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Eating my words: my new job description

So you know how before you have a kid you say, “oh, I’ll NEVER do that” and then after it’s all shot to shit? Well that happens after you have the baby too. Daily, sometimes. I swore up and down I wouldn’t cut bangs on Lillian because it would be so cute if she had long hair that was one length. Except then her hair was all in her face and any barrettes or clips I use run the risk of ending up lodged in her throat since everything ends up in her mouth sooner or later. So guess what?

Haircut!

Bangs!

I called in the professionals (Auntie Tracy) to trim her bangs so I didn’t botch it like I did her neck trim a couple of months ago. And it really is adorable and now she doesn’t have hair in her face all the time.

And then remember that whole sleep thing where I wasn’t going to let my kid cry? Er, well, what happens when they cry for three hours while you bounce, nurse, sing, cajole, and bargain with them, but only for about ten minutes if you leave them alone? We happened on option B kind of by accident. David was alone with her at bedtime a couple of weeks ago and NOTHING was working. So he took a breather and a few minutes later she was out. For nine hours. We had to keep checking that she was still breathing. So we kept at it for the next week or so and things improved incrementally. She hit a growth spurt right after that so she was up a lot during the night to nurse for a few days, but she was getting to sleep faster and easier.

Then we both got sick and that’s been all screwed for the last week. But she’s become an avid climber and scooter in the meantime and so we can’t leave her alone and awake in her co-sleeper which butts up against our bed, because she’ll crawl out of it and roll or lunge off the bed. So probably in the next few nights we’re going to make the big move – out of our bedroom and into the crib. There were a few days where I temporarily lost my mind and started to think that I wanted to co-sleep with her instead of moving her out of our room, but I got over it.

It basically came down to this: do I want a tired, cranky baby who doesn’t have to cry in her crib (even though she cries in the car and other times so who am I kidding?) or a well-rested baby who has a bit of a tantrum at night for a little while? Do I feel guilty? Well, yeah, but that’s pretty much a given. Like I said before this little reversal, there’s always someone to tell you you’re screwing your child up. But we tried all the Dr. Sears stuff and it just didn’t work. She needed to start learning how to put herself to sleep at night and nobody was going to get any sleep until we let her. Believe me, if what we were doing before was still working we would still be doing it. I’m a great believer in not fixing what isn’t broke, but this shit was broke.

Napping has been pretty much screwed since Lillian started her rapid approach on crawling. She’s just too busy and fired up to relax for very long. We get 2-3 half hour naps in if we’re luck now.

Enough about sleep. We’re also big on food right now. I’m still making most of Lillian’s food because I’m a big snob and I like to cook. Lillian likes butternut squash, peas, and avocado. She really hates apples so far, and is iffy on sweet potatoes and pears. I’ve got an acorn squash to cook this week, some carrots, and we might try chicken.

Today I was at a birthday party for my niece and I overheard a mom complaining to another that someone she’d seen feeding a baby at a McDonald’s should have given it french fries. Yeah, I kid you not. MCDONALD’S  FRENCH FRIES. More salt than anyone should be exposed to, let alone a baby, and God knows what else. Oh wait, I do:

French Fries:
Potatoes, vegetable oil (canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor [wheat and milk derivatives]*, citric acid [preservative]), dextrose, sodium acid
pyrophosphate (maintain color), salt.  Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to
preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.
CONTAINS: WHEAT AND MILK *(Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients).

Bleargh. And note they don’t list soy as an allergen even though it has soybean oil in it.

I’ve been a food snob for a long time, but since I’ve had to be really careful not to eat any dairy or soy it’s been impossible not to recognize how much crap is in most of our food. And I love junk food, I’m just finding I like local junk food with less actual junk in it a lot more. I like purity in my artery-clogging deep-fried food, thanks very much!

So that’s the latest. Lillian is crazy busy and active these days and keeps me on my toes. I’ll post video soon! Yay iPhone4!

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Six Freaking Months!

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Not a silly child at all.

Lillian is six months old! How the hell did that happen? Seriously.

She is so stinking cute. It hurts our brains, the cute. She’s in love with the dogs. I mean in looooooooooove with them. Persephone is not so sure about this. Loki is pretty into it. Pictures below.

She is very mobile, and we fear crawling is going to happen soon. She scoots backwards, rocks on her hands and knees, launches forward, and rolls every which way.

