The final countdown, nesting and granola bars!

I’m at 35 1/2 weeks.  S*** is about to get real, friends.  The nursery is done.  I mean, sure we need to paint the new dressers, but the room is finished!  Also Elinor’s old junk heap  room has been converted into a play room, thanks to the kindness of family members and friends for baby sitting and furniture building, and also to the beauty and affordability that is IKEA.  Our downstairs looked like the IKEA warehouse threw up on it for about two weeks, but now everything is assembled and it is a thing of beauty.  We never did Elinor’s room right the first go round.  I never had that “nesting instinct” and her room which was the smallest/darkest room in the house, had a hand-me-down crib and changing table (which we love and are still using for the record), a dresser full of my clothes topped with a  disorganized pile of stuffed animals and a wardrobe I had purchased to house Elinor’s clothes, which ended up being useless because you could never find anything you needed in it and clothes were mostly piled up on the floor.  It was a thing of beauty to be sure.   Hoarders, eat your heart out.  I wish I had taken some before pictures, but because of shame time requirements, I never got around to it.  But now, NOW!  The “PLAY ROOOOOOM!” and “NEEEEEW ROOOOOOOOOOOM!” are things of my childhood desires.  Curtains!  Color!  Art!  Toys!  And most importantly, organization and space!  It makes me a happy woman, to be sure.

newroom

The new bedroom, ex guest room.

playroomThe new playroom, ex eyesore.

So now, just getting Al’s ex office, soon to be guest room, up and running.  It is close, just needs a little touch up.  The car seat is installed (I just have to dig the infant insert out of our basement along with all the newborn clothes), and my plan for the next couple days is to pack the hospital bag.  I’d also love to get together some items for the freezer (IE lasagna and cookie dough, you know, the important things) for when I have zero ambitions to make anything for dinner, and come on.  I always need to have cookies on hand, and even more so if I’m sleep deprived.  But we will just have to wait and see what Chico’s plan is.

Another thing that I want to have on hand are things that I can eat with one hand.  I remember my nonstop hunger and lack of ability to do much aside from having a baby attached to my body 24/7, made an easy snack mandatory.  Cliff bars, and nuts!  Man, I ate more cashews and almonds in those first few weeks than I ever have.  And when my awesome co-worker Carolyn gave me her fantastic granola bar recipe, I was stoked!  I’ve made them once, and I already have the fixings to make batch number two.  They are so so so tasty, and while not the MOST healthy thing ever, I made a few tweaks that make them slightly better for you (depending on your definition of “better”.)  So here we go:

Carolyn’s Greatest Ever Granola Bars

What you will need:

3 Cups rolled oats

1 cup chopped nuts 

1 cup sunflower seeds or trail mix (okay, here is what I did.  Instead of 1 cup nuts and 1 cup sunflower seeds, I did two cups of assorted nuts and seeds, along with some toasted coconut that I had on hand.  I believe I used sliced almonds, chopped walnuts and/or pecans, cashews, and sunflower seeds)

1 cup raisins, dried apricots, or sweetened dried cranberries (I used a combo of raisins, cranberries and some older dried blueberries I had on hand.)

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I omitted these this go round, but the first time I ever tried these granola bars, they were included and BOY was it good.  Just my attempt at something that won’t kill me if I ate these every morning for a week, but do what you have to do.  I’m not your mother.  Or your doctor.)

1 can Low Fat, sweetened condensed milk (so this is the only thing that isn’t the best for you here in this recipe, but whatever.  I haven’t been able to find anything on the interwebs that recommends any acceptable substitute and the only sweetener called for in this recipe is what is contained here in the milk.  I suppose I could get crafty and attempt to use rice syrup, but to be honest, it’s not my favorite and I think it has a weird aftertaste.  When I made mine, I couldn’t find the low fat sweetended condensed milk, so I used regular, but I found fat free while I was shopping yesterday and word is {according to the expert Carolyn} that fat free is just as good taste wise in this recipe.  So if anyone has any thoughts on this matter, feel free to comment and let me know.)

1/2 cup of butter, melted (Again, I opted to use canola oil and it worked like a dream.  I want to be straight with you all here, I love butter as much as the next person.  I mean, I want my desserts to be DESSERTS!  I made the mistake of following a recipe once that called for part whole grain flour in a pie crust recipe.  Um, no.  Just, no.  Let me save you all the time and effort, and just avoid anything that attempts to make pie “healthy” like the plague.  Pie crust should be light, buttery and flaky.  Period.  Same thing with a chocolate chip cookie.  Butter.  And lots of it!  Okay, and salt too, the secret ingredient to any good chocolate chip cookie.  Double the salt it calls for.  You’re welcome.  But back to healthier options, as far as breakfast type items go, I actually kind of prefer more whole grains in my waffles and muffins.  I just wanted to clear this up, I am so not anti fat.  I always have a box of butter in my freezer for emergency butter situations.  I can’t think of an example of one at this moment, but one can only imagine how awful it could be.  It’s better to always be prepared.)

