Sunday, December 5, 2010

My Little Magpie

First it was my wallet.  Not just any wallet, but a really cool silver card case with scrolls etched into it.  I found it at White House|Black Market a few years ago and it's been my favorite ever since.  Missing for almost an entire week, my husband found it buried inside a bag of birdseed in our laundry room.

Then there's the chest of drawers.  When last I checked, the very bottom drawer was empty, with no trace of its former neatly folded sheets.  The drawer right above it held a toy tow truck, a banana-shaped baby toothbrush, and a can of chicken noodle soup (with egg noodles).

Dinobaby is getting into evvvvvverything.

Phone chargers and the battery charger for his baby monitors disappear the most often.  He thinks that they're phones for some reason and runs around the house in his little diaper, socks, and t-shirt with the charging unit against his ear and the wire tail trailing along behind him.  "HI?"  "HI!"

He also likes getting 'toys' out of the kitchen cabinets.  Lids are great for sliding against the floor tiles to make a funny noise.  The sieve can double as a hat or face mask (perhaps fencing and/or beekeeping are in his future?).  Measuring cups are fun to beat on with baby spoons.

I went to change out the clothes in the dryer last night after both of the guys fell asleep.  Not that I ever just leave clothes in the dryer and fish out whatever I need instead of folding things and putting them away.  Ahem.  I opened the dryer and started to transfer things into a hamper when I saw something shiny in between the socks and undies.  It was a spatula.  Thankfully, I'm pretty sure it got in there after the clothes were dry.

My husband caught Dinobaby washing his hands in the toilet last week, too. 

I'm sure you're thinking, "Why don't those idiots just babyproof their house?"  Well, we have.  Obviously, not as well as we thought we did.  We have cabinet locks and a brand new toilet lock.  A lock for the stove is on the grocery list as he's figured out that if you put both hands on the oven door's handle and pretend that you're on the monkey bars, it opens just like magic!  The kid's getting infinitely closer to being able to turn door knobs as well, so I keep praying that I'm fast enough to catch him before he locks himself in a room by mistake.

It's pretty funny 99.9% of the time, even if it's equally frustrating 99.8% of the time.  He's curious and persistent, inquisitive and adventurous.  The only thing he's afraid of is a stethoscope.

We hadn't actually experienced the not-at-all funny 0.1% until earlier tonight.  I wanted to use up the entire bunch of overripe frozen bananas that were crowding my freezer, so I found this lovely recipe for banana bread over at Tasty Kitchen (check out meeshiesmom's related blog post). 

I opened up the pantry to find some Pam for Baking which, by the way, I could sit and spray into the air and smell all day long.  It's like a mix of funnel cake smell and canned vanilla frosting.  Mmmm.  Anyway, in the couple minutes it took for me to get the Pam, find my loaf pan and a muffin tin, spray the things, and inhale the lingering frostingfunnelcake particles, Dinobaby had defeated the gauntlet blocking his entrance to the kitchen and fished out a bottle of Izze from the pantry floor. 

I looked down at him and realized that he was holding a glass bottle and he smiled up at me with his big brown eyes twinkling.  Immediately, I moved to take it away from him, knowing full well what could happen. 

Then, of course, it did happen. 

He dropped the bottle onto the tile floor and it absolutely shattered.

Thankfully he was still for the two seconds it took for me to step close enough to pick him up.  He was un-phased.  My husband swept him out of the kitchen to clean up his feet and legs just in case.  Did I mention that I was barefoot?

My pinkie toe was only slightly injured -- "It's just a flesh wound!" -- and Dinobaby was safe and sound with no shards of glass whatsoever.  The floor still needs vacuuming to pick up the tinier pieces that I wasn't able to see, but it was under control relatively fast.  It was kind of frightening, but things turned out alright.

Though it is kind of interesting to have proof that I'd happily walk across broken glass for my child.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Candymaking Tip

When making candies, be mindful not only of the bowl or pot of hot sugar you're pouring out, but also of the spatula covered in molten lava.  Sure, when you're finished you'll be able to eat something delicious like this cashew-almond-pecan brittle,

but you might also end up with a burned hand. 

One week post accident: 

Yup, still awful.

P.S.  When did my thumb start looking like the leg of a Cornish game hen?  I'm a little weirded out . . .

LLL . . . L?

It seems that since I first started blogging I've been meaning to write about La Leche League. At the outset, I wasn't sure how much of my nursing relationship I wanted to write about but, although breastfeeding is extremely personal and intimate, it's also something natural and beautiful and it's a topic that I believe needs to be discussed.

For those who might not be familiar, La Leche League International is an organization founded in 1956 by seven breastfeeding mothers who wished to share information and support as they nursed their children. Today, LLL is helping mothers, babies, and families in sixty-eight countries around the world.

La Leche League's mission is "to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother."

When I was eight months pregnant with Dinobaby, I attended my first meeting with the local LLL chapter, determined to learn everything I could about breastfeeding, which I'd heard was both a natural instinct and a learned skill.  While nursing my older brother and me, my mother had attended La Leche League meetings to find support and advice from caring, like-minded mothers.  Twenty-five or so years later, I found exactly the same environment and it's been a blessing for our family for these past 14 months.

Meetings now are quite different than the early ones I attended.   Then, I was still wondering who my little baby would favor and if he would arrive on his due date.  (He looks like my husband as a baby, but with my eyes, and he was a week late, in true family fashion.)  During those rough first months postpartum, attending a monthly LLL was so motivating.  At that point, outings were more about survival than having a good time -- just getting myself and the baby into the car, out of the car, and home safely was an enormous task.  I knew that if I could just make it to the meeting I'd be with other people who understood the sheer exhaustion and overwhelming sense of responsibility, as well as the surprising, ever-growing love.  Now my little man one of the older babies running around the room, curious about the blinds and carpet and the artificial plants, and about the mysterious sleeping bundles tucked inside their car seats.

My LLL Leader approached me at last month's meeting and asked if I'd considered becoming a leader myself.  I actually had thought of the possibility, but only in the far-off "maybe someday it'd be nice/fun" sense.  It occurred to me that, even though I occasionally still feel like a twelve year old, I am, at least technically, a grown up.  "Maybe somedays" can now become tomorrows.

Fostering an environment in which nursing mothers and babies are encouraged and supported is something in which I wholeheartedly believe.  I've also realized that nursing my son, who is such a healthy and happy boy, has been one of the greatest accomplishments of my life!  So, after thought, prayer, reading, and talking, I've decided to start the pre-application process for La Leche League Leader accreditation!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Turkey Pumpkin Chili

Last week, during my latest pumpkin kick, I found a recipe from the Whole Foods website Turkey Pumpkin Chili.  Skeptical of that flavor combination, I made sure to read all of the recipe's mixed reviews and cooked accordingly by adding quite a bit more spice.  The results of my spice experiment were a definite hit and I've made it again already.  This time, however, I paid a little more attention to measurements!

Keep in mind that this chili has beans in it, so it's not a true Texas chili.  That being said, I think it's definitely worth it for anyone to forgo their Texas elitism and try this out!  You won't be disappointed.  :)

Turkey Pumpkin Chili
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, diced
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbs. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 up to 1 whole can pumpkin puree (15 oz)
  • 1 can diced green chilies (4 oz), with their liquid
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz), with their liquid
  • 1 can-full of water (using tomato can)
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 can pinto or dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

In a dutch oven over medium low heat, brown the ground turkey and drain off any of the watery juices.  Move browned meat to one side of the pot and add the onion, cooking until translucent.  Add a little olive or canola oil if necessary.  Once the onions have softened, add bell peppers and seasonings -- salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, cumin, and paprika.

Stir well and add in the pumpkin puree, chilies, tomatoes, water, tomato paste, and sugar.  Mix to combine, taste to make sure the seasonings are correct, and adjust accordingly. 