Giggling. Holy crap this kid giggles a lot. She snorts, shrieks, cackles, raspberries, and laughs. She cracks us up.

She’s been doing this kind of conversational thing that is awesome. David thinks she’s singing. It’s in about the same vocal range as the songs I sing to her.

We saw her new pediatrician today and are oh so much happier. She’s very relaxed and friendly and much more interested in what we have to say, much less lectury. Lillian is holding in the same percentile she has been which is fine. It’s wild, though, how much variation there is in babies. She’s easily the smallest in our playgroup by age, but also one of the most advanced in physical milestones. Meantime, it looks like she’s going to be in 3-6 month clothes for several more months barring a big growth spurt. Thank God for hand me downs!

We’re still trying to re-figure out the sleep thing. She’s gotten very hard to put down at night. I don’t mind one or two night feedings if she needs them, but I do wish getting her down for the first block was easier. I read some of Dr. Sears book on sleep tonight and tomorrow we’re going to try putting her to bed extra early and see what happens.

She’s really into the food these days. I’ve gone from rice cereal, to oatmeal, to oatmeal mixed with fruits and veggies. She’s had banana, pears (roasted with cinnamon stick, yes I’m an annoying food snob) and butternut squash. She’s pretty into it. Next up are avocado, mango, and sweet potato. Then I might try peas and some chicken. We shall see. It’s fun to cook for Lillian, though I’m still cooking everything for myself too. Soy is pretty much off the table which means not eating out much at all. But we may try to ease dairy back into the picture to see what’s happening with that.

Mostly, she’s a pretty delightful kid. David and I are totally smitten with her.

Lillian and Loki

Loki gives kisses

Lillian and Loki

Lillian examines Loki.

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There might be something cuter out there, but I haven't found it yet.

Brunch at the Braymen's

Okay, that's pretty cute too.

Photo 52

In which things continue to speed up

Tomorrow I’m 30 weeks pregnant and today I’m 38 years old. I could be giving birth in 8 weeks! This is a little freaky. I’m getting a bit nervous about it, but it’s not like there’s anything I can do. I don’t know if the baby is in the right position yet, I’m getting some mighty painful kicks in tender southerly areas, but it’s hard to know if that’s from hands or feet. She was really active yesterday.

I’ve got some new insomnia rocking (check the time on this post). Mostly it’s because I’m waking up with hip pain again, and it’s become a bad idea to sleep on my back any more (last night I woke up with my hands going numb).

Even though my hands and feet swell intermittently, I’ve been hanging onto my engagement and wedding rings. Until last night when I burnt the crap out of my ring finger on the stove. Oops.

I’m still amazed by how I seem to have a different body every day. How it reacts to food, movement, temperature, etc. still changes all the time. The main problem I’m having is the baby is sitting really low lately, so I need to remember to wear a support thingy when I’m out and about to avoid a whole lot of uncomfortable pelvic pressure and pummeling.

We met with our doula this week and talked about birth. That was trippy. We’re now working on a birth plan and also a list of crap to bring to the hospital. It’s not like David can’t run home at certain points after the fun part is over, but we’re delivering at a hospital about 10 miles north of us, so it’s a bit of a haul (especially during rush hour).

Today I’m managing to get a massage and David is taking me to the Alamo Drafthouse for dinner and a movie. On the less glamorous side, I’m also going to the dentist and waiting around the house for pest control. Still, not a bad day. Also, yoga.

Fall Cooking

sweet_potatoI love me some fall and winter recipes. The CSA has started supplying us with a lot of winter squash, sweet potatoes, and now we’re getting into greens season. Here are a few of my latest favorite recipes:

Five Spice Sweet Potato Pie
I’ve had issues with lighter pies and quiches being runny, but this recipe is fool-proof. Great texture, and the Chinese spice powder gives it a deliciously robust flavor. Wonderful with fresh whipped cream with a little cinnamon and vanilla added.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta
Sounds utterly decadent, but this is in fact a reduced calorie recipe. Which does not mean low calorie, but it’s not too bad. It’s great comfort food and easy to put together. If you have issues making a white sauce without oil or butter (I do – lumps galore), heat the milk first and then use a sifter or wire strainer to gradually add the flour and whisk in. Watch it closely, it will thicken up fast. I use Gruyere cheese instead of provolone.

