Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Review: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby by Tracy Hogg

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I purchased this book following the recommendations of other new moms on babycenter.com (great website, by the by). My husband and I sat down to read it together, but after an hour going through some of her material, decided it wasn't worth continuing (I think we read the second and third chapters). Leaving her annoying writing style aside (for the sweet love of god, I'm not your 'luv' and don't like being talked down to), no part of her book is based on scientific studies or fact. The one study she does cite doesn't remotely support what she wants it to. From the good research that's currently out there, as discussed at kellymom.com and other websites, some of her basic ideas cannot be supported - letting your baby cry it out sometimes (harmful, does not equal independence!), feeding your baby every 3-4 hours (newborns typically feed more often in the beginning and babies cluster feed during growth spurts), formula feeding is just as good as breastfeeding (studies consistently show that breast milk is better for the baby in the short and long term)... I could go on.

The helpful things she does have, like the feeding and activity chart, and the list of baby's cues can be found online for FREE.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Baby Is Here / Birth Story

Felicity Brian McCready-Flora is currently five days old and is napping, swaddled on my lap as I type (I know, I'm talented). It has been an exhausting week, but thanks to my amazing mother and husband, an amazing week. I've typed out her birth story, and then there are pictures below.

Love from New York!

Felicity Brian’s Birth Story

On November 30th,  two days after my estimated due date, I had my first contraction around 3:30 PM. I’d been having prodromal labor contractions for four weeks, but could immediately tell that this contraction was different and most likely “the real thing.”

I started rocking on my birth ball and timing contractions. They started at about 45 seconds in length, two minutes apart. Within fifteen minutes, the contractions were within a minute and a half apart and were already intensifying and getting longer. As I was leaning over the bed through one, I had a small felt a small gush of water. I had my mom call Ian around 4:00 PM and tell him to come home immediately, and threw a few final things into our bags.

Ian was home within 10 minutes (he works two blocks away) and we were out the door a few moments after that. We have been working with the Brooklyn Birthing Center, which is a good 45 minutes away not in rush hour traffic. We attempted to hail a cab, but no one would take us so far due to changing shifts. I was on the phone with our midwives, telling them what was going on when a car service dropped someone else off across the street and offered to drive us.  As soon as we were settled in the car, my midwives called to say they wanted me to get to the nearest hospital – with rush hour traffic and the president and Justin Beiber in town for the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, they were concerned that we wouldn’t make it to them in time as the contractions were already over a minute in length and getting steadily closer together.

We changed course and were at a New York Presbyterian (Columbia University) within 10 minutes. When I was checked, I was at four centimeters. They admitted me within the hour and we set up in a birthing suite. The staff was very respectful of my wishes for a completely natural birth (barring no complications), said I would be free to move around, use the shower, and would be able to push in whatever positions I chose. 

By the time we’d been in the labor suite for an hour or so, they checked me again and I was at six centimeters and my water fully broke (apparently it only “leaked” earlier in the day). The contractions were getting increasingly painful and at this point I was getting little to no break in between them. Although I had planned on moving around as much as possible during labor, I had intense back labor (baby was in a posterior position) and my left hip had been giving me extreme pain for over a week, so it was most comfortable to labor sitting up in the bed; I could barely stand or walk. They did let me get into the shower at one point, which didn’t necessarily help with the level of pain, but the water was soothing.

My mom and husband were so helpful during this whole time – they put pressure on my arms and feet and legs when needed (not sure why, but that felt amazing), let me squeeze their hands, let me stare into their eyes during contractions, and even went through my positive affirmations with me (these were not really worked out beforehand, but, as I recall, ended up being, “I can do this,” “I’m working with my body, not against it,” and “Yes, yes, yes”). 

By 11:00 PM, I wasn’t getting any break whatsoever between contractions, they pain level was at a 9 or 10, the back labor was getting worse to the point where I was having difficulty breathing even when I wasn’t in the peak of a contraction, and my whole body was shaking. I began to really lose focus, could not longer keep my breathing under control, and started screaming through contractions. I thought I was in transition and knew that if I was eight or more centimeters dilated I could keep going. I asked for a check, and found I was still at six centimeters.

I was getting really tired and could not imagine going on much longer and was so disappointed to find that I wasn’t in transition. I asked about pain management options but was told the only option was an epidural. I had been dead set against getting one the entire pregnancy but kept thinking about a discussion in our birthing class about the difference between pain and suffering, and I had definitely moved out of the working-with-the-pain and was in active suffering and could not imagine going on any further. I reluctantly agreed to get an epidural.

My labor and delivery nurse was so encouraging throughout all of this. While she completely respected my desire to do things naturally, she also pointed out that I’d been in active labor for over seven hours with little to no break between really intense contractions with back labor and was unable to get into many positions that would help my labor progress more quickly. This helped me immensely; I had done my very best, and pain management does have its place.

The epidural took a little while to administer, but the relief was immense and unbelievable. Where I’d literally been writhing in pain and screaming thirty minutes before, I was completely calm. My body completely shut down and I curled up into a tight ball to be able to sleep. I was unable to do much more than doze, but it was good to rest and my mom and husband were able to sleep a little.

They checked me around 2:00 AM and I was just fully dilated. They turned down the epidural and had me start to push about thirty minutes later. Unfortunately turning down the epidural did not allow me to feel much of an urge to push, but the back labor intensified again. I pushed in a few positions and was even able to get into a squatting position for a few contractions, but I they couldn’t tell that I was making any progress and the baby’s heart rate was getting very high. The doctor came in to help deliver and unfortunately would only allow me to push in a supine position (from my reading, the worst position to push in). I was told that if I was unable to get the baby out within thirty minutes, they would strongly suggest a section. I did my very best, but without being able to feel the urge to push and the pain really amping up with the position I was in, the baby couldn’t get past the 2+ station. The doctor told me he was worried about the baby and wanted to do a section. I told him I really wanted to try to push squatting, but he wouldn’t let me. I was so tired and in so much pain at this point and felt I could not do anything more. We agreed to do the section.

Felicity Brian was born at 5:48 AM, 8 pounds, 6 ounces, 20 inches long. The pain medication left my body shaking for a couple of hours, but I was able to nurse her briefly in recovery and actually hold her, which was amazing. 

I never intended to give birth in a hospital, to get an epidural, or have a cesarean section (recovery is, frankly, a bitch). However, in light of how quickly my labor progressed and then stalled, I think that even if I had made it to the birthing center, we would have most likely transferred to a hospital in Brooklyn and the results would probably have been the same. I was told many times while I was pregnant that my body was made to give birth, which I still believe, but also that birthing never goes according to plan, you just have to do your best and roll with what happens. The only thing I wish had occurred differently was the option to push more in different positions. I will never be positive that I did everything within my physical power to push the baby out naturally on my own. 

That said, we are so in love with and amazed by our little daughter and grateful that she is healthy and well.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

An Update

Well, still here, still pregnant! As of today I'm officially 36 weeks and 5 days, which makes me full term on Monday. The baby dropped about a week or so ago and the contractions are revving up in intensity and frequency,* it's taking about three times as long to walk (waddle) anywhere, and we're getting really excited about having this baby in our arms.

The third trimester has really been peaceful and good for the most part. Yes, you're uncomfortable much of the time, really tired, and moving is painful, but I would take nine months of this over the PUPPPs rash at its worst in the summer (which only really bothers me at night, and I now know how to handle it), constant nausea, and horrific allergies. I'm not experiencing many of the common third-trimester major annoyances, such as heartburn (the only thing that gives me heartburn is oatmeal, which I now avoid), inability to get comfortable to sleep (thank you pregnancy pillow,** my hero), peeing-of-the-pants (not ONCE has this happened! I'm ecstatic about this), weepiness, ridiculous food cravings, hemorrhoids... And this is all good.

I'm also not nervous about labor. My co-worker tells me this is because I haven't been in labor before and I really should be panicking (thanks for the encouragement!), but I'm going to attribute it to my fantastic midwives who are encouraging and supportive and a vast list of women-positive books talk about how labor is a natural, healthy process that our bodies are designed to do with no/few interventions necessary.

As we are living in a one-bedroom apartment, the baby has a wall of one side of our room for her crib, changing table, and the dresser all three of will share. We have everything necessary except the baby's mattress and a changing pad and cover at this point. The baby's clothes are washed and waiting to be sorted and put away. The only projects that remain are making the labor/birthing playlist(s) and hanging the curtain in our bedroom. The idea was this - hang some curtains across the bedroom to create a sense of privacy/separation for us, and to create a hallway that goes to our bedroom (inspiration from Ikea.com, of course). We found a steel wire that we plan to drill into opposite walls, and some fantastic curtains to hang up. The only big problem is that we have no tools and very little mechanical abilities, so we'll see how this actually works out! It will look really nice once it's done... but the getting there will be something of a journey. It will most likely involve the throwing of some tools, lots of root beer and junior mints, much stomping around the room from Ian, and some coaxing from me.

Love from New York!

*My pregnancy books told me that as I enter the last month of pregnancy I may experience Braxton Hicks contractions but that they will not be painful. Bullshit.

**The pregnancy pillow is a large pillow that is U-shaped and oh-so-cushy. Ian and I call it "second husband" because it takes up so much room in the bed and I cuddle with it now instead of Ian.

Review: Let's Panic About Babies!: How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain, and Finally Turn You into a Worthwhile Human Being

Let's Panic About Babies!: How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain, and Finally Turn You into a Worthwhile Human Being
Let's Panic About Babies!: How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain, and Finally Turn You into a Worthwhile Human Being by Alice Bradley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sadly we didn't get through the whole book before we had to return it to the library, but this was so much fun to read through with my husband. Thank goodness for a lighthearted approach to pregnancy and having a baby to enjoy during the last (and quite ridiculous) month of pregnancy!

Four stars because sometimes it feels like the authors are trying a little too hard, but overall hilarious and a necessary dark view for this thing we call "the miracle of life" (who came up with that anyways?).

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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Review: Uncomfortably Close: A Novel

Uncomfortably Close: A Novel
Uncomfortably Close: A Novel by Lily Brett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I will admit I did not enjoy the first 30 pages or so; Brett's writing style seemed amateurish and the story didn't interest me. However, I always give books 50 pages before putting them down, and I was absolutely hooked by that point. Brett's characters are memorable and her writing is hilarious, particularly in how Ruth thinks (she has many neurosis), and the conversations between Ruth and her father, Edek. While Brett is no Wodehouse, I felt a similar sort of pleasure and appreciation for the lightheartedness while reading this story, and was similarly saddened when I finished the novel.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

I love NYC in the fall.

I had a perfect New York day today.

Ian and I met two friends for a fantastic brunch at 12 Chairs in Soho for brunch this morning. What does a pregnant woman really need except for some cheese blintzes and a lovely Israeli breakfast plate? (Answer from Ian: a whole lot). Really though, the food was fantastic, and my fresh mint tea was so good on a crisp morning.

After brunch, we went to the Film Forum and saw a matinee: The French Connection.

On our way home, Ian and I got off the subway a few stops early, purchased some chai and apple cider (respectively) and had a nice walk back to our apartment.

I can't say that I've seen any leaves changing colors yet, but everyone looks a little happier, a little less stressed out, and just a little more willing to smile. I'm looking forward to visiting our farmers' market tomorrow morning and getting some fresh produce for the week.

I think part of this change is an openness I'm learning to foster; I feel like I spent so much of the first and second trimesters of this pregnancy (and our move to New York) stuck inside various uncomfortable symptoms. Although it's never fun to not feel well, or to broken out in an awful rash, or... you name it, I think there is something to be said about dwelling on the awesome and amazing nature of what my body is doing, how all of these little inconveniences are for this new life, and how everything that is weird or gross or painful has a chemical/hormone behind it to help this new little baby grow and thrive!

In the first week of our birthing classes, the instructor talked for a few minutes about really living in the moment, whether you're having a great day, uncomfortable with the weight of the baby and swelling feet (what? who?), in labor, going on two hours of sleep with a colicky baby... no matter what. This is really fantastic advice; it made me think about how much time I've focused on the negative and not looked at the big picture or just enjoyed what has been happening.

As this will most likely be Ian's and my only child, and thus my only pregnancy, I really wish I had spent more of the pregnancy in an empowered, aware state. I wish that I had tried more to look at the positive and the beauty of what is happening, what we are doing and building together.

On that note, I'm off to do a little prenatal yoga before bed and practice my squatting.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fall is Here: Pumpkin Muffin Time!

I know, they sound odd, but these muffins are wicked delicious! I found a recipe on epicurious.com and tweaked it to my liking (and my attempts to be a little healthy in my muffin-making endeavors).

My changes:

  • I made 18 regular-sized muffins instead of the 6 giant muffins. Do I love a giant pumpkin muffin? Yes, yes I do! Would my midwife kill me if she knew the amount of carbs one of those has? Yes, yes she would.
  • I used all white whole-wheat flour, which made them a little less cake-like, but I'm okay with that
  • instead of using all oil, I used mostly applesauce (1/3 cup maybe?) and topped off the measuring cup with oil
  • I added about 1/4 cup ground flax
  • I added a decent helping of cinnamon
  • I added 1/2 cup of craisins to the wet mix with the crystallized ginger. I would recommend adding a full cup, 1/2 cup was not enough!
  • I adjusted the icing - I only had dark molasses and it was strong tasting the first time I made the icing. That batch was scrapped, and I remade it without the molasses, adding a little vanilla and a generous teaspoon of cinnamon.

Weekly Menu

  • Oven-Roasted Miso Sesame Salmon, served with Brown Rice and Stir-Fried Bok Choy
  • Moroccan Chicken with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Almonds, served with Whole Wheat Israeli Couscous (one of my all time, favorite meals!)
  • Salt- and Pepper-Crusted Pork, served with Roasted Parsnips and Carrots with Fresh Herbs
  • Spring Green Salad with Sausage, Sprouts, Apple, and Homemade Sage Croutons
 You may notice these meals getting progressively meat-packed. My midwife said the swelling in my feet would improve if I ate more protein. After doubling (at least) the protein I eat every day, my feet really do look and feel so much better. I wouldn't go so far as to say they are back to their normal size, but compared to where they a month ago, these feet are sexy!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Review: My Ántonia

My Ántonia
My Ántonia by Willa Cather

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've heard fantastic things about this book for years and finally read it. It was a nice, gentle read but I can't really say I loved anything about it except that Cather presented a strong woman as a central character, which is rare in literature. I'm actually surprised that so many people are so worked up about it. I can't help asking myself, did I miss something here? If so, we can only blame it on my gigantic pregnant belly and the fact that I exclusively read this book during rush hour on the 1 Line.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Weekly Menu!

It's been quite awhile since I've posted a weekly menu, but to be honest, it's been awhile since I've planned a menu! But, thanks to the bounty of our local farmers' market (less than a block from our apartment!), we've planned a menu!

  • Pork Tacos (using leftovers from our roasted pork loin with a chipotle honey glaze), with avocado and limes, and sauteed chard
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs with Rosemary, Baguette with garlic butter and a side salad
  • Stir-Fried Tofu, Eggplant, and Shiitake Mushrooms with Sesame Sauce, Brown Rice
  • Turkey drumsticks, roasted beets, and broccoli
  • Fish (TBD - whatever is fresh!), baked potatoes, and a farmers' market.
For breakfasts I'm making Banana-Walnut Muffins (supplemented with oatmeal and dried fruit, and granola with fruit and yogurt).

And... I'm making a Key Lime Pie for my sweetheart, because he is so grand!

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Well, we're in NYC and, after two days of fighting against the heat, our new AC unit finally got the apartment to a cool enough temperature for me to warm it back up again with baking!

My goal is start baking bread for us 1-2 times a week, but I thought I'd start with muffins this evening. Yum! This recipe is an adaptation of Morning Glory Muffins from the America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook, but I changed quite a bit. Enjoy!

The Yummy Muffins
Makes 12-14 Muffins

3 cups flour (I used three cups of white whole-wheat flour), sifted
3 Tbsp. flax seeds, ground (optional)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups grated apple, carrot, or zucchini (press the water out if using zucchini)
1 8-oz can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (toasted, preferably)

Heat your oven to 375 and lightly grease a regularly-sized muffin tin.

Whisk together the flours, ground flax seed (if using), 1/4 cup of sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

Using either a standing mixer or a hand-held mixer, beat the softened butter and 1 cup of sugar together on medium-high for 2-3 minutes, until completely smooth and a pale yellow. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Reducing the speed to low (medium low if using a standing mixer), add the sour cream and dry mixture a bit at a time. Beat until just incorporated.

Fold in the apple/carrots/zucchini, pineapple, coconut, raisins, and nuts, being careful not to overmix your batter.

Spoon the batter into your muffin tins. The batter will be stiff and you can fill the muffin tins quite a bit as the muffins will rise up nicely and should not overlap/burn. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the muffins.

Bake until they are golden brown and a toothpick/cake-tester comes out with a crumb or two attached, 23-27 minutes (rotating half-way through is preferable). After letting them rest for a minute or two, use a large spoon to flip the muffins out of the tin and cool on a wire rack.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

This Week's Menu

It's been so long since I've put a menu up, I thought I would for kicks. Our recent strategy has been planning 3-4 main meals and getting "cheater" meals to supplement (you know, pasta and pasta sauce, etc.). We've been eating out a lot, a combination of my many food whims and our combined deadlines, so no need to purchase food and have it go to waste!

Somebody may have also put chicken sausages into the shopping cart and has been eating them as late-night snacks with sauerkraut and ketchup. Please don't judge.

Heat Wave!

I believe we are having what you would call a heat wave. As in, it's 10:10 PM as I write this, and my weatherbug says it's currently 86 degrees outside. Crazy, Michigan.

Our poor little window AC unit is pumping as well as it can and "cools" our main room to about 74-80, the bedroom and bathroom are pretty intolerable, and even the apartment was just too warm for me today. I've never been really sensitive to heat before, but now if there isn't enough circulation and above 75 inside, I'm so darned uncomfortable. I'm going to blame the baby for this. Baby, I love you, but my goodness.

That and the ALLERGIES. I have never had seasonal allergies this terrible before. With the permission of my midwife, I'm taking double doses of Zyrtec (which she says is stronger than Claritin, should you feel miserable with Claritin like I was) and taking Benadryl to be able to sleep at night. And my throat and mouth are still constantly itchy, and my eyes are still watery and itchy. But I can breathe and am mostly functional, which wasn't the case last week.

My weatherbug says grass pollen has been high the past two days, so I'm going to blame the grass for my suffering. 

Anyways: Yay, Summer!

To escape from the heat today (after a ridiculously long nap), we ventured to our lovely, large library to sit in the cool and drink iced coffee. I love our library! After hanging out there until nearly close time, we went to Temptations for dinner for Indian food. And oh my goodness, I had the best dish I think I've ever had at an Indian restaurant: Lamb Methi. NOM to the NOMNOM.

Based on the taste profile and appearance, the closest recipe I could found online is here. This recipe is for paneer (cheese) instead of lamb and has peas mixed in, but I imagine otherwise it's a close comparison. Ian and I plan to visit the local Indian grocery store in a week or two and try to recreate this goodness. Seriously, I mean, I know I'm really into food right now (what?), but this was ridiculously good. If I wrote sonnets, I would write a sonnet about this sauce.

We move in about one month. The following things must be accomplished:
  1. Pack. Obviously.
  2. Find a buyer for our 2010 Yaris (interested, anyone?). We have an appointment for routine maintenance and a price check at the dealership this weekend, we'll see what they say.
  3. Find  movers / a moving method. So glad that the University essentially covers this part of our relocation. 
  4. Find homes for both of our kitties (this makes my heart sad, but it's necessary).

Now 10:31 PM, and it still says it's 86 degrees. Oh well.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cinco de Mayo

We usually go out for Cinco de Mayo and snag some tasty eats and margaritas, but in attempts to stick to our budget, I decided to do a little cooking at home.

And I'm going to CHEAT. I've been craving chicken mole, but do I have the patience, ingredients, time, or desire to make it by hand? No, no I do not.

The plan is to doctor some store-brought mole and serve chicken mole tacos with fresh queso fresco, guacamole with poblanos, and caldo verde. I'll cheat some more and use a frozen margarita mix so I can make a virgin one for myself. And it will be a delicious, cheater's meal.

I do plan on making my own coconut flan, that will redeem me a little, right?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

To-Cook Recipes

For some reason I can't save into my recipe-box in epicurious.com right now, and I'm lusting after... well, all food.

So, as part save-for-later and part blog entry, here are some desserts I'm dying to try:
And some main courses that sound like heaven right now:
 What have we learned? Apparently I'm craving really fatty and delicious things - lots of CREAM in these recipes, which wasn't intentional, I swear. Also, meat. Yummy, yummy meat.

Okay, enough. I'm a hungry, pregnant woman and I'm going to go cook some dinner before I start nomming on my hand.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Sunday Night

It's shortly after midnight on a Sunday evening. Ian and I got back from Honduras very late last night (we visited my sister, Sarah, and her husband Jason, and their wee babe, Josiah). Our trip was really great - it was wonderful to see where Sarah and Jason have been living for over two years, and just to hang out. There was much reading, lots of cooking together (and good food!) - a very restorative and baby-full trip.

Josiah was the first baby Ian ever held. Despite initial nerves, Ian is a natural and great with babies, at least this one.

Today was spent trying to catch up and get moving.

Overall, I'm really feeling very much better. Apparently my body is adjusting to the pregnancy hormones swimmingly. I'm sleeping much better, am done feeling green (for the most part), and while I still have much less energy than normal and some headaches, I'm not feeling low overall or terribly ill. Which is fabulous. I think, all and all, I really only had about 2-3 weeks of the greens. Compared to some women, I think I'm rather fortunate.

I also am told I have "the glow"... and have a cute little Buddha belly! This is my favorite part so far. It just 'popped' this last week. According to my endless ravaging of pregnancy blogs, most women don't start showing until they are well into their second trimester, but I guess since I'm so darned short, there isn't room for everything! I'm a strong believer in the full belly maternity pants (and don't regret getting them so early either). My only hope is that... if I look like I'm 4-5 months just starting into my third month (10 weeks today), I don't turn into a monster/whale/elephant later on. Sarah assures me this won't happen, but I've got to be worried about something, so I'll choose that.

But the forgetting! Ian and I now have a song called "pregnancy brain," because I seriously can't keep track of anything. Today I lost (and then found) not only my ken ken book, but two cookbooks, my keys, my purse, and my wedding ring (had to take it off to make some pizza dough). Although, I am happy to report that all burners are off, and I even remembered to turn the oven off immediately after using it, AND remembered to close the freezer. True progress.

We visited Babies 'R Us today on a pregnancy pillow hunt and ended up doing a little pre-registry navigation for prices and ideas. It's exciting to see Ian getting excited about the baby and what kind of crib we'll want. And the fact we both made it over 5 minutes in BRU? Amazing. Truly amazing.

This evening I made a late dinner of Asparagus and Ricotta Pizza, as found in the Real Simple magazine I found in the airport yesterday. So tasty! We used a frozen pizza dough which ended up being quite a bit thicker/fluffier than the crust pictured on the website, but it was delicious all the same.

I also made some cream scones from my very favorite cookbook, The New Best Recipe by the Cooks Illustrated team (quick plug - most delicious everything, and apparently now only $24.50? If you don't have this essential cookbook, even if you are a vegetarian, you should get it). I found a nearly similar recipe here as I didn't want to type out my own adaptation. I'll just say that I used white whole wheat flour to give them a little body (10 oz), and made an 8 inch round, which I cut into 8 slices to make the scones. Also, a word to the wise, if you are too lazy to make your own lemon curd, for heaven's sake, buy the $8 jar instead of the $4 jar. I had to resort to strawberry jam... and now my project is to find a recipe to cook up the cheap lemon curd. Any ideas?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

It's my blog, I can whine if I want to, whine if I want to...

It's my blog, I can whine if I want to, whine if I want to. You would whine too if it happened to you...
(or maybe you're a better person, one can only hope).

My primary role? An incubator. A short, "mildly overweight" (thanks caloriecount.com, you make it not seem so bad) incubator. As of today, April 16th, 7 weeks and 5 days pregnastic/pregtastic. And I'm really ready for Ian to take a turn (what, that's not how it works?!?). I try to keep a positive profile for FB and the world, but it's my blog, and I can whine if I want to:
  • Nausea: whenever, however, after whatever; as far as I can tell, I have no way of predicting when or what makes the nausea happen, nor does anything really seem to alleviate it. Just comes and goes in waves, doing it's thang. 
  • A serious case of the bloaties. Gross. I'm surprised my husband still loves me; I'm pretty sure I fart on his legs all night long.
  • What is sleep? I don't know. It takes an extra hour or two to fall asleep and actually stay asleep, and then I wake up 3+ times in the night. So I'm getting less sleep when I need more sleep. 
  • The Ladies: I was on the larger side before but have elevated up an additional cup size or two, and my trusted shelf tanks/ sleep bras = "wake up in pain because you rolled over or coughed in your sleep" bras. Yeah. I'm now sleeping in an high impact sports bra (as advertised, best for running, tennis, and high intensity aerobics. Or sleeping, right?). I know the instant I try to shop for a new bra, I'll explode out of it in a rush of hormones, so as of right now, I'm living in denial of my cup-flowith-over situation.
  • These crazy taste buds! Bitter and sour are amplified to the point where I very nearly sugared my salad tonight post a smattering of Italian dressing. But my cats would've judged me, so I abstained.
  • Sneezing makes my uterus contract, or my ovaries hurt, or something. (So anatomy isn't my thing)
  • I want to eat everything, but never what is put in front of me. So now I'm just picky and rude. Not how my mother raised me. 
  • More caffeine please! Only 1-2 cups of tea to get me through the work day? Really?!? 
  • Tylenol actually doesn't help a headache or migraine. I've had two ridiculous headaches that drove me to tears in the past two weeks.
  • The dreaded RLS. Don't believe Restless Leg Syndrome exists? Fool. I was an antsy bed-companion before the whole baby thing, now it's a whole lot worse.
I think the real problem is that I'm working almost full time, am finishing finals, and am pregnant. It all equals a lot of stress and not a lot of time for relaxation or the kind of sleep I need, plus I get crusty when I'm tired, hungry, or don't feel well... which is kind of all the time.

Ian is wonderful though. My wonderful partner, my heart, my love. He only gets mildly annoyed when I leave cooking or clothing trails. He does most of the cooking, he does most of the cleaning, all of the dishes, and addresses the litter and feeding/quieting of the kitties. He holds me and massages me and lotions my itchy back and tells me how great I'm doing (he's encouraging, that one!).

Okay. Whining done and out of my system. I'll be a beacon of positivity and pregnancy bliss in a week or two.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Review: Understanding Sexual Violence: A Study of Convicted Rapists

Understanding Sexual Violence: A Study of Convicted Rapists
Understanding Sexual Violence: A Study of Convicted Rapists by Diana Scully

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a comprehensive, interesting study with great social and feminist theory. My only complaint is that it is dated, especially in conversation with the literature review.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Blackberry Scones for Lovers

Blackberry Scones

These scones are healthy with fruit, whole grains, and flax, and only about 300 per serving, although they yield a large scone. They are also fast, only about 25-30 minutes from start to finish

This is a great basic recipe you could add almost anything to. I used blackberries when I made these as that was what I had on hand, but they would be good with some grated lemon zest, or some minced crystallized ginger, or even shredded ginger if you put it in the wet mix. You could also experiment with almond or another flavored abstract. I really want to try the following combinations: dried cherries and walnuts, lemon and ginger, and raspberries, white chocolate, with almond extract.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 - 1/4 cup ground flax (optional)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar
5 Tbsp. cold, unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
2 eggs, room temperature, plus one egg white
1/2 cup skim milk
about 1 cup frozen blackberries (I chopped mine in thirds so they were still in fairly large chunks . I would recommend keeping these frozen until everything else is done)

Heat the oven to 425F. Lightly butter or grease a large baking sheet.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, flax, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry mix until it resembles small crumbs and is integrated fairly thoroughly.

In a medium bowl, whisk the 2 whole eggs, then add the milk. Using a wooden spoon (as the mixture will be thick and sticky), stir the liquids into the dry mix until just moistened. Very carefully (especially if you are using fresh berries!!!), fold the berries into the mix.

Turn the dough onto a lightly-floured surface and flatten into a circle that is about 3/4-inch thick. Don't worry about the dough being perfectly level; uneven scones are the prettiest! Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into six wedges and carefully transport them to your baking sheet. Whisk the egg white, and lightly brush on the scones.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until they are golden brown.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Steak Tacos and Other Pressing Business

**Addendum: We found out I was pregnant about 22 hours after I published this post, which completely explains the weird sleeping which continued throughout the whole first trimester, and the steak taco thing.**

And so ends another crazy week! My sleeping has been erratic at best - it's not just that Ian and I characteristically go to bed too late, but I'm having trouble actually staying asleep when I fall asleep. So, the first hour or two is me drifting in and out of sleep, which leads to me being really annoyed at myself (and the world!!!), which doesn't help. And then it's waking up 3-5 times in the middle of the night. So not cool. Last night I sleep all the way through, cause for celebration all around! I'm hoping that trend continues. I've started doing yoga every night for 20-30 minutes before bed, so hopefully (besides learning how to better open my creaky hips) my sleeping will improve as a result.

 I met with my gynecologist on Friday to check out my lady parts and give the a'okay for baby plans. I love her - she's about 50-55 but wears zebra clogs and has a pink streak in her hair (but not in a trashy way, it's very Ann Arbor). I think I'm much more worked up about my health and weight and nutrition than she is, which is both calming and unsettling.

Ian and I realized this week that we may not be able keep our kitties when we move to NYC, depending on what housing Columbia offers us. But, even if they do allow pets, a baby and two kitties in a wee, quite probably one-bedroom apartment? No bueno. When we adopted Vixen and Peter, we had no idea that we would be (most likely) down-sizing living spaces, or planning to procreate so quickly! I say this as Peter is laying on my lap on his back receiving belly rubs and purring like a little truck, and it breaks my heart. We have been brainstorming ways of putting a kitty or two on loan until our situation stabilizes. Anyone for a heart-breakingly fabulous cat for a year or two?

Ian and I have been driving into Ann Arbor on Wednesdays and over the weekends to work in coffee shops or at Tanner Library (the philosophy library to UM). We've been experimenting with all sorts of little places. Today we drove in with hopes of getting lunch at Zingerman's Deli, but even at 3:00 PM they had a line out the door for a sandwich. We stumbled across my favorite tea store, Tea Haus. Tea Haus recently expanded and now has a lovely little tea room. We shared a few pots of tea (English Breakfast and Diplomat's) and had scones with real clotted cream with an assortment of lemon curd, strawberry jam, and marmalade. Heaven. I may be the fussiest person this side of the Mississippi (as my terribly understanding and patient.. and brutally honest husband could attest to), but I am easily satiated as well. What a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

And finally...

I was craving steak tacos, so Ian and I traversed to battle the fripperies of Whole Foods to find some organic veggies and responsible meat for tacos. Nomnom! (maybe these are actually fajitas? Who can say)

Steak Tacos with Red Peppers and Onions and Avocado Salsa
We purchased 1/2 pound strip steak, which was about 2 generous tacos each. We used Ezekiel's sprouted whole grain tortillas, soft, healthy and really delicious!

Steak Marinade
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
juice of 1-2 limes
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup red or white wine or beer (you could substitute broth but add a little sugar)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chile powder
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of pepper
splash of favorite salsa (optional)
2-4 crushed garlic cloves
1/2 - 1 lb strip steak, cut into thin strips, against the grain

2 Tbsp oil
1/2 - 1 sweet onion, cut into 1/4 inch strips
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch strips
small-medium tortillas
Cheese to serve (would be good with goat cheese, queso fresco, cheddar, or monterrey jack)

Avocado Salsa
1 avocado, cut into cubes
1/3 cup salsa verde (jalapeno or poblano based)
juice of 1 lime
pinch of salt

Mix the marinade ingredients and add the steak. Add more liquid (wine/beer/broth/salsa) if need to cover the meat. Let this rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes, but preferably 1-2 hours.

Right before making the veggies and meat, prepare the avocado salsa but stirring together the diced avocado, salsa, lime juice, and salt. Keep the pit in the salsa until you serve to keep it as fresh as possible.

Heat nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp. oil and heat until almost smoking. Add the onions and saute. When the begin to brown, add 2-3 Tbsp of the marinade. Cook down liquid and brown onions until soft and carmelized. Add sliced peppers, again adding some marinade and a little salt. Reduce the heat a bit and cook until the peppers are crisp-tender and the liquid is cooked off. Set the vegetables aside and cover to keep warm.

Add 1 Tbsp oil to the pan and heat. Drain the steak (we want as little liquid in the pan as possible at this point) and add it to the hot skillet in a single layer. You may need to cook in batches if you are serving more than 2 people. Cook about 2 minutes on each side until the juices are running clear (or to your preference).

Serve the tacos with steamed tortillas and all the fixings. Nomnom!

Oh Boy (or whatever you are)

This coming week I am giving a paper twice. Neato, my first academic presentations (woot!). My research is based on the work of Anne Fausto-Sterling, a feminist biologist and author at Brown University who essentially argues (based on scientific data, historical research, and in observation of current culture) that the binary of sexual categorization (male/female, XX/XY) is false and product of our culture and times. I think take that theory and apply it to intersectionality in the discussion of gender formation and sexual categorization, and then discuss this as it applies to feminist methdology and epistemology. And all in 15 pages!

My presentation on Monday is at our Eastern's graduate research fair - I'm not really nervous, and I'm not even sure if anyone will show up. Practice run! Then I present at the Annual Michigan Women's Studies Association conference this coming Saturday. This is big, at least for little me. Yipes/Eeps/Egad!

So, anyways, cross your fingers and wish me luck (and lack of flat tire when Handsome and I drive to Grand Rapids this weekend).

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Review: Maisie Dobbs

Maisie Dobbs
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

While this was a charming, fast read, I'm not sure what all the hype was about. It's a bit tame (idealistic maybe is a better word?) and the "mystery" wasn't that gripping. It's an unfair comparison, but I'll stick with Dame Christie.

 I mailed my copy to my mom. I think she might enjoy this more.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

BlackBerry Ginger Ale

So, now that, we're, you know, trying to... knock me up, alcohol is out. But this doesn't eliminate delicious beverages or a little kitchen creativity.

New Favorite Thing: ginger ale, frozen blackberries, and a sprig of rosemary.

You could probably mix vanilla vodka or gin or coconut rum in if you wanted to, but you really don't need it.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Sweet Souffled Ricotta Cakes (aka really delicious, fluffy pancakes that will melt your cold, cold heart)

My mom mailed me Vegetarian Suppers by Deborah Madison for my birthday (thanks Mummy!). Ian and I had a friend over for brunch this morning and I cooked some delicious little pancakes for us based on this recipe.

Sweet Souffled Ricotta Cakes
Adapted from Deborah Madison

This recipe could be either savory or sweet. We topped our pancakes with honeyed Greek yogurt and fresh fruit, and with homemade pearsauce, but maple syrup or whipped cream and berried would be delicious as well. You could also omit the sugar and make savory pancakes. Fresh herbs mixed into the batter would be quite nice, or served with a light vegetable puree. 

3 eggs, separated
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup milk (skim, whole, or almond)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon sugar (if sweet, omit if you are making savory pancakes)

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks until smooth. Add the ricotta cheese, stirring until well blended. Then add the milk and butter, again stirring until well blended. Sift in the flour, baking soda, and salt, adding the vanilla and sugar once well blended. Set aside.

With a hand beater or standing mixer, beat the egg whites until they reach soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter until no streaks remain.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat, with butter or oil if desired. When pan is hot, reduce heat a little and drop 1/4 cup of batter at a time to make smaller pancakes. Flip after 1-2 minutes, when the first sides are nicely browned (be careful, the batter will still be a bit loose and will bubble on top when they are ready to flip like a traditional pancake!). Serve immediately.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mollie Katzen's Spinach-Rice Casserole

As today was the first get-back-on-track food day I have two delicious recipes to share!

Spinach-Rice Casserole
Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen

We gave this recipe a solid 'A' in our cookbook notes. It's easy to make and a delicious, wintery, comfort-food. We made this recipe with cheddar and milk from our co-op, but you could make this a vegan recipe if you chose to (although it's really lovely with the cheese). While you can use short, medium, or long-grain brown rice, you will save yourself calories by avoiding short grain brown rice. The broccoli slaw can be found by the salad mixes in the produce section. Our mix was a "rainbow mix," with a little bit of shredded carrots and cabbage in addition to the broccoli. Yum!

1 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice
1 Tbsp. butter (or olive oil/margarine if you're going vegan with this)
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups shredded broccoli slaw mix / diced broccoli stems and florets
2 bunches fresh spinach, stems removed and roughly chopped
2 tsp. salt
5 garlic cloves, minced
dash of nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
3 eggs, beaten (omit for vegan)
1 cup milk (omit for vegan)
1 - 1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (omit for vegan)

Cook the rice per the manufacturer's instructions. When the rice is finished, remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

While the rice is cooking, heat the oven to 350F. Heat the butter in a dutch oven or deep skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion for 5-7 minutes until it start to brown and soften. Add the broccoli and a few teaspoons of water. Continue to saute, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli turns bright green and starts to soften as well. Add the spinach, garlic, and salt. Continue to cook over medium heat, about 5 minutes or until the spinach wilts and cooks down. Remove from heat and mix in the cooked rice, nutmeg, cayenne, and 1/4 cup sunflower seeds (not full 1/2 cup!).

Beat the eggs and milk together until well combined. Pour the milk-mixture over the vegetables and rice and stir, adding the cheese until everything is well combined.

Spread into a 9x13 inch baking pan (you will probably need to grease if you aren't adding any dairy products). Use a scraper to press the mixture down evenly. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds on the top of the casserole.

Bake, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes until the casserole is heated through and is beginning to brown on top. Remove and let rest for about 5 minutes, then serve!

Farewell February, Hello March

Two observations:
  1. Almost no one reads this blog (which is fine by me)
  2. Ian and I post much of our activities and big news on our joint blog, Bling, Blang, Blung
Which is why I'm about to get real personal on this blog.

So, if you've been tracking our blog, you will know that Ian completed his job search, was offered a three-year fellowship at Columbia University, he (well, we) accepted the offer, and are planning to move to New York City in July or August of this year. This is perhaps the most exciting and, at the same time, terribly frightening thing we've done together. The other option was a tenure-track position at Wayne State University. While this job had (we think) greater security and would've kept us in the area and allowed us to buy a home, of course the prestige of Columbia is much greater and will therefore be much better for Ian's overall career. That and we're both really ready to be out of Michigan and have been for awhile.

However, a we weren't really counting on taking a three-year position. We were more thinking that any offer Ian would take would be a tenure-track job, thus more than three years somewhat guaranteed in one place, which would have allowed me to start my graduate work in the next year or so for my doctorate. I by no means regret our decision (and it was fully our decision, let me be clear), but this throws a wrench in my long term plans, which went a little like this:
  1. Ian get's offered tenure position at school and starts in Fall 2011
  2. Rachel either gets in same grad school to start Fall 2011 in Psychology program due to spousal hiring/promotion, or starts same or area program Fall 2012
  3. When Rachel finishes classes in 2014-2015 and starts working on dissertation, Rachel and Ian have bambino. 
  4. Rachel continues grad school and finishes dissertation/graduates 2017-2018, right when Ian is either given tenure at current school, or goes back on the market.
  5. Rachel either finds job in current area school or in professional, related field, or Rachel and Ian go on job market together and spousal hiring more than likely provides jobs for one or the other, depending on who the shinier candidate is at that time. 
Dilemma!  In this plan, I have a baby in 3-4 years (before I turn 30), and start on my doctorate in the next year and half! However, I can't do both of those things the way that I originally wanted. So I bottled. And bottled. And bottled. And then, after I exploded into a ball of tears and snot in a feminist crisis in Ian's arms last week, we created the following possibilities:

The Feminist Dilemma Flow Chart

You may need to blow that up to read it. It's intense.

So, after creating the flowchart (currently on our whiteboard by the door), I sat and thought. And thought. My lovely husband who is so kind and beautiful to me left most of the decision up to me. Having flushed out all possible scenarios and their pros and cons (like the planning, goal-orientated nerds we are), yikes! It really came down to the following questions for me:
  1. What is more important, family or my graduate degree?
  2. Do I have other career options that will be fulfilling and viable besides going further in academia?
  3. Are we ready for a baby?
  4. Can Ian and I really last for 2+ years in a long-distance relationship? Am I willing to give up our intimacy and proximity for my career goals?
 I thought these things through good and hard, read a few books, talked to my best friend and my academic adviser. What it comes down to us, no, I am not willing to seriously entertain the idea of being apart from my husband whom I cherish and love. If we were in opposite positions, where I had the degree and he didn't, he would do the same for me. We have been together for three years and have established a wonderful relationship that has a good foundation that is ready for not only the challenge of living in New York, but starting a family as well. Although my first career goal is to get my doctorate and research, I do have other career possibilities that excite me, whether they're temporary or become fulfilling and what I want to pursue in the long term.

And the awesome thing is, after we made this decision together (Rachel: 75%, Ian 25%), I feel totally and completely happy and at peace about it. Ball of tears and stress? Goodbye!

So: pre-conception gyno visit scheduled for three weeks out to make sure my medications and vaccinations are in line, and obsessive reading on my end, which leads me to the next big, and quite personal, topic: weight.

I last 15-20 pounds before my wedding last spring and was down in the upper 120's in the "healthy" weight range for a lady my height. And... starting on my lovely honeymoon and following, I, for the most part, stopped watching portions, listening to my body, or sticking with any sort of exercise plan. And guess what? I gained every pound back in 6 months, which is something I'm not proud to admit. A few times I've gone on a week-long kick to try to start exercising again, but nothing has really stuck, just some shame (and, to my great dismay, an unholy tightening of clothes on my torso).

Before we start trying for a baby, I want to start treating my body right again. Even if I'm not in my ideal target weight, I want to have 30 minutes of activity, whether it's aerobics or yoga in my living room or a long walk after dinner. I want to make sure I'm staying within my calorie goal eating good food - we have been eating out and being lazy in our cooking way too much, and that has to stop.

Today was the first day, and overall, I think it went really well.

I'm really excited. Now that we've decided we want to start trying for a baby, I can't wait to make sure I'm in good shape for pregnancy and for the whole process! Ian is really excited as well (of course we wouldn't be doing this if he wasn't completely on board!).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Review: I'm Okay, You're a Brat!: Setting the Priorities Straight and Freeing You From the Guilt and Mad Myths of Parenthood

I'm Okay, You're a Brat!: Setting the Priorities Straight and Freeing You From the Guilt and Mad Myths of Parenthood
I'm Okay, You're a Brat!: Setting the Priorities Straight and Freeing You From the Guilt and Mad Myths of Parenthood by Susan Jeffers

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I suffered through over half of this book before I finally dropped it for good. I thought maybe it would eventually organize itself into something thought provoking based on the reviews, but Jeffer's writing is unorganized, lacks depth, and isn't helpful at all at answering the questions that would lead a parent or potential parent to this book. I can understand how a really frustrated parent that went into mother/fatherhood with glossy expectations would find solace in Jeffer's words, but an essay would suffice. To save you the trouble, here are Jeffer's main points:

  • Jeffers loves her kids but really disliked being a parent and seems to regret procreating (apparently all of her friends and examples feel the same way)
  • Only a select few find joy and fulfillment in having kids
  • Children are messy, angry, crabby, selfish, and will fill you with rage and probably wreck your life
  • Children will ruin your marriage/relationship

If you are deciding to have or not have kids, or the timing to do so, I would strongly recommend The Parenthood Decision by Beverly Engels. This is an extraordinarily helpful read that helps you sort through motives, readiness, and discusses having children in relation to your goals as an individual and a couple.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Review: Thinking Critically about Research on Sex and Gender

Thinking Critically about Research on Sex and Gender
Thinking Critically about Research on Sex and Gender by Paula J. Caplan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fantastic primer to thinking about questions of gender and sex in social sciences research. It was a little basic for my current interests, but a fantastic introduction to the issues. I wish this book was required reading in any intro to psychology course.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: Exploring Women's Studies: Looking Forward, Looking Back

Exploring Women's Studies: Looking Forward, Looking Back
Exploring Women's Studies: Looking Forward, Looking Back by Carol R. Berkin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I finally got through this whole book of essays for a project for a professor I'm working with. After having to write on each one, I'll say this: some of these essays are amazing, thought-provoking, and well-written. Other essays should have been edited out and had nothing to do with the theme of the book.

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