Life After PreTerm Delivery

Ramble On

To read about My Birth Journey visit my blog post here.

After delivering my daughter at only 32 weeks, I experienced a huge range of emotions. Of course after any birth experience there are bound to be feelings caused by not only the act of giving birth but all of the hormones surging through our bodies as well. Delivering preterm brings on an entirely different set of emotions as well – grief, guilt, pain, trauma. This isn’t to say that these emotions can’t also be experienced after a “normal” delivery, but this was what I’ve experienced after my own early and emergency delivery. Everything felt very traumatic for me. Nothing happened the way I thought it would, and I hadn’t even gone to the trouble of writing a birth plan. I knew things could happen unexpectedly, but I never expected what would actually happen.

Solitary Confinement

After delivery my emotions were only intensified by the solitary confinement I felt in the hospital for the next two days. My early delivery was caused by preeclampsia, HELPP syndrome and a premature rupture of the membranes (or placental abruption – hence all the bleeding I experienced). Because of these conditions my blood pressure was still very high and unsafe. I was still being pumped with magnesium and I was having my blood pressure taken every hour around the clock. These routine checks made it almost impossible to sleep along with the steroid that I was injected with before delivery. By day two, I felt like I was going insane. I was trapped in a labor and delivery room with no baby and constant reminders that I had failed (at least that’s what I felt at the time). All of this stress and emotion of course did not help my blood pressure, and so I was hospitalized for two days without being able to even see the baby I had given birth to. I started to feel like an imposter – had I really given birth? Did all of this really happen? Of course I knew it had happened because of the massive incision on my abdomen and had all the pain it rendered. I knew my daughter was here because of the video calls I had with my husband while he was visiting her. I had photos, I had videos, I was pumping breast milk (although only drops at this point), I was in the labor and delivery department of the hospital – but I didn’t have my baby. What made it worse were all of the different staff members who would come into the room – people who would draw blood for tests, or people who brought food, or people who cleaned the room. Many of them would ask, “where is the baby?” I specifically remember one of the phlebotomists coming in and asking this seemingly innocent question while one of my nurses was in the room with me. She knew I was not in a good place mentally. I think all the nurses did. They were mothers. Some of them mothers who had been through what I had just been through. When he asked the question – “where is the baby?” – her gaze lit him on fire and I burst into tears. There were many moments like this for me while I was in the hospital. Most of them happened while I was alone, waiting for my husband to return from visiting our baby. They happened while watching videos of him doing skin-to-skin with her for the first time. Many happened while seeing her on video calls, my heart aching wishing I could run as fast as I could all the way to the hospital she was in the next town over. But I was still healing physically myself, and not as rapidly as I would have hoped.

Finally Free (Sort Of)

My final day in the hospital was probably the toughest of all. I had been told I may be released the previous day, however with my blood pressure being as high as it was they decided to keep me another day for monitoring. I was still being monitored every hour, I was eating a bland diet of vegetarian hospital food which some days would be Boca burgers for lunch and dinner. I was also doing my best to pump breast milk every 2-3 hours around the clock. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I was more than ready to leave – I wanted to see my baby for the first time since she was born. The nurses and doctor agreed that I would be released that day. They had placed me on blood pressure medication to keep my blood pressure down and removed my IV in preparation for my release. All they needed for discharge was a last blood pressure check to make sure my levels were normal. They wrapped the monitor around my arm and told me to relax – this was it. When the results came back, the nurse looked at me with such a sadness – my levels were too high to be released. She apologized profusely, as if it were her fault at all and went to talk to the doctors. To my surprise, the doctor and nurses were adamant that I be released. I think they knew I was losing it. Or at least they felt some sympathy towards my situation. I would need my IV reinserted for intravenous blood pressure medication, then I would need to be re-monitored for the next few hours to see if the numbers would come down. These next few hours would be some of the hardest of my life. The nurse who came in to reinsert my IV was not a nurse I had before. She blew through two of my veins and poked me in four different places before giving up and letting another nurse try. I swear I almost screamed in her face. She didn’t know what was at stake for me, or how crazy I felt. Finally, my other nurse, the nurse who had been assisting me all day was able to get my IV in and she would be the one to monitor me. Each check was like waiting for a wave to crash in on me. I knew I had to relax as much as possible, but it was so difficult knowing that if my readings came in too high that I would be kept another day. I screwed up the next couple of readings with my stressed out, whacked out, crazy emotions, but thankfully the medication finally kicked in. The readings were low enough for discharge. Eventually, after being given all of my paperwork and talking to the doctor, I was released. I felt free, well sort of.

Onto the Next Hospital

After being released from the hospital my husband took me home to shower, change and get ready to go see our daughter. I would finally be seeing her for the first time since she left me two days prior. I was ecstatic, I was emotional, I was terrified, I was so looking forward to seeing her. We went to the hospital and another wave of emotion hit me as we went to sign in through security. My tiny precious baby was here in this hospital alone, much like I was only hours earlier. Luckily, I knew she wouldn’t remember what she was going through, but it didn’t make me feel all that much better about her situation. When we entered the NICU it was like something out of a daytime medical drama sitcom. We had to “scrub in” before entering the department, which was guarded by two locked entrances not including the hospitals main security. Apparently they had issues in the past with a woman dressing like a nurse and breaking in to steal babies. Once we were all cleaned up we walked down the long hallway back to the area where our precious baby was staying. We walked by a handful of other babies, all snug in their isolettes waiting for their families to come visit. There were beeping sounds going off all around us. The sights and sounds made everything feel so sterile. You could smell the hand sanitizer and feel the dryness in the air. We entered into her area and my husband showed me where she was. There was a giant incubator style bed, or isolette, a recliner chair and a white board that had all of our names and some of her medical information on it. It made me sad that her nursery was so beautiful and that she was here in this plain and stark place. I walked over to the bed and lifted the cover to see her inside. She was so tiny. My heart burst into pieces. Some of those pieces were burst by love, some by sadness, some by utter guilt. I’m so sorry you’re in here. I’m so sorry you’re alone. I’m so sorry it took me so long to get here.

