Tuesday, June 28, 2011

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Guest Post: A Short Guide to Organic Eating

For those that have recently decided that they want to simultaneously play their part in preserving the planet while changing their family's eating habits for the better, cooking and serving food made from organic and grass fed products, for example, is an excellent way to achieve their goals. But sometimes these "green" food labels are confusing (each label means something entirely different). To get some insight to what products you should purchase for your family and to better explain what these labels mean, continue reading below.

1. Organic Foods
This is the term that most see when shopping at their local grocery stores: organic vegetables, organic fruit, even organic coffee—but what does the word really mean and why are organic foods so darn expensive? In nutshell, anything that is grown or processed without the use of any synthetic or chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or preservatives can be labeled as organic. While organic foods essentially taste better and are so much healthier than their pesticide-infested counterparts (consuming too much pesticide can result in many illnesses and diseases, including birth defects and motor dysfunction) production costs to nurture and handle organic foods is expensive. Thus individual farmers, markets, and large retail food stores must charge extra to compensate. If you cannot afford to go organic 100 percent, you can save some money by simply purchasing some non-organic foods that naturally use lower levels of pesticides, like tomatoes, cabbage and avocados. There are some particular foods that you should always purchase organically however, like apples and lettuce.  For more must-purchase organic foods, refer to this neat little list composed by HealthyChildHealthWorld.org.

2. Natural 
A huge misconception that one may have is that the terms "natural" and "organic" are interchangeable. They are not. Like organic foods, natural is a label used to refer to foods derived from plants and animals without being "chemically processed". This means they do not contain any artificial flavoring, colors, preservatives, or refined sugars. However, if they are grown on a farm, they can be treated with pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. Organic foods, on the other hand, are grown using "renewable sources" such as manure. And only organic foods have a certifying body. Natural can also mean the animal was fed hormones and growth enhancers. The only way to make sure your meats are clear of hormones is to look for the "no hormones added" or "no antibiotics added" food labels. 

3. Grass-Fed Foods
This sticker is only used when labeling certain animals, such as dairy cows, goats, and cattle. As the name suggests, this labels indicates that the animal was fed a pure diet of grass or pasture and had access to the outdoors.  These animals, because they are not fed a bunch of gunk and are allowed to roam, are typically healthier and leaner meat choices. But of course, they cost a tad more than non-grass fed meats.

4. Free-Range Foods
This term, while it can be used to refer to the condition of all sorts of animals, is typically used on poultry packages.  Like the name suggests, this indicates that the animal was allowed to "roam the range, freely." However, it is not wise to assume that just because the animals were free to roam the range that they did not experience any foul treatment. This is because there are no real strict rules when it comes to getting this label. For example, the range may be in terrible condition or exceptionally small, the farmer may only release the animal for short periods of time and feed it a bunch of junk, but since technically the animal is released from its cage every now and then, it can still acquire a free-range food label.  

Author Bio:
Donna Reish, a freelancer who blogs about best universities, contributed this guest post.  She loves to write education, career, frugal living, finance, health, parenting relating articles. She can be reached via email at: donna.reish13@gmail.com.

Monday, June 27, 2011

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This Week in Mommyhood

Ugh. Another week has passed me by and I feel like I can barely remember what happened. Other than the debacle with sleep this past weekend (she slept normal and perfect last night, by the way) I don't think anything else happened. Oh wait. She did learn how to say "ow" and she relearned how to go down the stairs in the family room. Going down the stairs was huge because she just stopped doing it from one day to the next and refused to go down unless carried. Now she's back to going down the stairs like it's nothing.
Once again, another week is gone and I'm hoping I can keep better track of the developments this week.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

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The Baby Sleeper Mystery

Forty-eight hours ago I would have said Cati was an excellent sleeper at night. Normally, she goes down around 7:15pm and is out until around 7:00am the next morning. She drinks her milk and gets put in the crib awake and puts herself to sleep. She tosses and turns like crazy but does not wake up crying.

