Monday, August 31, 2015

Mommy Mondays: #9Months9Tips

I am officially done with pregnancy.  Our family is complete at four.  I don't really have any regrets or sadness about never being pregnant again, it could be because my last pregnancy was so much worse than my first that I can only imagine any subsequent ones would just continue down that road.

But having been through it twice, I am twice as qualified to share some tips for anyone who is or is thinking of becoming pregnant.  I want to start out with an important note (so important I'm going to obnoxiously caps lock and bold it).  SYMPTOMS (or lack thereof) ARE NO INDICATION OF A HEALTHY PREGNANCY.  I'm emphasizing this because so many people rely on symptoms.  To determine they're pregnant before testing or to determine whether they're miscarrying.  Some women never experience stereotypical pregnancy symptoms and have perfectly textbook pregnancies.  Some experience every symptom in the book and end up losing their babies before ever getting to meet them.  Symptoms come and go and come again, without any rhyme, reason, or relation to that growing bundle of joy.

That being said, here are my 9 tips for dealing with some common pregnancy symptoms:

1) Morning Sickness 

So sick at Disneyland, I had a giant bag of baby carrots I just kept popping in my mouth!
 I put this at the top, because it's one of THE most stereotypical pregnancy symptoms.  There are so many varying degrees of this, that I'm hesitant to even give advice.  With Thatkid I didn't even have a minute of nausea.  With Thatbaby I was sick for weeks and weeks.  Not throwing up, just constant, all day nausea.  What helped me most with that was constantly eating.  Weird, right?  Sick to your stomach?  Fill it up.  This can be dangerous, so I tried to keep it healthy by making a big (giant) bag of airpopped popcorn every morning and keeping it with me throughout the day.  Also?  Ginger beer.  Every night as soon as I'd get home from work.

2) Bloating 

Our Christmas card, wearing a bella band because those pants were not going to button
Often when you're first pregnant, you don't want anyone to know.  Some people share early, others like keeping that secret to themselves.  I was in the latter category.  The problem is, that early pregnancy is often accompanied by bloating, which makes you feel like everybody knows.  Your clothes don't fit right, you don't feel right.  I have no tips for not bloating.  Not a one.  But I do have a solution to the clothes not fitting and keeping your secret a secret - The Bella Band.  I know, I know.  I talk about this all the time.  You'd think they're paying me.  They're not.  It's just a great product when it comes to letting you walk around with your pants undone all day. 

3) Anxiety

Yoga is a fantastic way to help with anxiety during pregnancy.
There's a lot of unknown when it comes to pregnancy.  There's also a lot not in our control.  If you're already prone to anxiety, this is going to test your limits.  Is everything okay in there?  As I mentioned earlier, this is one of those times people start worry - "I'm not throwing up, something must be wrong" or "My breasts were sore yesterday and not today, there must be something wrong."  Later on the pregnancy you start analyzing and over analyzing every little movement, or lack of movement.  Then there's the anxiety related to childbirth.  It is 100% completely normal to have these doubts and fears.  Does that make you feel better?  Maybe a little?  The only thing you can do is validate your feelings and tell yourself that if things were wrong, you'd know.  Contact your doctor with major concerns, keep up with your kick counts so you can be aware of when your kid is usually active, and then do something to take your mind off it. 

4) Breast Growth 

.2 seconds pregnant with Thatkid, wondering why my sports bra was so tight.
 When I was pregnant with Thatkid, about the day after implantation, before I even knew I was pregnant, Thatboy remarked my breasts were spilling out of my bra.  Breast growth happens and it happens quickly!  Don't be a bra martyr.  You should always wear a bra that supports the girls.  But obviously you don't want to spend $900 on bras you're only wearing a couple weeks.  So be smart about it.  Get measured and buy some inexpensive bras (keep your eye on sales!).  Repeat every time you grow out of your bra!   About 36-37 weeks, start thinking about nursing bras.  There is no way to predict how big your breasts will get after birth, so don't waste money on bras with cup sizes that you may end up returning when your breasts don't fit in them.  Instead grab some "sleep bras" which come in S/M/L sizes.  About 2 weeks after you give birth, your breasts will have regulated a bit and you can go get measured for a nice, supportive, nursing bra.