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins
This recipe is easy and tasty and also reduced fat. You’ll never miss it. I use my home-made pumpkin from the CSA (I cut them in half, seed them, cover in foil, bake until soft, scoop out, mash, and freeze) and add some chopped pecans.

Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats
This recipe has nothing to do with vegetables or healthy cooking, and everything to do with the return of my appetite and consequently, my sweet tooth. It is utterly scrumptious, especially if you have a thing for sweet-salty flavors like I do. No, they’re not healthy. Shut up, I’m pregnant.

Some days are better than others

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mmmmmm. suuuuuugaaaaaar.

Pregnancy continues to be an adventure. I had a bad cold a few weeks ago, and since then I’ve “relapsed” twice. But I think it’s actually Pregnancy Rhinitis, which is freaky allergy/cold symptoms linked to hormones (and probably the dryer weather). Whatever, it’s no fun and it feels like I get a short lived cold every week or so. I’m on the somewhat mend from the latest but it’s wicked  inconvenient. I think if I remember to hydrate better in between bouts they may be milder. I hope so. More tea for me!

Back pain reached an all time high a few days ago. Between round ligament pain, IT band pain, and SI joint pain it was pretty dang painful just to walk. Plus painting furniture for the baby’s room involves a lot of squatting which doesn’t help. But I got a massage and went to yoga and aaaaaahhhh. Sooo much better. Note to self. Go. To. Yoga. So I’m going back tonight and am planning to make sure I take at least 2 classes a week. My back thanks me.

My appetite, sweet tooth included, is back in action but I find if I don’t eat relatively small amounts about 10 minutes later I feel like I ate a bowling ball. So more snacks, less meals. Unfortunately it’s easy to snack on the sweet stuff but I’m trying to cut back. Except I made these and it’s a little hard to not eat them all. I continue to not gain weight, which is awesome, but I have to remember it’s also not an excuse to eat too much unhealthy food.

I’m 23 weeks pregnant as of today. The belly is large and round. Tiny Miss Quimby does a lot of kicking, punching, and rolling. Not all of it feels comfortable (please stop head butting my bladder!), but I’m glad to know she’s doing her thing. My emotions are definitely kicked up more. I can cry at the drop of a hat. Or a feather or pebble or whatever. But again, I think that any symptom that necessitates me taking better care of myself, physically or emotionally is not a bad thing.

Second Trimester: Head Cold Edition

chicken_soupDespite my best efforts to avoid all the viruses making the rounds in Austin right now, I finally succumbed to a nasty head cold. While certainly better than the flu for many reasons, it’s wicked uncomfortable and lame. I’m going to the doctor to get checked out just in case, mostly because any virus tends to kick up my asthma which is no fun. I seriously wish I had avoided this, but at least it’s not an ass-kicking flu, which I continue to hope to avoid. Luckily, I’ve been on a soup kick, so I have some good leftovers. I’m headed to the doc this afternoon just to be on the safe side. Any cold or flu tends to wreak havoc on my asthma.

On the good news front, I didn’t get sick until Saturday night, so David and I had a great Saturday walking around the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center taking pictures. Best. Light. Ever. Cloudy days rock for the photography. David got some particularly nice shots – he kept stealing the big camera from me.

Tiny Miss Quimby is definitely kicking up a storm now. As we speak. At first it seemed like only when I was sitting up and had something elastic-y on my lower abdomen, now it’s pretty much whenever. And I can feel it in several points in the same general area, rather than just one spot like at first. I’m looking forward to looking in on her on Thursday at the anatomy ultrasound. I guess I could be paranoid about that too, but since we made it through all the genetic mishigas I’m feeling a bit more pragmatic. I’ll post more pictures after the appointment!

* Update: after two frustrating and painful  hours – a big swab stuck way up the nose and twisted around when you have swollen sinuses is NOT FUN – I do not have the flu. Just an annoying cold.

Food, glorious food

woman-cookingI’m happy to report that the long cooking drought is over. We even made fish stew last night, and the lingering smell in the kitchen doesn’t make me ill! During the first oh, 13 weeks of pregnancy I cooked maybe once a week. And I had this bad habit of forgetting key ingredients like oil or leavening.