A New Kind of Love

Once we were settled in the nurse on duty helped us remove her from her isolette so that I could hold her for the first time. I remember feeling somewhat unsettled because of how small she was, but I was also so excited to finally meet her and talk to her and smell her. Moving the wires and monitors around was a feat in itself. It felt odd to have to keep all of this out of the way while trying to keep her close. We had to wear masks at all times in the hospital. But I did break the rules a bit and gave my baby a big kiss on her head as I told her how much I loved her. I felt justified. She just came from my own body, and besides I had just been tested for COVID in the hospital I was in before. I sat and held her for a couple of hours. She was so warm and soft against my skin. It was the happiest and healthiest I had felt in days. Even in her tiny and frail state, she struggled to look up at me, and then settled back in, falling asleep so soundly on my chest. She was (and is) so beautiful, so perfect. I looked at her in amazement and couldn’t believe how precious she was, but I also couldn’t believe how strong she was. She had just been through everything I’d been through, if not worse, and she was only days old. She was so brave. She was so incredible. In those moments I felt so grateful to be her mama. I felt privileged and honored. I couldn’t believe that she had come from me. I held her so close and could feel a love that I had never felt before. The kind of love that parents tell you about but that you never truly understand until you experience it yourself. I held her so tight and I never wanted to leave. I was finally with my baby and she was with me. Everything felt the way it was meant to be, until it was time to leave.

The Waiting Game

At this point, baby needed to gain weight and learn how to eat before she could leave the hospital. Luckily, this was a typically short order for a baby born of her size. She was not on oxygen or any sort of breathing machines. She did not have any infections or problems. She was just so small and so early. She had a feeding tube and a pic line for other nutrients and fluids. It was difficult to see her with tubes and things in her face and body, but it was nothing compared to how bad it could have been if she needed more assistance. We would visit the hospital twice, sometimes three times a day. Fortunately we lived super close so we could come in the morning, go home for lunch and then come back in the evenings. As time went on and she grew stronger, we started to learn how to care for her as she learned how to care for herself. She learned to drink from a bottle, and we learned how to feed her. She learned how to regulate her temperature, and we learned how to remove her from her isolette. We learned so much from the nurses and staff at the hospital. It was like getting a crash course in baby care while waiting for our baby to come home. It wasn’t an ideal situation, obviously, but for what it was, it was a good way to keep our spirits high about being able to care for her once she came home. It was hard leaving her every time. And it was hard seeing her in the hospital. Every day I imagined myself grabbing her and running out of the hospital, but I knew that this care was what was best for her. Eventually she would come home – 24 days later. I couldn’t believe how slow and how fast it went by all at once. She would finally be coming home and we would be on our own to care for our baby.

The Adventure of a Lifetime

The day we took our daughter home was one of the best days of my life. I was so excited to be able to see her every second of every day. I would be able to give her all of her feedings, change all of her diapers, give her all of her baths and of course snuggle her whenever I wanted. There would be no wires in the way and no monitors beeping constantly in our heads. She would get to have all of her cozy swaddles and preemie pajamas. She was ours, finally ours. It felt surreal. To this day it sometimes still does. Having a premature baby has been rough. All of the ups and downs are unlike any emotional rollercoaster I’ve ever experienced. But I would do it all again in a heartbeat for her. We are embarking on the adventure of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to watch her grow into the strong, beautiful, brave little girl that she already has inside of her.

Dry January Final Check-In

2020 Resolutions

The final day of January is here. Technically, it’s the first day of February, but I digress. I should say, the final day of Dry January is here and I’m happy to report that I made it. I started this trip on January 5th and tomorrow I will have my first drink since the 4th. It’s funny because it felt so long, but now that I’m at the end, I guess it didn’t feel as long as it did while I was in it. I was sick for about the first two weeks, which was miserable because I hadn’t been sick in a while. I think also that the “withdrawal” symptoms from not having cigarettes may have been affecting me at the same time making it that much worse. I made it through though, with only one fancy glass of wine along the way. If there’s one thing that this experience has taught me is that I really don’t like drinking as much as I thought I did.

I’ve gotten so much done these past few weeks. I’m sure most of it has to do with a lack of a social life. It’s funny how your interactions with people can change when you subtract the alcohol. Many of my friends were also doing a Dry January. Perhaps we were all just enjoying a little bit of solitary reset time for the month. January sometimes feels like that. It feels like a bit of a hibernation. Time to reset and refocus your attention on what is going to be important to you this year. The other thing I’ve noticed about the last few weeks is that I’m sleeping better which in turn is giving me more energy throughout the day. I love this part because it’s making me more excited to work out and be active. I’ve been going to yoga the last two Saturdays, working out at home after work and even stretching while I’m at work. It feels good. And my body feels better for it.

I wouldn’t say I’m not looking forward to drinking tomorrow, but I am excited to hang out with friends. It will be interesting to see how my tolerance to alcohol has changed. I still haven’t decided what I’m going to drink. I’ve pretty much ruled out beer just because I think it will make me feel bloaty and gross, but moscow mules sound like they could be dangerous too. The most appealing option to me, at least in my head, is white wine. Something I can chill and just sip throughout the day. I don’t want to drink too much, but I have a feeling I’m going to have to figure out what that new limit is. I also don’t want to drink to the point where I want to break down and smoke. I’ve been thinking about getting a vape pen for those moments. I want to feel like I’ve actually quit and not just switched out cigarettes for something else.

Overall, I really enjoyed this experience. It gave me clarity of mind and made me rethink something that I think had become a somewhat normal facet of my life. This isn’t to say that I want to quit drinking all together because, let’s face it, sometimes that fancy glass of wine is nice. I do think, however, that cutting back and enjoying it more intentionally will be good. I may pick up another month along the year, we’ll see, for now, I’m going to look forward to that fancy glass of wine tomorrow. I’m proud of myself for making it this far and sticking to it. Now to get onto the rest of my resolutions… wish me luck.

