Tuesday, January 31, 2012

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Ruffles & Frills

To be honest with you, I'm not the most social person. I can be social, but oftentimes, I prefer either keeping to myself or observing others. I hate when the attention is on me (#1 reason why I refuse to have birthday parties for myself) and I'm just not comfortable with people going out of their way to be nice to me (#1 reason why I hate anything being done in my honor). So you can see how this leads to me not wanting to have a baby shower for Baby D. I refused multiple times and multiple offers but if enough people offer, you eventually give in. We ended up doing something really, really, really small to celebrate Baby D and it was more of a social gathering than an actual shower. There were no baby decorations and if it weren't for the fact that Baby D's name was revealed at this party, you wouldn't have thought the gathering was done in celebration of a new little person-to-be. And that was fine by me because I wanted to do something drastically different from what was done with Cati. Plus, maybe I could tell the future and knew that this party would happen just a few days after losing my beloved Perla, when I really wouldn't be in the mood to be social or be in a celebratory mood.

Anyway, the guest list was small (less than 20 people, all family) and other than taking pictures of Cati and the dessert table, no other pictures were taken. The party was at our house, arroz imperial was served, there were plenty of desserts to feast on, and all was said and done in 2.5 hours. It was an easygoing weekend afternoon.

Aside from finding out the name, which was kept under tightly sealed lips, the biggest awe-inducing thing was the cake that my friend Shelley made. I showed her what I wanted and in a weekend she learned how to do it and made the most beautiful and delicious tasting cake.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

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These Weeks In Mommyhood

It's been quite a busy week here. Doctors appointments and everyone in the house is sick, sick, sick. I've said it many times before and I'm going to say it again, but thank God for Cati because she helps things move forward. My mourning over Perla's loss has been better than I expected because of Cati. My annoyance at being sick is less because of Cati. The simple truth is that I need to be happy for her because she's so tuned in to my emotions. If I'm unhappy or sad, she's more emotional and needy. Plus, I only want happy hormones reaching Baby D so that she knows the world outside is a happy place.

Anyway, here are the fun developments with Cati over the last few weeks:

Separation Anxiety. Oh lord. The separation anxiety is out of control. It's to the point where Cati wants to be with no one but me. And, God forbid, someone other than me tries to give her a bath or put her to sleep, she will cry out for me and won't stop until she sees that I'm around. I don't know if this is in response to the pregnancy or just a normal phase, but it worries me that she still cries out for me even when she's with her dad or grandmother.
Name Game. Cati is very into understanding names and the different labels people have. If you ask her what Alex is she'll respond with "doctor" and "hombre" ("man"). The best thing, however, is that she knows her name! I love hearing her say "Cati Diaz" and it cracks me up that she says my name is "Mami Diaz."

Songs, Songs, and More Songs. Cati loves to sing. She is constantly making up songs. She's also really good at singing songs we sing to her. Her favorite song to sing is "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and she will sing that to herself before falling asleep or whenever she feels the need to fill the silence.

Connecting the Two. It's really starting to hit me that there will be two little children in our house. Cati is getting increasingly aware of Baby D and she loves to kiss my belly and tell me about how she heard Baby D's heartbeat. Space is being made in the room for Baby D, her crib was ordered, and her clothes have been washed and put away. Seeing Cati's stuff and her stuff side by side leaves me in awe of where babies come from and how much they grow and change is very little time.

Here are the fun developments with Baby D over the last few weeks:

Right on Track. The baby is growing perfectly and, last checked, her heart beat was in the 150s. My belly is measuring where it should be and I've finally got my weight gain on track and I'm gaining at a healthy pace. I get to see her again in a couple of weeks and I can't wait!

Unnaturally Comfortable. I honestly have no complaints at this point in the pregnancy. Sure, waking up at night to pee is annoying, but I am surprisingly comfortable. At this point with Cati I remember being miserable because she moved so much and she was constantly lodged under my rib. Baby D is a calmer baby and I find myself able to still sleep on part of my stomach. The only time I ever feel really uncomfortable is when I carry Cati but that's expected because Cati is literally perched on my belly.