While I haven’t missed the cleanup work entailed in cooking, I’ve gotten mighty sick of eating restaurant and previously frozen foods. And nobody’s happier than David, he loves him some home cooking. Here are some recipes I’ve made recently:

Emeril Lagasse’s Fish Stew
I don’t cook Emeril’s recipes that often because 1) they’re usually wicked complicated and 2) they’re usually very, very high in fat. However, nobody does it like Emeril. I always turn to him for special occasion and comfort food recipes. This one is relatively easy (meaning it’s not four recipes in one) and while not low in fat (there’s a roux) it’s not too bad since none of the other ingredients have much in the way of fat. We used 2 lbs of the redfish David caught last weekend in it and it was DELISH!

Butternut Squash Soup
I’m mostly avoiding cooking meat at home, the after-cooking smell really bothers me. We also have sorely neglected our CSA (farm membership) so a lot of veggies have been given out to friends or languished. But winter squashes are pretty hardy, and I finally used one of my butternut squash to make this. It’s a great recipe, really easy. It has a lovely texture and the flavor is quite sweet. For that reason, I like to swirl some yogurt in it (tip via Emily) or some low fat sour cream. It’s really good served at lunch with some cheese toast. I added a little ginger paste to the recipe, because I almost always do.

Gingered Pumpkin Pie
In addition to the butternut, we get some other green and orange, pumpkin like squash from the CSA. I baked up two of them and scooped them out to freeze and use later. But first, I made this recipe. You would never know it’s lightened! Maybe because of all the sugar… Still, you use nonfat evaporated milk instead of sweetened-condensed and it comes out really nice.

Stove-Top Mac and Cheese
I am not the only currently pregnant lady with a wicked mac and cheese craving. And not the only one to suffer from the curse of the lumpy white sauce. Unless there’s butter involved, starting with the flour and gradually adding milk always leads to disaster for me. I usually heat the milk and then gradually sift in the flour. Takes more time, but not if you count how may times I’ve had to re-do lumpy white sauce. Anyway, this recipe avoids that problem all together. Be warned, it’s wicked rich. Normally I might say “bring it on!” but in my current state, overly rich food makes me very ill. So I reduced the fat a bit by using non-fat evaporated milk. Next time I’ll probably also combo some lower fat cheese in with whatever else I use. Maybe gorgonzola? Yum.

Enjoy! I know I am.

Life gets busier

I’m doing better with the nausea these days. Don’t seem to need the medication any more. I still have bouts of it, but they’re mercifully brief. My energy level is still pretty variable. Last week I was pretty energetic, this week not so much. But energy or no, I’m starting to get busy. I avoided most work during the weeks where I was feeling like death. The last few weeks have brought me several new potential clients, so I’m the proposal-negotiation phase which is always tricky. Still, it would be great to have some work. Even conservative estimates on what this whole baby thing is going to cost on the front end are fairly intimidating.

You can find almost anything on Craigslist, but most sources say the major stuff (crib, car seat, stroller) need to be new for safety. I got a subscription to Consumer Reports since they seem to have a good process for safety testing.

Mostly I feel like I’m holding my breath until the amnio is over and the results are back. Hopefully all will be well and we can relax a bit after that. There’s just such a seemingly infinite amount of stuff to worry about, plan, and anticipate, it’s hard to find the mental space to relax. I hope it will gradually all fall into place.

Food and I are still not great friends. I get so tired of having to eat every couple of hours. When I worked in food service somehow seeing and smelling food all the time made me feel as if I’d been eating all day, and I lost my appetite. I feel similarly now. Cooking is wholly unappealing. The idea of preparing, eating, and cleaning up food is pretty yuck, since I get to start all over an hour or two later. But I’m also really sick of prepared and restaurant food. I’ve been experimenting with low prep food like crepes. My major craving last week was re-fried beans. Do not ask me why, as I have no idea. I was having practically erotic feelings towards them, and that’s just weird. It seems to have passed.

That’s the latest news on the grumpy pregnant lady front.

Eggplant Parmesan

While I usually work from recipes, occasionally I make up my own. This is my easy, low-fat(ish), tried and true recipe for Eggplant Parmesan. And for those of you drowning in eggplant from your gardens or CSA, this is a great way to use up a bunch. So:

Slice up some eggplant, fairly thinly.

Sliced Eggplant

Sliced Eggplant

Prepare some egg wash and breadcrumbs.

Can be eggs, egg beaters, or a combo. Add a little hot sauce if you like.

Can be eggs, egg beaters, or a combo. Add a little hot sauce if you like.

I use Progresso Italian Style breadcrumbs with a whole lot of pecorino cheese.

