Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

July Foodie Penpal

Two months in and I am loving Foodie Penpals. I love shopping for my penpals and I love receiving goodies from people who matched up with me. This month Ashley was my penpal and she sent me a box full of all her favorite snacks. The best part of her package was that she sent me something I have been interested in trying: Daily's Frozen Piña Colada. The second best part of her package were the yogurt raisins because it turns out Cati likes them and now I have a new snack food to offer her. Here's everything that was included in my box:
  • Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds
  • Crystal Light Iced Tea Peach flavor drink mix on the go
  • Kashi Trail Mix Granola bars
  • Sun Maid vanilla yogurt raisins
  • Quakes Rice Snacks Caramel Corn flavor
  • Daily's Frozen Piña Colada
  • Milka Toffee Crunch
Thanks again to Ashley for taking the time to send me this great box! For more information on Foodie Penpals visit Lindsey's blog, The Lean Green Bean. It's really the easiest and funnest thing to do; you can shop for your penpal when you shop, the limit is $15, and you can even have the post office pick up the package from your home. The deadline to participate for August is the 4th so head on over and sign up.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

Best Pumpkin Cake Ever

My position on pumpkin has changed over the years. I used to think I didn't like it but it just turns out I don't like pumpkin pie. Everything else with pumpkin in it? Love it. Take this cake for example, love is too weak of a word to describe how I felt about it. It was soft and moist and slightly pumpkin-y in flavor and was gone within a day of it being made. If you have pumpkin puree at home I highly recommend you give this cake a try.

Pumpkin Cake

Source: Sue Case on Allrecipes.com

2 cups white sugar
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups canned pumpkin
4 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 12x18 inch pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine sugar and oil. Blend in vanilla and pumpkin, then beat in eggs one at a time. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in nuts. Spread batter into prepared 12x18 inch pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

Easy Homemade Playdough

Cati loves to play with playdough. My only problem with this is that she leaves it out and it dries up. The perfect solution to this is making playdough at home because I'll feel less guilty about it drying up if I can easily replace it. This recipe uses ingredients that should already be in your pantry and it comes together quickly. I made four colors and halved the recipe for each color. I think it took me 15 minutes to make all colors using two pots and Cati was entranced the whole time. Because the playdough came together quickly I had to do some extra kneading to get the color evenly distributed. Also, the playdough is really salty so the next time I make it I'm going to add less salt. This is just me as Cati had no complaints!

Easy Homemade Playdough
Source: Musings from a Stay at Home Mom

1 cup flour
1 cup water
2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
food coloring

Mix together all the ingredients, except the food coloring, in a 2 quart saucepan. Cook over low/medium heat, stirring. Once it begins to thicken, add the food coloring. Continue stirring until the mixture is much thicker and begins to gather around the spoon.

Remove the dough onto wax paper or a plate to cool.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

This Week in Mommyhood

The past 72 hours have been miserable for me. I don't know how but I manged to get clogs in both breasts and then mastitis in the right one. I've been pumping around the clock and started a round of antibiotics but I'm still quite uncomfortable. What's worse is the guilt I feel over feeling so sick I Can't be with my family. Alex was a trooper yesterday and did everything; the only thing I did was rock Cati before bedtime. I don't know how much longer I'm going to pump but I'm going to follow the advice my friend gave me, "Don't decide to quit on a bad day. Doing it on a good day removes some of the regret." Right now I feel so torn because I want to pump but the physical pain of when things are bad and everything that needs to be done to make things better makes me want to stop. I simply don't know and I Just have to remind myself that things will get better.

Here are Elina's fun developments from the past two weeks:

Drool. I forget how much babies drool. Elina's clothes are always soaked from all the drooling.

Reaching for Things. Elina has gotten really good at reaching out for things. Her hand-eye coordination is improving daily and she's even able to swivel her body around if she wants to reach something that's at her side.

Airplane Position. Cati calls this position "avion" (airplane) and that's exactly what Elina looks like when she lifts both her arms and legs off the ground.

Sitting. Elina loves being on her belly and I mean she loves it. It's hard to have her in any other position because she is constantly trying to find a way to get on her belly. She does, however, sit for short amounts of time and she has the trunk strength to sit but she prefers being on her belly.

Hair! Elina's little bald spot is growing in and it's made me more aware of how much her hair has grown in general.