Final 2019 Resolutions Check-In

2019 Resolutions

With 2019 coming to a rapid close, it’s time for one last review of how my resolutions went throughout the year. Overall, I think I did fairly well and I am happy at how this blog held me accountable and helped me stick to my goals. It has also helped me shape new goals for 2020, which I will post in another couple days or so. And so, for 2019, here’s how things went…

Resolution #1: Keep Blogging. I kicked butt at this one. I posted more things, and tried more new things, than I think I ever have. Or maybe it just felt that way because I was documenting most of it haha. I continued to blog so much so that I actually still enjoy it… whaaaa. This makes me very excited for 2020 as I have some cool ideas in the works that I will be posting here, such as new tutorials, new recipes and a few other random thoughts that I will be putting into new sections here on Thistle + Rose Studios.

Resolution #2: Two Week Detox. Obviously, this was over a long, long time ago (the first two weeks of 2019), but has inspired me to complete a total month of sobriety (and no smoking) to begin 2020. I will be doing a Dry January and from that incorporating some fun projects and classes to keep myself occupied and motivated. Stay tuned for more posts on this, and let me know if you want to join in on the challenge!

Resolution #3: 2019 The Year of No New Things. I’ll admit, I was better at this one for the first six months of 2019 rather than the last half. But hey, I think I’ve still done pretty good. I think I can actually remember each new thing I’ve bought which means, to me anyway, that I haven’t bought that much. I also still pretty much feel like everything I bought was necessary to buy new, but maybe you can tell me if you agree. I bought a vacuum cleaner, a new hat from Nashville (which was actually a reward for making it 6 months without buying anything new), 2 pairs of shoes (one for casual and work needs the other for the gym – it can be really tough to find good shoes at the thrift store for specific purposes), a dining room table (which is probably my second favorite purchase next to my hat), and a couple of souvenirs while in Hawaii (I’ve never actually looked for thrift in Hawaii… might have to do that next time). Overall, I’d say I did pretty well. For 2020, I’d like to keep this idea alive, while also spending LESS time and money thrifting and allowing myself to buy things I need in the higher price ranges to get them at a higher level of quality. For example, new jeans are tough for me to find at the thrift store and I may need new jeans this year, so I might allow myself to spend $100+ on a nice new pair. All in all, I think this resolution is a good one to follow all year and every year. It’s further shown me the value of purchasing secondhand as well as showing me that I don’t need as much as I think I do.

Resolution #4: Sustainability Through Food. This resolution was another that was better at the first 6 months than the last. This is partly due to weather. I had a spring/summer garden but failed to put together a winter garden. Also, my spring summer garden did okay, but not great, I think mostly due to weird weather and late rains here in California. Overall though, I am proud of myself and I learned alot. I am looking forward to using this knowledge to start some seeds here within the next couple months. I am also proud of the progress I made with making food at home. Up until the holidays I was kicking butt at doing meal prep, making dinners at home and eating all of our leftovers. It saved us a ton of money but it also cut down on a TON of our food waste. I am also proud to say that I have learned many, many new things about preparing vegan food, and have posted many of my newfound recipes here. I was even able to create an entire vegan Thanksgiving meal from scratch. I hope to do an entire post on this in Fall 2020. I did not do as well as I had hoped at not having our groceries delivered, but I think I am ready to succumb to the convenience. Having a full-time job plus numerous side hustles and trying to cook all food at home while going to the gym and maintaining a social life is busy. So I think it’s okay that I have groceries delivered more often than not. It gives me time to worry about more important things and it’s only $5 which to me is worth the time I’m saving by not having to make a trip to the grocery store.

Resolution #5: Take Better Care of Your Body. This resolution overall has been challenging at times, but overall so good! I think the most difficult part is finding a balance between living a more healthy lifestyle versus trying to implement a completely new habit like going to the gym every day. I’ve learned that it’s okay to substitute a trip to the gym with a long walk outside, or to do a class at home on Youtube. As long as I am doing something active every day it doesn’t have to be the gym. I think this will come in especially handy in the first few months of January since the gym will most likely be jam-packed with new people trying to kickstart their resolutions. I am looking forward to finding more ways to be active outside versus inside and to involve my dogs more too since they love to be active with me. I’ve also started taking and selling supplements through Arbonne which have been making me feel great. The probiotics and dietary supplements have shown me the most results and have me feeling better than I have in a long time. I also enjoy using their protein shakes as a breakfast (and have been using them since November now) and find it a great alternative to not eating breakfast like I was doing before. I find myself with more energy throughout the day and I tend to sleep better too. If you’re interested in finding out more about these products, let me know or you can browse on shop on your own using this link here.

Overall, 2019 has been a great year of lessons and finding what’s important to me. With only one day of the year left, I am excited to build new goals and formulate new resolutions to further enrich and improve my life. I also look forward to continuing to maintain this blog and share my experiences. 2020 is only a day away, and the best is yet to come.

March 11, NY19 Resolutions Check-In

2019 Resolutions

It’s been a while since I checked in with how my New Year’s resolutions are going, so I thought I’d write up a quick post to keep myself accountable. If you’re reading this, I hope it helps you to stick to your resolutions as well or maybe to pick back up on them if you’ve fallen off the wagon.

My first resolution is to keep up on my blog, which I am happy to say I think I’ve been doing a fairly good job doing. I’ve been posting almost once a week, and I feel like it’s really helped me to take more pride in the things I’m cooking, the plants I’m planting and the steps I’m taking towards living a more sustainable life. If you want to see what I’ve been up to, go to my home page to scroll through my most recent posts, or use the menu above to browse by category.

My second resolution was a two week detox, which ended a while ago, so I’ll be skipping to resolution #3: No New Things. Resolution #3 is basically a rule I set for myself to not buy anything new in 2019 unless absolutely necessary. So far, I am doing great, as the only things I’ve purchased new are a vacuum cleaner and some hair clips. Both of these items I feel are completely justified as I would never buy either of these things used, and the vacuum cleaner is a huge necessity in our house because of all of our fur babies. Also, I didn’t just go out and purchase a new vacuum for the heck of it, our old one took a crap and so it was necessary to find a replacement. I got an amazing pet-focused vacuum from Kohl’s which I’ve been thrilled with (major #adulting), and the Kohl’s cash program gave me $30 back which I was able to use to purchase new pads for my steam mop. To be honest, sometimes I miss buying new things, but it’s made me even more resourceful and more determined to find things used. I even found a Kitchenaid can opener at the thrift store!