Simmer, covered, on low for an hour (or at least 30 minutes).  Serve with cheese and sour cream over rice or with tortilla chips.


My husband and I found out that the leftovers make for awesome nacho toppings as well.  Just lay out some chips on a foil-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with cheese and top with chili and salsa.  Broil for about two minutes until the cheese is melted and the chips are warmed through.  These babies made our Friday night date with Smallville was extra special.

Annnnd yes, we are nerds.  Don't judge, you know that you like the theme song.  Somebody saaaaaaaaaave me . . .

Monday, October 11, 2010

A List of Names I Call My Son

He's a man of many names.  It occurred to me the other night that my son has a growing list of nicknames and, as he's approaching his first birthday (how did that happen?), we should probably edit the list eventually.  None of them seem too potentially scarring though, right?

  • Pumpkin
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Pumpkin Seed
  • Sweet Pea
  • Sweetie Pea
  • Honey
  • Honey Pie
  • Honey Bee
  • Honey Biscuit
  • Biscuit
  • Cutie
  • Cutie Pie
  • Cutie Bean
  • Apey
  • Baby Ape
  • Sugar Pie
  • Sugar Foot
  • Chuby (pronounced "chew-bee," not to be confused with 'chubby')
  • Chubeanie Baby
  • Chubasco Sauce
  • Chubikin Pampwalker
  • Chubinho (for when he plays for the Brazilian national team)
  • Dinobaby
  • Baby Hulk
  • Little Man
 Then, of course, there's his actual name, although he probably thinks that it's "No sir!"  Poor kid.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Xs and Os

Does anyone remember having 'reindeer antlers' as a kid?  You might have had 'bird's nests' around Easter time.  Either way, they were delicious and simply mounds of chocolate covered chow mein noodles.  They've been on my mind lately and the bag of noodles in the pantry was just begging to be drenched in chocolate.

Pair my need for chocolate covered anything with our economy sized double-box of Cheerios and my XOXO Mix was, made...mixed into existence!

It's simple and prrretty darn delicious.

Chocolate Covered Xs and Os -- XOXO Mix

  • 1 cup toasted oat cereal (Cheerios)
  • 1 cup chow mein noodles
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
In a very large bowl, combine the cereal, noodles, coconut, cranberries, and almonds.  Toss to evenly distribute all of the goodies.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips and butter, making sure to stir every 30 seconds until the mixture is smooth and shiny (about 1-1.5 minutes).

Drizzle the melted chocolate onto the cereal mixture and toss to coat.  Pour the mix onto a parchment lined sheet pan and spread into an even layer.  Sprinkle with a little salt and let sit until the chocolate has set.  Break into pieces and store in ziplock bags or airtight containers.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Two Recipes, One Can of Pumpkin

For some reason, the arrival of fall triggers something in my brain that tells me I HAVE to eat pumpkin.  Pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie.  This afternoon was gorgeous.  Balmy temperatures in the low 80s aren't really the beacons of fall for most people, but in Houston, they are!  Dinobaby and I spent the afternoon together (as if we don't spend every afternoon together) and enjoyed the breeze and sunshine.  On the drive home, I picked up my first pumpkin spice latte of the season and, once Dinobaby was sweetly napping, I savored every bit of that thing!

While baby was sleeping, I set out to think of ways to use up the canned pumpkin that I'd just stocked in the pantry.  Of course I could have baked, but I wanted something less time consuming and maybe a bit healthier, so here we have a snack time recipe and something for dinner.  Two (three?) recipes, one can of pureed pumpkin.

Spiced Pumpkin Dessert Pizzas

You'll need:
  • Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread (recipe below)
  • 2 Whole wheat English muffins
  • Apple, grated or thinly sliced
  • Golden raisins
  • Cinnamon
  • Brown sugar
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Walnuts, toasted and chopped
Toast English muffins to your desired crunchiness.  Lately I've been toasting them whole, then again after separating the two sides, but make them as toasty as you like.

Spread each half with Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread then top with any combination of your favorite toppings.  Apple and cinnamon.  Brown sugar and pumpkin seeds with the sugar melted under the broiler.  Walnuts and raisins.

I thought it would be cute and more fun for kiddos to grate the apple since I'm calling these dessert pizzas -- you've got your pumpkin 'sauce' and apples stand in for the mozzarella.  Top it off with any combination of goodies and enjoy!  

Serves 4, with leftover pumpkin spread for later in the week.

Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread Enjoy as a dip for apples, pretzels, etc. too!
  • 5 oz. reduced fat (Neufchatel) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 Tbs. pureed pumpkin, fresh or canned
  • 2 Tbs. pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 
Blend all ingredients together with a hand mixer until smooth and the spices and pumpkin are well incorporated.  Store in an air tight container in the fridge.


    For dinner, I used up the remaining pumpkin puree with this tasty, yet heavily modified recipe from the Whole Foods website.  It worked well as a base recipe for experimentation and the results garnered a 10/10 from my husband ("As in, I'd eat this everyday.")!

    Turkey Pumpkin Chili

    The reviews complained that the chili lacked enough spice, so I nearly tripled the amount of chili powder (I didn't have jalapeños on hand), doubled the cumin, and added some garlic powder, cayenne, paprika, and a dash of cinnamon.  Serve with cheese, sour cream, simple guacamole, or chips.  If you test this one out, I'd encourage you to spice and taste until you find the most pleasing mix of flavors.  I was happy that I did.

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Dinner Salad

    For a dinner-worthy salad, all on its own, combine:

    • Organic baby greens 
    • Yellow & orange mini bell peppers, sliced into 1/4" rings (Use as many as you like, especially if you have a ginormous bag of them from Sam's like I do.)
    • Fresh raspberries
    • One half of an avocado, cut into chunks
    • Pumpkin seeds
    • Sliced almonds
    • A sprinkling of fried chow mein noodles (It offsets the health factor a little, but the crunch is nice!)
    • Feta cheese, optional
    Drizzle with a little poppy seed dressing and enjoy!  The raspberries are a little sweet and a little tart and the creamy avocado really lends itself to the whole salad like a dressing.  I just ate a huge bowl of this salad accompanied by a piece of garlic bread made from a bolillo.  I'm quite the happy camper!

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Enjoying Where You Are

    With Dinobaby's first birthday fast approaching, I've been thinking a lot lately about our family as it is and about our plans for more children.  My once jaundiced and orange little October pumpkin is now a hulk of a toddler who can walk and say hi to strangers.  He's becoming less and less like my little baby (sorry kid, but he's always going to be my little baby regardless of how old or big he gets) and more and more like a child.  While it's beyond exciting, it's also a little sad.  It's tugging at my heart and making think about other little ones who might be in our future.

    That same tugging is also reminding me of how I felt after Dinobaby was born.  Amidst the joy (and extreme exhaustion), there was also a slight feeling of, " now what?"

    Growing up, I always looked forward to the day when I would meet the right person.  In 2007 I did, and after a few months, my inner monologue was like a combination of "I Can Hear the Bells" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice."  I couldn't wait to be engaged.  And then we were engaged.  Then, I couldn't wait until we got married.  And then we did get married. 

    I'd been waiting for what seemed to be my whole life to have a baby and start a family, too.  Miraculously (and I don't say that lightly -- I'm so, so grateful), Dinobaby was born a mere 10 months after our wedding. 

    The first time we visited my parents, who live a four hour drive away, with the baby in tow, I realized that I'd gotten everything that I'd wished for.  I was married to the most kind-hearted man I've ever met and we had a gorgeous son.  With that, however, I realized an entire set of consequences that hadn't really struck me before that point. 