Method:

Line a 15X10 inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper.  This will make clean up easier.  (So I asked Carolyn what the heck a jelly roll pan is, and she said you can use anything that has semi high sides, that can take the heat.  Since I don’t have a 15X10 pan, I used my 9X11 Pyrex glass pan and another glass loaf pan which seemed to be perfect.)  Combine oats, nuts, dried fruit, seeds, chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and butter and mix well.  

granola1

With lightly greased hands, press evenly into prepared pan(s).  

granola2

Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 25-39 minutes or until golden brown. (I had to leave the house in a hurry and I think I only baked mine for 30 minutes.  I would bake them a tiny bit longer in retrospect, but they were gooey and yummy so whatever.)  Cool completely then chill.  Cut into bars.  Store loosely covered at room temperature in an airtight container. (A note that was included in the recipe were options for nut alternatives.  Things that are suggested are soya nuts, and dry cereals such as rice krispies, corn flakes, and puffed cereals.)

granola3

Num tastic for sure.  So I have no idea if I will have another opportunity to update this here blog before Chico makes it’s appearance into the world, but in the meantime, I will leave you with this: my almost 18 month old, who is obsessed with shoes.  I may need to talk to her about the sizing difference between woman and men’s shoes, but that will come with time.  Besides, she is so stinking proud of herself for getting them on and standing up in them, I refuse to be the one to burst her bubble.

baby

Advertisements

Summer Peach Cobbler, and the end of an era.

I’m 33 1/2 weeks pregnant with my second child.  Wait a second, WHAT??!?  Yes, that’s right.  This time around has flown by.  Mostly in the sense that I haven’t had all the downtime of the first go round, that was filled in all the special “first time” things.  Baby showers, lots of naps, the first kicks, hiccups, cravings, weight gain, and relishing in every minute of being pregnant and the weekly “what sized piece of produce is the baby this week?”  This time has been a lot more of  “Wait, am I pregnant?  Did I remember to eat dinner last night?  Is Elinor going to wake up 5 times tonight, or sleep 12 hours? Did I pay the car payment?  Did I book Elinor’s pediatric appointment on the same day I’m supposed to be teaching a class at work?  What can I feed her tonight for dinner that a) she will eat, b) keep for a few days so the babysitter has something to give her and c) try to incorporate a veggie of some kind?” than the luxury of the first go round.  Having said that, I am one of those annoying women who loves being pregnant.  Seriously, I do. I am insanely lucky in the sense that neither time did I get very sick, I’ve mostly slept just fine, and aside from the occasional restless leg syndrome, headaches, and lack of booze in my life, I feel fantastic.  If money were no issue, I would have way more than two kids.  However, I’m not getting any younger, money IS an issue, and since I can’t afford the personal chef, weekly house cleaner and part time nanny I would require in order to have more babes, this is it for me.  So when I remember that I’m pregnant, I embrace it knowing that unless something big changes, this is the last 7 weeks of my life where I will ever have this opportunity.  So here I am, unflattering angle of my chin and all, taking the occasional selfie in the mirror to try and remember what it will be like when it’s past.

tummyBut enough about being pregnant again for the second time in two years (wait, I’m pregnant?  Oh right.)  Our kitchen is done, and I have photos to prove it!  I LOVE LOVE LOVE it.  It has made my life so much easier.  I’m not one of those people to dwell on the crappy things in life.  if something is less than pleasant, I try and deal with it, accept it, and move on (now, this doesn’t ALWAYS happen, lets be honest.  I’m human after all, but this is what I aspire to) but can I just say how I never realized how awful our kitchen layout was, much less how heinous our 20 year old fridge was, until we got a new one.  So behold the promised pictures of the final kitchen product:

kitchen1 kitchen2I’m in love.  It’s amazing.  And what better way to celebrate the new kitchen, the summer months, and the end of my freedom in the kitchen (for probably a few months at least) then by making one of my all time FAVORITES, Peach Cobbler?  I seriously thought I had already published this recipe here on the trusty blog, and when I was getting ready to make it and I returned for my own reference, I couldn’t find it.  So if I’ve published it twice, sorry.  If I haven’t, you’re welcome.  It’s a fantastic recipe I found on epicourous.com years ago, and I have substituted many different fruits in place of the peaches (berries, apples for more of a fall dessert) and it works perfectly every time.  Plus it silly easy, and when you have a 17 month old hanging on you most of the time (“UP PEEES!  UP PEEEEEES MOMEEE”) quick and easy is a must.  So here you go, enjoy this now with peaches being at their best, and adapt it later depending on your desires.

Peach Cobbler, from epicourous.com

Ingredients: 

For the filling:

6 large peaches, cut into thin slices (in my photos, I did one and a half times this recipe, so if that’s what you want to do, just do the math and use a bigger pan)

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or not fresh, whatever.  I used the jarred stuff and it was fine.)

1 teaspoon cornstarch

For the topping:

1 cup flour (I have used white, and a mix of white and wheat, and while I typically like my sweets not so healthy, this recipe is actually delish when you add in a little whole grain flour so either way works in my book.)

1/2 cup sugar (I like white or brown, depending on what you have on hand.  I used white in the filling this go round and brown in the topping.)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 cup boiling water

Method:

Preheat oven to 425. Toss peaches with lemon juice, cornstarch and sugar in a 2 quart, nonreactive baking dish and bake in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes.

cobbler1

While peaches are baking, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Blend in butter with your fingertips or with a pastry blender until the butter is in pea sized chunks or it resembles a course meal.

cobbler2

Stir in boiling water until just combined

cobbler3

Remove peaches from the oven and drop spoonfuls of the topping over it (topping will spread as it bakes.)

cobbler4

Bake in the middle of the oven until the topping is golden, around 25 minutes.  Let cool, eat and love.

cobbler5

Spa, Kitchen and BREAD!

I wish when I say “bread” I mean money, but not in this case.  In fact in the last month, we have spent ALL THE MONEY!  All.  Of.  It.  The upside is that we have a dramatically improved kitchen, a nursery that is well on it’s way to being amazing, and I had my first facial.  The downside is that if I wasn’t officially broke before, now I am.  But here are a few stories of our financial demise, and a simple bread recipe to boot.

Kitchen:  So the spending of all the money began with the face lift of the kitchen.  For the record, our house is almost 20 years old, my husband has owned the house for the past 12 years, and all the appliances were the original ones, save the dishwasher (which we kept) and the microwave. If you read back a few posts, you are already aware that our stove had finally met it’s was past timely demise, but the rest of the kitchen was right on it’s heels.  So a face lift it had!  We kept the cabinets, put new counter tops on, bought a new fridge (which is my new favorite thing!) and shuffled the configuration around.  To give you a brief example:

kitchen1

kitchen2

I still need to take one more photo that has the totally complete kitchen with all the paint colors. but this gives you an idea of how far we have come.  And I am in LOVE!

Bread:  So I have been really bad at the whole cooking/baking thing as of late.  (It didn’t help that we had guys working on our dismantled kitchen over the course of three weeks.)  I made these amazing flourless peanut-butter chocolate chip cookies (similar to the flourless peanut-butter cookie recipe I posted a few posts ago) but I forgot to take pictures and then we ate them all.  And man, this whole parenting/working/spouse working/being pregnant thing really takes up a lot of time!  Lately, it’s been more meals made up of frosted mini wheats than I would normally admit to, but I did stumble across this awesome, and I mean AWESOME bread recipe that I have now made three times (and I managed to take three photos of the product between those three attempts that mostly give you the idea of this recipe.)  Seriously this bread tastes like sourdough but no hassle of having to create and feed a starter.  And I found this recipe on Pinterest which proves that not everything on there is destined to fail.  So here it is!  It is from simplysogood.com.

Crusty Bread 

What you will need:

3 cups four (I used half white, half whole grain.  Delish.)

1 3/4 teaspoons salt (the recipe recommends kosher, I’ve used regular and kosher, both work fine.)

1/2 teaspoon rapid or quick rise yeast (bread machine yeast which is mostly what I use, works.)

1 1/2 cups water

Method:

Mix dry ingredients, and then add water.

bread1 bread2

 It will look like a big spongy mess at this point.  Cover and let sit on the counter at room temp overnight to rise and rest.  The great thing is, you can let it sit for as long as you like.  I let one sit for two days, made it and it was just lovely.  Whenever you decide to bake it, preheat oven to 450, and place a heat resistant pot/pan complete with tight fitting lid into the oven.  (I’ve only ever used my circular glass topped Pyrex bowl.  Apparently you can use anything that holds heat and will hold heat in, so a pan with tightly wrapped foil would probably also do the trick, although I have never tried.)  Preheat the pot complete with lid, for 30 minutes.  During this time, dump your very soggy bread dough onto a heavilly floured surface and cover it with flour (the goal here is to not try and make the dough workable, just literally dump it onto the flour, and make sure it’s semi covered with flour so the surface doesn’t stick as much to your fingers.)  Attempt to shape into a ball, and recover with the plastic wrap until the 30 minutes of preheating the pan are up.  Remove (carefully!!) the very hot pot from the oven, take off the lid, and dump floured mess into the pot.  Cover and place bread in oven with the lid on  for 30 minutes.  After the 30 minutes are up, remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes.  And then this is what you will have:

bread3

 

Can you see I ate some even before I could take the picture?  This bread is so effing good, I’m telling you I may never buy fresh baked bread again.  The original recipe has a few variations on this basic bread (an orange and cranberry one, and a rosemary lemon Gruyere one which both sound freaking amazing.)  I want to try to make a regular rosemary one, and from what I gather, you just add those items into the mix before letting it sit overnight.  If I ever stray from the original recipe, I will post results for sure (and I should but the regular one is just so stinking good, I haven’t even attempted another one.)  I also want to add that in my attempts to eat less wheat, I have made this with Spelt flour each time, substitute it cup for cup, and it is just awesome.  I have not often made bread from scratch (as you can tell from my prior bread machine recipes) because I’m lazy and don’t like all the kneeding/resting time required to made bread, however as long as you can plan ahead 12 hours, this bread really is the best.  I’m a convert.  And now, lastly:

Spa:  For a mother’s day gift, my amazing husband got me the gift of a weekend away at the Lorian Spa and hotel in Old Town Alexandria with one of my very best friends Becca.  It was decedent.  We both ate our way through old town (not being able to drink) and enjoyed a prenatal massage and a facial. Having been a massage therapist in a past life, I have had my share of massages and this one was fine (nothing to write home about) but the facial!  OH MY GOD THE FACIAL!  I had never had one before and it was maybe the best thing ever.  The lady who did it was named Ludmilla and both Becca and attempted to convince her that she needed move down to Charlottesville with us (even volunteering our own homes.)  She pretended to not be creeped out by two expecting ladies in a spa haze, and graciously played along that if she could bring her husband, 9 month old daughter and father with her, she was game for anything.  We are still awaiting her arrival, but it must be any day now.  We also inadvertently stole two spa “gifts” afterwards (see “spa haze” above) but we returned them, thinking that a Thelma and Louise style get away would not be but so practical when in the third trimester and waddling is the fastest getaway move we can pull.    So aside from our near brush with crime, the weekend was amazing, the food fantastic and the whole experience was completely relaxing and HGTV filled.  Since this was my first full night(s) spent away from Elinor, I was very happy to arrive home to this vision in pink.  Who could ask for anything more?

baby1

Pizza Friday and the new oven! A quick post for a Holiday Weekend.

