Monday, February 28, 2011

Phil



In grad school, we learned about the Diffusion of Innovations theory. I would consider myself an early or late majority person with technology. I definitely do not adopt technology early on. I had a brick cell phone up until last year.

That said, I really wanted an Ipad. Although I think Iphones are cool, I never really wanted one too badly on account of the small screen. Why would I want to surf the web, watch a movie or read a book on that tiny thing?

My FIL has an Itouch. After playing mah jong tiles on it all summer, I really wanted an Itouch. But again, the small screen turned me off.

Then came the Ipad. It was sort of like an Itouch or an Iphone BUT WITH A BIGGER SCREEN.

But did I really NEED an Ipad?

No.

But I still WANTED one.

I had thought for a couple of days that Nate was getting me an Ipad for my birthday. I must have been talking about one a lot because about a week before the day, he said, "Honey, I did not buy you an Ipad for your birthday. If you want an Ipad, go buy one."

Yes, I wanted an Ipad. But I also am cheap. Since I didn't need one, I couldn't really rationalize spending money on one.

Then, my mom's BF's friend who is definitely an "Innovator" and Mac-junkie was looking to sell his Ipad since he wants to buy the new Ipad. Oooh...tempting.

All day Saturday I agonized over whether I should buy it. Nate kept telling me to buy it - "You have birthday money to spend and you should spend it on something you wouldn't buy yourself." This is true - anytime I get money for birthday or Christmas, we always just put it into savings.

I went through demos, I read articles for and against (Thanks SB). It turns out that Ipads aren't really devices anyone NEEDS. That's what makes them fun.

I decided to buy it.

I called my mom to notify her that she would be coming back to CA with an Ipad on board. 15 more days until my new toy arrives!

And now Nate calls me Phil (after Phil Dunphy from Modern Family - who REALLY wanted (and received) an Ipad for his birthday).

Cleaning out the Freezer

I have amassed quite the stockpile of frozen breastmilk. It is driving my husband crazy. Like many a first-time mom, I was nervous that my milk supply would plummet upon going back to work, so I pumped throughout my maternity leave to build a freezer supply. I went back to work and noticed no change in my supply. The chest freezer quickly filled up. We give Maggie one bottle/day from the frozen stash to try to rotate it through but given that we also freeze the equivalent of 1-2 bottles/day, we are not making any dents. (While frozen milk is not "bad" per se, fresh milk retains the most nutrients and immunity so we give her fresh milk in the majority of her bottles.) And unfortunately, we are running on a time crunch and running the risk of part of the frozen stash going bad. At this point, I feel comfortable saying that we will NEVER use the stash I have amassed. I will also admit to my husband (and now you, dear readers) that I was a TINY bit neurotic about the breastmilk supply thing. Oh well, I still would rather have an oversupply than an undersupply!

A co-worker, S, who had a baby in December also has a chest freezer full. She looked into donating to a milk bank, but apparently it is quite a process, requiring doctor visits and several blood samples (and rightfully so). She has just been pumping and dumping.

It makes me physically ill to think about throwing part of my stash away, knowing the time/energy I put into pumping it, and knowing how there are moms out there who really want to give their baby breastmilk, but can't for one reason or another. The good Catholic in me just knows that throwing it away is a recipe for GUILT.

I heard a story on NPR about moms using Facebook to donate/receive breastmilk (read it here). My sister suggested I use my stash to make ice cream to sell for Maggie's college education after hearing about a shop in London doing that exact same thing (read the story here). (She was kidding, BTW).

Then a colleague told me that she and her partner were adopting another baby. S thought maybe she would be interested in breastmilk. I was a little nervous about throwing this idea out there, but I decided to go for it. The email began, "You might think I am a huge weirdo for offering this but..."

It turns out she did not think I was a weirdo. She was EXCITED. Apparently they tried scoring some breastmilk for the first baby they adopted and it did not work out. I didn't pry, but the NPR story referenced above did mention that breastmilk from milk banks can cost up to $3.50 per ounce!

I called Nate-O to tell him and he was pumped. The chest freezer will be cleaned out! Milk management duty begins tonight!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sitting Up

Maggie is still on her rolling strike. She shows absolutely no interest in rolling over. I picture her saying "Mom, I did it once. You checked it off the doctor's list. Now can we please MOVE ON?!"

So she rolled a few times from her back to her stomach and never did it again.
She has NEVER rolled from her stomach to her back.

We kept getting the email newsletters - "gee, your baby is probably rolling all over the place". Uh..no. Not really!

BUT FINALLY! We can say, YES! to one of those annoying email milestone newsletters!

OUR BABY CAN SIT UP and she NAILS IT.






It must be that 6-pack she has...ha ha ha.

Yoga Progress

One of my goals for 2011 is to get back into doing yoga. I have taken some steps towards this goal.

1) My sister and I purchased a groupon for Riverwest Yogashala. We haven't gone yet but have to start a class by August.

2) I purchased the Shiva Rae Daily Energy Yoga DVD upon recommendation by JW. Shiva upgraded her production team since filming her pregnancy yoga DVD! I did the DVD once and it kicked my butt. I believe I stopped early. Oh well...practice practice!

3) Once upon a time CD loaned me the Parents Yoga for Baby DVD. I finally cracked it open last weekend. I don't think Maggie was a big fan of yoga. Some of the stuff she liked but others, not so much - she is not a fan of the "guppy" or "puppy" poses for sure. I will say after doing the digestive routine, she had 2 massive poopy diapers the next day. Coincidence??? ha ha ha I kind of wish this DVD incorporated more moves for the parents.

