Sunday, September 30, 2012

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This Week in Mommyhood

If I had to pick one word to describe the past few weeks it would be overwhelmed. I'm going through a period of feeling overwhelmed and feeling like there is too much to do and not enough time. It all started when I forgot about a test and only had about an hour to properly study for it. Then, Cati with her toddler coping skills called the babysitter "ugly." I felt like a huge fail; I sucked at school and I sucked at being a mom. I have tried my hardest to tell Cati that people are not ugly, instead they do ugly things and she still called someone ugly. Then, I started internalizing all the crankiness in the house and felt that it was all because of me and not giving the girls enough attention. It was a whole set of issues that led to me deciding that I need to work harder at taking a day off from everything so that I could just be with the girls.

Here are Elina's fun developments over the last two weeks:

Baby Crawler. Gone are the days of the drag-and-crawl. Elina is full-on crawl mode and girl gets around. It still strikes me as weird having two mobile kids in the house. When did Elina get big enough for crawling? The best part of the crawling is that now Elina comes to me when she wants cuddles and comfort. I also love to see her follow me around the house and the big smile she gives when she's reached me.

Pulling Up. Of course, crawling isn't enough for Elina and she has begun to pull up. She will try to pull up on everything which means there have been lots of extra tears around here as things fall when they can't handle her weight. Between the crawling and this I am back in paranoid mommy mode with all the stairs in our house.

Bye Bye Bottle. Elina has dropped to four bottles a day, four hours apart. I dropped the bottle because she was becoming really fussy with her bottles and wouldn't finish whole bottles. So in an effort to save milk and make feeding time a little more enjoyable, I decided to drop one of her bottles. I tried increasing her intake in the four bottles to make up for the lost bottle but she seems perfectly content with drinking her 5-ounce bottles.

Toothy. One of Elina's top teeth came in. Thank God for that too because I was starting to wonder who switched out my sweet, mellow baby for the cranky one that's been in our house this week.

Here are Cati's fun developments over the last two weeks:

Still Adjusting. Cati is still adjusting to school. I did not expect that, four weeks in, Cati would still be crying each morning at drop off. Luckily, she gets over it quickly and seems to enjoy herself but it still makes the mornings stressful because I know the car ride will be filled with "I don't want to go to school" and separation will be marked by crying. What makes things even harder for me is picking her up from school and having her tell me she cried because I left her.

Molars! Cati is the slowest teether on the planet. Her two bottom molars finally broke through after weeks of us being able to see them under the gum.

Emotions. Proud mommy moment here...Cati is able to label some of her emotions! I work hard on naming emotions so that Cati can "use her words" instead of reacting physically. Well, one day Elina took one of Cati's toys and instead of yanking the toy back or pushing Elina away from the toy she said (in Spanish), "Mami, I'm mad because Elina took my toy."

The girls are growing and developing and it's simply been hard for me to keep up. I just hope things change a little bit or that I at least find a way to let go some more so that I can feel a little more in control of things around here.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

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Dulce de Leche Chocolate Chip Cookies

After I made dulce de leche at home I realized I had nothing to do with it other than eat it straight. I went in search for dulce de leche recipes and came across this recipe that made me stop looking. I cannot resist a chocolate chip cookie and I promise if you make these you won't be able to resist either. The dulce de leche gives the cookies another layer of salty and sweet. Plus, the cookie itself so great that you can make it without the dulce de leche and still enjoy.

Dulce de Leche Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: My Madison Bistro

8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can dulce de leche (I used about half a cup)
Preheat oven to 375F/190C. Line baking sheet with parchment.
In medium bowl, cream butter and sugars until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the egg yolk, stir until incorporated. Add vanilla, stir to combine.
In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the sugar mixture and stir until just a few streaks of flour remain. Add chocolate chips, fold to combine.
Divide the dough into 12 balls. Flatten each ball and spoon a small amount of dulce de leche in the center. Wrap dough around the caramel to reform a ball and seal the edges. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake 9-13 minutes and cool slightly on pan.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

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This Weekend

I haven't been this excited about a weekend in a long time. Usually I look forward to the weekends because it means Alex will be around and I'll get an extra set of hands with the girls. This weekend, however, I'm excited for entirely different reasons.