Nearing the End. It's quite shocking how quickly this pregnancy has gone. I'm a few weeks away from my due date and I can't believe it. All I can do right now is hope that Baby D doesn't decide to make her arrival on either February 12th or February 14th. I also feel like I have been seriously slacking with prepping for the baby's arrival and I have a long list of things that need to be done before she gets here. Now I just need the motivation to get it all done!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

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30-min Dinner Rolls

Easy, quick, and delicious. These dinner rolls come together faster than any other dinner rolls I have made. I'm normally skeptical about anything that has a time amount in the name because it usually takes me longer, but these were right on the money. Served with some honey butter and these rolls are made to complement any meal. The biggest compliment on these rolls, however, came from Abuela so if she approves (she is one tough critic) then it means they are really good.

30 Minute Rolls
Source: Real Mom Kitchen
Printable Recipe

1 C plus 2 Tbsp warm water
1/3 C oil
2 Tbsp yeast
1/4 C sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
3 1/2 C flour

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

In your mixer bowl combine the water, oil, yeast and sugar and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.  Using your dough hook, mix in the salt, egg and flour.  Knead with hook until will incorporated and dough is soft and smooth. (Just a few minutes)

Form dough into 12 balls and then place in a greased 9 x 13 pan and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees or until golden brown.

Friday, January 27, 2012

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Garlic Soft Pretzel

Soft Garlic Pretzels
I've always wanted to try making pretzels, but as a general rule, baking with yeast scares me. I don't know why when I haven't really had a bad experience with yeast but it's still daunting to me. These pretzels are definitely a reason to give baking with yeast a try because they are such a feast for the taste buds. Very Soft and beyond garlicky (eat only around those who won't mind the garlic breath) these pretzels are seriously addictive and fun to make. They would have gone perfectly dipped in this beer cheese fondue but they honestly didn't last long enough for me to make the dip. 
Soft Garlic Pretzels

Garlic Soft Pretzel
Source: Sugarlaws
Yields 6 pretzels

1 tsp active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1/3 cup warm water
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp baking soda
1 cup hot water (as hot as your tap can get)
Sea salt

Dissolve yeast into water with a pinch of sugar, let stand 10 minutes, until the mixture is creamy colored. Mix the yeast mixture with flour, sugar, salt, garlic powder and canola oil, and knead until combined (a few minutes, not even 5). Let the dough rise in a greased bowl until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. When the dough has risen, pinch off a handful and roll it out into a long strand. Set aside. Repeat with the rest of the dough, about 6 times. Once all the strands are rolled out, pick up the first one and stretch it out again (the gluten will have relaxed and it should stretch further now). Twist it into a pretzel shape and place it on a baking sheet lined with silipat or cooking spray. Repeat with the rest of the strands.

Dissolve baking soda into hot water and stir until dissolved. Quickly dip each rolled pretzel into the mixture and place it back on the baking sheet. Sprinkle all the pretzels with sea salt, to your preference. Bake for about 8 minutes, until pretzels have browned.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

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Big Easy Beignet

Big Easy Beignet
I don't remember the first time I had a Beignet but I do remember where it came from (La Provence Bakery) and I remember instantly falling in love. It was literally the best $2.75 I had spent on something edible in a long time. This version is baked as opposed to fried and that makes a difference. While this version was delicious, there's just something special about a fried beignet. Also, I think frying would have made it easier for the dipping-in-cinnamon-sugar part because I had to go back and brush butter on my baked beignet before sprinkling cinnamon-sugar on them in order to get the sugar to stick. Otherwise, perhaps sprinkling them with the sugar before baking would have made more sense.
 Big Easy Beignet

Big Easy Beignet
Source: Sugar Plum
Makes 6 beignet

1/3 cup warm milk (not hot)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons oil, divided use
3 tablespoons granulated sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Whisk together milk and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and allow to sit for 10 minutes, or until slightly bubbly.

