REVIEW: Raaka Mint & Nibs Bar

I’ve been hanging onto this bar for awhile, waiting until the mood struck me (I… have a lot of chocolate). I’m a fan of chocolate and mint together but I have to admit I like that artificial mint Oreo kind of flavour. Real mint? Ehhh. This bar is definitely of the real mint variety, with peppermint leaves, coconut, and Congolese cacao.

Raaka Mint Nibs (1)

I wasn’t expecting that overwhelming fake mint-y flavour, and I didn’t get it! Instead, this bar is actually quite subtle. Like some of the other more natural bars I’ve tried, there is an earthy flavour to this one, but it isn’t very strong. In fact, the whole bar isn’t very strongly flavoured despite the mint and coconut.

Raaka Mint Nibs (3)

It has a harmonious flavour and texture, and the bar was creamy once it melted in my mouth. So, while it isn’t bursting with amazing, jaw-dropping taste, it’s a nice and pleasant little treat.

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A Prime Rib Thanksgiving Feast

Matt decided that this is the year he’d come out as a full-fledged turkey hater. Dude will eat turkey on sandwiches and in soup and the like, if he must, but he’s very sick of big turkey dinners. Thanksgiving snuck up on us and we knew we’d have a small crowd (just the three of us!) so making a huge turkey feast wasn’t exactly logical, anyway.

I suggested a few things — ham, a roast chicken — and we landed on a prime rib roast. I’ve never made prime rib before, and expected we’d only find something small pre-cut in our grocery store without ordering ahead. I was right about that, but at least we found something! I stuck to a traditional-ish menu, with a few tweaks. It came together fairly quickly, except for dessert, but it was still a lot of cooking and I’m glad there were only three people to serve.

Thanksgiving Prime Rib (1)

I roughly followed this recipe for the prime rib, except our roast was small — just one rib! — and I used basil instead of rosemary because it’s what we had. I was anxious about getting the temperature right, and ended up pulling it when one side of the roast was reading at 120˚F and the other at 130˚F. It turned out perfectly, according to Matt, but we like rare meat.

Thanksgiving Prime Rib (3)

The potatoes were this recipe — brown butter mashed potatoes! I’m not sure the brown butter really adds a lot, and we ended up doing gravy with it anyway, but the base potato recipe is really good. I used cayenne instead of horseradish sauce.

The carrots were a family favourite, Bittman’s recipe for quick-glazed carrots (we did the balsamic variation). M said they looked like “little poops” which was delightful, but I assure you they didn’t taste like that.

Yorkshire puddings came from this recipe which worked nearly perfectly — I’d recommend making sure the melted butter goes ALL THE WAY around the tin, though, because ours got stuck on the sides. I also took them out earlier than the timer, but our oven was running pretty hot at that point!

Thanksgiving Prime Rib (2)

As for dessert, Matt requested sweet potato pie, and I wanted classic apple. My apple pies are really just made up on the fly every year, but I followed this recipe for the sweet potato pie, successfully.

Now that I know how easy prime rib is, I’d be willing to cook it again, although it’s expensive enough that it’s certainly not an everyday meal. Still way better than turkey, though, and M was delighted with it (“I love cow!”).

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Wake Up

If the children don’t grow up,
our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.
We’re just a million little gods causin’ rain storms,
turnin’ every good thing to rust.
I guess we’ll just have to adjust.


It’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. We will be lighting three candles at 7 p.m., joining in the ‘wave of light’ spanning the globe.

I don’t think I can say much more about the hows – sharing this experience has been a large part of my healing, and there are only so many angles one can take. But it occurs to me that maybe I should explain the why. Why do I keep talking about this? Isn’t it a private thing? Doesn’t exploring grief and remembrance keep people locked into that sadness? Shouldn’t I have moved on? Why does this even matter? Don’t I know that I’m making people feel uncomfortable?

I keep talking about this because, when we lost three pregnancies in the span of several months, I rarely felt alone. And I rarely felt alone because there were people around me who were willing to share, to talk, to say, I have been there and you will get through this.