    Getting what I wanted also meant that I could no longer sleep in at my parents' house, wake up to eat just-baked blueberry muffins, and then read a book for an entire afternoon.  I couldn't walk to the gate and take my own sweet time, stopping to sit in the road (it's a long way to the gate, and the road is private, by the way) and watch ants scurry over pebbles and into their mounds.  No more alone time watching the clouds as they moved lazily over the bright green pastures with no regard for how much time had passed.  No more alone time to even go to the bathroom, for that matter.

    In short, I realized that I wasn't the baby anymore and I cried.  It was dumb, but I cried because everything was different. 

    Why didn't I just enjoy being single?  I could go into a store by myself whenever I wanted!  It was so much easier when I was pregnant, even if I was hot and miserable.  Why didn't I enjoy it?, etc., etc.

    I believe that things happen in their own time and at the right time.  That afternoon at my parents house, I had to ask myself, "When else am I supposed to be happy and just live, if not now?"  True, we could have waited to have children and used that time to travel or just be married.  We would have enjoyed it, I have no doubt, and sometimes I miss that possibility.  But I wouldn't change the way that things actually happened. 

    My point is that I need to enjoy where I am.  This is the only time that my family will be exactly as it is.  It's the only time that we'll be living in this apartment with just one child who loves my company, cuddles up to me to nurse, doesn't go to school, and hasn't yet learned the word, "No!"  While it's fun to dream about how our family might grow, or what tomorrow might bring, I'm reminded to enjoy what we have today!

    Just a Reminder

    Have no fear for what tomorrow may bring. The same loving God who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. God will either shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

    -St. Francis De Sales

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Rolls, Anyone?

    Let's Face It...

    I've been hit with a few "let's face it" moments this week (and I'm sure they'll keep comin').  Hopefully I can look at them as points to improve upon, or else say that they aren't really my fault!

    Here are some of my favorites so far:

    1.  My Hair
    Let's face it, my hair will never be wavy or hold any sort of curl. I have straight hair that will likely continue to be straight forever.  My hair does not scrunch, so please, self, stop buying hair products that promise you "beachy waves".  What you end up with is "a rat just made a nest in my hair."  No kind of mega-ultra hold mousse will fix this for me, so I need to just enjoy the fact that I can sleep on wet hair and wake up with it looking nice!

    2. My Cooking
    Let's face it, my cooking will never hold a candle to anything that my husband's mom or grandmothers ever made.  Arroz con leche, enfrijoladas, juevos a la mexicana...  I suppose I had delusions of grandeur when I thought that maybe I could make something that would be different (but better) than my husband's homecooking.  Umm, yeah. . . no.  While some would say that I need to just give up while I'm ahead, I think I'll keep trying knowing that whatever recipe I find will likely yield good (hopefully really good) but different results.  At least then I can ruin the chances for Dinobaby's future wife if he doesn't enter the priesthood!  Just kidding.

    3. My Clothing 
    Let's face it, it's been almost a year since Dinobaby was born and I still don't have clothes that actually fit me well.  At ten months postpartum, people probably expect me to start looking like a normal person again and not a new mom in that awkward in between stage of maternity and non-baby-related clothing.  At this point, I've safety pinned the waistbands of all but one pair of pants and most of my old tops are so tight now that it'd be a tad scandalous to wear them.  Strangely, it's the inverse problem of my pre-pregnancy days when all of my shirts were XS and I needed pants large enough for my big 'ol hips.  Well, okay, I still have big 'ol hips (and thank God for that during labor), but at least things are a bit more symmetrical now. 

    Anyone else have a good "let's face it . . ." moment this week?

    Friday, September 3, 2010

    Simple Gingered Pineapple Cake

    Since we've started getting half-shares from our local organic co-op every week or two, we often have a whole pineapple sitting around waiting to be eaten.  My husband isn't a big fan and Dinobaby can't really have it yet because of the high acidity, so it leaves all of our pineapple consumption up to me! 

    We have a fresh new pineapple ripening on the counter, so I needed to use up some of last week's and this is what I came up with: Gingered Pineapple Cake!  Thanks to a lovely clearance end cap at Target, I had a box of yellow cake mix in the pantry (that only cost $0.90!  And I promise it wasn't expired.), so I figured some sort of pineapple upside down something was in order. 

    I realize that the cake part probably negates about 89.99% of the fruit's natural organic goodness, but c'mon.  Everybody needs some cake every once in a while!  Well, at least I do.

    The results of my experiment?  Somewhat close to heavenly.  I've had to stop myself several times from standing over the cake pan with a fork saying, "Mommy's watching you from the kitchen!  No, baby.  Get down from there!  *Om nom nom*."  It's funny what a cake can do.

    Simple Gingered Pineapple Cake
    Prep time: 10 minutes
    Cooking time: 30 minutes


    • 2 cups Fresh Chopped Pineapple
    • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar, Packed
    • 1-½ teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
    • 1 (generous) pinch Ground Ginger
    • 1 Tablespoon Butter, For The Pineapple Mixture
    • 1 box Butter Recipe Yellow Cake Mix, 18.25oz (I Used Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Butter Recipe Golden)
    • 3 whole Eggs (according To Package Directions)
    • ½ cups Butter, Softened (according To Package Directions)
    • ⅔ cups Water (according To Package Directions)

    Preheat oven to 375 F.

    Spray a 13×9 glass baking dish with non-stick spray for baking or grease and lightly flour.

    In a skillet over medium low heat, combine pineapple, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and butter. It’s best if the pineapple was able to sit in a bowl a little after it was chopped to release some of its juices — the juice will help dissolve the brown sugar. If not, add a couple teaspoons of water to help things along. Let the pineapple come to a low boil.

    While the skillet is bubbling, prepare the cake mix according to the package directions with the eggs, softened butter, and water. Make sure to beat until the batter is light and fluffy.

    Once the batter is ready, pour the pineapple mixture into the bottom of the cake pan and spread evenly. Top with the cake batter and smooth the batter so that all of the pineapple chunks are hidden.

    Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

    Cool for 15 minutes in the pan over a wire rack, then serve with milk, fresh whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010

    Roasted Eggplant & Squash Macaroni (Plus a Recipe for the Leftovers)

    I had the presence of mind to make sure we ordered a half-share from the organic co-op just before my surgery so we'd have plenty of fresh fruits and veggies around to help me recover.  There was an abundance of black plums which I inhaled as fast as I could and we discovered that, like his mom, Dinobaby is a fan (not so much of nectarines though).  We also had our pick of some extra veggies and I was so excited to pick out a shiny, plump eggplant. 

    Post-op, I realized that my beautiful eggplant was languishing in our vegetable drawer and I was determined to use it and some yellow summer squash before they started to get spotty.  I was lucky that it fell in between the period of me feeling like a zombie from the general anesthesia and therefore wanting to get up and move and the subsequent soreness from the actual surgery.  There was a small window of feeling great, and I was perky enough to make some dinner!

    Roasted Eggplant & Squash Macaroni
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cooking Time: 45 minutes


    • 1 whole Eggplant
    • 2 whole Medium To Large Yellow Squash AND/OR Zucchini
    • 1-½ Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    • Salt And Pepper, to taste
    • 1-½ teaspoon Dried Rosemary
    • 1 jar Marinara Sauce (24oz -- I Used Paul Newman's Organic Marinara)
    • 1 box Whole Grain Elbow Pasta (14.5 Oz Box)
    • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley
    • ¼ cups Half-and-half
    • 1 can Quartered Artichoke Hearts (14 Oz), Drained And Rinsed
    • ¼ cups Grated Parmesan Cheese

    Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

    Wash and dry eggplant and cut into 1/2″ rounds. Place slices onto a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt. Let sit for at least five minutes (but up to overnight) so that the eggplant will sweat and lose its bitter flavor.

    While the eggplant is sitting, cut yellow squash into 1/2″ – 1 inch cubes.
    When the eggplant has released its juices, rinse the slices with a little cold water and pat dry, then cut into 1 inch cubes.