Resolution #4 is sustainability through food. This is a multi-faceted goal including more cooking, less eating out, as well as starting a larger garden. So far, the cooking has been mostly on point with the exception of a few unplanned cheat days. It’s been fun to try new recipes like bagels and lobster tails in lieu of purchasing these items premade at the store or in a restaurant. I’m also finding that the more recipes I try, the more my confidence builds in the kitchen. The more confidence I have the more fun it is for me to try new things and see how many things I can make that I never thought I would before. The lobster tails and bagels (not at the same time LOL) are definitely the most daunting things I’ve tried, but both turned out wonderfully and make me excited to see what I can do next. The gardening has been going pretty great too. I will be getting ready to harden off my seedlings this week to get them ready for the great outdoors. I have one more bed to prep in the backyard before they can move in which I’m hoping to get done either this week or next weekend. The longer days should now help with having more time to get things done. Also, the weather is looking excellent (finally!) so I’m definitely looking forward to spending some time in the yard.

My fifth resolution is a pretty standard goal for most people around New Years, and that is to take better care of my physical form. It’s been a rough go the last couple of months since we’ve been getting a TON of rain. Each weekend that is hasn’t rained though, my husband and I have been taking river walks with our German shepherd Nixie. It’s about a 3.5 mile walk/hike round trip and it’s always a nice little escape and a joy to be out in nature. Also, my new gym finally opened up last week! I’ve been once so far, but I am so excited to continue to go. The place is so clean and new and I love how the machines are set up. It’s been a while since I visited a gym regularly, but I just know that if I can keep myself going for the first couple of weeks I won’t want to stop.

So that’s pretty much it on how I’m doing so far this year. Overall I’m pretty proud of my consistency and progress. I definitely think having this blog and having a place to document everything I’m working on is super helpful.

What about you? How are your resolutions going?

Until next time!

MelissaRose

Transferring Pre-Sprouted Seeds

Sustainability

When I pre-sprouted my seeds, I wasn’t fully sure what I was doing. I read some articles online about pre-sprouting and thought it would be a great choice considering my zone and the time of year. You can read more about my process here. I am happy to say that almost all of my seeds sprouted using this method. I was so happy to open up my little ziploc green houses and see baby plants forming inside. Some of the seeds such as the lettuce and the broccoli only took a few days, the tomatoes, squash and peppers took a bit longer. Sadly, the only ones that didn’t sprout completely, were the peppers. I only had a couple of bell pepper seeds sprout, so I have now planted those directly in the dirt along with some unsprouted seeds, so we will see how that goes. In this post, I want to show you how I transferred them into egg carton planters.

I used egg cartons as planters for a couple of different reasons. First, was for cost – these are basically free versus buying new planters from the store and would ordinarily just be tossed out anyway. Second, because of the material the cartons are made of. I buy cage free organic eggs which come in recycled containers made of paper product pulp. This makes them safe for the plants, but they are also great at retaining moisture, which seedlings need in their earlier stages. So not only is this a great sustainable option it’s a great problem solving option as well that doesn’t cost any money. All in all, I was able to get 10 seed varieties and my bag of seed starter for under $20. This is SO much cheaper than what it cost me last year to start my garden from seedlings from the hardware store, and I think this is so much better because I know exactly how the seeds are being raised and can rest assured that they are completely organic.

I have been saving egg cartons for a few months and a tray from a vegetable snack platter to rest them on. I bought some Jiffy Seed Starter from Lowes to plant my seeds in. Using seed starter is very important as regular potting mix does not have the appropriate nutrients or pH balance for young seedlings, so be sure to use something like this instead. To start, I numbered my egg cartons, 1, 2 and 3. I then created a diagram on another page of my garden planner from Homestead and Chill so that I wouldn’t forget which seed went where. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to tell plants apart when they’re this young! I used a regular kitchen spoon (dirt don’t hurt) to add starter to each egg cup. I then gently pulled the seeds from their paper towels and pressed them each into their own slot. I left the little leaves of each seed atop the dirt but made the sure the roots were covered. The hardest part at this point was making sure I didn’t damage the roots when pulling them from the paper towel. Many of the little roots actually grew through the towel itself, so it was important to pull very gently. If you’re not able to remove it from the paper, you can take some of the towel with the root and plant it with the seed as the paper towel will biodegrade in the starter mix. After planting each type of seed, I wrote it down on my garden planner. I did one seed per cup with the exception of the mixed greens. I had so many seeds (I think I pre-sprouted too many) that I didn’t want to just throw them away. I had enough to put a few per cup (which I imagine I’ll have to thin out later) as well as give some to a friend. It will be a good lesson though, to see how to thin them out and give them their own planters later on.

Once all the little plant babies were in their new homes, I used a spray bottle filled with water to moisten each seed cup. It’s still important to keep the seedlings most and warm as this will continue to encourage growth. I do this by placing them in the sun during the day, and atop the refrigerator at night. Each time I move the cartons I give each cup a good spritz with the water bottle. It’s so exciting to see them grow and perk up even after just a couple of days. There are still some seeds in the ziploc baggies which I need to figure out what to do with. I think I might just plant them also and have a surplus of seedlings to give away to friends, family and neighbors. We will see how many survive, but I’m having a good feeling so far!

Are you doing any gardening yet? I know alot of people throughout the US are stuck in the cold right now. What do you think about starting a garden from seeds?

Until next time,

MelissaRose

6 Easy Swaps for Sustainable Living

Sustainability

When living sustainability first hit the blogosphere, it seemed like it might be some kind of fad. People started toting around reusable grocery bags, and companies began advertising their use of less packaging. But sustainability isn’t just a trend – it’s here to stay. More and more people are catching on. We’re becoming more aware of the effects that everyday items that once seemed harmless are having on our planet and it’s vast ecosystems. Some of the changes can feel daunting. It can feel like we don’t have the time, energy or money to make the changes we so desperately want to make. However, I’ve learned that there are some small changes we can all implement without too much effort that can make real differences. These are my top 5 now 6! easy swaps for sustainability and how you can implement them into your life without breaking the bank, ruining your routine or causing unwanted stress in your already busy and stressful life.