Cranky and Fussy. Elina has been a little cranky and fussy lately. She's been fighting sleep and crying more than usual. At first I thought it was because of the Gential Violet in her milk but I stopped using it and she has still been cranky. One of the weekly newsletters I get said that from now (22 weeks) until about 6 months is another period of crankiness and fussiness due to developmental changes. I hope that's it because I miss my sweet, calm baby.

Here are Cati's fun developments from the past two weeks:

No Quiero. A while back, one of the bloggers I follow mentioned how her daughter (a little older than Cati) told her "I don't like you." I told Alex about this and he couldn't believe a child that young would be capable of saying something like that. Now when Cati's upset she will say she doesn't love you and the most heartbreaking thing she has said was "Papi no quiere Cati. Papi quere trabajo" (Papi doesn't love Cati. Papi loves work). Now when she says she doesn't love us we tell her it's a shame because we still love her and eventually she comes around and says she loves us. We've also made more of an effort to tone down how much we talk about Alex's job.

Paprika & Red Pepper. I bought Alex paprika and red pepper infused oils as a gift. He loved the oils but the best part was having Cati learn the words paprika and red pepper. Cati is learning words at such a rapid pace that we need to be mindful of the things we say around her because we don't know what words will stick.

Paper Boats. My mother-in-love likes to make paper boats for Cati. Cati must love it too because every time she comes across a little piece of paper, she will crumble it up and say it's a boat. I love seeing how her imagination works and how she's able to pretend.

Teething. I can't wait until Cati is done teething. The past few weeks have been tough with her because she's having trouble sleeping and has been sick to her stomach. Her bottom right molar is coming in and I wish I could do something to will all her molars to come out so that she can go back to being a happy toddler.

Yo, Tu, Mi, Nosotros. Cati is getting really good at using the Spanish equivalents of I, you, me, and us. She still talks about herself in the third person, but it's about 50-50 now where she'll say either Cati or Mi/Yo. She's also gotten really good at changing what I say about her (example, "tu quieres cookie") to apply to herself ("yo quiero cookie"). Again, language development is simply amazing. I like that she's learning how to talk properly but I'm going to miss how she refers to herself in the third person; I love hearing her say her own name!

I pray more than anything that today is the day I return to normal. I don't know how much I can take. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

Cool Colors

I've been on the lookout for crafts to do with Cati this summer. Last summer she didn't really get how to participate in crafts but she does this summer and it's been fun making up games as we work on different crafts. I had seen this crayon project a few months ago and thought it would be perfect for us to do because of the amount of random crayons we have in the house. We made a game out of peeling off the paper and Cati handed me all the colors so I could cut them up into small pieces. It took about 20 minutes at 250 degrees F to melt (I checked on it every 5 minutes) and the hardest part was explaining to Cati why she had to wait to play with her new crayons. Once completely cooled, I popped the crayons out of their silicone molds and Cati ran to get her coloring book so we could color. This craft was a win-win for everyone: I got to made bigger pieces of crayons out of the millions of small crayons we had and Cati got to color with crayons in cool shapes and colors.
Source: Our Best Bites

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

Chewy Sugar Cookies

Publix, our supermarket, makes some of the best chewy sugar cookies. Alex loves them and asked me to find a similar recipe. I found this recipe and while it didn't rise and plump up like the Publix ones, it had that same chew. These cookies didn't last long in our house so I know they are keeper.

Chewy Sugar Cookies
Source: CindyAnne on Allrecipes.com
Yields about 36 cookies

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups margarine
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup white sugar for decoration

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients until just blended.

Roll the dough into walnut sized balls and roll the balls in remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Place cookies 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets and flatten slightly.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until lightly browned at the edges. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

Elina: Five Months

Dear Elina,

Today you are five months old. The older you get the more shocking it is that you are getting older. You will always be the baby because you are the youngest but it’s so strange to see how each day brings us closer to the end of this baby stage. This month saw the continuation of you being your sweet, content self. You still only cry when you are hungry or tired. I’m pumping five times a day and you are eating 5-oz bottles five times a day. You have gotten stronger physically and you love tummy time. It amazes me how you prefer being on your stomach as opposed to any other position.