    Pour the chopped veggies onto a foil-lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season well with salt and pepper. Crush the rosemary leaves a little with your fingers and add to the veggies. Stir to make sure the squash and eggplant are well coated and place the baking sheet in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring once after 15 minutes.

    While the vegetables are roasting, heat the entire jar of marinara sauce in a small pot. In another pot, prepare pasta according to the package directions, cooking for about 7 minutes.

    To the pot of marinara sauce, add the fresh chopped parsley and half and half, and the drained and rinsed artichoke hearts.
    When the roasted veggies are tender and caramelized and the pasta is cooked, combine the vegetables, pasta, and sauce together with the grated parmesan cheese.


    Serves 8.


    If you have leftovers, make this easy pasta bake for lunch to change things up a bit!

    Roasted Eggplant & Squash Pasta Bake
    Prep Time: 5 minutes
    Cooking Time: 20 minutes

    • ½ Recipe For Roasted Eggplant & Squash Macaroni (see above)
    • 1 Tablespoon Half-and-half
    • ¼ cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
    • 4 slices Provolone Cheese
    Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

    Pour leftover pasta into an un-greased casserole dish and spread into an even layer. Pour the half and half over the pasta to prevent it from drying out in the oven.

    Cut provolone slices into halves and layer on top of the pasta with the shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes and serve.

    Serves 4, or 3 hungry adults and a 10 month old!

    Surgery Results

    What a week we had.  I'm officially one week post-surgery and I'm recovering nicely.  Last Monday turned out to be a little more hellish than I'd planned, but all things considered, the day was a success.

    Day of Surgery
    I knew that the morning was going to be fun when the nurse setting up the IV in my arm said "Oh shoot, it's blown.  Sorry, darlin'.  I'm gonna have to do this again."  Take two left me with an IV in what had to be the smallest vein in my hand, so this week I'm sporting not two but three puce-colored bruises (the third still lingering from getting my blood drawn for all of the pre-op tests).  Matched with the ever present dark circles under my eyes, I'm sure I look like I've been experimenting with those "recreational drugs" that they asked me about while recording my medical history.  (Do you suppose anybody ever says, "Actually, yes, I do use recreational drugs"?)

    Next, due to other surgeries that morning, Dr. D ended up being two hours late, so my procedure which should have started at noon didn't get going until after 2:30pm.

    At least I was getting a pair of cute non-skid fuzzy socks out of this deal...
    The Results
    Although I'm waiting to get more detailed information about it -- things were lost in my Demerol haze and my family's translation of the report -- the surgery went very well.  My doctor was able to visually diagnose endometriosis as well as remove some scarring and adhesions, endometrial deposits, and an ovarian cyst via laser.  My husband said that he saw pictures of all of this, so I'm morbidly excited about seeing exactly what my doctor found.  Dr. D assured everyone that my case wasn't scary or out of the ordinary and that my endometriosis is moderate rather than severe, so I'm hoping that I won't be in quite so much pain every month once I've fully recovered.

    The Night of the Surgery
    Being prohibited to nurse Dinobaby for 24 hours and being unable to make said Dinobaby understand why his mommy couldn't hold or nurse him was MISERABLE for everyone involved.  Thank God for my wonderful husband who was up most of the night with him!

    The Week Just Gets Better
    We were also supposed to close on our first house last week.  Our mortgage company however gave us the total for closing costs a whopping four hours before we were set to close and the amount was astronomical. We had no idea that the amount would be that high at all (we were off by three or four thousand dollars!), but it would have literally wiped out every penny of our savings.  So, embarrassingly, we surrendered our earnest money and said, "No thanks."

    While it would have been so nice to have a house, we're surprisingly relieved that we aren't buying one.  The extra time at the apartment will give us a chance to make it more homey, to save some money, and to appreciate what space we do have.

    At the same time, Dinobaby is now WALKING!  He's showing me more and more each day that what I thought was sufficient for babyproofing is just an exercise that takes him a couple minutes to figure out before he's able to open/climb/pull/push/flip it.  I love my baby Hulk, but he's starting to give me a run for my money!

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    Social Skills

    Lately, I've realized that I need to make a more concerted effort to get out of the house.  My family attended the wedding of two friends over the weekend -- the ceremony and reception were both beautiful -- and in talking to all of our other friends in attendance, I noticed that, I suppose as it should be, all I have to talk about is the baby.

    "What's been going on with you lately?"
    "Oh, just taking care of the baby."
    "Yep.  He's so ready to walk, but right now he's still working on standing on his own."
    ". . . He's a good eater."
    "That's good."

    I suppose I should take up some hobbies.  Right now, my free time is spent showering, pumping milk, and watching Netflix.  Not really hobbies.  Must work on this.

    Of course it makes perfect sense that all of my thoughts and conversation somehow lead back to the baby in some form or another.  I spend almost twenty-four hours a day with him.  He's my near-constant companion and, as I tell my husband, "he's my baby best friend."  (My husband is still my adult best friend and, naturally,  takes precedence.)

    The issue is that most people don't have baby best friends. 

    Other moms definitely do, but they too are so caught up in their own children's lives that it's difficult to talk to one another when we get a chance.  It seems like mom conversations are typically about how tired we are or what milestone has recently been checked off the list.  Thankfully, the YaYa Motherhood-Sisterhood of the Traveling Pampers imparts something else into those conversations -- an ability to just talk or NOT talk and have someone who completely understands why you have absolutely nothing else going on apart from your kids.

    I've been trying to reconnect with some of my single or baby-free friends whom, it seems like, I haven't spent any time with since before the Dinobabe was born.  The combination of my personality, my love of home, and my aversion to hassles makes it so a little too easy for me to become isolated, just holed up here in our apartment. 

    Am I the only one who's had a difficult time finding and keeping really good, trustworthy, honest and true girlfriends?  Up until recently I'd forgotten how important girl talk is.  It's always been easier for me to make friends who are male.  Women seem to be difficult to gauge and, too often, just plain catty.  Ladies, have you had the same problem?

    Thankfully, though, I'm getting to know my friends here better.  Weekly coffee dates away from the apartment with another real live person (imagine that!) can really do wonders.  It's reminded me that I need to remember that friends are important, that I need an occasional break even if I'm still taking care of Dinobaby while I'm taking it, and that I really enjoy iced decaf lattes with one Splenda.

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    A Breath of Fresh Air

    Last night I woke up around 1am for the second time this week to take out my contacts after falling asleep early.  My husband and I have started conking out at the same time as Dinobaby, but it's impossible for me to just stay asleep with contacts in, unbrushed teeth, and the knowledge that I still haven't taken my daily vitamins.  As a result, I've been getting up, getting ready for bed, and wasting/enjoying time on the internet before crawling back into bed.

    A friend had shared this video on their facebook page last night, and it absolutely must be shared again.

    The description on the video reads, "An elderly couple walked into the lobby of the Mayo Clinic for a checkup and spotted a piano. They've been married for 62 years and he'll be 90 this year. Check out this impromptu performance. We are only as old as we feel, it's all attitude. Enjoy! They certainly do."

    If that doesn't make you smile, your heart may be a few sizes too small.  In a world where the elderly are ridiculed, forgotten, and deemed unimportant (or even a waste of resources!), this video was a welcome breath of fresh air.   I feel like the sweet couple's performance itself is a fantastic analogy for what we can learn from our elders, or as most people seem to say, "old people".

    Their piece began slowly, quietly.  They didn't announce their performance but simply played a few keys.  It was enough to spark the attention of a few listeners and when they had their small but captive audience, they surprised everyone with playfulness, fervor, and talent.  I wish I could hug both of them!  "Old people" have so much to share, if only we are willing to listen. 

