Mind & Body by Samantha Nichole

Mind & Body by Samantha Nichole

Friday, February 17, 2017

Cooking, Lavender, and Lifestyle

For the past year (yes, it has been almost one whole year!) I have been writing in my journal, drafting short stories, and writing a children’s book; however, I don’t have the same amount of time to write. Nevertheless, I’m able to be organized at work and in my home. I’ve taken more steps at minimalism, although it seems I keep accumulating things. (I digress, I think that’s what happens as we get older. Our children accumulate things, our partners accumulate things, people in our family give things to us of meaning or of use, and it piles up in our homes.)

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time going through our items and donating what we don’t need, and I’ve taken an interest in small-space living, decor, organizing, and cooking!


I have maintained my capsule wardrobe. It has been nearly two years since I adopted a capsule wardrobe. I remember I made the decision a few weeks before my husband and I went to New York, and we were able to pack all our belongings in a carry-on for the entire week. This way of thinking has transformed the way I dress, eat, and spend money. In the past two years I have spent less than $100 on my clothing, plus roughly $100 on running shoes. The majority of my exercise clothing is secondhand, and 90% of my daily wear is second-hand. I own two pair of jeans--one green and one blue--and I have an array of dresses, leggings, and designer shoes (secondhand) that I wear on a regular basis. I don’t count the amount of items I have; I just know that what I do have is manageable, in good shape, and looks good on me.

My interest in style has made me more aware of our space, and it has also given me a better appreciation for living in a small space. Sometimes it's difficult to be content in a small home when others have much larger homes, but when I think of the benefits of having a small space (less to clean, less to buy, less to maintain) I am thankful for what I have.

Here's our kitchen space. We spend a lot of our time here! The kitty coffee mug was a souvenir from Rome, and the gorgeous jade plant was a gift from back when Audrey was born. Everything else was purchased or given to us secondhand.

I have been diffusing lavender at night, and it has been amazing. I use it every night when I go to bed, and I believe it helps with my quality of sleep. My home is slowly transforming into the tranquil space I’ve wanted it to be for years. In the future, I'll be adding more plants to my home and experimenting with different oils.

My husband and I have been cooking. We cook a lot, as in every night, and we sit down to eat dinner as a family. This was my one request once my first daughter, Audrey, was born. I wanted to be a family that sat down to eat together. We’re very tech-savvy and worldly, so this is important to me because I believe in the good that can come from a home-cooked meal. It’s important physically, emotionally, and I’ll go as far as to say cooking can be a spiritual experience. Believe me, I need a lot of help from God to cook.

We have perfected several recipes recently, which I’ll share in future posts.

For the past year I have been working on a children’s book. I work on it at my own pace, without pressure from anyone, and it’s for fun, but I’d like to publish someday. One of my goals since childhood has been to write a book, and when I was in college a professor of mine--whom I fully respect--mentioned to our class that we shouldn't publish a book until we’re at least in our thirties. I don’t remember what the context was surrounding this theory, but I took it as law, and I’d like to publish my first book to the world at age 30. That gives me two (or more) years to complete this project, and I think I can do it. I’m not sure if I’ll go through a publisher. I think I’ll tackle the project solo and publish via Amazon. I have a little bit of time to prepare.

I have been working on my friendships. It’s easy to forget that friendships take time to make and maintain. Sometimes I have to drink an extra cup of coffee to meet up with old friends, new friends, and college friends every couple weeks. It keeps me young and in touch, and it’s refreshing to be around people who don’t need something from you. ← That’s sad, but true. With working full-time and having a 50-mile commute, this can be so hard, but it’s so worth it.

I went indoor rock climbing with my friends from college for my 28th birthday!

This was my first year fully committing to a New Year’s Resolution, and it’s actually working. I have officially lost 10 pounds of baby weight since January 15th, and as of this morning I have 10 pounds to go. My progress has been slow, but steady, and I’m pleased with it. While many blogs and Pinterest boards might suggest women should gain and lose baby weight within 9 months, it actually takes the average woman more than one year to recover from childbirth. That’s totally normal.