This past month you started getting into plank, triangle, and airplane positions so I know crawling is around the corner. You are a smiley baby and you love to laugh. Nuzzling your chest and neck and munching on your toes will lead to fits of giggles. When you can reach your feet, you like to suck on your toes. Speaking of which, you still suck on your hand. Your hand is your comfort and whenever you are upset, frustrated, or tired you suck on your right hand and it calms you down right away. Even Cati knows about your love of your hand and when you start to cry she will say “Elinita chupa la mano!”

Your hand-eye coordination has gotten so much better over the past month and now you reach for anything that’s within reach. You’re able to lift things you couldn’t lift a month ago, like a rattle or small balls. You can sit in a tripod position for a few minutes and it’s so cute because you can actually see your neck that’s hidden behind those chubby cheeks. Your hair has grown in and, while it may not be a lot of hair compared to other babies, I’m still surprised by how much hair you have. It took Cati almost eight months for all her hair to grown in and you have a head covered in it at five months old.

You are still sleeping through the night and you have gotten more regular when it comes to when you nap. Your longest nap of the day is still the afternoon nap and your other two (sometimes one) naps are about an hour long. Three and a half hours is the longest you can stay awake for before getting cranky and, even still, your crankiness is quickly resolved by changing scenery.

You are my sweet, sweet baby. If I had to describe you in one word it would be “content.” You seem to simply enjoy being: being held, being played with, being looked at, and being cuddled. Sometimes I wonder if I am doing enough to keep you entertained because you are such a relaxed baby. I’ve said it so many times this month, but you really are a dream baby and it’s babies like you that make me see why people would want more kids. You complete our little family and I am so thankful that you were born to show us that no two children are alike and that there is enough room in our hearts to love someone who is completely different but equally special.

Happy five months old, Elina. Thank you for changing my life for the better on February 17, 2012. You’ve stolen our hearts with your sweet demeanor and gummy smiles. You and your sister make me laugh hysterically and smile lovingly. You are the balancing energy to your sister and you keep me rooted to the moment. I love and adore you little one and I am so honored to have been given the opportunity to mother you and show you love over the past five months of your life.


Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

Lactation Cookies, Part Two

Lactation Cookies
Now these are what lactation cookies should taste like: like regular chocolate chip cookies. I really liked the Oatmeal Lactation Cookies I made, but I was the only one. Alex hated them and Cati just liked to eat the chocolate chips. These cookies, on the other hand, tasted like a healthier chocolate chip cookie and everyone enjoyed them. There's still nothing like a regular chocolate chip cookie, but this is a good alternative.

Lactation Cookies
Source: Epicurious
Yields approximately 4 dozen cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
4 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp flaxseed meal (no subs)
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp Brewers Yeast (no substitutions)
3 cups Thick cut oats
1 cups Chocolate chips

Preheat oven at 375. Prepare

Mix flaxseed meal and water, set aside 3-5 minutes.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. Stir flaxseed mix into butter mix and add vanilla. Beat until well blended.

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and Brewer's yeast and add to butter mixture. Stir in the oats and then the chocolate chips.

Using a cookie scooper, drop dough on parchmant paper two inches apart. Bake 8-12 minutes or until golden.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Whenever I see an oatmeal recipe I immediately save it. I've become a huge oatmeal fanatic and love how you can easily sneak in something like flax seed into the recipe. That helps me feel less guilty about the amount of sweets I make and eat. This recipe tasted just like an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie but in bar form. I halved the recipe and baked the bars in an 8x8 pan for about 20 minutes.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars
Source: What Megan's Cooking

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups quick-cooking or old fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl and beat just until combined. Fold in the oats and chocolate chips.

Spread in a rimmed 10x15 baking pan, using a spatula or your hands to press into place. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool, but cut the bars while they are still somewhat warm, as a knife will go through them more easily.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

Frozen Hot Chocolate, Serendipity Style

Frozen Hot Chocolate
Before we even decided to go to Serendipity 3 for our fifth wedding anniversary, I made us this Frozen Hot Chocolate. For years I had gone on and on about this drink and thought it was finally time to introduce Alex to its deliciousness. The drink will take on the flavor of whatever hot chocolate mix you use so it makes for fun experimenting. The sad thing is that after I made this, having the real deal at Serendipity 3 was kind of a let down. It was as if all the magic was gone because I knew how to recreate the drink at home (at a fraction of the cost too!)

