Friday, August 31, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

August Foodie Penapal: a healthier, fitter Me!

 Another great month of Foodie Penpal thanks to Yaitza of a healthier, fitter ME! Yaitza has gone on an amazing fitness journey (read about it here) and she has inspired me to get back into exercising. The best part of her box was that it introduced me to a lot of healthy snack foods that work perfectly as something quick to eat while on the go with the girls (my favorite: Larabar apple turnover bar). Thank you Yaitza for being my penpal this month and sending me all this great stuff:
For more information on Foodie Penpals visit Lindsey's blog, The Lean Green Bean. The deadline to participate for September is the 4th so head on over!
The Lean Green Bean

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

Jello Cookies

I'm just going to come out and say it: these are the funnest cookies to make! I had so much fun making these cookies and trying the different flavors. Despite telling Cati multiple times the cookies were for my sister's baby shower, it was really hard to get Cati to show some restraint when she knew jello and fun colors were involved. The best part is that the cookies actually taste like the flavor you use. I made three colors (berry blast, raspberry, and grape) instead of four and simply added 1/2 Tbsp of jello to each dough section. The only flavor I had to add coloring to was the grape flavor. Seriously though, and especially if you have kids, make these cookies!

Jello Cookies
Source: I Heart Nap Time

3.5 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1.5 cups salted butter softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
4 (3 oz) pkg jello You can use any flavors you want

Beat butter in large bowl with mixer until creamy. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Blend in egg and vanilla. Mix flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
Divide dough into 4 sections. Sprinkle 2 Tb of jello onto each section. Knead together with dough. You may want to add a few drops of food coloring to make the dough more vibrant.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in the extra jello from the packets. Place, 2 inches apart, on baking sheets. Flatten with bottom of bowl.

Bake 8 to 10 min at 350 on lined baking sheets. Cool on baking sheets 2 min. Remove to wire racks and cool completely.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

This Week in Mommyhood

The past two weeks have been full of lots of excitement and changes. I started school last week and, while I was extremely nervous, it went well. Thankfully, my mother-in-law was able to be here with the new babysitter so it made leaving the girls, especially Elina, easier. This week might be a different story but at least the first week back didn't see me crying on the way to school. For as much as I missed being with the girls and giving them kisses goodnight, the time away did wonders for me; being able to miss the girls makes me appreciate my time with them more.

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

Food! This is, by far, the biggest development with Elina. I tried giving her oatmeal cereal the day after she turned six months and she didn't really get it. On the one hand, I didn't think she was ready to start solids and on the other hand, I didn't think she would take to eating solids easily because she has always been a fussy eater. I didn't push the cereal on her (plus, it made her spit up a lot) and I tried a different approach, which was giving her something small to chew on. Elina had no problem with chewing and actually seems to prefer eating things she can chew. I haven't tried giving Elina any purees because I'm focusing on giving her things like cooked rice grains, banana pieces, and avocado pieces to eat.

All Fours. Crawling is near. Elina is starting to do all the things Cati did before she started to crawl. Elina gets on all fours and rocks and thumps her legs when she's on her back. I'm still trying to wrap my head around having two mobile kids.

Name Recognition. Elina responds to her name! I love her name so much and feel it really fits her so it's great to see that she knows it's her name. She's becoming more and more of a little person every day.

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

Potty Update. Cati is doing so well with potty training that I find myself feeling good about waiting to potty train until now. She hasn't had a peeing accident since the first couple of days and she's even peed in public bathrooms. The only area we have issues with is pooping and Cati holding it in until it hurts. She's getting extra fiber in her diet but she still doesn't feel comfortable pooping in the potty. Regardless, I'm so proud of her and so impressed by how well she has handled this transition. Things like this make me realize how much of a little girl Cati is becoming.
Here's to another week of surviving and, most importantly enjoying having both girls at home.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

Fig and Walnut Loaf

Back when we lived in Boston we went to a restaurant called Sel de la Terre. I don't remember much about our meal there but I do remember the bread, especially the fig bread. We both loved the bread so much that when we went to Boston last year we went to the restaurant to see if we could buy a loaf of it. Unfortunately, they didn't have it but that's ok now that I have this recipe. If you like figs you will like this bread. Even if you don't like figs, you will still like this bread. This is the type of bread you will want to share because you'd want others to experience the awesomeness of figs.