My aunt J also recommended the yoga show on Fit TV. Unfortunately, we that channel is not included in the package we have. I would trade 999 channels that we DO get for this one, but isn't that always the case?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Recipes for a Week

We have been knocking it out of the park with dinners lately so I thought I would share some recent favorites.

Orecchiette with Kale, Sausage and Beans
Source: America's Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers Winter 2010 edition

1 bunch kale, stemmed, leaves chopped
3 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed and meat crumbled
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt & pepper
1 pound orecchiette (or other pasta - we used medium shells)
1 (16 oz can) cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine kale and 2 cups water in large microwave safe bowl, cover, and microwave until leaves are tender, about 8-12 minutes. Transfer kale to colander and drain, pressing with spatula to release any extra liquid.

At same time, bring 4 quarts water to a boil to cook the pasta to al dente.

Heat 1 TB oil in large skillet over med-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add sausage and cook until no longer pink. Add wine and cook until reduced by half (2-3 mins).

Drain pasta and reserve 1 cup cooking water. Return pasta to pot and stir in sausage mixture, kale, beans and 1 cup cooking water. Simmer until ingredients are heated through.

Toss with remaining olive oil, top with parmesan and season with salt & pepper.

Chicken & Artichoke Paella
Source: America's Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers Winter 2010 edition

1 cup long grain rice
2 cups water
salt & pepper
2 TB veg oil
8 oz chorizo sausage cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut crosswise into 1/4 in-thick pieces
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp saffron threads, crumbled
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 (9 oz) box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1/2 cup frozen peas

Combine rice, 1 1/2 cups water, and 3/4 tsp salt in microwave safe bowl. Cover and microwave until rice is softened and most of liquid is absorbed, 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 TB oil in large nonstick skillet over medium high heat until just smoking. Add chorizo and cook until lightly browed, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to plate. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt & pepper. cook chicken until lightly browed and no longer pink, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to plate with chorizo.

Add onion and remaining oil to skillet and cook until softened. Stir in garlic and saffron and cook until fragrant. Stir in tomatoes, rice, and remaining water, bring to boil scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat to medium and cook until rice is tender and liquid absorbed.

Stir in chorizo, chicken, artichokes, and peas and cook, stirring frequently, until hot. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Steak with Soy-Butter Sauce & Broccoli Slaw
Source: America's Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers Winter 2010 edition

1 1/2 cups frozen edamame, shelled
1 TB grated fresh ginger
1 TB grated zest and 1/4 cup juice from 1 orange
2 TB rice vinegar
5 TB soy sauce
2 TB toasted sesame oil
1 10-oz package broccoli slaw
Salt & pepper
3 strip steaks (10-12 oz each) about 1 in thick
2 tsp veg oil
4 TB unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and chilled

Place edamame in microwave-safe bowl, cover, and microwave until tender, 4-6 mins. Cool 5 mins. Whisk ginger, orange zest, orange juice, vinegar and soy sauce together in a bowl. Transfer 3 TB of mixture to separate bowl then whisk in seasame oil. Add broccoli slaw and edamame to bowl and toss with dressing. Season with salt & pepper.

Meanwhile, pat steaks dry with paper towels and season with salt & pepper. Heat oil in large skillet over med high heat until just smoking. Cook steaks until well browned and cooked to desired doneness. Transfer to cutting board and tent with foil. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Add remaining orange-soy mixture to skillet and cook until slighlty thickened, 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in butter, 1 piece at a time. Slice steaks thin, drizzle with sauce and serve with slaw.

Skillet Orzo and Shrimp with Feta Cheese
Source: America's Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers Winter 2010 edition

1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (we used a lb of frozen raw shrimp)
3 TB extra virgin olive oil
3 TB ouzo (we used white wine instead - see note below)
5 garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups orzo
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 TB chopped fresh dill

Position oven rack about 5 inches from heating element and heat broiler. Toss shrimp, 1 TB oil, 1 TB ouzo, 1 garlic clove, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp black pepper in bowl.

Heat remaining oil in large ovensafe skillet over med-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened. Add remaining galric and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant. Add orzo and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add remaining ouzo and cook until evaporated. Stir in tomatoes and water adn cook until liquid is absorbed and orzo is al dente. Season with salt and pepper.

Scatter shrimp and cheese over orzo. Transfer skillet to oven and broil until shrimp are cooked and cheese is melted, 4-6 mins. Sprinkle with dill and serve.

**ATK note about Ouzo: If you do not have Ouzo in your cupboard, the French anise-flavored liqueur known as Pernod will work. You can also substitute 1 TB vodka plus a large pinch of anise seeds for the ouzo in the marinade, and 2 TB vodka plus 1/4 tsp anise seeds for the ouzo in the sauce. Note that because of the whole anise seeds, some bites of this dish will be more anise-packed than others. We did not have ouzo or anise so we just used white wine :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

30th Birthday!

We started celebrating my birthday yesterday afternoon. Nate, while reading this blog, found out that my birthday cake growing up was angel food so he made me one from scratch. 12 egg whites! It was so so good. Of course we HAD to have a blue moon to get a bottle to cool it:


He then made this blackberry sauce with fresh whipped cream:

Even Maggie wanted in on the birthday cake action:


Then I went to get Maggie up from her nap and found a dozen roses on her changing table - sneaky girl!

I think she was partial to the crinkly cellophane.