I’ll be writing when I have time, but I’ve made it a priority to write more for others. I enjoy publishing short articles like the one you’re reading above, so in the future you can look forward to some recipes, healthy living tips, parenting and career updates, and more. Ciao!


Follow me on Instagram @OwlsandLavender

Allow me to share some of my lifestyle inspiration! These bloggers and documentaries have helped piece together my personal style and interests.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

My Reading List: Part 2

A while ago I published a reading list, and it has gained popularity. In fact, it remains to be one of my top posts! Today's entry is an update to my reading list in honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday and National Read Across America Day.

My husband and I spend the majority of our free time reading. This isn't too different from the past, but I like to think our interests have matured beyond whatever it was we used to read. My goal in celebrating the new year was to read more fiction novels. Aside from this blog and my personal journal, I actually spend a great deal of time writing fiction--usually for preteen girls. All characters in books are inspired by people; my nonfiction reading isn't in vain, but I think reading fiction will improve my creative writing skills.

The first book I read this year was "The Art of Racing in The Rain" which happens to be the only fiction novel I have read thus far. (Oh well. I like what I like!) I'm sure I'll find some other great fiction novels soon. If you have any suggestions for me, please write them in the comments below this post.

Book #1: "Pen on Fire" by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett
Book #2: "The Jewishness of Jesus" by Rabbi Evan Moffic
Book #3: "Survivor Moms" by Mickey Sperlich (MA, CPM)
Book #4: "Clean Food Diet" by Jonathan Vine

I am just starting books 1 and 2. I've nearly completed books 3 and 4.

Pen on Fire
This is a book that's great for my lifestyle because it's about how to write as a busy woman. What I like about it is that I'll read a page or two and suddenly be inspired to write, so while I'm not making much progress it's obviously doing its job of motivating a woman to write who has very little time to spare. 

The Jewishness of Jesus
Written by a Rabbi, this book tells Christians everything they need to know about the Jewishness of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It's a great book for anyone, but especially Christians wanting to get to know more about Jesus by learning more about Judaism and how it shaped the Son of God. 

The writer, Rabbi Evan Moffic, will be speaking about this book at Plymouth UCC in Milwaukee, WI in just a couple months. I hope to attend.

Survivor Moms
As a birth worker, I find this book to be an irreplaceable addition to my collection of doula, breastfeeding, and parenting books. It's an emotionally difficult book for me to read, so I have to put it down often. Female survivors of sexual abuse share their own stories of how trauma has resurfaced emotionally and affected them while giving birth or parenting.

Clean Food Diet
I'm not too impressed by this book so far. The writer doesn't cite sources often, so the researcher in me finds that detail difficult to read past. My family and I are taking steps to eat consciously and healthy, but I might take something useful from this book once I'm done.

What My Husband Is Reading

My husband is currently reading the Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov. If you're a sci-fi fan, check out his work. Click HERE to be directed to Asimov's Goodreads page. 

Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com

We have both been listening to podcasts and audio books, but my husband listens more than me. I spend more time with access to my Kindle and paperbacks, but he spends more time commuting for work. His favorite podcast is Hello Internet, and mine is This American Life.

What My 2 year-old is Reading

If you look at our living room bookshelf, you'll notice that it's filled with children's books! Our oldest daughter Audrey loves to read, but even with a vast selection of books at her fingertips she always chooses the same book to read for roughly one month straight. This is mostly due to her age, but both her parents are creatures of habit as well, I'll admit.

Audrey's favorite book so far this month is "That's Not My Bunny" by Fiona Watt. When she does choose another book, she picks "Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown.

What are You Reading?

What are you reading? What are your favorite podcasts, and why? Please share in the comments below.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Annie's Birth Story!

An Unmedicated Hospital Birth Story


It was February 3rd, 2016, the day before my expected due date. I woke up that morning feeling different. After having 12 hours of consistent practice contractions the week prior, I was hesitant to believe what I was feeling could be early signs of labor, but I was able to believe that giving birth was in my near future. I trusted my gut. That morning I informed my employer that I would be coming in late to work since I didn’t feel well. I took my time getting ready and went into work.

