Zucchini Muffins (Vegan Possible)

I would definitely call my kids picky eaters and (if they could help it) vegetables would not be a part of their regular diet. We’ve been working hard at finding ways to sneak in healthy food into their meals and snacks. For example, I discovered if we cut Mila’s apples with a crinkle cutting tool, she’ll eat the apples. We also make smoothies (it’s a kale, berry blend) and I add vegetable powder, hemp seeds and acai berries.

Our biggest hit though, is the zucchini muffins. I started with a regular recipe and altered it (about a million times) until it was about as healthy as I could make it with them still gobbling them up. They seriously can’t eat them fast enough. And it’s been extra fun now that we’re growing zucchini in our garden because every time we have two, we get to make more muffins!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1 cup wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 eggs (or substitute, I just do 3 tsp of this egg replacer, dry)
  • 1/2 cup milk (or substitute)
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 2 shredded zucchini

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Melt coconut oil in the oven, while the oven is warming up
  3. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Mix egg, oil, milk, lemon juice and vanilla in a separate bowl. Stir into dry ingredients until just moistened.
  5. Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips
  6. Bake 22-25 minutes

I’d love to hear your tips on how you get picky eaters to eat healthy.

-Erica

ps. We found this book on picky eaters to be extremely helpful

Our Earthboxes are Exploding!

We grew a container garden when we lived in Boston in 2010. The first year we planted in garden “buckets”. We didn’t have great success but it was still a lot of fun.

The next year we decided to do earthboxes, because we heard about their amazing yield. I watched tons of you tube videos of people’s gardens and I was blown away.  The boxes aren’t super cheap so there was a significant initial investment, but now we’ve had these boxes for several years and so every year the cost is less and less. I also recently learned that you can reuse the soil for 5-6 years so that also drastically reduces the yearly cost.

With earthboxes, as compared to regular containers, they water from the bottom up. There’s a tube in the corner where you put in the water and the soil soaks it up. That way the nutrition stays in for the plants to utilize. You can see an explanation here. You also have to use a soil with a slightly different composition- you want a large amount of peat moss so that it holds moisture. Near the top of the box there is a layer of dolomite lime to help adjust the ph of the soil and a trough of fertilizer in the center. Instead of buying the earthbox soil packages (which can be very expensive) I found recommended replacements and we bought it all at home depot.

When we landscaped our backyard we put decomposed granite along the side wall (where there is TONS of sunshine) in anticipation of having our earthboxes there.

I’m pretty excited about how it turned out.

This year we planted heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, jalapeño and bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini and edamame.

Our zucchini plants are monsters, they remind me a little of the Little Shop of Horrors.  We’ve already harvested 4 zucchini and Mila is so excited because she LOVES zucchini muffins.

When we finished, we still had one earthbox unplanted, so I decided to add a lettuce box. I couldn’t find any lettuce already started at the nursery so I bought some packages of seeds and started them in the jiffy peat pots.

I couldn’t find our old heating mat so unfortunately I had to buy a new one. But they sprouted and are now out in their new home!

I forgot how much fun it is to grow a garden! Can’t wait to show you how this garden progresses and update you on the yield!

-erica

Ugh.

That’s definitely not what I was hoping my next blog post title would be. This was supposed to be the year of my health, and so far it hasn’t exactly turned out that way. It’s like lupus needs to repeatedly knock you on the head and remind you that it’s unpredictable. And the moment you try to control and predict it, you’re bound to run into trouble.

Stress is clearly a trigger for my disease activity, and work is definitely not lacking in stress. That’s really the only specific thing I can seem to point to as a culprit (there’s also my two little humans, ages 2 and 3 that I care for). But I know lupus doesn’t have to follow rules, so, who knows why it’s really bothering me now.

More of the usual— fatigue, joint pains (mostly just right knee and ankle), malar rash, nose ulcers, some low grade fevers and a bit of weight loss.

I’m taking Plaquenil, Imuran, just finished another prednisone taper, and NAC. My complement levels are staying consistently low (you don’t want them low). I’m considering switching to CellCept at the advice of my rheumatologist….

