Monday, April 30, 2012

Baby Helps

When we brought Claire home, my crazy horomonal mind starting thinking about all the things we couldn't do, or would have to change, now that we had a baby in the house. While, many of these things were trivial or simply overblown by my post-pregnancy mind, some seemed pretty legitimate. For example, Jeff and I do a lot of projects around this place to fix it up. How was I going to help when I had a baby on my hip? Sure I could grab a tool for him or hold something for a minute, but I couldn't be out working on a project for hours at a time with Baby alone in the house.

Well its taken me three months or so, but I've learned how to do some of these things with Baby. It has helped that it's warmed up now so I can have Baby out in her swing near me when I'm doing an outdoor project like gardening or building a dog pen for Prince. Here are a few pictures of my adventures in learning to get stuff done with Baby.

Scrapbooking with Baby

Browning meat for dinner with Baby

In general, hobbies and housework stuff is pretty doable while wearing Baby. I tried scrapbooking with Baby in her swing first, but she didn't find it very entertaining to watch me scrapbook and would get fussy pretty quick. The only thing that is hard to do while wearing Baby is bending over. She doesn't like it and will start to wiggle and squirm. I've definitly gotten a lot better at squatting instead of bending, or doing the task with one hand while I hold her firmly against me.

This next set of pictures shows the things I've been able to do since baby has started really paying attention to my movements and finding them entertaining.

Baby loves to watch my hands as I fold laundry

building Prince's pen

Gardening in the front yard

Caulking Papa's new office

The biggest consideration when working with baby is making sure I have everything set up safetly before I bring her in. For example, no tools or building materials that are close enough to fall on her, proper ventilation, etc. When we're outside I make sure to put her in the shade and that she isn't in a spot where Prince might come crashing into her. I also make sure I have all my supplies  laid out before I bring her into to the front yard so I'm not leaving her alone to go grab something. In general though, I've found that if she's comfortable and can see me then I have a good hour worth of work time that she is more than happy to sit and watch. Yay for feeling productive again! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Garden Clean Up

With each changing of the seasons a good garden clean up is called for to either prepare for planting or to button things up before winter hits. Since our garden clean up for last summer, fall and winter seemed to be thwarted by pregnancy, this Springs was particularly necessary. Luckily, I truly revel in a long day of pruning and  making things pretty once again. I do have to admit however, that I was a little nervous this time, since it was my first hard work outside day since Claire was born. I am pleased to report that my time out of commission doesn't seem to have slowed me down!

Last weekend Helen, Jeff and I attacked the front yard to get it ready for the summer garden (I didn't even try to put in a spring garden this year). I first took stock of the herb bed. It looked as if my herbs were having a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde split. On one side the sage was dead, on the other it was growing wildly into the parsley's territory. For some strange reason my parsley on one side of the bed had bolted while on the other side it was still producing normally. I decided to rip out the long dead plants left over from summer, give a nice hard cut back to freshen up the stuff that was still alive, and make plans for new herbs I needed to buy or start seeds for. I'm going to just replace all the parsley and will be starting some seeds for that since parsley is fairly easy to grow. I already bought a sage plant to replace the side that had died, and when Trader Joes gets their basil plants in I will buy two of those. One item I still need to figure out in the herb bed is what to do with the random rose plant that has grown back from the roots of the one I ripped out. I didn't know roses would do that and apparently didn't take enough care when removing the roses that used to inhabit that space. I might pull it out and pot it for now and decide on its fate latter.

Next I moved on to some pruning along the side of the yard. My pineapple sage had grown to the size of a human, completely covering everything else planted around it. I gave it a harsh hair cut back to about two and a half feet high and trimmed back a lot of the jasmine vines that had started to cover the ground. I also trimmed back our corner tree as it was starting to get in the way of opening the gate that leads to the back yard. Helen took her pruning sheers to  the ice plant and pine bush thing that grows in the middle of our yard. She ripped our the ice plant and cut the already dead pine bush (a victim of the ice plant) back to the ground.

Squash Bed Before
Squash Bed After
The biggest project for the day was to remove the carpet of weeds that had take over the squash side of the yard. Helen pulled while I turned the soil over, cut the clover back into the soil and spread manure. It was hard but satisfying work to be sure. Our efforts also resulted in the discovery of massive numbers of snails which we took back to our chicken overlords.

Finally, we planted the front raised beds in tomatoes. I was foolish when I put in those raised beds and didn't put down anything to keep weeds from growing back up in them from the ground. Once I got all the grass and weeds pulled out I planted four Early Girls and Four San Francisco Fogs. These are both new ones for me, but I'm hoping they will work better in our cool windy front yard. I still have room for four more tomato plants out front, but I haven't decided if I'm just going to get more E.G.'s and S.F.F.'s or experiment with some other types.

