31 January 2012

Read: Next

NextNext by Michael Crichton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Bought this book for 50 cents at a garage sale down the block. It was an easy read, and there were some typical Crichton plot devices (everything goes to hell all at once). But there were way too many characters to keep straight, and it wasn't evident how they tied together, other than some sort of genetic modification being part of their story. And in the end things didn't get totally wrapped up for all the characters. I still don't know why the genetically modified turtles were in the book.

This book came out in 2006, before the oil spill, so I thought it was funny that one of his genetically modified underwater organisms was a coral that would glow "BP Clean."

View all my reviews

30 January 2012

Read: A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon SquadA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book because it was on the shelf at the library next to The Keep, and I recognized the title as having one the Pulitzer Prize for fiction last year (mainly because Jezebel had done a post about how the media covered her win -- including running a photo of the guy who didn't win with the story instead of a photo of her). Anyway.

The book is basically a collection of short stories that have overlapping characters. It also floats through time or is not linear. It's an interesting construct, although it was confusing at the beginning of some chapters to figure out who was who (especially the narrator) and how people fit in with the characters from other chapters.

I liked it a lot, and I think it would be fun to try to read all of the Pulitzer Prize winning books from the last ~30 years or more. Maybe something to do in my spare time.

View all my reviews

Recipe Reviews: Brown Sugar Chicken & Enchilada Casserole

Another day, another crock pot recipe. I had high hopes for this brown sugar chicken recipe. But it wasn't as great as I was hoping. I used chicken breast tenders, which fell apart. That was OK, since it just looked like shredded chicken. We ate it over rice and it had an OK flavor, but it needed some veggies -- or something.

Shawn made sandwiches with the leftovers for lunch, so I guess that's good to get double duty out of it. But in all likelihood I won't be making it again. It was fun to pour Sprite into the mix and see it bubble!

I made the chicken in one of the plastic slow cooker liners. I am starting to think that might not be wise. Who knows if the plastic is BPA free? If I won't microwave in plastic surely I shouldn't slow cook in it. So the next things I've made in my crock pot were straight in the pot.

The next was enchilada casserole, and it was pretty tasty. I forgot to put in the beans, but that was OK. And the tortillas in the middle kind of disintegrated so it was this tasty corn-mealy texture in that layer. We ate most of it and there was enough for lunch the next day. The beans would have stretched it further and probably added another layer of yumminess plus more fiber and nutrition. Next time.

24 January 2012

White House Greetings

Jane got a special card yesterday -- from the White House. I know it's just a mass message that they send, and somewhere an intern's job is to hand address responses to these requests and slip in the printed cards. It's still cool, and I think I will frame the card. The envelope (which I almost posted a picture of until I realized that it includes her full name and address ... d'oh) is a little grungy. Thanks USPS. :)



Want to get your own card from the White House greetings office? These are the instructions I followed (I did the snail mail route):

Once your baby is born, mail your request to:

    White House Greetings Office

    Room 39

    Washington, DC 20500

Alternatively, you can fax your request to 202-456-2461.  Include the following information in your request:

    * Name and address of the baby
    * Exact date of birth
    * Your (requestor) name and daytime phone number
    * Both parents' names
    * Any additional mailing instructions (if other than baby’s residence)

They'll send greetings for other things too. And I think it's v. weird that there's no online form option. Because who uses a fax machine these days?

23 January 2012

On the Record

Advocate Staff Photo
Last week Jane and I went to a Baby Sign language class at our local library. We learned the signs for four animals: cat, dog, rabbit, turtle.

A reporter and photographer from the Baton Rouge Advocate were there. Our picture was taken, and the reporter spoke to us after the program. The article ran today, and Jane's name was in the paper for the first time.

We're rounding up copies to put in her baby book and send to my Gran. I can't guarantee the link will always be up! I also screen captured the photo so I could keep it digitally.

Maybe in a few more months we'll try to catch one of the real classes that are offered. The words I really want her to know how to sign are "more," "all done," "hungry," "tired," etc.

Read: The Keep

The KeepThe Keep by Jennifer Egan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book got a glowing review on a blog that I read. So when I saw it was on the shelf at my local library I picked it up when I was there for a baby sign language program last week.

I finished it w/in 24 hours of starting it, so it's a quick read, although I tried to slow myself down to try to pay more attention to the language. It's stories within a story and is more than a little bizarre. The hardest part to get used to was the lack of quotation marks in most of the dialogue.

Its cool cover was intriguing to Shawn, but I'm not sure that he'll read it.

View all my reviews

22 January 2012

Recipe Review: No-Hurry Vegetable Curry

I made another Woman's Day recipe, this time a no-hurry vegetable curry. (Basically I'm making every single crock pot recipe I can find that sounds good. I'm in trouble because I just found A Year of Slow Cooking and have a window with about 15 tabs open with recipes to try.)

For the curry I couldn't find butternut squash (I looked at two stores so it must not be in season), but otherwise I pretty much followed the recipe. EXCEPT I think I let it cook longer than it needed. That made it a little thicker than I think curry is probably supposed to be, and I probably should have used more curry paste. It had a very mild flavor. It was pleasant, and we ate it happily, especially thinking it's pretty healthy for us -- lots of veggies and some light coconut milk and spice basically. We ate it with basmati rice.

I'm not sure that I'll make it again. It was OK and relatively easy, but it wasn't great. I think I need to start using my slow cooker liners though and see if that can make clean up a little easier. The sweet potato soup I made overflowed a bit into the base of the pot -- I was able to clean it up OK, but the liner would have prevented that/the overflow would have just gone on the counter, which is much easier to clean.

Not sure what I will make next, but maybe I'll start thinking about taking pictures. I just hate to use my big camera on anything other than Jane photos, and I still can't get my small one to connect to my computer.

21 January 2012

Read: G Company's War

G Company's War: Two Personal Accounts of the Campaigns in Europe, 1944-1945G Company's War: Two Personal Accounts of the Campaigns in Europe, 1944-1945 by Bruce E. Egger & Lee MacMillan Otts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book because my husband bought it for me for Christmas. It was on my Amazon wish list, and I put it there because my grandpa is mentioned in the book.

Gpa Ray was part of the G Company whose WWII work is described in this book. He was wounded in action and lost his right arm. When I was a kid I'd always thought that he'd lost his arm during battle and it was still there on the battlefield -- like if someone had just gone to get it he could have had it reattached. That was just a weird thing I made up in my head and definitely not anything anyone told me. The book explained that he was wounded by shrapnel and his arm was amputated at the hospital later.

So I'm glad to have learned more about my grandpa's experience, although he's really only mentioned briefly in the book everything is positive. I read the entire thing because it was interesting and I like first person, real life narrative. I wouldn't say it's a particularly well written book, but the subject matter is deeply engaging, even for someone who didn't understand half of the military terminology and abbreviations (which weren't always explained).

Also: reading this while taking care of a new baby put things in perspective. If I'm tired I can remind myself that I'm not sleeping on freezing ground and walking miles and miles -- or having to be sick while on the back of a truck that won't stop for bathroom breaks. And my dramatic-to-me decision about working is really nothing in comparison to what these infantrymen went through.

View all my reviews

20 January 2012

White & Pink Granny Square for Baby G



This is a granny square baby blanket that I made for Baby G. I used the Christmas blanket granny square that my Gran made for me as a pattern, although I added a few additional rows because I used sport weight yarn and Gran's Christmas one seems to be worsted weight. I'm really happy with the way it turns out. Hope Baby G enjoys!

Jane sleeps in front of Baby G's blankie

19 January 2012

Recipe Review: Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Soup

I've been getting into crock pot cooking. So far I've made a killer corn chowder and now this certainly healthier sweet potato soup that's a Woman's Day recipe.

I should have taken pictures, but I wasn't thinking about blogging about it at the time.

I did the recipe slightly differently in that I didn't spring for fresh ginger and I didn't buy the $7 cinnamon sticks and just used the powdered spices I had from the labor cookies (that didn't work).

I did have to buy the curry powder, so I'll be on the lookout for other recipes I can use it in.

Instead of big carrots I used baby carrots so I didn't have to peel them. I just guesstimated and ended up covering the bottom of my crock pot with cut-in-half carrots.

The recipe didn't say to peel the sweet potatoes so I didn't. The peel ended up pureeing into the soup fine, so I am guessing I did that step of the recipe correctly by leaving the peel (and its nutrition) in.

I didn't like the Greek yogurt as a topping, but the almonds are a must. Once the soup is pureed it seems a little baby food-like. The almonds add a great crunch and texture throughout the soup.

The soup's flavor is really great otherwise. And it smelled AWESOME while cooking. I wasn't sure how I was going to be able to puree it because it almost overflowed my crock pot. But my immersion blender worked beautifully and got everything smooth and creamy, even though there isn't any dairy in the recipe.

I don't know if Shawn liked it too much, and of course it made so much that I'll be eating on it for ages. So I decided to freeze about half the recipe to use later, and so I could get my crock pot washed for its next big adventure...

18 January 2012

Webcamming Wednesdays

They have a whole new meaning. AMLBO!

Two-headed Owen Max
Funny headgear
Sunflower baby!

16 January 2012

Weird Stuff: Trendy Top

I went to the gym today (I know, right?), and one of the TVs was on Mob Wives or some other such nonsense (I watch dumb TV but not THAT dumb).

ANYWAY, one of the commercials was for "Trendy Top," or the top that's not. It's basically a belly band being marketed to non-pregos to keep their butt cracks and bellies from showing when they wear clothes that are too small.

Here's an idea: WEAR CLOTHES THAT FIT.

Although I loved my belly band while pregnant for keeping up pants and covering up things when shirts got short I don't think it's the best concept for when you're not pregnant... but what do I know? I'm sure these are selling like hot cakes.

(Also I'm pretty sure you could just cut the top part off an old camisole or something to get the same effect?)

Friday Night

We had some friends over on Friday for tacos. It was mega fun, and their six year old daughter made use of the old digital camera I keep around for Owen to play with. He's taken pictures of things mostly in New York (my favorite being "say cheese, hand" and "say cheese, cup" when he was just a wee one of 4 or so). I'm pretty sure it was my main digital camera when Owen was born, so it's been around a while.

Anyway, she got some great shots -- she's got such a different angle than me, what with being somewhat shorter than me! Here are some of my favorites (although none of the photographer or her brother, since I can't exactly be splashing other people's kids on my blog, right?!):

Monkey PJ bottom

Elephant from Dear Zoo book

Jazz Hands?!

Cuddly Baby

Just kidding, I'm awake Baby

Smirky Baby

Let's take each other's picture!

Sweet Face

Rocker Chair

13 January 2012

Quilt Squares

Close up of the squares from the quilt that Gma Jane made me ~31 years ago. There are 12 squares in total, each one appears twice. The border is this cool yellow flower fabric. Aunt Lee Ann repaired a few places where it was looking rough from years of use. I distinctly remember using it for my dolls growing up too.

Croquet playing squirrel

Painting Bunny

Prancing Lamb

Puppy Sawing Logs

Singing Kitty

Swimming Puppy

12 January 2012

My Favorite Baby Products as of Two Months

Building on my initial baby gear thoughts post, I thought I'd add some more items to the list of baby products I've found helpful.

I'm not an expert on anything but my baby and what she likes at this time in her life, but hopefully these thoughts are useful, if for nothing else than for me to look back on when I want to reminisce about infancy.

I still love the Gerber prefold diapers for burp rags, and even better have got some pretty burpies as gifts. (If I had any sewing talent and scrap fabric I would turn my boring white ones into cute ones too!) The Boppy is still aces for nursing (although we can technically do it without the pillow it's still more comfy), and we still use the Aden and Anais swaddler blankets most every night. Although Jane does have a Halo sleep sack that's good too, since she doesn't really care about having her arms swaddled and actually prefers to sleep with them straight up as if she were in a hold up.

I didn't end up getting the fancy baby bath tub, although I'm sure it's great. I give Jane baths in the sink using this Infant to Toddler Tub with Sling. It fits just great in the double sink, and with my sink's spray nozzle I can get a good shampoo too (something some moms may not have to do if the baby doesn't have a full head of hair like Jane does).

I was tempted by this foldable Puj tub for travel, but when we went to Oklahoma we were able to take our tub with us in the van, and by the time we travel next Jane will likely be able to sit up unassisted, meaning a bath directly in the sink will be completely doable with a towel in the bottom for cushioning.

Some of my nursing favorites include "Mother's Love" nursing bras that I got for cheap on Zulily - with shipping worked out to be around $8 per bra. They're not cute but they work for me. I have a few other bras from Target or otherwise bought online, but I like the cotton Mother's Love ones the best. I use Johnson's breast pads, after reading a recommendation on a blog. I like them a lot, although I can usually find them cheaper at Target or Walmart than online.

I pump every day using an Ameda hand pump that I got at the hospital. If I had to do it more than once a day I'd want an electric model, and I'd probably rent it from the hospital, mostly so I wouldn't have a pump to throw away or store once Jane weans. I started pumping into the bottle that came with the pump and got some more like it for a total of 5. Now I pump into store and pour bags and am stocking the freezer -- they freeze flat and then I can stack them. We haven't actually used any of the milk yet -- but it's there when we'll need it, and I like to think it helps keep my milk supply up.

I haven't really found a bottle I like enough to recommend, mostly because Jane doesn't eat much from bottles, as I'm always around and it's just easier to feed her from the source. We've got a Dr. Brown's bottle that she did eat from when she stayed with Beth and Meme on Boxing Day, and another new mom recommended an Avent bottle that we have yet to try -- its nipple is supposed to be more like a breast.

Our cloth diapering adventure didn't go super smoothly. They definitely leak more than the disposables, and as much as I loved putting Jane in lots of different outfits in a day we kind of fell out of the cloth diapering routine when we traveled for Christmas. So we've been using Target up & up diapers mostly, although I'm sure the Amazon Mom Subscribe and Save would be cheaper in the long run. I'm not ready to totally give up on my idea of cloth diapering during the day. In any case we've found Seventh Generation wipes to be the best -- chlorine free and not so thick as to feel wasteful.

For getting around our best thing has been the Moby carrier. I use it every time we go to a store, mostly because she's too small to sit in the cart and her car seat is convertible, meaning it doesn't double as an infant carrier. (Safety note: those are NEVER supposed to ride in the front part of the cart -- always put the infant carrier/car seat into the big part of the shopping cart.)

Our favorite blankets are the hand made ones -- crocheted blankies and quilts. Jane is just starting to get into toys, so I'll probably do a separate post about those as she develops preferences. Most of her toys have been gifts. We'll also have to keep track of her favorite books -- so far she will listen to whatever I feel like reading. :)

I also am working on a post of the books I've read that I've found helpful (and those I haven't really thought much of). But we'll see when I can get myself together to write that up.

A baby picture for those of you who actually read this (or who just scrolled down)!

Chilling on a quilt made 31+ years ago for me by Grandma Jane
Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links used throughout.

10 January 2012

Freezer Food Wrap Up

About a month before Jane was born I did a bunch of cooking and freezing dishes for eating when she arrived.

We ate our last one -- crock pot chicken taco chili -- last week. It made a lot (something like 10 servings), so I was eating on it for ages. Probably the smart thing to do would be make a full batch then freeze half of it. Also it was a little too spicy, since I was a little heavy handed with the chili powder. Otherwise I'll definitely be making it again -- it's super easy and tasty. I need to find some more crock pot recipes.

My favorite of the casseroles was surprising: chicken enchiladas verdes. I thought it wouldn't be so great once defrosted and heated. But it was quite yummy. It had a lot of steps though, so not sure that it's something I'll make on the regular. But probably some.

My least favorite was the king chicken casserole -- maybe it was just that it was frozen and that kind of weirded out the tortillas (although that didn't happen with the enchiladas). I might try it again, but you have to cook the chicken first, which means a lot of dirty dishes.

If you've got any good crock pot or casserole recipes let me know. 

06 January 2012

One Word 2012: Baby

Clean, milk-fed baby: nothing better!
Reboot

The past couple weeks I've read the year-end wrap ups and forward looking posts on my favorite blogs.

I didn't write as much in 2011 as I did in previous years, mostly because the biggest thing to write about -- pregnancy -- was something I chose not to write about. So with less content my statistics went down and a year end wrap up about stats isn't very interesting anyway.

Other blogs did posts listing their favorite posts of the year or favorite photos. Again because the biggest part of my life in 2011 wasn't a topic on this blog it's not really worth it to me to wade through my year of posts to find anything I'd want to re-read or draw more attention to. (And all my Jane posts are recent, so to re-link to them would be slightly redundant?)

But one thing I do like is the "choose one word" meme for the year. It's like a theme word for 2012. And anti-resolution in a way. As I was driving today, and listening to Michael Buble while my daughter snoozed in the back seat, I thought about what my one word would be for 2012.

BABY.

I'm choosing her. I'm loving her. And by extension I'm loving my family and husband. And myself.

Because these last couple weeks since Christmas I've been obsessing over what to do -- job-wise, childcare-wise, etc. I was obsessed, and anxious worrying and thinking I didn't deserve what I wanted, and it was impossible for me to say for sure what it is that I want.

Nothing is finalized yet, but I feel like I have a direction.

I choose my baby.

My baby who I didn't think I'd ever meet. Who I didn't think I'd be able to carry. Who I love more than I ever thought possible.

I can't promise more posts in 2012 than 2011, no matter what happens with my work status. But I can say that when I write it will be rooted in love, because I am more rooted in love thanks to the family we have extended through the birth of Jane.

Epiphany 2012

The last day of Christmas -- Epiphany. Today we celebrate the Wise Men who traveled so far to worship Jesus.

Driving around town yesterday and today, Jane and I saw many trees lying on the side of the road waiting for compost pick up. It's sad somehow. Discarded.

On Boxing Day we bought a fake Christmas tree at Hobby Lobby for 66% off to use next year and beyond. But I'm not sure if that might be just as sad as killing a tree every year? It's a plastic tree. BUT that's my tradition and I actually love it. No mess, no allergens (I think that was a main reason we didn't have real trees). Now we have the space to store it, so why not?! And I don't have to live with the trauma of a dead tree carcass lying on my curb next January.

But I'm sure it's not the "green" thing to do. That would probably be getting a live tree including roots and then planting it in the back yard. I'm sure the process to make fake trees is full of chemicals and destructive things. But I'm looking forward to having a tree of our own.

One of my favorite pictures of Christmas 2011:


I wish I could have this sandwich hug every day! AMLBO, and Baby Jane Loves Cousin Owen!