RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: January 2012

Mother to One

I admire the mom at Costco pushing a cart holding twin babies with two more young children in tow. Kudos to the dad walking down my street with a baby strapped to his chest, a three and five year old beside him and two dogs on a leash. They give me perspective. I see them and think “wow, how do you do it?” Even as a single mom, which has its share of perks and drawbacks, I’m not outnumbered. It’s one on one – Mommy and Leia.

20120125-234320.jpg

Then I read this and it struck a deep chord. To The Mother With Only One Child. I first saw it on my Facebook newsfeed but forgot to bookmark it. I spent a good 20 minutes searching key words from memory until I found it again.

To become a mother, I had to learn how to care about someone more than I did about myself, and that was terrible.  But who I am now is something more terrible:  the protector who can’t always protect; the one with arms that are designed to hold, always having to let go.

Dear mother of only one child, don’t blame yourself for thinking that your life is hard.  You’re suffering now because you’re turning into a new woman, a woman who is never allowed to be alone.  For what?  Only so that you can become strong enough to be a woman who will be left.

When I had only one child, she was so heavy.  Now I can see that children are as light as air.  They float past you, nudging against you like balloons as they ascend.

Dear mother, don’t worry about enjoying your life.  Your life is hard; your life will be hard.  That doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong—it means you’re doing it right.

Advertisements

Week 3: Lemon Bars

There’s a lemon tree at my Grandparent’s house (which is now my Mom and Uncle’s house). Growing up we also had a plum tree and an apricot tree. The lemon tree is the only one that has lasted through the years and it produces tons of yummy yellow fruit. Leia heads straight for the backyard to pick them when we visit. Then she eats a slice or two, which I realize is probably horrible for her tooth enamel. But she comes from a family of lemon eaters – sometimes I peel and eat them like an orange.

My Mom’s birthday is Sunday and I’m in charge of dessert. I had this big bright bowl of lemons, so I went to one of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen, and put my own spin on this recipe for Lemon Bars.

I made the version for thinner bars because I only had 4 eggs. After cooking the crust I realized I could have made it in my 8×8 pan to make a thicker bar.

Crust:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (her recipe calls for granulated sugar but I was running low on that too!)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup finely diced walnuts (they looked so lonely in the pantry, I needed to incorporate them)
  • pinch of salt

Filling:

  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used 4 lemons)
  • the zest from those lemons
  • 2/3 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a large sheet of parchment paper in a 9×13 pan. I prefer parchment to nonstick spray.

Baked crust

 

I put together my crust a little differently. I sifted the powdered sugar, flour and salt together. Then I cut in the softened butter with a pastry blender under it was coarse and lumpy. Press onto the bottom of the pan – it had to be spread pretty thin, so I definitely think this would work better in an 8×8 pan. Sprinkle with walnuts. Bake for 20 minutes, or until crust is very lightly browned.

 

I press a tablespoon upside in the lemon to juice it

 

For the filling whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 25 minutes (longer if you’re making more filling). You want to cook it a little past just firming up. Let cool to room temperature, dust with powdered sugar, then place in the refrigerator to chill.

Ignore the nails. Only pay slight attention to how awesome the new iPhone can get a close up. Now, really look at that delicious filling! Crust could be thicker, but this recipe was a winner!

I could have pressed the walnuts into the crust or mixed them in with the mix. When I added the filling the walnuts sort of floated up and into the batter. Not a deal breaker, but something I would do different next time. There will definitely be a next time!

Week 2: BBQ Turkey Meatballs

I bought a huge bag of frozen turkey meatballs at Costco. They seemed like a good choice for a quick and easy protein, different from our usual roasted chicken or pot roast. The obvious choice is to heat these up with some marinara and serve with pasta and tons of parmesan cheese. But the crockpot looked like it needed some love so I searched for recipes and found No-Fuss Beer BBQ Meatballs.

These would be perfect for a party (Superbowl is coming!) or pot luck. They’re a little big for a toothpick, but you could probably serve them from the crockpot with those fancy mini forks. I ate mine with in a toasted pita with cucumber salad. The cool, crisp cucumber was a nice compliment the sweet BBQ sauce and tenderness of the meat. These would be great on a toasted hoagie with coleslaw on top – yum!

I modified the original recipe a bit:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 pounds frozen meatballs (I counted out about 30 meatballs)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin (I used the mandolin, one of my favorite gadgets!)
  • 6-8 ounces beer, (I used blue moon…and drank the other half)
  • 3/4 cups ketchup
  • 1 tbs. white wine vinegar (I didn’t have red)
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic salt (I decreased the other ingredients but left the spices the same, combining garlic and salt)
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tbs. brown sugar

Put everything but the meatballs in the crockpot and stir to combine. Add the meatballs (frozen) and coat them in sauce. Turn on low and cook for 8 hours. Your house is going to smell delicious!