First, a certain someone is going to pop and we all get to meet the newest member of the family. I can't believe I'm going to be meeting my niece this weekend. My sister told me she was pregnant the day after Elina was born so I have been anticipating her due date for multiple reasons: 1) I get to meet, hold, and cuddle with a new baby; 2) I get to experience a baby as an aunt instead of a mother; and 3) it means I survived seven whole months with Elina! While Elina was growing from newborn to baby my sister's baby was growing from cells to newborn. So amazing.

Second, I'm participating in my first 5K. I am so excited about this. I've been diligently exercising and running for close to a month and this weekend I'm doing something to officially prove how hard I have been working.

The best part is that I get to run with my two biggest supporters. My girls are part of the reason I have been so strict with myself about exercising; I want them to grow up with the idea that exercise is something that is a normal part of life, something organic and not something to be done because of peer or societal pressure. I want them to be healthy and comfortable in their own bodies. My work with this is already paying off because Cati loves to exercise with me (butt kicks and jumping jacks are her favorites), she asks to exercise daily, and she especially loves to do stretching exercises.

My goal is to do one fitness event a month. This month it's the Hyundai Hope on Wheels Miami Children's Hospital 5K. Next month it will be The Color Run. My ultimate goal is to train and participate in Disney's Princess Half Marathon in February.

So this weekend: Pure Awesomeness.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

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Gnocchi Bake

Alex found this recipe one day when we had no clue what to have for dinner. No meat was taken out to thaw and we needed to find something to make quick or risk a cranky toddler. As soon as Alex showed me this recipe I went to work and ended up throwing ham, pepperoni, and salami into our pasta. For such an easy meal it was really good.

Gnocchi Bake
Source: Andrea_D on

1 (18 ounce) package frozen or fresh gnocchi
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
1 (14 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi, and cook until tender, 5 to 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, crumble the sausage into a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir until evenly browned. Drain grease, and stir in the spaghetti sauce. Remove from heat, and carefully mix in the cooked gnocchi and half of the mozzarella cheese. Transfer to a casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

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Some of Her Favorite Things: Cati at 2.5

While I sometimes get annoyed, angry, and frustrated with toddler Cati, I love her more at this age than I did when she was a baby. My favorite part about this age is discovering her personality, likes, dislikes, and quirks. She is constantly cracking us up with the things that she says and does so I thought it would be fun to interview her on some of her favorite things at this age (interview originally done in Spanish). 
  • Color: Blue
  • Song: Rumour Has It
  • Caramelo: Blue M&Ms
  • Food: Spaghetti with meat
  • Dessert: Ice Cream (lime sherbert)
  • Liquid: Water
  • Clothes: Yellow monkey shirt
  • Book: Mommy's old "teacher's pet" learning book
  • Toy: Bunny
  • Animal: Tigger
  • Number: One
  • Shape: Circle
  • Letter: C
  • Where do you want to work: Hospital
  • You are: A precious and intelligent girl (una nina preciosa y intelligente)
  • You like to do: Ballet
  • Fruit: Oranges
  • Vegetable: Corn
I love all the responses and am so curious to see what the answers will be six months from now. I can't believe I'm a mom to a little person with favorites she can voice. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

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Crepes Suzette

One of Alex's all-time favorite desserts is Crepes Suzette. One day this recipe showed up in my Google Reader and I forwarded it to Alex. That night he made these crepes. That's right, he made these crepes and I got to sit around and enjoy them without working over the stove or cleaning up the kitchen. I love when we make desserts like this at home because it makes eating so much more approachable; this was a dessert Alex only ever got at fancy restaurants and now he can make it at home any time he wants.
Crepes Suzette
Source: a charmed life
makes 20-25 medium size crepes

2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
dash of salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla optional
1 tablespoon sugar

Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder ingredients in large bowl.