I use Progresso Italian Style breadcrumbs with a whole lot of pecorino cheese.

Dip the eggplant in the egg mixture, and then press both sides into the breadcrumb mixture. Lay on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

ep_coated_eggplant

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until softened and slightly browned.

If you have extra, freeze or refrigerate and use later in eggplant parmesan sandwiches.

If you have extra, freeze or refrigerate and use later in eggplant parmesan sandwiches.

Now pull out your cheese: pre-sliced low fat provolone, and sliced fresh mozzarella. Use the tomato sauce of your choice; I make it easy on myself and use Paul Newman’s Basil. Sooooo tasty. Speaking of basil, if you have any fresh basil lying around, chiffonade(sp?) it and keep it handy. Now start layering:

A little sauce on the bottom, and the first layer of eggplant.

A little sauce on the bottom, and the first layer of eggplant.

I know, that doesn't look like provolone. I forgot it at the store and had to slice up my string cheese. Doh.

I know, that doesn't look like provolone. I forgot it at the store and had to slice up my string cheese. Doh.

Another layer of sauce over the cheese and some basil if you have it.

Another layer of sauce over the cheese and some basil if you have it.

Keep on layering, and when you’ve had enough, make your last layer of cheese the fresh mozzarella.

I could almost eat it just like this.

I could almost eat it just like this.

Now pop it back in your heated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until bubbly.

Probably best to let it cool for about 10 minutes.

Probably best to let it cool for about 10 minutes.

Eat up!

Yum!

Yum!

Here’s the recipe. All proportions are seriously approximate.  Let me know if you try it!

Miss Michelann’s Eggplant Parmesan

Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

1-2 lbs eggplant, sliced 1/4 in thick
1 C Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 C pecorino romano cheese, finely grated
1/2 – 1 C egg beaters, eggs, or combo

hot sauce to taste
cooking spray
bottled sauce of choice (I like Paul Newan’s Basil)
fresh Mozzerella
pre-sliced provolone cheese
fresh basil

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheet with parchement. Mix breadcrumbs with cheese and a little fresh ground black pepper.

Dip a plank of eggplant in egg beaters, then roll in breadcrumbs, pressing to adhere. Place on sheet. Repeat with the rest of the eggplant.

Spray eggplant lightly with olive oil. Bake eggplant for 20-25 minutes, or until soft and slightly browned.

While eggplant bakes, slice basil and mozzarella. Once eggplant comes out of the oven, start layering. I use an 8×8 baking dish and save the rest of the eggplant for sandwiches. If you want to use it all up, use a larger dish.

Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the dish. Top with eggplant, sauce, cheese, and basil. Repeat until final layer (I do 3 or 4) and top with fresh mozzarella and a sprinkling of basil. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until bubbly. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve.

1001 Uses for Squash

We’re drowning in squash. A few months ago we decided to get a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscription. What this means is once I week I go pick up a big box of fresh veggies, and some fresh eggs. This has created all sorts of interesting culinary challenges. Mostly, how do two people eat several pounds of vegetables in one week? Here are our main survival tactics:

  • Share it- there actually is a limit to the amount of arugula, kale, and okra (there’s a very low limit for okra) that we can eat, so we spread the wealth.
  • Pork and Cheese – everything can be cooked with some form of pork (bacon, prosciutto, ham) and cheese (feta, parmesan, cheddar).
  • Stuff it – it turns out several food types can be adapted to different veggie and herb combinations. We’ve done crepes, fritatta, pasta, quiche…

This month’s challenge is summer squash. Yellow, crookneck, pattypan, and zucchini are overflowing in the fridge, and I’ve had to find all sorts of interesting ways to use it. Turns out zucchini can be used in chocolate cake, for reals. Turns out it really sucks in chocolate chip cookies. I found some creative ways to use it in other stuff too. For example, if you grate it really fine, and press out most of the water, you can use it in pancakes! Seriously, it’s really good. I also grate it coarser and put it in potato pancakes – using about half potatoes and half zuccini (squeezed out in cheese cloth), combined with chopped onion, fresh sage, a couple eggs and some flour. Then I pan fry it until golden and serve with low fat sour cream and smoked salmon. Yummy! Here are a few of my other favorite recipes so far:

Sauteed Baby Squash with Basil and Feta
Shrimp and Squash Penne
Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Stay tuned, next month we’ll be swimming in sweet potatoes!