I do not know why many people consider pregnancy and infant loss (and infertility, for that matter) a private thing. I understand it on a personal level — not everyone wants to broadly share and that is of course a personal decision that we all make. But as a society? Many of us can agree that it takes a village to raise a child, but where is that village when the child, or the potential for a child, is lost? We understand grief when we lose mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers — even pets. But pregnancies are supposed to be hidden away until that mythical time when you’re out of the ‘danger zone’ because people don’t like to address the fact that pregnancies fail and babies die. Women, men, families — we need that village, that support, that collective strength and understanding, whether our children are living or gone or still a hoped-for dream.

Does exploring grief make me sad? No. Pregnancy loss is a thing that happened to me, and to my family. It had very real effects. It has spilled over into navigating pregnancy after loss, which has been in many ways, even more challenging. Exploring those impacts has helped me work to overcome anxiety and sadness and fear. It has opened up new friendships and deepened those that already exist, as we cover shared ground. It has allowed me to, in turn, extend my own support to others dealing with fresh grief, because I have, so very much, been there. If turmoil is thrown into my life I am damn well determined to learn from it.

I’m not sure there’s such a thing as moving on from loss — at least for me. Everyone’s experience is different. Mine, thus far, appears to have left an indelible mark. At first it was harsh and angry and very visible. It is fading with time and conscious effort and the understanding that it’s okay to let it fade, and it’s also okay to acknowledge that, when one’s life is altered by an event or series of events, it’s nearly impossible to completely let that go.

Why does this even matter? Because the stats say that around one in four women experience miscarriage. But people don’t talk about it. And when they do, they often say diminishing things — At least it wasn’t a real baby. At least you know you can get pregnant. It’s probably a good thing; it wouldn’t have worked anyway. God has other plans. It’ll happen when you relax. 

Maybe it’s a misguided attempt at empathy. Maybe it’s old attitudes that still stick around, because loss is not a part of our conversations as a society. But what that means, for the women and families in the middle of these experiences… It meant I lost three pregnancies in a row and still had to find a new doctor to get someone to finally give me a referral to a specialist. It meant being told that stress causes miscarriages so really, it was kind of my fault that it happened. It meant hiding tears when confronted with yet another comment about how we should really have a second child because in the meantime my body was actively fighting against me while I tried to do just that — and some of those people knew about it while still asking me.

So maybe hearing about loss makes you uncomfortable. Maybe you think that it’s silly that we mark this day, because they weren’t real babies, anyway (I encourage you to read this). Maybe we should just be grateful for what we have, and forget about what we lost.

But I will tell you this — there are countless women around you, women you know, and their partners, and their children, whose lives have been forever altered by loss. We need better research into pregnancy and infant loss. We need to adjust the way the medical system treats people dealing with infertility and loss. We need to make it a topic that is not taboo, because how does it even make sense to stigmatize something that happens to a quarter of all families? We need to tell people that we are here, that they are not alone, that we have their backs, instead of telling them that their feelings and experiences don’t matter.

And you can do that, by simply being there, by listening, by acknowledging.

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REVIEW: ChocoSol Vanilla Sea Salt Bar

ChocoSol’s products are “good for mind, body and soil!” You’re looking at whole ingredients, responsibly sourced, made with traditional methods in mind.

The vanilla sea salt bar is made with raw vanilla pods, sea salt, stone ground roasted cacao nibs, cacao butter, and raw organic cane sugar. That’s it, that’s all. No strange, unpronounceable ingredients here! I was expecting a different experience than your average grocery store chocolate bar, and that’s what I got.

ChocoSol Sea Salt (1)

I found this bar had an interesting earthy taste — knowing what I knew about the company, its philosophies and its methods, that didn’t surprise me, and it wasn’t a bad taste, just something different from the sugary sweet concoctions many people think of when they think chocolate. There was a bit of a gritty texture, too — again, nothing off putting, but a hallmark of this different candy-making philosophy.

ChocoSol Sea Salt (2)

As for the taste, aside from earthy, I found it quite salty on the tongue. That saltiness faded fast, though, leaving behind the earthy, not to sweet flavour. I didn’t notice any particularly punchy vanilla, but the whole thing had a harmonious flavour. I’m not sure I’d pick this out again, but it’s a good bar!