Add to the same bowl the milk, eggs, oil, vanilla if using. 

Whisk the ingredients together (I use the whisk attachement on my hand mixer or you can use a blender).
Let the ingredients stand for 15 minutes.

Generously oil saute pan and pour thin layer of batter in pan swirling batter to make thin circle.

Using a thin edged spatula lift edge of crepe and turn cooking a few minutes on each side.  Cook until desired brownness is achieved.

Orange Butter Sauce
2 sticks (1/2 pound) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 lemon juiced
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 1/2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier liquor

Combine the butter, sugar, orange juice, lemon juice and orange zest in a small saucepan and cook for around 10 minutes until it caramelizes and is golden in color.

Remove from heat and whisk in the Grand Marnier.

Return to heat and continue to whisk until  the mixture is syrupy around 10 minutes.

Drizzle a tablespoon or so of the sauce onto crepes then fold in fourths and lay into a heatproof saute pan or a 13x9  baking dish. Pour the remaining syrup over or as much as desired and heat through in oven.  

Serve hot with extra syrup. Garnish with candied orange peel if desired.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

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Baked S'mores Bars

I love s'mores. I love the combination of graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallows. Seeing as Cati likes all three of those I decided it was time to introduce her to the greatness that is s'mores. I also decided to step these Baked S'mores Bars up a notch by adding a layer of Nutella. I'm usually hesitant about Nutella in desserts because, for me at least, the Nutella flavor gets lost in the baking process, but now with this recipe. You definitely will not miss the Nutella in this dessert. As for Cati's reaction, she really liked them but she preferred to pick at the marshmallows.

Baked S'mores
Source: Fake Ginger and Sugarcrafter

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 super-sized (5 oz.) Hershey’s chocolate bars
1/2 cup Nutella
1 1/2 cups marshmallow fluff (I used regular marshmallows)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Spray with cooking oil (optional).

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until incorporated.
Sift together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until just combined.

Divide dough in half and press half of it into an even layer on the bottom of prepared pan. Spread nutella and then top with chocolate bars, break if necessary to get it to fit in a single layer.

Spread marshmallow fluff evenly over the chocolate layer.

Roll out the remaining dough, just large enough to fit in the 8×8-inch pan. Place dough on top of marshmallow fluff and press down slightly. (Alternately, you can piece it together on top of the fluff instead of rolling but the top might crack apart during baking.)

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until deeply golden. Cool slightly before cutting.

Friday, September 21, 2012

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Funfetti Cookies

I don't think you can ever go wrong with anything funfetti. Sprinkles alone make these kinds of recipes fun to make. I personally loved these cookies and found them to be really buttery. Alex, on the other hand, continues his unlike-relationship with almond extract and wasn't a fan of the cookies. The recipe calls for two types of sprinkles but I only used jimmies.

Funfetti Cookies
Source: Two Peas and Their Pod on Tasty Kitchen

1 cup Butter, Room Temperature
1-¼ cup Sugar
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Almond Extract
1 whole Egg
2-½ cups Flour
¼ cups Cornstarch
¾ teaspoons Baking Soda
½ teaspoons Salt
½ cups Rainbow Jimmie Sprinkles
2 Tablespoons Nonpareil Sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Cream the butter and sugar in your stand mixer (or hand mixer) for about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Add the vanilla, almond, and egg. Beat until well combined.

In a separate bowl, sift in the flour, cornstarch, soda, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and continue on low speed until it’s all added and combined. Mix in the sprinkles (don’t overmix or the sprinkles will start to bleed into the dough).

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop cookie dough onto cookie sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart (fits 8 cookies per sheet). Bake for about 15 minutes. (Note: Only bake until they very slightly start to turn light golden brown just on the edges. You don’t want them to totally turn golden or they’ll be crisp cookies. Check them around 10 minutes, then 12, and so on.)

Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container up to 4 days.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

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Lactation Cookies, Part 3

Breastfeeding has turned me into a huge oatmeal fan. I eat a cup of oatmeal daily and I am always on the look out for recipes that contain oats so that I can get an extra dose of oats in. I came across this oatmeal cookie recipe and decided to add a few ingredients to make it lactation-friendly. You can't even taste the changes and, even if you aren't eating this for breastfeeding, this cookie has extra goodies in it that make them good for you.

I've also made these Oatmeal Lactation Cookies and these Epicurious Lactation Cookies.

Lactation-Friendly Soft Oatmeal Cookies
Source: Adapted from Bittersweet1 on
Yields about 3 dozen cookies

2 tbsp flax seed
4 tbsp water
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tbsp Brewer's yeast
3 cups old-fashioned cooking oats

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine flax seed and water. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Stir in flax seed mixture.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and Brewer's yeast; stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in oats.

Scoop dough onto cookie sheet placing 2 inches between cookies. Flatten each cookie with a large fork.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden in color. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

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Vanilla Cake

I've been on a cake kick lately and after making a delicious chocolate cake, I decided to make a vanilla cake. The cake is actually supposed to have almond extract in it but because Alex doesn't like almond extract, I used vanilla extract. The cake was light and buttery and because I had reached my fill of frosting, I left this cake unfrosted. No frosting made it even more perfect for eating with a glass of milk.

Vanilla Cake
Source: very slightly adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

1 cup butter
1 cup water
2 cups all-purpose four
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium saucepan bring butter and water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl add flour and sugar and mix. Then add in eggs, sour cream, extract, baking soda and salt. Slowly pour in the boiling butter/water mixture. Stir with a spatula until well combined and smooth.  No need to use an electric mixer. Batter will be very thin.

Pour into a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Your cake will be flat and not very tall (it's a sheet cake). Cool for about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

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Chocolate Cake

In my opinion, there is nothing better than chocolate cake. The only thing that makes it better is when it's really easy to make, just like this cake. I ended up halving the recipe but I wish I hadn't because the cake was soo good. You can frost it however you like and I guarantee you won't go wrong. Because I wanted something really chocolaty I went with a chocolate frosting.

Chocolate Cake
Source: Erin's Food Files

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round pans.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of electric mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

Monday, September 17, 2012

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Elina: Seven Months


Dear Elina,

Happy seven months baby girl. I say this every month but I really can’t believe you are seven months old. Minutes, hours, days are slipping through my fingers. My infant turned into a baby and my baby is in the process of turning into a toddler. This past month has seen so many changes and you are taking them with the same pleasantness and contentment you do with all changes. You are a sweet, sweet baby and everyday I wonder how it is possible for me to have gotten so lucky to have such an “easy” baby. You’re easy to care for, easy on the eyes, and easy to love. You have made me realize all that I missed out on with Cati because of the emotional fog that was present for my first few months with her. It’s as if I was given a reset on this whole mothering-a-baby thing and now I understand why some women completely adore this stage.

In the past month you have gotten steady with sitting, learned how to crawl, learned how to move from crawling to sitting positions and vice versa, been introduced to solid food, and dropped one of your bottles. I love to see the grace in which you move to go from crawling to sitting and the jerky movements of going from sitting to crawling. I love that your crawl is part leg shuffle and part body drag. I love to see how messy your face gets after a meal because you prefer to eat food straight off our plates instead of pureed. More than anything, I love how you just go with the flow. With Cati I would always become anxious when change was near, but with you I am calm because you handle change so well.

One of the best parts of this past month was getting the opportunity to have alone time with you. Cati started school and that has given us about an hour each day to be together. In a way, I feel like I am just now starting to get to know you because I get to see how you are on your own. With your sister around my attention is split and it’s hard to really focus on you. Don’t get me wrong, I love when it’s the three of us because I love seeing how you two interact but I also love showering you with undivided attention.