5) Fatigue 

Don't worry, you can sleep later.
Can I tell you my least favorite pregnancy advice?  "Sleep while you can!"  This is awful, because sleep isn't like money in a piggy bank.  You can't stockpile it.  As much as you sleep when pregnant isn't going to make it any easier after the baby comes.  Plus, it's hard to sleep when pregnant!  You're uncomfortable, you have to pee all the time, and I was lucky enough to have pregnancy insomnia.  I found exercising regularly helped me not feel tired all the time.  A body pillow helped with the discomfort.  And I stopped fighting the insomnia.  If I wasn't tired, I didn't sleep.  I'd read, or get up and do things.  Might as well be productive!  Also?  Naps when I could.  I wasn't sleeping at night, but I could get a great little nap every night after I finished dinner before it was time to tuck Thatkid into bed, so I slept then.  And weekends I would nap with him.

6) Constipation 

Hello my pruney friends!
 Digestion slows down during pregnancy, and that definitely adds to the bloating and discomfort of pregnancy.  Running really helped me with this.  (It helps me when I'm not pregnant too!)  And eating good anti-constipation foods, like fruit!  Especially dried fruit.  A daily handful of dried prunes or apricots help keep things regular.

7) Constant urination 

Always present, always full.

Water is SO important.  During pregnancy, during non-pregnancy.  Most of us don't drink enough.  When you do drink enough, the trips to the bathroom become a pretty regular occurrence.  I don't think there's really anything you can do to avoid having to go to the bathroom, short of not drinking, which I don't recommend.  But I will say that I found it most helpful to take a bathroom trip every hour.  I actually combined it with my water intake - 1 hour to finish my water, at the top of the hour, I'd finish whatever was in my glass, make a trip to the bathroom, refill my water, and start all over again.  It was almost like a game.

8) Body aches

Everyone has 10 minutes, right?
For me, this was only an issue with my second pregnancy, but whoooo boy, did it kick in early and hard!  Prenatal pilates really helped with this.  It involved a lot of stretching, which made it easier to move and sit.  Of course, once I hit 38 weeks, even that didn't help, but childbirth totally did.  So when you're at your wit's end, just know that there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

9) Your growing belly

No one loves the weight gain associated with pregnancy, but everyone feels differently about the physical changes.  Some women embrace it, but others hate the lack of control they feel.  It can be really hard.  And my heart goes out to those women.  But it is so important to remember that this is not forever!  Your body may seem foreign for a couple months, but after that, it will be yours again.  And even if you hate the way you look - document it!  Not just for you, but for your child, because there's something so fascinating about seeing yourself before you're born!  But also, once you're no longer in "that body" you might not mind seeing it as much.  Kind of an out of body experience.  After my first pregnancy, I also came upon the realization that I should have worn the same outfit each week so I could really see the change.  Which is what I did this time around.  But if I had been smarter, I would have picked a black shirt instead of a white one, or at least something dark enough to hide the maternity panel on most of the bottoms!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Runday: Perspective Through Travel

Last weekend we ventured to Arrowhead for a little summer getaway.  A combination anniversary/maternity leave/new baby = lack of travel trip.  When I told SD Mom I was going to try to get a run in while I was up there, since it would undoubtedly be cooler than home up in the mountains, she asked if I was used to running in altitude.  "I'm not worried" I told her.  "I don't run fast enough or far enough for that to be an issue."


Famous last words.

Part of the problem is that it wasn't that much cooler up in the mountains.  Or at least it wasn't at 1:00pm when I finally was able to go for a run.  I'll talk about this more next week, but morning runs are still not possible for me with an irregular wake schedule for Thatbaby.