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What We Need the Second Time Around

I’ve heard from a few people that the second baby is easier than the first (although I’ve also heard that two is insanely harder than one, but once you have three you may as well just keep having them…). I really have no idea if this is true or false, but I do know that I now possess knowledge about things that were an utter mystery, before.

I can’t predict the future, and all babies (and people!) are different, but I feel like I have some understanding of the gear situation, whereas the first time around I kind of floundered. We spent a lot of time in the first two months of M’s life buying things we didn’t think we needed, and shuffling things we thought we needed into storage. With that in mind, we have most of what we require, but there are a few new things on the list.

Boy clothes

While a lot of M’s stuff was neutral, and they’ll be sharing similar seasons (both winter babies!), I ended up sending three or four giant boxes of girl clothes to my brother- and sister-in-law who are expecting a baby girl around the same time our baby #2 is arriving, which obviously put a dent in the wardrobe pickings! I’ve actually had to stop buying clothes for the most part, though, because between eager grandparents, access to a resale group, and my own penchant for consignment sales and good deals, this kid has a lot of bitty things.


By the way, buying boy clothes has been ridiculously fun. M ended up wearing a lot of super girly things, which was also fun, but I’m getting a huge kick out of teeny tiny little old man clothes.

A high chair

That BLAMES high chair we bought from IKEA for M was very pretty. It was wood, and solid, and looked nice. It was also horrendous to clean and after cutting the straps off of it and using a belt to hold her in because it was just so miserable to keep tidy, we switched her to a booster ASAP and I put the high chair up on a local Facebook site — “FREE, please take this.” So, we need a new high chair. I’m going to go with IKEA again, I think, but we’re getting the plastic ANTILOP that my friends assure me is super easy to clean up. I’m waiting until we actually need it instead of clogging up space with stuff, though.

More diapers

Newborn sized ones, at least. It took us awhile to get M into cloth, and although I have a much greater understanding of how cloth diapering works, I think we’ll be using disposables again until everyone gets used to one another. My dad bought us a serious stockpile up into size three, so we should be good. I haven’t figured out if we need to buy more/new cloth diapers yet — I think they’re all in decent shape from last time, although the patterns aren’t particularly manly. ;)

Breastfeeding supplies

Because now I know what I need! Last time it was a constant back-and-forth to the pharmacy for various products. Gimme me lanolin and Soothie pads and the number for the lactation consultant, and hopefully we will be ok. I actually talked to one of the LCs in town casually and she mentioned she has a lot more experience with tongue ties now (hopefully we won’t need it) and another one mentioned running a breastfeeding class that includes pregnant moms, which I may check out.

Replacement bottle nipples and soothers

I no longer fear the pacifier. M took one for a few months and one day she spit it out and sucked her thumb ever since (which is a whole other can of worms, but whatever). But I threw out her old ones because it seemed too much like sharing toothbrushes. Same with bottle nipples, but I kept the other parts of the bottles. One of these days I’m going to get around to that part of the shopping list.

A swing

I found one for $65 — one of those little portable ones. M’s swing was a ghastly ’80s wind-up model we bought for like $15 and I hated it with a passion so I wanted to upgrade. We still have Robot Gramma, the battery operated glider, along with a jolly jumper and a jumparoo, so we should be set for baby containment devices.

A new diaper bag

I hate hate hate hate HATED our Skip Hop bag so I decided to buy a Little Unicorn tote that appears to be bigger, sturdier, less shiny/slippery, and hopefully suitable for two kids’ worth of stuff. And I got it for less than $100 thanks to a coupon!

A better chair for the nursery

M wants the old Poang in her room and I’m happy to let her have it — we still use it with her, and it was kind of terrible for having a newborn and recovering from delivery. I lucked into finding a recliner for something like $45 on a local buy and sell. It isn’t the sturdiest, and it rocks instead of gliding, but it’s tall and comfortable and everyone loves it.

I’m sure there are things I’m forgetting, and things I bought and won’t use. Prep has been a lot easier this time, overall, because we aren’t starting from scratch, but not having to buy a ton of stuff makes me feel like I’m behind on some kind of non-existent to-do list!

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