Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mother of the Year

Where's John? Oh, no worries. He's just rolled under the futon and can't get out.

On the first cold day of the year in which the chill lasted all day long, I neglected to put any extra warm clothes in his diaper bag. So at church after he wet through is pants he was left in this ridiculous get up of a long-sleeved onesie and socks.

Motherhood, I'm flying by the seat of my pants! I don't know if I'll ever be over the learning curve... but it's fun!

Monday, November 29, 2010

His mother's son

The consensus seems to be that John resembles me. So do I look like a 6.5 month old baby or does he look like a 27 year old woman? Here are some pictures for comparison:

John in September at 3.5 months

Me and my mother (I'm the one in the red dress) February of 1984. I was 7 months.

I think the above two are the best comparison but here are a few more pictures:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Some tips for getting along with Martha

Martha, Martha, Martha! "Doesn't everyone have a pleasant disdain for Martha Stewart?" My husband remarked. I like Martha. But our relationship hasn't always been so rosy. She can provide an endless source of inspiration for everything from gardening to baking. But she can also make you want to slit your throat with some decorative scissors. Everything she does sounds so simple. Like, how could the project possibly turn out anything but perfectly?!? And yet. Sometimes it doesn't look exactly like (or anything like) the picture. And then you feel very upset because you spent all of this time doing something that Martha can do blindfolded with her hands tied behind her back and yet you couldn't even do it with the intensive use of all of your faculties and a truckload of craft supplies from Hobby Lobby! Is there something wrong with you?!?

No, there is nothing wrong with you. It's not you, it's Martha. Martha has a legion of minions doing her creative bidding. Some of them are magic elves. She also has more money in her flower budget than most people will make in a lifetime. Thus, she has resources that you can't compete with! But she and her crafting army still have a lot of good ideas. And with a few principles, you can be friends with Martha and not feel like a complete failure along the way!

There's one main rule when working with Martha. It's simple really: lower your expectations. Much lower than they've ever been before. Think back to a time when your standards for yourself were bare minimum and then let them free fall until they hit rock bottom and then dig down for a while.

When you find a Martha project that suits your fancy, whether it be a stunning Fall (winter, summer spring, etc...) centerpiece or a gorgeous table made out of popsicle sticks, carefully observe the way Martha's turned out. Notice how everything looks so perfect and color coordinated! It's almost as if the entire universe was designed to complement that particular craft! Now, picture your version of the project looking at least 90% worse (At least 90%!). If you are okay with that outcome given the resources that the project might take, then go for it! And have fun! If, on the other hand, you would be disappointed if your popsicle stick table looks like it was made by a drunk chimpanzee even after you spent all of those hours carving popsicle sticks from the tree you cut down and boiling a horse carcass to make the glue, then you should probably find a different Martha project.

Case in point: I had it in my mind to make this Martha cake for Thanksgiving. Carrot cake might not be traditional Thanksgiving fare but it is a ginger carrot cake which sounded sufficiently fall-ish to me. And the presentation was intriguing so I wanted to bake this to crown my Fall Favorites baking season. So, I followed my 90% rule and reasoned that even if the cake looked like a dead animal by the time that I was done with it, it would still probably taste good. So I went for it! And I was pleased with the results. Don't get me wrong! It did not turn out looking nearly as good as Martha's with her legion of magicians ( let me tell you there is no way to get cream cheese icing to look that smooth or cake layers to be that even unless you are practicing some sort of dark arts)! But I don't think it looked 90% worse- perhaps only 70% or so. I was pleasantly surprised! And it did taste great. Here it is:

This cake was actually a big hit at our Thanksgiving feast. It really is a delicious carrot cake recipe. People even chose the cake over the pumpkin pie which was still in tact at the end of the evening! Thanksgiving heresy! Anyways, the difficult part of this cake was the candied carrot strips. But they weren't as difficult as you might think. The problem was mostly that I had purchased an inferior mandolin* and could not slice the carrot strips thin enough. (Also, I nearly sliced my fingers open.) And, my carrots were not long or broad enough to cover the the cake like they should have. There were also some structural issues because I couldn't find the right pan size and I couldn't get the cake layers sliced evenly.

While I was arranging those candied carrot strips onto the cake I was commenting to my mother that it looked vastly inferior to the prototype. She, trying to encourage me, said essentially that it could be a conversation piece and that people might remark: "I've never seen such a thing before!" We had a good laugh over that knowing that that comment is not necessarily a complement. But people actually were impressed, I didn't show them the picture of the original so they didn't know how mine paled in comparison. (That's another trick when doing a Martha project, don't show anyone what the finished product is actually supposed to look like.) Though, I consider it a success because I think it could have looked a great deal worse than it did and it did win many accolades for taste! I might consider trying it again having learned what I have learned regarding carrot sizes and mandolins.

Thanks Martha! I look forward to working with you on future endeavors!

Baby John can sit up all by himself for a long period of time! He can also go from his back or tummy to sitting but for some reason he is loath to do so. So very proud of my delicious little sitting boy!