The second problem is that running in the mountains?  Means running hills.  I was basically running up the mountain.  Maybe not literally, but that's what it felt like.  I was almost instantly short of breath and feeling completely wiped out.

Don't get me wrong, the views were amazing.  As I ran through neighborhoods, under towering evergreens, looking out over a serene lake.

I had forgotten to bring my headphones with me, which means I didn't have music to distract me on my run.  Instead I got introspective.  You know, when there's no one to talk to, you talk to yourself?  Maybe it's just me.

I was thinking about how I hate running by my house.  It's all hills and there are no sidewalks.  Yet here I was, on vacation, when I could just as easily be laying about doing nothing and I was running up hills on streets with no sidewalks.   Why is this something I seek out when I hate doing it where it's easily accessible?  

I think part of it is the foreign-ness of it all.  I've written that I love running when we travel as a way to get to know the place better.  In a way that you can never get to know it by just hitting up tourist attractions.  There are places you can venture by foot that you can't really experience while driving.   It's also a time I have guaranteed downtime.  Less responsibilities, more "me time."  And so I'll take advantage of that even if it means running at 1pm in the blazing sun up the side of a mountain.   Plus, no run can be quite that bad when it ends here, right?

Which got me to thinking that for some people, running in my neighborhood would be foreign and exciting.  Well, not my neighborhood per se, but a boring old neighborhood like mine.  One with hills and no sidewalks.  And I should appreciate that more.  Take in the sights around my home as though I were a tourist.  Appreciate the views of the mountains and the towering palm trees.

Sometimes you have to leave, to really come home.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Homemade Life: French Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon

So I shared with you a disaster of a playdate, let me share what happens when things go right.

There's an indoor playspace near L&O's house.  When we realized we'd be out on maternity leave during the same time, we talked about getting the boys together here.  It ended up being a genius idea.

The boys were delightful in the drive down, until Thatbaby woke up at the gas station, but we were only a few blocks from our destination. 

We managed to arrive at the same time, just before the doors opened.  We herded the boys inside and let them loose.  It was fantastic to supervise them from afar without having to hoover over them, or have them insist we play with them.  It gave L&O a chance to sit and relax, as our newest babies slept at our breast.

The boys started on a floor-to-ceiling climbing structure, complete with a slide from top to bottom. 

We were both a little impressed as our intrepid monkeys scrambled up, higher and higher and went down the towering slide.  But they loved every minute.

They were a little intimidated by the trampoline area since some bigger kids went in right as they were about to, so instead they turned to the giant wavy slides.  I showed Thatkid how to use the towels to go down faster, and he in turn, showed Little LO.  They ran up and slide down, over and over again.

 Directly beside the slides was the inflatable obstacle course, complete with a rope wall they had to climb over.  Which they did.  It was a little nervewracking for we moms down below who couldn't see above that black wall, but seeing those little blonde heads pop up over the wall gave us some relief.

The boys went nonstop the entire time we were there.  I don't know when Thatkid has burned off so much energy (not that it led to a longer nap or earlier bedtime or anything).  Afterwards we grabbed lunch with our buddies before splitting up and heading home.  No crazy bathroom trips, no crying, no misbehaving.   This calls for a celebration!  Cake time for everyone!

This is the perfect "no occasion" cake.  It's not overly fussy.  No layers.  No time consuming frosting, just a nice, simple glaze. And the flavors couldn't be simpler.  A vanilla cake, soaked in lemon.    Between the yogurt and syrup, it's impossible for this cake to be dry.  Works well for breakfast, snack, or dessert.  It complements coffee, tea, or champagne.  Because after all, we are celebrating.

French Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon (From A Homemade Life)
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 and 1/4 cup powdered sugar, divided
1/2 cup lemon juice, divided

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter or cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper and grease it too.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Add the lemon zest and whisk to mix thoroughly.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, and eggs, stirring to mix well.
  5. Add the flour mixture and stir to just combine.
  6. Add the oil and stir well.  Pour into the prepared pan.  Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  
  7. Cool the cake on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan, and invert the cake onto a wide, flat plate or pan.  Remove or discard the parchment paper.  Invert the cake back onto the rack so that it sits upright, with the shinier, slightly domed side facing up.  Set the rack over a rimmed baking sheet.
  8. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1/4 cup lemon juice.  
  9. Spoon over the warm cake.  Cool completely.
  10. In a small bowl combine the remaining powdered sugar and lemon juice.  Whisk well to dissolve the sugar completely.  Spoon over the cooled cake.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Homemade Life: Slow-Roasted Tomato Pesto

Are you ready for my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day story?

The plan was to leave the house at 8, pick up HorseWhisperer and Little HW, and head downtown to take the ferry to Coronado.  Thatbaby got up at 5:45, so I was going to wake him to eat a little something at 7:45 before we left, so he wasn't screaming in hunger during the drive.

7:44am:  Thatkid drops a container of apple slices outside.  So I clean that up.

7:50am: I text Horsewhisperer telling her I'm running a bit late, and feed Thatbaby  During which time, he finally poops for the first time in 2 days.  That's a lot of poop built up.  Enough that it blew out his diaper and up his back.  So diaper change.  Clothes change.  And then we switch to the other boob.

8:30am: We are on our way!  Totally uneventful trip to Horsewhisperer's.  No crying, Thatkid and I are singing to Pandora's Muppet station.

We get to Horsewhisperer's and I move Thatkid's seat to the back row.  No problem.  Then I realize I can fold up the second row.  GENIUS!  Makes it so much easier to put Little HW's seat in the back row next to Thatkid.  Except then I can't get the second row seat back up.  The latch on the bottom is stuck so that it won't click on to the floor.  By the time I'm all like "fuck it" Thatbaby has gone from totally chill to crying.  Fabulous. 

We head out, Horsewhisperer works pacifier duty so Thatbaby either passes out or chills out, and we're back to doing great.  Until Thatkid has to go to the bathroom.  No problem, I get off....and get stuck behind people doing like 5 miles per  hour while Thatkid screams that he can't hold it, he needs to go NOW.  And he's crying hysterically.  I pull into the first parking lot, with no parking available, and just double park the car and leave Horsewhisperer in it with Little HW and Thatbaby while I run with Thatkid to the bathroom.

Back on the road, we get all the way to downtown and I'm heading to the parking lot by the pedestrian bridge.  When Thatkid has to go again.  Of course I'm in downtown traffic, and we're going nowhere fast.  I get to the parking lot and since there's a Padres game today it's permit parking only.  Thatkid is crying hysterically.  I decide, "Fuck it, I'll park at the Hilton because there's a bathroom in the hotel"  but I can't get to the Hilton because I have to cross Harbor and Thatkid is now possessed by the devil and screaming we need to "kill that guy."  This is when Little HW throws up all over herself.  I pull into an ACE lot and take Thatkid to pee in one of the port-a-potties where the homeless people live.  Horsewhisperer cleans up Little HW, but hasn't brought another shirt, so after we park we'll need to find a place to get Little HW a shirt.

Everyone's back in the car and we finally get to the parking lot, where Thatkid starts crying that he needs to pee again.  He can't hold it.  I don't think we'll make it to the hotel, so I ask at the smoothie shop if they have a bathroom.  They don't but there's one across the way.  So we run out.  The women's restroom is closed, so I bring him in the men's.  Where a homeless man is peeing.  I apologize and go in the stall with Thatkid. Thatkid washes his hands in the sink while the homeless man gives himself a sink shower.

Thatkid's bathroom needs taken care of, we head to Seaport Village to get Little HW a new shirt.  While Thatkid cries that it's too far and will take too long and he's hungry.  And Little HW cries that she's too hot.  We get to Seaport Village and get a shirt, then head alllll the way back to the Ferry while Thatkid and Little HW complain about being tired. and hot.

We get to Coronado and grab something to eat.  Little HW does not want to sit at the table.  She wants to walk around the table, play waitress, not eat lunch.  Thatkid starts to follow suit. 

We get the check and head out when I realize Thatkid's sunglasses are nowhere to be found.  He insists he put them in my bag, but they're not there.  I decide he left them on the ferry.  Fabulous.  He wants to play in the sand and Little HW wants to splash in the water, so we head to the beach.  Both kids de-shoe and head into the water.  Little HW keeps wading deeper and deeper and I have to keep calling her back, eventually Thatkid does too.  She's now soaking wet so I tell the kids they need to come onto the sand and dry off before we get back on the ferry.  Which is when Thatkid starts rolling in the sand, with his wet legs.  He is covered in sand.  Little HW keeps running back in the water.  Okay.  Day's over.  Kids' aren't listening, so we head back to the ferry

We have some time to kill, so the kids run up and down the pier.  Thatkid stops when we tell him.  Little HW does not.  She keeps going.  So Thatkid runs after her to try and pull her back, and she keeps running farther.  So I call Thatkid back and Horsewhisperer goes after Little HW.  Gives her a talk and brings her back crying and puts her in time out.

We get back to the other side and head back to the parking lot, which takes forever because Thatkid and Little HW keep throwing themselves in the grass and just rolling.

Bathroom break before we get in the car and head out.  I get lost going to the freeway and end up in National City.  Thatbaby is not being nearly as cooperative on the ride home, crying and fussing.  And of course there is traffic.  Lots of traffic.  At some point Thatkid has to go to the bathroom again.  I need gas anyway so we get off and I bring him to the bathroom. 

Get back in the car, back into traffic for like 5 exits.  Little HW is crying that she can't reach her barbie.  Thatkid starts crying that his seat isn't right, it needs to be fixed.  Horsewhisperer crawls to the back and fixes he seats.  Then he cries that his butt hurts.  Little HW is crying because she wants to hug Horsewhisperer.  Another exit and he needs to go to the bathroom again.  Right now.  Another possession moment where he's screaming he needs to pee on the side of the road. Get to the next exit and pull into a gas station so he can pee.

Get back in the car and finally make it to Horsewhisperer's house where both boys are now asleep.  Drop them off and head out.  Everything is fine until we hit traffic, which causes Thatbaby to wake up and start crying - the whole way home.

We get home, I pull Thatbaby out and feed him.  Then we sit in the car and dance until Thatkid wakes up.  Thatkid wakes up crying because he didn't get to say goodbye to Little HW. 

A day like that calls for pasta.  Something easy.  Something warm.  Something loaded with carbs - which make everything better.  And as I have often said, during the summer, you don't need much on top of pasta.  Summer tomatoes are pretty much a dressing on themselves.  This pesto takes the best tomatoes of summer and makes them extremely accessible.  This day I used it on pasta, but it makes enough to keep in the fridge for sandwiches, or on toast with some goat cheese.

Slow-Roasted Tomato Pesto (From A Homemade Life)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled and trimmed
2 cups packed basil leaves
3 cups slow roasted tomatoes
1/2 cup tightly packed finely grated parmigiano-reggiano

  1.  In the bowl of a food processor, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and garlic.  Pulse until the garlic is finely chopped.
  2. Add the basil leaves and process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  3. Add the tomatoes and process well.
  4. Add the parmigiano-reggiano and pulse to combine.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes with Coriander (From A Homemade Life)
3 1/2 pounds ripe Roma tomatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
ground coriander
  1. Preheat oven to 200.  Wash and dry the tomatoes, trim away the stem end, and halve them lengthwise.  
  2. Place them in a large bowl and toss them gently with the oil.  Arrange them cut side up on a large baking sheet.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and ground coriander, about a pinch of each for every 4 to 6 tomato halves.  Bake 4 to 6 hours. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Crave Wednesdays: The Peppery Pig

I think meat is seasonal.  Weird right?  It's available year round, but for some reason, certain meats just seem more fitting for some seasons over others.  Like a roast chicken is delightful all the time, but for me, it's a fall food - warm and homey as the weather turns cold.