The second best part of this past month has been seeing how interactive you have become with Cati. You light up when you see her and she loves to do whatever she can to entertain and comfort you. She’s my little helper and it’s amazing how quickly I can get her to do certain things when she knows it’s for you. My favorite moment was when you started to cry and she stopped what she was doing and ran up to you, touched your face, and started singing your favorite song (“All Night, All Day”). You calmed down right away. This sisterly bond is already taking shape and I feel so lucky to see how quickly you two are starting to fall in love with one another.

I love you little one. I love everything you have done for our family. I love being a mother of two. I love seeing your father be a father of two. And I love seeing your sister become a sister. We all fall deeper and deeper in love with you everyday. Thank you so much for allowing us to love you and be your family.


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Time Warp & Thank Yous

Most of the time I feel like I've fallen down the rabbit hole. I'm just falling, falling with no concept of time. By the time I touch ground I am disoriented. Months have passed in what felt like a week, weeks have past in what felt like a day. I have a list of things to do, things I want to do, things I want to write, things I want to remember and when I finally sit down to review the list I am shocked by how long some of those things have been on my list. Didn't I jot that down just yesterday? Has it really been that long? It's so embarrassing and, in a way, dehumanizing. I am living moment to moment; my girls make sure of that. Again, it's just so disorienting to feel like you have time to realize that you truly don't.

The reason I'm saying all this is because a few bloggers have mentioned me or passed along awards and I haven't posted about them here. One of them I honestly thought was from a couple of months ago and when I look at the link on my handy dandy list, I see that it's actually from October 2011. I appreciate the comments and the mentions more than you can know and I apologize for not acknowledging things sooner.

So before I begin, here are the people I'm tagging for all of these mentions. Please feel free to accept one or all of them! And thank you to Jennifer, Carrie, and Tricia for sending me blog love (even though I behaved like a guy and took forever to "call back").

1. SteakNPotatoesKindaGurl
2. Breedwoman needs a timeout
3. Growing on Gettysburg
4. Sew Sweet Peanut Boutique
5. This Woman Cooks!

LEIBSTER AWARD: Jennifer @ So I Peed on a Stick

The Rules:
To keep this award going and pass it along to other new deserving blogs, the recipient must now recognize five other bloggers with less than 200 followers that have really stood out in the crowd.

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love too!

GETTING TO KNOW YOU: Carrie @ Our Sweet Life

The Rules:
1. You must post the rules.
2. Post 12 fun facts about yourself in the blog post.
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create 12 new questions for the people you tagged.
4. Tag 12 people and link them on your post.  12 is kind of a lot, so you can do 6.
5. Let them know you’ve tagged them.

Fun facts about me:
  1. In high school I used to dye my hair with sun-in. I had orange hair!
  2. I still sleep with my childhood blanket.
  3. I'm a lip gloss junkie (Dior is my favorite brand).
  4. I hate wearing shorts and skirts. I feel more comfortable in jeans so I am probably the only person who wears jeans in 100+ Miami weather.
  5. I got my first driving ticket within a week of having my license. Speeding in a school zone. Go me!
  6. Before Alex I only had two other serious boyfriends.
  7. I used to have a fake ID but it was taken away when I got pulled over for speeding. Noticing a pattern?
  8. I own over 40 dresses, which is ironic considering I don't like wearing skirts.
  9. Before Cati was born I used to say I wanted three kids.
  10. I don't like brushing my hair with a brush. Alex gets on my case about this all the time.
  11.  I got an F in my middle school science class because I refused to do the science project.
  12. I was voted as part of "cutest couple" with my middle school boyfriend.

Questions from Carrie:
1. What is the last meal you made that the family loved? Spaghetti
2. How did you meet your significant other? We met while working at the gym at the University of Miami.
3. What is your dream job? Honestly? I'm still trying to figure out what my dream is!
4.  Is the glass half full or half empty? I'd like to think I'm half full.
5. One food you HATE? Fresh tomato chunks. I like ketchup and pasta sauces, but I hate tomato chunks on salads, tacos, etc
6.  What would your last supper be? Probably a cheeseburger and a big slice of chocolate cake.
7. What is your favorite color? Pink
8. What color is your bedroom painted? Blue-ish gray
9. What is your favorite movie? An Affair to Remember
10. What is your favorite way to relax? Reading a book
11. What is your favorite alcoholic drink? Sam Adam's Summer Ale
12. Do you have any pets? If so what are their names? Two crazy schnauzer-poodle mixes, Gracie and Rosie. 