Friday, this was not the case. First of all, Friday was the first time ever she did not nap in the ENTIRE day. Cati was up for a solid 12 hours and no amount of driving around got her to nap. We went to my in-laws house for dinner and while there Cati ate a lot of strawberries and some fried rice. She ate strawberries up until 30 min before bedtime but the fried rice she had with her regular dinner, which was an hour and a half before bedtime. We get home and she goes to sleep as normal. At 8:45pm she wakes up crying. I wait a few minutes in hopes of her going back to sleep. She doesn't and her crying escalates. I go into her room and try to rock her to sleep. While in my arms, she starts passing gas. Ok. Her tummy hurts. Sure enough, she poops a massive poop and then goes right back to sleep after having a little more milk. I concluded that she woke up because of a stomachache as a result from eating the strawberries too close to bedtime.

Saturday night, we planned on letting her spend the night at my in-laws so that we could go out to celebrate our anniversary with a dinner and a movie. We drop Cati off at 4:00pm. She plays and has a grand ol' time with her grandparents. Bedtime rolls around and she falls asleep like normal. However, she wakes up at 11:00pm crying. She's fine when someone is carrying her but cries bloody murder when she is taken anywhere near the crib or the room. At 12:30am my mother-in-law calls me to tell me Cati is crying and calling out for us. We go pick her up, she's wide awake the entire drive home, but goes to sleep after she has some milk and gets rocked some. She wakes up at her normal time today. So what happened? I've been trying to figure it and here are my theories:

1. New Environment: This seems to be the likeliest explanation. Cati wakes up during a bout of tossing and turning and realizes she's somewhere new. She cries and when my mother-in-law goes to get her, she's not satisfied and wants to be comforted by a parent. BUT why did she sleep fine in Tampa? That was a completely new environment. Was it because she knew we were in the room next door? Also, we have spent the night at my in-laws before and Cati has slept in the same room, same crib before without a problem.

2. Separation Anxiety: Is this a classic example of just missing and wanting to be with us? BUT why doesn't she act like this when my mother-in-law comes over to our house and puts her down to sleep? Does this go back to the new environment theory? Would she sleep just fine if we were away but she was sleeping in her room and crib?

3. Things Are More Connected Than They Seem: Are Friday and Saturday night indications of something deeper like a tooth coming in and not two different incidents?

I'm curious to see how she sleeps tonight and hope that it will answer some questions. More than anything I feel bad for missing out on the chance to sleep in because I felt soooo ready to have Cati finally spend a night away from home.

Friday, June 24, 2011

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Love Letter to My Husband

Dear Alex,

Today is June 24th, 2011. Four years ago today, before our family and friends, we promised to love each other for as long as we live. The past four years have been the most wonderful, hectic, and amazing years of my life.