Prosciutto is a summer meat.  Without question.  It's cool and pairs well with summer melons, or tomatoes and cheese.  While pizza doesn't exactly scream summer, when you top it with a "salad" it gives it a much lighter, summery feel.  Cooking the crust on it's own gives a nice crisp base.  And of course, the prosciutto on top is the perfect warm weather addition.  Far more seasonal than pepperoni.

 The Peppery Pig (From Cooking Light)
1 lb refrigerated pizza dough
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
4 oz sliced prosciutto
1/2 cup shaved parmigiana reggiano
4 cups arugula
cracked black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 425. Roll dough into 14 inch circle.  Spread olive oil evenly over dough, leaving 1/2 inch crust. Bake for 15 minutes.
  2. Top with prosciutto, cheese, arugula, and black pepper.  Cut into 8 wedges and serve.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Mommy Mondays: The Older Child (Part 1)

We're still adjusting to life as 4, but so far it's going well, better than expected.  As an older child myself, I was especially cognizant of the difficulties of being the first, and having a younger sibling.  I think a lot of second-time parents worry that they won't love the new baby as much as their first.  I've never had that concern.  Instead, my worry centered on whether Thatkid would feel like we didn't have time for him, didn't want him, or loved the new baby more.

When we were in the hospital, a visit from the social worker warned of the issues that would arise when Thatkid figured out Thatbaby wasn't going away.  And none of them happened.  With that in mind, I thought I would share what we did to prepare and adjust Thatkid.  I'm not sure if our success is due to anything that we did, or Thatkid's personality, or just luck.  But just in case....

I'm dividing it into parts - Before the Baby Arrives, The Arrival, and Life at Home.  So this is Part 1 of 3.

We came into this ahead of the game for two reasons, the first being that Thatkid REALLY wanted a sibling (well, he wanted a baby sister named "Princess Anna" but he was open to having a brother too.)  The second was that as a 3 year old, he had pretty good comprehension.  We could reason with him, to an extent. 

We waited to tell Thatkid about his upcoming sibling until we were ready for everyone to know, because 3 year olds are not that great at secrets.  And we told him by showing him his very first baby picture.

Followed by the baby picture of his new sibling.
It's hard to understand the whole concept of "baby in belly" so this helped him to understand that he once looked just like this. 

Then came the prep work.  We started reading "big brother" books.  I went with the old standbys from my childhood:

We also had Thatkid help us prepare for the new baby.  My big thing was that we would never take anything from Thatkid.  We had him go through his old toys and books to determine what the new baby could have.  Yes, even toys that he hadn't played with in almost 2 years.  Because I knew the second he saw the new baby playing with them, he'd want to play with them again.  This helped him feel like he wasn't being replaced or supplanted, but he got to decide what he wanted and what he was over. 

One of the benefits of the Berenstain Bears book was that Brother Bear gets too big for his little bed, and gets a new bed, giving his old little bed to the new baby.  We used that as a way to launch Thatkid from his crib-turned-bed into a big, big boy bed of his own.  We made quite the big deal about his new "big boy room" and "big boy bed" letting him pick out the furniture and wall colors as we moved his old "baby furniture" into the nursery.

One of the big things I tried not to do was to blame anything going on with me on "the baby" so there wasn't resentment built up early on.  I tried to never say "mommy's too tired because of the baby" or "mommy can't do x,y,z because of the baby."  The exception came with the jumping on me, or using me as a jungle gym, which, to be honest, I don't like when I'm not pregnant. 