Add egg, sugar, butter, vanilla and salt, and mix until well combined. Add flour and mix on medium speed for 8 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer dough to a large greased bowl, lightly cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm area for 1-1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk.

Brush a cookie sheet with 2 teaspoons oil. On a clean work surface, pat dough into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle, and slice into 6 equal squares. Transfer squares to oiled cookie sheet. Lightly cover and allow to rise for 1 hour.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Brush dough squares with additional 2 teaspoons oil. Bake 10 minutes or until well risen and golden brown. Dip beignet into cinnamon sugar mixture.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

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Easy Sour Cream Cinnamon Rolls

Sour Crean Cinnamon Rolls
I made these Sour Cream Cinnamon Rolls last week and I wish I would have the energy or desire to make them this week because they are the perfect sweet treat to ease the sadness by appealing to the taste buds. They are simply lovely and make you feel all kinds of warm inside. My favorite part of making these rolls was having Cati help me along the way. I love how now when I get into the kitchen to bake, she asks for the stairs so she can be level with the counter.
 Sour Crean Cinnamon Rolls
Thank you to all those who reached out to me yesterday. Perla's passing has been hard but I'm doing well and there have been no tears so far today (yesterday I was a red eye, puffy mess though). Explaining to Cati what happened was probably the hardest thing I had to do as a mother. I tried to explain to her where Perla was in a way she would understand so now Perla went bye bye and night night with Baby Jesus and Perla is with the "luna, sol, y estrellas" (moon, sun, and stars). I don't know how much she really gets, it's such an abstract thing to explain. This morning she asked for Perla twice. First, when I told her Perla was bye bye, Cati responded with "Perla abajo" or "Perla downstairs" because she's used to Perla being downstairs waiting for us to come down to have breakfast. I tried my Baby Jesus--luna-sol-estrella explanation. Once downstairs, I guess reality dawned on her and she said, in a voice thisclose to tears, "Perla night night."Again, my explanation and she repeated it back to me. This is part of the adjustment and I'm proud I didn't break down in tears.

Easy Sour Cream Cinnamon Rolls
Source: Sugar Plum
Yields 12 rolls

1/4 cup warm water (not hot)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons
1 large egg
1/3 cup low fat sour cream + 2 tablespoons, divided use
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided use
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together water, yeast and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl; allow to sit 5 minutes. Stir in additional 2 tablespoons sugar, egg, 1/3 cup sour cream, 1 tablespoon melted butter, baking powder and salt until well combined. Stir in flour until well combined and a dough ball forms. Lightly cover bowl and allow dough to rise in a warm area for 45 minutes.

Roll dough out into a thin rectangle on a floured surface, using a floured rolling pin. Brush dough with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon on top. Roll dough up and slice into 12 equal pieces. Place on a large greased cookie sheet. Lightly cover and allow dough to rise in a warm area for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush cinnamon rolls with remaining 1/2 tablespoon melted butter. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer rolls to a wire rack or serving platter.

To make the glaze, mix together remaining 2 tablespoons sour cream, confectioners' sugar and vanilla until well combined. Drizzle over cinnamon rolls.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

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Night Night Perla

The past day and half has been tough. The past 8 hours have been agonizing. I sit here trying to write this post but the tears are making it hard. Perla is gone. If you have a pet you absolutely adore, make sure to give them a big hug and kiss as soon as you can. If you aren't a pet person then just ignore this post.
Perla was my dog for 16.5 years. She was my friend, my confidante, my sweet, sweet companion. I had her for more than half of my life. She went through puberty, dating, moving, marrying, and having a child with me. She was a constant in the midst of a life that was sometimes everything but. Although her barking would annoy me and having to clean up pee every morning was something that aggravated me, I loved her immensely. These were the little annoyances I dealt with because I had her to remind me of what it felt like to be loved unconditionally. She was my dog and she knew it.