1.Reusable Grocery Bags

Reusable grocery bags are one of the first things I can remember seeing pop up on the market that promoted more sustainable living. Grocery stores everywhere started offering their own branded versions of totes and bags that you could purchase for relatively low costs and reuse time and time again on shopping trips. In California, where I’m from, plastic bags were banned altogether; however, instead of them being completely banned, these even thicker plastic bags started making their way into markets. The thicker plastic bags cost around $.10-$.15 per bag, but didn’t seem to be any less destructive than their lighter plastic counterparts. Not only that, but people who weren’t bringing bags had no quarrel with purchasing a couple of these bags and loading them to the brim with all they could fit, trying to save that next ten or fifteen cent purchase. This doesn’t have to be a difficult switch. In fact, there are several reusable bag options that you can try that cost no money at all. If you’re like me, you’ve been saving your old grocery bags since the dawn of time. You can bring these into the grocery store to reuse. I even have a ton of the smaller produce bags that I take with me to the grocery store as well as the farmers market (admittedly, they also work great as dog poop bags). Another free option is to create your own tote bags out of old t-shirts. Instructables.com has a great tutorial on this, and if you don’t have a sewing machine, you can always cut and tie the bottom of the bag as well. Another option I’ve used quite often for quick trips is just using a large purse. Really anything that you use to carry things in will work – tote bags, purses, backpacks, homemade bags, baskets, cardboard boxes, you name it – if it will hold things it will hold groceries. Want to use reusable bags, but always forget them? Keep a stash in your car. Having bags on hand at all times will make it more difficult to forget grabbing them at all.

2. Reusable Water Bottle

I used to buy Smart Waters at the gas station pretty regularly. I’d buy so many that my car was filled with plastic bottles, sometimes not even fully emptied (such a waste!). Once I realized how much I was wasting (and learning more about sustainability), I knew I needed to make a change. There is a serious water bottle crisis happening on our planet. According to this article from The Guardian, there are 1 million plastic bottles purchased every minute. This influx of plastic, although fully recyclable, has overarched our ability to process it all. There is just too much to handle. If you lined up all the plastic bottles purchased in 2016 alone, they would reach half way to the sun. THIS IS CRAZY. Enter: The reusable water bottle. My reusable water bottle of choice is a 24 oz ThermoFlask stainless steel water bottle. You can purchase a two-pack for around $35 from Amazon (they also sell them at Costco). When you add up all the money you spend on water bottles (if you were like me), you’ll be amazed at how much money you’ll save by switching to something more sustainable. Not only that, but I find that I drink more water, waste less water and I’m no longer contributing to the plastic water bottle crisis that is occurring in our day and age. A perfect accompaniment to your new reusable water bottle, is a filter pitcher. This ensures you have bottle-ready quality water to drink (at a fraction of the cost), but also ensures you aren’t contributing to what is already a crisis of epic proportions.

3. Bring Cutlery From Home

If you’ve read any other part of my blog, you know that I very much enjoy cooking and meal prepping. I love being able to bring homemade lunches to work. Not only does this save me time and money, but it makes me feel better throughout the day. Not only that, but the less fast food I purchase, the less I contribute to the use of single-serve plastic cutlery, containers and other utensils. But up until recently, I was eating my lunch at work and realized that I am still using the single-serve plastic cutlery that my workplace provides. This is an exceptionally easy switch, because it does not cost any extra money, it simply requires you pack utensils from home in your lunch. A typical set for me is a spoon for breakfast and a fork for lunch. I pack them in my lunch bag, use them at work then bring them home to be washed. I think what I’ll eventually do is buy a set of utensils from the thrift store and bring them to work to stay. I can wash and use them at work and stop using the single-serve options that seem so convenient. Truth be told, I think food actually tastes better with real utensils! I’ve also seen people do this on the go so that if they end up eating out somewhere they have their own utensils on hand.

4. Thrift, Thrift. Thrift

Again, if you’ve read any other part of my blog, you know that I’m huge into thrifting. Thrifting is the one thing I’ve been doing pretty much me entire life that I didn’t even realize was sustainable. It’s sustainable because instead of purchasing new things, you are recycling pre-owned items and saving them from the landfill. Truth be told, most of my house is furnished with things from the thrift store and most of the items in my closet are thrifted as well. Not only is it sustainable, it’s a great way to save money. You can find pretty much anything at the thrift store, especially if you’re patient, and I regularly find things that are brand new at a fraction of the price they would normally be. For more tips about what to look for at the thrift store visit my post here.

5. Dryer Balls vs Dryer Sheets

Dryer balls are a great way to live more sustainably in that they cut down on waste as well as save you money. Dryer sheets can add up in cost, but with dryer balls, you buy one set and reuse them over and over. Certain sets allow you to add essential oils for an extra scent and others can even attract lint (for those of us with pets, this is a lifesaver!). My favorite set comes from Grove Collaborative (click here for a referral link).  You can buy them alone or purchase them with a bottle of essential oil. (PS. Grove has alot of other great sustainable options for cleaning supplies and other home items – be sure to use the referral link above for your FREE set of cleaning items). I love my dryer balls because they make it so that the clothes dry faster (less energy) while also helping to reduce lint and static from my laundry. I definitely recommend checking these out.