I obviously don't have a lot to compare it to, but I think this prep work helped Thatkid feel like he was part of the whole decision to have a baby.  Like we were giving him a friend, not trying to replace him with a younger, cuter model.  And most importantly, that he would still be the center of our lives once his new sibling arrived. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Homemade Life: Cream Braised Green Cabbage

So the issue with having a summer baby is that babies really aren't supposed to be in the sun.  Their skin is really sensitive, and you're not supposed to put sunscreen on them for 6 months.  Which means to avoid sunburn, you have to use physical sun blockers like long sleeves and pants.  Which can get really hot!

We completely avoided this with Thatkid, since he was born in the fall.  By the time beach season rolled around, he was already 6 months old!  Thatbaby was not so lucky, so we had to take other precautions to keep him out of the sun when we hit the sand.

Thatbaby has his own little castle (tent) to hang out in and stay cool and out of the sun.  And he has lots to entertain himself with, since his older brother never stops once we get to the beach.

"I love the beach!"  he shouted as he spun around outside the tent.  While Thatboy surfed, and Thatbaby hung out, Thatkid and I played catch in front of the tent. 

And since Southern California kids don't have snow to make snow angels, we make sand angels in the summer.

When Thatboy got back from surfing he asked Thatkid if he wanted to take the board for a spin, and the answer is usually a resounding "No."  Thatkid doesn't like going in the water with Thatboy who encourages him to dive under the waves. As opposed to me who lifts him up and out of the water when the waves come.

But this time, Thatkid said yes.  And Thatboy took advantage of the occasion.

Even though he was a little scared, he let Thatboy lay him down on the board and drag him out into the water, then push him when the wave came in so he could ride the wave in to the shore.

Then he brought Thatkid out into the water, with Thatkid clinging for dear life and screaming.  But after the first dunk under (still holding Thatboy tightly) he came up smiling and happy.

I admit to not loving beach days as much as the rest of the family.  They're long, hot, and the sand - THE SAND!  But I'm a good sport about it.  I pack the cornstarch and suck it up.  Because sometimes we do things for the good of others.  Or for ourselves.  Like braising cabbage.  Cabbage gets a bad rap.  Does anyone really LOVE cabbage?  Like "oh yay!  cabbage is on the menu!" love cabbage?  Probably not.  Tell someone you're serving cabbage and they'll probably just nod their head politely.  It's not an exciting green.  Except most people really do like cabbage, they just don't think about it in that sense.  Like who doesn't like coleslaw?  Which is really just cabbage.  Or this braised cabbage.  Which doesn't sound exciting, and takes some work (like a day at the beach) but in the end, makes everyone happy.

Cream Braised Green Cabbage (From A Homemade Life)
1 small green cabbage
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

  1. Pull any bruised leaves frim cabbage and cut into quarters.  Cut each quarter in half lengthwise.
  2. Melt butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the cabbage wedges, in a single crowded layer with cut sides down.  Cook for 5-8 minutes until browned.
  3. Using a pair of tongs, gently turn the wedges onto the other cut side and let brown.
  4. Sprinkle salt over the wedges and add the cream.  Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid, and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Cook 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid and use the tongs to gently flip the wedges.   Cook for another 20 minutes.
  6. Add the lemon juice and shake the pan to distribute evenly.  Simmer, uncovered for a few minutes more.  Serve immediately. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Homemade Life: Cider Glazed Chicken

You guys, it's been a whole year since we were introduced to Baby B.  Can you believe it?  My kid brother managed to survive a whole year with a baby.  And Baby B managed to survive a whole year with my kid brother!

Last month we headed to their new house to celebrate the momentous occasion.

One thing I can say about my family, we certainly know how to throw a party!  There were a ton of people there, and a ton of good food.  And of course, super cute decorations, featuring bright pinks, yellows, and highlighted with lemons.