Monday night I noticed that her bruising was back. Alex checked her Sunday and she was bruise-free. I gave her steroid in hopes that it would kick start the healing process like it had done so many times in the past. This time, her body resisted, the bruising got worse and she spent all of yesterday being lethargic. She ate, peed, and pooped but was lethargic. I debated taking her to the vet because I secretly thought this was it and because I didn't want to make whatever time she had left be spent in a vet's office doing things that hurt and made her uncomfortable. At night, I couldn't sleep because, again, I felt like this was it. I read my book and kept telling myself, "the next chapter is short so I'll read it and then go to bed." Sometime between 12:30am and 1:00am Perla threw up and peed on herself. I woke Alex and asked him to help me clean. As he cleaned the floor, I cleaned Perla. She was a weak little thing in my arms. Her 10lb body was limp and just hung down from my arms. She was still and I couldn't feel her heart and I asked Alex if she was dead. Her jerking movements proved she was still alive, but just barely. We sat on the floor with her, petted her, told her how much we loved her and that it was ok to go. And she did. Even after she was gone we just kept petting and crying and hoping that her life here with us was as good as it could have been.
I knew I didn't want Cati to wake up and find Perla so at 2:00am I made calls to find out where we could cremate her. We didn't want the ashes and I knew I didn't want to bury her in our backyard. Just the thought of digging a hole, putting her in it, and throwing dirt on her seemed so morbid, especially since this is just our starter home. I drove to the other side of town to a 24-hour vet and there they took her away from me like she wasn't the most special dog in the world. My goodbye was short but I had been saying goodbye all day long.

Perla was just too old. There's only so much her body could take. As weird as it sounds, I couldn't have asked for a better death for her. She wasn't in pain and she went on her own terms with us stroking her soft, curly poodle hair. I'm happy she passed at home instead of at a vet's office and that it was natural versus us making the decision to put her down.
Today begins the struggle. The struggle of going from is to was, of going from living in the present to living in memories. There will be no more barking Perla excited to see me come home. No more beds or little reminders of her physical presence in our home. She had a good life. There were multiple points in her life where I'm sure others would have put her down or given her up. She had plenty of health issues and despite it all she went with us to Boston, came back to Miami, and got to spend nearly 2 years with Cati. That last part is what hurts the most: how do I explain to Cati that Perla is never coming back? I deflected her questions this morning because I have no control over my tears and I don't want Cati to worry but what do I say to her when she realizes she hasn't seen Perla or that she won't be seeing her? How do we make it through a bedtime routine that included giving Perla a kiss? How do we make it through Cati purposefully dropping food so Perla could eat? I just ache all over at the thought.
Now it's finding a new normal. Now it's about being thankful for the time we did have, for feeling lucky enough to have had such a great dog. I will always love Perla, I just can't believe she is actually really gone. I go from feeling guilty (could we have treated her better?) to feeling relieved (at least she died at home and is in a better place) to feeling sad, like there's hole in my heart. Like Alex said this morning, today just feels like a bad dream, one that spilled over from the night and into reality.

Right now, though, I am so thankful for Cati. She is the one thing that will force me to move on. I want a happy daughter and that means I need to be happy. To do that I need to focus on the happy moments, the happy memories, and the imprint of happiness that has been left on my soul as a result of having Perla by my side for as long as I did. She was a good dog and I just hope that she's up in doggy heaven thinking that I was just as good of an owner.
PS Sorry this is so long and sorry if it's all disjointed. I don't have it in me to go back, read, and correct.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

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Lessons for my Daughters {A Draft}

This post was initially written LAST April. I thought about deleting it but I think it's important to publish it just so my daughters can have the reminder that I am human and that I am constantly trying to figure out who I am. I will be their guide through life but I don't have a guide book. I don't have all the answers because I'm still trying to come up with the answers myself.

Our garage got flooded this past weekend. It was both a blessing and a curse. Curse because a lot of things got wet and now the musty, humid smell in our garage has magnified. Blessing because it forced me to organize all the boxes and containers Lovingly referred to as Narnia by a close friend because just like the closet in the Narnia books that transport you to another world, my garage does the same thing. I went back to middle school and my old soccer uniform, high school and my drama club days, college and my old ZTA days, and my recently departed Boston days.