When I was at work, I started getting contractions that were consistently 20 minutes apart but distinctly different from those I was feeling the week before. They started in my hips, wrapped around to my lower abdomen, and sent a soft but shooting sensation down the side of both my legs. There was no doubt in my mind that something positive was happening, but I’m well aware that early labor is a process that can take several days or weeks, depending on the mother. Even so, I trusted my instincts, wrapped up any last-minute business at work, and left for home a little early.

This was my second birth. One of the things I so badly wanted for my first birth was a natural, unmedicated birthing experience for my baby and for me; and although I consider my first birth to have been a good experience, the cards did not fall in place for an unmedicated birth. With all the research I have done to this point, and with what I have witnessed as a birth doula, it was my intention for both births to have as few unnecessary interventions as possible. That can be easier said than done when planning a hospital birth as I had. My plan for this birth was simply to stay home longer--until I felt like it was time to leave for the hospital--and I hoped I could wait until my contractions were 5 minutes apart and lasting for one minute at a time. The truth is that every woman experiences labor differently, so the 5-1-1 rule professionals tell women to go by is a general guideline. I knew in my heart and mind that a hands-off labor and delivery is what’s usually best for a positive birthing experience with a healthy mother and her baby, so that’s what I was seeking--it’s what I felt was best for my baby and for me.

First & Second Stage of Labor:

I left work early that day and immediately went into the shower to slow down my contractions and freshen-up. I had my parents pick up my daughter at about 5:00 in the evening. My husband and I made dinner, ate early, and I went to bed at about 7:00 p.m. I was awoken with contractions at 9:30 p.m. and they stayed consistent at 15 minutes apart from that time until about 3:00 a.m. the next morning (February 4th) when they were roughly 10 minutes apart. Partial sleep was my saving grace during this time; I was able to drift off to sleep after each surge, and each time I ignored the fact that I just had a contraction. I continued that pattern until 5:00 a.m. when I couldn’t ignore them anymore, and I woke up my husband at 5:30 a.m. and gave my doula a heads-up.

I labored for a lot of the time in the bathroom and in our living room. Most of my laboring was actually done alone and by choice, but I knew when I needed support from my birthing team. With my labor partners (being my husband and doula) I listened to classical music on Pandora, and I used my favorite doula tool, doTERRA Deep Blue rub (which works like Icy Hot), on my stomach and lower back. I labored in the restroom for a long time as well, but I was also sure to stay hydrated and eat throughout the morning. (Being properly hydrated and having something light in your stomach are two really important things when you labor! You need to be hydrated and have enough energy to run a marathon.)

I asked for my doula when contractions were about 5 minutes apart, but I felt like I could easily keep laboring at the house. A part of me was fearful that we would arrive at the hospital and the staff would say, “You’re only at 3 or 4 centimeters,” which I knew would make me feel defeated. I wanted to go in once I saw classic signs of transition or simply needed something more for pain relief. Thankfully, my goal was to trust the process of birth. This may sound cliche, but my only fear was fear itself. (Fear or a sense of insecurity can often stall labor.)

We labored at home with our doula for just under two hours when my husband said, “I’m not rushing you, but your contractions are less than 5 minutes apart, so we might want to think about when we’re going into the hospital.” I was thinking the same thing right before he said something, so his instincts validated mine, and I decided I would make a decision about how I felt after a few more contractions.

We went into the living room, and my birth partners helped me through a few more contractions. I started to shake slightly, I suddenly felt nauseous, and I entertained the thought of pushing. My contractions were also coming at about 2 minutes apart. The time was 9:05 a.m. on my due date, February 4th, 2016. I told my birth partners it was time to leave for the hospital, and I got into the car for the bumpiest and most uncomfortable ride of my life. We arrived at 9:15 a.m.

My husband called the OB triage to tell them we were on our way. They informed us we needed to go to the clinic to be checked first, but upon hearing my labor cries in the car the triage nurse immediately changed her mind and had us come to the hospital directly. That was a very good decision, because if she hadn’t, we would’ve had our baby in the clinic’s lobby.   