    My grandparents were married for nearly 70 years when they passed away, one less than a year after the other.  My Nana used to tell me of their great, enduring love for one another and how it all began.  "She remembers everything," my Grandy would say.  "I can't even remember what I ate for breakfast!"

    She was born in a little Texas town in 1915.  He was five years her senior and from an equally small town several miles away.  By the time they met, he was the manager at the local five-and-dime general store.  He was tall, with an open face and green eyes.  She was absolutely beautiful with dark hair and eyes and a quick wit to match.

    My Nana swore that it was love at first sight.  She told me that the first time she saw my grandfather, she prayed, "Lord, I will do anything you want, I'll go through anything you put in front of me, if you just let me have him."  What a prayer!  It was answered and they were married in 1933.

    If only loving, life-long relationships like theirs were the norm instead of the exception.  I can only hope that I will remember to bring such good humor and childlike spontaneity my marriage and to love with the same deep, enduring love as they did.  Everyone loves a good love story, but they're so much better when they're in real life!

    Monday, August 2, 2010

    An Aesthetic Theory

    I was talking with my husband the other night as we were getting Dinobaby ready for bed and I remembered a random theory that I came up with once.  At the time, I thought it was pretty brilliant.  My husband wasn't so sure.

    "Women are considered 'ugly' they look more masculine.  When men are considered to be ugly, they tend to look more like animals.  You know, like monkeys or horses.  More feminine men aren't considered ugly, but just pretty guys.  It doesn't work the same way for women."

    "How old were you when you thought of this?" asked my husband.

    "In middle school," I said. 


    I'm not sure if he asked because he thought my theory on aesthetics was intriguing or silly.  Personally, I think it holds true, at least in what the world considers to be beautiful.

    In a similar vein, I had a philosophy professor whose girlfriend felt that every person could be categorized as either a bird or a rabbit.  I'd argue that horses should be throw into the mix, but she may be on to something.  I would likely be a rabbit.  How about you?

    Sunday, August 1, 2010


    Well, it seems as though I've reached the inevitable point that my body has been approaching for the last five or six years.  Okay, that's probably a little too dramatic.  Let's try again.  It's not normal to be in pain every day, so I've finally decided that it's the right time to have a laparoscopy done to visually confirm my diagnosis of endometriosis and to see just how severe it is.  I have my pre-op appointment on the 18th, and then surgery on the morning of August 23rd.

    I'm sure that most of you who might be reading are already familiar with these next few terms, thanks to my desensitization regarding the use of words like "ovary," "cycle," and "uterine tissue" in everyday conversation.  I really do need to apologize to some of my male friends for that one. 

    For clarity's sake though, endometriosis is a disease in which deposits of endometrial tissue, such as that found lining the walls of the uterus, are found in other areas of the abdomen.  These adhesions act and react to hormones within the body just as the tissue within the uterus does, causing cyclical internal bleeding and, consequently, varying amounts of pain and discomfort for those who have the disease, not to mention a high percentage of infertility.  (Strangely enough, there has been no correlation found between the amount of pain experienced and the actual degree of severity of the endometriosis in patients.)

    The laparoscopy is a procedure in which gas is used to distend the abdomen and an OB/GYN inserts a small fiberoptic microscope through an incision around the navel to observe the internal organs.  If endometrial tissue is present, they can laser remove it and collect tissue samples for biopsy.

    Sheesh.  While I'm really glad that we'll finally get to know just how bad things are in there, I'm not looking forward to the few days that I won't be able to bend much or pick up heavy objects (22lb. baby, anyone?).  Plus, because of the anesthesia and pain medications after the surgery, I won't be able to nurse Dinobaby for the first days of recovery.  We'll see how all of that pans out.  Thankfully, my parents will be able to come down to help us while my husband is at work.  It's going to be a busy time.  Monday, surgery.  Wednesday, close on the house!  What a week.

    Please keep me in your prayers. :)

    Peanut Butter

    Is it strange that as I waited for Dinobaby to fall asleep for the night, my recurrent thought was, "I can't wait to open the new jar of peanut butter!"?

    Natural.  Organic.  Chunky.  Dark Roasted.

    Lately I've been eating it by the spoonful and, so far as I know, I don't have the excuse of pregnancy for my newly developed food craving.  Peanut butter has always been my staple for blood sugar emergencies, which has made me have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it.  The smell of warm peanut butter makes me feel sick.  Have you ever closed the jar of peanut butter, licked the knife, and run it under hot water so it won't just sit in the sink getting petrified?  I hate the smell of warm, melting peanut butter.  On a sidenote, I once took a personality test that asked the question, "Do you lick knives?"  I suppose the fact that I do says something about my personality, but I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

    My latest find, since I really have (sort of) been trying to test out the diet from Fertility, Cycles & Nutrition, is a brand of natural peanut butter from Whole Foods.  It's still not the kind that you grind for yourself right there in the store because I'm absolutely terrified and ignorant about the machines they have there.  "Oh, the poor dear!  She lost her finger in a peanut grinder accident."  I can just imagine too many things going wrong with that one.  So, I'm happily stuck with the peanut butter that comes in a jar.

    I've always been a little averse to natural peanut butter, thanks in part to the brand my Nana used for her own blood sugar emergencies when I was a little girl.  I can still remember sitting in the backseat of my grandparents' car and being so excited to share a snack with her.  Tiny metal cans of pineapple juice and saltine crackers and natural peanut butter made into little sandwiches.  The crackers would turn to mush on contact with your tongue and the peanut butter was the perfect mortar to keep a chatty six year old quiet for a few minutes.  (Now that I think of it, that was pretty genius of them.)  I never loved the peanut butter, but I was so excited to see those crackers as my Nana snuck them out from inside her purse.  I loved sharing them with her.  To this day, I get a little emotional if I buy myself a pack of those little cans of pineapple juice.

    I've had a change of heart in the peanut butter department.  I crave it by itself, unadulterated by toast or jelly, in a heaping tablespoon.  Serve it with a glass of cold milk and, lately, it's a sure thing to make me a happy camper.

    Saturday, July 31, 2010

    Wonder Toy

    Tonight's car ride home from dinner reminded me of a product that's definitely worth mentioning to parents with infants and, since it's been a while since I've posted a review, I felt that it was time to talk about Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes!  It's been our great helper on many occasions, especially when you're stuck in between home and another destination where baby can't nurse and nap on time.  Every mom friend I have who owns one of these agrees that it's the toy that calms and entertains when nothing else will do the trick!

    Its great features:
    • Classical melodies that won't drive you up the wall.
    • Flashing multicolored lights that mesmerize baby.
    • Cute caterpillar handle.
    • Volume controls that allow you to have audible music in both the happy peaceful times and the "Sorry-I-can't-nurse-you-in-the-moving-vehicle--Look-pretty-lights!!" times of distress.

    • The button, at least on ours, is a bit sticky, so you really have to mash it down to get the music to play.  I'm only assuming that the problem isn't product-wide, but it makes it difficult for Dinobaby to play the toy on his own.
    • The toy is made of hard plastic, which means that if baby is too small, they can knock themselves in the head hard enough to make themselves cry.  This con has lessened dramatically as Dinobaby's coordination continues to improve, but I would be extra vigilant with younger babies.
    • Generally, it's pretty ineffective once you're past the point of no return (". . . the final threshold!"), since it can easily overstimulate an already tired, overstimulated baby.  When we're at this point, we start praying the Rosary.  The repetition (and, obviously, the intercession) of Hail Marys is about the only thing that can calm the poor little Dino-babe once we're at that stage.
    It's convenient to carry in the diaper bag and, for only 8 bucks, it's one of the best baby products that we own.  It's prevented many a meltdown and can buy you a few extra minutes of a cry-free trip home!