Happy Memorial Day weekend!  I know you all couldn’t wait to see what our new oven looks like, and here it is in all it’s glory.  My new toy!  Complete with convection bake, an oven light that WORKS, a glass top that I am convinced I will drop a spice jar on and shatter (they are going to be moved and replaced with bags of chips and light objects for Kitchen face lift  2.0 coming soon), and three (count them, THREE) racks for my baking pleasure.  Currently the bottom rack is covered in baking sheets as to catch anything that is bound to overflow or spill (did I mention while I consider myself a competent baker, I am not a tidy one?  Katie  bar the door!)  I’m really loving it so far.  I think I’ve used it 6 times out of the 7 days we’ve had it if that tells you anything.

stoveTerrible picture but so pretty!

So last night, I decided to make Pizza because I had been craving some homemade pizza.  Normally I keep a few pre-made pizza crusts from Whole Foods on hand, but since my oven had been out of order for over a month, they had molded.  What to do?  I reached into my tiny tin box of recipe cards and found the recipe I had scribbled down years ago when I lived with my amazing roommates and still friends Ashley and Aaron.  Ashley loved making pizza, and she is so good at it!  She taught me how to make such a simple crust that needed virtually no resting or rising time, and I had all but forgotten about it.  So for your benefit and mine (since my yellow note is barely legible and I need a place where it will better withstand the test of time and baking), I present:

Ashley’s Ridiculously Easy Pizza Dough Recipe

Ingredients:

3/4-1 Cup of warm water (I say luke warm, so that you can barely keep a finger in it.)

1 Tablespoon yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

2 1/2 Cups flour (this time around, I used 1 1/2 cups whole grain and 1 cup white and it was really great!)

2 Tablespoons oil (I always use olive)

1/2 teaspoon salt (I go a bit heavy, like a rounded teaspoon.)

Method:

Combine water, yeast and sugar, mix well and set aside 5 minutes or until a little bubbly

Mix flour and salt, then add oil

stir yeast mix into flour mix and mix until workable (adding a little extra flour or water as needed so it’s not too sticky.)

Knead for a few minutes (very specific and scientific), cover and set aside while you assemble all other toppings.

Stretch out dough on a tray or a pre heated pizza stone and add toppings, sauce, etc.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or to desired crispiness. 

My pizza last night had summer squash (which I love), broccoli, onion, fresh garlic, cheddar and mozzarella cheese, and chopped up veggie meat.  And it was the prettiest pizza I have ever made, so I took a photo.  So don’t distress if your pizza crust gets moldy, this is a perfect lazy person’s pizza.  And I am nothing if not lazy.

pizza2

 

The birth of peanut butter cookies and the death of my stove. RIP.

They were the cookies that killed my oven, but boy were they worth it.  I made these about a month ago, and have been oven free ever since.  No homemade pizza, no roasted or baked potatoes, no *gasp* BAKING!  Major uncoolness. But last Wednesday our prayers were answered when our brand NEW STOVE arrived.  And thanks to work and a weekend full of social events, I haven’t had time to properly christen it, but I plan on it as soon as I am able.  Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, here I come! 

But before the tragic tale of first world problems occurred, my oven went out in grand style. I love peanut butter cookies, and yet I never make them!  I often opt for the always crowd pleasing chocolate chip, or it’s the holidays and I have to make gingerbread, three types of sugar cookies or chewy chocolate chip cookies.  So this time, I just dove in and did it.  I went to one of my loves, allrecipes.com and found a really wonderful cookie recipe.  Literally within a week of making these cookies, my partner in so many things and cooking and baking crime Becca, made me her 4 ingredient peanut-butter cookie recipe.  How could these be anywhere as good?  Well, they WERE!  So I’ll post the pictures of my cookies, and include her recipe as well (which I may or may not be making today, depending on how much my sweet E will let me accomplish. Fingers crossed.)

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies, from Allrecipes.com

1 Cup unsalted butter

1 Cup crunchy peanut butter

1 Cup white sugar

1 Cup brown sugar (packed)

2 eggs

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Method

 

Cream together butter, peanut butter and and sugars.

cookie1Beat in Eggs.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt

cookie3Stir into batter and refrigerate batter for one hour.

cookie2Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on baking sheet (I opted to use my all-purpose cookie scoop.)

cookie6Flatten each ball with a fork in a criss-cross pattern. Sprinkle with a dash of sugar if you wish.  I did.  

cookie7

cookie4Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 for about 10 minutes or until they are just *slightly* browned.

cookie5Reward your helper in the kitchen with a cookie.  Or if you are an a**hole parent like myself who doesn’t allow their child any sugar, give them an empty box to play with.  She will try to eat it anyway, and doesn’t know what she’s missing.

cookie8

And now as a bonus (no pictures though), here is Becca’s recipe for 4 ingredient peanut butter cookies.  I was super skeptical, but by gosh I was dead wrong.  I’m not going to compare these two cookies because both were completely delish so you will just have to make them for yourself and decide.

Becca’s Easiest Flour-less Peanut Butter Cookies Ever

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

Method:

Mix and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.  Num Num.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First comes love, then comes marriage, than come a baby….oh wait. Then comes a recipe for Banana Oatmeal Crumble Cake.

So we made it official.  I’m a Hoover!  After having met the man shortly before my 21st birthday, knowing him for going on 11 years and being with him for the last 6 years (or something since we don’t really do anniversaries  or any of that junk) we tied the knot two weeks ago.  In the state of VA, you can get married for a cool $85 (although ours was $50 more for having a ceremony performed during off hours) but $135 later, you can be Mr. and Mrs.  I can’t speak for any other couple aside from ourselves, but this was TOTALLY the way to go!  A nice short ceremony, with virtually no one in attendance (okay, my sister was there because I think she would have murdered me if she wasn’t), and then going out to dinner with two close friends was my ideal wedding night.  It was a heck of a lot cheaper than a full blown wedding, plus I was able to avoid all panic and stress attacks that often accompany a bride-to-be.  It was a perfect evening and it was just….perfect. us1 us2

A huge thank you to our dear friend Ed for surprising us two nights later with this unbelievable cupcakes.  The icing?  AHHH MAZE BALLS!  But enough about married bliss!  Let’s talk food!  My dad’s girlfriend Charlotte made this Banana Oatmeal Crumb Cake for Easter, and then after eating two pieces, I demanded the recipe.  I have no clue where she got it, but it is super yummy, and I’d say really ideal for a breakfast cake, like a coffee cake.  Because of that, when some of my mommy friends came over, I made a Whole Grain version which was also quite good, but I’ll include the original recipe and you can get creative and sub out whole grain for regular flour, and replace any of the fat with a substitute you feel comfortable with.

Banana Oatmeal Crumb Cake

What you need:

1/2 butter, softened

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup mashed banana

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup flour

1 1/3 cups rolled oats

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

For the topping:

3/4 cups rolled oats

1/3 cups packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons chopped walnuts (I can’t remember but I think I was out and used pecans and it was delish)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Method:

Stir together flour, 1 1/3 cups oats, salt and baking soda.  In a large bowl, cream 1/2 butter with 2/3 cup brown sugar.

cake1

Beat in the eggs, then the bananas and vanilla.

cake2 Beat the flour mixture into the banana mixture.  Turn the batter into a greased and floured 8 inch square pan.

cake3Next, mix 3/4 cups oats, 1/3 cup brown sugar, melted butter, walnuts and cinnamon together until crumbly.

cake5Mmmmm….looks like granola….okay now sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter.

cake6Finally, bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Transfer to a rack to cool.  Then cut into nice cake sized pieces (I did 9.)

cake7Mmmm.  Tasty.  So, I will have more cooking, baking, baby and travel notes in upcoming posts, including the last thing I ever baked in our old oven before it gave up the ghost.  But don’t worry, the new one arrives on Tuesday.  This lady is SO EXCITED, because a month of no oven means my cookie jar is empty and my cravings of baked potatoes and homemade pizza have gone unheeded for way too long.  For the love of god, someone get the preggo woman a baked good!

One mom’s lessons on sleep training, and what follows…(spoiler alert, I’M RESTED Y’ALL!)

So, remember that last post all about me being pregnant again, and that whole new parent/not sleeping thing?  Well we did it.  And by we I mean, it was all Al.  We sleep trained Elinor.  And so far, IT HAS WORKED!!!  It was an ugly road, but at the same time, it wasn’t as ugly as I had myself thinking it would be.  I have nothing too terribly wise to say about it, but I’ll tell you our experiences thus far.

We wrapped up the production of Into The Woods last week.  It was a show I had always wanted to do (see prior posts) and a role I was almost too old to play (but thankfully not *quite*) with a cast that could not possibly be any more dreamy, and I am really glad that I was able to do it. Having said that, it was HARD and I again, owe it all to Al.  All. Of. It.  Seriously.  He was on baby duty 5 nights a week and during the run, all day on Sunday, while I got to go flounce about on stage, shake fake knives at people, eat multiple shortbread cookies on stage, eat multiple Rheeses Peanut-butter Easter Eggs off stage, and act like a headstrong little girl.  And sing beautiful music, with even more beautiful people.  But I’m not 26 anymore, and working 30 hours a week, plus being a mom to a wonderful 13 month old, and being knocked up and doing a show that requires 15-18 hours a week of you on top of that, well let’s just say that it was hard on ALL of us.  The wonderful outcome is that I have stories to tell Elinor and Baby Chico about how cool I used to be.  Proof?

Image

Right?  Mom used to do cool thing and be cool!  And stuff.

Anyways, so Al has been rocking out this single parent thing like a champ. For the past three months, most nights Elinor would sleep in her own room from around 7pm-11pm, then come into our bed (not proud of this but we both work and we were exhausted so sue me) and sleep fitfully with us the remainder of the night, 90% of the time while nursing.  Let me just say that learning how to sleep with a honey badger attached to you most of the night is a skill in itself.  And not one that I can honestly recommend.  Al and I decided this had to come to an end, especially with baby Chico on the way, so we decided that after my show closed we were going to tackle the dreaded “sleep training”.  We had kind of tried this in the past, we tried the pick up/put down method with Elinor when she was about 6 months old, and it worked for a few nights, then it stopped working and we stopped trying.  Then we were going to Alaska and it was pointless to try and sleep train her BEFORE that, then I was in the show, and there was just never a good time.  So we resigned ourselves to the fact that Elinor was just not a sleeper, and when we tried to sleep train her, it was going to be ugly.