Fig and Walnut Loaf 
Source: Kitchen Daily on Huffington Post

3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (3 oz)
1/2 cup boiling water
6 ounces dried Turkish figs, coarsely chopped, (1 cup)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Lightly butter and flour a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.

Toast nuts in oven until a shade darker, about 10 minutes.

Pour boiling water over figs and let stand 10 minutes. Strain through a sieve reserving figs and liquid separately.

Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup of fig liquid, egg, oil, and milk. Stir wet ingredients into flour mixture until just combined, then stir in figs and walnuts.

Spread dough evenly in loaf pan and bake until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool bread in pan 15 minutes then turn out onto rack and cool completely.

Bread, wrapped well, at room temperature 1 week.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

Elina: Six Months

Dear Elina,

Today you are six months old. Six months. Half a year. Each month is astonishing but this month is especially so because the scales are tipping in favor of toddlerhood. Each day passed today will bring you closer to being a toddler and farther from being a baby. The changes you've undergone these past six months will soon be overshadowed by the changes you'll undergo in the months to come. Not that those changes haven’t been amazing, they are, but from today on out you will be moving toward a time that will see you learn how speak real words, crawl, walk, give kisses; a time when you will truly be able to interact with us and where we can get to know each other better.

The past six months have been a beautiful, exhausting journey. You entered our lives and since February 17th have made us wonder how we ever lived without you. You fit perfectly into our family. Despite the demands inherent in being a baby you have proved to be the calming force that tempers Cati's intense force. Over the last month your personality has begun to bloom and you are such a happy and, most importantly, content child. Whereas Cati was frenetic with motion and emotion, you exude contentment and peacefulness. Every day you amaze me with this simple truth: at six months you already are your own person with your own likes, dislikes, and quirks. You have taught me there is no mold when it comes to children and my job is to love and accept you for who you are. The distinctions I make between you are your sister aren't comparisons, they are the ways I remind myself of your individuality.

In particular, this past month has seen two teeth break through, you learning how to sit unsupported, and you dropping down to two naps a day. The best milestone (at least for us!) is the knowledge that you recognize us as important people. You cry when new people hold you and you smile whenever you see us. Each day we strive to know you and this month you proved that the love and affection we have been pouring out is working to get you to know us. That smile of yours has been worth all the hard work and tears. I have gone through some lengths to see that smile and this past month the reward for all that heard work has been so evident: all I have to do is smile at you to get a smile in return.

I love you so much it overwhelms me. I want to hold you and never let go. I want to shower you with kisses and spend my days listening to you breathe, smelling your sweet baby sent, and watching you discover the world around you. For as much as I want to see you grow and see how your love for Cati deepens, I want to keep you as small as you are today. That right there is what makes motherhood so bittersweet: each wonderful moment must sadly and unfortunately end but that end is always followed by a new beginning that is even more wonderful.

Happy six months little one. Thank you for teaching me how to love differently each day.


Six month stats: 15lbs 1.5 oz, 25" length. Five-5oz bottles a day and pumping five times a day.

More on Elina: Birth Story, One Month, Two Months, Three Months, Four Months, Five Months

Monday, August 13, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

This Week in Mommyhood

Summer is winding down and not only will Cati be starting school in a few weeks but I'll be starting school next week. Aside from trying to calm jittery nerves, I'm trying my hardest to enjoy the girls while I can. Despite crankiness, this has been a beautiful week. My girls are constantly doing things that leave me in awe and I'm so thankful for all the time I get with them.

Here are Elina's fun developments from this past week

Squeals. Elina is getting really vocal but it's not the cooing I was expecting. Baby girl is a squealer! I think it's pretty funny but Cati is especially entertained by the squealing and loves to mimic Elina.

Nap Changes. I think it's official: Elina is down to two naps a day. What bothers me is not so much that she's napping less often, but that she's old enough to start dropping naps. Where is my baby going?

Second Tooth. Ahhhhh!!! The second tooth broke through on Thursday, August 9. Elina looks so cute with a tooth and she must think so too because she's been so smiley lately.
Peek-A-Boo. This is the new game in our house and Elina gets it! She starts laughing like it's nobody's business and the best part is when Cati gets involved and she makes Elina laugh. My heart melts every time I see the girls interacting with one another.

Here are Cati's fun developments from the past week:

Liar Liar. Cati told her first lie! At first I couldn't believe it and then I was impressed; she made a statement and then came up with a justification.
It all started when we were at the table having dinner. Elina was sitting in the highchair between Cati and me (Cati loves having Elina next to her) when suddenly Cati pushed the highchair away. This was our conversation:

Cati: Elina time out
Me:  Que hiso? (What did she do?)
Cati: dio Cati golpe. (She hit Cati)
Me: Quando? (When?)
Cati: (nonsensical mumbling)

It just blows me away that her little brain has developed to this point. Sure, she's been doing more and more imaginary play, but this is her experiencing reality in a whole new way. Let's just hope this is the last lie she ever tells!

Bunny Love.
Cati's love for her bunny is still going strong. She is so affectionate with her lovey and it's gone beyond "I love you." She actually said, "Bunny, I missed you!"

Potty Training. We have officially begun potty training (Friday, August 10). Cati showed signs a year ago and even went in the potty, but I was pregnant and lazy and feared regression once Elina was born. I was right on the regression thing because after Elina was born Cati had absolutely no interest in the potty. I didn't want to push anything on her after Elina was born and I wanted to wait until Elina was old enough to be capable of entertaining herself while I gave Cati extra attention. We had a box of diapers and I told myself I would start potty training once the box was done. All week I had been preparing Cati by counting down the diapers. The first day of training she only had one accident and was so proud of herself she even invented a little song and dance. The second day wasn't as good and she had three accidents and had a stomachache at the end of the day from holding her poop. The third day was better and there was only one accident and lots of dancing. Cati's treat every time she uses the potty is either an M&M, half a jelly bean, or a Tic Tac. She still wear a cloth diaper for naps and bedtime and right now I just want her to be good with using the bathroom during the day so we can leave the house again. Three days at home with a toddler who is extra cranky when she doesn't leave the house  is dreadful!

Each day gets better and this week is going to be a happy and sad week. Both my girls are reaching milestones with Cati turning 2.5 years old and inching closer to 3 and Elina turning 6 months and inching closer to 1.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

Easy Homemade Granola

I love to eat granola but most of the time I'm too cheap to actually buy a bag of it at the store. For some reason, and despite reading the ingredient list on the bags at the store, I thought granola was something that was hard to do. When I came across this recipe I realized how wrong I was; granola is actually really easy and considering I buy oats in bulk really convenient to make at home. I made this recipe and kept the granola simple with no extra add-ins and it didn't make it past a week in my house. Even Cati loved it (and I love hearing her say "granola"). If you like those Nature Valley's Honey n' Oat granola bars then you will definitely like this simple granola recipe because the taste is spot on.

Easy Homemade Granola
Source: Super Healthy Kids
Yields 8 cups of granola

6 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix rolled oats and brown sugar together.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, honey and vanilla. Pour over dry mixture and stir to coat thoroughly.

Spread on a sprayed baking sheet and bake at for 30 minutes. Stir frequently (every 5 minutes) to ensure even baking. It should be golden brown when it is done.

Let it cool on the baking sheet and then break up any large pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

Funfetti Cupcakes

Alex is beginning the fellowship application process. I can't believe it's finally happening. I joked with Alex that it almost feels like a pregnancy because he's getting his application ready now and in nine months we'll know where we are headed for fellowship. Like both my pregnancies, I hope the next nine months fly by so we can start planning the next stage. I can't wait until all the applying is done so we can know where we are going to settle down. To celebrate and lighten the stressful mood I bring you these fun cupcakes. How can you not smile and feel like a kid when you eat anything with sprinkles? These cupcakes taste more like a vanilla cupcake than they do the boxed funfetti cake, but they are still good and worth making. The sprinkles alone make this recipe a must-try.

Funfetti Cupcakes
Source: The Baker Chick
Yields 12 cupcakes

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 whole eggs (room temperature)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup milk (room temperature)
1/3 cup assorted brightly colored sprinkles + more for top of frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy, and pale about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.

Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk gradually, mixing only until just combined. Fold in the sprinkles and pour into cupcake tins - filling them 2/3 of the way. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let cool, then frost.

Vanilla Buttercream
2 sticks of unsalted buter- room temperature.
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2-4 tsp milk or cream
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract

Sprinkles for decorating

In a large bowl, cream the butter until it is fluffy and pale. Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat until it is well combined and thick. Add the vanilla paste and 1 tsp at a time of milk until the frosting is a creamy and good spreading consistency. Pipe/Spread on cupcakes and top with sprinkles.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

This Week in Mommyhood

The past two weeks have been a pretty busy. Nothing has really happened but both girls have been a handful because of developmental spurts; Elina is cranky with teething and Cati isn't sleeping well. I'm hoping they both start feeling better because I feel like I've participated in a triathlon at the end of each day. In the middle of all the craziness there will be a moment of peace and I get to enjoy the beauty of each child and the wonder of sisterhood. I really do love these silly girls.

Here are Elina's big development from the past two weeks:

Tooth! Elina's first tooth broke through on Saturday, July 28th and the second one is just below the gum. I still can't believe that my five-month old has a tooth when it took her older sister ten months for the first tooth to show up. I haven't gotten nearly enough pictures of Elina's gummy smile and I'm sad to see those gummy smiling days come to an end.

Bottle Holder. Elina has been real interested in holding her bottle and over the last couple of weeks she's actually been able to hold it all on her own. This is huge because it makes being out with two so much easier. 

Here are Cati's big development from the past two weeks:

Manipulator. Cati has turned into a little manipulator and I love it. It just shows how comfortable she is with us that she knows what to do to get her way. When either of us are upset with her or tell her she can't do something her immediate response is to ask for the other parent. She's already learning that if you can't get your way with one parent then you need to try the other parent.

Left Right. Alex taught Cati how to look left and right before crossing the street and, as a result, Cati now knows her left from her right. This is great because if she had to rely on me for this she wouldn't get it because I am always confused about what's left and what's right.

Playhouse Fun. For the past few months we have been talking about getting Cati a playhouse so that she could play in our backyard instead of always having to walk/drive to the park. We finally got it this past weekend and she has been in heaven. Yesterday morning we all sat outside and enjoyed the weather while Cati played in her house and I hope we have more days like yesterday.

Other than that, my supply has rebounded a bit but it's still not what it was pre-mastitis. I'm still trying to figure out what to do in terms of pumping and right now I'm trying to take it day by day. Either way, I'm trying to focus on how great it's been to even make it this far with two kids. I think my goal is to make it to six months pumping how I am now and then I'll reassess and see how it's all going to work out with me going back to school. Speaking of which, I'm so nervous about starting school and leaving Elina with a sitter. If I thought it was hard leaving a year ago when it was only Cati, this year I will be a sobbing mess leaving both girls.  And with that in mind, I'm trying to enjoy both girls as much as possible.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

Elation & Disappointment

It always amazes me how a particular situation or moment can make a person feel conflicting emotions. How, for instance, you can feel happy about a new beginning but sad about the ending of what comes before that new beginning. My sister is pregnant. She has been pregnant and today was her baby shower. I have been happy for her and so excited about meeting my niece but I've also been worried about her. Being a parent is hard and I don't want her to suffer. If there were a way to ease a person into parenthood I would make sure she knew about it. I hadn't shared her pregnancy on here before because of selfish reasons: acknowledging her pregnancy on here felt like acknowledging the fact that the day was nearing when I would see my mother again.