Transition & Birth:

I was quickly taken to our room, checked, and the birthing process began shortly after. I was 9.5 cm dilated when they checked. Sadly, my midwife was on vacation and her backup midwife wasn’t able to get there in time, but thankfully I had a very kind OB who attended my birth. I was able to have my most important requests on my birth plan granted. I was offered an epidural but declined, and therefore an IV wasn’t necessary.

Annie Eloise was born at 10:00 a.m. on her due date, February 4th, within a few contractions and after roughly 9 minutes of pushing. She weighed 8 lbs 12 oz and was 20 inches long. Although it would have been nice if the hospital had more time to prepare for my arrival, this was a very empowering birthing experience for me because I was able to trust my body. The hospital staff kept their word in allowing me to have immediate skin-to-skin with my daughter, also. She didn’t leave my chest for the first two hours of her life outside the womb, and I had a very minimal amount of interventions--perhaps the bare-minimum in a hospital setting. Oh yes, and the first thing I said when I gave birth to my first daughter, Audrey, was something about her ears looking good for piercing. The first thing I said after the birth of this daughter, Annie, was “Shit.” #sorrynotsorry

I am very thankful to my birth partners and to the hospital staff for helping me have the hands-off experience I was hoping for, which I believed to best for the health of my daughter and me. I’m excited to share my story with other women and continue empowering women as a birth doula--once I’m done cuddling my newborn for several months, of course.

Daddy and sisters bonding.

Helpful Links:

Thursday, January 7, 2016

How We're Preparing Our Toddler for Big Sisterhood!

At 36 weeks pregnant, the arrival of our baby is just around the corner. She (the baby) isn't expected to be here for another four weeks, but considering the normal range for babies to make their arrival is between 37 and 42 weeks, and this pregnancy has been so different from the previous (as all pregnancies and childbirth experiences are different) I'm ready for whatever comes my way, within reason.

My husband and I have been preparing our 2 year-old for what will likely be a difficult transition. We've been talking about the baby with her, and she even helped pick out the baby's name. We were torn between two names and we asked her which one she liked better. She told us, and that's the name we chose! The name is our little secret, and so far--as far as I know--she hasn't told a soul. (What a fun way to choose a baby name, and what an awesome story to share with her in the future.)

You know you're a birth worker when your two year-old daughter insists on watching YouTube videos of home water births. Whenever she wants to watch something, it's between Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and "Baby in the water! Baby in the water!" as she says. For several months I have been browsing the internet for videos and pictures of birth and taking care of babies, and my daughter has been diligently taking care of the babies she has at home.

This week my daughter and I brought up the bedside co-sleeper for the baby. It needed some cleaning, and the sheets had to be washed, so I had her help me wipe down the crib and set it up. We wheeled it next to the bed, and she practiced putting her babies in there while we talked about what the bed was used for and who was going to go in it!

Most recently, I decided to get some gifts for my toddler to congratulate her on becoming a big sister, and the plan is to give these to her when she comes to meet us after the birth. Since Christmas was so fun this year, we know that she understands gift-giving, and she will understand why she's getting the gifts. We bought her a Daniel Tiger plush--since she loves that show so much that she tried bringing her toy trolley to bed--and a Daniel Tiger older sibling book called "Big Brother Daniel". Did I mention her favorite show is Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood? Yep, in case you couldn't tell.

I'm not sure if our tactics for introducing baby to our toddler will work in the way that we expect, but as adults we often underestimate the power of little ones to comprehend what's going on in our world. I don't want to assume that she won't remember this and doesn't understand that she's becoming a big sister. In fact, I think it would be very traumatic to bring a little baby home without any explanation or preparation, so that's why I think that--even if she does have a hard time with the new sibling transition--our efforts will never be in vain. She understands she's going to be a big sister, and it's just a matter of time before her little sister will be here to change her life.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Favorites & 2016 Book List

I’m not one for only setting goals during the holidays, but this year is different. It might be the warm winter, my pregnancy, or the calling I feel to do something extraordinary, but I’m interested in setting goals today--on New Year’s Eve--like no other year before.