So the few key points I will tell you (that probably any parent who has tried to sleep train or book will tell you) is that a) its not fun (have a glass, much less, a bottle of wine at the ready) b) you really need to have the dad on board with you, and c) pick a plan and stick to it!  From what everyone had told me, routine is key and luckily we  had this part down.  Elinor’s bedtime routine has been consistent for many months starting around 7pm or so, including getting into pj’s, reading books (we have read almost from birth”The Going To Bed Book” and “Pajama Time”, both by that she has got to be a bajillionare Sandra Boynton, “Goodnight Moon” and “Goodnight Gorilla” and we have recently added on “Dear Zoo” which Elinor LOVES) singing songs (I have sung her “In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning” since she was born, and then “Tender Shepard” from the musical Peter Pan, and “Silent Night” because I love it.  I think Al sings her a few different song) then either nursing to sleep or Al rocking her to sleep, then we put her in her crib.  Then she normally wakes right up and screams.  We have gotten to the point where we give her 5-10 minutes of this, before we go back in and calm her, pick her up, and she normally falls right back asleep.  Then we put her back down and most often with fingers crossed, she will stay asleep at this point.  This has been the going to bed ritual for many months so she was already used to it.  (We do bath time about 2-3 times a week before our bedtime ritual, but she has her mama’s insanely dry skin and since it has been cold since FOREVER, we limit her baths and slather her with lotion when she does get one. You’re welcome Elinor. Someday if you don’t ever have bad acne, you can thank me.  And then in the winter time when you want to rip your dry itchy skin off, you can thank me again.)

I think this bedtime routine really helped us.  It was the 11pm wake ups, and nursing through the rest of the night that was getting hard.  And about two weeks ago, when Al brought her into bed with us, she was fidgety and fussy, and making me crazy.  I was exhausted, I had just had a long weekend of shows, Al had to work the next morning and after 3o minutes of tossing and turning with her, I got up and took her back into her room, nursed and rocked her, got her back to sleep, and then what had always been happening recently, happened again. I put her into her crib dead asleep, she woke up and started screaming bloody murder.  (Let me add that at 13 months and for the past two months, when Elinor wakes up, she pulls up on her crib, so the chances of getting her to fall back asleep on her own are slim to none because she will just stand there and scream until you come in and get her.  It took her until maybe a month ago to figure out how to sit back down but before this, it just threw another wrench into the whole getting her back to sleep thing.)  So Elinor is screaming, I’m grumpy and exhausted and 4 months pregnant, and so I walked away, shut her door, shut our door, and crawled into bed putting a pillow over my head and mumbling something to Al like “I CANT TAKE THIS ANYMORE I’M GIVING HER TEN MINUTES BECAUSE I’M GOING TO LOSE IT I SWEAR TO GOD!”  Al gave her ten minutes and went back in to calm her.  After FOUR TRIES (yes, FOUR TRIES) and 90 minutes of this total, (it’s 1:30am on what it technically a Monday morning now) after Al had her to sleep for the 4th time, put her down, she woke up and started screaming, he came back in to join me. Screaming child, we were both exhausted, I put the pillow back over my head and pull the covers over me for good measure.

Then I wake up.  It’s 6:30am.  There is no baby crying.  I get up and sneak into her room, and she is asleep curled up with her stuffed puppy.  I go back into our bedroom and Al and I do a happy dance.  She wakes up at 7 and is not angry with me, in fact, she seems rested!  So there you have it.  It took one night for both of us to be at the end of our ropes, and it was a week earlier than we had planned to start it, but it happened.  So, regroup! This had been too good to be true so we needed a game plan for the next night so Al and I powwowed.  We both thought it best to remove me (aka food/snuggle source) from checking on her during middle of the night wake ups, so no matter how many times she woke up after being put down, Al graciously agreed to get up and sooth her each time.  We decided our cut off time was 6am, and anytime that she woke up after 6am, I would get up with her and start our day (after the much needed advice from my mommy friends, we decided that bringing her back into bed, even starting at 6am, may confuse the issue) so then Al could be guaranteed a few more hours in bed and I would do the early morning shift.  For night two and three, Elinor woke up twice and each night, Al soothed her (the first night one of the soothing sessions did last for 30 minutes, but then they got shorter) and when she woke up at 6am (almost like clockwork), I got out of bed, went and retrieved the little monkey, and took her down to the couch to cuddle and nurse.  Nights 4-6, Elinor SLEPT FROM 7:30PM UNTIL 6AM!!!  This is from the baby who hadn’t slept more than 6 hours EVER at a stretch since she was born (and that blissful stretch of 6 hours was when she was 3 months old).  Night 7, she woke up once and Al did the old go in and calm her, then the past two nights she has again slept through the night. The only other change to our bedtime routine is that I have stopped nursing her to sleep.  I thought cutting out nighttime feedings would be hard, but we did it cold turkey and it totally worked.  Now when Al or I put her to bed, after we finish reading books, we turn off the light, rock and sing and she falls asleep.  This is where me being in the show really helped because Al was on bedtime duty for so many nights in a row, she got used to no boob and would snuggle into his (and now some nights, my) shoulder, and fall asleep while we rock her.  And if you think there is anything sweeter than your child burring her head into your shoulder as you rock her to sleep, you are wrong.

sleepy

I know this will change.  If I have learned NOTHING from the past 14 months, it’s that good or bad, it will change.  So I’m not counting on this as a forever thing.  Plus even if Elinor does stick to this amazing schedule, baby Chico will arrive in September and we will be back to square one for awhile.  Plus there will be teething, illness, growth spurts, travel and any other number of things that will throw off our new routine.  But what I have learned from this has been very valuable.  It’s okay to not want to have your child next to you every moment of every day, and if you sleep train your baby at 6 weeks, or 3 years, or never, it doesn’t make you a bad parent.  I have to be honest, I really didn’t WANT to sleep train Elinor until two months ago.  I love having her put her little feet up on my leg and we snuggle together in bed.  And waking up to her yelling “CAT!!!!” with amazing gusto, is kind of the best even when you have only had a little bit of sleep. But I think especially with my getting bigger with babe each day, and Al’s demanding work schedule, the time had come.  I was worried that I was a horrible mother for waiting to sleep train her for as long as I did, that I should have done it sooner and since I didn’t it would be that much harder for everyone, or that she would hate me in the morning.  I also hated the idea of having to re-train her after every major set back (travel, teething etc) but I feel really great about how we did it and when we do have to, we have a great foundation to fall back on.  It was just the right time for all of us.  And making sure Al and I were on the same page, talking it to death, and making sure we had a PLAN before starting it was key, because please don’t expect yourself to make any kind of decision at 2am when you are exhausted and half awake that doesn’t end up in “let’s just bring her into bed and sleep this off”.  That answer worked for us for months, but we grew out of it as a family.  The timing was right and all of us are sleeping better for it.  We will see what happens with baby Chico, I think we will attempt the sleep training thing closer to the 6 month mark, but I’m giving myself the leisure of taking it day by day.  Every family is different, every baby is different and the best laid plans of mice and men…. well sometimes you have to change boats midstream.  Did I just mix metaphors?  Probably.  And for once, I can’t blame this one on lack of sleep.

Elinor1

 

We’ve got a good thing going.

So sleep, that elusive thing that all parents are sorely lacking.  We’ve been in the throws of it for the past 13 months now and let me just say, it is amazing what a hot shower and a cup of coffee can do.  It can make a world of difference and I don’t recommend going without either ever.  Having said that, Al and I decided that while we are rocking the whole new parents/sleep deprived thing, why not keep a good thing going?  So this happened our last few days in Alaska.

test

Yes, we have lost our minds, thank you for asking.  Yes, this means we will have two under two, two in diapers, perhaps two still breastfeeding (the jury is out on this, but at the rate we are at now, this is looking semi likely), and two reasons to not sleep.  But here is my thinking, it is going to be really really really hard, and then it will be over.  If I get used to sleep again, I may never want to have another baby and I have always wanted two.  I am the youngest of 5 (all older than me, three half siblings quite a bit older than me) and I can’t imagine a world without my crazy siblings.  And I like the idea that Elinor will never remember a world where she was the only planet we orbited around, because let me say unabashedly  I am ALL ABOUT HER!  And I think it will be good for everyone to have another person, the even to our odd number.  The parent to kid ratio will be 1/1 (except when dear god, I’m alone with the two of them all day while Al is working and one is attached on me all day, while I chase the other around all day and….oh dear god, what have we done?  Am I supposed to find time to make meals, clean, keep the babies fed and clothed and….but I digress.)

belly

So Baby Chico will be here to join Baby Groucho sometime early September, and I am breaking the promise I made to myself which was to never be huge and swollen and preggo during the hot summer months.  Oh well, I have access to a pool, so I plan on spending a lot of time there.  The only things I have to report from pregnancy round two, is that I DID get morning sickness this time around (although I have to be completely honest and say it wasn’t as bad as I hear some people get it) and I have had my fair share of food aversions, but I had those round one too.  Salads take a back burner to milkshakes and fries which I will occasionally let myself  indulge in, and raw veggies which I could normally eat every day, seem way less appealing.  So here I am, 15 weeks in, feeling pretty good in the glamorous second trimester. I just succumbed to maternity pants finally two days ago, and oh how I missed them.  It’s like you can wear pajama jeans, but to work! So only time will tell us how truly insane we were to embark on this path for the second time in two years, but what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.  Or that’s what they tell crazy people like me.  It’s a good thing those babies are so stinking cute, or else we would be doomed as a race.  And man, they are cute.

babe

Baby Groucho turns one

Well the inevitable happened.  My daughter turned one.  ONE!  Everyone tells you it flies by.  People lie about stuff all the time, but this time?  They speak the truth, my friends.  You blink and all of a sudden, instead of being a stationary blob propped up with a Boppy, she is chasing the cat across the room and eating dirt off the floor.  She’s saying words (albeit, maybe only “words” that you and your co parent can understand), pointing, and interacting like a little person.  Crazy times.

Awhile ago I thought that since we weren’t able to throw our annual Christmas bash due to crazy work and going to Alaska for Christmas, we would throw a huge party for Elinor’s first birthday.  Fast forward two months, rehearsals full time, work insanity for both of us adults, and then the norovirus.  Oh yes, because all of that wasn’t enough, but let’s throw a flu into the mix for, oh about a week or so.  Elinor’s birthday was on a Sunday and I planned a kind of last minute brunch with just intimate family.  The Monday before, I got sick.  Elinor got sick Wednesday, and Al, after being a trooper all week long, took one for the team and after taking excellent care of us, finally got it as well.  He rallied by Sunday and after talking to my sister, she graciously offered to pick up hosting duties and we moved the gathering over to her place for a Sunday morning brunch.

Brunch was awesome.  If my family knows one thing, it’s how to make some darn good food.  Dad brought scrambled tofu, Liz put together an entire breakfast burrito bar, Charlotte made this awesome vegan banana apple cake (I’ll be making it myself in the next few weeks because I could not get enough of it, so recipe forthcoming) and I made a fruit salad, brought hashed browns and made Elinor’s “1st Birthday cake” which I will actually call more like muffin cakes.  I purposely tried to find a recipe with low sugar.  Now I can eat sugar until it’s coming out my ears, don’t get me wrong.  I am not one of those bakers that uses the fake stuff.  Agave, honey, brown sugar, molasses, the regular old white sugar, I’ll use it all.  But Elinor is one, and Al and I believe that why start her on something like that before it’s necessary?  She will have many years before her of sugar highs and lows, candy hearts, sneaking bubble gum with her friends, and trading her hummus sandwich and carrot sticks for a coke and a reeses cup.  So why encourage that before you have to?  But at the same time, I’m also feeding a (small) group.  And I want it to taste good.  So what’s a girl to do?

Off to trolling the internet.  And I found a perfect recipe on a website called “Happy, Healthy Mama.”  Well, that sounded right up my alley. Here is is.  Enjoy these “muffincakes” for breakfast, dessert, snack, whatever! They are healthy enough that you don’t need to feel guilty about eating three of them.  I may have.

Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

What you will need:

For the cupcakes:

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (I used half white spelt, half whole spelt.  Again worked great. Love me some spelt.)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/3 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/4 cup crushed and drained pineapple

2 cups shredded carrots

For the frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature (I used neufchatel, and again, worked great)

4 Tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350.  Line muffin tins with paper liners and spray with non-stick cooking spray (or rub lightly with oil or whatever. I only have non-stick olive oil spray and I used it and it was fine.)In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and baking soda and spices.  Set aside.

1In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, applesauce, maple syrup and vanilla.  Stir in the pineapple and carrots.

2
Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir until the mixture is smooth. Spoon around 1/3 of a cup of batter into each muffin liner.  Bake for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool on a rack before frosting.

3While cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting. In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, maple syrup, vanilla and cinnamon until smooth and whipped.  Ice and eat.  Recipe makes 12 cupcakes (if you wanted to make a full on cake, you would want to double it.)

45

This is how well they went over; I discovered my nephew hiding in the kitchen licking the icing bowl and this is the effect they had on Elinor.

Before:

6

During:

8After:

7I’d say that’s a successful birthday party by anyone’s standards.

The neglected blog brings you shortbread!

Look I’m here!  Really.  I know, I’m sorry my poor neglected blog.  But it’s been quite the month and it aims to be another month of more of the same.  Doing what, you ask?  Only working 30 hours a week, rehearsing for “Into The Woods” 5 nights a week, spending time with my baby who will be a YEAR OLD in 8 days (hyperventilate), and then oh yeah, all the OTHER stuff I’ve ignored like my dying plants, the house which is in major need of a swiffering (yes, that’s a word), the dishes, laundry and my poor partner (oh, HIM!)  So I’m going back a few months since obviously baking and cooking has fallen to the bottom of the neglected list.  I made this Chai Shortbread a little before Christmas and it was super tasty!  My bestie Becca (read her blog, so much more consistent and has so much more content than mine http://livingwithpurple.wordpress.com/ ) has been bugging me for this recipe and I was like “I’ll just put it on the blog!”  Well, almost three months later (isn’t that always the way?), I kept my promise.  Upcoming posts will include what else I’ve been up to the last month and Elinor’s first birthday cake!  Fingers crossed on that one that it doesn’t end up as a pinterest fail.

Chai Shortbread, from a magazine I got for free called Holiday Baking (??)

What you will need:

2 Cups flour

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 Darjeeling tea bags

1/4 teaspoon each of ground ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves

1/2 Cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons Vanilla sugar (or granulated sugar) for topping

Method

Preheat the oven to 350.  Whisk together flour, cornstarch and salt and set aside.  Using a hand mixer (I used my standing mixer) on medium speed, cream together butter and the contents of the two bags of tea (around 2 Tablespoons) along with the spices and mix until mixture is light and fluffy, around five minutes.  (If I was using my hand mixer, my hand would be numb and tired after five minutes so standing mixer FTW!) Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the half a cup of granulated sugar. Beat again on low this time, until the sugar is incorporated and mixture is light and fluffy (wasn’t it ALREADY light and fluffy?  Whatever, just go ahead and set a timer for 5 minutes, let the standing mixer do its thing and start your clean up or go change a diaper.  You pick. The diaper changing may take longer than 5 minutes depending how messy and how much child wrangling you have to do.  Whatever.  You make it work.  Tim Gunn style. Wash hands.) Add half of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture, mix on low until combined and add the remaining of the flour mixture.

chai1

Pat the dough evenly into a 9 inch tart pan (I didn’t have one at the time, now I do thanks to Becca and the Christmas holiday, so I used a cake pan and it worked fine.) Pierce dough with a fork into 16 even pieces.

sbtwo

Bake shortbread until edges are firm and beginning to brown, around 30-40 minutes.  Let shortbread cool on a rack until the pan is cool enough to handle.  If you are using the tart pan with the removable bottom, remove the ring at this point, if not just go ahead to the next step and sprinkle with the vanilla sugar, slice and serve.

sbthree

I noticed my nice neat little fork marks had mostly disappeared during baking but the dough seemed to remember where they were and when I sliced over where they had been, it sliced much easier.

sbreadfour

Try and eat just one.  Go ahead.