Saturday, December 1, 2012

Merry Christmas

Happy December 1st.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mickey Mouse Waffles

Today, for the first time, our whole family had waffles for breakfast!! Claire's didn't have the side of bacon and syrup, but she just seemed so pleased to have the waffle that I don't think she noticed. Even though she doesn't have teeth yet, she didn't seem to have any trouble getting the waffle down. In fact, I didn't even hear a single cough or choke.

I hadn't planned to give Claire a waffle today, but she was trying to steal my plate and was none too pleased when I told her  no. She's been getting particularly jealous of us getting breakfast lately, and kept trying to steal Gramma Kay's plate last time she was down for a visit. She wants to explore foods, the poor thing just isn't growing teeth so  I get nervous trying to give her real food. I had an extra waffle however, so I thought I'd just let her give in a go. She's been really into bread lately and I figured the waffle was similar. Now I'll shut up and just let you enjoy the cuteness!

And my personal favorite.

She ate almost the entire thing. When she was just about finished she decided to use what was left of her waffle to smack me on the arm. This made her loose her grip on it and it tumbled to the floor. If you notice in the above picture, there is a little Prince ear just on the other side of Baby's tray. Her clumsiness meant Prince got a little waffle  for breakfast too!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Discovery: Toy Box

Just a quick post today to chronicle Baby's discovery of the toy box. Did you know that the box at the end of her bed is chuck full of stuffies? Well she didn't until about five minutes ago. A whole new world of possibilities has opened to her.
At first she was timid, and didn't know what to expect.

Then she got excited at the discovery.
Then she couldn't figure out how to make the lid stay up long enough to pull a toy out.
Finally, she got distracted by her favorite basket and decided to fill it with treasures instead.

Don't worry little one, I'm sure you'll figure it out next time. What's important is that you know its there. Next challenge, pulling a stuffed animal out of the toy box.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Claire's Nursery

I've been meaning to do a post on Claire's nursery for a while now, but it never felt quite right before. The reason for this is that nurseries are a funny room. If you are waiting for them to one day be "done" then you are waiting for a day that will never come. Claire's nursery is constantly changing and evolving as her needs change, and every three months the room feels like a whole new place as things she no longer uses or fits into go into the garage and a new round of clothes and toys take up residence.

On top of all of this, the dirty little secret is that she hasn't even really used the room until recently. Until she was six months it was only the place where she got diaper changes. I know a lot of mom's have diaper changing stations at several places around the house, but diapers only get changed in one place around here. Between pets and husband my house has enough poop in it without adding Baby's into the mix. Around six or seven months Claire started sleeping in her room full time, but it wasn't until the last month that she has really started playing in her room. She loves to roam around from toys, to bookshelves, to dresser drawers, discovering all their secrets. I love that she has a space where she can't really hurt herself besides a red spot or two when she takes a tumble. Not that I leave her alone in there for any length of time, but she is very content to play with her things while I get dressed or put away her clothes.

The original theme of the nursery was suppose to be fairy tales. I always wanted it to be subtle, but I think I went too subtle and only I get most of the references I threw in there. I also hadn't finished the nursery before Claire arrived, and after she got here putting the final touches on her room seemed  a low priority. Still, I like how the space turned out as it is an inviting place for her to play, and that's really the point.

I reused A LOT of items for Claire's nursery. I did this both for economical reasons and because I love that the room has a sense of family history to it. The embroidered birds were a gift made by my paternal grandmother when I was a little girl myself. The unicorn was made for me by my mother when I was still wee. The dried flower bunch are from the trees that my sister made for my wedding. The witch that hangs above the crib was a souvenir from my trip to Prague (and no I don't think its creepy). The new decorations above her crib include a wooden cross the church gave us when she was baptised, a beautiful handmade mobile a friend made and a mirror from ikea (mirror mirror on the wall).

The tree is probably my favorite part of the room, probably because it turned out even better than I had envisioned it. If I had to do over, I probably would have left off the beanstalk. Not that I don't like how it turned out, I just had a bigger vision that it would have fit into when I started and now it's a bit out of place. Claire loves playing with her golden goose eggs though! Eventually she'll figure out that the trunk is full of stuffed toys too! I picked the wicker toy trunk up from Michael's because I was looking for something that was light weight enough that there would be no smashed fingers in the lid. Its not the sturdiest thing in the world, but until she starts trying to jump on it it'll work just fine.

It's hard to see in the photo's, but there are golden embroidery floss braids going down the curtains (Rapunzel Rapunzel, let down your hair). Those were a great idea until I thought about wanting to wash the curtains...We only use half the closet for Baby's stuff, the other half houses Jeff and my dressy clothes.

This dresser was my mom's dresser when I was a little girl, and then mine once I moved out on my own. To save space in Claire's little room it doubles as a changing station. Her cloth diapers are stored in the dresser since they take up a lot of room, and on top we keep her disposables for night time and the cloth diaper covers. To the right of her dresser is her "hamper" aka and ikea trash can. I decided to go with a plastic trash can because I thought it was silly that kids hampers are often made out of fabric. Do you know how many unpleasant liquids end up on baby clothes? I wanted something I could disinfect every once in a while. When she gets a little older she can graduate up to a big girl cloth hamper. Up on the window sill are sea shells from our honeymoon and sea glass we collected on a trip to Fort Bragg. Ariel collects human stuff, humans collect mermaid stuff.

This corner used to have a rocking chair in it, but that got moved out into the living room when we realized it was a lot more fun to feed and rock Claire to sleep with the TV on. Yeah, we're terrible. I would like to get an over sized chair to go in this corner for when Claire gets older and we read books together. For now we just keep an extra chair there which keeps her diaper bag a little out of reach. Actually, I think that chair belongs to Auntie Helen and Uncle Josh. Shhh.

My mom and I built this bookshelf when I was quiet pregnant with Claire. It is painted with the same two colors that the leaves of the tree are painted. We made it as big as we could for the space (and were a little concerned when we put it all together that we had gone overboard), but it really fits the room perfectly. The first shelf also happens to be just the right height for Claire to pull herself up and pick out a story.

There are still plenty of things I would tweak here and there, and I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to as she grows up and into her room. I love how much I was able to re purpose for the space, and really ended up spending very little to put her nursery together. In addition to the obvious money savings this brought, I love being able to see some of the items that filled my childhood (ok lets be honest, early adulthood as well) having a chance at a second life. Actually, not a single one of the stuffies or puppets on her bookshelf was bought for her. Lets just say I had a bit of a collection that is now justified by having a baby. Lets have three cheers for being a pack rat who never gets rid of once treasured items!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Nasturtium Pesto

I promise I will get back to Baby related posts shortly, but I've been trying out some new recipes lately so you'll have to put up with food related posts for a little while longer!

Over the weekend Jeffry and I spent a little time out in the yard enjoying the last bit of warm weather (I'm hoping that if I pretend to be happy it's still warm it will go away faster) and cleaning up around the yard. He tackled the chicken coop while I puttered in the garden and Claire hung out in her walker.

I had planted some Nasturtium seeds in a pot in another part of the yard last year after reading that they were edible, but they didn't do very well and I had forgotten the project. Last fall I dumped out the pot they had been in into one of the barrels on the side of the house and low and behold this year I had a decent number of nasturtium vines growing in places that I certainly hadn't intended them to. Some had even started to grow out from under the house through a screen near the ground. As Jeff and I were pulling them up I suddenly remembered that I had planned to make pesto out of them so instead of throwing them to the chickens, I plucked the leaved and went online to find a recipe.

The recipe I used is pretty much the same as for basil pesto. One difference I noticed is that they tend to leave out the Parmesan cheese and add a little bit of spice such as hot sauce or red chili flakes. I was a little concerned about how it would turn out because basil leave and nasturtium leaves are very different. Nasturtium leaves have a stickiness to them that cling to your fingers afterwards. They are also not crisp leaves that crease and crack if you crumple them, but simple pop back into their original shape unscathed by the rough treatment. I found all these things suspicious and was a little afraid I was about to waste a good amount of olive oil.

I must say I think there are some things I actually liked better about the nasturtium pesto that basil pesto. First of all, it had a brilliant color that seemed to hold up better than basil pesto does, and second, it was a bit spicier than basil pesto. In terms of gardening, I also like  that nasturtiums are very decorative and you can use the flowers in salad. They are also edible and are suppose to have a similar spice to the leaves. After trying this experiment, I'm sad I tore up all my nasturtiums! Next year I will definitely be trying them again, and hopefully I'll get some more rouge ones growing like I did this year.

