Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's and Nurseries ...

Happy New Year's Eve!

There's something about the fresh start of January 1 that always puts me in a good mood. I am so excited for 2011 and can't wait for what the year has in store. I hope you're all looking forward to turning the calendar forward, too.

Since our little boy will be here before we know it, Morgan and I thought we should get started on his nursery. We ventured to IKEA this week, where we picked up the Leksvik crib and changing table to match a dresser and some bookcases that we already owned.

We decided to keep the paint color neutral and brighten the room up with colorful prints and fabric. My lovely and talented friend, Michelle, is making our bedding, which I can't wait to show you in once she's finished. Her Bundle Bean children's line is awesome -- please check it out!

Here's what we've done so far, but there's still a long way to go with the decorating.

The alphabet wall hanging that my Grandma N. made me when I was a little girl. This always was one of my favorite decorations growing up.
New changing table to match the existing dresser.
The crib, with one of the four Peek-a-Boo prints by Yuko Lau that we purchased from First Art Source.
Morgan's confirmation blanket -- although he received this in eighth grade, the print definitely says "baby." We think it looks great in the room.
Morgan's stuffed animal collection. He finally has someone to share it with!
My very favorite book as a child, The Sesame Street Dictionary. I was beyond excited to find it still in print, exactly as a I remembered. This is the first thing I've bought for the baby.
The rocking chair, where I anticipate we'll be spending many an hour.

Friday, December 24, 2010

From Our Growing Family to Yours ...

Merry Christmas!

We're saving our "annual mailing" for the upcoming birth announcement, so our greetings only are coming in virtual form this year. I wish you all a blessed holiday, filled with family, friends and lots of good cheer!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Baby Boy O.

My Baby Boy,

So it's obvious from the title of this post, but your daddy and I found out that you're a boy! We also learned that you look perfectly healthy and are growing big and strong in my belly. The doctor estimates you'll weight 8.25 pounds when you're born.

Seeing your face for the first time was an amazing experience. You're a little claymation-ish in the photos, but I still think you look like the sweetest little baby I've ever seen.
Your heart and body also look fit as can be, which is fantastic news. Dr. Case's previous patients had a baby with severe congenital heart defects -- he reminded us that not all parents are blessed with a son as a healthy as you. Hearing that story brought tears to my eyes and I continue to feel overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude whenever I think about how smoothly my pregnancy is going and how perfect you look in there.

Daddy and I are working on a name for you, but we're not going to tell anyone what we choose until you're born. We don't want any funny looks or opinions about your name until it's official and there's no turning back! We promise not to pick anything too weird, or too common, though. And we'll spell whatever we choose conventionally, too. We want you to focus on the more important things in life, instead of spending time correcting people, " ... and that's with a 'qz,' not an 's.'"

You're getting a lot more active these days, kicking me and rolling around after almost every meal. And then you take a nap for a few hours before waking up again. I really love feeling you move around -- it's always the highlight of my day. Daddy felt you kick from the outside last weekend, too, and he was SO excited. I also tried to get you to kick for Grandpa Omdal after Thanksgiving dinner, but you weren't interested. I think you need to grow a little bigger before you start "dancing on command."

And speaking of growing bigger, that's exactly what I'm doing. I'm 23 weeks pregnant now, and have gained 17 pounds. Four of those were in the past two weeks, too! (You really like holiday food, but I think I'm going to have to cut back and stop spoiling you with so much chocolate and pie.) I'm doing my best to feed you a lot of fruits and vegetables, too.

Dr. Case recommended the book, Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives, by Annie Murphy Paul. I read an article she wrote in Time Magazine a couple months ago and have specifically tried to make sure you get plenty of cruciferous vegetables while you're in there to help protect you from cancer. I love you so much, babe, and am trying to make the best decisions as possible for you from the very beginning.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed thinking of what we're going to go through in life together. When I start thinking too much about the hard times we may face as you grow, I try to take a step back and just live in the moment. Eating broccoli and cabbage seem like one of the easier choices I'll ever have to make. Focusing on the simple things and taking it one day at a time help calm me down and remember the joy we'll have together.

I can't wait to meet you.

Love,
Mommy

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

20-Week Update

Dear Baby O,

You’ve been growing for 20 weeks now, and over the past couple weeks people have started to notice that you’re in there. Someone stopped me on the street last Friday and asked how far along I was — I excitedly shared that my pregnancy was halfway over. I’m just so excited to meet you, I can hardly stand the thought of waiting until March.

At the same time, part of me is terrified that you will arrive early. I want you to stay in there as long as possible to grow strong and healthy. If you’re anything like me or your dad, though, you’ll probably be a little bit late. That’s a habit we’re going to try our best not to teach you.

You’ve grown a lot in the past month and I started to feel you move. We were 18 weeks into this journey when I was sitting at my desk and felt a little twitch in my tummy. I wasn’t sure it was you, but then I felt it a few more times. And then a little bit more each day after that.

You really start bouncing around when I eat sugar. I’ve probably fed you too much sugar lately since there’s been a lot of Halloween candy floating around, but it’s so fun to feel you move that I have a hard time resisting. It also was a huge relief to feel you move. My tummy didn’t seem to be growing much for a few weeks and I had only gained one pound the previous month, so I was a little bit nervous that you weren’t in there anymore (as silly as I know that sounds). I love it so much when you remind me of your presence with a little nudge. It always puts a big smile on my face and fills my heart in a way I haven’t known before.

Your daddy can’t feel you from the outside yet, but he sure talks to you a lot and really is excited for the day he’ll be able to put his hand on my tummy and feel you move, too. He already loves you more than I’ve seen him love anything.

You’ve been so good to me, little one. So far, I’ve had a really healthy pregnancy with hardly any side effects. There have been a few bouts with heartburn, but nothing unbearable. And maybe that just means you’ll be born with a beautiful head of hair — or so I’ve been told. I’m also very tired by the time 8 p.m. rolls around each evening, but I expected that would be the case and again, it also is manageable. Other than that, I still just feel like me. It's definitely a relief, since I'm working full time and can't really afford the time to be sick. So thanks for that!

Pink or Blue
In three days, we’re going to see Dr. Case, a radiologist, who is going to check you out for our mid-point ultrasound. He’s going to tell us if you’re a boy or a girl and make sure you’re healthy. I sure hope you’re OK and that the next 20 weeks go as well as the first. I pray every night for God to bring you into this world smoothly and safely.

Your daddy and I dressed up as characters from the movie Ghostbusters this Halloween. Since I’m supposed to be “puffy” already with you in there, I fully embraced the theme and went as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. There were a lot of other kiddos who visited us in their costumes, too, which made us really excited to dress you up next year.

There are so many things I can’t wait to do with you. It’s going to be great.

Love,
Mommy

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tardy for the Summer Party

I cleaned off my camera this weekend and found some pictures from the past few months I thought I'd share, even though we're already well into fall.
We didn’t have much of a summer in Seattle, but Morgan and I still found time to play in the yard. Check out the deck he designed and built all by himself. He’s so handy — boy, did I luck out! He started this project last winter so it would be done in time for spring and summer. We wish we would have had the opportunity to use it more frequently, but thanks to Mother Nature, we spent a lot of time staring at it longingly through the rain-spattered windows of our living room. We did have a few nice days, but not nearly enough. There’s always next year … and we'll have another family member to join us then, too!
We tried our hands at square-foot gardening. This was an interesting experiment. Interesting is code for “not terribly successful.” We learned a lot, though, and are more prepared for future seasons. Biggest lesson: homemade compost sucks and should be avoided at all costs when you live somewhere that doesn’t typically get warm enough to kill seeds in the bin. I know gardens require weeding, but our situation was beyond ridiculous, since we essentially re-planted all the weeds we had pulled during the past two years. Next year, we’re bringing in clean soil from Garden World. (We’ll see how ambitious I actually am once the baby arrives in the spring.)
Second, you’re supposed to thin carrots for a reason. We definitely pulled some interesting configurations from the ground.
And third, here’s what happens when you stick a sprouting Walla Wall sweet onion into the ground after it sits on your counter a bit too long … beautiful flowers!
 
We spent a week at the Samish Island cabin in mid-September and came home with some good eats! Lots of crab and salmon in the freezer for the winter. Morgan tried his hand at smoking some of the fish he caught and was much more successful than our first attempt last year, when we ended up with salt pucks. This year's batch was absolutely delicious! 
 
On the pregnancy front, everything is going very well. All the tests we've had have come back with fantastic results and it seems that there's a healthy little baby kicking away in there (although I can't feel it yet). I feel totally normal, aside from the thickening waistline. It’s kind of weird — I really expected more things to be “different.” I’m sure that will come with time, since I’m only 17 weeks along.

We have a terrific OB, who was referred to us by our friends Missy and Kelly. At our last appointment, he asked if I was interested in natural birth and when I said no (absolutely nothing against it; it’s just not for me), he explained his philosophy of giving an epidural at anytime during labor — that there never is an “it’s too late” time with his patients, and that he “wouldn’t make me bite down on a stick like a pioneer woman.” Then he mentioned how his wife would kill him if she heard him say that, since she’s a natural birth coach. Ha!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Baby O!

I was running out of ideas for this blog, so I thought I'd have a baby to make things a little more interesting. Now how domestic is that?! Dedication, people.

And now that I'm emerging from the comatose fog I've been wading through for the past 12 weeks, perhaps I'll start posting more regularly, too. My goal is to have a good record of this pregnancy to look back on since it's such a special time.

I've been tremendously lucky in the nauseation department, with only a few days of upset tummy and some gagging here and there. The one thing that continually has set me off is toothpaste. I tried cinnamon flavor, thinking that might help, but it didn't. I think it's the taste of fluoride. I can get through brushing my teeth without puking, so that's good (don't worry, I'm not walking around with dog breath all the time because I can't handle it), but yes, toothpaste is my enemy at the moment. Seems like a weird one, but hey, I'll take it. As long as my list stays this short, I'll count my blessings.

Other that that, the only side effect has been sheer exhaustion. No exaggeration. It's more than "tired." Everyone told me to expect it, but it was more than I counted on. Over the past week or so, though, I've been noticing my energy take a turn for the better. Hallelujah!

S/he is expected to make his/her arrival on March 27, 2011. Right now, that seems like an eternity to wait, but I know it will be here in a blink. Morgan and I could not be more excited and can't wait to welcome this little person into the world.
First ultrasound, Aug. 10, 2010
Second ultrasound, Sept. 2, 2010
Third ultrasound, Sept. 13, 2010

Friday, June 25, 2010

Puppies and Cocktails

We watched this cute little pup a couple weeks ago while our good friends were in Hawaii. She was a lot fun -- I love being greeted with over-the-top excitement when I come home each day -- but both Morgan and I were jealous being stuck in the freezing Seattle Summer of Gloom, complete with grey skies and contstant drizzle.
To make us feel better, I whipped up a batch of whole-fruit cocktails to sip while we watched a movie on Saturday afternoon. They were delish and we *almost* felt like we were back in Maui. Not quite, but almost!

Strawberry Pina Coladas
1/2 cup water
2 oz. Malibu Rum
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen pineapple

Add ingredients to blender in order listed and blend until smooth.
Cheers!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

TJ's Pesto Gnocchi with Roasted Chicken and Peppers

Next to Costco, Trader Joe's is my second-favorite store to shop for groceries. I eat TJ's frozen steel cut oatmeal for breakfast along with my green drink almost everyday. It's only $.80 a serving and is SO much better than that other instant goo. I love its chewiness and subtle sweetness without being packed full of sugar, but most of all how well it fills me up. I'm a hungry girl in the morning and you don't want to be within a five mile radius if I miss breakfast!
My freezer only has so much room, though, so I have to stop by TJ's every other week or so to stock up. On my last trip, I picked up a few things that looked like they would pair together well for a super simple weeknight meal. After one bite, Morgan said, "Mmmm, add this one to the list," which means we'll be throwing it into the in-a-hurry rotation. I hesitate to even call this a recipe, because it's really just combining four store-bought ingredients, but hey, we all need a few of these up our sleeve!

TJ's Pesto Gnocchi with Roasted Chicken and Peppers
  • Two cooked chicken breasts, thinly sliced (I roast mine in the oven with a little garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil)
  • One package Trader Joe's gnocchi
  • One 7 oz. tub Trader Joe's Genoa pesto
  • Two 12 oz. jars fire roasted yellow and red peppers 
Cook gnocchi according to directions, drain and reserve.
Drain, rinse (to remove extra saltiness -- I love salt, but these are too salty) and roughly chop peppers.
Return gnocchi to the pot and combine with chicken, peppers, and pesto.
Toss to evenly distribute sauce.
Warm and gently stir over medium heat until heated through.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Season of Frozen Delights

Happy solstice!

Most parts of the country are experiencing hot-hot-heat (albeit not in Seattle), which means it’s the season of frozen delights! In our house, we’re just eating dessert from the freezer in an attempt to urge the sun out of hiding. It’s the first day of summer and we haven’t even hit 75 degrees. Yes, it’s true, we eat our sorbet with mittens and stocking caps in the Northwest.
I’ve always loved sorbet for its freshness, whole ingredients, melt-away texture and low-calorie goodness. Store bought, my favorite is Whole Fruit Lemon Sorbet. I checked out the nutrition and ingredients closely, though, and was really disappointed. For a half cup, the calories ring in at 140, with 34 grams of sugar, not to mention “corn syrup solids” as the second ingredient, followed in short order by “natural flavor.” Really? What is that, anyway? If it’s natural, why is it a secret?

Never fear — it’s super easy to make your own sorbet. And there are only three ingredients. Fruit, water, and a small amount of sugar. I’ve been making mine in the Vitamix, but also have made it in an ice cream maker. I’ll share both recipes with you, because I’m nice like that.

Three cheers for summer! Wherever you are, I hope your tank tops and shorts are treating you well. And I hope mine will be soon, too.

Vitamix Method
Fruit Sorbet

1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 pound frozen fruit (I love Trader Joe’s frozen dark sweet cherries — cherry sorbet with a little bit of chocolate sauce is awesome.)

Add ingredients to Vitamix in order listed and blend until smooth. Don’t overblend, or melting will occur.

Eat immediately in soft stage, or freeze for firmer sorbet.

If freezing longer than two hours, allow to soften for 15 minutes on the counter before serving.

Ice Cream Machine Method
Mango Sorbet

4 mangos — peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 cup simple syrup
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Place cubed mango in a food processor, and puree.

Pour in simple syrup and lime juice, and puree until smooth.

Place in an ice cream maker. Freeze thoroughly.

When finished, the sorbet will be soft but ready to eat. For firmer sorbet, transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze at least two hours. If freezing longer than two hours, allow to soften for 15 minutes on the counter before serving.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Going Green

I’m an all-or-nothing type girl. Always have been. This personality “flair,” paired with my love of vegetables has led to some interesting occurences in my life ...
As a toddler, I refused most food other than carrots for quite a lengthy period. Lengthy enough for my skin to develop a nice orange tinge and send my mother running to the doctor with jaundice suspicions. A quick once-over and a good chuckle from Dr. Kina (or so she tells it) landed me with a tidy carotenemia diagnosis. Feed your kids abundant amounts of orange and yellow vegetables and they’ll turn a lovely shade of copper. Lesson learned.

Although I shook the carrot habit by my third birthday, I still often find myself jonesing for a good veggie fix, 28 years later. Without them, leafy greens specifically, I feel sluggish and leaden. Lately the difference felt between eating eight or nine servings a day (about a half cup per serving) versus an “off” day of three or four has become inherently clear.

While we were in Maui this past February, a rerun of Dr. Oz was playing during breakfast (I love me some Dr. Oz). He was talking about the “green drink,” which he often eats for breakfast. His particular version consists of spinach, cucumber, celery, ginger, parsley, apples, lime and lemon juice, blended together until smooth. I found it intriguing and decided that when we returned home, these green drinks were going to become part of my daily routine.

Enter my all-or-nothingness and fast forward a couple months … I have become borderline-obsessed with the green drink. It only took a few days to start feeling the difference in my energy level, improved digestion and reduced nighttime cravings for junk or sugar. And please note my careful use of the word “reduced …” It’s not like I no longer enjoy a good scoop of ice cream and glass of wine.

Morgan, on the other hand, only tolerates the green drink because A) I make it for him (no effort on his part) and B) he knows it’s healthy, so he should probably choke it down. He has told me repeatedly that it “kind of tastes like grass clippings.” I think that’s partly due to the color and his general stubbornness, though. I honestly think they’re delicious.

After following Dr. Oz’s recipe for a couple weeks, I began experimenting to come up with a more personalized green drink. I found a combination that I really like (and Morgan thinks is a bit tastier than the original, but there’s definitely no affinity there) and have stuck with it because I'm feeling so terrific.
The Promise, The Legend, The Vitamix
I promised myself that if I had a green drink every day for 60 days, I could upgrade from my P.O.S. Cuisinart blender (seriously, whoever designed the pouring spout should be fired) to a Vitamix 5200. I have been longing after the Vitamix for years, ever since I first saw one demonstrated at Costco. They are ridiculously expensive, though, so I really needed a good justification for this purchase. Well, I accomplished my 60-day green drink goal and my new toy arrived last Wednesday. And yes, I totally spoiled myself.

I cannot write about the Vitamix without sounding like an infomercial — apologies in advance — but this thing completely blows my mind. I thought it would be a powerful blender, but it’s really so much more.

My new green drink, which is more of a fruit and vegetable smoothie, is now actually smooth. The Cuisinart left it fairly grainy, but still drinkable through a straw. The Vitamix leaves it velvety, without a trace of texture from the fruit and vegetable peels (left on for the extra fiber). And it’s fast. Any smoothie is blended to perfection in less than a minute. I also made the tortilla soup from the accompanying recipe book this weekend, which was sooo good and better than anything I’ve had in a restaurant. The 64 oz. carafe also is a huge (literally) improvement over my old blender, which was overflowing by the time I had loaded all the green drink ingredients. I could go on for days with Vitamix accolades, but it suffices to say, this machine rules. It is, by far, the most awesome appliance in my kitchen.

Plastic Mason Jar Lids to the Rescue
I really enjoy the green drink for breakfast, but finding time to eat at home is difficult. I get up at 5:15 a.m. each day and arrive at work a little before 7 a.m. Eating at my desk allows me to sleep in as long as possible, and I’m definitely not interested in my current and always unwelcome middle-of-the night alarm sounding even a minute earlier.

So, how to get these things to the office? Plastic water bottles were quickly ruled out, as the drink left them with a funky vegetal smell and the lids never sealed quite tightly enough. Thankfully, I stumbled upon plastic mason jar lids at Fred Meyer and they’re absolutely perfect! One full Vitamix makes two quarts of green drink and the lids are fantastic for storage and portability — there aren’t two parts to wash, and they don’t impart an unwanted metallic taste into your food. Plus, the glass jars don’t stain or retain any odor. Winner all around.

I know this is a record-long post, so before you alert the local mental hospital of my possible OCD, I’ll share my favorite green drink combination / recipe (if you can call it a recipe) and sign-off.

Happy vegging!

P.S. I watched my friend Katie's one-year-old suck this down like it was chocolate milk and ask for more, so try it on your own kids and let me know how it goes!!

Hillary’s Green Drink
(Note: These measurements are very approximate. I recommend throwing in whatever suits your personal taste.)

None of these vegetables or fruits are peeled, with the exception of the banana. You may need to peel these items, depending on the strength of your blender.

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup water (Some blenders may need more water than this to get started, or you may want more if you like a thinner consistency. My Cuisinart blender could take up to two cups of water until it would start blending.)
  2. ½ English cucumber
  3. 4 large stalks celery
  4. 2 or 3 large “fistfuls” fresh spinach
  5. 2 or 3 large “fistfuls” kale leaves
  6. ½ bunch parsley (stems removed)
  7. ½ inch ginger
  8. 1 banana
  9. 1 apple
  10. 1 ½ cups frozen fruit (I usually use frozen strawberries or the spectrum blend from Costco)
  11. ½ cup nonfat, plain Greek yogurt (optional — I don’t always add this)
  12. 2 Tbsp. ground flaxseed meal (found in the refrigerated “natural foods” section of your grocery store)
  13. Juice of 1 lemon
  14. Juice of 1 lime
Directions

  1. Roughly chop the cucumber and celery into large chunks.
  2. Add water and first few ingredients to blender. Blend until incorporated.
  3. Continue adding remaining ingredients, two or three at a time, until all ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Blend on high for an additional two minutes (minimum), or until the full mixture is completely smooth.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mau ke aloha no Hawai`i

Hello, again! It’s been awhile -- but I’m back and have been up to some good stuff. Stuff that's been taking up a lot of time, and stuff I'm really excited share with you. My camera is ridiculously backlogged, so we better get started.

Since we last chatted, Morgan and I vacationed in Maui for nine days. There aren't a lot of stories to tell about our vacation, because the whole point was to not do a lot of anything (aside from eat, drink and frolic in the sun).

We got up each day with no concrete plans, which we've never done before, and it was blissful. Especially blissful visiting from Seattle in February. The weather was perfect -- 80 degrees and sunny each day. I highly recommend you visit Maui. And since the island is more fun to look at than read about, so here are some snapshots:

We played on the beach.
We drank lava flows and ate amazing food, including a "kill me now, because it doesn't get better than this" coconut lobster bisque at Mama's Fish House. We adopted a Hawaiian kitty and named him "Leonard." He came with our condo.We ran around the jungle pretending to be characters in "Lost." We watched whales.
And we came home really, really happy.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dear Costco, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways ...

Costco has a soft spot in my heart. Even though they're not a mom-and-pop small business, I tend to think of them as one, being from the Seattle area (they're local, at least). They're good to their employees; stand fiercely by their cardinal rule that no branded item can be marked up by more than 14 percent, and no private-label item by more than 15 percent; and best of all, carry really, really awesome stuff.To no other store do I feel this sense of loyalty. Years ago, long before Morgan, a boy once took me on a date and made a quick stop at *gasp!* a Sam's Club. "That's a deal breaker, ladies!" I knew the relationship was going nowhere from that very moment. I kid, I kid ... kind of.

So without further ado, here are the top 10 reasons why I am a die-hard Costco fanatic:

1. My gorgeous engagement ring.
2. The rugged, yet stylish Honda Pilot in my driveway (Costco Auto-Buying Program).
3. The three-pack of English cucumbers in my refrigerator.
4. My bedroom furniture.
6. My excess of workout clothes (I need to stop buying these, but can't resist).
7. The flat of garden-fresh tasting Campari tomatoes on my kitchen counter that cost two-thirds less than at Fred Meyer (we eat a lot of these).
8. My Sonicare toothbrush.
9. My television(s).
10. The recipe below ...

Tonight's dinner inspired this post. It's just one of my fantastic recent finds. I've been looking at these ravioli for awhile in the refrigerated section, but hadn't picked any up until a few weeks ago (they come in a two pack and freeze well, too).

The ravioli is from Monterey Pasta Company and the sauce is a "back of the box" recipe for brown sugar walnut sage butter. The ravioli filling is to die for and as good as anything I could make myself. Perfect for a busy night. Super easy, super delicious. Enjoy!!

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Sugar Walnut Sage Butter

16 oz. Monterey Pasta Company Butternut Squash Ravioli – Cooked per package directions
3/4 cup walnut pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
3/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or one teaspoon dried rubbed sage
2 tablespoons cream

  1. Prepare pasta as directed.
  2. While pasta cooks, start the sauce. Have all ingredients together as this comes together quickly!
  3. Using a large wide sauce pan or skillet, toast walnuts on medium heat until just fragrant and beginning to color.
  4. Reduce heat to low, add butter and stir.
  5. Add brown sugar, salt, cayenne and sage.
  6. Stir until butter is completely melted. Whisk in cream, add cooked ravioli and enjoy.