Well that's it for the garden for now. When this little spat of storms pass I plant to direct sow some squash seeds out in the front yard and plant carrots in the third raised bed. How about you? Anyone else doing any garden adventures this summer?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Blessed With Grandparents

Hopefully my MIL forgives me for posting a picture of her!

I consider myself to be a pretty lucky woman, and in most parts of my life I know I have been quite blessed, something I never had however, was the grandma who lived down the street, or even in the same state. My maternal grandmother died before I was old enough to form memories of her, and my paternal grandmother died when I was 19. My memories of her are few because we spent a decent chunk of my life living on opposite ends of the country, but perhaps it is the fact that they are so few that makes them so precious. I remember her washing my hair when I was little (I had a wild head of snarled blond locks that I refused to brush), snuggling in to sleep together when she came to visit and even her teaching me the Lord's Prayer. Something I am looking forward to with Claire, is that she won't have little snippets of her grandparents, but a full life of memories filled with their love.

This weekend my in-laws came down to watch Claire for the day while Jeff, Helen and I attacked our poorly neglected garden and yard. While I loved getting out in the fresh air and dirt again (more to come on that in my next post), the most wonderful parts of my day were when I would come inside and find the three of them snuggled in on the couch hanging out. I could just see Claire getting to soak up so much love from them, and while she won't remember these moments, they are merely a taste of the love she will continue to receive from them for many  years to come. My heart swelled while I was making dinner for us, and I could hear Sherri singing Claire little songs out on the couch while she rocked her in her arms.

So thank you to Grammpa Brian, Gramma Sherri and Grandma Kay for all the love this little girl is receiving from you. I have no doubt that when she looks back on her life, she will count memories with all of you as some of her most precious.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Operation Cradle

Its too dark to get a picture when Claire is in her cradle, so just pretend you're seeing  a cradle instead of a dog bed!

Jeff and I decided that co-sleeping was the best option for us when we first brought Claire home from the hospital for many reasons. First, we were interested in getting as much sleep as possible in those first few months, and being able to sooth her quickly when she'd start to fuss before she even fully woke herself up was key.I also started staying in bed to do night time feedings which also got us back to sleep faster.Second, and sort of going hand in hand with the first, newborns breath very lightly and I couldn't help but check on her throughout the night for the first several days to make sure she was still taking in air. It sounds silly, but it seems like something most moms go through when they bring their little ones home.  Finally, our house is a bit chilly, and I felt she'd be a little warmer sleeping with us.

Now that Claire typically only wakes once in the night to eat (though last night it was every two hours) I started thinking about when to move her into her cradle to sleep. She had also taken to throwing her feet out of her co-sleeper and poking me at night which made the getting more sleep reason for co-sleeping no longer applicable. Even though the reasons to stop co-sleeping were starting to manifest, I was reluctant to move her to her cradle. Granted, its only about two feet from our bed, but when I'm used to having her safe and warm next to me all night two feet seems like a long way. There was also the slight twinge of sadness at the idea of Claire moving beyond her need to sleep with us. I spent a week or two thinking, tonight is the night, but then I'd chicken out when bedtime actually rolled around.

On Saturday April 14th, this momma got brave. After Claire's last feeding she was soundly asleep, the room was nice and warm and the cradle looked like a pretty good idea. I had no more excuses to not give it a try. She didn't even wake up when I laid her in it and watched her for several minutes as I gently rocked the cradle back and forth. I put the co-sleeper next to the bed just in case she woke up upset, repositioned the pillows and blankets in the bed to their pre-baby positions and cozied in for a good nights sleep. As I drifted off, I was surprised to find I actually enjoyed the idea that we all had our own little beds.

I think Operation Cradle has been a definite success. Last night was the only time I've had to bring her back into our bed so far and even then she had spent most of the night her cradle. While its slightly sad to think my little girl no longer needs my arm nestled around her to get a good nights sleep, it is also exciting to see her content in her own space. I think this was a milestone for both momma and baby as she learns to grow, and I learn to let her.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Baby Milestones

I have been terrible about keeping track of Claire as she progresses from a glow worm into a little girl. Before I forget all her little milestones I thought I should record a few of them here.

January 23rd 2012: Miss Claire came home.

Feburary 15thish 2012: Somewhere around 3-4 weeks old Claire started to go to sleep around the same time we did instead of staying up until :00 or 2:00 am.