I bought a new sewing machine a few weeks ago, hoping to spend some time de-stressing and creating, but unfortunately I’ve been too wiped to actually sew. But soon! And I still have a few projects to post about that I finished a month or two ago.

-Erica

You just can’t predict lupus

Well, the one thing that lupus is always teaching me, is that it’s unpredictable. You do everything a certain way hoping (pleading) that you will get a certain outcome, and then, it just seems to do what it wants anyways. So…. a month after increasing my imuran and adding NAC, my lupus is still flaring. Unfortunately, it usually takes 2-3 months to see maximum improvement with imuran because you have to wait for your cells to turnover. I REALLY didn’t want to do steroids again because I’m so paranoid about my blood sugars, but I finally caved in. Fortunately I’m already feeling improvement on day #3. It’s only a 9 day course this time and hopefully that will be enough to reset my system.

Work has been very busy which likely hasn’t been helping. So, in honor of my year of health, we decided to have our sitter come for a few hours in the afternoon on my day off so that I get a chance to crawl into bed and rest. Our kiddos aren’t napping consistently anymore, which has been hard since I still need a nap!

Still striving for that elusive Work-Life Balance….

-Erica

ps. Tomorrow is our 6th wedding anniversary and we’re going to Disneyland. Somehow I’ve lived in Southern California for 5 years and I’ve NEVER been!

Bring on the finishes in 2017!

Ok guys, I’m excited. I’ve got several finishes to share with you. We’ll do them one at a time to make me feel more accomplished 🙂

My first baby quilt of the year is for my friend Carolyn. She worked with me in Boston, and I miss her dearly. She’s also Mila’s godmother. She (not so) recently had a baby girl. I’m hoping we’ll be able to get back to Boston in the soon so I can meet her little girl in person!

I made a simple 4 inch square quilt… always a favorite of mine. I bought a fat quarter pack and then added a few other prints from my stash. I put a pink and white polka dot flannel on the back. So snuggly.

I have been wanting to do zigzag binding, but hadn’t done it because I really enjoy hand stitching. However, this quilt was the perfect opportunity to try it out since I was so behind- and I’m a total converter. I LOVE how it looks.

I also got new labels from etsy. I put the label on the front corner (but I don’t love it there so you’ll see I put it on the back of my next quilt). I also think it should be a little bigger- thoughts?

-Erica

N-Acetylcysteine and Lupus

Despite my New Year’s Resolutions, my lupus has been more active lately. I’ve been feeling very fatigued (although it’s hard to determine how much is due to being a working mama and how much is due to lupus). I’ve also had mouth sores, pericarditis and joint pains. My blood tests confirmed my suspicions and when I saw my rheumatologist she changed my medications and took me off of work for a week to rest. In addition to the plaquenil (which I always take) and the imuran, she added N-Acetylcysteine, otherwise known as NAC.

When I was in residency I remember using this to treat acetaminophen (tylenol) overdoses and also giving it to patients to protect their kidneys from contrast dye given with CT scans (although I don’t know if this has proven to actually be protective).

There was a small study published in 2012 where lupus patients treated with NAC had decreased disease activity and decreased fatigue after 3 months of treatment with 2.4-4.8g per day (um, that means I’m taking 8 pills a day!). There’s a larger, longer trial underway right now. I’m personally about 3 weeks into my own personal trial. So far I haven’t felt that much different, but it looks like it takes a few months to start to see the difference. So, I’ll keep you posted, fingers crossed!

– Erica

Love You To The Moon And Back

Yes! I have my first finish of 2017! And it’s only the 15th. 🙂 When we moved into our new place we got some awesome picture frames from Room and Board. I’ve been trying to figure out what to put in them and when I saw this cross stitch pattern I knew it had to go in one of them.  I had a lot of fun working on it- in fact, the majority of it was done while sitting outside watching the kids ride up and down the block on their bikes and scooters.

There are 3 frames (yellow, green and orange) and they can be oriented in different directions.

I’m trying to figure out if I should make cross stitch patterns for the other two frames or if I should do something else, ideas?

-Erica

2017: Helping Lupus Through Healthy Lifestyle

It’s officially 2017: My house is quiet (which is a rare occurrence when living with a 2 year old and a 3 year old), and I’m enjoying ringing in the new year under a very cozy quilt. In fact, it’s the first quilt I ever made (circa junior high in the early 1990’s).