On June 23, 2003 you asked me to be your girlfriend. Who would have known that simple little question would lead to us building an entire life together? Back then we had dreams. You were pre-med and wanted to be a doctor. I was a psych major with dreams of going to law school. Now you are a doctor. I went to law school and it didn't work out, but hey! our dreams came true. Neither of us saw our lives the way they are today. Both of us thought we would be professionals before getting married and having kids. We imagined kids coming into the picture when we were both established in our careers with a nice little golden parachute in the bank. But that didn't happen because we met each other early on in the "plans" and our love for one another begged us to move our relationship forward.
On May 19, 2006 you asked me to marry you. It was the last day of your first year of medical school. We had been in Boston since the previous fall. Before we moved to Boston I asked you if you planned on marrying me. I wasn't ready nor was I strong enough to take a big step like moving away and in with you without some kind of reassurance you wanted to be with me for the long run. You assured me you planned on marrying me and, at times, I am amazed you proposed when you did. I lived with myself during that first year in Boston and I was annoying. I would send you pictures of rings I liked and I would pout whenever I found out someone we knew was getting married. You didn't let me down though. We went to Top of the Hub and had a wonderful dinner overlooking the city. After, we walked to the Public Garden and slow danced to John Legend's "Live It Up." You asked me to marry you with a ring you designed yourself and I said yes like the world would end if I didn't. Of course, the world would have ended because you are my world.
June 24, 2007 you said "I do." That was one of the happiest days of my life. I remember feeling so calm that day. Thinking about that walk down the aisle toward you makes me feel giddy with excitement. I would gladly and easily give up the rest of the day for that one moment. I'll never forget our surprise when the reverend read aloud what we wrote about one another. We thought that was just something the reverend would use to get to know us so we were really goofy when we wrote it. You wrote how you lucked out because not only where you getting a great girl but also a cute dog. I wrote about how hot I thought you were. Our first dance was to John Legend's "Stay With You" and to this day that is the song I have for you when you call. Even Cati says "dada" when she hears the song. After the wedding we went to Jamaica for our honeymoon and we spent our days there amazed at the fact that we were now a married couple.
On June 8, 2009 you signed your financial life away and bought us our first home. The home was and is perfect for us and beyond anything we could have dreamed for.
On June 11, 2009 you found out we were having a baby. It was a surprise and a year ahead of when planned, but we already learned that plans are the silly things you do when life is happening. The night I told you, you said "aye babe," hugged me, and went back to sleep. The next day you looked up how much it would cost to have a baby. You were worried and understandably so. We had just closed on our first home and we had so many bills to look forward to. I think you were worried every day of the pregnancy up until you could feel our sweet daughter kicking you. It's as if she was telling you "Dada it's going to be ok. As long as you love me we will make it."
On February 14, 2010 you became a father. The birth of our daughter was quite a tale. I was admitted to the hospital the night you were on call and every time you got paged while I labored my heart sank. But you made it and you spoke to me as our daughter was born. I don't remember what you said to me because I was in such a daze but I will never forget feeling overwhelmed with love and the reality that our love for one another created such a beautiful child. You slept in my room every night I was at the hospital. You were as perfect as you could be and I thanked God a million times for allowing our paths to cross. Throughout Cati's life and especially her first few months you were supportive. I wish I could forget those moments when I was connected to the pump and you would tell me I was the most beautiful person in the world. I love and will always love when you compliment me, but I hate thinking about how I felt as a mother during that time.
Life has taken us on some ride. In our four years of marriage we have lived in Boston, moved to Miami, bought a house, and a had a baby. If I had to summarize every year of our marriage I could:
  • Year One: Easy peasy! We used to wonder why people said the first year of marriage was hard. Looking back I can see why it was easy: we didn't have adult lives! While I worked, we were both very much students. We lived in a studio apartment, ate out often, and spent money because we had money to spend. 
  • Year Two: A shift. Match day rolls around and we are moving back to Miami! We both wanted this and are very happy. We start house hunting and spend the last week of our lives in Boston traveling to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. We drive down to Miami and make pit stops in DC and Savannah. Our last stop is your parent's house and we stay there until all the work is done on our house. Two days after we close we find out we are having a baby!
  • Year Three: You are a first year resident and my body is expanding to accommodate baby girl. First year of residency isn't as bad as I thought it would be. I hate the call but at least you are around. Cati is born and our lives forever change. What was once a smooth and almost frictionless relationship turns into one that really requires work and patience. Lots and lots of patience. 
  • Year Four: Turns out I hate your job! Go figure! Year two of residency in your program is the bad year; the year where you miss out on an entire two months of your daughter's life. Cati grows and we both become more comfortable as parents. Our biggest struggle this year? Tiredness and making time for one another. 
So that's four years in a nutshell. We have grown and changed so much in our eight years together, but it's really the past four years that have set our lives ablaze. We have so much to live for now and so much to be happy about. I don't say it often enough but I am thankful for you. I am thankful you are my husband, that you love me, that you have given me the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mother, and that you are always pushing me to chase after my dreams, regardless of whether they are to write more or go back to school.

You inspire me every day and I can only hope that I inspire you as much.

Always yours,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

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My First Official Order!

I am so beyond excited to post this. I have sold cookies to friends before, but this is the first time that I have been asked to bake something for an event by someone who is an acquaintance and hasn't been subjected to me shoving sweets at her all the time. I was asked to make vanilla cupcakes and mini apple pies. I used my favorite vanilla recipe and my new favorite buttercream recipe for the cupcakes and the cupcakes were decorated with gum paste flowers bought from Etsy seller tinydiesel.
The mini apple pies were a slight variation from the apple pie pops I made for Cati's birthday. The variation? No stick! I also made the pie crust this time and, oh my, it was so easy! I always thought I hated making pie crusts but I guess the truth is that I hadn't found the right recipe. I bet you're curious now! I used this Crisco recipe and let me just tell you that it was flaky and buttery. Yum!
Thankfully, Cati was a good baby while I spent most of the day in the kitchen. I used to wonder why I had so many bowls, two sets of measuring cups, and three sets of measuring spoons. Now I know why: so I can give them to Cati to play with while I bake! It's amazing how entertaining those things are.