I made this earlier in the week and forgot to take pictures, next time! Leia enjoyed these and they were great as leftovers the next day. Obviously 30 meatballs is too many for Leia and myself so I sent most of them home with my Mom and got great reviews from her and my Uncle.

Bath time!

Today was a big day!

When Leia was a month old bath time was a frantic, unpleasant, dreaded experience. I knew she’d scream until her face was red, and her slippery little body would squirm all over. She could smell my fear, which made things worse. Babies love bathtime, right? It’s calm and relaxing, bonding time with bubbles and giggles. Obviously Leia and I didn’t watch the same commercials.

We switched to baths in the sink and life was so much better! I still didn’t bath her frequently, maybe twice a week? She just didn’t need them. As she got older she got dirtier – sunscreen, playground sand, muddy hands, oatmeal facials and spaghetti hair treatments. So now she gets a scrub down in the sink 4-5 days a week. We’ve never been in the “bathtime before bed” club.

 

Lately she showed interest in the tub, getting in it all by herself to stack and organize the bottles. So I thought I would give bath time in the tub another try…

She loved it! She stayed in for 40 minutes, only getting out because the water got cold. She got a diaper and jammies, nursed for about 10 minutes and went to sleep. So now I totally understand why people do this bath time stuff before bed! We don’t have a night time routine, but this might inspire me to start one.

Daphne always watches Leia when she takes a bath. I can’t tell if she’s being protective or curious.

Starting off 2012 with a car accident and a cold

So far in 2012 I’ve been in a car accident and got sick. I refuse to believe the year will be anything less than fantastic, maybe I am just getting the road blocks out of the way early?

Last week I was stopped at a yield waiting for cross traffic to pass and – BAM, a guy rear ends me. He wasn’t going that fast, but it was scary as hell. I looked back at Leia to make sure she was okay as I pulled over to the closest curb. She was fine, looking around like she was more concerned with why Mom was freaked out. I gave myself a pat on the back for keeping her rear facing since she’s a tiny 22 pounds. I get us out of the car, and exchange information with the driver. He seemed like a nice kid, on his way to work. Neither of us have a pen so we put each others numbers in our phone. I immediately call my insurance, have the car inspected at a repair shop, and take Leia to the doctor. It was a busy day. Late that evening I noticed my brake light and battery light turn on, I call the repair shop and they let me know they’ll inspect the entire car when I bring it in for repairs. But who knows when that will be. It took 4 days for the adjuster from the other insurance company to call me and set up an appointment for them to inspect the car. I have to wait for them to do an inspection and accept liability (uh, hello, your driver hit me) before my insurance can pay the repair shop to make repairs.

Not a big deal, the car is still drivable. Wrong. Today I pulled out of my complex when I realized it wasn’t accelerating. More lights on the dashboard come on. I turned the car off, then tried to turn it back on again. Just some clicking sounds, ugh. I’m annoyed but grateful it didn’t happen on a major road. I call AAA and have it towed the 100 yards back to my parking spot. The driver said it’s probably the alternator, which is likely a separate issue from the damage done in the accident. So it’s just bad timing? I don’t think so. Now I have to get the car towed to a repair shop to fix the alternator and assess if the damage could be caused by the accident. The body shop won’t fix the bumper damage until the car is drivable. The whole thing is such a headache.

Speaking of headaches, I caught a cold. I rarely get sick, so I probably sound super whiny making a big deal out of a cold. I went through half a box of tissues and had a pounding head yesterday. Today is better, less tissues, no headache. Thankfully Leia just got a stuffy nose, and seems to be her normal self.

So I guess Leia and I are going to get familiar with the trolley system while we wait to get the car fixed. I hope it goes without saying that I’m beyond thankful neither of us were hurt in the accident, and my “problems” this week could be a lot worse. Come on 2012, I’m ready for the good stuff!

Week 1: Savory Palmiers

Woohoo, one week in and I’m sticking to my New Year resolution to try a new recipe every week.

I watched her make these on TV and knew I wanted to try Ina Garten’s Savory Palmiers. I only slightly modified the ingredients. It feels like cheating, starting off with such an easy recipe, but these looked too good to pass up.

  • 1 package frozen puff pastry, defrosted (leave in the fridge overnight)
  • 1/3 cup pesto (I used a jar, the link above has a recipe if you’re ambitious and want to make it fresh)
  • 2/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/3 cup fresh tomatoes (I didn’t have sundried so I cut yellow cherry tomatoes in half)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped artichoke hearts (from a can)

On a lightly floured surface unfold one sheet of puff pastry. If the folds look like the are separating, pinch them together. Carefully roll the pastry with a rolling pin until it’s just a little smaller than a cookie sheet. Spread the sheet of puff pastry with half the pesto, then sprinkle with half of the other ingredients.

The folded design is what makes this a palmier. You could skip the fancy folding and just roll it up to make pinwheels. For palmiers: Start at the short ends, fold each end halfway to the center. Then fold each side again towards the center until the folded edges almost touch. Fold one side over the other and press lightly. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat the entire instructions for the second sheet of puff pastry using the remaining ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 45 minutes.

Slice into 1/4″ pieces and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees F.

They turned out delicious! What made them even better? A drizzle of some reduced balsamic vinegar. I ate a few of these with a salad for dinner. Leia didn’t like them, but she did like licking the balsamic dressing off my salad leaves. The centers that had overlapping puff pastry dough stayed a little soft. If you roll it and cut into pinwheels they might be a little crispier. I also could have cooked them longer, til the edges were a darker brown.

The puff pastry dough is so versatile you could really use any ingredients you want – sweet or savory. Next time I think I’ll try herb cream cheese topped with frozen spinach (thawed and drained of course) and chopped artichoke hearts.

A healthier 2012

Seems like not making a resolution is the new New Year resolution.

Most years, as long as I can remember, mine was “lose weight.” Or stop biting my nails. This year it’s try a new recipe every week – specific and attainable – two important aspects when making a resolution, right? I’ve struggled with my weight and relationship with food long enough to know magical things don’t happen on January 1st that make you more committed to a healthy lifestyle. That said, I still want to make 2012 a healthier year.

Like every good SAHM, I love the Dr. Oz show. A recent episode reminded me that it takes 3 weeks to create a habit – and a lifetime to maintain it. Last year I worked hard to change my eating habits, increase my daily activity, get to a healthy weight and improve my relationship with food. I detoxed from the amount of sugar I was eating, which was incredibly hard. Then around September I started slipping into unhealthy but familiar eating habits. I was still exercising regularly, so the effects of a milkshake and a pile of sweet potato fries didn’t show on the outside right away. A few months went by and my healthy meals got replaced with junk and an “oh well, whatever” attitude as the holidays arrived. Now here I am in January, having packed on 17 pounds since August. My pants are all too tight, my belly is softer and squishing out of the top of my pants. But what bothers me most is continuing to struggle with a healthy relationship with food, one that I can model to Leia.

October 2010. I'm breastfeeding, why isn't the weight coming off?!

November 2010. Chubby legs are cute on babies, not me.

December 2010

This month I’m trying to get “back on track” by starting back up with a food journal and trying new exercises (hello pilates) to spice things up. I fell off the wagon, but that’s life, and I can get back on.

July 2011

August 2011

Some things I have learned:

1. When you’re fat it takes more (insert junk food) to make you happy. The physician on Biggest Loser explained to a contestant the way the pleasure centers in the brain differ depending on your amount of body fat. So a person who is at a healthy weight can eat a brownie and feel satisfied. A obese person needs half the pan of brownies to feel the same satisfaction. Obviously this doesn’t touch on the problem of emotional or stress triggered binge eating, but it struck a chord with me.

2. Cravings are temporary. I struggle with eating high fat/high sugar/over processed foods in large quantities. I tell myself “well, you already ate three waffles with a ton of syrup for breakfast, might as well eat two slices of cake for lunch.” Or I’ll be out somewhere and see a huge soft pretzel covered in salt with nacho cheese and start drooling. But I’ve learned that the intense craving for these things is temporary. If I distract myself with something else, keep on walking, or make a different choice, 20 minutes later the craving is usually gone and I feel better about myself. Everyday is a series of choices, sometimes we make good ones, sometimes bad ones. But one unhealthy choice shouldn’t “undo” your day.

3. Good food and Bad food are crappy words. This is hard for me. I don’t want Leia to grow up thinking there’s good food and bad food. I want her to feel like she can enjoy things in moderation. But I don’t know how to do it myself. I want to be able to enjoy some dessert after dinner, without eating a whole cake.

4. Exercise everyday. Even if it’s a 15 minute walk, or doing some stretches and strengthening exercises in the morning or before bed (or during naps). When I go one day without making a conscious effort to exercise, I go two, then three. Exercise should be like brushing your teeth.

5. Make small weekly goals, by adding healthier options. A long time ago I was given a few sessions with a personal trainer. I was all amped to get skinny by working out an hour every day and eat nothing but salads. She explained that trying to go from the sedentary all junk food lifestyle I was living to something out of a health magazine overnight was probably setting myself up for failure. So she had me make small changes each week. The first week I added water and walks. I didn’t change much about how I ate but I drank 80 ounces of water and walked for 15 minutes every day. The next week I made sure to have two servings of fruit or vegetables at each meal. I also added 10 minutes to my walks and a few strength exercises before bed (still keeping the changes from last week). Each week I added something, and it was a slow gradual change that helped me keep 50 lbs off for 8 years.