Nasturtium Pesto
Original Source

4 cups of packed nasturtium leaves
5 cloves of garlic
1.5 cups of olive oil
a generous pinch of chipotle pepper (or your favorite hot pepper or a few dashes of hot sauce)
1 cup of toasted walnuts
salt to taste
2 tsp. lemon juice

1) Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until everything is chopped fine.

I used a pretty generous amount of salt to really bring out the flavor. Toasting your walnuts also isn't a must if you're in a hurry. You can  either store your pesto in the fridge if you plan to use it in the next week or you can freeze it in ice cube trays to use for latter.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Spaghetti with Broccoli, Walnuts & Ricotta

I hate when a recipe calls for an ingredient I don't normally keep around the house, in this instance ricotta, and I only need half of the package to make the dish. When its something like dairy its particularly hard because the window of time you have to find a use for the rest of it is quite brief. This is constantly happening to me with cream. Most the time I just end up using the left over cup of cream in my coffee that week otherwise I have a not so pleasant surprise the next time I clean out my fridge. Why am I telling you that there may or may not be a container of spoiled cream in my fridge right now? It's because this situation led to the recipe that follows.

Earlier in the week I had made calzones and greatly overestimated the amount of ricotta I would need for the project. I could count the number of ricotta recipes I've made in the last year on one hand so its not like I have a selection of recipes squirrelled away to use my leftovers for. We don't even use ricotta in our lasagna! I also happened to have a friend coming to visit who is vegetarian so I decided to flip through a book I'm rather fond of, Market Vegetarian: Easy Organic Recipes for Every Occasion by Ross Dobson, for some inspiration.

There are several things I love about Market Vegetarian. First of all, it has a full color photo of each of the dishes. Second, it was written by a non-vegetarian and I think his version of vegetarian meals speaks to my carnivorous soul. I have found his recipes to have a richness to them that leaves my tummy feeling full and satisfied, not asking where's the meat? If you are the type who can't go a meal without your favorite animal bits, many of his recipes are also very easy to modify or re-purpose as a side dish. Third, his serving sizes are accurate. If it says it will feed four, it will leave four people feeling nice and full. I do generally add a little more veggies than he calls for because I like my ratio of carbs to veggies to be higher, but that's just my personal taste. You could follow his recipes as is and still do well. Lastly, I really love that this book was given to me as a gift from a friend who just picked it out because they thought I'd like it. People rarely attempt to buy me anything unless I've already approved it by putting it on my Amazon list. Apparently my tastes are hard to predict, but this friend tried and definitely succeeded!

The only things I really changed in this recipe from the original was upping the amount of brocolli and of course the amount of garlic. I rarely meet a recipe that I feel has enough garlic in it. Often I double to amount a recipe calls for.

Spaghetti with broccoli, walnuts and ricotta
original source

1/2 cup of walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
2 heads of broccoli
3 tbsp. olive oil
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 handful of parsley, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup ricotta cheese
14 oz. spaghetti
salt and pepper to taste

1) Cut off broccoli crowns leaving 1 inch of stem. Cut crowns into slices including stems.

2) Heat oil in a large pan on medium high heat and add the broccoli. Cook for about 5 minutes or until they start to soften. Then add garlic, parsley, lemon zest and nuts. Cook for another five minutes stirring often.

3) Reduce the heat and stir in the ricotta, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add pasta, cooked to package instructions, and gently toss until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Giants Parade 2012

This Halloween was a day of many firsts for Baby Claire. She went on her first BART ride, went to her first parade and wore her first costume. I must admit, two out of these three items kept me up the night before. What if the noise and crowds on BART made her scream the whole way into the City? What if I had to change her diaper in downtown SF in the middle of a crowd? How was feeding her while standing in a giant crush of people going to work out? What if the noise of the parade made her cry the whole time? There were a million things that could go wrong with our plan to take her with us to the Giants parade, but I tried to head many of them off by making sure our backpack was well packed the night before with exactly the things we would need, and none of the things we wouldn't. Carrying around extra weight wasn't going to make the day any better.

Luckily, as I should have known, Claire was a champ. Our friend Casey had to throw himself into the closing doors of BART to get us on, but there was just enough room for the four of us. Claire started to fuss a little when it started to get hot, but once I took off her sweater she was fine. She had a good time throwing herself back to gaze at Casey upside down, and she was very interested in the pony tail of the woman standing next to us. Luckily for us she found Claire grabbing a handful of her hair amusing. Claire just wanted to touch, not pull. In fact, I think the BART conductor lady could have used a visit from Claire. She did not appreciate the people who, like us, were stopping the doors from closing at every stop. I kept waiting for her to threaten to turn the train around.

