The best ever gluten free, dairy free bread.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

For all my gluten free buddies out there who miss real bread as much as I do... this is as close as I've gotten to the perfect gluten free bread. I thought you should know.
We've been ordering Namaste Gluten Free Perfect Flour Blend in bulk, and it's mainly just to make this bread. I'll whip up a couple loaves every week or two and we'll slice them and freeze them to use later for toast in the mornings, bread with dinner, or even to make bread crumbs. 

The recipe for the bread is printed right on the bag of flour, and I haven't made any changes to it, but I'll post it here as well. Try it! You will not be disappointed.

3 1/2 cups Namaste Perfect Flour Blend
1 1/2 cups milk (I use almond milk)
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. oil
2 tbsp. honey
1/2 cup cornstarch, arrowroot or tapioca starch
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 tbsp. yeast
1/4 cup warm water

1. Mix yeast in 1/4 cup warm water and set aside for 5 minutes. Warm milk, add oil, honey and cider vinegar. Beat eggs and add to milk mixture. Add yeast mixture to milk mixture and blend.
2. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and blend on medium speed with electric mixer for 3 minutes. Pour into well greased loaf pan. Cover loosely with sprayed plastic wrap and towel and let rise for 30 minutes in warm place. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
3. Cover loosely with foil tent to prevent over browning and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for another 35-40 minutes. Let cool completely.

Serving suggestion: slices best if allowed to cool completely first. Delicious warmed up and served with butter and honey!

Our tongue tie story, part 1.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

This is a little different from my normal blog content, but I wanted to write this out for my own memory and also in case someone is helped by our story. Unless you do some digging, there isn't much information about lip ties and tongue ties and the effect they can have on every aspect of babyhood (and, therefore, motherhood). This is the "before" of our story. The "after" coming soon.

The past three months since Lanie's birth have been difficult at best. People often see her quick and contagious smile and ask, "Is she a good baby?" and I never know how to answer that. Is she sweet? Absolutely. Do we adore her? Oh yes. But she's so often in pain and has had so much trouble with eating and sleeping that the days are long and the nights are brutal.

When Lanie was born and began to nurse, I noticed right away that her latch wasn't great and that there was a loud and distinct "clicking" noise when she sucked. She pulled off and on quite a bit, was squirmy and restless, and caused me quite a bit of pain as well. However, I remembered that Liam and I had had trouble breastfeeding in the first several weeks (like most newborns), so I chalked it up to just getting to know each other and getting the hang of things. Liam was born with a very obvious anterior tongue tie that was caught and revised at the hospital on day 1 of his life. When he cried, his tongue would look forked, and he could barely move it past his lower gum line. Remembering this, I asked the pediatrician at the hospital if Lanie might have a tongue tie as well. I was told that she might have a small one, but because she could stick her tongue out, it wouldn't be bad enough to cause any problems.

Fast forward one month. We'd been having significant breastfeeding difficulties, but pressed on. I nursed Liam for 13 months, so I wasn't about to give up. Every time Lanie nursed, she still made the clicking sound, would kick around restlessly, would pull off and on, and would swallow a significant amount of air. She'd then start crying because of gas pains and would typically spit up when I burped her. Even with a bottle, she clicked and sucked in air. It didn't seem like she was able to wrap her tongue all the way around it to form a solid latch. She hated lying on her back, in the swing, or being put down at all. So I carried her (and still do) about 90% of our waking hours in an Ergo carrier where she sleeps the longest and stays happiest. In the meantime, I wasn't draining properly, so I dealt with clogged ducts and ultimately mastitis, twice.

At her one month pediatrician appointment, I brought up the tongue tie question again and was told, "She may have one, but we don't deal with tongue ties." The doctor said revising a tongue tie was "in vogue" and "controversial" and "they didn't do it 20 years ago, so I don't know why we're doing it all of a sudden now." (Side note: They did do it 20 years ago, or at least 29 years ago, as my own tongue tie was clipped at 11 days old.)

At this point, I started to question all of my mama instincts. Was she just a difficult baby? Was I too spoiled by Liam's easy eating and sleeping? Did I just need to deal with it? Still, I knew something was wrong. She shouldn't be in so much pain, and neither should I - all day and all night. She seemed gassy, uncomfortable, slept so lightly, and seemed to be in constant pain. Miserable for the baby, miserable for her mom. It would've been one thing if I knew breastfeeding wasn't working and could just pump bottles, but even the bottle didn't seem to be a better option.

At her two month appointment, another pediatrician at the same practice diagnosed her with reflux, which felt like a breakthrough. I thought, 'So maybe that's all it is. Reflux.' The pediatrician also heard the clicking noise while she nursed, and recommended we see a lactation consultant. I asked, yet again, about the tongue tie and this pediatrician also said it might be there, but shouldn't be causing all these problems. We started Lanie on Prilosec twice a day and that first night, she slept an incredible 7 hours! A breakthrough? Not really. I chalk it up now to her having vaccines that same day, because she went back to her 2- and 3- and 4-hour stretches shortly after that one amazing night.

Finally (finally) we hired a lactation consultant to come to our house. Almost immediately, when she heard and saw Lanie nursing, she knew there was a posterior tongue tie. Upon assessment, she also found an upper lip tie. Unfortunately, at least in the Raleigh area, there seem to be very few medical professionals who are familiar with posterior tongue ties (a tie that's further back than the more obvious anterior tie) or lip ties. The lactation consultant recommended a pediatric dentist in a town nearby who specializes in laser frenectomies, which is a short procedure that releases the tongue and lip ties using a laser, which is arguably more accurate and less painful than cutting it with a scalpel. But since the laser procedure is not covered by our insurance, the high out-of-pocket cost felt prohibitive and I looked into other options. Long story short, there weren't good options. The ENTs I spoke with said the only option for a baby her age was to put her under general anesthesia for the procedure, which is not something I was comfortable with.

Ultimately, God provided every dollar we needed for the procedure through some generous friends at church, and the procedure is happening today! I've joined a Facebook group for tongue and lip ties which has been immensely helpful and encouraging, and many babies who have had this procedure latch better almost immediately - and their sleep and reflux improves dramatically as a result. We are also doing something called craniosacral therapy (CST) with a chiropractor, which goes hand in hand with loosening the jaw and neck and preparing for the laser surgery. We had our first adjustment yesterday and will go back tomorrow.

I will update as soon as I can when I know part 2 of our story. Feel free to ask me any questions in the comment section and I am more than happy to tell you what I know (or point you to resources I've found).

Today and every day at 4:12pm.

Monday, March 30, 2015

It's become the sweetest part of our day. Liam wakes up from his nap and, no matter what, wants to see "Wane Eh-wee-utt" first thing. Red-cheeked and warm, he wipes his eyes and asks, "Put baby girl on floor?" and prances around her, giggling at her many expressions. It's undeniable that he loves her. In fact, the other day in the car, he just said, "Wanie girl. I wuv her." Melt.

Somehow, I can already tell she loves him back. As soon as he enters a room - as loud and overstimulating as he can be - her eyes widen and she tilts her head until she can see him. She tolerates a whole lot more rough handling than I expected, but only from him.

In a season of motherhood that's just plain exhausting, the blossoming of their little relationship energizes my heart. It broadens my perspective that, oh yeah, they aren't just two tiny people whose needs are so perfectly opposite. One day, they'll be friends.

What happened to Brighter Day?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My very first bag
Back in 2011, while neck-deep in nursing school, I needed a creative outlet and decided to pick up sewing. I'd sewn a little bit before, but attempted a small clutch purse from a tutorial I found online. It was the first zipper I had ever installed and, though it probably took me hours longer than it should have, it actually turned out and I had a blast doing it. I took a picture of the bag, listed it in my Etsy shop (where I had formerly sold jewelry), and within 5 minutes, the bag sold. 

The next day, I made an identical bag and put it in my shop. It sold later that day. "I might be onto something," I thought. The following day, a bride sent me a request for 5 bags for her bridesmaids. I'd never made 5 bags before, but thought, "Why not?" and went to work.

Fast forward a year and a half. The business, Brighter Day, had taken off. I was working full-time as a nurse, was pregnant with Liam, and was sewing for hours each night. Once Liam arrived, the trend continued: working at the hospital 3 days a week and sewing on my days off. While there were some very long days and nights spent sewing, the work was invigorating and I felt creatively stretched in the best ways. I heard from brides all over the world who sent in very specific requests which had me hunting all over for the perfect fabric combinations and special touches to add to their bags. It wasn't long before I had bags in several boutiques, too. Soon, I was making as much money sewing as I made being a nurse, so I decided to quit my job at the hospital to stay home with Liam and sew full-time. For the next two years, this is what I did. A whole lot of sewing. As in... 1500 bags. 

For a short time, I employed another lady part-time to help me conquer the never-ending list of orders, which was incredibly helpful. Then we moved to North Carolina and I started working by myself again. I interviewed a few ladies to help me sew but there was always a catch: one smoked (the test purses were irreparably smelly), another had cats (and that smell is impossible to get out of a fabric bag). So it was just me, my sewing machine, and our growing little guy.

For a while, this setup worked. Our days consisted of trips to the fabric store and the post office while I wore Liam in the carrier, or sewing while he played on his play mat on the floor. I frequently felt frazzled, but I told myself daily (and sometimes hourly) how lucky I was to be doing this and getting to stay home with Liam at the same time.

But then, at some point just before we moved into our current house, things changed. I can't put my finger on it. Was it a certain number of orders per week that made me feel so consumed? Was it Liam's new mobility that made it impossible to work while he was awake? Was it the fact that Liam was now gone two mornings a week so I could work (and I missed him)? Was it the loneliness of having no coworkers? Was I just plain burnt out?