Some of my successes this year have been staying organized, detaching from material objects in the home, and living a healthier life. Although I workout at the gym less often than before, I am eating healthier and making better choices. I have also been reading more (nonfiction) and engaging in news and politics; however, I am able to recognize when being informed turns into me becoming a human pile of emotional stress, and I’m able to take a break when I need to. I'm thankful for that.

My Favorite (Easy!) Recipe, 2015

Like I mentioned above, one of the things I have been doing is eating healthier. It was difficult for me to notice the benefits at first because I was so nauseous and fatigued during this pregnancy, but now that I’m full-term and I’m realizing that I have gained the ideal amount of weight and have very little water retention, I’m thankful for my snacking and eating habits.

My favorite recipe of 2015 is slow-cooker vegetable soup. I liked using the vegetables from the Farmer’s Market in West Bend. My husband would complain it’s bland, but add kind of meat you want to it to achieve the flavor you seek.

  • ½ an onion
  • mixed vegetables of your choice
  • lima beans
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cups of water
  • Optional: ground beef or ground turkey

If adding meat, cook it first. Add all vegetables, diced tomatoes, beans, and water to the slow cooker. (Add meat once browned.) Cook on low for 4 hours.

Inspiration and Photo Credit: Click Here

My Biggest News, 2015

Um, this one's a no-brainer. We’re having a baby, and she should be here within a few weeks! How exciting is that? Also, I must say my biggest accomplishment of 2015 might have been our baby announcement and announcing that we’re having another girl.

My Favorite Place Traveled, 2015

New York City will remain to be one of my favorite places. Although Italy--specifically Rome--is my favorite place to visit, NYC (Manhattan) is my favorite American city to visit, and I'm looking forward to making another trip there in the near future. Here is my blog post about this year's trip.

My To-Read List, 2016

In the year 2015 I read only nonfiction, aside from rereading one book that was far more boring than I remember the first time (The Jane Austen Book Club). My goal for 2016 is to add in at least one fiction read for 2016. Here are my top fiction to-read novels.

My inspiration for my list comes from Lauren Conrad's book club and my Goodreads account. I highly recommend starting a Goodreads account if you don’t already have one.

Fiction On My To-Read List
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
  • Forever by Judy Blume
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Nonfiction On My To-Read List
  • I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time by Laura Vanderkam
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Good luck in your future endeavors, and enjoy the last few hours of 2015! Cheers!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fall Haul: Purchased Secondhand

It's not often that I go shopping, and when I do I don't spend much at all. (Did you know the average American family spends $1,700 per year on clothes, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics?) I'm not above receiving things secondhand, and it's rare that I purchase items brand-new. If I do, I make sure the piece I'm purchasing is timeless, durable, and I try to purchase it on sale. Don't get me wrong--I'm definitely not the perfect shopper. One example is there are things I could do to be more environmentally conscious when shopping. I typically don't buy used jeans because I can never seem to find a style and size that fits correctly. I haven't purchased a new pair of jeans since 2012, so my purchases are few and far between, but that's something I could work on.

Total: $9.00

Today I was feeling very ambitious. I stopped by the consignment shop to drop off a book and pair of snow boots. (I usually just donate to Goodwill unless I'm confident the item will sell.) My goal was to find something my daughter would like for Christmas. My favorite thing is finding an unused item being sold secondhand!

At the consignment shop, I picked out a Green Bay Packer cheerleading outfit for my unborn daughter, and for Audrey I picked out a caterpillar toy made by LeapFrog that teaches kids the alphabet. When I teach at the YMCA, Audrey loves playing with that caterpillar. Once I got to the checkout, the clerk told me that I had a $10 credit, so that was a great surprise. 

The $10 credit came from a violet Bumbo Floor Seat that was given to me. Audrey didn't like it very much, and I didn't anticipate using it for the next baby. When I went to sell it at the consignment shop, they told me that it had been recalled. I looked online and found that the company ships a seat belt for free to customers. The belt needed to be installed to fix the product. Once I did that, the consignment shop was able to take it, and the resell value was high. It was exciting! 