6. Reuse Your Ziploc Bags

Sometimes, trying to be more sustainable can cost money. All of the new reusable snack bags, beeswax food wrappers, fabric produce bags – sure they all look great on your Instagram, but sometimes it’s just not practical to go out and spend a bunch of money on your newfound values. Plus, I know when I started trying to make small changes to my life, I still had alot of things I wasn’t ready to give up yet, or maybe ever. One of these things is Ziploc bags. I know, I know… They’re plastic, single use and get thrown out super quick thus adding to the overall problem. But this got me thinking, I already have a giant Costco sized pack of bags (it’s just me and my husband in the house, so buying in bulk makes things last forever). I don’t want to just toss them out and then spend even more money to buy new alternatives. I did some research online about the materials and makings of these little zipper pouches. Did you know you can wash them and reuse them? Yup. Thus making the Ziploc bag reusable. There’s a couple different ways you can wash them depending on your preference and time. The first is to hand wash. You simply flip the bag inside out, wash and set on a rack to dry. Make sure the bag is open and standing on top of it’s zipper when it’s drying so that the inside (which is actually the outside) dries completely. Another method that I was super surprised even worked is the top rack on your dishwasher. I prefer to hand wash since this can take up alot of space on your top rack, but it is a faster and easier solution if you’re in a rush. Simply do that same thing and flip the bag inside out. Place on the top rack of your dishwasher. I liked to use heavier glasses and things around the bags so they don’t end up flying around inside the washer. You can run a normal cycle with a dry cycle and voila! Resuable Ziploc bags. This is a great trick, and instead of spending money to buy those fancy velcroed snack bags you’ve been eyeing, you’re saving money instead.

So these are my main easy swaps for living a more sustainable life. Each of them are easy to switch and are either free, low cost or will end up saving you money in the long run. There are a bunch of other less easy swaps that I may write about later on, so let me know if you’re interested in those as well! I should also note that this post is not sponsored in any way. I link products that I enjoy using as a recommendation to you. I purchased these with my own money after doing my own research and have been very happy with the results. Let me know if you have any suggestions or questions!

How do you try and live a more sustainable life? Do you find some things are easier than others? Are you more likely to make a swap if it doesn’t effect your current routine or spending habits?

MelissaRose

Getting Better Sleep

Ramble On
bed with textures and orchid

One of my resolutions for this year is to take better care of my physical body. To me, this means a myriad of things – better diet, more exercise, less bad things like sweets, alcohol and cigarettes, but also, more sleep. Well, maybe more sleep isn’t the right way to say it, what I mean is better sleep. Falling asleep faster, staying asleep longer, waking up earlier. There are many, many articles on the internet about how to get better sleep. Some say to turn off your television or to make sure your room is completely dark and quiet, other say to listen to sound machines or charge your phone in another room. But I don’t think it’s a cookie cutter solve for everyone. In this post, I’m going to tell you what I do to get better sleep. And again, this may not work for you, but it works for me and so I thought I would share it, even if it doesn’t align with what you normally read.

Background Noise

I love background noise when I sleep. Whether it’s a movie, some music playing or a weird playlist of rain and whale sounds, I enjoy having noise droning in the background as I fall asleep. For me, this makes sense. I have three dogs and two cats, all of whom sleep in my room (as well as my husband, obviously). I am very sensitive to sound when I’m trying to fall asleep. Listening to breathing patterns, snoring, mouth noises, all of it can keep me awake at night. To make matters worse, I think everyone except for my german shepherd (who is quite a bit younger than all the other animals) snores. To drown this out, I enjoy having a movie playing in the background, but if not a movie than music. For the movie, I turn the brightness on our bedroom television pretty much all the way down and try to pick movies I’ve seen several times so that I’m not kept up by the fear of missing something important. Some of my main go to movies are The Lord of the Rings series, Star Wars and numerous animated family films such as Megamind, Shrek, or anything Pixar to name a few. I’m able to fall asleep to these quickly as I already know what’s going to happen and the dialogue and music drown out the sleepy snoring sounds of my beloveds. Most articles will tell you to turn off the TV before bed, but I say let it play.

Relaxing Drinks

I absolutely love tea before bed. The warm feeling I get while sipping tea in bed is so relaxing and comforting to me. Not only that, but I drink teas with herbs and mixtures in them that promote healthy sleep. My current favorite is from Yogi Teas and is their Honey Lavender Stress Relief Tea. The sweetness of the honey and lavender is delicious, but I also love the calming smell of the lavender before trying to fall asleep. They also have Bedtime Tea that I haven’t tried yet but need to. Another brand that I learned of from my mom years and years ago is Celestial Seasons Sleepytime Tea. It’s a delicious herbal blend that has been around for over 40 years, and I just love the cute little bear on the packaging. Lastly, a new drink I tried recently is the Mushroom Hot Cacao from Four Sigmatic. I received a sample from a recent Sephora order and was surprised to see mushroom and hot cocoa in the same label. I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor. The chocolate was rich with a hint of cinnamon and not a lick of mushroom could be detected. What intrigued me even more was upon reading their website I learned that the reishi mushroom used in the hot chocolate promotes restful sleep as well as stress release. I could feel my body relaxing almost instantly after trying this, and while I’m not big on hot chocolate or chocolate in general, I would consider subbing this into my routine once in a while for a sweet treat before bed.

Stretching

Sometimes when I lay in bed, I can feel my legs and arms becoming restless from the motion of the day. The blood pumping through my veins feels as if it’s trying to slow down and relax, but is having difficulty resting without some coercion. This is where stretching helps me tremendously. Sometimes I stretch outside of bed, doing a few light yoga moves such as downward dog or child’s pose. Other times, I forget and stretch in bed. This usually involves grabbing my feet and raising my legs over my body, or sitting up and doing a butterfly stretch under the covers. I’m no expert on this, so definitely do what’s right for your body. Youtube is a great reference for sleeping stretches that you can do before bed. I suggest you look into them and see what works best for you. (You can find some good out of bed stretches from Fitness Magazine here.) Ultimately, this helps relax my body a great deal before calling it for the night. I think it’s important to give your body a cool down period before just plopping into bed. I know for me it is helpful and can also help to calm my mind as well because of the overall relaxing nature of stretching out tired muscles.

Just Breathe

Similar to stretching, finding an even and calm breathing routine before trying to sleep helps me to regulate my body and prepare it for relaxation mode. One routine that works well for me is this: inhale for 5 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, exhale for 7 seconds. I will do this cycle of breathing several times, or until I feel like my heart has stopped pounding with the stress of the day. It’s incredibly relaxing and when done after stretching and a cup of tea makes my body feel like it’s almost instantly ready for sleep.