New Questions:

1. Name a happy memory.
2. What is your dream vacation?
3. How long have you lived where you live?
4. What's your biggest pet peeve?
5. If you could be good at one thing what would it be?
6. What's the best advice you've ever been given?
7. Why did you start a blog?
8. If you had to exercise what exercise would you do?
9. Are you on pinterest?
10. What is your favorite thing about yourself?
11. What was your favorite childhood cartoon?
12. What is your favorite word?

BEAUTIFUL BLOGGER AWARD: Tricia @ I Sing in the Kitchen

The Rules:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to their blog.
2. Choose seven blogs to nominate and let them know by leaving a comment.
3. Request that the chosen blogs pass on the award to their favourite blogs.
4. Copy and paste the award on your blog post.
5. List seven things about yourself.

Seven things about me:
  1. The only jewelry I wear are earrings, my engagement and wedding rings, and a necklace with Cati and Elina's name on it.
  2. I love to bake but I'm not big on eating what I bake.
  3. My current favorite song is "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele.
  4. When I was a little girl I wanted to be an astronaut.
  5. I took 3 years of Italian. I don't speak it much but I can still understand most of what I hear.
  6. I love the harp and wish I could learn how to play it. 
  7. I think the library is one of the greatest places on the earth. 
  8. Snickers is my favorite candy bar.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

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This Week in Mommyhood

Every day over the past two weeks I have had to give myself a pep talk.  "You can do this." "Feeling overwhelmed is normal and temporary." "You will sleep in again...eventually." "One day, sooner than you think, you are going to miss the things you complain about." Having two kids isn't necessarily harder, it just requires more balance, patience, and feeling ok with letting go. It also requires coming to terms with never eating or using the bathroom alone again.

Here are Elina's fun developments over the last two weeks:

Crawling & Sitting. Elina is getting better and better at crawling each day. Now she can go from a crawling position to a sitting position and vice versa. I'm still blown away by the fact that we have two mobile children in the house.

Baby-Led Feeding. It's official. Elina does not like purees. I've tried offering her different kinds of purees over several days and she does not like them. Put small pieces of food in front of her and she is a happy eater. It's hard for me to remember what she's tried exactly because she goes after almost everything that's on my plate, but she definitely is a big fan of whole wheat pancakes, banana, and beans.

Here are Cati's fun developments over the last two weeks:

School. The biggest thing going on with Cati is that she started school. Considering how much she liked school last year and how much she talked about school over the summer, I thought she would have a smooth adjustment to school. The truth is that Cati has had a hard time adjusting and it has left me wondering on a daily basis whether school is the right thing. Granted, things have gotten a lot better and we're at the point where she's happy when I pick her up, but every morning is a battle with her. I never want to push her to do something she doesn't want to do but school is good for all of us: I get some time to do schoolwork, Elina gets one-on-one time with me, and Cati gets to play with other kids her age. She's only going a couple of hours a day but I still feel incredibly guilty. I don't know what I'm going to do when both girls needs to be in school so I can do my internships.

Every night I pray that the girls sleep through the night and wake up the next morning in good moods. Each morning I pray for patience to make it through the day and for the ability to stop and simply enjoy being with the girls. Motherhood right now for me is all about survival. Almost seven (!!) months into this mom-of-twoness and I'm still trying to figure it out. Each weeks brings me a little closer and I can't wait for the day I find myself saying, "Wow. I feel so good, comfortable, and confident about being a mom of two!"

