Wednesday, June 30, 2010

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Cookie Wednesday: Pudding Cookies

If you follow the blog it should come as no surprise that my favorite cookie is a chocolate chip cookie. I've made so many varieties of this cookie classic and I find it hard to resist trying out a new recipe. I came across this recipe on Nestle's website and was intrigued by the addition of pudding mix. The cookie was really, really good. I went with vanilla pudding mix and the cookie had an unmistakable vanilla flavor. I find that chocolate chip cookies usually have more of a brown sugar/butterscotch flavor but not these cookies. They are also the chewiest chocolate chip cookies I have ever had. They reminded me a lot of Entemmann's chocolate chip cookies.

Pudding Chip Cookies
Source: Nestle Toll House (here)
Yields approximately 30 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 pkg. (4 serving size) instant vanilla, butterscotch or chocolate pudding mix
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
1 large egg white
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Nestle semi-sweet chocolate mini morsels

PREHEAT oven to 350° F.

COMBINE flour and pudding mix in small bowl. Beat butter in large mixing bowl on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Beat in brown sugar and baking soda until well combined. Beat in egg and egg white. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Drop dough by rounded teaspoon 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 10 to 12 minutes or until set. Cool on baking sheets 2 to 3 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

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Obsession of the Week

I didn't become a fan of pearls up until a few years ago. I think they are beautiful but I didn't think I was the type of girl who looked right wearing pearls. My hair is almost always messy and uncombed and I live in jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers. Pearls seemed too fancy for me. That all changed when my in-laws gave me a strand of white pearls as a gift one year. This gift forced me to wear the pearls; you can't accept such a gift and never wear it in front of the gift giver, right? At first, I felt weird wearing the pearls but I liked the way the pearls made me look more grown-up and womanly (this is a huge plus when people constantly think you are underage!). Now I have several pearl pendants, another strand of pearls, and countless pearl earrings. I wish someone would have made me try on pearls before so that I could have been enjoying them longer than I have.
For this reason I am happy that Cati received a pearl bracelet from her "Tias" as a baptism gift. She'll be able to enjoy the simple elegance that pearls add and, as an added bonus, she's going to look darn cute with a little pearl bracelet around her wrist. I can't wait until the bracelet fits her. In the meantime, I am obsessed with finding her a beautiful jewelry box for all her jewelry (Alex joked that she has more jewelry than I do). My mother-in-law bought me a green wooden jewelry box with ballerina on it and I would love to find something like this for Cati. Any ideas where I can get one??

Sunday, June 27, 2010

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This Week in Mommyhood

What a busy week I have had. I haven't been able to post because of how busy I have been trying to get everything ready for Cati's baptism. The baptism took place yesterday and it was such a beautiful event. I am in awe of all the love there is out there for our little family. Much to our surprise, Cati behaved herself. The only time she cried was when she was tired. We were prepared for her to cry her lungs out since that's how she has reacted at other similar events (I even told someone not to come up to us for fear they might scare Cati and send her into a crying fit). What I loved the most about her not crying yesterday was that everyone got to see her personality. We were told multiple times that our baby was happy and full of life. Yesterday was a perfect day, but I am so happy it's over. I'm even happier that the next big event isn't until her 1st birthday in 231 days (yes, I have a countdown).
I was fortunate enough to have my friend Lauren come over 2 days this week to watch Cati while I worked on the baptism. I was a little scared of having someone other than Alex, my mother-in-law, or me watch Cati. Not because I didn't trust Lauren, but because I was scared that Cati would think of Lauren as a stranger and cry the entire time Lauren took care of her. The only reason I thought this was because Cati cries every time she sees her grandfather. Initially, we thought it was because she didn't recognize him, but now we think it's a combination of her sensing his hesitation when it comes to her (scared of dropping her, etc) and her grandmother taking her away from him the moment she squeaks. Regardless, Cati was a good girl while Lauren watched her and I got everything done that I wanted to get done.
Cati is becoming increasingly mobile. It's as if something went off in her head the day she learned how to roll from back to tummy. Now she prefers to be on her belly and she's actually trying to crawl. Alex's parent's have a California king size bed and Cati made it from one end of the bed to the other. I wasn't there to see this (I can't believe I missed a first of something!) but Alex caught it on video.
The other big event this week was our dating (7 years) and wedding (3 years) anniversaries. We went out to dinner sans Cati and couldn't get over how much life has changed for us over the years. We met in undergrad, then moved to Boston, then got engaged and married, then moved back to Miami, and had a baby. Our 3rd year of marriage will always be particularly special because it was the year we expanded our family and welcomed our daughter.
PS You absolutely must go to Anthony W. Photography's blog HERE to see a sneak peek of Cati's baptism pictures. I love them!