Frozen Hot Chocolate, Serendipity Style
Source: Picky Palate
Makes 4 servings

2 cups whole milk
Five 1.25 ounce packets of Hot Chocolate mix
4 cups ice
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips or grated chocolate

Place milk into blender. Add hot chocolate packets and blend until combined. Add ice and blend until ice is blended into tiny chunks. Pour evenly into 4 glasses on top of plates to catch any dripping frozen hot chocolate.

Whip cream and sugar until whipped cream. Top each glass with whipped cream and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

June Food Penpals: My Penpal Maya

I am always excited getting packages in the mail! This June, I participated in Foodie Penpals, which is a food exchange organized by Lindsay Livingston at The Lean Green Bean. I was paired up with Stephanie. Stephanie took the time to ask what food items I like and don’t like before she put together a “taste of Miami” assortment of very interesting and DELICIOUS food for me! Everything was new to me, so my brain immediately went into overdrive as I imagined the ways I could use the items in my cooking. Here’s some of what came in the box: Goya spice mixes – adobo all-purpose seasoning and con azafran; Guava paste (a new favorite ingredient); Filled Guava Fingers (these have cheese in their centers!); Plantain chips; and Cuban Espresso. She even included a taste of her local community by including an issue of her local newspaper – a great and thoughtful idea! I was so excited to find the coffee and made some right away to enjoy with the plantain chips – I LOVE plantains!– while I scoured the internet for fun ways to use the other ingredients. After my research, I decided to make the following:

(1) Guava Paste & Queso Blanco Empanadas

These were so delicious, I will be including the recipe on my list of regular office pot-luck ideas! My cousin and her family were visiting when I made them, and they devoured the entire platter in minutes!  I used a recipe I found at cdkitchen. I followed the recipe as written, except I used pre-made empanada dough I found at my local grocery.

(2) Chicken Breasts sauteed in Tamari and Adobo seasoning

I rubbed some of the adobo seasoning all over a couple of chicken breasts (2 breasts), and marinated them for 4 hours. After sizzling some diced onions (1/2 of a medium) and garlic (2 cloves) in bacon fat (~2tbsp), I added the chicken to brown. Then I added some tamari (1/4 cup), water (1/4 cup) and a dash of vinegar (~2 tbsp), turned down the heat to where the sauce was barely bubbling, and allowed the chicken to simmer in the sauce for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce reduces to a somewhat viscous consistency. I served this over rice –got rave reviews!

(3) Seafood Paella spiced with the con azafran.

Simply tossed a couple of packets of the Con Azafran into my rice as it cooked – a great substitute for saffron, which is VERY expensive!

(4) Scrambled eggs with diced tomatoes and Con Azafran

Added some of the con azafran to a tomato-egg scramble – Exotically Yummy!

Thank you so much Stephanie for introducing me to some of your favorite foods and broadening my
culinary repertoire!

Happy in NOVA,


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

This Week in Mommyhood

The past few weeks have been busy. Other than Cati starting her swimming lessons and Elina fighting off her first cold, nothing new has happened. Even still, I feel as if I am constantly having to relearn how to let go and not feel the need to do it all. At least I can say that I am truly enjoying my girls and I am loving all the extra time we are all getting with Alex. I am also loving that Alex and I are working out together (one week of Insanity done!) and keeping each other motivated.

Here are Elina's development from the last two weeks:

Discovery of Feet. Elina has discovered her feet! I love seeing how she contorts her little body to get a hold of those yummy feet of hers.

Diapering. I'm trying to be a little greener and efficient with our money and, as a result, we are exploring cloth diapers. I don't know if we'll be able to do it full-time, but my goal is to at least use both and spread out how often we buy disposable diapers. I have some bumgenius diapers and some gdiapers.  I especially like the gdiapers because they are a hybrid between disposable and reusable.

Here are Cati's development from the last two weeks:

Feeling Guilty. Pumping is still going strong and the only thing that makes it hard is Cati. When I'm pumping Cati likes to put her chair next to mine and play with the pump's tubing. One day she did this and tried to touch my nipples after I finished pumping and I lost it. I yelled and instantly felt horrible but then I felt even more horrible because she kept asking Alex, "Que hizo Cati?" ("what did Cati do?"). I felt so guilty about yelling and having her know that she did something to upset me that I couldn't even bring myself to talk to her. I know it's all part of life, but I wish I could control my reactions better so that she never has to worry about me being mad at her. I just want her to know love and I need to stop underestimating how well she's able to understand emotion and the roll she plays in causing certain emotional reactions.