Saturday, September 15, 2012

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Easy Yogurt Pops

Cati consumes so much yogurt that it's hard to keep up. She will eat it any way she can get it and in any flavor too. I had come across this idea of piping regular yogurt (I used vanilla yogurt) onto a cookie sheet, dropping fruit onto the yogurt, and then freezing on a few different blogs. I thought it would be a great way for Cati to get extra fruit in her diet and an even better way to get her involved in the kitchen. I chopped up her two favorite fruits and she had a blast dropping them onto the yogurt. I added sticks to make them lollipops and the hardest part was getting Cati to wait until they froze. These are her "yogurt lollipops" and it takes her less than a minute to eat one.

Friday, September 14, 2012

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Homemade Baked Dulce de Leche

There's nothing much I can say about this other than make it and you won't be disappointed.

Homemade Baked Dulce de Leche
Source: David Lebovitz
Yield:  14 ounces

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
pinch of sea salt

Adjust the oven rack to the lowest third position.  Place a shallow rimmed baking sheet on the oven rack.  Preheat the oven to 425˚F.

Pour the can of sweetened milk into a glass pie plate and stir in a pinch of salt.  Cover tightly with foil.  Place the pie plate on the baking sheet, then pour hot water into the baking sheet, around the pie plate, so the water fills up to about halfway up the sides of the plate.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the caramel is a deep golden brown.  Add more water to the baking pan as necessary.

Remove the pie plate from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.  Once cool, whisk until smooth.  Store in the fridge, in an air-tight container, until ready to use.  When ready to serve, warm gently in the microwave.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

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Flourless Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love one-bowl cookies. I love throwing everything into one bowl and only having to clean one bowl; it makes baking with a toddler next to you so much easier. I can't tell you how many times Cati's tried to grab one of the bowls or stuck her fingers into flour mixtures. This particular cookie was made with Alex in mind because he's the peanut-butter-in-desserts lover around here. The good news is that he loved them and the great news is that I really, really liked them.

Flourless Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: For the Love of Cooking
Yield: 15 large cookies

1 cup of creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips, divided

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the peanut butter, sugars, egg, baking soda, and vanilla together in a bowl; mix until well combined. Add most of the chocolate chips then mix. Place into the refrigerator for 15 minutes so the dough is easier to handle.

Place spoonfuls of the dough onto the baking sheet then top each cookie with the additional chocolate chips.

Place into the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before carefully placing them onto a cooling rack to cool.

Serve and enjoy.

Monday, September 10, 2012

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Buttermilk Roast Chicken

I'm usually a chicken breast making and eating type of person but lately I've been trying to venture out with drumsticks. I'm so glad I found this recipe because not only is it easy, but the end product is delicious. I seasoned our chicken with a brisket rub Alex had and the chicken was tender with a sweet and slightly spicy taste.

Buttermilk Roast Chicken
Source: Smitten Kitchen
Serves 3-4

2 cups buttermilk
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon table salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, plus extra for sprinkling (I used one of Alex's rubs for sprinkling)
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken parts
Drizzle of olive oil
Flaked or coarse sea salt, to finish

Whisk buttermilk with garlic, table salt, sugar, paprika and lots of freshly ground black pepper in a bowl. Place chicken parts in a gallon-sized freezer bag (or lidded container) and pour buttermilk brine over them, then swish it around so that all parts are covered. Refrigerate for at least 2 but preferably 24 and up to 48 hours.

When ready to roast, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking dish with foil. Remove chicken from buttermilk brine and arrange in dish. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with additional paprika and sea salt to taste.

Roast for 30 minutes (for legs; approximately 35 to 40 for breasts), until brown and a bit scorched in spots. Serve immediately.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

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Homemade Wheat Bread

One of my good friends makes the most amazing bread. I love eating it and the best part is that Cati loves eating it too. She shared her bread recipe with me a while ago and it's taken me so long to make it myself (yeah, yeah I'm still scared of yeast). I finally did and it came out just like her bread and I was so proud of myself. I can make bread!

Homemade Wheat Bread
Source: Tammy's Recipes

1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (see additional notes for a 100% whole wheat version)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant active dry yeast

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large mixing bowl; stir.