Thinking back on this past year, I realize it was a year filled with several endings and new beginnings. Some intentional and wanted, and others, not so much.

  • The most obvious was leaving Los Angeles and moving to Orange County. This was bittersweet as Jake and I started our married life in Los Angeles, and actually, started our life as a family there as well. We lived in a beautiful little neighborhood and loved that our area was actually walkable (which is rare in Los Angeles). However, things were just getting increasingly complicated as the kids started to grow, and our two bedroom unit was shrinking on us. We couldn’t commit to buying in a location that gave us more space but locked us into long commutes, so, in the end, we jumped ship. I had formed several close relationships with colleagues and quilting friends and it was hard to leave that behind. But luckily, I’m blessed with new, fun colleagues and a very social neighborhood with lots of families with young kids like us. Teegan has learned how to open the door by himself and has been known to run out of the house down the sidewalk to look for his friends.
  • The second major change for me is accepting that we are going to be a two kid family. It almost feels selfish to say that I’m sad we won’t be having anymore children (when we are completely blessed with two little miracles), but I can’t help but mourn the loss. We always wanted a third and were planning on another, but as I recovered from the first two pregnancies it started to sink in how sick I had actually been. I was hospitalized with both, had preterm labor with both, was on super high doses of medications causing me to have gestational diabetes and a tibial fracture. And thank goodness, my kidneys hung in through both. This past year I had another miscarriage and almost immediately my blood sugars were in the diabetic range which was shocking to me since I wasn’t even on steroids at the time. So, after some real soul searching we  decided it’s too risky for my health to carry another baby, so we’ve officially decided not to try/have another.  I know it’s the right choice because I need to be healthy for my two magical children (and amazing husband), but it’s still hard to close this chapter.
  • But that leads me to the beginning of the next chapter, the one that 2017 is about: my health.
    • I’ve learned that stress directly affects my lupus symptoms (and lab values), so focusing on decreasing my stress is vital to my health. Not all people have such an obvious barometer of their stress levels. My biggest “de-stressor” is sewing. So, there are two things that I am doing to promote this: 1) just sewing (aka the house doesn’t have to be clean and I don’t have to cross everything off my to-do list first– because let’s face it, I live with a 2 and 3 year old, so that’s an impossible feat), and 2) I moved the sewing machine out of the office and into our bedroom because it’s my favorite room to be in, and it’s cozy. I don’t care if it’s weird to have a sewing table in your bedroom.
    • I also know that I’m clearly prone to becoming diabetic at some point in my life– two bouts of gestational diabetes definitely tells me that the odds are stacked against me. I used to exercise regularly, and loved it, but since kids it’s literally been nonexistent. So, it’s time to get back into it. I also have 3 vertebral compression fractures that occasionally cause me some pain so I’m starting by becoming engaged in my physical therapy program and walking. Nothing earth shattering, but regular and non-stressful. Plus, I’ve discovered audio books and so walking becomes extra amazing.
    • And the last thing to really promote my health and wellbeing is to consistently eat clean. By this I mean a low inflammatory diet– no processed foods, no added sugars. I also avoid dairy and meat because they are known to be inflammatory in auto-immune diseases. I have a lot of food allergies which complicate things for me, so this also involves spending time researching and planning what will be best for me.

So, I’m excited to show you my new sewing finishes and update you on how thing are going. I only have one measly finish in 2016. I’m hoping for maybe 12 this year???

What are your new years resolutions?

-erica

 

I couldn’t resist a cute photo of the fam. Teegan is mad-dogging the camera and he normally smiles ALL the time.

My Birthday Reminder System

 

I’m going to be doing a whole series of posts on organization, because, well…. I love being organized. If things aren’t orderly I can’t think clearly.

A few years ago Jake and I found ourself missing our friend’s and family’s birthdays. We wouldn’t remember until the day of, which is just too late if you have to send something by mail. Not to mention it just feels chaotic– and I like order.

