Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Photos: Randoms

One of my very favorite pics from last Saturday.
Lucy was saying something to make the Bubba and me laugh.

Showing off my trophy shirt and my big hair.

Toddlers are weird creatures aren't they?
Lucy insisted on wearing her raincoat and these silly
wrap around glasses and put her bird in her hood. For HOURS.

Totally hypnotized. In related news,
my kid will sit and watch a tv program!

She knows what PBS Kids means already.
But according to what she's been told, it's only on
when Mama wants to shower.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mmmmmm Snouts

Enough about exercise. Let's talk about food!

Have you had The Greek Gods yogurt? Yes? I agree that it is delicious and mmmmmm put some honey and blueberries in it and mmmmmmm. BUT! Have you had the Honey and Strawberry flavor? Because Oh-Em-Gee, it is awesome. I bought some this morning and Lucy and I ate more than half of the 24 ounces for a "snack" when we got home from the grocery store. So. Good. Lucy licked her bowl.

The Bubba made me the most delicious perfect chocolate cake for my birthday. I'm not exaggerating in saying that it is the best chocolate cake I have ever had.

Right after Lucy sang "Happy Day To you, MAMA!"

The frosting? It tastes like a chocolate malt - it's whipping cream, melted milk chocolate, and malt powder. I'm amazed that any of it made it onto the cake with all of the "tasting" involved. YUM. And the cake part? It has both baker's chocolate AND cocoa powder.

This? Is a seriously delicious cake. But I can't just tell you about it; you really MUST taste it for yourself.

Frosting
This makes a ton of frosting - use it heavily between layers.
In a saucepan over medium high heat bring 2 cups whipping cream just to boiling.
Stir in 1/3 cup malt powder (I used Original Malt Ovaltine)
Add two 11.5 oz. packages milk chocolate pieces (do not stir)
Cover; set aside 5 minutes.
Stir until smooth.
Mixture will be thin.
Cover and refrigerate 3 hours or until frosting is thoroughly chilled.

When chilled, set frosting pan in a larger bowl of ice water. (Don't skip this - the whipping cream needs it to whip up)
Beat frosting with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes or until fluffy and of spreading consistency.
The frosting will turn light brown with beating.

Cake
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2/3 c. softened butter
1 3/4 c. sugar
3 eggs
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. milk
2 cups malted milk balls
Grease three 8x8x2 inch baking pans; lightly dust each pan with
1 tsp. of the cocoa powder. (We used 9in round pans, the cakes took longer to bake but otherwise it worked well.)

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour, remaining cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each.

Beat in chocolate and vanilla. Alternately add flour mixture and milk, beating on low speed until thoroughly combined.

Divide batter into prepared pans; spread evenly. Bake for 17 - 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans.
Transfer to cakes to wire racks; cool completely.

To assemble cake, spread 3/4 cup Chocolate Malt Frosting on two of the layers and stack. Add top layer; frost the top and sides of the cake, reserving some frosting for the piping. Place the remaining frosting in a decorating bag fitted with medium round tip. Starting from the bottom, pipe a zigzag patern on sides and top edge of cake. Coarsely chop or halve some of the malted milk balls, if desired. Decorate the cake with milk balls.

Refrigerate. Makes 20 servings.

Anything good you've eaten lately that I should know about?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Brief History of Pushing My Limits

Four years ago I was a smoker. There was a time in my life (when I was living in France) when I was able to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes during the day and then smoke almost another entire pack if I went to the clubs at night. My math might be lacking, but I figure that's about a two-pack-a-day habit.

Then I met my husband. And he told me that he would never marry a smoker. So I cut down, and tried to quit, but he did end up marrying a smoker. I didn't think I would ever be able to kick it. But in February 2006 I quit for good. And I thought, "I'll get healthy! I'll get my lungs back in working condition! I'll take care of my heart! Look at all the nice, good things I have to live for!" I said all these things, but I didn't really do anything about it. I mean, I guess I quit smoking and hoped the rest would take care of itself.

Then my husband and I bought road bikes. And I started biking to work. I loved it. I loved the fact that I was getting some exercise, but not really having to take time out of my day to do it. I was still a huge wimp, and didn't bike more than 15 or so miles. Ever. And hills? No thank you.

Then I got pregnant. And eating good things became a priority, because I was solely responsible for the health of a completely dependent life. Well, eating mostly good things. And a lot of ice cream, if I'm being perfectly honest. And that ice cream, it stuck around. My final weigh-in at the hospital was 199 pounds before my progeny was ejected.