Thatkid ended up with almost as many presents as the birthday girl himself.  Including a bubble blower, which he used to entertain his cousin.  She loves bubbles.  And based on my limited experience, she's not alone.  I have yet to meet a kid who didn't love bubbles.

Unlike most kids, Baby B was not at all impressed with her first taste of cake.  I have a feeling it had more to do with the fact that every guest was crowded around her, watching her and singing.  Because who doesn't love cake?

I have to brag for a moment - our gift was a HUGE hit.  I've already mentioned that I think Rockabye Rockers make great gifts for one year olds.  Baby B agreed.  She saw it sitting with her presents, crawled over and grabbed it, dragging it around the room with her.  She didn't figure out the rocking part, but was delighted with a giant stuffed animal she could use as a walker.

Surrounded by friends and family, we took the opportunity to pawn off our kids on others for most of the party, but we still managed to get a family shot before heading home.

My biggest recommendation for new parents is one I gave to Thatbrother and UDubb - be flexible!  Babies mean you need to be adaptable.  Because they are constantly throwing you for a loop.  Like refusing to eat their cake.  Adaptability is a virtue that extends to more than just child-rearing though.  I use it when I see a great fish recipe.  Because I do not do fish.  But many recipes can be adapted to use chicken instead.  Which is what I did when I saw Wizenburg's Cider Glazed Chicken.  It's not a genius adaptation.  The first pan-cooked chicken I made was a Cooking Light apple cider chicken.  It was part of my standard repertoire.  This isn't too far removed, except it was missing the bacon and the cider was reduced to a glaze.  Apples and chicken work really well together, and this glaze is a really sweet addition.

Cider Glazed Chicken (Adapted from A Homemade Life)
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 shallot, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 cups fresh unfiltered apple cider
4 chicken breast fillets
1/2 cup heavy cream

  1. Combine butter, shallots, and cider in a heavy saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium high heat.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove and discard the shallot.
  2. Place the chicken in the pan.  Spoon a bit of liquid over them and cook for 6 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.
  3.  Raise the heat ot medium high and add a punch of salt to the pan.  Simmer until the liquid is reduced by two-thirds.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and add the cream.  Boil, stirring frequently, until the mixture darkens to a pale golden caramel and is reduced by one third to one half.
  5. Place the chicken on 4 plates and top each with a spoonful of sauce.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Crave Wednesday: The Greek Austerity Cure

Black olives.  People either love them or hate them.  I don't think there's an in between.  Personally, I love olives in every form, including black olives which are as far from natural as one can get.  But their sour, vinegary tang just falls in line with my taste preferences.

Thatkid hates them.  He doesn't mind regular olives, although he certainly doesn't prefer them, but black olives are persona non-gratis for him.

Thatboy has fallen on both sides of the coin.  He started out a black olive lover, until the fateful holiday he made himself sick by eating too many of them as a child.  And now he hates them.  Which is funny, because he has also made himself sick by eating too much ice cream, too much lamb, or even drinking too much, and he doesn't hate ice cream, lamb, or alcohol. 

So this is one of those pizzas that works best as a "personal" pizza in this house, since I'm the only one who will eat it.  The hummus as sauce was really unique for me, I'd never even thought to use it, but it really worked.  It kind of blends into the dough, and is just a smooth, unassuming flavor.  But it works with the rest of the flavors, which are very stereotypically "Greek" - tomatoes and feta.  And really I'll pretty much eat anything that has tomatoes and feta on it!

The Greek Austerity Cure (From Cooking Light)
1 lb refrigerated pizza dough
3/4 cup ready-made Greek-style hummus
6 sliced plum tomatoes
1/3 cup black olives
1/2 crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  1. Preheat oven to 425. Roll dough into 14 inch circle.  Spread hummus evenly over dough, leaving 1/2 inch crust.
  2. Top with tomatoes, olives, and feta.  Bake for 15 minutes.
  3.  Sprinkle with basil. Cut into 8 wedges and serve.