Special thanks to Jackie for hiring me. I hope the sweets taste better than they look!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

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Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread & A Goodbye

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
Ever since I first saw this recipe I knew I wanted to make it. However, I was scared because of the yeast. What if I waited all the time it needed to rise only to see that it didn't? I would be a little heartbroken and upset over the wasted ingredients. I gave myself a little pep talk and dove into making this bread. My bread rose and my house smelled divine while it baked away. This bread is worth the wait, especially if you love the warmth of cinnamon and sugar filling up your soul. The bread is also fun to eat and I loved seeing it disappear with each slice we ate.
Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
The recipe below is the full recipe. I halved the recipe and had enough dough for a small loaf of bread and six mini muffins. The loaf baked for about 30 minutes and the muffins baked for about 20 minutes.
Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
And now a goodbye. I hate to do this but I made the decision to leave the Tuesdays With Dorie group. I had been baking along with them for three years so this really feels like the end of a serious relationship. I have baked so many wonderful things and have been introduced to so many fantastic bakers. Life is so hectic and I was having so much trouble keeping up with the baking selections. Not only is my time in the kitchen limited but also the recent recipe selections weren't right for my family and, unfortunately, I just don't have it in me to get creative with recipes. Most importantly though, it's not fair to the group to have someone in it that isn't representing and participating in a way that positively reflects the group.

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
Source: Joy the Baker
Yields one 9x5x3-inch loaf

For the Dough:

2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Filling:

1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted until browned

In a large mixing bowl (I used just the bowl of my stand mixer) whisk together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Set aside.

Whisk together eggs and set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt together milk and butter until butter has just melted. Remove from the heat and add water and vanilla extract. Let mixture stand for a minute or two, or until the mixture registers 115 to 125 degrees F.

Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula. Add the eggs and stir the mixture until the eggs are incorporated into the batter. The eggs will feel soupy and it'll seem like the dough and the eggs are never going to come together. Keep stirring. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour and stir with the spatula for about 2 minutes. The mixture will be sticky. That's just right.

Place the dough is a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Place in a warm space and allow to rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour. *The dough can be risen until doubled in size, then refrigerated overnight for use in the morning. If you're using this method, just let the dough rest on the counter for 30 minutes before following the roll-out directions below.

While the dough rises, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for the filling. Set aside. Melt 2 ounces of butter until browned. Set aside. Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Set that aside too.

Deflate the risen dough and knead about 2 tablespoons of flour into the dough. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes. On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out. The dough should be 12-inches tall and about 20-inches long. If you can't get the dough to 20-inches long... that's okay. Just roll it as large as the dough will go. Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter across all of the dough. Sprinkle with all of the sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Slice the dough vertically, into six equal-sized strips. Stack the strips on top of one another and slice the stack into six equal slices once again. You'll have six stacks of six squares. Layer the dough squares in the loaf pan like a flip-book. Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and allow in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Place loaf in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is very golden brown. The top may be lightly browned, but the center may still be raw. A nice, dark, golden brown will ensure that the center is cooked as well.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread and invert onto a clean board. Place a cake stand or cake plate on top of the upside down loaf, and carefully invert so it's right side up. Serve warm with coffee or tea.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

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This Week in Mommyhood

This is really late. I try to have this post up by Monday, at the latest and here we are on Tuesday. Last week was a busy week. Most weeks are busy with a toddler but last week Alex's uncle passed so that passed a dark shadow over the family. Because of that and the general feeling of falling behind in life, all I can remember from last week was that Cati learned how to say "yuck" and that she finger painted for the first time. I feel horrible for not remembering more, but my brain is feeling just a little fried and right now my wish is that someone else would worry about feeding Cati just one meal.
I hope I'm more on top of things this week because I hate feeling like I'm missing out on something in Cati's growth and development.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