I went to Goodwill after that in search of new or gently used kids' stuff. I found a brand new backpack that Audrey needs (and will love) as well as a newborn onesie. I went to the checkout counter and learned it was student discount day, so I showed my Seminary ID and Goodwill Club Card, and the total came out to be $6.00. My only downfall on this trip is that I forgot about a 20% coupon I had at home. That would have been better than my student discount.

This past August, West Bend held a city-wide garage sale day. I was on a tight schedule, but I found a beautiful green Christmas dress and blue GAP jacket in a size Audrey didn't have. The jacket and dress were timeless and in great shape. I paid $3.00 for the lot.

It's strange to think about shopping being a hobby for someone who's trying to become minimalist. It's contradictory, and I understand that. I'll admit that I don't think I needed the items that I purchased, but I'm pleased with the way I shop and value material objects. Our home is cozy, so we don't have a lot of room for excess; however, I find joy in finding bargains for fun items, re-purposing things that are old, and swapping out used household items for other used household items. It might not be a minimalist mindset, but it's fun, nevertheless. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Welcoming Change and Finding Routines

I can't believe it's already the end of October. The warm weather, thanks to El NiƱo, has provided us with the illusion of a never-ending summer despite our Wisconsin leaves falling. Before we know it they will all be gone, and we'll be awaiting the arrival snow and winter. Autumn remains to be my favorite season, despite what lies ahead. Fall is a time of the year that symbolizes shedding the old and mundane of the summer. Spring is a time for rebirth, but with the way our society works (back to school and generally no more vacations) fall represents shedding one's old ways. We snuggle into winter with Advent and bid farewell during the Lenten season. In the spring we are again ready for something new, so we wait for the sun to warm our faces and bring forth new beginnings once more.

Throughout the month of September there were a lot of new things starting in my life, and the combination made it difficult for me to find balance. In the beginning of the month I attended a birth and started Seminary--both in the same week--and at the end of the month I went to Tennessee to visit my great-grandparents. Throughout the month of September I began teaching new classes, and my daughter, whose birthday is the 4th of September, was moved to a new classroom with a new teacher, new rules, and new friends. October is my favorite autumn month because it's always the time I settle into a routine. Thanks to October, I have finally been able to slow down and appreciate the beauty of this pregnancy, as well as start new routines.

My mother (center) with my niece (left) and daughter (right)
in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Having a routine is essential to being successful, it's healthy, and it can relieve stress. My husband and I decided that we would go grocery shopping every Thursday in preparation for the week. On Thursdays I plan each meal of the day for one week, taking our schedules into consideration, and using Pinterest or my cookbook. I remember to be realistic, so this time of year I make a lot of crock-pot meals.

My school and reading schedule has been harder to nail down. I'm taking two rigorous online courses, and I typically have about 500 pages of reading per week, not including responses and other projects. The kind of reading I'm doing isn't the kind I can skim through; I'm being challenged every day. While I love it, and while it is an escape, finding a reading schedule (and the peace and quiet to read) has proven to be difficult.

Nevertheless, the month of September has gone and passed. I welcome the end of October, the beginning of Advent, and brisk weather with open arms. I'm getting to know my unborn child and am ready to "hunker-down" (as a friend said) and appreciate this pregnancy from the warmth of my home.

Reflection: October 19, 2015

I wrote this reflection post last week in a group I'm a part of called "52 Weeks of Tranquility" with writer, activist, and do-gooder Kimberly Wilson. In my short reflection I shared how I was reminded to slow down by my rambunctious 2 year-old.

I went to Tennessee a couple weeks ago, and I brought my 2 year old daughter, Audrey, with me. We went to a flea market, and I was trying to hurry through so we could eat lunch and get to our other tasks for the day. Audrey wouldn't have any of it. She insisted we spend at least 20 minutes looking at the pigs. This was a gentle reminder for me to slow down, and in the end I liked that we spent more time than I planned for her to enjoy the animals.