Then I had a newborn. And I was 180 pounds of flesh and bone. I didn't like it. I didn't feel healthy. I felt slow and frumpy. Don't get me wrong - I was very happy to be a new mommy and grow into my new job as stay-at-home-everything. But I had never had weight concerns before. I was not healthy, and I didn't know exactly what to do with myself. I think I got a little depressed.

Then Maggie started her Hot by Thirty campaign. And I got on board. It was good incentive to eat a little bit smarter. I stopped buying processed food at the grocery store, I started paying more attention to my portions. And a little of that weight came off.

Then I bought a running stroller and started the Couch to 5k program. And I liked it. When I quit smoking, I made what seemed like an unattainable goal: to run a 5k with my husband. Someday. That someday was April of 2009. I had to walk up the big hill in the middle of the race, and I finished in a little more than 34 minutes. I was awfully disappointed. I like being good at things, and running was never one of them.

Then I ran another 5k a month later on Mother's Day 2009 with Lucy in the stroller and finished in 33 minutes. And I didn't have to walk any part of it. That was better. I was more confident. I was starting to understand how to take better care of my body. I learned that eating right is fine and dandy, but the exercise is what my body responds to as far as weight loss. By the time my thirtieth birthday rolled around, I had lost twenty of those pounds.

Then, at some point, I started thinking differently about running. And it became something else entirely. It became quiet time. It became one thing that I could do for myself, and by doing it for myself, I was helping my family. (Bonus.) It became something that I could be proud of myself for that wasn't attached to any body else. I could meet my goals and I could congratulate myself, and I could make new goals.

Then I started pushing myself. And it was sort of exciting. I started thinking, "Well, if I can run 3 miles, why couldn't I run 4? Or 5? Maybe my next goal should be a 10k." And I kept running. I got my first runner's injury, shin splints, and I took care of them. I got new shoes and really nice running stuff because all of a sudden, it made sense to have some quality gear.

Then I signed up for a half marathon. And I started training. In my head, this was the ultimate in There's No Way This Will Ever Be Possible. Even more than that first 5k. This was the Unattainable. I started thinking about eating to give myself good energy, and I started running almost every single day. My long runs on the weekend got longer and longer - from 4 to 6 to 10. And more. And more. And my body could do it.

Then during my training, 12 more pounds melted away. And I fit in all of my old clothes. My pre-Lucy weight (which was already on the heavy side) was 16 pounds ago, and I'm only a few pounds away from my wedding weight.

Then I turned 31. And I ran that half marathon. I did better than I expected to do. I knew my body was ready for it, but I did absolutely not want to feel disappointed in myself like with that first 5k. So I set a goal time of 2:40:00, with the caveat that I would concentrate on running 11ish mile splits (so focusing on finishing closer to 2:30:00). At mile 10.5, the Bubba and Lucy were there clapping and waving. I had to concentrate for the next two or so miles on not crying, I was so overwhelmed with emotions. So proud of myself for coming this far, for feeling so good, for not giving up on myself. So pleased that I could be a mother and wife that my family could be proud of, that they could come and cheer on and share the victory. I picked up my pace and gave the last half mile everything that I had. I crossed the finish line in 2:22:03, and my Bubba and my Lucy were there to give me hugs and high-fives.


I feel like such a winner.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Twenty One

This month has been BUSY! I find that working that little extra is enough to make me just done by the end of the day, and I have no energy to write here. Well, and I started a running journal that I kind of blab in, so that sort of satisfies my immediate need to write. Mostly because nothing is going on in my life except work 1: Lucy + household/family maintenance, work 2: other job work, running.

That said, I did promise you a 21 month update. This month has been an amazing explosion of recognizing symbols. Lucy started recognizing letters when we went to Wisconsin, and ever since she sees letters EVERYWHERE. Just in the past week, the scope has widened to numbers. She'll look at a poster and say "O! Right there! One, two O's!" Or M's or T's or whatever it is she sees. Or most often, all of them.

She even started WRITING letters. And because this is the perfect forum for self-absorbed bragging, I will show you:

"C" "M"

"Q" "K" (on the right)

In related news, we started the Harvard tuition fund.

Maybe my favorite new development is that songs have intelligible words all of a sudden. Like this one:

video
Maybe you recognize the alphabet theme going on around here.

As long as I'm lazy blogging and posting video, here's some more: Lucy and Bubba reading "I Am a Bunny".

video

At the end you are introduced to her new bedtime routine "ONE BOOK! ONE BOOK AGAIN! ONE MORE BOOK, OKAY." She also lengthened the routine by saying goodnight not only to cars and toys and whatnot as usual, but also to red cars and blue cars and big trucks and little toys, etc. You get the picture.