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    Hawaiian Chicken

    This dish is easy and delicious.  I started searching for Hawaiian chicken recipes about a year ago when I was very pregnant and very hungry for the little bowls of rice and chicken that the Hawaiian/Pacific Islander student club would sell on the steps of my college student center.  The chicken was shredded but juicy, salty and sweet, and a perfect match for steamed white rice.

    An online search lead me to a couple of recipes for "shoyu" or soy sauce chicken, and I tweaked them into a combination recipe inspired by multiple sources.  Here is my version of some Hawaiian comfort food which can be simmered away in a dutch oven on the stove top, or forgotten about for a few hours in a slow cooker -- both lead to succulent results!

    Hawaiian Chicken
    Prep Time: 25 Minutes
    Cooking Time:  2 hours in dutch oven; 6 hours in a slow cooker


    • ¾ cups Low sodium soy sauce
    • ½ cups Vinegar (apple cider vinegar works well)
    • ¼ cups Pineapple juice
    • ¾ cups Brown sugar, packed
    • 1 teaspoon Ground ginger
    • 2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
    • 1-½ cup Water
    • 1 pound Boneless skinless chicken breasts OR 8-12 bone-in chicken thighs
    • 1 cup Crimini mushrooms, very thinly sliced
    • 1 can Sliced water chestnuts (Optional)
    • 1 small can Pineapple, crushed or in chunks (Optional; use the juice for your ¼ cups pineapple juice!)

    For a slow cooker:
    • In a separate work bowl, whisk together the first seven ingredients.  
    • Add chicken and mushrooms to the basin of the slow cooker.  Add pineapple and water chestnuts, if using.
    • Pour sauce over the chicken and mushrooms, cover, and cook on low heat for 6 hours or until chicken is tender and easily shredded.
    For a Dutch oven:
    • In a Dutch oven over low heat, add soy sauce, vinegar, pineapple juice, brown sugar and ginger. Stir to combine and heat just long enough for the sugar to dissolve. Add chopped garlic, water, and chicken. Turn chicken to coat.
    • Bring to a boil and skim off and discard any foam that rises to the top. Reduce heat to low and simmer with the lid closed for 45 minutes to an hour.
    • At this point, stir or flip chicken pieces so that the opposite side is immersed in the sauce. Add mushrooms, and pineapple and water chestnuts, if using.  Stir and cover. Cook an additional 45 minutes to an hour or until the chicken is easily shredded with two forks.
    • Shred chicken and stir. If using chicken thighs, remove the chicken to a plate, shred, discard bones, and return the meat to the sauce.
    Serve over steamed or brown rice and enjoy! 

    Monday, July 26, 2010

    Seek Ye First

    "'And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
    seek and you will find;
    knock and the door will be opened to you.
    For everyone who asks, receives;
    and the one who seeks, finds;
    and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.'"  Lk 11:9-10 

    What a gorgeous son we've been blessed with.  

    Seated in the cry room (which apparently doubles as a zoo, cafeteria, and playground), we struggled to hold our very wriggly, teething baby and listen as the deacon proclaimed the Gospel.  "And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."  I thought about what I'd asked of God so many times before, when I was young enough to still be living with my parents, years away from being married.  I'd tearfully asked Saints Elizabeth and Rita and Jude to join me in my prayers.  I wondered if it were possible to have such a deep longing in my heart if it was meant to be unsatisfied.

    The deacon continued, "'. . .  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.'"  Tears pooled in my eyes ever so slightly.  Our son extended his creamy, rounded little arm into the air, pudgy fingers spread wide, and laughed an exclaimed, "HA!"  (The child has impeccable timing.)  I turned and smiled at him, and then to my husband.  There is no doubt that the Lord has answered my prayers.  

    I try to remember this every time things become especially difficult, or when I get caught up in how amazingly stressful it can be simply being a mother.  Even though I haven't showered or I don't have clothes that fit or the dishes haven't been washed, yet again, by the time my husband gets home or my son has been testing his new chompers on various parts of my body.  Even when I want to cry because I'm so tired or when the baby has popped off keys from the laptop more often that I can count.  Even when I have poop on my hands or drool in my hair.  God answered my prayers.

    Before naps and bedtime I nurse the baby in what's called the "side-lying position".  It's self-explanatory, really, but it involves mother and baby lying down with their tummies facing one another.  Those times are some of the very best of the day.  He looks up at me with wide eyes that look exactly like mine but in a clear shade of brown like his father's.  They sparkle, reminding me of his sunny disposition and penchant for mischief, and likewise of my husband.  It's so fascinating to see what aspects of the two of us have manifested themselves in our little one.  He kicks off his covers in the night just like me.  He's vocal and friendly and makes the same "storm cloud eyes" that I gave my mother.  While we're nursing I'll often lean forward and kiss his soft baby forehead and just inhale.  His hair has the sweet, comforting scent of baby shampoo.  Somehow he manages to simultaneously smell like cinnamon and nutmeg and a hay barn, which I love.  He's such a little boy.

    Looking into his face sometimes makes me wonder if one's heart can break from loving someone so very much.  Other days, it makes me wonder if that same someone will actually break everything that we own.  

    Still, I asked, and I most definitely have received.  Thank you, Lord, with all of my heart!

    Wednesday, July 21, 2010


    This probably tells you a lot about me.  I was driving back from my La Leche League meeting with Dinobaby yesterday afternoon and heard an ad on the radio for Whataburger's latest promotion, their Chop House Cheddar Burger.  It's a burger made with cheddar cheese sandwiched between two grilled patties and topped with bacon, grilled onions, and a creamy steak sauce.

    The ad started off saying, "Ladies, when your fella orders a Chop House Cheddar Burger, you know that . . ."

    My husband and I actually went to Whataburger last weekend.  He ordered a grilled chicken sandwich.  Guess what I ordered (and then devoured after saying, "Oh, I didn't know it was two pieces of meat.  I don't know if I'll be able to finish.")?


    Mixed Bag

    Fifty minutes until my second bread machine loaf of bread is finished.  Putting everything in after 8:45pm?  Probably not the best idea.  Still, this loaf is looking a lot more promising than my first attempt.  This time I'm testing out the recipe for Traditional 100% Whole Wheat Bread from King Arthur Flour since the Marilyn Shannon recipe turned out a very dense bread that ended up going moldy before we even put a dent into it. 

    In the meantime, I need to sort some things out after a rough day of endometriosis-related pain and a teething baby who cried unless he was nursing for a good majority of the day.

    First of all, my diet.  While it definitely hasn't been the norm lately, today's meal tally prior to 8pm included:
    • 2 tablespoons full of chunky natural peanut butter
    • A glass of milk
    • 5 or 6 cherries
    • A handful of almonds
    As much as I needed to eat breakfast and lunch today, for some reason I just couldn't convince my appetite to actually do it.  Part of me just wanted to go to sleep rather than eat.  Another part needs to just get over this mental roadblock I've put up in my mind about my husband's idea to go meatless for a month.  (I'm still going to be eating meat to make sure I'm getting enough iron and protein for nursing.)  I'm totally behind the idea of eating more healthful, raw, nutritious foods, but I've sort of gotten into a funk about having to prepare a month's worth of vegetarian dishes.  Instead of being excited about expanding my repertoire, I've honestly been thinking, "I want a hamburger, and/or a meatball sandwich, and/or a barbecue chicken pizza, and/or a taco salad."  Needless to say, my attitude needs a little adjusting.  Thankfully, we'll pick up a half share of organic fruits and veggies this week which should force me to use everything up in as many creative ways as possible. 

    Next, my endometriosis.  What the heck?  Am I the only one who feels like their body is falling apart sometimes?  A person should not be conscious of their internal organs during the day unless their stomach growls.  Imagine if people went around saying, "Hmm, my pancreas feels a bit iffy today."  "Oh, I just had a gallbladder cramp!"  Ovaries should not be the exception.  Someone please explain this to my body.

    The last time I spoke with my doctor he told me that, if the pain related to my endometriosis was enough to interfere with my daily life, that the next steps would be to begin hormone therapy, i.e. birth control, or to have a surgical procedure called a laparoscopy to visually diagnose me and to laser-remove any endometrial deposits in my abdomen. 

    I feel as though I'm experiencing at least some level of pain on a daily basis, but I keep wanting to say, "No, I don't think it's bad enough yet.  This is still manageable."  The hormone therapy route is a dead end.  Before I was married, I was on Yaz for about two years.  My doctor at the time encouraged me to take it as a means of "preserving [my] fertility," which may have actually been what it did. Now that I am married, however, it's completely out of the question for several reasons.  I don't want to be on it again regardless of the principle of double effect.  Laparoscopy is the logical next step, but hopefully it can wait until after Dinobaby is weaned.

    On a much lighter note, we put in an offer on the house and it was accepted!  Assuming that the inspection doesn't reveal anything too serious, we have a new house.  Well, and once we pay for it.  That part's in there somewhere, too.  I'm thinking of naming the griffin in the backyard Godric.

    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    This Always Happens

    Earlier today I told my husband, "I should go to bed early tonight so that tomorrow will come sooner." 

    I love the feeling of anticipation that creeps up on you once you wake up in the morning and realize that something exciting is going to happen because, "_________ is today!"  Christmases, Easters, vacations, moving off to college, the last day of school, and going on the first date with my husband all began with the idea of "let's go to sleep early because I can't wait for it to be tomorrow!"  Unfortunately for me and the disjointed way that my brain is wired, IT NEVER WORKS.  Apparently, I turn into this little boy from the Disneyland commercial.  My parents are visiting tomorrow afternoon after what seems like a very long month.  We're going to look at the house together and they can see their grandson who, all of a sudden, is looking very much like a toddler.  (Eeek!)

    As usual though, I'm the only one still awake.  Somehow I always forget to take my vitamins until late at night, so here I am.  Thanks to my auditory learning style (I always wondered how those kinesthetic learners got along, movin' around and acting things out to remember stuff), I've been plagued for the past hour or so with children's early morning tv theme songs running on a loop in my head.  Get out, Imagination Movers! 

    One of the songs isn't so bad, actually, since I've recently fallen in love with the PBSKids show Dinosaur Train.  Little Dinobaby isn't really into television yet, as he shouldn't be, but putting something on for half an hour in the morning helps me get at least 2.5 meals a day!  He's pretty uninterested in Dinosaur Train, but I think it's the cutest kid's show I've ever seen.  For one, it's actually educational.  In just one episode I learned all about a type of pterosaur (flying reptile, also, NERD ALERT!) named Quetzalcoatlus whose wing span was 40 feet across!  Plus, the little dinosaur family on the show is made up of children who aren't snotty or sassy to each other or their parents and parents who kindly discipline and obviously love their kids.  On a sidenote, it allows me to relive my late-elementary school days.  I had a friend named Colin and for a good couple of years we would go back and forth with, "No, YOU can be the paleobotanist.  I'LL be the paleontologist."  "No, I'm going to be the paleontologist and YOU can work with me."  I believe he's now a professionally trained classical guitarist, so neither of us were right.

    I'm finally off to bed, but I have to share my inner soundbite.
    Dinosaur Train Theme

    Oh, and please ignore the dino-centric theme as of late.  I'm honestly not going to make it a regular thing, I promise. :)

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Vanilla-Mint Yogurt Dip

    Well, after all of my house worrying last night, I wasn't sure how today was going to be.  After breakfast though -- which lately has been a yummy combination of berries, Bear Naked Fit granola, raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas), and yogurt -- I checked my Google Reader and saw that one of my recipes was featured on the Tasty Kitchen blog!  That'll certainly brighten your day. :)

    Here's the recipe below for my Vanilla-Mint Yogurt Dip, which is perfect for dipping fruit or just eating with a spoon.  If you're like me, you'll like it so much that you could stand in the kitchen eating it out of the bowl you mixed it in.  (Don't judge me for ending that sentence with a preposition.  Dinobaby's about to rip off his Incredible Hulk shirt and my husband is home waiting for his lunch.)

    Vanilla-Mint Yogurt Dip

    • 1 cup Plain Lowfat Yogurt
    • 1-½ teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
    • 2 Tablespoons Light Brown Sugar, Packed
    • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Mint Leaves, Finely Chopped

    In a bowl, mix together the yogurt, vanilla, and brown sugar with a fork.

    Wash and dry the mint leaves. (For approximately 1 tablespoon, I used six large mint leaves.) Stack the leaves on top of one another and bunch them tightly into a bundle. Chiffonade the mint by thinly slicing the leaf bundle, creating thin ribbons. You can chop the mint more finely if you like.

    Stir the mint into the yogurt mixture and refrigerate.

    Serve it with fruit, use it to make into parfaits, or eat it on its own as a refreshing snack with granola!

    House Hunt

    I'm feeling absolutely overwhelmed at the moment.  Not completely overwhelmed, actually, but at least when it comes to our housing plans.  We're looking into purchasing our first house (even though our lease isn't up for almost another year) and I seem to have just gotten myself into a pickle thinking about the nearly infinite scenarios regarding when and where we should move.

    There's always staying in our apartment for another 2-3 years.  It would be nice to save up money to by a house big enough for Dinobaby and any brothers or sisters who might come along (after we get the heck out of this apartment.  Two babies under two in 1092 sq. ft?  NO SIR.).  The only thing is, little Dino is already so close to walking that I'm afraid this place won't be able to hold him too much longer.

    A couple of weeks ago, an idea popped into my head about an older property that a friend of ours is trying to sell.  It was built in the late 1970s and it smells like nicotine from the chain smoker who lived there over 5 years ago.  At the same time, it has four big bedrooms, a playroom big enough for our huge baby, and a backyard that's probably big enough to graze a cow.  Plus it has a big stone griffin in the backyard, smiling out from under some vegetation like he's waiting for the right time to fly away.  A griffin, people!

    Because of the smoke smell we would likely need to 1.) rip out and replace the carpet, 2.) paint all of the walls to seal in the smell & the nicotine -- I can just imagine Dinobaby licking the walls now -- or, 3.) replace the carpets AND paint in the entire house.  It's making me freak out a little bit.  Who knew that prefinished flooring was $4 per square foot?!  I certainly didn't.  I'm ignorant about a lot of things, but dang.  Why is everything so expensive? 

    The house is cheap compared to almost all of the other houses in the area, but is the huge backyard worth all of the money it will take to make it a really nice house?  We weren't planning on getting a fixer-upper, but that's definitely what this house would be.  There aren't any huge problems that we know of (minus the smell), so there's nothing inherently wrong with it.  I just don't know if it's the right house for us, or if it just seems like the answer to my desperate oh-my-gosh-I-want-a-house-but-we-don't-have-tons-of-money train of thought.

    Advice?  St. Joseph, pray for us! :)

    Friday, July 9, 2010

    Dino Diaper

    Never in my life have I had such a vested interest in the p word.  That's right. . . poop.  It must be one of those unexpected but guaranteed aspects of motherhood.  After over a week of nothing but wet diapers, the Dinobaby FINALLY WENT!  Remember that scene from Jurassic Park?  It was something like that, but on a smaller scale and, very thankfully, inside a diaper.

    What's that you say?  That's disgusting?  Uh, you're tellin' me!  You're welcome for the visual aid.  If any anything, be thankful that it could remind you of Jeff Goldblum who is oddly attractive as Dr. Malcolm.