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Happy Father's Day

I hope today was spent celebrating the good fathers and loving dads. Despite some rocky times, I have been fortunate enough to have three men in my life to celebrate as fathers. The relationship with my dad is a work in progress but it gets better each day because there's a lot of making up for lost time. The relationship with my father-in-law is also wonderful and I am so happy that he is the father Alex grew up with because I know Alex will be an amazing father because of him. And Alex. I always talk about how Cati has given me the gift of motherhood, well, she did the same for Alex. I carried and birthed his child but she is the one that give him the ultimate role of father. She knows him as her dad. She knows his car. She runs to the front door when I say, "Dada esta aqui!" and she looks for him in the morning. There is no doubt he is her father and the joy he gets in being with her is so transparent it makes my heart swell.

Seeing these men as fathers is amazing. They are so different yet so loving. What really gets me is seeing them with my daughter. She has no shortage of love and strong father figures in her life. Hopefully she realizes how lucky she is one day.

Friday, June 17, 2011

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The Chewy

The Chewy
There are some cookies that you hear so much about you are kind of afraid of making them because you worry the hype will lead to a disappointing cookie. I've heard and read so much about Alton Brown's The Chewy chocolate chip cookie that I became mystified by it. A chocolate chip cookie made with bread flour that is ultra chewy, how can that be? Leave it to Alton Brown to create such a thing because this cookie really is science. When the batter is all put together it looks so gooey, sticky, and messy that it seems improbable it will come together to form a cohesive cookie dough. Some time chilling is the solution and you are left with a cookie dough that is so butterscotchy that you just know it's going to be one heck of a cookie. And one heck of a cookie it is; it really is chewy! I haven't felt this addicted to a cookie since I first made the Nestle recipe. The cookies taste wonderful and are just plain beautiful to look at with their golden color.
The Chewy

The Chewy
Source: Alton Brown
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Pour the melted butter in the mixer's work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

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Little Picasso

I had been wanting to get Cati to finger paint for some time now. I thought she'd enjoy it, but more than anything I wanted to see her get messy. I hadn't bought any finger paint because I was a little afraid of it potentially staining her clothes or whatever else the paint touched. Good thing too, because as I was reading my weekly Baby Center email I saw that they had a recipe for making finger paint at home. It was so easy to make and, the best part is, I wasn't worried about the painting inevitably ending up in Cati's mouth.
Cati didn't know what to do with the paint. She kept calling it "agua" and was confused as to why I wouldn't let her drink the paint. I tried to help her understand that she had to dip her fingers in the paint and then on the paper but she didn't really get it. As expected, paint got in her face and hair and on both of our pajamas. In the end, she started dumping the paint all over the place. I couldn't clean her off soon enough and paint ended up on the sofa, ottoman, and Jumparoo. Good thing it washed off easily!
 The paints

Little Picasso

Dumping the paint

Painted fingers

First piece of art done with my help

Homemade Finger Paint
Source: Baby Center
Makes about a 1/4 cup of paint

1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 drop of food coloring

In a small bowl, add flour and combine with enough water to create a thin paste. Add desired color and mix.

Paint! When done, it takes the sheets of paper about 30 minutes to dry depending on how thick the paint is on the paper.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

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52 {Books} in 52: Sunday's at Tiffany's

I first heard about Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson on Lifetime. One day I was trying to find something to watch on TV and came across a movie based on the book starring Alyssa Milano. I had always thought James Patterson wrote thrillers/suspense novels so I was curious about what kind of book he would have been written that ended up as a movie.

The book is pure Lifetime material as the story unfolds about a girl, Jane, and the love of her life, imaginary friend Michael. The story starts with Jane as an eight year old girl and jumps 23 years into the future. Despite telling her she would forget him, Jane was never able to forget Michael. Through fate, Jane meets Michael again as an adult, only this time he is real. There is a twist at the end, the answer to the action set up in the first few pages of the book, which gives the book more drama and injects more reality into the novel. As one would suspect, there is a happy ending but the book is such a sweet tale of love and the power of love, that all is forgiven.