When I give her a kiss she automatically chirps "Love you, too, Mama!" (best EVER) and when she hands something to me she says "You're welcome!" All of a sudden she'll tell me she likes things or doesn't like it, or that she wants something or doesn't want it. All day long I hear "Piece of cake, Mama?" while she cuts and serves her play cake or "Mama THIRSTY, Lucy make tea!"

I might get a little tired of it on any given day, but boy, it sure is cute.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Just Ugh

Lucy is twenty-one months old today. And I have a post half-written about Twenty-One and how the past month has been. But I don't want to work on it today. I don't want to think about writing anything but Whiney McCrabberson Wah Wah Wah. And so I shall.

This week has been a ... um ... what's the word?

CHALLENGE, I believe.

I've been working extra hours this week, and will be for the rest of the month, to pick up some slack at work. It's great, and I really like being there, and I don't mind the work at all. The thing I don't like is that I'm working from 12-6 on Sunday and weekdays from 6 to 9pm. After a full day with Lucy. I have to be super efficient with my day because my After Lucy's Asleep Do Stuff Time doesn't exist anymore. So I've been making dinner at nap time (HA! NAPTIME! I'll get to that part of the story in a minute!) Laundry/errands/cleaning/other chores all while Lucy is one step behind me destroying whatever it is I'm trying to accomplish.

And then there's a little issue I'll call DEMON TORTURE. The child doesn't sleep in the wee hours any more. Instead, any time from 1-5 am she is not happy unless she is being rocked or is in our bed covered by our orange blanket, poking us in the eyes and ears and nostrils as we try to doze. We've blamed it on teeth. Just like we've blamed everything bad for the past year plus. But those eye teeth still haven't poked their little pokes through, darn them.

The not sleeping at night? It sucks. But so does the not sleeping during the day. And in combination of all of the above, the amount of suckage is exponential.

You see, the equation would go something like this: You have Sleep (s) - or lack of it, Lucy (L) = too tired to behave, Mama = too tired to be patient, and Suckage (S) ----> S = (L x M) to the s power.

We're somewhere around (3,7) today.

I'll try to get around to the Lucy update tomorrow. Or Sunday. Ah, hell. Let's call it someday.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

She Does It All For the Nookie

Well, we are now a pacifier-free family.

Since Lu was about 7 months old, we limited nookie access to when she was sleeping (or for the occasional car trip or church when the need for peace overruled the paci limitations). And at 20 months, the nookie was synonymous with bedtime. I mean, she's had it for sleeping her ENTIRE LIFE. Needless to say, there were some very sad nights as Lucy learned to go to sleep without it.

I'm not sure how I figured it was time to say goodbye to them. I mean, she's almost two. She named them. I want to start potty training and I figured that will be a big enough transition for a long enough period of time that maybe getting rid of the nookie addiction first would be beneficial. Well, that and we only have one nookie left - all the others were lost somewhere along the way - and I am NOT going to spend money on any new ones. No way. I'm not sure which of these was the deciding factor, or all of them in combination.

I suppose I could have put it off longer. But then I started the process almost on a whim. And there's no going back, is there?

Those nights? The first ones? Totally blew. There's not a whole lot more heart breaking than listening to your baby cry a very sad cry knowing that you have every power to make it better. And yet you shouldn't/can't.

I started the process at naptime on Friday, and Lucy ended up falling asleep without TOO much fuss. I had to tell her that the "nuh nuhs" were all gone. And then she woke up 25 minutes later crying so sadly that I went in to comfort her and I was met with "Ma-aaama-ma-aaa. Nuh-nuu-uuh Peeeee-eeees" in between sobs. I gave in (because I am a sucker). But then Friday night and the rest of the weekend I had the Bubba to keep me strong.

She still asks for a "nuh-nuh" when I put her down, but I remind her that they're all gone and she's a big girl now, and she seems to accept it.

The suckiest part by far is the "for your own good" part. The part where I'm not punishing, because learning moments make sense to me. It just seemed like I was torturing Lucy for no reason. I can tell that she's still not used to it - she's such a slave to routine. I mean, do you remember the way she reacted to our car? She needs way more bedtime loves and cuddles and wind-down time than before.

But I'll tell you a secret: that side effect is kind of nice. She likes cuddling in a blanket and singing songs and talking about our day and sharing hugs and kisses. And when she lays down in bed (after she asks for a nuh nuh and is shot down) she requests that we tuck Beeire in the same way as she gets tucked in. Beeire says prayers with us and gets a blessing just like Lucy. And then she sings songs and talks to Beeire until she falls asleep. It's really cute.

It's a small price to pay for such a huge hurdle.