Friday, June 25, 2010

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On June 24, 2007 I made the best decision I could have ever made. I said "I do" to the most remarkable man. Three years later I am still madly in love and incredibly grateful. I am married to an amazing man and I'm enjoying seeing him turn into an amazing father. In the three years we have been married we have gone from living in a studio apartment in Boston to owning a house in Miami and having daughter. I am in awe. I can't believe so much of our lives have changed in these 3 short years. It's been a beautiful journey and I wouldn't want to do it with anyone else.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

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Cookie Wednesday: Barely There Oatmeal Cookies

This week's cookie is an oatmeal cookie. It's another thin and chewy cookie so it meets my chewy cookie preference and Alex's thin cookie preference. The cookie has a great vanilla and butter flavor that's nicely contrasted by the chocolate. These cookies spread so make sure to leave enough room between them on the cookie sheet. They are perfect for drinking with a big glass of milk too.

Barely There Oatmeal Cookies
Makes approximately 20 cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup oats
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl cream butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla and beat for one minute.

In a separate bowl combine the flour and baking soda. Add to the butter mixture and combine.

Stir in oats and chocolate chips.

Using a cookie scoop or a 1 Tbsp measuring spoon, scoop out the batter and line up 3 inches apart on cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

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The Cake Slice: Shenandoah Valley Blueberry Cake

I can't remember the last time I participated in The Cake Slice. I feel horrible letting the groups I used to be a part of go. I want to bake more, I just can't. Cati has gotten a lot better with letting me do things in the kitchen but once she reaches her I-want-to-be-held point, there's very little I can do to get more time. And that's that I hold her A LOT less now than I used to. It also doesn't help that I am just behind on everything so I never really feel caught up.

This cake is perfect when you have very little time. Prep time is 10 minutes, tops, and you get something that makes those 10 minutes worth it. This cake was gone in 30 minutes of it being baked. Alex said it was one of the best "pound cakes" I have ever made. That's the best way to describe this cake; it's an extremely delicious and buttery blueberry pound cake.

Shenandoah Valley Blueberry Cake
(Recipe from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott)

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1/3 cup butter, softened

¾ cup plus 2 tbsp sugar

1 egg

1/3 cup milk

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (do not thaw)

Heat the oven to 375F and generously grease a 9 inch square or round pan.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and stir with a fork to mix well. In a medium bowl, combine the butter and sugar and beat with a mixer at high speed until well combined. Add the egg and beat well for 1 to 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl until the mixture is smooth and light.

Stir in half the flour mixture then half the milk, mixing just enough to keep the batter fairly smooth and well combined. Add the remaining flour, then the rest of the milk, mixing gently. Stir in the blueberries.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 375F for 30 minutes or until the cake is golden, springs back when touched gently in the centre and is pulling away from the sides of the pan.

Serve a square of cake right from the pan, warm or at room temperature. If its round, let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack or folded kitchen towel for 10 minutes and then turn it out to cool, top side up.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

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Father's Day

I was so excited about Alex's first Father's Day. You would have thought today was Christmas with how excited I was. As soon as Cati woke up today (she slept in to 8am!) I laid her next to Alex and brought him his gifts (yes, I woke him up). She was so excited to give her daddy his gifts; she could barely contain her excitement:

First, she gave him his first ever Father's Day card. She thanked him for being her daddy and for allowing me to stay home with her. She even signed the card.

Then, she gave daddy his first gift. Alex had actually guessed what this gift was about 2 weeks ago. I played it cool but had to try really hard to hide my disappointment. I thought I was being creative and the booger knew exactly what we got him. When I was pregnant Alex read Bill Cosby's "Fatherhood" and loved it. I found out Bill Cosby wrote a follow-up book called "Childhood" and thought it would be a great gift now that he is a dad and will be experiencing all the joys of raising a child.

Alex's other gift was a collage print. I read about a really cute photo idea for Father's Day using D-A-D letters but I was too cheap to actually buy the letters so instead I printed out the word "Papi" on pink cardstock and had Cati take pictures with that. It was a tough shoot because Cati was more interested in sticking the paper in her mouth than posing with it. I did manage to get a few good shots though:

After all this and lots of kisses, Alex thanked me for making him a father. He says that it's still such a surreal thing for him. We have a daughter and we are madly in love with her. I am so lucky to be sharing the joys of raising Cati with such an amazing man.

Friday, June 18, 2010

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This Week in Mommyhood

I don't know what it is but I am really starting to enjoy Cati. I've spent a lot of time this week thinking about my first 3 months with her and how I was doing emotionally during those months. I feel like that was a completely different person. I'm still getting to know Cati and I still have my moments of frustration but I feel happier now. A little more at peace with the huge responsibility inherent in raising a child. I don't sulk around on Sundays anymore wondering how I am going to make it through the week. I think a lot of this has to with how happy of a baby Cati has become. She cried sooo much during the first 3 months. I constantly doubted myself. Was I not feeding her enough? Holding her enough? Getting all her gases out? Changing her diapers quick enough? Not loving her enough? Now, none of those questions run through my mind. Cati spends more time smiling and laughing than crying. She practically gives away the smiles. I honestly never thought I'd have such a happy baby.
She started doing something new this week. She's been rolling like mad but now she buries her head, lifts her butt, and tries to move her legs. She isn't able to move forward but she is able to move in circles. It's hard to believe that all this is a part of her learning how to crawl and that one day, she will indeed by crawling.

I nearly had a heart attack this week because someone mistakenly canceled Cati's baptism next weekend. My initial reaction was to cry ("You don't do this to a frazzled mom of a 4-month old" I said) and then I laughed. I laughed because I couldn't believe this was happening. Laughed because it seemed unreal that no one would call to confirm the cancellation. Luckily, it's all been resolved and it was a huge misunderstanding, but there are still a few loose ends. The important thing is that Cati will get baptized next weekend, it just won't be performed by the person who agreed to do the baptism.
I'm trying to get Cati used to sleeping unswaddled. This is going to be tough because, even if she is asleep, the moment she realizes her hands are free they go straight to her mouth and wake her up. The most I've been able to get her to sleep unswaddled is an hour. The main reason I even want to deswaddle is because I'm afraid of her rolling onto her belly in her sleep and not being able to push herself up or roll back onto her back.
Other than that, Cati and I have been working tirelessly on Alex's first Father's Day present. We really hope he likes what we got him :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

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Cookie Wednesday: Vanilla Pomegranate Thumbprint Cookies

This week's cookie was another cookie that I thought could potentially make a good baptism favor. The cookie was a hit with everyone who tried it. The cookie itself was buttery and sweet and the filling was a beautiful shade of pink and had a subtle pomegranate flavor. As soon as these cookies were gone Alex begged me to make him some more. He's also rooting for these cookies to be the favor, but I don't know how I feel about making 120+ thumbprint cookies.

Vanilla Pomegranate Thumbprint Cookies
Makes 12 cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 Tbsp vanilla
1 cup Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
Pomegranate sugar filling, recipe below

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Add the flour and salt and mix until combined.

Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes or until hard enough to handle. Roll into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Using your thumb or the back of a 1/2 tsp measuring spoon press down the center of each cookie.

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until edges are golden and cookies are firm to the touch. Remove from oven and cool on a cookie rack. Once cooled fill with pomegranate sugar filling. Let sugar set before eating, about 30 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

6 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 Tbsp pomegranate juice

Whisk sugar and juice together in a small bowl until combined.

By the way, this is what happens when you don't let the sugar filling set:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

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Ritzy Mac & Cheese

I love mac & cheese. I love the comfort I get from eating the warm, cheesy pasta. I topped this mac & cheese with Ritz crackers and it was sooo good. It was literally like eating a Ritz cracker topped with a slice of cheddar cheese. This pasta is for you if you like your mac & cheese extra cheesy and thick. Delicious!
Ritzy Mac & Cheese

8 oz elbow pasta
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup Ritz crackers crumbs
1 Tbsp butter, cubed

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Preheat over to 350 degrees F.