The book is like eating candy: enjoying the sweet taste against your tongue and then being left with a positive impression of the experience. It's a confection that comes and goes and you don't regret the time spent. This book is an easy read and, although the subject seems a little far fetched, it is a very sweet story. You don't go very deep into characters and the bad guys are obviously bad, so the read is straightforward and very light-hearted.

Here's what I've read for my 52 {Books} in 52 challenge:

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
2. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
3. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
4. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
5. Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace by Ayelet Waldman
6. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
7. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
8.  Misery Loves Cabernet by Kim Gruenenfelder
9.  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
10. Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler
11. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
12. Best Day of Someone Else's Life by Kerry Reichs
13. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
14. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson
15. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
16. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf
17. Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson

Monday, June 13, 2011

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This Week in Mommyhood

What an exciting week this past week has been. So many fun developments. It didn't take Cati much to get used to being back home and getting back on her normal schedule. The only area of difficulty was with mealtime because Cati has boycotted her pureed vegetables, chicken, and beef. It got really frustrating because I didn't know what to feed her and I really wanted to make sure she had at least one good meal a day. I was also bummed about her reaction to the pureed vegetables because the freezer has quite a bit of frozen purees and I didn't want them to go to waste. Luckily, toward the end of the week she got better at eating her vegetables and started eating chicken nuggets, but I've already decided that once the batch of frozen veggies is all used up, that's the end of her puree days. Cati is really good about eating vegetable chunks so hopefully the transition to that is smooth.

Hitting Update. The touching and positive reinforcement of "good" touching seems to be paying off. Cati still hits me when really frustrated but she follows up the hit with a kiss where she hit me. I don't like that she hits me, but at least I know that she understands hitting isn't good behavior.

Knee Walker. Cati walks on her knees! It's the funniest thing she does.

Talking Explosion. I don't know what got into my little girl, but she has picked up quite a few words this past week. Maybe that's why she was struggling with eating, because her development was concentrated on language acquisition? Anyway, Cati learned how to say "wow," "uh oh," (my favorite!), "vroom" for car, and "ball."
Tantrum Whisperer. Tantruming has taken on a new characteristic. When Cati starts to tantrum she blows repeatedly. It's like the little bubbles you see in water just before it starts boiling.

Yes! Cati has learned how to nod yes! Before when she meant yes, she would shake her head while smiling. Now, if she means yes, you get a nod. It makes asking her questions a million times more enjoyable.

Imagination Expansion. I saw the beginning of the next level of play. Normally Cati will get her stuffed animals and kiss them or give them to me to kiss. Well, this past week she got two stuffed animals and had them kiss each other! Soon they'll be talking to each other.
Minus the difficulties with feeding, which again I ask, why didn't anyone warn me food and feeding would be such huge issues in parenting? this week has been a great week. I love my little girl more than anything. She truly is a blessing.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

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Forgiving & Unforgiving

Today my thoughts are on the dichotomous nature of a toddler's nature. In this case, my almost 16-month old, Cati. On the one hand, she can be the most forgiving person. She will forgive me as I try to figure out this whole parenting thing. She forgives my mistakes, lapses in judgment, and my mommy guilt. Oh how I have lost hours to feeling guilty about pumping, about feeding, about getting frustrated with her. None of the things I stress out about now are things that will cause her to never speak to me again. The things that bother me don't register with her. As long as her needs are met and she is showered with love, she will forgive my mistakes and faults, which she didn't even know are mistakes and faults, and will still love me.

On the other hand, she can be very unforgiving. Her needs MUST be met and she doesn't care to hear my excuse. It doesn't matter if I am stuck in traffic and would stop shaving for a year if it meant getting home sooner, she doesn't understand that it is beyond my control and won't stop crying bloody murder. She doesn't care if I am exhausted from life or if I'd like to not share my food with her, she is a walking id and wants what she wants when she wants it. Which, let's keep in mind that there is no distinction between want and need because there is very little rationalizing going on. So the options are (1) try to rationalize with her, (2) all out tantrum until I give in, or (3) a perfectly timed distraction maneuver. It's only when option (3) works that she her seesaw goes back up to the forgiving side.