March 2nd 2012: First set of shots. I held her little arms while they did it, but I had to turn away when the needle went in. My little girl was brave but I was not. We gave her a little children's Tylenol when she got home and aside from being fussy that evening she handled it like a champ. By the time bed time rolled around she was back to her old happy self. Oh, and she weighted in at a little under 11.5 lbs.

March 13th 2012: Claire gave me her first real, honest to goodness smile. We were waiting in the doctors office and I was talking to her to pass the time when all the sudden BAM! It was a full faced gummy mouth smile. It melted my little heart.

Mid-March 2012: I don't have an exact date for this one, but around mid March I stopped having to take Claire out to the couch to sleep in the middle of the night. Up until this point Claire would ussually start fussing with gas or poop between 4:00 and 5:00 am. Mommy and Daddy have greatly been enjoying getting to sleep together again!

Mid-late March 2012: Claire became much more content to sit and watch what I was doing instead of being held. This has made it much easier to get some chores done like folding laundry. Claire loves to watch my hands from her little seat as I stack all the clothes into tidy piles.

March 25th 2012: The first time I found something that could consistently make Claire smile. I walked up to her while I was brushing my teeth and from behind her paci I could see little lips curling up into a smile. It comes in quite handy to stop Claire's fussing when I am trying to get ready for the day. Her little smile is at the beginning of this video.

March 28th 2012:  Claire became a drooly baby and discovered how much fun it is to stick her tongue out. At first we thought she was teething extremely early because of all the drool, but the next day I got my Baby Center weekly update that said it is normal for babies Claire's age to become drool monsters.

April 7th 2012: Claire watched her first Giants game with momma and papa! Ok, so maybe this isn't something that she necessarily accomplished, but I'm assuming that Claire will be a Giants fan when she is older and will want to know when she saw her first game. Luckily she isn't old enough to remember that they lost to the Diamondbacks.

April 10th 2012: Back in for another couple of shots which she handled just as well as the first time. Grandma Fisher made me sneak and weigh her on the scale when the nurse wasn't there. Claire weighed in at a little over 12 lbs!

April 11th 2012: FEET! Claire found one of her feet for the first time. Grandma Fisher was getting ready to head home and she were sitting in her swing. All the sudden Claire started pulling her feet up to her chest and grabbing at them. She seemed very proud of herself when she grabbed a hold of her left footy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Potatoes Au Gratin

I am a big fan of cheese and potatoes, so the two together are sure to be a hit with me. I made this recipe for Easter Sunday, and there were no leftovers so I can only assume people were pleased. I tweaked a recipe from Cooking Light (which is not where I would think to look for a recipe that is dairy based) and I certainly think the flavor held up well even though it wasn't made with cream like most of the other recipes I found.

There were a few things that I particularly liked about this recipe. One, it was rich but not over the top. I felt that keeping it a little lighter was a good idea considering how much other food I was going to be eating that day. The fact that this is a less guilty version of potatoes au gratin also means I'd be more likely to make it for a regular dinner side dish. Second, I like recipes that can be made with stuff I generally stock in my kitchen. I don't generally keep cream on hand, so if I have a recipe that calls for it that means I will either be trying to find uses for the remaining cream for the rest of the week or forgetting it in the back of the fridge where good food goes to die. Third, I was able to do most of the prep ahead. I probably could have done everything ahead and then baked it at my in-laws but I ran out of time Easter morning. I ended up chopping the onion and garlic ahead of time and mixing everything else into the milk. That meant I just had a couple of Tupperware containers and a sack of potatoes to pack up to Sacramento.

Potatoes Au Gratin Light
original recipe here

2 Tbsp. Butter
1 medium onion
5 garlic cloves

4 Cups 2% Milk
1 Tsp. Salt
1/4 Tsp. Pepper
2/3 Cup of Flour
8 oz. Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1/2 Tsp. Thyme (optional)

3 Lbs potatoes peeled and thinly sliced

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Melt butter in a pot and add the onions and garlic cooking until soft (about 5 minutes).
3) In a separate bowl mix the milk, salt, pepper, thyme and flour. Once they are well combined, pour into the pan with onions and garlic. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until it thickens slightly (about 2 minutes).
4) Add 6 oz. of cheese to the milk mixture and stir until melted.
5) Fill a 9x13 baking dish with potatoes and pour milk mixture over them. Top with remaining cheese.
6) Cover with foil sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover potatoes and continue to bake for another 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Baby Socks

Every year companies find more and more useless things to try and sell us. Things that we got along without for centuries suddenly become so much a part of our lives that we can't imagine life without them such as smart phones and water bottles. When you have kids, it becomes incredibly hard to decide what things are necessary and what things are just ridiculous. Sometimes with kids stuff, the ridiculous stuff is so cute that you might even trick yourself into thinking its necessary.

There is one item for kids however, that is so common place in adult life and so old a creation that we don't think to question the need for it until we suddenly come face to face, or should I say face to foot, with it. This item is the baby sock. Luckily I was warned by another blogger about the fact that this seemingly innocent item is actually Satan spawn in disguise. These trixy little devils will not stay on your baby's feet. They will ever so slowly slide their way down your baby's ankle, wait for you to turn your head for just a moment and then WOOSH they make a run for it.

Even though I was forewarned, I still bought a few. There aren't a lot of options out there if you plan for your newborn to wear pants in wintertime. I simply accepted that many a sock (though never a pair) would be lost to that magical land where my husband's car keys, wallet and left socks hide periodically. I never imagined however, that one of these socks would so love Claire, that it would return to her. Allow me to explain.

We were out for a walk last week. I had Claire in her Ergo carrier which means her little feet were dangling out. Normally I dress her in a footed onsie for these walks, but she was already in pants so we just went with some socks to keep her toes warm. When we returned to the house I pulled her out of the Ergo only to find she only had one sock on. Alas, it had happened. I don't care enough about baby socks to retrace our whole walk. I accepted that her cute little yellow sock with pink flower grippers (why do newborn socks need grippers on the bottom?) was lost. Today however, as we were yet again strolling the sidewalks of our town we stumbled upon a pristine little sock in the gutter.

Prince of course was overjoyed at the discovery, and confirmed it was Claire's the only way he knows how.

The sock had been lost for at least four days and yet there it was looking freshly laundered and ready to return to it's little girl. Wherever socks go when they are lost, even though it's apparently very clean, it must not beat being at home with Miss Claire.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Drunken Apricot Spread

I have been canning for quite a while now, and although its a hobby I really enjoy, it has also lead me to can things I'm just not going to eat. For instance, I don't really eat jam, but when I come across a ton of fruit that is either free or very cheap, I have a hard time not turning it into jam. Thus I tend to have jars of it lingering in my fridge for far to long with only one scoop taken out. Understandably I get pretty excited when I come across a recipe for my overabundance of the sweet stuff.

This recipe is great because it cuts the crazy sweetness of the jam so it doesn't overpower my savory inclinations at breakfast time. It also has booze it in, and who doesn't love having an excuse to pull out their jug of bourbon at 7:00 in the morning? I did accidentally pour too much bourbon into my measuring spoon. My automatic reaction was to drink the extra (like licking the spoon when baking a cake). Luckily I remembered that this was booze and it was only 8:00 am before I drank it. Back into the bottle went the extra. I swear.

 The original recipe called for peach preserves, but I think any stone fruit would pair fine with the spiciness of the bourbon. I happened to have apricot so that's what I used. The original also called for 1/4 of preserves. While that ratio looks prettier, I wanted the apricot flavor to come through a little stronger.

Drunken Apricot Spread
original recipe can be found here

1/2 cup of room temperature salted butter
1/4-1/2 a cup of apricot preserves
1 1/2 Tbsp. of bourbon
1 Tbsp. lemon zest

1) Cream the butter with a hand held mixer.
2) Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
3) Spread a nice thick layer on a grainy piece of toast and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Crunchy Granola Anyone?

Mom, does this diaper make me look crunchy?

A few weeks ago on the Baby Center birth boards, a woman posted that she had created a new forum for people to join who were "semi-crunchy granola." This led a fare number of women to ask for some guidelines of what made someone semi-crunchy instead of full on crunchy. As someone who considers herself to be in the semi-crunchy category I was interested to see how the woman defined the group. She responded saying that a person is semi-crunchy if they do ONE of the following: breast feed, cloth diaper, co-sleeping or baby wear. Crap. I do all these things. Does this mean I need to just give in, buy a tie dyed wardrobe and learn praise songs for the mother goddess?

While I find my new apparent status of super crunch pretty amusing, I don't really believe it myself. Well, I should say I didn't. Today I added yet another thing to my list of earth friendly practices. I bought reusable breast feeding inserts. I didn't even know they made them, but I must admit I have felt a little bad every time I throw another set of them away. I'm pretty sure they are made out of the same stuff disposable diapers are, so it seemed a bit hypocritical for me to use them. I also must admit that the little hippy that lives inside a hallowed out tree in my soul jumped for joy when she saw this product. So here I go, further down the crunchy brick road.

I do want to add, there are some lines I will never cross. I am aware, for example, that reusable feminine hygiene products exist. No thank you. I don't feel quite guilty enough for that, but reusable breast feeding inserts. I think  I can get on board with that.