Shopping. Cati understands more and more about our lives every day. If you ask her where I shop she'll tell you Publix and if you ask her where Alex shops she'll tell you Home Depot. She knows we get deli meats at Publix and eggs at Walgreens. What really amazes us is that she knows this simply by seeing who goes where. These are just little tidbits of our everyday lives that she's picked up on and sorted in her head.
Little Driver. I don't like driving. I only do it because I need to drive. Most of the time I get annoyed with people on the road and end up saying, "Come on people!" It never occurred to me that Cati was paying attention until one day when we were parked in front of our house and Alex put Cati in his lap (he was driving). Cati immediately went for the steering wheel and said, "Come on people! Beep beep!" We couldn't stop laughing. She's a mini me in training!

Here's to more surviving. By the way, have I mentioned how much I hate the terrible twos!?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

I do.

On our wedding anniversary we took professional pictures. The pictures were originally meant to be taken when Elina was three months old but we got rained out and it took a month to reschedule for a time when Alex was off. Because the shoot landed on our anniversary I thought it would be fun to have the girls get some pictures with my dress. Despite some yellowing, my dress has held up nicely in the last five years. It was so weird to see my oldest daughter wearing my wedding dress. Seeing her in it made me think of how young and full of hope I was and how far the promises we made on our wedding day have brought us. Cati and Elina are the most beautiful and amazing products of my marriage to Alex. On June 24, 2007 I said "I do" to spending my life and creating a new life with Alex and on June 24, 2012 I got to see the physical embodiment of that "I do."
Cati was actually scared of my dress. I had to tell her stories and give her my bracelets to calm her down. Elina, on the other hand, was intrigued by my dress. And doesn't Elina look adorable in her romper my friend Jamie made?
I can't wait to see the professional pictures!
Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

Campfire S'mores Brownies

Campfire S'mores Brownies
Can you think of a better summer treat than s'mores? Aside from all the wonderful fruit that's in season, I am a sucker for anything s'mores. I knew I had to make these Campfire S'mores Brownies as soon as I came across them. This was the best baking decision I had made in a long time. The brownies are spectacular and are a cross between brownies and puddings, which is exactly what you want when it comes to s'mores. I made tiny changes to the recipe that include making six little brownie tartlettes (baked for about 20 minutes), using regular marshmallows (sliced into three), and torching the marshmallows instead of broiling.
Campfire S'mores Brownies

Campfire S'mores Brownies
Source: Pastry Affair
Yields 1 8x8-inch pan

2 1/2 cups (1 lb) dark chocolate, chopped in pieces
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
4 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup crushed graham crackers (large chunks are okay)
1 cup mini marshmallows
Chocolate, melted (for drizzling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt together dark chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla extract. Stir in the melted chocolate until combined. Fold in the flour, baking powder, and crushed graham crackers. Pour brownie batter into a 8x8-inch baking pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until brownies do not jiggle when the pan is shaken (even when baked completely, a toothpick may not come out clean). Do not overbake. If using a larger pan, decrease the baking time; likewise, if using a smaller pan, increase the baking time.

Remove brownies from oven and turn oven onto broil. Spread mini marshmallows evenly over the top of the brownies and place on the top oven rack to toast marshmallows. The marshmallows will brown in 1-2 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle with melted chocolate, if desired.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

Five Years

Last weekend we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. I'm left in awe of all that we have done in five years. We went from being happy newlyweds to even happier parents. In our five years together we have moved from Boston to Miami, bought a house, started residency and school, and welcomed two beautiful girls and two rambunctious dogs into our family. We have grown together and been able to fall in love with the people we have become as parents. I feel so lucky to have fallen in love with Alex in the first place that falling in love with the father he has become seems like something straight out of a fairy tale.
To celebrate our anniversary we went out to Serendipity 3 on Lincoln Road. We left the girls at home with the grandparents, I had a Cake Martini, we ate burgers, and shared a frozen hot chocolate. It doesn't get better than that.
I look forward to many more years of falling in love over and over again. I couldn't imagine sharing this life with anyone else.