What got me wasn't so much how much time has passed but how easily time could be fragmented into people, places, and things. I relived different phases of my life every time I organized a new a box. Every memory preserved perfectly in each box. Then I was reminded of my naiveness in thinking that particular phase would always last. Friendships I thought would last for always have ended. Memories of those people shoved back into their boxes to be forgotten until the next cleaning and the next time I am ready to let go of these physical reminders.

If there is one thing I learned it's that friends come and go. Either because the friendship has run its course or ended on bad terms. Sometimes it takes life intervening and changing you to help you reconnect with some from the past. Sometimes it takes you realizing that in the frienship dynamic you give more than you receive. Sometimes it takes accepting that what brought you together as friends was limited to a particular phase and its time to let go. And sometimes the reality is that common ground isn't enough to sustain a friendship where the parties are inherently different from one another.

Then there is the ugly business of looking into yourself and seeing how you have changed as a friend. Right now, at this very minute, I am the worst kind of friend. The kind of friend who doesn't know how to feel about certain friendships and yet spends hours obsessing about them. The type of friend who is needy and gets upset when her friends aren't available as she is and yet avoids contact because she hates feeling so needy. The type of friend who gets upset about things that are said and done and yet doesn't confront to let the person know she was hurt.

Cati is 14 months and I'm still trying to figure out who I am as a person and how motherhood fits in it all. Motherhood has made me whole outlook change and it's a daily struggle reconciling that with the things that haven't changed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

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Peppermint Cupcakes

Peppermint Cupcakes
I made these cupcakes a few weeks ago as part of the holiday treats I gave away. At this point, these cupcakes are perfect for using up all those leftover candy canes or for getting one last taste of the holiday season. I couldn't find what I wanted so I decided to alter a recipe I've tried before. The peppermint flavor in the cupcakes is really subtle; almost like you are breathing in the essence of peppermint versus being smacked across the face with peppermint flavor.
Peppermint Cupcakes

Peppermint Cupcakes
Slightly Adapted from Dorie Greenspan
Yields 12 cupcakes

1 cup plus 2 Tbsps cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 plus 2 Tbsps buttermilk
2 large egg whites
3/4 cups sugar
4 Tbsps unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/3 to 1/2 cup of frosting (I used this frosting)
1/3 cup crushed peppermint candy canes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake cavities with cupcake liners. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the milk and egg whites.

Cream together sugar, butter, and peppermint extract in a large bowl for 2-3 minutes or until light and fluffy.

Beginning and ending with the flour mixture, alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture. Beat well after each addition and, after the last addition of flour, continue to beat the batter for another 2 minutes.

Divide the batter among the cupcake cavities. Place in oven and baker for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature before frosting.

Using a knife, frost cupcakes with a thin layer of frosting. Dip cupcakes in crushed candy canes.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

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Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes
It may seem like forever since I actually baked anything but I promise that's not the case. The reality is that I have been lazy about uploading pictures. I have a few recipes to share with you and I'm going to start with sharing the best thing I've made recently: Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes. I have always been fascinated by the use of mayonnaise in baking. I love to slather the stuff on my sandwiches but was skeptical as to how the flavor would translate into a baked good. Let me just come out and say that it translates very, very well. These cupcakes were beyond delicious. By far the best chocolate cupcakes I have ever had. They were better the next day. The cupcakes were so fudgy and rich in chocolate flavor that I didn't even bother with icing them (confession: I prefer my cupcakes with little or no frosting); we ate them as is or with a scoop of ice cream. This is now my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe and would work perfectly with your favorite frosting recipe.
Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes
Source: Jill O'Connor's Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey
Yields 24 cupcakes

2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mayonnaise (not low-fat)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups boiling water

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the sugar and eggs and beat with an electric mixer set at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in mayonnaise and vanilla just until combined. Reduce the speed to medium and beat in half of the flour mixture just until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add half of the boiling water and beat at a very low speed just until the batter is smooth, 5 to 10 seconds. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat just until combined, 5 to 10 seconds longer. Beat in the remaining water. The batter will be somewhat thin.