In a saucepan over medium heat bring the heavy cream to a boil. Add the cream cheese and cheddar cheese; stir until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add cooked pasta and coat evenly.

Pour pasta into a casserole dish and top with Ritz cracker crumbs. Dot with cubed butter.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Serve and enjoy!
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Obsession of the Week

I really, really want a silhouette print. I think they are so pretty. I am especially obsessed with getting a custom one of Cati. I think it would look great on our picture wall to have a silhouette of everyone. Here are some of my faves (they even have a poodle!):

Monday, June 14, 2010

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Four Months

We have survived yet another month. When people said it gets better with time, they weren’t lying. Being Cati's mother has gotten more enjoyable and easier with each passing day. I am able to read her better and she is adapting better to the world around her. Sure, I had a few emotionally draining days where I was flirting with the idea of having postpartum depression but once I let my feelings out I felt so much better. Motherhood is hard and it’s especially hard if you are doing to majority of the caretaking alone.
Parenting is a huge emotional investment and now is when it’s starting to pay off. I have invested so much of myself in Cati and my return was seeing her grow, but this month she learned how to pay me back in other ways. The biggest being her ability to smile on demand. She smiles when she sees when for the first time after waking up for the day or from a nap. She smiles in response to my smiles and when she's in a really good mood she laughs. I have been waiting for this for so long and now that she does it, I feel a sense of renewed energy and excitement over parenting her. Now I can see that she knows me and appreciates having me around.
In general, this is the month where Cati came alive. This is the month where we really started to see her as a human being. What I mean by that is that this month she really started to show her spirit and independence. She was no longer just a baby taking it all in, she become a person capable of interacting and responding. We like to think that she recognizes her name already because when we call it she looks at us. Her fingers are constantly searching and reaching and feeling (when they aren’t in her mouth, of course!) and it was great to see her discover more of her body when she found her feet.
Cati became a rolling machine this month. She went from hating tummy time to loving it when she was able to roll over onto it on her own. She is usually on her tummy within a minute of being set down on her back. I wonder what it is that makes her want to roll over so quickly. I am still astonished at how quickly development happens with her; one day she didn’t roll at all and the next day she was a pro.
This month saw Cati wanting to sit straight up. Whenever she is in a reclined position she lifts her head up in an attempt to sit up. With how quickly things happen, I have no doubt that she will be sitting up unsupported very soon.
Cati used a spoon for the first time this month. Or rather, I introduced the spoon to her and she grabbed it and chewed on it. Watching her with the spoon was the cutest thing ever. It was fun to watch her discover how to actually get the spoon in her mouth. It took her a while to realize that the part she grabbed with her hand was not the part she wanted in her mouth. She got it eventually and after that she had no trouble in putting the actual spoon in her mouth.
Cati's vocalizations have become more understandable and now it actually sounds like she is saying things like “mama” and “baba.” I can’t wait to hear her first word.
Pumping has continued despite a bout of mastitis and a handful of clogged ducts. I always had the goal of making it to 9 months pumping, but I am still incredibly surprised and proud that I have made it this far. I am almost halfway to my goal and my freezer stash is busting at the seams. The feeding relationship I envisioned having with Cati is not the feeding relationship that we have, but we have made it work. It’s taken a lot of commitment on my part but I never really understood how important it was to me that Cati get breast milk until this. In a way, I felt indifferent to breastfeeding when I was pregnant but once she was born it become such a huge and important thing to me. I feel this month was finally the month where I let go of all the guilt associated with not being able to get Cati on the breast. This month was the month where I became comfortable and happy with pumping. I’m down to 4-25 minute sessions a day and am still producing enough milk for her. This is also the month where I realized that one day this feeding relationship will come to an end and I will be sad about its ending. So strange considering how often I have longed to be free of my pumping routine. But I guess that’s just how it goes when you have a child: your emotions get the better of you and make what others would see as insignificant (maybe even silly) issues huge issues.
I am so incredibly in love with Catarina. It surprises me how much love I can hold and feel. She makes me feel like I am finally good at something. Seeing her grow is a beautiful thing to experience and for the first time in Cati's very short life I find myself wanting to freeze these moments. Who would have thought it would take me 4 months to stop wishing for the future?
To capture Cati's growth I will be taking pictures of her on the 14th of each month sitting in the glider in her tutu. Here's her growth so far: