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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Beer Tasting Notes {Left Coast Asylum Belgian Style Golden Ale and Hop Juice}

We tried this beer last night.  I wish I could say that I liked it, but...  I just can't.

Left Coast Asylum Belgian Style Tripel Ale
This 11% ABU beer is, sadly, awful.  I really feel bad when I don't like a beer, but this beer is like an orange slice candy overdose.  It tastes and smells like earthy, sour oranges - like if you left a bushel of oranges in a dirt floored cellar to ferment for a year... and then asked Cousin Earl to make beer out of them by stomping on them while wearing his sweaty gym socks that he hadn't changed all year just for the occasion.  Yuck.  Sorry Left Coast.  Not only is this not even close to a Belgian style Tripel, it's not even close to beer.

Left Coast Hop Juice Double IPA
I only took a couple sips of this 9.4% ABU DIPA... I couldn't drink any more than that.  It was shockingly bitter and astringent.  I felt like I was drinking a household cleaning product.  I didn't even bother getting up from the couch (Lily was napping on my lap) to take a photo.  Sorry again, Left Coast.  Swing and a miss.


The Fine Art of Home Brewing {Honey Porter}

On Sunday, Jim decided to brew a batch of beer instead of doing yardwork.  The man has priorities. *smile*

We've brewed several batches of beer before.  I'd have to look back through my photos to come up with all of the styles, but to name a few, we've done two or three pale ales, a belgian that blew up in the bathtub, a red ale, and two or three IPAs (one of which Jim super hopped and it blew up in the bathtub).  So we're not new to this game, but we're definitely still in the beginner to intermediate ranks.

So far we have only brewed using kits with a small amount of malt and a tub of malt extract, with a few additives (such as the extra hops that blew up the IPA).  There are home brewers who invest a lot of money into their equipment and have a whole setup of mash tuns and fermentation tanks in their garage - this gives them the ability to brew all malt.  We aren't those home brewers (but one day I hope we can afford to be!).  We use pretty basic equipment: our kitchen stove, sanitizing solution, a large pot, a long thermometer, a long metal spoon, a glass carboy for primary fermentation, ice in the garage sink for the wort ice bath (instead of a wort chiller), a funnel for pouring the beer into the carboy, a rubber stopper with an airlock and tube into a water bottle for fermentation gas overflow, a corney keg (soda keg) for secondary fermentation, and a pump syphon for pumping beer into a corney keg.  We have a kegerator, which is just an old hand-me-down fridge that we got for free and converted into a kegerator by drilling a hole in the side for the CO2 line and a hole in the door for the tap.  Excellent!

Future upgrades we want: we want to get a crowner so we can bottle some batches in the future, and have been saving our large 22 ounce bottles from beer tastings for this purpose.  It saves us buying new bottles!  Also, I'd like to get a hydrometer and learn how to use it. 

Ok, on to the Honey Porter we brewed on Sunday.  Here is a photo of the brew kit specs:

We also added about 2 ounces of honey to the wort that the recipe did not call for.  We're hoping to get a nice honey undertone and some extra yeast partying with the extra honey sugars.

Steeping the grain is like making beer tea.  And it makes the house smell SO amazing!  That's almost the best part of home brewing right there.  The only downside (which isn't much of a downside) is that boiling all of that water fogs up the mirrors and windows in the whole house and sometimes sets off the smoke detectors. 

Here it is in all of its glory... in 4-6 weeks, I'll let you know how it comes out!



Beer Tasting Notes {Alaskan Imperial IPA - Pilot Series}

We tried this beer on Friday night.  Not the best Imperial IPA I've tried, but worth drinking (but remember, I'm not a huge hophead).

Alaskan Imperial IPA - Pilot Series
This 8.5% ABV beer pours a nice coppery orange with a light head.  It has a grapefruity citrus, slightly piney hop nose and a lemony citrus hop flavor.  The sticky resiny hop mouthfeel lingers - Jim said, "it sets up camp on your tongue," and I laughed but he totally pegged it.  Not bad.



Monday, April 18, 2011

Pears are Yummy!

Yesterday Lily tried pears for the first time.  This was her second try with solid food; we tried mashed avocado mixed with breast milk the first time, and she wasn't into it.  But pears, oh pears, she loves them so.  She smiles when the spoon heads her way, she growls (yes, growls!) when I take too long to get the next bite ready.  She's a pro already.  Not that I'm surprised - this is the kid who can't get enough time at the breast, so naturally she is a fast study when it comes to eating!  I can't believe she's already almost 5 months old.  Time flies!

Oh, you might be wondering why her first food is not rice cereal.  Watch this video interview of Dr. Alan Greene.  I've struggled with my weight all my life; if there is anything I can do to start Lily on the right track, I'll do it!  I agree with Dr. Greene's reasoning - think about what babies ate as their first solid foods before rice cereal started to be produced... fruits and vegetables!  So why not get back to that?  I'm sold.

Have a great week!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Beer Tasting Notes {Victory Helios and Alaskan Double Black Imperial IPA}

Last night my sweet husband brought home Victory Helios for me because I love sunshine and Belgian beers, so he thought I'd like it - he's so awesome!  He has been on a Black IPA kick, so he bought himself Alaskan's Double Black IPA. 

Victory Helios
Helios is a 7.5% ABV Belgian style farmhouse ale.  Farmhouse ales (also called Saisons) aren't typically on top of my list of favorite beer styles, but he wanted me to give this one a go anyway.  The first glass poured a very clear golden orange color, which is not typical of a farmhouse ale; all of the sediment remained at the bottom of the bottle.  So we poured the whole thing to mix it up, and then returned some to the bottle - that did the trick.  Helios has a lemony sweet malt nose and a very distinct earthy, lemony, peppery sour-tart flavor.  Complex!  We decided to save most of the beer to use as a chicken marinade tonight... I'll let you know how that turns out!  I'll be honest, I probably won't buy this beer again - the earthy, peppery flavors don't do it for me (remember, I'm not a big Saison person).  But it's a solid beer for those who enjoy those flavors.

Alaskan Double Black Imperial IPA
This is an 8.5% ABV black IPA that pours a thick inky black.  There is a distinct roasty malt alcohol nose combined with unsweetened cocoa.  It has a very roasty, dark espresso flavor - Jim picked up a hint of smoke flavor.  It finishes with a mellow spicy sweet, somewhat citrusy hops on the back end.  We were both surprised that it wasn't hoppier, being an Imperial IPA.  Not Jim's favorite Black IPA that he's tasted, but a solid beer nonetheless.  I have to mention that I really dig the label, but it reminds me of Halloween, so it would be a great October beer. 

Jim wants me to try Grand Teton Trout Hop Black IPA - he maintains that all other black IPA's pale in comparison. 

Stay tuned for more tasting notes!  Cheers!


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Thrifty Momma ~ Gearing Up for Baby Without Breaking the Bank

I am a lover of thrift stores, garage sales, hand-me-downs, repurposing, recycling and paying it forward.  Through thrifty shopping and the generosity of family and friends, becoming a mom has not been nearly as expensive as it could have been!

Lily's wardrobe is extensive, but it didn't cost a fortune!  I have purchased very few new items (and really, the only new items I have purchased were out of adoration of their cuteness, not out of necessity) and received some new clothing as gifts.  But the bulk of Lily's wardrobe is recycled.  While I was pregnant, I scoured thrift stores and garage sales for baby items in good condition.  Most things cost about a buck or less, and looked like they had never been worn (which most mommas will know is a real possibility!).  I received hand-me-downs from my friend Tanya, my cousin Melissa, my friend Majica, and my friend Jenny.  Bags and bags of clothes, hats and blankets.  I kept what I wanted, all organized by size in labeled cloth bins from Ikea (I have clothes up to 24 months!), and the rest is being handed down to other girlfriends.  What they don't want will be garage saled or donated to thrift.  So the cycle continues...

Used Baby Gear
I am unbelievably thankful for the generous hand-me-downs from my friend Anne, my friend Jenny and my niece Raina.  I received a carrier/car seat base(s)/stroller combo less than a year old, 2 full size swings, one travel swing, a vibrating bouncer, a jumper, 2 ring slings, a backpacking carrier from REI, 2 Bumbos, and several toys.  That easily saved me over $1000.  My mom scored garage sale finds of a jogging stroller (granted, it's ugly, but functional!) for $20 and a pack and play for her house.  I repurposed an old rolling kitchen cart that we had stored in the garage into an organizer for diapers, wipes, baby hygiene supplies, etc.  Oh, and my mom and I bought numerous books at garage sales and thrift stores.  Lily has a huge library already!

As long as these items aren't worn out when Lily is done with them (one of the swings and the stroller are really on their last legs), they'll get a new life with another baby.

Things I Got New (luckily, they were gifted!)
My mom and my Aunt Rose spoiled Lily with new furniture.  A crib, armoire and dresser with hutch.  The crib converts into a toddler bed, then into a double bed.  These items will be her furniture until she moves out, and she can take them with her even then.  So the value of these items was worth it in the grand scheme of Lily's life.  Jim's mom purchased a mattress for the crib.  My dad purchased a full sized pack and play and a mini pack and play bassinet, and my Uncle Tommy purchased a high chair. 

I also received lots of other baby paraphernalia at my baby showers, thanks to my lovely, lovely ladyfriends.  But a lot of these things (boppy, blankets, books, toys, etc.) I would have been just as happy to receive as hand-me downs!

I know that I am a very lucky person to have such generous friend and family support.  However, all of these items could have been purchased used.  If it hadn't been for family, I would have continued to scour thrift stores and garage sales for used items within my budget.

Things You MUST Purchase New
I had to return to work when Lily was 3 months old, so my dad generously purchased a breast pump for me - this is an item I would not have purchased used, as it is not recommended by doctors.  I could consider a used pump from a friend who I knew had taken good care of the pump, and I'd purchase replacement attachments, but I couldn't take a used pump from someone I didn't know. 

Pacifiers and nipples must be purchased new.  Period.  The materials used in these items degrades over time and can tear (especially if boiled several times to be sanitized), posing a choking hazard.

I'm sure there is something baby product related that I didn't cover here, but the end point is that there are so many ways to be thrifty when preparing for a baby.  Whether you get items that are gifted, handed down, repurposed or recycled, you can be a thrifty momma!  Don't be shy to ask for help or hand-me-downs.  You'd be surprised how generous people are when it comes to little bundles of joy!


P.S. Be sure to check for recalls before purchasing used baby equipment! is the official US recall website, which also has a mobile app for recall information.  Fancy!


Cry it Out: FAIL

So I have officially given up on Cry it Out.  Lily is just too stubborn (like her daddy!) and I swear she'd cry for 8 hours straight if I let her.  A friend suggested the book No-Cry Sleep Solution, and I'm going to give that a go.

Being a first time parent is really hard.  It's difficult to find my parenting "style" and I keep changing my mind about what are the best ways to deal with things.  For example, I thought I'd be down to let Lily cry until she fell asleep, then I thought it was a terrible idea, then I thought it was an ok idea, now I don't like it again.  I feel like someone with multiple parenting personalities.

I am sure that lots of parents go through this - second guessing every decision and parenting theory, changing and adapting routines as opinions fluctuate.  I just wish I was one of those people to whom parenting comes naturally.  But since it doesn't, I'll just keep asking my friends, family and my mommy group for advice (I am so thankful for them!) and reading books and changing direction when something doesn't work for Lily.

Wish me luck!


Monday, April 11, 2011

Weekend Beer Tasting Notes!

As promised, here are the notes from the beer tasting I did over the weekend. 

Friday night was the beers that Jim bought for National Beer Day, which we tasted along with my Session Lager Beer Bread.  Jim had his buddy Eric in town this weekend, and my friend Melissa was over, so we all shared the La Trappe beers.  Then on Saturday night we broke out a couple of Deschutes beers we had cellared.  Because I'm breastfeeding, I only tried a couple ounces of each (sad face!), but it was awesome to try beers that have been aging for 3+ years, even if I couldn't fully indulge!  *smile*

La Trappe Quadrupel Ale & La Trappe Oak Aged Quadrupel Ale
At 10% ABV, both of these are pretty heavy beers.  The regular Quad had a sweet malt scent and was full of bubblegum, banana and sweet malt flavor.  I know "bubblegum and banana" sounds weird for beer, but trust me, the fruity and sweet flavor characteristics make for an awesomely complex beer!  The Oak Aged Quad had an oaky vanilla and banana scent and a boozy brandy flavor.  It went down warm and slightly spicy.  I wish I could have enjoyed more of it in front of a fire pit under the stars.

Deschutes Brewing - The Abyss (2007)
Oh wow.  Deschutes is awesome.  Period.  Jim and I have had this cellared since 2008.  It was worth the wait!  The Abyss is an 11% ABV Imperial Stout brewed with licorice and molasses and aged in oak barrels.  Doesn't that just sound heavenly?  Look at that gorgeous deep black color - no light shines through this beer, and it makes me want to chew it like a big hunk of liquory licorice.  It smells of dark roasty malt and molasses, and tastes of coffee and a really good quality bittersweet chocolate.  Pure bliss.  I wish we had cellared an entire case!  I'd love to use this to make beer bread, and replace the recipe's white sugar with molasses or brown sugar... I bet it would be as mouthwatering as the beer itself!

Deschutes Brewing - The Dissident (2008)
This beautiful ruby brown 10.5% ABV Flanders Style Brown Ale has a distinct sour cherry flavor up front that catches your tastebuds off guard, but a nice lingering malty sweetness that entices you into another sip.  I'll be honest, I am not a fan of Flanders Sours.  At all.  But The Dissident crept up on me and made me try sip after sip, and I had to renege on my offer to give up my tasting goblet to Eric after my initial taste. 

"Bravely Done" indeed, Deschutes!


Cry it Out, Take 2

On Saturday, I decided to give "Cry it Out" another try...

It was naptime, and I desperately needed to get some chores done, so I couldn't just sit on the couch with a sleeping baby on my lap.  So I laid a fully awake, but tired, baby in the crib and left the room.  Ten minutes later, the crying began.  I busied myself doing dishes and cleaning the kitchen, trying to ignore the increasing intensity of her crying.  After 15 minutes, she stopped, but just to catch her breath.  She cried for 40 minutes before I had to give in and get her up to feed her and get ready to leave the house.  FAIL.

Today, my mom put her in her crib for her nap.  She cried for 15 minutes, then stopped for 15 minutes, then cried for another 30 minutes.  My mom finally gave in and rocked her to sleep, then was able to put her down in her swing. 

I can handle letting her cry for longer than an hour.  I have enough chores to distract myself.  But is this really healthy?  Is there a better way to get this child to go to sleep on her own?  I've appealed to my mommy group on Facebook, and I'll share their comments when they chime in.

Ah, parenting... whoever said it was easy was doing it wrong.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Recipe of the Day: Beer Bread!

Oh yummy!  This recipe is not only easy, but so good!! 

I made this on Friday and it's still moist today (left in loaf pan on the counter and covered with foil).  I just ate a slice with honey and it was like heaven in my mouth.

I used a bottle of Session Lager for this batch.  It's only 11.2 ounces, but it worked out just fine, and the flavor was awesome!  Next time I want to try making PranQster Beer Bread.  This recipe is so great because there are so many different beers you can use, and the flavor will be different every time! You can use a lager for a lighter flavor, or a fruit beer (mmm, apricot ale would be lovely!), or a stout for a deeper flacor. Plus, you can add things like bacon, cheese, chives, fruit, herbs, spices, garlic... the possibilities are endless! This basic recipe can be adapted for any holiday just by adding a little something extra to match the season. Brilliant!

Beer Bread
Yield: 1 loaf

3 cups flour, sifted
3 tsp. baking powder
1.5 tsp salt
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter (melted)
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle of beer, any style or flavor

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Add the butter and beer and continue to mix, first using a wooden spoon, then your hands.  Only mix together until moist and do not overmix or it will make your bread too dense.  The batter will be very sticky.  Pour into a 9 x 5 inch greased/floured loaf pan.  Let rest for 30 minutes so dough can rise. 

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees ) for 50 for 60 minutes. The top will be crunchy, and the insides will be soft.

Buttery-crust tip: bake for 50-55 minutes. Then remove from oven, run a stick of butter over the top of the loaf, then put it back in for 5 more minutes.

Tomorrow I will share a post about some beers that I sampled over the weekend.  Our buddy Eric was in town so Jim busted out some cellared beer, and I snuck in a few sips of each of the beers so I could share the tasting notes with you!  Until then... Cheers!


Friday, April 8, 2011

I Love My Husband, and We Love Beer! ~ {National Beer Day Tasting Notes}

In honor of National Beer Day yesterday, Jim brought home some new (and old favorite) beers to try!  He's such a good hubby!

21st Amendment Brewery (SF) Back in Black, Black IPA
Unfortunately, neither Jim nor I really enjoyed this beer.  The hops missed the boat apparently, because I couldn't taste even the faintest of hop notes.  On the contrary, it was heavy on the roasted malts and had a chocolatey flavor.  If it didn't say Black IPA on the can, I would have pegged this as a very light Porter.  It lacked body and really didn't do much for my taste buds.  I wonder if it was an old can and the hops had mellowed (hop flavor diminishes with age)?  When Jim ordered it at the brewery last month, we both remember it being hoppier... 

Mad River Brewing Double Dread Imperial Red
YAY!!  I love Double Dread!  As a seasonal beer in Mad River's rotation, I only get the chance to drink it once a year.  I didn't get to drink one last night (had a PranQster and tasted the Back in Black instead), but I can't wait to have one tonight.  Since this is an old favorite, I can conjure the tasting notes from memory (ah, sweet memory...)  This is a hopped up, unfiltered red ale with a slightly cloudy brown-red color.  Don't let the yeast sediment scare you!  The citrusy hops are perfectly balanced with a sweet caramely malt finish.  Though I do like it fresh from the brewery, I'm not a huge hophead like Jim is, so I prefer my Double Dread when it has aged for a few months so the hops mellow a little, which really lets the sweet malt base shine.  This means at least one bottle is going into our beer cellar for Fall tasting.  YAY!  Man, I love this beer. 

La Trappe Quadrupel Ale & La Trappe Oak Aged Quadrupel Ale
Salivating... if you know me, you know I'm a Belgian-beer-head.  La Trappe is a Trappist brewery in Belgium, so the beer is brewed by monks.  This breastfeeding mommy couldn't indulge in too many tastings in one night (drat!) so we'll be trying these two beers over the weekend and I'll hook you up with the tasting notes on Monday...  did I mention that I LOVE MY HUSBAND?

I hope you had some great beers on National Beer Day



Thursday, April 7, 2011

Happy National Beer Day!!

In honor of National Beer Day, I will be swinging by my local BevMo to pick up some tasty brews on my way home from work.  I think I will treat myself to a Midas Touch.  Or maybe I'll try something new in honor of this fantastic holiday.  I love beer.

Did you  know that beer is said to help lactating mothers produce more milk for their babies?  It's TRUE!  When Lily was born, I was not producing well, so we had to supplement her diet with formula, which made me really sad because my goal was to avoid formula.  Thankfully, a lactation consultant suggested that I try having a beer a day to help increase production.  Well, it worked, and the formula is no longer necessary!  YAY BEER!!!

About National Beer Day:
"In 1933 during the prohibition era, the Cullen-Harrison Act was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on March 23rd. That law was enacted on April 7th allowing the brewing and sale of beer in the United States again as long as it was < 3.2% (4% ABV). It's said that people waited in line overnight on April 6th outside Milwaukee breweries in order to legally buy beer for the first time in over 13 years. As a result, April 7th is known as National Beer Day and April 6th is called New Beers Eve. So this April, tell all your friends about this glorious new holiday, and raise a glass, bottle, can, or mug to the deliciousness that is beer."
Source: National Beer Day on Facebook

Check out my list of favorite beers HERE!  Share your favorite beers in the comments section.  I'd love to hear your suggestions so I can try your favorites and weigh in with my tasting notes!

How will you celebrate National Beer Day?  Leave your comments below!



Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Recipe of the Day: Deluxe Grilled Burgers {and Meatloaf!}

BBQ season has arrived!!!  Woo hoo!  It's time for hot dogs and steaks and barbecue chicken and grilled veggies... I'm salivating at the thought!  And who could forget: grilled burgers!

Jim and I were on a camping trip a couple years ago where the chefs threw in a bunch of yummy ingredients to make a deluxe camp burger.  Why had we never thought to throw so many things into a burger?  So we went home and tried to recreate the burger on our own, just using our taste bud memory.  And they turned out pretty darn good!

I never measure when I'm creating a recipe - I just eyeball it (I need to change that habit for sharing purposes)... so here is what we throw in, and you can add to your taste preference.  Just remember not to go too heavy on the additives, otherwise the burgers will start to fall apart.

Ground beef
Egg (to make it stickier)
Red bell peppers, finely diced
Red onion, finely diced
Montreal steak seasoning
Garlic salt (be generous!)
Worcestershire sauce
Shredded cheddar cheese

Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix together with your hands.  Form patties and cook on the grill to your desired doneness (we like them medium to medium rare).  Oh yummy!

You could also add in breadcrumbs or torn up pieces of bread to make this recipe into a killer meat loaf! (Yes, we've done it!)  Cook to an internal temperature of about 165 degrees.



No Babies Allowed

I'm a party person.  I love to throw parties, I love to attend parties - I love being around my loved ones in a festive setting.  My RSVP card almost always says YES!  But all of a sudden, I'm not just RSVPing for me.  I have a little person who depends on me for food (literally, I'm a breastfeeding mommy), so where I go, she goes.  So she has been to baby showers, out of town business trips (daddy had meetings while I was on maternity leave, and we tagged along to get out of the house!), restaurants... she has even been fed at Home Depot in a moment of desperation (tiny little babies have a remarkable ability to double their volume in public when hungry).  I'm super mom, I can feed my kid anywhere!

However, I am faced with having to come up with a creative plan for an upcoming wedding out of town that doesn't allow babies.  I was planning on bringing Lily with us - she likes to dance with mommy and daddy at home, so a wedding would be fun for her!  But I just found out that the venue doesn't allow children under 13.  And the venue is 2 hours from home, making the entire trip (driving and event) between 6 and 8 hours.  I have to either feed Lily or pump every 3-4 hours.  I can't very well bring a breast pump to a wedding!  So instead of driving, attending (feeding her as needed) and then driving home, I'll likely have to get my mom to tag along and get a hotel room for her and Lily to hang in while Jim and I attend the wedding.  I'm sure I'll work something out, but it will be pricier than if I could just bring her to the event.  I can't stand the thought of missing this wedding (very good friend is getting married), but baby (and family budget) comes first.

My time and schedule are no longer my own - they belong to Lily.  I can't run off to parties or events that are not suitable for infants.  Not the end of the world, but it's still a social-life shocker.  But I wouldn't trade her in for all the parties in the world!


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

This past Saturday, we took Lily to the Zoo.  Being 4 months old, she wasn't directly interested in the animals, but was very interested in the new surroundings.  There were so many new things to look at: colors, shapes, shadows and light.  It really reinforced my idea that babies should be exposed to learning about their environment as early as possible. 

I want Lily to get to know the world around her and be comfortable with it.  Specifically, I want to instill in her a love of nature, and a respect for plants and animals.  I want to raise a good steward of the Earth. 

There are many people in our generation who are pushing the environmentalist envelope, but there is still so much work to be done.  I hope that Lily's generation will be the one that truly wraps their arms around the planet and makes a positive impact on our natural resources and works to preserve, once and for all, the beauty our planet has to offer.  No more deforestation of the rainforest, establishing eternal protections for our national parks and monuments such as the Grand Canyon, better protections for endangered species, ending our dependence on oil worldwide...  There are so many ways that we can help our planet simply by ceasing to harm it.  Earth will heal itself with time.     

I'm not an environmental expert by any means.  These are just my thoughts and opinions.


Babbles and Screeches and Giggles, Oh My!

Lily has officially reached the verbal stage.  She has been practicing her sounds for a while now, but over the past week or so, she has also discovered VOLUME and PITCH.  Not only does she make sweet coos and vowel sounds, but she has learned to yell and screech.  The first one was hilarious - she was in her swing while I was doing dishes, and as usual she was babbling to the monkey, frog and toucan hanging on the mobile, and all of a sudden "BLAH!" in a high pitched, high volume little voice.  The look on her face was priceless - she shocked herself!  I wish I had had the camera ready for that one. 

I am truly looking forward to hearing her first words.  I swear that sometimes when she is calling from her crib during quiet time, she is saying Ma! or Da! (starts with Ma! and when Ma doesn't come, it turns into Da!) but I can't be sure just yet.  Jim keeps commenting that he can't wait to hear her little speaking voice - well, daddy, she's working on it for you!

(4/6/11 Lily telling stories to Cousin Corri)


Discovering Daddy

Lily has been Daddy's Girl since she was in the womb.  She was not very active during the day, but at bedtime, she would kick like crazy when my tummy was against Jim.  And since the day she was born, daddy has been her favorite thing to look at.  The first time she turned her head by herself was to look at daddy.  And now, her first "face exploration" was of daddy.  Yesterday morning she was fascinated with touching Jim's nose, eye and cheek.  It was like she was trying to figure out how sight and touch were connected.

Watching a baby's discovery process is absolutely amazing.  It's almost like you can see the synapses firing when they are working on a discovery.  Brilliant.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Recipe of the Day: Sage Chicken with Green Beans and Carrots

My friend Tricia made this dish for us just after Lily was born, and I loved it so much that I attempted to re-create it using the powers of memory and my taste buds.  And I succeeded!

Sage and chicken go together like Sonny and Cher, minus the whole divorce thing.  The sage is a great complement to poultry, and butter brings out sage's lovely hemp-like flavor.  I swear sage and mary jane must be cousins somewhere in mother nature's family tree.  Taste it for yourself and tell me what you think!

Tricia's version had only carrots, but I had some fresh green beans that had to be used, so I threw them in as well.  Not too shabby if I do say so myself!

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 onion, large dice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp butter (for chicken)
1 tbsp butter (for veggies)
2 tbsp flour
3 large carrots, cut in chunks how you like
a couple handfuls of fresh green beans, stems snapped off
2 tbsp fresh sage, sliced (fresh sage is SO much better in this recipe)
3-6 whole sage leaves
1/2 cup chicken broth
garlic salt and lemon pepper to taste, approx 1 tsp each

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Lightly flour the chicken breasts.  Place a Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat.  Add the butter and oil, and let the butter melt.  Saute the chicken until it is golden brown.  Remove chicken to a plate.  Add butter, sage, onions, green beans and carrots.  Saute until onions are clear. 

Return chicken to the pot, add the chicken broth, and place sage leaves on each breast and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid.  Cook in the oven for about an hour.  Serve with rice. 


Recipe of the Day: Belgian-Style Pot Roast

Oh joy!  I love Belgian beer, and came across this recipe in the February 2011 issue of BeerAdvocate Magazine.

I highly suggest using a Dutch Oven to cook this recipe if you have one - they are awesome.  Mine is the JC Penney Cooks brand, 7 quart size, which is usually on sale for $89.  Such a great investment!  Everything I have cooked in it has come out tender and juicy.  But I digress...

The Belgian-style pot roast is basically pot roast braised in Belgian beer.  Mouth watering yet?  The key is to use a GOOD Belgian beer.  So we used Chimay Red.  It added a lovely malted beery flavor to the roast.  Delish!!

4-5 lbs boneless chuck roast or beef shoulder
2 tsp kosher salt (we used sea salt)
1 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp all-purpose flour
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
6 cups sliced yellow onions (we used less, maybe 2 medium onions)
4 cups sliced leeks (2 leeks)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme, or 1/4 cup fresh leaves (about a bunch)
1 tsp kosher salt (again, we used sea salt)
750 mL Belgian Abbey Ale (we used Chimay Red)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Coat the roast with 2 tsp of the salt and the pepper.  Let the meat sit for an hour to allow the salt to pull some of the proteins to the surface, helping to create a wonderful brown crust when seared.  Place a Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat.  Add the butter and oil, and let the butter melt.  Lightly coat the roast in flour, then brown each side for 8-10 minutes.  Remove from the pot and place on a plate.

Add the onions, leeks, bay leaves, thyme and 1 tsp salt.  Saute the onions and leeks until they are tender and slightly browned.

Place the roast in the center of the pot, rotating it back and forth to wrap it in the onions and leeks.  

Pour the Abbey Ale down the side of the pot, then seal the pot with a tight-fitting lid.

Place the Dutch oven into the preheated oven and braise for 3 hours, without opening the lid or the oven door.  The pot roast should be fork-tender and the onions caramelized.  Remove the pan from the oven and, using tongs, carefully remove the roast to a warm plate.  Place the pan over medium heat and reduce the sauce by half.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, cut the pot roast against the grain of the meat into inch-thick slices.  Spoon sauce over the meat.  Serve with buttered egg noodles, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes or rice.



Cry It Out?

To cry or not to cry, that is the question.

Lily does not like sleeping alone.  Scratch that... Lily typically REFUSES to sleep alone.  That means naps are on someone's shoulder or lap and bedtime is with mommy in bed (don't worry, she is safe!).  She will sometimes sleep in her swing, but only if we are successful in transferring her from a shoulder to the swing without waking her. 

Our pediatrician, Dr. Cooper, really wants us to get Lily to sleep alone before she can walk (phew, at least I have some time!).  He suggested putting her in her crib, giving her kisses, and then letting her cry herself to sleep if necessary.  He also suggested gradually working up to this by letting her cry in ten minute increments, soothing and patting her in between.  Unfortunately, Lily gets herself so hysterically worked up in less than 5 minutes that I just can't bring myself to leave her for 10.

This is Lily after "crying it out" for only 10 minutes:

Sorry Dr. Coop, this is just not how I want my baby to be broken down.  Can you imagine letting this poor creature go on for any longer?

I know that she needs to be able to sleep in her own bed alone, so do I just have to bite the bullet and let her cry?  Or do I hope that as she gets older she will want to sleep alone (wishful thinking?!), and that naptime and bedtime will become easier?  Do we just need to get a routine down - dinner, bath, story, bedtime?  I don't know the answer, but I'll keep you all posted!


Lucky me, she just went down for a nap in her swing, and only cried for two minutes before passing out!  Progress already!!!  Yay!


Friday, April 1, 2011

I Can’t Find My Keys… or My Brain

One of the most obvious signs that motherhood has changed me is that I’ve lost my mind.

This is apparent when I consider how many times I have “lost” my car keys (which were actually sitting in plain sight within 15 feet of where I was pulling my hair out) and how many times I have left my bra in a room other than my bedroom and have spent 15 frantic minutes looking for it when getting ready for work in the morning.  Or when I take a trip to Target to buy diapers, and return home to realize that I bought everything BUT diapers.  Oops!  Hey, I remembered that cute rattle that Lily loves so much!  *smile*

Most of my mommy friends say that this phenomenon gets better.  I know it has to because most of the moms I know are awesome and are very “together” – or at least they put up a believable front *wink*!

I’ll settle for key and bra searches.  I wouldn’t trade motherhood for anything.


The Working Mom

I can't help it.  I am jealous of stay-at-home moms. 

I would love nothing more than to be able to stay home all day with my little sweetie pie.  I want to watch every moment of her growth and discovery – finding her feet, noticing the stuffed kitty in her crib, practicing sounds in her tiny little voice.  I get bummed when I think that I might miss her “firsts” – first belly laugh, first time rolling over, first clear word, first steps… and I get jealous that Nana (who cares for Lily while I am at work) will get to see them before me.  But then I remind myself that the “seconds” and “thirds” and even “hundredths” can be just as exciting as “firsts.”

While I’m at work, I daydream about being home with Lily: reading to her in the backyard, showing her all of the ladybugs in the garden, taking her for a walk around the neighborhood, singing songs to her while we play with her stuffed toys in her crib, doing creative projects to stimulate her growing mind… and then I rush home and try to cram all of those activities into the few precious moments between making and eating dinner, doing laundry, cleaning the house and getting ready for bed. 

In the end, I have to go to work.  And my hubby has to go to work.  We have to bring home our paychecks to keep a roof over our heads and food on our table.  It’s just the way it is for us.  Sure, we could sell our house and find a smaller place with cheap rent, but that’s not the lifestyle we want for Lily.  We have a big yard for Lily to run around in with our dog one day and a garden for Lily to nurture and enjoy.  We don’t want to go back to a tiny place where a dog and garden wouldn’t fit. 

So we sacrifice time with Lily in exchange for things we want to provide for her and the things we want her to experience, and we are very lucky to have Lily’s Nana in our lives to care for her while we work.  It’s not a perfect system, but we are a team, and we will make it work.