a brown rice cereal instead of white that it would help with the situation. But even still, I didn't want to risk it. In any case, it is extremely rare for anyone to have sensitivities to rice so I wasn't too worried about breaking this rule. Also - I was so excited about the whole experience that I just really wanted to give Bayla new things to try. So we did 1 day of the rice which I fed to her twice in the day. Then for the next 2 days we moved on to avocado which I had thinned with some milk. I only gave it to her once on each day partly because that's how our schedule worked out and partly because how much avocado can/should a baby really eat, right? Bayla seemed to really like the avocado too.
Mmmm Avocado

And now we're on to 2 days of apple which so far is going just fine as well. I've also started giving Bayla little bits of boiled water from a sippy cup. I don't want her to have too much because I'm still nursing and I don't want her to fill her tummy up with non-nutritive sucking. However, I'm really adamant about getting her used to drinking water instead of juice as she grows up (I'm convinced that because I was raised on juice, albeit diluted, I am now completely addicted to sugar) and also it's a great way to rinse out her mouth and not get leftover bits of mush all over me and everything else in the house!

And so for now, I leave you with this last picture of my little big girl. There really are no adequate words to sum up the amount of love that I feel for her.
Hahaha

Weekend Cooking

Yesterday, Zvi and I made our first recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible. Admittedly, it wasn't the most bready thing we could've made but it sure was delicious. Cinnamon Crumb Surprise is the first recipe in the book and I would call it more of a coffee cake than anything else. For the first time in my life, I actually followed the recipe EXACTLY. And now that I have, I've made note of some changes for next time. For starters, I found it to be a little too sweet so I would cut back some of the sugar, at least in the crumble topping. Secondly, I would increase the amount of apples in the middle layer. I know this isn't supposed to be an apple cake but I found that just one apple really didn't add much of a surprise to the cake and I would have liked to feel more of that flavour. And last but most importantly, the recipe calls for the use of a food processor to make the crumb topping and then a stand mixer to make the dough. Zvi and I both agree that it's just not worth the clean up - in the future, we think that the crumb topping can easily be made by hand.

In general, I'm quite opposed to this extremely precise way of making food. I think it's important to understand the elements and feel your way around the preparation. However, it was really fun measuring everything using our brand new kitchen scale (thanks Zvi!) and watching the cake flour transform into a silken batter after a specifically stated amount of time in the stand mixer. I was tempted to mix a little less ( I mean, do I really need to count to 90 - really?!) but Zvi was around so he kept me on track. It was definitely an experience but one that I don't regret because after about an hour and a half, Zvi and I sat down to quite a lovely little treat.

Cinnamon Crumb Surprise

Earlier in the day I also made some ratatouille. It's a favourite around here. It's so cheery and summery and full of flavour and easy to make! I was thinking yesterday that one day I would be able to make the entire dish out of vegetables grown in our own yard. Not this year as we don't have any eggplants growing but everything else is well on its way ... various coloured peppers, green and yellow zucchini, onions, garlic, tomatoes, basil, thyme, rosemary ... how wonderful is that?! I also love that it's so healthy. In fact, we first got the idea of making it from The G.I. Diet Cookbook.
Ratatouille

Ratatouille

1 eggplant, quartered lengthwise, then sliced into 3/4" pieces

2 zucchini, halved lengthwise, then sliced into 3/4 " pieces (I used yellow)

3 peppers, cut into 1" pieces (I used 1 each of green, red and orange)

1 sweet onion, cut into large chunks

1 can plum tomatoes ( I used San Marzano), drained except for 1/4 cup of juice

3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tbsp each of fresh basil, parsley, thyme and rosemary

olive oil, salt, pepper


Step 1: Arrange eggplant on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil until golden brown. Flip and repeat.


Step 2: Saute onion in olive oil until slightly softened. Add zucchini and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium until vegetables have softened.


Step 3: Add tomatoes, reserved juice, vinegar, garlic, rosemary and thyme. Simmer about 5 minutes.


Step 4: Add basil and thyme. Mix thoroughly and enjoy.


Our cookbook suggests eating this with a poached egg. We haven't tried it but it sounds great.


Last weekend we took Bayla to meet Zvi's grandmother for the first time. She lives in a nursing home and we didn't want to take Bayla inside because of all the germs. We have been waiting for warm weather so that we can take Zvi's grandma outside and finally the weather was just right - not too cold, not too hot (though it was quite windy unfortunately). Zvi took some great pictures of their introduction but this one is really my favourite because it is so very Bayla. She sees something ... and then she wants to eat it. 

Nice To M(eat) You!

Here's another great example of Bayla putting EVERYTHING into her mouth. She figured out how to get her feet into her mouth a while ago but I haven't been able to capture it on camera until recently. Usually she gets so interested in seeing what I'm doing that as soon as I point a camera in her direction she stops doing everything to interact with me instead. It's really nice but makes catching all the funny stuff she does a bit of a challenge. 
Caught You Red Footed

I was REALLY disappointed last night when UPS rang our doorbell with a delivery from Amazon at 7pm. Zvi had asked for a coffee hand grinder for father's day so that is what he was expecting. I decided to throw in a little bonus with that gift so that there would still be some element of surprise. I checked the Amazon website and I was actually expecting the delivery yesterday but when it didn't arrive by 5 I figured it would just come today instead. But at 7pm when the doorbell rang, I tried to get Zvi to not answer it to no avail. So he got this book about coffee as a little early present. Hope he's liking it.

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About this blog

I started out just being me but I always wanted to be a little like my grandma. Then I became a wife. Then I also became a mom. This is the story of how I learn to put it all together :-)