Once we got into SF Claire was happy to just watch the people and take in the sights. When we finally picked a spot to stand our first test happened, Claire needed to be fed her solids. Just as I was about to pull her pineapple guava and spoon out of the backpack, a couple of young women walked up with a box of Plum Organics baby food packs. They were handing them out as a promotional thing and it was like a gift from God, or at least I felt that way once  I got over the weirdness of offering my child something that a stranger on the street gave me. The little pouch is the perfect way to quickly and cleanly feed your kid when you are standing in a large crowd. I didn't even have to take her out of her carrier. I am going to be picking up a handful of packets next time I'm at Target so I can throw a few of these in my diaper bag next time we're going to be on the go, on a long car trip or on those days when I am running out the door and forgot to defrost some baby food (this happens more often than I'd like to admit). No messy spoon to deal with afterwards and fewer spills. Its also shelf stable so I can just have them in the pantry and they'll be there when I need them. Here ends the commercial for Plum Organics ;-)

Once the parade actually started, Claire fell asleep on Jeff. Oh that's another first, Jeffry wore Claire for the first time! He kept a hand over her exposed ear in case someone next to us got too loud and she slept through the whole thing. She even got pegged in the head with a chocolate that someone in the parade threw out into the crowd (it had bounced off my shoulder and lost a lot of its speed). She barely opened her eyes, and Jeffry and I got a tasty treat to share.

Claire didn't seem to mind that she missed the parade. Hopefully we will have the chance to go to another Giants parade when Claire is older and can get excited to see her favorite players from atop Jeffry's shoulders. At least we learned that given proper planning, a store of food packets, and the use of very absorbent disposable diapers we can bundle her up along with us on our adventures!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

In The Kitchen With Baby

Baby and the oven sharing a special moment.
I have started letting Baby crawl around on the kitchen floor while I'm cooking or doing dishes. It's not the safest room in the house and from now on I promise I will make a point of discouraging her from making out with the oven. She just has such a sense of adventure right now and I imagine roaming the kitchen is doing a whole lot more for her development than watching a TV show while I do a few necessary kitchen chores. It will also encourage me to mop more often. Three birds, one stone.

Oh how times change. My traditional blog food photos now have a lot more action in the background.
The kitchen is particularly full of wonder for her right now because she has learned that drawers open. One of my to do's today is actually to switch around some of our drawer contents because a spice drawer at Baby's level is no longer a good idea. She loves to pull them open, examine the contents and then use that open drawer to pull herself up to the next one. Claire has yet to figure out the cabinet doors, but Jeff put baby locks on them over the weekend because behind some of those contain cleaning supplies and other non-baby friendly items.

Baby seemed really convinced that my pumpkin butter on the stove needed some ginger.



Monday, October 29, 2012

Living With A Nine Month Old

My baby girl is nine months old now. I know I've said this with every age so far, but this really is a good one. First of all, she's mobile. She crawls not just to get to the next toy that's a few feet away, but she crawls from one room to the next in search of adventures to be had. I love seeing that look of adventure and curiosity in my little girl's eyes. Gone are the days of being able to leave her for a moment contentedly playing with her toys. She has places to go!

I'm sure one day very soon her pulling all the books off the shelf won't be so cute, but for now it's adorable!
At the same time that Claire has become an expert crawler, she has also discovered the exciting new world of standing by herself. She loves to pull up on anything she can. Some favorites are my office chair, the couch, her jumper, and her personal favorite, the ottoman. The piping is just the right size for her little fingers to grip and pull herself up. Best of all, once she's up she has a great view of the TV which she finds mesmerizing. If music is on the TV she might also gift us with a little bouncing dance as she jams along to the beat. As you can see from the picture above, footed PJ's have become a bit of a problem because nine month outfits often lack grippers on the feet. She has started spending a lot more time in pants as a result.


This is Claire's "Don't bother me, my show is on" face.
Claire loves a lot of different TV shows (anything with real people), but her favorite is Yo Gabba Gabba. She was pretty interested in the Fresh Beats Band as well, but YGG is the only one she likes to watch regularly. An episode of that is a life saver when I need a few uninterrupted minutes to get dressed or pack her diaper bag. I do feel guilty when I see her doing the pose in the picture above. I feel like the TV is being beamed directly into her brain, but hopefully it's telling her not to bite her friends and not that she should burn things.
Claire is also still happy to play and explore by herself, but she doesn't like to do it in her pen anymore. She usually only lasts ten minutes in there before she gets upset and wants to be out in the main part of the living room with us. She doesn't necessarily want us to be playing with her, she just wants to be in the thick of it all with us and her trusty steed Prince Dog.

When it comes to talking, Claire has exploded with new sounds in the last week. Obviously she doesn't know what she's saying yet, but we had our first DaDa. She has done MaMa for quite a while, but since she got DaDa now we're also hearing lots of B's and P's as well. Even if it's just baby babble at this point, it's pretty awesome to hear your kid calling you by name. She's getting really chatty as she expands her consonant vocabulary.
One thing Claire is definitely lagging behind on is teeth. She is nine months old and there isn't a single tooth in her adorable gummy smile. Normally by this time a baby would have at least one, but I get the feeling she's going to wait until she passes the year mark. Personally, I love a gummy smile, but it would be nice to start giving her real food to snack on instead of all those puffy treats that dissolve in her mouth.
On the topic of food, Claire is still going strong on her homemade purees. Her current food are: carrot, green beans, yams, butternut squash, oatmeal, banana, plums, pear, peaches, mango and her favorite for now pineapple guava. Thank God she loves at least one of the fruits growing in our yard because she HATES apple. I think it has to do with her supper sensitive gag reflex. Even the smallest lump and she throws up, and apple is really hard to get 100% lump free. She is also rebelling against orange veggies this week which used to be all her favorites. Babies are weird.
We've been letting her put herself to sleep for her naps. Some days are better than others.
Finally, on the all important topic of sleep, her sttn is about 50/50, and if she does wake up its for one early morning nursing and then straight to sleep. I can certainly live with that. I honestly don't really notice much of a difference between nights when I do get up and nights that I don't except that the ladies are pretty sore in the morning. She currently goes to bed and 9:00 and wakes up at 8:30, and her naps have gotten longer during the day. I can generally count on two two hour naps, one in the morning and one in the early evening/late afternoon. This is a schedule that lets momma get stuff done.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Prickly Pear Syrup

We ended up with a decent amount of prickly pear juice from our five gallons of fruit. Since I have a tendency to forget things in the fridge (only to be discovered by my frustrated husband a couple of weeks latter), we froze a little over half the juice for future projects. I have also learned when working with something new it isn't a pleasant surprise to make one huge batch of something only to find out you don't really care for it. This happened with our prickly pear jam that we made last year. I'm not a big jam person in the first place, but the stuff tasted like jolly ranchers. Waaaay to sweet for my breakfast taste. Learning from that experience, I started small with our prickly pear syrup experiment.

Standard syrup recipes seem to go for a 1:1 ratio of sugar to juice. Prickly pear juice is fairly sweet on its own, so I decided to use a 1:2 ratio of sugar to juice. I think it resulted in a thinner syrup, but that's ok since I am mostly using my syrup for drinks. Even with a 1:2 ratio this stuff is pretty sweet, and you could certainly up the amount of lemon juice you put in it if you'd like to tart it up a bit.

You might be asking yourself, what does prickly pear taste like. People generally describe it as being watermelonesk. While this is pretty close, I think Jeff described it perfectly when he said it tasted like watermelon mixed with peach. For some reason the juice got a little smokey touch to it after I simmered it (maybe from the thorn removal). I don't remember it being that way when we drank it fresh.

Plain Prickly Pear Syrup

6 cups of prickly pear juice
3 cups of sugar
3 lemons

1) Stain your prickly pear juice so its nice and clear. First run it through a metal mesh strainer and then through cheese cloth.

2) Add the prickly pear juice, the sugar and the juice of three lemons to a pot and gently simmer for 15 minutes.

3) Remove pan from heat and allow to cool. If you like to can you can water bath can the syrup to make it shelf stable. If you will be using your syrup as a mixer for alcoholic beverages, you can add a shot of vodka to it  (works as a preservative) and store it in the fridge.

Some fun additions you can add if you plan to use the syrup for things such as french toast are cinnamon and vanilla. I split my batch in two and added one stick of cinnamon to it while it simmered and then let it steep in the syrup for about an hour afterwards. When I bottled it I just removed the stick and added a tiny splash of vanilla extract. If you have a vanilla bean you could use that instead and just let it steep along with the cinnamon. The spiciness of the cinnamon complimented the sweet of the syrup nicely.