Posts Tagged ‘rituals’

Fun with Pumpkins!

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Fall is here and I am super excited because it is my most favorite season of all! Fall signifies a time of harvesting and encourages expression of gratitude for the harvest. It is also traditionally a time of preparation for the winter months that lie ahead. Engaging in a ritual to honor these aspects of fall can evoke a deeper appreciation for the beauty and meaning of the season. For example a family I know enjoys apple picking and then canning homemade applesauce each fall. Annual rituals such as these help establish a sense of connectedness with others and a heightened sense of self-awareness.

I got married in the fall (12 years ago this month!) because of how much I love this time of year. I especially loved the fall during my college days. Walking across campus with golden leaves crunching underfoot and a cool, brisk breeze on my skin always put a smile on my face. There is something so wonderfully comfortable about putting on a favorite sweatshirt when there is a chill in the air! I have a well-loved 17 year old sweatshirt that has definitely seen better days, yet it still reigns as my top choice sweatshirt because the familiar fabric is so comforting.

In addition to the meaning of the season and the gorgeous weather, I also love the scents, colors, and flavors of the fall…especially pumpkins; bright orange, smooth, round pumpkins! From baking to cooking to decorating, there is so much fun to be had with the amazingly versatile pumpkin! And because we just made our very first vegan pumpkin pie of the season (which the boys completely devoured today!) I am inspired to share some of the fun things we like to make with pumpkins!

First off it is important to know the difference between decorative pumpkins and ones that are for baking/cooking. Decorative pumpkins are what you traditionally get from a pumpkin patch or a local market stand. They are typically large in size and have vertical ridges on them. They are ornamental and intended for decorative purposes only. The seeds are okay to bake and consume, but the pulp is watery, stringy, and generally unappetizing. However the pulp can provide an awesome sensory experience for young children. They are apt to enjoy squishing the slimy pumpkin guts in their hands! So cut open a pumpkin and let them have at it!

If you want a pumpkin to cook or bake with, a pie pumpkin (sometimes called a sugar pumpkin or sugar pie pumpkin) is your best option. They are typically smaller in size, smooth, and darker in color than a decorative pumpkin. Although they are somewhat small, they yield a surprising amount of pulp. Typically one sugar pie pumpkin can easily make two pies.

Preparing pumpkin pulp is relatively easy to do. First cut your sugar pie pumpkin in half. Remove seeds and membrane (be sure to save those seeds!). Place open face down in a baking dish and bake for approximately 45 minutes at 350 degrees. When pumpkin is slightly cooled use a spoon to scoop out pulp. Put pulp through a blender, food processor, food mill, or even mash by hand to the desired consistency. Now it is ready to use in muffins, pancakes, breads, soups, pies, stews…you name it! Pumpkin puree is so tasty and versatile. And if you have traditionally used canned pumpkin you are in for a big treat as fresh pumpkin pulp is 1000x yummier!

Now let’s make sure to do something with those seeds. Believe it or not, you can actually take those pumpkin seeds and plant them right in your yard! Pumpkins are rather hearty and can grow even with very little tending to. Although beware they do take up a lot of space because they grow on a vine. Another option is to give the pumpkin seeds to your kids to play with. They can count or sort them. They can play with them in a pretend kitchen area or even glue them onto paper. However my favorite thing to do with pumpkins seeds is to roast them! After removing them from the pumpkin wash thoroughly in a strainer. Lay them on a lightly oil baking sheet in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. Bake for approximately 15 minutes at 325. Be sure to keep a close eye on your seeds because they can burn easily. You will want to turn them a time or two while baking. Baking times vary greatly so again peek frequently to avoid burning them.

I hope you and your family enjoy this beautiful fall season! Any fun family traditional/rituals you would like to share with us? Would love to hear from readers like you!


PS. Check back tomorrow for information on Woolies!! What are woolies? See you here tomorrow for the inside scoop! :)

What to do with the Placenta

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011


A placenta is truly an amazing organ that our body grows during pregnancy. It acts as a passage way for nutrients, oxygen and fetal waste. I give serious pause when I think about this…our body is capable of growing an organ?!  I think that’s a perfect example of the incredible design for pregnancy. Considering the placenta is so instrumental to baby’s growth in utero, I felt the need to honor its importance post birth. Here are some of the things we have done to celebrate the amazing placenta!

Placenta Prints: This is really easy to do but the tricky part is that it’s probably best to do immediately after birth if you want to do a fresh blood print. You simply and gently place the placenta on a piece of paper and then remove it. It will create a tree-like pattern which is fitting as some refer to the placenta as “The Tree of Life”. There are other methods that involve using ink or paints, however I prefer to use fluids from mommy and baby to create the design. Also since I like to preserve the placenta for further use, I don’t want inks or paints to come in contact with it.  If you want to do a fresh blood placenta print have paper put aside with your birthing supplies. It is also helpful to have the role of “placenta-print-maker” designated ahead of time. Here are my placenta prints on display. At first it felt kind of odd to hang them on the wall due to the personal nature of them, but I quickly realized most people don’t know what they are…and those that do will appreciate them.

Placenta Prints


Plant a tree: We have a tree planting ceremony about 6 months after the birth of each child. With my second son we wrapped a portion of his frozen placenta in a paper bag. On the paper bag we wrote messages of love to him. Then we buried the paper bag in the ground and planted his tree in that same spot.  You can do this idea at any time after your child is born. After the birth of your child, you can put the placenta in a ziplock bag and place it in the freezer until you are ready to bury it.

J with "his" tree


Placenta Encapsulation: There may be some mixed feelings on this one, but still wanted to put it out there as an option  because I think it carries great potential benefit for a mother during the post-partum period. Sometimes a midwife or doula will offer placenta encapsulation as part of their services. If not, placenta encapsulation is fairly easy to do yourself. There are various preparation methods you can choose from. The method used involved first steaming the preserved placenta with lemongrass, pepper, and ginger. Then we cut it into thin strips and dehydrated it in a food dehydrator  for about 12 hours. Next we grinded the dried placenta strips into a fine powder in our blender. Lastly using an encapsulation machine we filled empty gel caps. I took one daily in the first three months post-partum and then as needed.

If you intend to do both a tree planting ceremony and placenta encapsulation, be sure to  freeze a small portion of the placenta.

If you birth in the hospital the logistics of obtaining your placenta may take pre-thought and planning to secure. If for any reason you are unable to obtain your placenta or are uncomfortable with handling a placenta, here’s an alternative idea :

Bake a Birth Day cake in the shape of a placenta: A few days after each baby’s birth I have baked a cake to have a mini Birth Day celebration. With baby #3 I decided to make a placenta cake. To clarify there was not actual placenta in the cake…rather it was a cake that looked like a placenta.  It also might be helpful to note that I don’t have any skills when it comes to baking or cake decorating so mine wasn’t exactly the prettiest but it did (kind of) resemble a placenta. A few days before I went into labor I randomly found a disposable pumpkin shaped baking pan on clearance that looked rather “placenta-ish” to me when placed upside-down. Funny how a Halloween cake pan can become a placenta cake pan…goes to show how all-consuming pregnancy can be. At any rate after baking the cake and removing it from the pan, I used brown and red icing to create the look of a placenta. We sang Happy Birthday to baby and then enjoyed our placenta cake together!

What special things have you done to honor and celebrate your baby’s birth? Do you have any rituals or traditions in your family when a new baby arrives? Would love to hear your ideas!

Curious about how to write a birth plan? Check out tomorrow’s post for some inspiration!