Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mission Accomplished

Walking in the park last fall
We bought our house two years ago and love our new neighborhood. One of the main reasons we were interested in this neighborhood was because it's located next to a huge park and lake. We've enjoyed hiking and boating there for years, so being able to walk right in was irresistible.
I've always wanted to walk to the nature center in the park, but it's about two miles along the hilly trails and I could never talk my husband into going with me. So I stuck to the paths and trails I knew.
It was 80 degrees today and ridiculously nice out, so I tucked the Little Mister into his stroller, grabbed a bottle of water and an applesauce pouch (really? I eat applesauce pouches now?) and started walking. 45 minutes later, we were at the nature center!
Little Mister woke up as we arrived and we played. He wanted to eat, so I nursed him - with a great view of the lake and it was just fantastic. So relaxing.
I always imagined walking there with him when I was pregnant. Even if they are little dreams, it's really amazing when they come true.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tastes like Love

Make these cookies now.
These cookies are so good that I had dreams about them after I made them. They're buttery and sweet and spicy. They make you remember why fresh homemade cookies are so much better than anything mass produced. They are why I love cooking.

Molasses Spice Cookies
Barely adapted from Cook's Illustrated

  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup for rolling
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened 
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup molasses 

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in medium bowl.
3. Cream together butter and brown and white sugar until fluffy. Add yolk and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Add the molasses and mix until incorporated. (If you spray the measuring cup with oil, it's easier to get the molasses out)
4. Add flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until just incorporated. The dough will be rather soft.
5. Scoop dough and roll into balls by the tablespoonful. Roll dough balls in remaining sugar and place them on a parchment or silicone covered cookie sheet, about two inches apart. Bake only one sheet at a time until the edges start to look firm but centers are still soft and appear underdone - for about 11 minutes - rotate the baking sheet halfway through baking. 
6. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for five minutes, then transfer  to wire rack. Cool completely. Or eat warm because they're too delicious to wait.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Letting Go

How I remember every conference.
I helped plan an annual conference for five years before I resigned this year. This year's conference is being held this week, so I've been trying to think about how it feels to let go of something you were involved with for so long.
I definitely still feel like part of it, but blissfully removed from the stress. It's hard to think about something you've worked hard on just continuing successfully without you. I always said that my contributions were not irreplaceable, but I guess I always wanted to be a little bit irreplaceable!
It's been a few months since I worked full time and I've almost put that role behind me. But I know I could step right back into it tomorrow and barely feel like I missed a beat.
I don't think that staying at home is always easy, even when it's what you really want. There are moments of joy and bliss and moments of tedium or boredom. I always try to remember that even when I worked in the office there were just as many tedious tasks! Less laundry at the office, but probably more tedium. It evens out.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Cloth Diapers: Your Friends Are Using Them

7,020 disposables vs 24 reusable
When we decided to try to have a baby and I started my consumer research on the things we needed to buy, one of the first things I looked into was cloth diapers. I'd never actually seen one, but had seen friends on mention them casually on Facebook. I didn't know people still used them! Why would you bring such an anachronistic item into your home? Were they martyrs? Isn't there enough to do with a new baby?
I've seen estimates that the average child uses around 7,000 disposable diapers. The environmental impact of all those diapers had always bothered me, so I wanted to look into a reusable option. I quickly learned that there's a whole world of a modern cloth diapers. They're easy to use, are so much better for the environment and save buckets of money. I've been using them for three months and cannot figure out why more people aren't doing it.
Cotton Babies has a good overview of using cloth diapers
Honestly, they are almost as easy as disposable diapers if you have time for a couple of extra loads of laundry each week. We have had far fewer diaper messes since we started using them, and I'm super grateful for that!
We mostly use a style of diapers called pocket diapers. The diapers have a waterproof cover with a pocket you stuff with an absorbant cloth insert. There are dozens of options, but these are working great for us!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sleeping through the Night

Little Mister when he was 
one month old and would sleep
through anything all day long. 
I miss those days.
Despite going to the doctor about 20 times during a pregnancy and reading every book on the market, it seems like there are a few things they forget to mention to new parents. The most important one to us right now is that sleeping through the night for an infant actually means just about five hours of uninterrupted sleep. Little Mister falls asleep around 7:30 pm. That means he's accomplished sleeping through the night by around 1:00 am.
We're lucky. Our baby is a pretty good sleeper. He sleeps through the night, but he does not sleep all night long.
At four months old, our doctor said it's in the best interest of both of us to bring his night feedings to an end. Her advice was to let him cry for about 15 minutes when he would usually wake to eat. She thought two or three nights of that would do the trick.
Apparently Little Mister wasn't listening to her. If he cries for more than a few minutes he becomes wide awake and will stay that way for at least an hour. If I feed him, he's up for about ten minutes and then we're both back to sleep. I'm having a hard time accepting that being up for at least an hour longer by not feeding him is better than ten minutes of peaceful nursing!
We tried it and we're just not cry it out parents at this point. We'll continue gradually trying to convince him that he's not hungry when he wakes, but he might be just as stubborn as his mama.
My sleep deprived mind is too tired to remember the other things that I thought someone should have told me about newborns.
Do you remember?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Chicken Stock

6 cups of really good stock!
As I thought about my day, I tried to figure out if there was anything symbolic about it. Little Mister didn't sleep well last night, but I feel ok. I'm showered and dressed. I didn't straighten my hair, but it looks ok anyway. That all adds up to a pretty good day.
My primary activities included putting together the baby's new highchair, making dinner and making some chicken stock. The chicken stock is probably the most symbolic thing about the day. It's made of chicken bones that have been in the freezer since who knows when. For years we stashed the extra bones and I would say, "Oh, I'll try to make stock with those this weekend." But I rarely did it.
When I was commuting to work I just didn't have the time or energy to get extra stuff like that done. Today I was digging in the freezer for some lunch, found a bag of bones and thought about stock. Then I made it. I had the time and energy. Now we have tasty stock and we'll have tasty meals from it.
My life has changed in a lot of big ways in the past few months, but it's the little things that help me realize how happy I am with the changes.

Chicken Stock

This method was gleaned from probably dozens of sources over the years. It's flexible and you can make it with vegetables that have been around the crisper drawer a little too long.

Bones of at least one chicken (with meat removed, may be cooked or uncooked)
4-5 stalks of celery, roughly chopped, leaves and all
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 tsp peppercorns, whole
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
6 cups water

Add all ingredients into a pressure cooker. Cover with water - approximately six cups.
Bring to a boil.
Lock pressure cooker lid and bring to pressure.
Cook for 30-45 minutes. Follow guidelines for your cooker for times and releasing pressure.
Cool slightly and strain liquid through cheese cloth. Allow to cool and remove any fat that rises to the top.
Season with salt, but not too generously if you plan to use it in other recipes.

You may also cook the stock in a large pot instead of a pressure cooker. Bring everything to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 2-3 hours.