* My husband read this and suggested that I clarify that the mandolin I refer to is a slicing tool and not a stringed instrument.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mmmmm, rice cereal

So we had ourselves a milestone today. We fed John some rice cereal. It was a resounding success!

I was not in a hurry to feed him actual food (a concept which is applied loosely when talking about baby food, right? Because I doubt anyone old enough to read this blog would consider rice cereal "actual food.") for two reasons: I want my milk supply to stay plentiful, and it's more inconvenient for me to incorporate baby foods, utensils, and extravagant messes into our meal times. Of course, I would have fed him earlier if I thought he had been hungry earlier. But I don't know if he's ever been hungry in his life (because he has eaten at least every 3 waking hours since he was born...). But he can't nurse exclusively forever and I thought he might be getting hungry at night so we've started down the "real food" path. First stop, rice cereal!

He did so well! By the end of the meal he was opening his mouth ready for another spoonful! Don't get me wrong, probably a quarter (maybe one-third) of it ended up on his face, hands and in the pocket of his bib. Which will probably be the case for all meals until he's about 5 (or is that being optimistic?). But based on this experience I think he will enjoy eating!

N0t sure what we are doing, but ready to go, nonetheless!

A little unsure of first bite.

Catching on quickly.

Having fun!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

You know you are married to a medicine intern when...

... you have conversations like these in the wee hours of the morning:

It was about 4 am and I had just crawled back into bed after feeding John when Peter asked me

"How many units did he get?" (as in units of blood)

Leslie: "You're talking in your sleep."

Peter: Thinking very hard "No, the patient, how many units did we give him?"

Leslie: "I don't know, I don't work in the ICU. Go back to sleep."

Peter: "Never mind." With and exasperated sigh.

Monday, November 15, 2010

6 month stats

I took John to his 6 month check up today. He has slowed down considerably on his impressive growth curve. He only gained 1 lb 5 oz in the last two months (whereas in his first 4 months he gained 11 lbs). Here are his stats:

Height: 28. 25 in (94%)
Weight: 20 lbs 8 oz (91%)
Head Circumference: 17.75 in (84%)

So, as you can see he's lost his largest baby in the world status. We might not be able to capitalize on these new percentiles as they don't sound nearly as impressive as 100% for both height and weight. He might have to change the title of his memoir from Baby John: Biggest Baby in the World to Baby John: Not the Biggest Baby in the World, but Still Pretty Big.

He's doing well and continues to be a healthy and happy baby. I am very thankful for him and his health. It is hard to believe that within the next 6 months (or thereabouts) he'll be walking and talking and eating grown up food and perhaps ready to take on a part-time job! The time goes quickly!

Here he is in what I call his swimsuit model pose.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Butternut Squash Bonanza

I really love vegetables. Probably too much. Sometimes, especially in the fall, I spend a lot of time day dreaming about things like sweet potatoes. In the summer I mull over how beautiful the color of eggplants are. My relationship with veggies is probably much like that of a teenage girl and Justin Bieber. Like, I would probably put posters of squash and tomatoes on my ceiling if I thought Peter would not retaliate by insisting that we fill the house with his mountain posters.

One of my favorites is Butternut squash. It is a winter squash. But! You may be surprised to learn what that actually means, as I was. A few years ago in the fall I went to buy some Butternut squash at the farmer's market. I assumed there would be weekly offerings of that vegetable throughout the winter since it is a winter squash. Wrong! I inquired how much longer this particular vendor would be bringing the squash to market. He told me that it would be the final week (remember, this is early fall). I was like "...what?" Turns out they are called winter squash not because they grow in the winter but because they will last all winter! Good to know!

This vegetable is so versatile and nutritious. It can be used in everything from cakes and pies to stir fry. And indeed they will last all winter. Last year I bought several in October and they kept through January or February. So I bought a case of them this year- which I was told was 12 squash. Though I just counted the ones I have left after using several and there are 13. So apparently it was more like 18 squash. But I do not know if they will last all winter because I have all sorts of plans for them! And much like a tween anticipating a Jonas Brother's concert I can hardly contain my excitement and am having to stifle much squealing. Recently on my favorite recipe website they had a feature on Butternut squash. I've made several of the recipes. Here are the keepers so far:

Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Shallots
I did alter this one. I used 16 oz of fettuccine rather than 4 oz of pappardelle pasta. I don't know what pappardelle pasta is. And I also added a boatload more parmesan than called for. But this had a really nice flavor.

Pork and Squash Stir-Fry

Beef and Butternut Squash Chile

Butternut Squash Spice Cake
This is delicious. It's moist and sweet. And it's not bad for you as far as cakes go. It's made with whole wheat flour. Yumtacular.

Curried Coconut Squash Soup (Recipe posted below)
This one was emailed to me by my friend Vanessa. It was fantastic.

I have a few other recipes that I intend to try soon. And I also plan to puree some batches for John. As always, I'll let you know how they turn out!

Curried Coconut Squash Soup Recipe:
2 tablespoons (25 mL) olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced gingerroot
1 tablespoon (15 mL) curry powder or paste
4 cups (1 L) water (my note: can substitute chicken broth or vegetable broth)
7 to 8 cups (1.8 to 2 L) diced butternut squash (1 large 3-pound/1.4-kg squash)
2 teaspoons (10 mL) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons (6 mL) salt *(my note: use less)
One 14-ounce (398-mL) can unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons (25 mL) lemon juice

1. Warm oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Stir in onions, garlic, gingerroot and cook 5 minutes. Sprinkle on curry powder and cook 1 minute, tossing continuously.

2. Pour in water and bring to a boil. Mix in squash, sugar, salt, and lower heat to a lively simmer. Cook 30 minutes, or until squash is very tender. Pour in coconut milk and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice.

3. Puree soup in batches in a blender and return to a smaller pot, if desired. Reheat before serving, if necessary.

From Vegetarian Classics (Quill) by Jeanne Lemlin

Saturday, November 13, 2010


John is 6 months today! It also happens to be my mother's 29th birthday. Happy birthday, mom! Soon you're going to be younger than me! That'll be weird...

John continues to develop his rolling prowess. He can sit up unassisted for wee amounts of time. He often gets into this funny little position that I call his swimsuit model pose, like in the pictures above and below. It is too cute! He can balance on his side like that for quite a while. This is actually very similar to a position that they make you do in many exercise classes to work your abs called the side plank. He wants strong obliques, I suppose.

Anyways, yesterday was Peter's day off for the week and we enjoyed it thoroughly. We went out in the morning for breakfast tacos and then took John to the park. We enjoyed the weather and spending the day together. John loved the baby swing. I started by nudging him ever so slightly to initiate an almost imperceptible swing. I didn't want to go too crazy because he doesn't have great upper body control. But Peter took over and swung him to high heaven and he laughed. It was fun!

Changing the subject, last week I was anticipating with relish the extra hour of sleep that was to be mine as the result of the "fall back" time change. I suppose that I technically did get that extra hour of sleep since we did turn the clocks back. But it was not nearly so magical as it has been in past years. The problem was that I neglected to inform John about this strange little custom of time change. I failed to explain that he too would get to take advantage of this wonderful gift of sleep! On the actual day of turning the clocks back, he mostly woke up at the same time, maybe just a little early. But every day since then he's been getting up on the wrong side of 6 am (Is there a right side of 6 am?) . And he has trouble staying awake until his bedtime. So, I've transferred my sentiments from "time change is a hassle but I'll endure it for that extra hour of sleep" to "time change needs to die a most painful death." The little ones, they don't adjust so well, unfortunately!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Falling Back

Don't forget to turn clocks back tonight! In my opinion day light savings time (and by that I mean getting an extra hour of sleep) is one of the best ideas that mankind has ever produced. Second only to the slanket (or snuggie, if you prefer).

Scratch that. Actually, only the falling back part is a good idea. Springing forward makes me want to cry.

Mostly I feel like daylight savings is just a big hassle. But I'll endure some hassle for an extra hour of shut eye. I truly do look forward to this one magical night every year. (Perhaps this is pitiful but I am not ashamed. I love my sleep.)

So, on our vacation to San Antonio last week we took John to a pumpkin patch at a local church. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. Being fond of all things Fall, I was so eager to get John's picture in the pumpkins. It was such a lovely day. My mom and sister came with us. We all picked out pumpkins. John was in a good mood. And we got a lot of good pictures. I could not have dreamt of anything better!

There was some vexation at the outset. Someone had given us a gift certificate to Baby Gap. I had wanted to go there prior to our pumpkin patch trip so that he could be dressed in a little preppy outfit for his photo shoot. But working around the schedule of a baby who only remains happy for a limited time before requiring another nap precluded our Gap trip. So, he's wearing sweatpants with a stain on the leg. I doubt anyone will notice or care. But I had wanted it to at least appear that I had tried to gussy him up. Oh well. We had to prop him up with pumpkins because he can't yet sit by himself for long periods of time. He tips. Here are some of the pictures:

It was a challenge to prevent him from eating the hay and pumpkins

Many hilarious antics were required to induce him to look towards the camera. Things always seemed to be more exciting behind him.

John, aunt Di di and my mom (she has not yet settled on what John should call her.)

He has begun to stick his tongue out frequently. I'm beginning to wonder if he's mocking me.

I want to write more about our trip but haven't yet had the time to sit down and compose anything. Hopefully this week.

For now, live it up! The night is young! And getting younger!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Back to Normal Life

We just arrived in Houston last night after a 10 day trip to San Antonio to visit family with a brief stint in Big Bend for John's first camping trip.

Back to normal life! I'll write more later but for now I'll leave you with these:

John says: "Camping is pretty fun but there is far too little bouncing involved."

"I'm just so excited about all these pumpkins!"

P.S. For the life of me, I cannot remember how to change the color of the title. Can someone tell me how to do it? The yellow isn't showing up.