I love this age and stage. Cati is so much fun but I would be lying if I said I wasn't excited for her getting older so that she could communicate and understand better.
One a side note, this post is brought to you by a wonderful evening full of pissers and poopers. I had an interview to do earlier and when I got home, Perla peed right next to Cati. Then, right before going in the bath and right after having her diaper removed, Cati pooped and peed on the floor. Then, after the bath and before I got to put on a diaper, Cati peed on the floor again. THEN, as we were about to go into Cati's room for bedtime she handed me what she was chewing on: poop. I guess I missed a pooplette and Cati found it and stuck it in her mouth but seeing as how it is disgusting, she handed it to me to dispose of. These, right here, are the moments motherhood is made out of.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

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Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes

Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes
I've already exclaimed my love for funfetti cake before and I am happy to be passing that love down to Cati. I had seen a few recipes for a homemade version of the boxed goodness pop up in my reader and I immediately starred and pinned them. I will come right out and say that you have to make these cupcakes. They didn't taste exactly like the boxed funfetti but I think it's because the boxed cake has more of a bubblegum flavoring to it as opposed to the almond flavoring of this recipe. Which, let me tell you, a little bit of almond extract goes a long way.
Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes
Regardless, this is the type of cake you will not be able to resist. I had two cupcakes straight out of the oven, one after dinner, and one this morning for breakfast. The cake is so light and fluffy and the frosting is fantastic. I think this will be my go-to frosting from now on because I love the consistency, the look, and, most importantly, the taste (it's not as sweet as other frosting recipes I've tried). The cake is beautiful to look at as well and it was so much fun to make. I can't wait for Cati to be a little older because I think she'll really get a kick out of the sprinkles.
Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes

Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes
Source: Gimme Some Oven
Yields 12 cupcakes

The Cupcakes
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3-4 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
up to 4 Tbsp. milk or heavy cream

To Make Cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 12 muffin cups with paper liners or cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir together until combined and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg whites to the bowl and beat until combined. Add in the vanilla and almond extracts and mix until just incorporated. Mix in the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until incorporated. Fold in the sprinkles with a spatula.

Use an ice cream scoop or a spoon to fill each baking cup 2/3 full of batter. Bake about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Then frost if desired.

To Make Frosting

In a large stand mixer using the paddle attachment, beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Gradually add 3 cups of powdered sugar on low speed until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter. Add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes.

If your frosting is too thin, add remaining sugar. If your frosting is too thick, add a teaspoon of milk at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

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Fruity Summer Cocktail

A very, very, very long time ago POM Wonderful contacted me about trying their new Pomegranate Cranberry juice. I was really excited because we drink POM Wonderful juice in real life and I'm always game for more of it. Everyone in the house loved this cranberry variety and, for some reason, I feel really guilty about enjoying this juice the most in an alcoholic beverage. My new favorite way to drink a Cosmopolitan is with this juice.

I'm always trying to come up with new drink concoctions. Most of the time, I fail miserably (special sorry to the person who was subjected to my mangorita concoction). Sometimes, I make something that's passable and rarely do I make something that is beyond delicious. When we had a bbq last weekend with my dad, I wanted to create a fruity drink that would be perfect for the heat outside. The drink I got was definitely fruity, a little too sweet, but perfectly matched by the alcohol.

Fruity Summer Cocktail
Serves 2

2 oz pina colada mix
2 oz pom cranberry juice
2 oz vodka

Place all ingredients in martini shaker with ice. Shake and then pour into martini glasses.


Monday, June 6, 2011

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This Week in Mommyhood

The big event this week was our first family vacation. We went to Tampa and spent some time at Busch Gardens and touring the city's different breweries. We went to Busch Gardens every day we were there, but each time we went we did something different. On the first day we went to have dinner at Crown Colony because I wanted to dine with a view of the Serengeti Plain. On the second day we walked around the entire park and spent some time in Sesame Street Safari of Fun. It was on this day that Cati rode her first ride. She didn't really get the rides but she wasn't scared either. She was just kind of serious the entire time. On the third day we went back to Sesame Street Safari of Fun so that Cati could play in the watering hole and so that we could catch one of the Sesame Street shows. Cati had a blast playing in the water and she was hilarious during the show. She was obsessed with trying to touch the characters and she danced and clapped along with them. We didn't stay the entire show though because Cati got fed up with me holding her back from going to the characters and she walked up the stairs to where Alex was standing. That is one of my favorite memories from the trip. Big Bird was her favorite character and we left with a stuffed animal of him.
Dinner at Crown Colony
Cati's first ride: a merry-go-round
The ultra-fun watering hole