I am a believer in setting up systems and automating things so that I don’t have to try and remember myself. Because, as far as birthdays go, that had already proven to not be working for me. I started to think about what I needed to make this work– and I realized that being reminded on the day of the birthday would not be enough because on a busy day getting out to buy a card is usually not possible and then having it arrive that same day in the mail is completely impossible. So, I decided I wanted to be reminded of the birthday one week in advance to give me time to drop the card in the mail and then I wanted a second reminder on the actual birthday so that I could contact the birthday person personally. And after thinking about it even more, I decided one week was not enough to actually go out and buy a card and drop it in the mail (hello LA traffic!), so I decided I needed to buy all of my birthday cards at the beginning of the year.

So, this is how my system works:

1. I started by gathering all of the important birthdays of friends and family (specifically the ones I want to contact, send cards or send gifts). I have now included important anniversary dates of family members and even a few holidays (such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day).

2. I entered all the birthdays into iCal with an email reminder to send me an email 1 week before the event and again on the day of the event.

3. For the actual birthday cards, I went to Target and bought an expandable file with 12 pockets. I labeled each pocket with the month of the year and at the beginning of the year I put everyone’s birthday card in their respective month. I actually like to pick up random cute birthday cards during the year when I see them and just put them in a separate box, so sometimes I am almost done with birthday card shopping when the first of the year rolls around (it also helps prevent me from buying one cute card en masse and giving it to everyone when there isn’t a great selection).

4. So now, when I get the birthday reminder email I’m all set to go! I just go to my expandable file and take out the card and drop it in the mail. Voila, birthday cards are arriving on time! Also, if I need to give a gift, I’ve got a good 7 days to get out of my house and get something (or 2 days if I do Amazon Prime).

With a little up front organization, this has made birthdays much less stressful throughout the year. And I don’t have to buy belated birthday cards anymore!

– Erica

ps. When I see something that I notice would be a good gift for someone I add it to a list I keep on my phone. That way, when their birthday or Christmas arrives I already have a several gift ideas. This definitely decreases the stress at holiday time and ensures I buy gifts that feel more personable.

 

A Frozen Family

I’m coming back to the blogging world! Things have finally settled down and over the next few posts I’ll update you on all of our exciting changes.

We’ll start with Halloween 2016.

We’ve developed a lot of routines in our family. It’s good for the littles (and for the grownups too). Every Friday night we make homemade pizza and watch a movie, nicely dubbed “Friday Pizza Movie Night”.  The littles have only seen a few movies (Frozen, Sofia the First, and Little Bear) and the repetition doesn’t seem to bother anyone. By far, Frozen is the most watched of the three and Mila’s favorite character is Anna. So, naturally, when we started discussing Halloween costumes, she wanted to be Anna. And then very quickly decided that I should be Elsa, Jake should be Kristoff and Teegan should be Olaf. And that’s how our Frozen Family was born.

Childs Frozen Family

I’ve always had this dream of making homemade Halloween costumes for the kiddos, but reality makes that a bit unrealistic. I found Olaf, Anna and Elsa but couldn’t find a decent Kristoff costume. And surprisingly there aren’t any patterns for Kristoff costumes so I was forced to bring back some of my clothing sewing skills.  I went to JoAnn Fabrics and bought some grey felt, fur trim and embroidery ribbon.  And voila!

SMTD_Kristoff

Jake bought a wig and beanie hat online to complete the costume. I think I’m allergic to either the felt or the fur so after completing the costume it’s now been banished to the garage.

We met up with our neighbors (more to come about the big move we had this year) and went trick-or-treating together. Mila literally could not have run any faster from house to house, it was adorable.

SMTD_SolVistaKids

When we got home the kids opened all their candy and luckily for us they didn’t like much (or really any) of it. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the “candy graveyard” where they discarded all the pieces they didn’t like.

(In case you’re wondering how we make our pizza on Friday Pizza Movie Night): A few years ago we started making homemade bread, and we consistently still always make our own homemade pizza dough using the recipe in this book. It’s SO easy and it is better than any other pizza dough we’ve had (including restaurants). The kids eat cheese pizza but I make a black bean olive pizza, so yummy. We use this dough whisk and this plastic tub.  Seriously, try it.

-Erica