    Strangely, I think that my child finally pooping is the highlight of my week.  Seeing him in any form of discomfort is terrible, but I was starting to worry that it might lead to a trip to the doctor or hospital for more uh, invasive? procedures.  As completely weird and icky as the process was to actually get him to go, I'm glad that we're not taking him to the hospital for anything serious.  I won't describe any of the yucky stuff, but know that it was weeeeird.  But necessary.  But weird.  Good thing we can avoid this situation in the future with better baby nutrition.

    Remember the P foods!  Peaches, pears, prunes, aPricots, and peas.

    To celebrate his new freedom, Dinobaby's screeching like a pterodactyl and attempting to rip down our vertical blinds and/or break his father's Guitar Hero instruments.  Sigh.

    Bread Machine!

    It arrived!  The bread machine.  My theory is that I'll be able to quickly and easily make sandwich bread instead of buying store bought, saving us money in the long run and allowing me to make more nutritious bread with ingredients that I can control.  We'll see how all of that works out.

    In the meantime, I'm anxiously awaiting a huge order from King Arthur Flour.  Organic whole wheat flour, baking powder that doesn't contain aluminum, yeast, granular lecithin (to increase the bread's shelf life a bit), vital wheat gluten.  For some reason I always think "viral wheat gluten" in my head.  Thankfully I haven't actually said it aloud when trying to talk to someone like I know about the intricacies of baking bread. 

    The truth is that I've only attempted breadmaking a handful of times, to very mixed results.  The dough wouldn't rise enough, or else rose too much and then deflated.  Or it was chewy, or too dense.  I've had much better luck with sweeter loaf breads like banana or pumpkin.  (Oooh, pumpkin bread.  Mmmm.) Hopefully the bread machine will take out some of the guessing, especially because I'll be following a recipe from Marilyn Shannon's book Fertility, Cycles & Nutrition.

    Honestly, I never understood the point of bread makers when I was younger.  Where's the fun in just dumping stuff into a pot and not getting your hands dirty?  I'm still sure that baking "real" bread actually is more fun, but I've come to realize that anything that I can dump ingredients into and then find ready-to-eat food in a couple of hours later is definitely my friend.  Slow cooker, I brought you a buddy!

    Thursday, July 8, 2010

    Five Years Ago . . .

    "Five years from now, is it really going to matter?"  "In five years, you probably won't even care what these people think."  "Where do you want to be five years from now?"

    It seems like I've heard these questions pretty frequently, but does anyone actually recall the situations that prompted them when they actually are five years down the road?  I can understand that most friends and parents and advisors have a person's best interest at heart when they ask questions about the future.  Put things in perspective, look at the big picture.  Move on quickly, or try not to let it hurt your feelings, whatever the case may be.  Still, I wonder how often things are radically different for those people after five years, or how very much the same.

    In pondering over all of this last night (both guys were peacefully sleeping -- the larger one snoring and the little one sprawled out more than you would think humanly possible for someone so small), I realized that, five years ago:
    • I was living roughly 1,700 miles from my current home.
    • I was living with five roommates, three of whom I haven't spoken with in at least three years.
    • I was happily pursuing a degree in philosophy. (This was before I was unhappily pursing a degree in philosophy, and then in love with my English major.)
    • I was in an unhealthy relationship.
    • I wasn't licensed to drive!  It's sad, but true.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the excuse of being too young for a license either.
    • I was unaware of my husband's existence, at least in the particular sense.
    • I used to cry thinking about the possibility that I would never have a child because of endometriosis.

    My, how the tides have turned!

    Where were you five years ago?

    Agua de Piña (Pineapple Water Cooler)

    One of the benefits of living in Texas is the abundance of Mexican food.  It wasn't until a few years ago, however, that I was introduced to aguas frescas.  Aguas frescas are sweet, refreshing drinks made with fresh fruit and chilled water.  It's very likely that you won't find them at your typical Tex-Mex place, but they pair wonderfully with cheap, delicious taqueria tacos and quesadillas.

    My undying love for aguas frescas seems to oscillate between two particular flavors: pineapple, or agua de piña, and limonada, sweet and sour Mexican limeade.  Last week I had an organic pineapple in my possession and I decided that it was finally time to make my own agua de piña.  The results were fantastic!

    (I've been trying to wean myself off of overly sugary things lately and, in my own weird logic, I concluded that making agua de piña would end up containing less sugar than if I made my own limonada.  Who knows if this was correct, but my pineapple water was worth the blood sugar spike!)

     Agua de Piña (Pineapple Water Cooler)
    • 1 whole small ripe pineapple
    • 6 cups cold water, plus additional water for blending
    • ¾ cups white sugar (You'll need between 2 Tablespoons and 3/4 cups, depending on how sweet/tart the pineapple is)
    1. Prepare the pineapple by removing the rind and eyes and cut it into sections. Remove the tough core, chew on it to your heart’s content, or discard. Cut pineapple into chunks. My smallish pineapple yielded about 4 cups of chopped fruit.
    2. In a blender, add pineapple chunks and just enough water to blend smoothly, about 1/4 cups water for each cup of fruit. Blend until the fruit is smooth, frothy, and light yellow in color.
    3. Place a fine-meshed sieve over a pitcher and strain the pineapple blend, stirring gently to help the liquid pass through the sieve. Once you have strained all of the pineapple liquids into the pitcher, discard the foamy pulp left in the strainer and skim off and discard any foam floating in the pitcher.
    4. Add six cups of cold water to the pitcher and stir well. Add between 2 Tablespoons and 3/4 cups of white sugar to sweeten the mixture, depending on the tartness/sweetness of your pineapple and your taste. For my pineapple, I used a scant 1/4 cup of sugar. The drink should be sweet in a natural fruit kind of way, not in a Kool-Aid kind of way!
    5. Chill in the refrigerator until very cold. Mix well just before serving and serve over ice.

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Beauty Products I Could Live Without, But Wouldn't Want To

    Since the birth of the little one, it seems like my outlet for treating myself generally falls into two categories: gourmet chocolates or beauty products.  I'll save the chocolate for another post or two (or twelve, if it means I can "research" the subject a little more!), but today I'll give you a glimpse at my favorite beauty products.  

    Here are some of my top beauty must-haves:
    I stash these babies all over the place -- in the diaper bag, in a drawer in each bathroom, next to the couch.  If it weren't guaranteed to be liquefied after 5 minutes, I'm sure I'd keep one in my car too.  This happy little yellow tube contains Burt's Bees' original 100% natural lip balm infused with just the right amount of tingly peppermint oil.  I believe the peppermint oil has something to do with my addiction to this stuff -- it smells great and gives you a little lift, plus it's super handy if you're out of the house and far from a toothbrush after a meal.

    I first tried bareMinerals a couple of years ago during my search for wedding makeup.  While it's a little time intensive for me if you go through each step/product they recommend, I love the look and feel of their makeup and when I do have the time to apply everything, it looks better than any other makeup I've tried.  'Warmth' is a cinnamon colored bronzing powder that swirls on just enough color to your cheekbones and forehead to give you a healthy glow.  It's what I turn to when I need to remedy the death-warmed-over look and before running out the door with no time for other makeup.

    Designed for hair that "acts bored," this shampoo has become a weekly favorite of mine.  During my college days, I was spoiled by soft Pacific Northwest water that left my hair shiny and light.  Fast forward to the present and Houston's hard water has done a number on my once-shiny hair.  Thankfully, No Deposit® once a week or so gets rid of the dull, heavy feeling that I've experienced since coming back to Texas and puts some lightness and bounce back into my hair.    

    • Buxom Buxom Lips in Dolly
      • Created by the same people who began Bare Escentuals, Buxom is an off-shoot that produces some of the best lip gloss I've found.  The packaging is slightly scandalous (cartoon women in fishnets and undies) so I'll leave out a photo, but the product itself is a winner.  With a sheer but lasting amount of color and a delectable coffee/peppermint scent, Buxom Lips is creamy without being sticky.