It's been almost two and a half years since I have seen or spoken to my mother. Two and a half years of her missing out and choosing not to participate in the lives of her granddaughters. Right now, there is no greater insult to me than not acknowledging the existence of my daughters. These sweet, precious, innocent, miraculous children have turned my world upside down and changed me to the core. They are everything to me so it's hard to understand how they can mean so little to someone like a grandmother. The road that led to how things are today is one that's full of tears, pain, and scars. When the fallout happened I was angry and hurt; is the love for a daughter and granddaughter not enough to accept the relationship between that daughter and her father? As the months passed by and Cati reached milestone moments (both birthdays in particular ) that were ignored, the hurt and anger subsided and turned into resignation (ok, she really doesn't care) and indignation (if she cares so little then she doesn't even deserve to know them). But, despite the feeling, there has always been anxiety lurking. Surely, we can't continue to spin in our own little worlds without ever crashing into one another. And when we crash, what will happen? Will all the scabbed over wounds reopen and let old hurts pour out? Would those hurts be even more painful because of the years of silence?

I knew my sister still spoke to my mother. I guess she's a better person than I am because she's put up with more from my mother than I would have tolerated. Every time my sister called me with another story of heartbreak caused by our mother I was dumbfounded. How can that women still be capable of disappointing after so many years of disappointment? More importantly, how can my sister still handle the disappointment? I would be angry for my sister, angry at my mother, and sad that a mother-daughter relationship could be so empty. And so when I found out my sister was pregnant I knew it was her little world, the world that's part of both my world and our mother's world, that would set us on the path of contact. I didn't want to acknowledge the inevitable confrontation because I wanted to be happy for my sister. This is, after all, her moment; her moment to give life and experience the beauty of becoming a mother. I tried to not think about the woman that has filled so many hours of my life with sadness but as the baby shower drew nearer I knew I had to think about the reality of seeing her again.

I mentally prepared as much as I could. I told myself to put my sister front and center and to focus on her. I can be civil or at least I can try for the sake of my sister. However, she didn't show up today, even after saying she would. My anxiety over seeing her was dulled because, again, my sister was disappointed with something our mother didn't do. The look of resignation on her face when she accepted that our mother wasn't coming is one I wish she never had to wear. In that instant I wished our mother would have shown up. I wished it with all my heart. I wished that in that moment of celebrating the life that's growing inside her, my sister didn't also have to feel like her mother didn't care. The elation over expecting and becoming a mother was mixed with the disappointment that your own mother isn't there celebrating the amazing changes that lay ahead of you. There are so many things I wish I could protect my sister from. My path to motherhood was hard because I was dealing with the loss of my own mother and I don't want that to happen to my sister. I missed out on so much joy because when I should have been celebrating the beginning of my daughter's life I was also mourning the ending of my relationship with my mother.

Today, right now, I am angry. Every person deserves a mother who loves them. No one deserves a mother who chooses to withhold that love. Life is full of disappointment but one should never be disappointed by the person who should be the one person who loves you without conditions, limitations, or restraints. Regardless of the obstacles or who's present, a parent should never choose to not be a part of something that means everything to their child. Now I hope our worlds collide just so I can say, "You've ruined it for me but don't ruin it for the the child who still has hope for you."
Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

To Frost or Not Frost

Where do you stand on frosting? I'm of the less is more stance and I would be perfectly happy eating cakes and cupcakes without frosting. In fact, the only time I frost anything around here is when I'm going to be sharing what I bake with others. Even then, I try to put the least amount of frosting as possible, a thin layer of frosting on a cake or a dollop of frosting on a cupcake. I see the benefits of frosting, it makes desserts pretty and adds a creaminess to the cake, but, for me at least, there is a thin line between frosting adding to the cake and frosting overwhelming the cake. So with all that said, here's a cupcake recipe that works just as well without frosting as it does with frosting. Red Velvet is always fun to make and I love how easy this recipe comes together.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Source: McCormick on
Yields 2 dozen cupcakes

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 (1 ounce) bottle McCormick® Red Food Color
2 teaspoons McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in sour cream, milk, food color and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until just blended. Do not overbeat. Spoon batter into 30 paper-lined muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely.