Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Almost There

It has occurred to me that I have only spent 25 days of 2011 not being pregnant.  Keeping up charts with temperatures, fluids, etc makes it possible to know the exact day of conception.  Of course, it also occurs to me that the aforementioned method is perhaps not the best way to prevent conception.  Perhaps I need a new approach.

I digress.

By the end of this week, I will be considered full term.  [Tap, tap, do you hear that, baby?]  That means that starting Saturday we can start saying "any day now" and "she's coming this month".  Exciting!  We just need her to stay put until Saturday because she isn't covered under my insurance until then, but that's a story for another day [read: Obama, I used to like you].  My days are filled with lots of resting in between small tasks like dishes, writing thank-yous, and trying to work on her room.  I have one art project left to do but I'm afraid it won't turn out so I keep putting it off.  We finally got her crib so we just need to get it in our posession and set it up [hopefully this weekend].  We are in the process of making a final list of absolute necessities so that we can make some final purchases as well.

It has been weird to have this little person growing inside me all this time.  I remember how excited I was to look pregnant and not just bloated.  And the glorious day when I had finally made it a week without throwing up!  When all the uncertainty gave way to those big kicks it started to feel like more of a reality.  I must admit that although I've "seen" her face with the ultrasounds, I haven't necessarily felt bonded to her.  It may be the fact that we've kept her name a secret and therefore haven't used it that much.  It's hard to explain; I mean, she does have her head right next to my bladder so it doesn't get much closer than that.  I did, however, have a dream the other night and I saw her face, chubby little cheeks and all.  That made me feel better.

I have always had this feeling that she would come earlier than her due date.  I know, I know, I'm delusional.  I bet everyone thinks that.  All that I've read points to the fact that first time moms always deliver later than expected.  We'll find out Friday at my next appointment if I've made any progress, and we'll be having ultrasound number 5.  I can't wait to see how big she's gotten!  At our last ultrasound she was only in the 30th percentile for growth so I hope she's packed on some pounds since then.  Also, we're having our pre-delivery meeting with our doula tomorrow night so I am really excited about that.

I am just giddy with excitement over having a little girl to dress up!  Justin has always made fun of me for wanting a live doll to dress up.  I guess he's right, though.  I think it's just the fact that this is my favorite time of year coupled with a baby girl on the horizon but I am just feeling overjoyed.  I am ready to get through labor and on the other side.  I am less nervous about pain than I am the emotional issues of having everyone from our lives swoop in at the same time.  But that's all I can say about that.  :)

Here's me with my sweet friend Corrie, 5 days after I saw those 2 little pink lines.  I actually had a waist then.

And here I was just a couple days ago.  The only waist I have now is elastic.  Oh well.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Soup Tip [Homemade Cream Soups]

With soup season upon us, I thought I'd share a quick tip for making your cool weather soups [and casseroles] a bit healthier.  Rather than purchasing cans of cream-of-whatever soup, make your own!  I learned this last year and I know you will enjoy doing this for your family.

To make the equivalent of 1 can of cream of chicken soup, bring 1 cup of chicken broth to a boil.  While it's heating up, whisk 1 tablespoon of cornstarch into 1/2 cup of milk.  When the broth is boiling, quickly whisk in the milk/cornstarch mixture.  Continue to whisk for about a minute or so until you feel it get thick; then take it off the heat.  I add in a pinch of salt and a little pepper, but it's optional.  You're getting to control the amount of sodium here.  Even buying the "reduced sodium" version of canned still has more sodium than you need.  You could also add minced onions or other herbs if you wanted.  You can even make this cream of mushroom soup by adding some roasted mushrooms, or do cream of celery soup by adding in some celery seed or celery salt.  It's definitely adaptable to your needs.

Last night I made a big pot of potato soup.  While I was at the store, I was tempted to take a shortcut and buy cream of chicken soup, but after I saw the 40+ ingredients on the label I just couldn't do it.  One noticeable difference between canned and homemade is that the canned version just kind of slops out of the can whereas the homemade is creamy and fluid [read: not congealed].  Also, making your own cream soup is considerably less expensive--it's only pennies if you're using homemade stock!  If you're worried about it being time consuming, don't.  It comes together in about 3 minutes.  Three minutes to save yourself a little money and a lot of unnecessary ingredients?  It's a no brainer!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Baby Shower Weekend

This weekend we had 2 baby showers!  On Saturday some sweet friends put together an amazing shower for me [well, for the baby].  I got to see friends that I haven't seen since college!  It was really sweet of everyone to not only make the drive in with useful gifts and sage advice, but to just visit for awhile.  I have a few pictures, but didn't take nearly enough of me with my friends.  I love the thoughtfulness that was put into each detail: the pink and green, and especially the mason jars. 
So sweet!

We were also given a shower by our church last night.  We were overwhelmed by the amount of gifts!  It was such a blessing to be remembered during this exciting time.

 This is the loot from all three of our baby showers.  Anyone want to come help me organize it?

How cute is this?  I can't wait to put her in this for her infant pictures.  My friend Andrea made these for me.  Please check out her blog, Just Down the Hall.  She is so crafty, and writes tutorials for her projects and also writes of the loss of her sweet baby, Isaac.  Be sure to check out her Etsy shop--there's a link on  her page.

Thanks again to all who have given of their time, money, and advice to help us welcome this little girl!  We are tremendously blessed!  Less than 4 weeks til my due date, not that we're counting down or anything...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Happy Fall

It's here, it's finally here!  Not that I was counting down or anything.  I'm so excited for this time of year, had you noticed?  Mums, pumpkins, sweatpants, chili, football, apple picking---the list goes on and on! 

Did you celebrate?  I started out by waking up before 6 just to welcome in the day.  Just kidding.  I did wake up before 6, but it was because I was hungry.  After a pre-breakfast snack of peanut butter straight from the jar, I made Joy the Baker's pumpkin spice pancakes that I mentioned in my last post.

The weather did not disappoint.  It was in the 50s, windy, and rainy.  Just perfect to welcome in fall, don't you think?  It has cleared up now though and while it is sunny, the crispness of autumn cannot be missed. 

If you were too busy to savor the day, start tomorrow out right.  Make a batch of this Pumpkin Spice Syrup to fall-ify your morning coffee.  Sit back, relax, and breathe in the new season.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fall Baking Agenda

I know it's not quite fall [yet!] but I have already been baking lots of pumpkin treats.  Pumpkin is healthy and available year round in its canned form at my local Whole Foods and also the big Targets.  The fall season seems to be so short and then quickly melts into the Christmas season so there is a lot of baking to be done!  If I want to make everything on my list, from traditional dishes to new recipes, I have to get started early.  Thankfully, we've been blessed with below average temperatures here in the bluegrass state for the last month or so, making it easy to go ahead and transition into autumnal flavors.

It might be a bit ambitious for someone who is quickly approaching her due date, but here's my list of new pumpkin recipes that I can't wait to try:

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls from Good Life Eats

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream from Tracey's Culinary Adventures

Pumpkin Pie Bars from Joy the Baker

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes from Joy the Baker

Pumpkin Cobbler from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Then of course, there's the regular recipes that we must have each year.  These Sparkling Ginger Chocolate Chunk Chewies that I concocted last year are quite the hit.  Then there's the whoopie pies, pumpkin cheesecakes, pumpkin rolls, and pumpkin cookies--you'd think we'd get tired of pumpkin but we never do!  It's also time for my bundt cake obsession to creep back in.  You can read about that here, here, oh, and here.  The bundt cake is so old-fashioned and comforting, but that pan is always out to get me.  What drives me to take such risks?!  There's another catagory that I haven't even addressed yet: apples.  We'll cover that one another day.

Oh, really is my favorite time of the year.  Summer is over [hallelujah because I loathe it] and the last few months of the year are finally here.  I love the time from September through New Year's.  There is the promise of good food [always], cooler temperatures, more time at home, fun decorations---and HOLIDAYS!  This year is extra special because our little pumpkin will be arriving just in time for Halloween.  We are excited to share this time of year with her for the first time.  It's funny how this time last year a baby was no where on our radar.  Life's little surprises get me every time! 

What's on your baking agenda this fall?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Mommy Club

One of the best parts about pregnancy is the automatic induction to The Mommy Club.  All of a sudden I have an instant bond with other moms.  It's a strong bond, one not easily shaken.  As I waddle through life right now, I don't have to search hard to find a pair of understanding eyes.  When I announced my pregnancy, I was able to connect on a deeper level with friends of mine that I had lost touch with over the years as they, too, had become mommies. 

To all of you--and you know who you are--who have been honest with me about everything from cloth diapering to stool softeners to mesh panties and ice packs, THANK YOU.  Thanks for the good advice.  Thanks for not holding back.  And keep sending these little tidbits my way.  I am certain there is much I still do not know.  I will lean on you when I haven't slept in days and my hair is a hot mess.

On the flip side, it may be a bit harder to feel bonded with my childless friends.  It's hard to "come down to earth" when all that I seem to be able to focus on is this baby.  At first, I needed someone to lament to about the vomiting, weight gain, and stretch marks.  Now I'm moving on to labor expectations and what's the best carseat to purchase.  I hope I haven't been a bad friend to anyone.  I know I've been on the other side of this situation for years as my friends had babies, and I probably felt a little left out at times.  I apologize if I've alienated any one of my dear friends who have yet to take the plunge into mommyhood.  Please know that I will be here when it's your turn--to listen to you, understand your feelings, to support you and tell you everything I have learned.

This weekend three friends from different walks of my life are giving me a baby shower that is sure to be one for the record books.  I am so excited to see friends that I haven't seen even since college.  All of us have ended up in different places but I am just ecstatic to catch up.  I know not all of my dear friends can't make it because of other obligations or distance, but you'll be there in spirit.  I am so thankful to have friends who are so thoughtful to even give me this shower.  It's a blessing to be back in the state where I attended college just to be near old friends.  Thanks again, girls!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sausage Pancakes

Remember those corndog-looking breakfast concoctions that you used to be able to get at school, the ones that weren't a corndog at all but a sausage linked wrapped in a pancake, fried on a stick?  I rarely ate school breakfast, but I'd kick myself when upon arriving at school I learned that those had been breakfast that day.  I remember getting to eat this much-desired breakfast item once in 6th grade during end-of-the-year testing when they served us breakfast between test sessions. 

This weekend, I had an epiphany.  Why not put the sausage inside the pancake as it cooks?  Everyone loves sausage and pancakes, especially when some of the warm maple syrup puddles underneath the sausage.  There's something about the marriage of the sticky sweetness with the spice of the meat that just screams "weekend breakfast".  Those flavors combined bring the promise of a slow morning and a day filled with possibilities.

Way to wax poetic over the sausage there, huh?

Annnywaaay... I used our regular whole wheat pancake recipe for this, but I really think a less dense version such as just plain old buttermilk pancakes would be better.  I put about 1/4 cup of the batter into my buttered cast iron skillet, and topped it with a couple spoonfuls of cooked crumbled sausage.
We had some great spicy sausage that we got from the farmer's market and it was so good up against the amber goodness of the maple syrup.  I'd love to show you a picture of a stack of these with melted butter and syrup dripping down the sides, but we inhaled these almost as fast as I could cook them. 

And that's the story of my life. 

I hope you'll try these one morning.  Or one night for supper.  Pancakes are good any old time.  This is just a fun way to mix them up.  And I'm sure if you're one of those people who hates sausage, you could do the same thing with bacon.  It just won't be the same. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sweet Baby Girl Things

I may be a little biased, but baby girls sure are a lot of fun!  Everyone close to us is giddy with excitement over all the pink, frills, and hairbows.  We can't help but catch the baby girl fever ourselves!  Now that I'm at the point of no return [well, I guess that's always been the case] we are letting ourselves get extra excited about her stuff.  I've always believed that less is more with two things: pink and animal print.  Well, I think that's been thrown out the window at this point.  Here are a few of my favorite things:
These sweet little tights came from Goody's.  You can get 2 pairs for around $4 [big sale!] right now.  I found them in 0-6 months.  I think we need a matching tutu for each pair!
Two bathrobes! 

Sweet little watermelon dress for next summer
Some of her hairbows and shoes.  We must accessorize!

Her daddy picked this out for her.  Hopefully she won't come after Halloween!

This is going to be her coming home outfit.

Almost all of her stuff is hand-me-down, but who can tell with baby clothes?  We have been richly blessed even by people we've never met.  Justin likes to tease me about the fact that I'm just excited to play dress up.  Don't let him fool you---he picked out that Halloween sleeper at Target the other night and just had to get it for her.  And Lord, please, let her be here by Halloween.  :D

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Third Trimester Update

According to my calculations, tomorrow will mark 34 weeks of pregnancy.  That means that some time in the next 6 weeks, little girl McDonald will be here.  I'm willing her to come forth in 3-4 weeks.  Could you pray that with me?  Seriously.  Six more weeks of this severe pelvic pain seems insurmountable.  I have a previous lower back injury and that is making it much worse than I had imagined it could be.

Thoughts on Labor/Delivery
I think that no matter when I go into labor, I'm going to panic and feel like I'm not ready.  I know she has to come out some time, but now that I've felt the Braxton Hicks I do not think I can do it.  My plan is a drug-free vaginal birth in which I get to go home 24 hours later.  I know that I have to allow room for the unexpected, but I am expecting "normal".  I was in pain off and on all night a few days ago and woke my husband up stating that I would need drugs.  I hope I don't. 

If you know me at all, you know that there are 2 things I can't handle: airplanes and medical procedures.  If you can't read between the lines there, it's because I am a control freak who is also terrified of dying at the hands of someone else.  I am, however, trying to remain confident in my calling to motherhood. 

Psalm 78:1-7 holds this commission:
O my people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.
We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power, and the wonders he has done...
which he commanded our forefathers
to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God

and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands.

Body Image
Need I say more?  I mean really. [Thanks to Jolina for sharing this photo!]
Once I "popped out" I really felt great...even looked great.  But now I feel lumpy.  I know all about cellulite.  My pants keep rolling off of me.  My mother suggested a muumuu.  I don't know if that's how you spell it, but I sure as heck am not going to wear one.  Justin is patiently letting me stretch his t-shirts out.  It's the husband's duty during the third trimester, don't you think?

I think the previous section leads right into this.  Honestly, I haven't had many specific cravings this pregnancy.  In the first trimester I was so hungry and that seems to have returned.  My mom and my dad's mom came to help me over the weekend so I got some of my mom's cooking.  She even let me have oreos and chips.  Is there anything better than a salty, crispy, plain Lay's potato chip with some kind of sour cream dip?  Mmm.  On Friday night I ate all of my entree from PF Chang's and half my mom's.  And some of my husband's.  And some off the table behind us.  Ok, just kidding about that part. 

To Do List
We had our first baby shower this weekend with my husband's family.  It was small but we did get some cute things.  As with our wedding, people bypassed our registries and bought stuff they just thought we needed [but I have receipts!].  Although I tried to be a minimalist with the items I registered for, I am learning that a lot of what I chose is still not necessary.  Honestly, I think we have everything we need, at least to get through the first stage of her life.  I'm sure if you're reading this and you're a mom, you're probably laughing.  We really do have all the big stuff covered, thanks to our families blessing us in ways we don't deserve.  Here's a rough list, some things completed, of what we have left to do:

1. Paint her room.
2. Clean the carpets
3. Organize laundry room.
4.  Make a big trip to Sam's to stock up on paper goods, food, & other household items.
5. Take a birthing class.
6. Wash her clothes.
7. Refinish some of the furniture for her room.
8. Put out fall decorations.
9.  Make the wall-hangings for her room.  [I'm halfway done.]
10.  Get my haircut--it might be the last one for awhile!

Things to buy:
1. A bathrobe to remain modest at the hospital.  I am not going to be ashamed whatsoever of breastfeeding either in public or at home, but I suppose I do need to keep my nipples to myself as much as possible. 
2.  A killer pedicure.  It is necessary to have pretty, relaxed feet at least before she's born.
3. A few more things for her room [shelves, small table, lamp].

Final Thoughts
It was great to see my mom and nanny this weekend.  It's hard to live far from family, but we're so thankful they would go to the time and expense to come here and spoil us.  The next time we see them, we'll be a family of 3!  Somehow just writing about all of this makes me feel even better about beasting this whole labor thing.  We are so excited to see her chubby little cheeks and dress her up in all her clothes!  Even the poopie diapers might be fun, right?
Here we are at 34 1/2 weeks.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Perfect Cheese Sticks  I saw a statistic the other day that said Americans eat an average of 43 slices a year.  In this family, we are unashamedly blowing that number out of the water.  We make pizza almost every weekend.  It's fun, somewhat healthier than ordering in, and it can be a great way to use up the week's produce.  Veggie pizza, anyone?  We had these adorable baby eggplants that we roasted up before putting on our pizza last weekend.

I bought these solely on the fact that they were cute.  They were great blended with the other ingredients on our pizza.  I tried them in a pasta dish as well.  Verdict:  I don't like eggplant.  Lesson learned: don't buy produce just because it's little and cute.  Here's a peek at our roasted eggplant and chicken Italian sausage pizza:

Pizza has a friend, though, that it can't go anywhere without.  That friend is cheesesticks.  Who doesn't love a big [greasy] order of cheesesticks from their favorite pizzeria?  I justify making them by saying we need to eat both in order to stretch the pizza into two meals. 