We also toured the Yuengling and Cigar City Breweries. They were so cool and so different and definitely an experience with a toddler. Cati was not to happy with being held but at least she didn't tantrum or cry. If you are ever in the Tampa area and a fan of craft brews then I recommend you do these tours. Cigar City was my favorite because it is such a small brewery and it's great to see the beginnings of a brewery where almost everything is done by hand and there are no conveyor belts.
 Yuengling Selection
Checking out the Yuengling Factory
It's amazing how a plastic cup can keep a toddler entertained.
Jukebox and Mr. Yuengling himself
Cigar City beer sampler
Cigar City Selection
I love these people

We ate a lot on the trip and I easily gained 5lbs from all the stuffing of my face. Continuing our tour of breweries, we ate at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company and had the most delicious beer cheese soup. We also ate at Columbia and Tijuana Flats. Mealtime was by far the most interesting time with Cati because of how cranky she was. During our dinner at Columbia I had to walk out with her at one point and we were literally struggling with what to do to keep her calm and entertained. Columbia was our nicest dinner and Cati was on her worst behavior. We didn't blame her because we both understood that she was tired both physically and from being in the stroller, but it was still frustrating.

After Tampa we drove down to Marco Island and stayed at my in-law's house. This was the most relaxing part of our trip and we fully enjoyed it by taking a walk on the beach, having a drink on the waterfront, and eating bar food at the Marco Island Brewery (more beer!).
Bye bye Tampa!
Hello Marco Island
My favorite picture of Cati
Best meal of the week: pina colada and chips with blue cheese
Beach fun
All in all, the trip was great but it was so tiring. We won't be doing another driving trip with Cati for a while. The car rides were too much for her (our trip to Tampa took 5 hours because of an accident), even with stops and toy and book assortment that would make any Toys-R-Us Express jealous. Being thrown off her everyday schedule was too much for her and she barely napped (her longest nap the entire trip was 45 min). The furthest we will drive with her will be 2 hours and I think most of our vacations will be beach-oriented trips.

Also, planning and packing. Oh my. I took veggies and chicken nuggets for Cati with the intention that she would eat whatever meat I had with my meals. Getting her to eat was a struggle and I couldn't tell if it was from being thrown off or from teething (one broke through this week). When Alex and I used to travel pre-baby, we would take one bag and that was all we needed. I promise you, we had five bags with stuff for Cati plus her Pack N Play. It's amazing how much a person as small as Cati needs (really the truth is how much I feel she needs).

So yes, we had a good trip. It was fun and I loved getting away and having Alex all to us for a week, but I was sooo happy to be home. I was happy to get back to normal. Cati felt the same way because the minute we got home, she started rolling around the floor with her toys.

Other than the trip, here are some other fun developments from this week:

Moco aka Boogers. I don't even know when Cati learned this but if you say "moco" to her she will pick her nose. It's hilarious and gross at the same time.

Little Hitter. Ugh. My biggest mommy-guilt thing of the week. Cati has started to hit us. She does it when angry or frustrated and it first started on the trip. I read that hitting could happen if there is a big change in the child's life so I'm assuming it had to do with being in a new environment and not sleeping enough. I feel like I have done something wrong or haven't disciplined her enough even though I know this is something that is normal among toddlers. I have tried praising good contact, have spent more time touching her and snuggling with her, and have been more in tuned to her emotions (thank you Dr. Sears!) and I have noticed that she isn't hitting as much but I still feel like such a bad mother.

Music Class, Part Two. Cati has moved on to the next age group in her music classes and I have the same feelings about this class as I did after the first class of her last age group. Things went over her head, she was one of the youngest in the class, and she didn't really seem to enjoy herself much. I'm hoping, like with the last class, that things get better. I hate feeling like I am pushing my daughter too much to fit in or be a certain way.

Here's to the week that was full of vacation fun and mommy guilt. I am ready for a new week!