Divide the batter among the prepared cupcake cups, filling them about two-thirds full. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely. When the cupcakes are completely cool, frost.

Serve and enjoy.

Monday, January 9, 2012

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Guest Post: Gluten-Free Blueberry Cornbread Muffins

Eating gluten-free can be a challenge at times. If you're new to things, it can take some getting used to. However, there is no reason that a gluten-free lifestyle should mean boring meals or difficult recipes. This blubbery corn muffin recipe is easy to do and very versatile. Change out the blueberries for cranberries and add two extra tablespoons of sugar, or replace the blueberries with three fourths of a cut of raspberries (my personal favorite). Make these fresh and delicious muffins for a tasty gluten-free breakfast or save them for an afternoon snack.


2 tablespoons tapioca flour (plus 2 more tablespoons for dusting the pan)
1 and ¼ cups finely ground yellow cornmeal (the finer the ground, the more moist and tender
your muffins will be)
2/3 cup while rice flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon plus 1 and ½ teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
4 large eggs
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen blueberries (around 5 ounces)

For equipment, you will need a muffin pan with 12 cups


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and position the rack in the lower third of your oven. This will ensure that your muffins are evenly cooked and that the tops do not burn. Butter the muffin pan and lightly dust each space with tapioca flour, brushing off any excess flour that is on the pan.

Next, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the all of the dry ingredients, including the tapioca flour, cornmeal, rice flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Then, in a medium sized bowl mix together the butter, milk, maple syrup, and four eggs.

With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir the already mixed wet ingredients into the mixed dry ingredients. Continue to mix these components until everything is fully combined. Now, gently fold the blueberries (or whatever other berry you chose) into the mixture.

Now fill each muffin cup (after it has been buttered and dusted with flour) with batter until they are each about ¾ of the way full. Place in preheated oven and bake until tops are domed up and feel springy when you touch them (obviously use caution touching hot muffin tops). Stick a toothpick in the center of a muffin and see if it comes out clean without any batter residue. If the toothpick is clean, your muffins are likely ready. The baking time should be around 15 minutes, but can vary depending on your individual oven. Let muffins cool in the pan for at least five minutes and then remove from pan.


Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031 @gmail.com.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

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Many Weeks in Mommyhood

There is a whole lot of nesting going on around our house. Whether it's prepping for Baby D or just tired of living in the same mess day in and day out, we are finally doing something to make the house more comfortable and usable. I was going through a little phase of not liking our house and living arrangements because of all the stuff. Sentimentality of holding on to certain things has gone out the door as I endeavor to declutter our house. In the past two weeks I have gone through almost everything we own and set aside things for donation, I have made space for Baby D in our shared closet in Cati's room, Alex moved a bookcase in Cati's room to make space for Baby D's crib, and Alex, my glorious husband, has listened and acted on my every desire, especially the most painful one: clearing out the backyard. I don't think you can understand how much work this entails because my house is literally located in the middle of a jungle with all the overgrown and unmaintained plants. Clearing out the backyard has opened up at least SEVEN feet of space and now there is more sunlight and future space for Cati to have an outdoor play area and for Alex to have his dream of a fire pit. I freaking love it. Here are before and after pictures:
It doesn't look like much now but I'm really excited about the projects we have planned for our yard and I'm looking forward to finally being able to use our backyard for something more than just Perla's bathroom.

Other than making space for Baby D and changes around the house, here are Cati's fun developments over the last few weeks:

Cheeseburger! It's always the random things that stick and one day I said "cheeseburger!" to try to get Cati to look at the camera and smile. Now she not only thinks that the camera is called "cheeseburger" but she also thinks the process of taking a picture is called "cheeseburger."
Empathy. It's so amazing how social we humans are. Cati is becoming increasingly empathic and aware of the emotions of others. If I hurt myself, she gets really concerned and even starts to cry if I'm not quick enough in telling her I'm fine.

Mira! This one just cracks me up. Everything is "mira!" ("look!") and Cati is constantly trying to show us things.

Skipping. I lie. This one cracks me up the most. Out of nowhere, Cati started skipping and now she does it all the time. She likes for us to skip with her so she'll usually start and then say "mommy bouncy" or "daddy bouncy" so we can skip with her.

Imagination. Cati seriously leaves me in awe with her imagination. It's so pure and knows no bounds. My favorite use of imagination is when she grabs a crayon, puts it in one of her stuffed animal's hands, and pretends like the stuffed animal is coloring. She'll even tell the animal what to draw.

Nightingale. Cati LOVES to sing. She will sing at random and she makes up songs. She's made up songs for Perla, her grandmother, and us. It's so cute to hear her bust out in song.

Here are the fun developments with Baby D:

Space Maker. Like I said earlier, space is being made for Baby D. It makes it more real that she's going to be here soon now that space is being made for her. I still can't believe she's going to be born this year.

VBAC is a Go. I've been given the all clear to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section). The only thing my doctor told me is that I absolutely must go into labor on my own so I'm hoping Baby D cooperates.  I really wish I could be ok with the thought of a planned, repeat c-section but I'm not and I really, really wish people would stop assuming I'm having a planned c-section. We've hired the best doula around to help with labor and delivery so the I feel I've done everything I can to prepare for a vaginal birth. We'll see how things go once I start laboring and once I get admitted to the hospital.

Big or Small. I have been getting a lot of comments lately about how pregnant I look. I've been told my face is starting to swell, that I look huge, that I look small, that I look like I'm going to give birth to a small baby. I don't know how I think I look other than round. I don't feel like I look huge but I don't feel like I look small either. All I know is that my belly finally reaches out farther than my boobs and that's saying something. Here's a recent picture of the belly:
Note: I actually sent this picture to Alex with the subject line of "is this really big to you?" I should have known better. To Alex, and most men it seems, a big pregnant wife is a source of pride.

We're four days in January and all I can think about is, "holy cow, I'm going to be a mom of two this year!!"

Monday, January 2, 2012

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And that's it. It's 2012 and 2011 is officially a thing of the past. I'm sure it's going to take me a few days to get used to writing that out. I can honestly say 2011 was a good year; a lot happened and a lot didn't happen. There were new beginnings, new memories, and, of course, there were sad things and losses in life and friendships. I didn't meet my goal to read 52 books in 52 weeks, but I did realize that I could handle going back to school. That right there was a huge boost to my ego. In 2011 we celebrated four years of marriage and Cati's first birthday. We saw an explosion of growth and imagination in Cati and realized that despite feeling so blessed and fulfilled, we wanted more. Talk about greedy, but God must have thought wanting more was OK and he sent us Baby D. All things considered, life really couldn't have been better in 2011.

The new year brings with it so many hopes. As with anything new and unknown, the expectations are high and the hope is for things to somehow work themselves out. This will be a huge year for our family. Cati will turn two, Baby D will be born, and Alex will begin the interviewing process for fellowship. The date for the next big move is inching closer and it's exciting to think of the possibilities.

Nearing the end of the year was filled with mixed emotions for me. 2012 is the year of Baby D's birth, something I wanted to both keep at a distance and draw nearer. There's excitement and fear, happiness and apprehension all bottled up in the birth of one little person. So many questions, with the biggest and most pressing being "how much will things change?" As the due date nears, I find myself looking at Cati and feeling overwhelmed with guilt. She is so precious and perfect and wonderful; will a sibling take that away from her? I know it won't but emotions get the better of me and I wonder if it is really, truly possible to feel so madly in love with two separate beings. So while I want this pregnancy to slow down, I also want Baby D to be here so I can finally know what and how to feel.

So with all that, I welcome you 2012. I welcome whatever ride you are going to send me on. All I want is to survive and to be able to love as fully and devotedly as I did in 2011. A little more patience would also be a good thing. And for you, dear readers, I wish you the best in 2012. May it bring you health, happiness, and enough new beginnings and memories to make 2012 worthwhile.