Add flours and yeast, and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10-15 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover with a clean towel and let rise until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Punch dough down; knead for a few minutes until smooth and then form into a loaf. Place in greased loaf pan and cover. Let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. If loaf starts browning too soon, lightly lay a piece of foil on top of the loaf to prevent too much darkening.

Remove bread from oven and allow to rest in pan for a few minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cover with a cloth. Slice and enjoy.

Leftover bread can be stored in an airtight bag or frozen until needed.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

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2012 Reading List

2012 books so far
1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; 2. Graceling by Kristen Cashore; 3. Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins; 4. A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron; 5. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach; 6. All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown; 7. I Suck at Girls by Justin Halpern; 8. The Fellowship of the Ring by JR Tolkien; 9. Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James; 10. Bunheads by Sophie Flack; 11. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen; 12. Love at First Bark by Julie Klam; 13. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs; 14. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore; 15. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern; 16. The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore; 17. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stagner; 18. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness; 19. Gregor and the Prophecy of the Warmbloods by Suzanne Collins; 20. Room by Emma Donoghue; 21. Forever by Maggie Stiefvater; 22. A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin; 23. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness; 24. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green; 25. A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin; 26. Gregor and The Prophecy of the Bane by Suzanne Collins; 27. Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris; 28. For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn.

Last year I challenged myself to read 52 Books in 52 Weeks. I didn't read 52 books but I am proud of the 36 that I did read. I knew it would be impossible to read that many books this year with school, a toddler, and an infant but I still wanted to try to read as many books as I could. Reading for me has always been a great way to get my brain to wind down and I love diving into other people's stories. Looking back on all the books I've read this year, I've concluded that I'm particularly drawn to books that are part of series and young adult books. Of the 28 I've read so far, here are my favorites:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This is probably my all-time favorite book (or second favorite-Catching Fire is my favorite book of the series). It's such a great story and so empowering. If you've seen the movie but haven't read the book I will tell you right now you absolutely must read the book.

The Night Circus  by Erin Morgenstern. Beautifully written. The story of the circus and the two magicians is told in such a way that the feels eerily magical. The jumps through time were a little confusing, but the story overall was compelling. 

A Game of Thrones  by George R.R. Martin. When I finished the book all I could say was, "Wow, that was epic." The first season of the show is true to the book but, even with that, I enjoyed the book so much more than the show. I think what I liked the most about the book is how Martin doesn't shy away from the uncomfortable or gruesome things and everything that's in the book is there for a purpose.  

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. This isn't the vampire-witch story that has dominated our pop culture in recent years. You have a reluctant witch and a reclusive vampire who are people before they are supernaturals. The story feels real and tangible, like something that could have actually happened.

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. This is the sequel to A Discovery of Witches and it's just as good. This book picks up where the first one ends and you find yourself wondering about the nature of time. I can't wait for the third book to see how Harkness wraps everything up. 

The Fault in Our Stars  by John Green. This story reaches the soul and it makes me wish I was better able at being thankful for the simplicity of living every day. The main characters are teens but their cancer diagnosis makes them older and wiser than their age would have you think. Great, great story. 

Of all the books I read Room by Emma Donoghue, Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James, Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stagner, and Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris didn't impress me and it took quite a bit of effort to make it through them. 

Next up on my reading list are The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann, Bloom by Kelle Hampton, Matched by Allyson Condie, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and Insurgent by Veronica Roth. 

What books have you read this year? Any you recommend? 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

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Adult Piña Colada Smoothies

There are times when you are craving something tropical and refreshing. In those times, this drink is for you. This drink is especially for you if you are like us and like coconut vodka. This drink is also perfect for saying goodbye to summer. Although I will miss summer, I am looking forward to the apples, pumpkins, and cooler weather of fall.

Piña Colada Smoothies
Source: Adapted from Kitchen Simplicity
serves 2

1 1/2 cups chopped pineapple
1/2 cup cream of coconut
1 banana
2 oz coconut vodka
1/2 cup ice cubes

Put all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.