Today, I was up to celebrate my actual birth time: 5:27 AM. It was one of those mornings where both eye cream AND concealer were necessary - I thought this was an appropriate start to my 3rd decade, ha ha ha. I spent most of my day working. Two of my coworkers decorated my office with black paper and a walker and a high rise toilet seat! It was hilarious. My boss made me another loaf of his famous bread (with olives!) and a coworker gave me a family size bag of crunchy cheetos (guilty pleasure). So for a work day, it was pretty fun!

I got home and Nate made dinner and there was another present!


I might be biased, but I think she looks pretty cute in gold ribbon:


I opened the gold box and found a new watch!!! My current (now former!) watch was the first present Nate ever gave me - over 8 years ago. It is really scratched and beaten up. I had ripped out this Seiko ad in a recent issue of Lucky magazine and was going to look into it. Then I just kept forgetting. Well, lo and behold, Nate got me that watch:

Maggie approves of my new bling:


I had thought that all the presents were over at this point, but Maggie has a way of rising to special occasions with a blowout diaper. Welcome back to the real world!! :)

1981!

One of my favorite birthday presents so far was a time capsule back to 1981 from CD.
She sent a CD "Billboard Top Hits of 1981", a book from the NY Times bestseller list circa 1981 (Noble House by James Clavell), the best picture of 1981 on DVD (Chariots of Fire) and the issue of Rolling Stone from the week of my birthday in 1981. The Police are on the cover. Oh Sting...

Oh Rolling Stone. I'm not sure she even knew about the love affair I had with that magazine growing up. I subscribed to it faithfully for my high school, college and graduate school career. Read it cover to cover and then digested it with my BF, CP. I saved BOXES of old issues - "My kids will totally love me for this someday". I cut up issues and taped them all over my bedroom closet doors. I would go so far as to say I followed the music recommendations and politics in there blindly. Some people have the Bible, I had Rolling Stone magazine, ha ha ha.

I no longer subscribe to the magazine. Too many unread issues and years later, I stopped renewing my subscription. When I had to clean out my stuff from the home I had growing up, the boxes of old issues got recycled so that I didn't have to move them from place to place. So, when I opened the time capsule, it was fun to see the issue there.

So thanks CD for the great trip down memory lane. Now if I could only get "Let's Get Physical" by Olivia Newton John out of my head...

BACCHUS!

In short, it was fantastic.

In long, here goes:

We arrived for our 7:45 reservation and started with a glass of wine. I had the Malbec and he had the Cabernet. We started with the marinated olives and the Wisconsin Rarebit. The olives were great, although it doesn't take much to impress me with olives. The rarebit was AHMAZING. Seriously we thought about licking the cheese sauce from the plate (but refrained).

On to the main course. Nate had the flank steak and I had the braised short ribs with sweet potato mash and brussels sprouts. I thought the sprouts were a little on the salty side but the meat was to die for. We attempted making short ribs once. Ours did NOT taste like this.

For dessert, we had the Raspberry Millefeuille and the Les Freres cheese. I think dessert was my favorite course. The millefeuille was a really light yummy dessert and the homemade sorbet with it was excellent. I had wanted to do a cheese with either the small plates or the dessert course. I am so glad we went with the dessert course. We asked our server for her suggestion of a cheese and she recommended Les Freres. It came on a slate slab with blackberry jam, the most divine honey I have ever eaten, and assorted crackers and sourdough bread.

AHHHH! I almost asked Nate to stop at Whole Foods on the way home to buy a slab of the cheese. It was delicious and Wisconsin grown :) It was the perfect compliment to the dessert.

When I asked the server again what the cheese was, she actually gave me this book/guide to Wisconsin cheeses where it was listed!

All in all it was a great dinner. The restaurant was bigger than we thought it would be and both of our servers were perfect - knowledgable but not at all pretentious (I HATE snobby waiters).

We discussed our favorite meals at dinner and it was fun to remember all of the great food we have eaten. Nate had a lot that I had completely forgotten about. We always like to rank our dining experiences, particularly in regard to MKE - our own "MKE's best dining" if you will. We decided that while dinner was GREAT, it did not beat our experience at Sanford for best meal in MKE. I don't think that meal ever made it to the blog (besides for this mention) but it still remains in the top five meals of my life and the best meal I have had in MKE restaurants. Nate also agreed that Sanford topped Bacchus. The main difference between the two restaurants, in our opinion, was atmosphere. When I went to Sanford, I felt special. It was super intimate and I felt like I was going to someone's house for a really excellent meal. Dinner took almost 3 hours but it didn't seem like it. They had little special things throughout the meal (e.g. the amuse bouche). Bacchus was a bit louder and showier. It didn't suprise me that Sanford made Cream City & Sugar's top five list of MKE restaurants for Valentine's Day and that Bacchus did not.

After dinner we headed to the top of the Pfister to Blu for a cocktail. I had never been here but my sister is a cocktail waitress so we went more to say hi to her...and get a Savior Faire Martini :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Date Night!

Tonight Nate and I are going on our first date since Maggie's arrival (if you don't count our office holiday parties, which I do not). Yes. I know she is almost 6 months old. A woman in my book club has a baby one month older than Maggie and she and her husband have gone on not one but TWO vacations ALONE since the arrival of their baby. We're a little slow on the uptake (nor do I feel like I want to leave Mags anymore than I have to, but working mom guilt is another topic for another day).

We are headed to Bacchus. This restaurant was on our list for a while and then it got bumped up when Anthony Bourdain went there on his Heartland episode. It got bumped up even further when AH & CD mailed us a gift card for there. We were planning on maybe going there to celebrate our wedding anniversary, but plans got bumped again when my bump decided to arrive on that day.

So tonight...BACCHUS!

I have high expectations. I realize this could come back to bite me but oh well. I read this review on Eating Milwaukee and got even more excited. "I think we NEED to get the cheese platter" was my comment to Nate.

I had great plans of getting all dressed up. Today was a hair washing day.

And then my phone alarm did not go off and I woke up 30 minutes late and Maggie woke up right on time. I barely had time to wash my body, much less my hair so that I could feed her and get to the office on time (made it with a minute to spare). I likely won't have time to wash it before dinner either because of course I signed up to be the food deliverer of a coworker that had a baby.

I do have to say that for some reason my hair still looks good - it defintely could pass for day 2 hair. At least that is what I'm telling myself.

Oh well. Sign me (and my unwashed hair) for the mom club.

I WILL wear lipstick though.

We are going on a date!

Birthday Countdown: 3 More Days!

This post is not dedicated to one birthday in particular but rather my collective memory of birthdays growing up celebrating with my family. I was going through this pile of old pictures last night and noticed a theme with the birthday pictures from my family birthday celebrations: they all feature an angel food cake (yum! my fave!), they all have either spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna as the meal, and in later years, the classic homemade sign.

Our mom let us pick the meal and cake on our day every year. My siblings HATED my birthday because no one liked Angel Food cake. BUT OH I LOVED IT. (My brother usually had ho-ho cake, my dad chocolate cake with white frosting and my sister, cheesecake in her later years.) I also to this day love lasagna and spaghetti and meatballs, which was my birthday meal.

Obviously, I don't remember this birthday but do think this was a sweet Smurf cake for my 2nd birthday:


Here is my 10th birthday with the Angel Food Cake (and my chia pet permed hair) displayed prominently:

(P.S. I think Maggie sort of resembles my sis in this pic!)

My 18th birthday. Note my brother PICKING at the cake!


And the best birthday sign ever - made by my sister when i was away at college for the ever important 21st birthday. Check out those bubble letters -


After dinner and cake, we would open our presents and then try to escape my dad who would catch us and line the family up for birthday spankings. Everyone got to give you as many spankings as how old you were (e.g. 10 spankings for your 10th birthday). UGH. I hated this tradition on my own birthday but thought it was fun on everyone ELSE's birthday. And we caught on quick - no one was really mean because you remembered who the hard spankers were. What goes around comes around at birthday time!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Another Birthday Memory: 4 more days!

The next birthday memory I am sharing was my 23rd birthday.

Nate and I were living in Atlanta at the time and I thought it would be so fun to have an 80's themed birthday party and go bowling and sing karaoke.

Apparently, my friends all did too.

Yes - I got my friends to dress up in their finest 80s gear and GO OUT IN PUBLIC wearing this:



EVEN BETTER - My square boyfriend (now husband) dressed up - no questions asked (I assumed he would pass). It was at this moment that I knew he loved me:


Everyone met at our apartment, I passed out my homemade soundtrack to the 80s and we headed to International Bowl. Sadly, I tried googling this and discovered that this gem of a place is now closed. After some bowling (and beer!), we headed to our own private karaoke room. I distinctly remember singing (screaming?) "Hang on Sloopy".

Several of my readers are featured in these photos. Thanks for such a fun birthday ladies!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Birthday Countdown: 5 Days!

This post is dedicated to my 17th birthday...I think. This is terrible that this was one of my best birthday memories, but I can't remember what year it was!

ANYWAYS. My birthday fell on a day that I had a basketball game. After the basketball game, my friends were all talking about what they were doing after the game. I asked my parents if I could go out and they replied, "No. You are tired, you've had a long week, blah blah". I was not happy. "It's my birthday", I pouted.

No sympathy. And my friends didn't really have any sympathy either. I drove home POed.

I got home and my dad asked me to go down to the freezer to get a frozen pizza for dinner. Our freezer was located in the basement and on the way down there you went into our rec room. I started screaming "Sure. I'll go get your pizza because it's MY birthday and you are too lazy to get your own pizza." (Told you i was pouting).

I got to the rec room and all of a sudden...

"SURPRISE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1"

There were my girlfriends. With cake, presents and sleeping bags.

Oh my goodness it was one of the best surprises ever because I HAD BEEN HAD! I had no idea.

The worst parents in the world suddenly became the best parents in the world. :)

Intro to Baby Food

We think Maggie is catching on to the whole solid food thing. Each night she gets progressively better at eating. The hardest thing we have to deal with is that she really likes grabbing onto the spoon and bringing it to her mouth. Yes, this is great - she is showing interest, working on motor skills, blah blah. The bad thing is that the food of the night gets everywhere BUT her mouth with the 5-month-old-feeding-herself method:


We have had pretty good success with the food we have tried so far. We started with rice cereal for 3 days. Our doctor (and most things I've read) recommended waiting 3-5 days to start a new food to make sure your kiddo doesn't have an allergic reaction. After 3 days of the rice cereal, we tried avocado. I didn't put the avocado through the food processor - I just mashed it with a fork. In hindsight, I should have sent it through the processor. I think the rough texture was too much and Maggie was not a fan. Once we mixed it with some rice cereal and milk she ate it but still was kind of like, "WHAT was that?" I didn't follow the 3-5 day rule with the avocado simply because I only had one avocado and the next day it was already brown and I didn't want to give it to her then. Anyone have any recommendations about making the avocado last more than one day? We usually put lemon or lime juice on it to preserve it but I didn't know if that was bad to give her due to the high acidity of the juice.

Anyway, after one day of avocado we went straight to peas. She liked the peas - and ate them without having to mix with cereal. After peas, we were onto pears. Day one of pears did not go so well. She made a weird (re: hilarious) face and I definitely had to mix with the cereal. Immediately after eating, she threw up most of the mix on the kitchen floor (and the table, and the chair...) On Day 2, she gobbled up the pears without cereal and no puking. The only thing I can think of was on Day 1 the pears were straight from the fridge and on Day 2 they were at room temp.

We have been making our own baby food. This is quite the craze in the baby world - they have baby food makers, baby cookbooks, etc. - which I don't entirely understand what the big deal is. You steam some food and mash it. Our own moms (and their moms before them) probably did this all without a fancy cookbook or baby food maker. That said, I think the cookbooks are kind of fun to read and they do give some good ideas of foods that I maybe wouldn't have thought of on my own. I do not have one of those baby food makers (e.g. Beaba) because a)I already have an awesome food processor and b) I didn't want yet another appliance in my kitchen. We do have the Beaba (and other brands) silicone freezer trays which several people gave us for gifts and ARE nice.

I had thought it might be time consuming to make the food but that hasn't been the case. We have been just giving her fruits and vegetables that we already have in th house so I think it is actually more convenient to make the food than to buy the jars. One of us usually throws the food in the steamer basket on the stove while making dinner and then after a few minutes we toss it in the food processor. I would imagine that on nights that we have straight vegetables for dinner, we'll just throw some extra in for Maggie. Voila. I was really surprised how far a little bit of food goes. We made maybe 1/2 cup of frozen peas and that ended up being about 5 meals! Two pears made 11 1 oz servings. (I know this because the baby food freezer tray holds 1 oz portions.) Further proving baby food in a jar is a rip off. We have been keeping three servings in the fridge and freezing the rest.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cooking with Magster: Chunky Banana Nut Bran Muffins


I think the Magster is getting a tooth. She has been more cranky the past day and a half which is just not like her. Yesterday I made muffins with her (in the Baby Bjorn) to distract her. It totally worked. She loved all the activity. We also managed to not have her dip her hand in the mixer bowl with the mixer running, which for some reason was all that she wanted to do.

We made the Barefoot Contessa's Chunky Banana Nut Bran Muffins. I like to pretend I am sitting in my awesome Hampton's house with cedar shingles eating these overlooking my garden with French-pressed coffee. In reality, I am sitting at my desk in the office, starving, looking at STATA analyses with a sore throat and sinus headache to boot.

Here is the recipe. These are very moist and tasty but beware! The recipe in this link says yields 12 muffines. It is half of the recipe that is provided in the Barefoot Contessa At Home cookbook I have of hers which says "yields 20-24 muffins". I wound up with 40 using standard muffin tins. Anyone want a bran muffin?

Image courtesy of http://hamptons.guestofaguest.com

Six Days!

Now that Valentine's Day is over, we can proceed with the countdown to a more important holiday...my birthday!! (I can just SEE the eye rolls by my family members after reading that sentence!)

There is no blow-out birthday bash to celebrate the big 3-0. We are trying to arrange for a date dinner out on Friday night. Fingers crossed that it happens.

I thought I would celebrate the countdown by recalling some of my more memorable birthdays.

Starting with 16.

My 16th birthday was intense. I was going to take my driver's test on the big day. What better way to celebrate turning 16 than by getting your driver's license?! How about failing your driver's test?

The day began like so many birthdays - with a heavy snowfall. School was cancelled at noon that day and my mom called the DMV to see if my driver's test would be cancelled. "Nope. We don't cancel them due to weather," was their response. Ok. I was on - I had told EVERYONE that I was taking my driver's test that day. A little bit of snow was not going to stop me.

I went through the test. Things got a little sloppy on my Y-turn but I made it. On the way back to the DMV, the light by the intersection of Pioneer and Military (by Fleet Farm) turned red. I stopped and was the first car in line. I was practically doing the dance of joy in my seat. My eyes were fixated on the light. It turned green and I went. As I was going through the intersection, an ambulance crested the hill coming the opposite way. I pulled through the intersection and pulled over. The ambulance passed and I proceeded to the DMV.

We parked and I was expecting the woman to say, "Congratulations and Happy Birthday".

She did not.

She proceeded to tell me that failing to stop for an ambulance was an automatic fail. I was confused as I thought I did pull over. Apparently I should have waited at the light and NOT gone through the intersection. SIGH. "But without the ambulance you would have passed." Big Sigh. BRING ON THE TEARS.

OH MAN. I did not get my license. I then had to tell all of my friends and anyone who asked (I did tell EVERYONE, remember) that I failed.

How humiliating.

Two weeks later, I passed the damn test. There were no ambulances in sight that day.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Testing out the Baby Jogger

It was almost 50 degrees here yesterday so I HAD to go for a run. Even better, I HAD to test out the baby jogger.

So we got Mags ready in her sports-related attire:


Including her baby Nikes -


Strapped her in -


And off we went -



We also lubed up her face with some vaseline and wrapped her in a fleece blanket. We did a 1.4 miles loop around our neighborhood and she loved it! Or at least I am interpreting her incessant chatter the whole time as loving it. I thought it was difficult. I was huffing and puffing for sure. The jogger glided very easy and I didn't really have to push it but I feel like it made me run faster than I normally would. I'm sure it takes some getting used to. Regardless, it was a great way to celebrate the beautiful day!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Like Sands Through the Hourglass..."


My sister continues to watch the Magster 3 out of the 4 days I work per week. This is a spin-off the summers I spent taking care of her when we were younger. She occasionally will call me with a funny reference to those summers and today was my favorite one yet.

One of our babysitters got me hooked on Days of our Lives. I was like 10 or 11. My mother did NOT think this was appropriate. The summer that I was 12 (making my sister 4), my mom let us stay home alone. My brother often ended up at my grandparents house on the farm so it was me and my sis. Alone. And do you know what we did from 12-1 every single day? That's right - watched days of our lives. I thought I was so sneaky. There was no way my mom was going to find out that we were watching this show. Until my sister started talking about Stefano and Marlena like they were her best buds. BUSTED!

So my sister calls me today, laughing. She went to her apartment to pick something up and had Maggie with her. The TV was on in the apartment (she has a roommate) and Amanda and Maggie were sitting on the couch talking to my sister's roommate when that old familar theme song came blasting from the TV. "Like sands through the hourglass...so are the Days of our Lives". She called me immediately. I told her that if Maggie starts telling me about the angst Marlena feels in choosing between John and Roman, I'm firing her as my nanny.

Maggie's Interests: 5 months

The "big" space-eating Monstrosity Toys
I have waxed on about how Maggie really loves her Exersaucer, so I will spare you more of that. Sadly, she is sort of outgrowing her activity mat and is starting to get bored with it. We have moved our swing upstairs because it lets her sit up and gives her a few other toy options. While she wasn't a big swing fan when she was a newborn, she really likes the swing now. I think this may be because of the model we have. We do not have one of those papasan swings (e.g. this)but one that was more like a bucket seat (e.g. this). I think this model of swing is probably nicer for her now that she can sit up and not slouch down in it. We moved her bouncy chair down by the laundry (where the swing was) because really she bottoms out on the thing and she doesn't seem as excited about it as she once did. Our bouncy chair has this monkey and toucan on it that play music when you hit them. She looks at me like, "Really, Mom? Haven't I proved to you that I know how to get this thing to play music? Enough already!" However, it will occupy her for the short time that I need to put wash in the washer or drier.

Small Toys
She is starting to get more and more into toys and things, which is good because we have a lot of them! In her current stage, most of her current favorites are chew-a-licious:

Lamaze Foot Bugs: We got these as a gift and since she finally discovered that she has two things called feet she LOVES them.

Sophie the Giraffe: We have two Sophies, both gifts, and good thing because I would hate to lose this. Pre-baby everyone was all like "Oh you HAVE to have Sophie" and now I know why. She is never too far away. As my friend MB commented "One squeak from Sophie is all that is needed to make [her daughter] smile".

Nuby teether: Besides Sophie, this is the only teether that Maggie likes out of the stash we received as gifts. Unfortunately, i was not able to find the exact one we have on Amazon, BRU or Target. It is very thin and not as bulky as most of the other teethers we have gotten.

Lots O' Links: One of the few toys we bought!!! I bought her these because I really liked them myself and I was sick of picking up some of her toys after she dropped them from her highchair and exersaucer. Turns out she LOVES chewing on these/playing with these more than the toy we attach them too. They are helpful for attaching things to pretty much everything: carseat, highchair, exersaucer, activity mat...

Sassy Ring Tone Rattle. SO SASSY. This is actually a rattle that she can pick up and operate herself, which is why I think she likes it. Many of the rattles she got are too heavy or require too wide a grip.

My aunt B gave her some of my cousin N & D's old toys. One of them in particular she loves - it is a small stuffed butterfly that has crinkly wings. The same crinkle effect that the Lamaze sock bugs have. What is it with babies and crinkles?!

Ocean Wonders Seahorse - I will admit that when we got this as a gift I thought this would be a toy reserved for when she got a bit older. It is pretty big and bulky - not something she could maneuver herself at this point. However, this thing is a trance - inducer. After dinner we play on a blanket in her room and we will move this thing pretending it is swimming and she will get in the most hilarious, neck wrenching positions to try to follow it with her eyes. I thought it was also cute that when the Pachelbel Canon came on (it plays classical music) Nate told Maggie, "This was in mommy and daddy's wedding." AWWWWW. :)

Angel Dear Lovey - Things are looking good in this department. We gave her this out of the toy basket last night and she loved it (i.e. would not stop grabbing it and putting it in her mouth). These things are really really amazingly soft. She has the duck.

Books
And then there are the books. Maggie still enjoys being read to. (And yes, I am doing everything in my power to encourage her to become a nerd-awesome reader dork like me). We read her several books before going to bed at night and I read her books before many of her naps when I am home with her as well. She still likes (no, LOVES) Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You - and will laugh at the sounds. Recently, we also discovered her joy in Night-Night Little Pookie, because in the beginning we will say the Poooooooookie in a high pitched squealy voice and draw it out until she laughs. Nate already brought out Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever and we started reading Snowballs to her after the "big blizzard". {BTW if you have kiddos that like snowmen, you should get Snowballs - it is a fun book with a recipe for POPCORN BALLS and she is a local WI author!!}

Music
Mags has always loved music. It doesn't matter the genre, although there are certain songs that people swear she has a reaction to. For me, I can get her giggling when we do this bouncy dance to Rhianna's Disturbia. She also likes Brooklyn, Brooklyn Take Me In by the Avett Brothers - perhaps it is because when i sing it to her, I promise her a trip to NYC someday :) My sister swears by Michael Jackson and My FIL swears by Louis Armstrong. I have let her bang around on the piano as well, which she seems to like. With those fingers, the girl is a natural!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Grow Baby Grow!

I sometimes cannot believe how fast Maggie has grown.

Week 1 in the Baby Bjorn:


versus

Week 21 in the Baby Bjorn:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

5 Months Old!

Well we squeezed these in tonight!

Maggie with Mickey: 5 Months!


Maggie on her Quilt: 5 Months!



You can see Maggie Month-by-Month in this album.

DAM!

At the conclusion of our last house related project (the bathroom), we proclaimed ourselves done with remodeling for a while. We were going to have a baby and enjoy our house (re: lay around it and do nothing).

I am glad we did all of our remodeling projects right away because it seems that 2011is headed down the SH** hit the fan route with the house.

First, there was the night that the furnace died. $3500 later we had a new furnace.

Now, we have an ice dam on our roof that caused some water runoff into our dining room window, ruining our insulation. I still don't really know what an ice dam is so i wikipedia'ed it. I'm pretty sure ours was not caused by a glacier (although reading that made me laugh). "Under extreme conditions, with heavy snow and severe cold, almost any house can have an ice dam..." I would say that the "big blizzard" could be filed "under extreme conditions". Lucky Nate got to use one of his Christmas presents (a ladder) to go chip away at the ice on the roof and put rock salt on it. For now we have to let the window dry out.

It is likely we will be getting a new roof this year as well. Like the furnace, this is something we knew we would have to do eventually. These types of home-related costs annoy me. Yes, I know maintenance is part of the home owner package but what is fun about maintenance? Nothing. Money spent on home maintenance and car repair are the two biggest snores, in my opinion.

Oh well. At least this way there will be more "home" posts in this blog suppossedly about a home makeover.

Monday, February 7, 2011

SOO BIG!

Tomorrow Maggie is officially five months old. CRAA-ZY. She has been on quite a growth spurt lately. We weighed her a week ago and she was 16 lbs - almost double her birthweight!

First, we had to raise up her exersaucer a level to accommodate her growing length. Since doing so she has quadrupled her love for this plastic heap. She will now spin herself at will and bounce up and down in it. She talks to the animals and chews on them like crazy.


She has been increasingly vocal as well these past few weeks. She will sit and "talk" to you and if there is a conversation going, she will make every effort to join in. Wonder where she got her chattiness from?!?

At her 4 month doctor appointment, our doctor had the talk about starting solids. Like everything with babies, there are differing opinions about solids. Just try reading the birth club message boards on Baby Center - I did this this morning and was AMAZED at what some kids were eating already! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months. Maggie's doctor said that she goes more by the individual kid and parents - that you can start solids anytime between 4 and 6 months depending on what signs your child gives you. She likes people to start by 6 months as she starts to see more kids fall off their growth curve at that time without solids. She recommended watching her and if she takes an interest in food, can sit up and you start noticing increased hunger to go for it. I really appreciated her advice which was more about what your child is ready for versus a hard and fast rule. She also said it is up to us what we start with in terms of foods. She said it is common to start with rice cereal because it is the least allergenic but that we didn't have to start with that. She said for the first few weeks/months, they do not get a whole ton of nutrition from food - you mostly are trying to get them used to eating from a spoon and adapting to new tastes and textures. Their primary nutrition still comes from breastmilk or formula for a while.

I had every intention of waiting until six months if I could, mostly for convenience. However, over the past week and a half, Maggie seemed bound and determined to show us that she was ready for food. She began eating more, eating more frequently and waking up earlier and earlier in the morning. We have had her sit with us at dinner for the past month and she will just stare at us eating and if we have her on our laps, she will reach out for whatever is on our plate. After spending part of one day last week with her basically attached to me all day eating and a few 4 AM feedings, I was starting to think of starting solids earlier and earlier (although the common thought of solids helping babies sleep through the night has basically been debunked). After discussing the topic with several friends, it seemed that most started their kiddos on solids between 5 and 6 months. This morning after another 4 AM feeding, we decided to take the plunge.

We decided to start with rice cereal at dinner time since she was already used to sitting in her high chair and "eating" at that time. To be honest, the only reason I started with the rice cereal is that we had a free box of it in our cupboard - go figure. If using the cereals, our doctor recommended mixing the cereal with breastmilk so that it was pretty runny. Maggie did pretty well with it. She didn't really make any faces and she seemed to like eating from a spoon. We had been giving her a spoon to chew on while we sat at the dinner table. We also think that since she has been taking a dropper of Vitamin D every day since birth that it helped with her tongue reflex. That's not to say that she swallowed ALL of the food. Thank goodness for bibs.

Following our doctor's advice, we will continue to try solids for the dinner meal for a few weeks. Eventually we will move to two meals of solids a day. It should be interesting! My BIL got us The Baby and Toddler Cookbook from Williams & Sonoma for Christmas and I have been glued to it. While I generally think that Maggie will just get pureed forms of whatever we are eating, I think it will be fun to make some of the stuff in here!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Maggie's First Contest


I have posted about Bebe Britches diapers before and am doing it again because I entered Maggie into a contest they are having on Facebook to win a free diaper. If you are on Facebook, you can help us out by "liking" her photos. The photo with the most "likes", wins.

1. Like Bebe Britches on Facebook.

2. Go to the February Bebe Britches Bum Contest album. Maggie's photos are #26-28.


The contest photos are of Maggie in her Bebe Britches diaper (contest rules) - the photos posted here have nothing to do with anything - I just thought they were cute and it's one of my favorite outfits she currently fits into :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A night with a 5 year old

Dear Readers - Taking care of an almost 5-month old baby is E-A-S-Y.

I have a new outlook on caring for a baby after watching both Maggie and my almost 5-year old niece, Toni, for less than 24 hours. And both of them were Dreamgirls. I don't know what would have happened if one or both had been naughty/in a bad mood!

I came home from work to find my niece bouncing off the walls and asking me a zillion questions. I got her settled with some paints while I fed Maggie and then the "When is Nate coming home" questions began because I told her we couldn't go swimming until he got home. As soon as he got home, we decided that Kraft Macaroni and Cheese was going to be our dinner.

After we had our fill of processed cheese pasta, we loaded the girls into the car and headed to the Y. Turns out Maggie LOVES the swimming pool! (It doesn't hurt that they keep the kiddie pool extremely warm...or maybe there is another reason that pool is so warm?!) There also was another little girl there that had a zillion barbie dolls and who was looking for a playmate. She and T were BFF after about 30 seconds.

After swimming we showered at the Y and got into our PJs and went home. I managed to talk T out of sleeping on Maggie's floor. Then it was books for Maggie, books for Toni and bedtime. Nate also made S'mores on our gas stove with T that were ah-mazing. Everyone got to stay up a little later than usual.

This morning we were up early making pancakes and drawing a bunch of pictures because "I'm an artist" which is what Toni kept telling us. A tree frog, horse, rocket, caterpillar, cat and dog later, my sister picked T up to go skiing.

And I took a nap :)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Glasses For A Laugh

And speaking of glasses...



there is some definite silliness going on at our house right now!

Glasses for a Cause

I was recently telling a friend that I love the idea of wearing glasses, but when I wear them (instead of my contacts) during the day, I feel like they don't convey smart chic but rather oh she must be tired. I own 3 pairs of glasses - my most recent pair bought the last week of December to use up expiring Flex account money. (One pair probably doesn't count because they are an O-L-D prescription.) Every time I get new glasses, I think, I'm going to start wearing glasses more. And everytime, I just feel like I look tired when I wear them.

I just read about Warby Parker in Matchbook Magazine (which BTW, I am really enjoying, but wishing it were in print.) You can get a pair of uber chic glasses "boutique quality, vintage inspired" for $95. AND for every pair you buy, they donate a pair to someone in need. Awesome.

All you glasses wearers - check them out here.

And now I'm tempted to buy yet another pair of glasses.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Craft of the Month: January

One of my new year's resolutions was to make one thing per month. In January, I started to make a bag for my neighbor, K. K has two girls, aged 5 and 1, and has been very generous handing their things down to Maggie. We have gotten a swing, armfuls of clothes, diapers, and most recently, baby food. She never wants money for the stuff so I told her I would make her a bag. A "baby barter".

I made her a Birdie Sling. This is probably my tenth Birdie Sling. I almost could make these in my sleep. However, they are a useful carry-all and everyone that I have made one for loves them. K mentioned "black" when I asked her what color she wanted.

I made it black/grey on the outside...


...with some pink pizazz on the inside


I hope she likes it!

1 down, 11 to go!

The Big Blizzard

Well everyone had a snow day today. The drifts blocking our driveway were up to Nate's chest, but we had Maggie-sized ones by our door and sidewalk:

It took Nate 5 attempts, but he finally cleared the driveway...and then promptly came in and took some Advil. :)

Maggie and I decided to reward him by making Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies. She really seemed to enjoy it - I let her turn the mixer on and off - you can imagine how much flour went everywhere!


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ridin' on the Marrakesh Express

Menu planning has come to save our lives. (How's that for dramatic?!) The weekend before last was so crazy that we did not have time to go grocery shopping or plan what we were going to eat. Thus, last week's meals got a little...shall we say, creative? My MIL played personal chef one night and sent dinner home with my husband which was fantastic. So...lesson learned. It pays to have food in the house so I returned to menu planning this past weekend.

I actually really love menu planning. To some degree I did this pre-Maggie, although then it wasn't as much of a necessity then. I love pulling out all the cookbooks to look for a new recipe to bring into the rotation. I usually start by asking Nate, "Are you craving anything". I also try not to make two dishes from the same genre, e.g. two nights of pasta. I have a pretty extensive cookbook collection, but my "core" group consists of:

1. The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
2. Everyday Pasta
3. The Red Binder - My homemade "tried and true" cookbook consisting of recipes from the newspaper, magazines, internet, etc that we have made and liked
4. The Wedding Shower Binder - Everyone had to bring a recipe to my wedding shower and Nate's aunt assembled it into a cookbook. I also have put any recipes from friends and family members into this

I also really like the magazine Everyday Food for good, easy recipes (like the one below).

Generally we make 3-4 meals during the week and have leftovers, which I usually take for my lunch. Last night I made the following stew which made our house smell really yummy and was a perfect thing to eat to de-thaw my fingers after shoveling our driveway.

Marrakesh Stew From EVERYDAY FOOD Jan 2011 Issue
Serves 8 * Active time: 10 min. * Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients:
1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, diced large
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon allspice
4 large carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
3 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 small eggplants, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 can (15.5 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Served on top of cooked couscous or quinoa.

(1) In an 8-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 mins. Add spices, and cook until fragrant, 2 min. Add carrots, potatoes, and squash and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 5 mins. Add tomato and broth (vegs should be completely covered by liquid; add water/more broth to cover if necessary). Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 mins.

(2) Add eggplant, stir to combine, and simmer until eggplant is tender, 20 mins. Stir in chickpeas, season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook until chickpeas are warmed through.