Look how bubbly and golden brown!  To make great cheese sticks--or great pizza for that matter--you must start with a great crust.  Here's  a link to the recipe I use.  Once your crust is prepared, brush it with a tablespoon or so of butter that you have melted with some garlic.  Then top it with mounds of mozzarella, Parmesan, or whatever kind of cheese you like.  Bake it on a preheated pizza stone at 500 degrees for about 8 minutes.  And there you have it! 

P.S. The garlic butter goes great on the pizza, too.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mid-Week Recipe Roundup

Happy middle of the week, friends!  Isn't it great when Monday is a holiday and then what would be your Tuesday is actually Wednesday?  I mean it's practically already Friday once we get through today, right?  I don't know about where you live, but it has been raining here since Sunday.  I love it.  I was meant to live in the northwest, I think, because I seem to thrive in lack of sunshine.  Or maybe it's just because I love an excuse to curl up with a big mug of cocoa and read.  I kind of feel guilty for doing that when it's sunny. I digress.

I tried a few recipes last weekend that I thought I'd pass along.  With all of this rain that moved in, we decided to make a big pot of white chili for Labor Day.  We made The Pioneer Woman's recipe.  I must admit, it falls a little flat in the spice department for our tastes, but you can always change that with the addition of ancho chili powder, hot sauce, or whatever lights your tongue on fire.  To go with it, I made her Skillet Cornbread.  Please don't ever buy cornbread mixes, and please, for the love of the south, make it in a cast iron skillet.
One morning for breakfast I made these Apple Pie Breakfast Cakes from Jessica, a girl after my own heart is so, so many ways. 
Please forgive the lack of natural light in this photo.  It was cloudy and I only have a point and shoot.  Someday that will all change...which reminds me, I need to go out and water my money tree.  These little cakes are really good, and actually good for you with their whole wheat flour and apples!  I added oats to boost the fiber and whole grains; also, where the recipe called for yogurt I subbed applesauce because we when I opened the forgotten yogurt container, it was m-o-l-d-y----gross. 

I also, as requested by my husband, made a version of these pumpkin cookies.  I used chocolate chips and changed up the flour a little bit.  I don't have any pictures because I think we ate them all.  But it is definitely time to start making pumpkin recipes!  I'm particularly excited to make pumpkin whoopie pies and pumpkin bread pudding.  I sure hope I feel like baking after this baby is born because I don't know if I can get it all in before!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Some Assembly Required

Getting ready for a baby is a lot of work!  I have been in full nesting mode for a few weeks now and the projects seem never-ending.  From cleaning out closets to dusting air vents, this mama's work is never done!  Of course, when you don't want to spend a lot of money on things you kind of make more work for yourself by redoing old furniture and making things yourself.  Even though it seems like we've done a lot to prepare, we really have so far to go!  Here are some fun pictures on baby progress so far.  As you can tell, I mostly just sit on the couch with my camera and offer emotional support to my endearing husband.

The Pack-n-Play
This was our first big thing that we got and Justin was excited to put it together the day it came in the mail.

We chose this Pack-n-Play based on the recommendation of a friend and the fact that it is gender-neutral.  It's a Graco that we got from Target.  If you're interested, here it is!  It even vibrates and plays music on a timer.  It was really simple to put together and we already have it next to our bed, all ready for our snuggly baby to sleep in.  Everybody say "aww...".

The Travel System
This was another item Justin couldn't wait to assemble.  He would have already put the carseat in the car if I hadn't stopped him.  Again, this was purchased from Target.  Here's the link.  We went with a jogging stroller because it seemed more durable and practical.  Not that I plan on taking up jogging or anything...

The stroller only took about 5 minutes to put together.  Maneuvering the carrier is a little tricky, though.  I can't figure out how it goes on and off, but I'm quite sure the problem lies with me. 

It was at this point that our sweet puppy realized that something big is happening.  She has tolerated the baby clothes all over the floor, dealt with the UPS man ringing our doorbell weekly, but this was quite enough for her.  I think her face says it all.  And then Justin put her in the stroller, which was seriously enough.  She didn't talk to us for 2 days.  :)

Painting her room

Painting her room was kind of a challenge.  I often find myself paralyzed by design decisions, do you?  We definitely didn't want pink all over the place, or really anything too rainbow-ish.  The color we chose is Pelican by Valspar.  It's exactly what I pictured in my head.  It's light, bright, and kind of grayish/blue.  In a word: calm.  We can add pops of color through her accessories and bedding.  I'd paint my whole house this color, actually.  Justin worked hard and it looks great!