Turn Down the Heat

This is more of a wintertime tip, but I think is important to mention. During the colder months, turn down your thermostat instead of cranking it up to keep you warm. This is because your body actually sleeps better when it’s cooler. It’s true! Did you know your body temperature actually starts dropping when it’s time for you to sleep? This is why it feels so energizing to exercise, because you are feeling warm. And don’t worry about getting cold in the middle of the night (I mean, sleep with blankets obviously) because your body is actually expelling heat while you sleep. If you’ve ever woken up because you’re too hot, you’ll know what I mean. I turn my thermostat to 64° and sleep with a down alternative comforter. I stay warm throughout the night and even wake up too warm sometimes in the mornings. The worst part about this tip is getting up in the morning, but I usually just run to the thermostat to turn it up a few degrees before jumping in a hot shower. You can read more about sleep and body temperature here.

I think that’s all the tips I have for you today. Let me know if you have any tips or tricks for getting better sleep. Until then, sweet dreams!

MelissaRose

January 14, NY19 Resolutions Check-In

2019 Resolutions

Today is technically the end of my first New Year’s resolution – a 2 week detox from alcohol, cigarettes and sweets. I’ll admit I didn’t do as great as I wanted, at least with the smoking, but everything else I’ve been fairly solid. I smoked on Wednesday of last week, and while it felt like a small failure, I’m not beating myself up too bad since my goal wasn’t to quit smoking completely. My goal was and is to cut back on smoking and treat it more like drinking I guess. I don’t drink every day, I don’t drink during the day (except on special occasions or mimosas at brunch) and I think I’d like to treat smoking that way as well. So, while I did have a cigarette Wednesday evening, I did not smoke during the day at work or at home at any point and have decided to only smoke socially or when I’m drinking, which I’m good with and completely capable of. Furthermore, I feel that not smoking cigarettes for over a week after smoking for 10+ years is pretty good, especially since I did it cold turkey and without the aid of any sort of supplement such as the patch or gum. I proved to myself that I can quit long enough to get the toxins out of my system, and that’s exactly what I did.

Drinking went almost the full two weeks. I put in a previous post that I had a fairly important birthday party to attend on Saturday and that I was contemplating taking a hiatus from my detox for the occasion. I decided to have that hiatus and so ended up drinking at said party. It was fun, however, I did not anticipate the change in tolerance from not having drank for almost two weeks straight. I may have gone a little overboard, and while I hope I didn’t make a complete fool of myself, I felt it the next day. But I think it was a good lesson learned. I hate the day after drinking. Saturday was such a productive weekend day and it felt so nice to wake up early, get things done and then have time to relax before having more things to attend to. This made Sunday feel so much worse, as I sat on my couch for hours on end, regretting the decisions I made the previous night. Overall, it made me realize that moderation is key, and that I don’t have to drink at every occasion just because other people are drinking. I’m capable of saying no, and capable of sticking to it.

The one thing I’ve stuck to my guns to the entire two weeks is no sweets. This isn’t too difficult for me as I don’t have much of a sweet tooth to begin with. Not that I don’t like the occasional cookie or bowl of ice cream now and then, but I didn’t feel any terrible cravings over the past two weeks. I think I’ll keep this one going too. I’m already seeing good changes in my body from the lack of drinking and lack of sweets. I’ve also started drinking an apple cider vinegar drink in the mornings which I hope will help to propel my progress. Overall, I still feel better during the day with more energy and am sleeping better at night. My biological clock has changed as well. I’m waking up each morning before my alarm at around 5:50am. The best part is actually getting up and ready for work in the morning with time to spare. This spare time is used to walk my dogs if weather permits, and I love having the extra time outside before being confined to an office all day.

I’m also still sticking to my meal prepping and planning. I did my shopping for the week on Saturday morning. I once again purchased the majority of my product from the Farmer’s Market which is great because part of my resolution is to stop with convenience and start supporting more local causes. I have some rather tasty meals planned for the week, a couple of which are new that I’m excited to try and hopefully blog about. I haven’t purchased anything new as part of my no buying anything new resolution for the entire year. And, like I said, I’ve continued to walk in the mornings as part of my resolution to take better care of my body (my gym is still not open… need to check on the progress of that).

I’m proud of my progress and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’m excited to get to tackling my other resolutions as well, mostly the gardening. I believe I’ll need to purchase my seeds soon for starting indoors. I’ve been pinning upcycled ideas for planters like crazy and can’t wait to see what other ones I can come up with. All in all, I’m excited and looking forward to the next steps.

How are your resolutions or goals going for the year? Is there anything you’ve learned about yourself so far?

MelissaRose

Gardening in January

Sustainability

Part of my fourth New Year’s Resolution for 2019 is to become more self-sustainable by increasing the size of my garden. As stated in a previous post, I already have two good sized raised garden beds I plan on using as well as an in-ground bed on the side of my house. Last year, I only used the two raised beds and was able to get a decent crop of tomatoes, squash and zucchini, but this year I want to ramp it up a bit by using my side yard bed to incorporate some other crops into my garden. Now you may be thinking, “Gardening in January? What in the world can you get done in January?” Well, that’s what this post is all about.

I’m the kind of person who loves planning ahead. Whether it be groceries, outings or gardening I find great satisfaction in having a plan in place. When it comes to gardening, January is a great time to lay out what I want to accomplish. This gives me plenty of time to figure out what I will need to buy, what will go where and if there are any larger projects I need to finish before being able to move forward. The first thing I like to do is outline my space. Where am I going to plant? Do I have enough room? Do the beds need to be prepared? And lastly, what am I going to plant? The last question is the most fun and can sometimes take the most time depending on how much space you have. I have pretty limited room if I’m sticking to good spatial requirements between plants, so I have to be a little picky about which plants I choose. I also look at planting calendars for my zone (I’m in 9b – northern-ish California) to determine if there are certain items I can cycle in and out of my garden beds. A good place to check for your zone is Garden.org. You can then use your zone to figure out what your planting  calendar is. I’m using this planting guide from Urban Farmer. Their entire site is filled with great tips and tricks.