I think it was a combination of all of these reasons, but while I was pregnant with Lanie, the work began to feel like drudgery. Every time my phone would *ping* with a new sale, my heart would sink. I often had to work after the rest of my family went to bed, which made me feel like a slave to my business. It was hard work, lonely work, and at this point, uninspiring work. When people would say, "How lucky you are to get to work from home!" I would inwardly think, "Not really. With kids at home, it doesn't feel like much of a blessing at all." I had absolutely no down time, because if I wasn't playing with Liam, I was sewing. If I wasn't sewing, I was cleaning the kitchen. If I wasn't making dinner or grocery shopping, I was answering Etsy convos. There was never, ever a break.

Just before Lanie was born, I decided to close the shop indefinitely. I thought that maybe after a few months away, I'd begin to miss it. I finished up all of my orders and tied up every loose end before her birth and let out a deep sigh of relief.

Now, almost 4 months later, I have to be honest: I don't miss it at all. I feel a tinge of guilt when I admit that, though, because it doesn't negate how grateful I am for the years I was able to sew full-time. To work in my own home. To be my own boss. I don't take it for granted that many people dream of that setup and are never able to make it a reality.

So the shop, as it stands, is closed. Perhaps I'll pick it back up someday in some other form, but I can't make any promises. It certainly feels like a step of faith to say "no" to something that had become pretty unhealthy (read: pure stress) and yet to say "no," too, to income we needed. I'm really not sure what's next. At some point soon, I'd love to go back into nursing part-time. I'd love to do more writing. I'd love to do lots of things. Right now, though, the task at hand is two very full-time kids (and one who is having a difficult time sleeping for more than 3 hours at a time). I never thought I'd feel fulfilled in "just" caring for them, but right now, they are absolutely enough.

I write this for two reasons. One is that a lot of people have no idea what running a small handmade business looks like. It isn't all just playing in beautiful fabrics and taking Instagram pictures of your latest ideas. It's late nights and business taxes, it's post office lines and broken sewing machines. At the same time, there's nothing like the satisfaction of a happy customer. Knowing you were able to bring tears to their eyes when they opened their package and saw their vision come to life is a gift.

The second reason is plain: So many of you have supported me and my little shop for years, and I really can't thank you enough. You often bought bags simply because you liked my blog and wanted to support my family, and that is a generous and beautiful gift. I will never look back in regret over the years I was able to spend working so hard and yet being able to stay home. It truly has been a privilege. So thank you. Seriously, thank you.

PS - I do still have my shop open with instant download sewing patterns available, and I will keep those up for the foreseeable future. This has become a great option, and I now get excited for every sale, hoping someone will be able to create their own bag from a pattern that took me years (and many late nights) to perfect.

Help me decide.

Monday, March 16, 2015

When we moved into our current house last August, we did a mad dash to decorate as quickly as possible, knowing we'd be having a baby soon and wouldn't have the time or motivation to accomplish much after that. Now that we've lived here for more than 6 months, I'm feeling an itch to really settle in decor-wise. Maybe it's Spring on its way, maybe it's cabin fever. I've hung four pictures in the past week and it's feeling homier with every one. 

The next decor project I want to tackle is this wall (straight ahead): 
It's in our main living/dining room where we spend most of our time, and it's feeling especially bare. I love gallery walls, but what I don't love is having to constantly straighten the frames to make sure they stay in place. With a little guy who jumps and bounds around, the frames get just a hair "off" and drive me a little nuts.

So what I'd love to create is a picture ledge. I love that you can change it up as often as you'd like without making new holes in the wall. I also love the look when it's kept somewhat simple. Here is some of my inspiration (click on the photos to take you to the original sites):

I love how bright and happy this one is with a few pops of color.
I love the different size frames and the monochromatic look of this one.

This one is my absolute favorite. Can I just move in tomorrow? I love how eclectic and yet uncluttered it looks.
I have quite a few family photos in different sized frames that are ready to go. But I'd also love to incorporate a piece of art to break it up. Here's where I need your help. I've been looking at for a standout piece for the picture ledge and have fallen in love with too many. Here are my top choices:

1. A subtle pop of color. Fresh and airy. I love the textured look of the paint, too.
Land of Plenty by Emily Jeffords
2. A bold "tangerine" color, I think this would tie together the mustard chairs we have on the opposite side of the room. Plus, it's one of my favorite colors. Bright, simple, and happy.
Abstract Layers 1 by Kelly Nasuta
3. This one is more abstract, but I'm just drawn to it for some reason. I love the simplicity of the patterns.
Pink India Fly by Lady Noble
4. This one is real gold foil and features a special place for Shawn and me (NYC, where we got engaged!). I also really like the gold foil maps of Chicago, Tennessee, and Germany. I'd buy them all if I could.
New York City Map
 5. I'm drawn to this one because of the color combination. I love it. Clean and modern.
Abstract Muted 2 by Kelly Nasuta
6. I love the ampersand sign, and this more muted look is appealing.
& i love to read by Niki Digrigorio
So what do you think? Do you have a vision for any one of these? Picture one of these in a large size plus several family photos in black & white and maybe a couple in color. I'd love to hear your thoughts and can't wait to show you what we decide!

This post is in collaboration with, whose products I genuinely love, and the opinions expressed are all my own. 
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