I know I have three garden beds I want to use for vegetables. From there, I can pretty much determine how many plants per bed I will be able to fit, of course depending on what the plant is. I am probably going to follow a similar structure to what I did last year, since the plants seemed to have enough room to provide a decent crop. The only difference is that I will not do as many tomato plants as I did last year – I had two normal size varieties and two cherry varieties. This year, I’d like to cut back and maybe do one of each in order to make more room for a different vegetable. The larger plants can only fit a couple per bed, so I will be doing a squash and a zucchini plant in one bed together. I’d also like to have a cucumber plant, which I believe is fairly large also, so I’m planning on leaving room in the side yard bed for that. So far that makes for the following plant list: 1 tomato plant, 1 cherry tomato plant, 1 zucchini plant, 1 summer squash plant and 1 cucumber. The other items I’d like to plant, and may have to cycle, are spinach, carrots, green beans and broccoli. A couple of these are colder weather plants (spinach, carrots, broccoli), so I am going to try and cycle these out of the beds as the warmer crops seeds become ready for transplanting.

The next step I’ve been working on is collecting my items for growing my own seeds. This year I want to grow my own seeds because it will cut down on costs but will also ensure that I’m harvesting fully organic produce. I also love the idea of having extra plants that I can give away to family and friends. Originally, I strayed away from wanting to do seeds because I thought it would cost more than just buying the plants, but I have learned that there are several items that I can repurpose to get started. I am going to use old egg cartons to start my seeds, old food trays (like from vegetable party and cheese trays) to hold them together and catch excess water, and I’ve already starting purchasing small terra cotta pots from the thrift store at a fraction of the cost of the home supply stores. This is already saving me a ton of money and makes me feel better about being able to reuse things that otherwise may have just been thrown away. I’ll be sure to document these steps as I go.

Soon, it will be time to start some seeds. In my zone, I can start planting some of my seeds as early as the end of this month, so that’s what I plan on doing. I haven’t purchased any of my seeds yet since I’m still just in the planning phase, but according to my planting calendar, I can get started on my tomatoes, spinach and broccoli seeds this month. I am going to buy all of my seeds at one time once I’m ready (and figure out where I want to buy them), and then start planting them indoors according to my zone’s calendar. I cannot wait to start this process and see how well I’m able to do. This will be my first time starting a garden from seeds and I’m hoping that with enough determination and research that I will have a flourishing garden that I can feed myself and my husband with all year long.

Do you enjoy gardening at home? What are some of your favorite vegetables to grow? And what are some of your favorite vegetables to eat?

MelissaRose

January 8, NY19 Resolutions Check-In

2019 Resolutions

Today marks the eighth day of the New Year and so the eighth day of working on my 2019 resolutions. So far, so good. I have reached the half-way point in my two week detox. I have not had a cigarette, a drink or a sweet since December 31, 2018. I can’t say that it’s been incredibly easy, although it hasn’t been terribly challenging either. Like I said in my previous check-in on January 3rd, the most difficult time was Wednesday night during band practice. This will come around again tomorrow. I do not think it will be as tough as the first week. Having other people over drinking and smoking does present temptation, however. The other part that was difficult at first was coming back to work. Smoke breaks at work were a good little stop in the day to sit on my phone and not think about anything. Without smoking, I don’t find myself taking the same breaks. Also, as I said in my previous check-in, I think that smoking is more of a habit for me than a physical addiction, and so not being able to follow through on that habit was a bit difficult the first couple of days back at work even though I had already gone six days without a cigarette.

My other resolutions have been going well also. I’m continuing to follow my meal prep plan with prepared lunches and planned out dinners. I am not stick to my original meal schedule so to speak, but I’m not going out to eat or grabbing fast food for lunch. I’ve been cooking dinner every night and preparing lunches and breakfasts in the morning for my husband and I. It’s been nice actually. I always feel better when I eat food from home. Fast food just makes me feel so sluggish. I really don’t know why I ever go back when cooking can be so easy. Speaking of, I don’t want to do a full post highlighting this since it isn’t really a recipe, but the easiest and most delicious cheap lunch idea came to me last week – homemade frozen bean burritos. Seriously, it sounds crazy, but I made some frozen burritos at home this weekend. I used one can of vegetarian refried beans, a can of Rotel, some shredded Mexican cheese and tortillas. I wrapped it all up together into a burrito (all together it made four decent sized burritos) then wrapped the burrito in parchment paper and placed in a ziploc bag for freezing. The next day, I put the burritos in little containers for us to take to work. It only took about a minute and a half to heat them up and they were delicious! This was a great discovery for me because it’s so cheap and easy to prep. I will be saving this idea and using it in the future.

My last resolution is to take better care of my physical form. I’m happy to report that I’ve been successful with this also. I’ve been waking up at 6am every morning with enough time to have a cup of coffee, get ready for work and take our dogs on a walk. The pups really love the extra attention and I’m finding that I really enjoy the extra jump-start to my morning. I haven’t officially started working out yet since the gym I joined hasn’t opened yet, but I’m hoping they will soon so that I can get back into some light weightlifting as well. All in all, the lack of toxins, the light exercise and the healthy sleep pattern have made me feel amazing! I have more energy throughout the day, I fall asleep faster and sleep better and I find myself looking forward to getting home and making dinner.

This weekend may be more tough than the last, however, to stick to my resolution guns. My husband and I are supposed to attend a pirate themed 30th birthday party on Saturday. This is only three days away from the end of my two week detox. I’m struggling with the thought of cheating for the one day so I can enjoy myself versus sucking it up and finishing out the detox. A part of me thinks it would be fine to do it for one day, and then to maybe extend the detox afterwards to the following weekend, thus giving myself almost another entire week of detox. But another part of me says I need to stick it out. It’s a difficult decision too because it’s a family member’s birthday party, and I don’t want them to think I’m not having fun or being a party pooper. Decisions, decisions. I guess I will have to get through the week to see what I end up wanting to do. I’m still so torn at this point. Gah – what would you do?

Anyway, I hope everyone is having a great start to their year. It feels like it’s flying by already doesn’t it? Until next time…

MelissaRose