Cold Icky Day, Warm Full Belly

Cold weather has finally (and briefly) moved into the southeast. Moose is stuck at work but Lil Bit and I are busy working on things at home. Including a yummy and hearty soup that has become a family favorite. I was originally inspired by a recipe you can find here. However, none of us are fans of celery and Lil Bit has a tomato allergy so this Mommy had to creatively find a way to give the soup some flavor and acidity. You can absolutely pre-prep this and throw it in the freezer (minus broth) for a busy night and cook in either the slow cooker for about 4-6 hours or you can also cook in a Dutch oven the way I do for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The last 5-10 mins I cook I take the lid off and let it reduce just a little.

Mushroom Barley Stew (E2 Tomato-free version)

8oz Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced

2 carrots sliced (I like rainbow carrots)

1 onion, diced

1 cup uncooked pearl barley

2 cloves of garlic, minced (I am having a strange pregnancy aversion to garlic at this time so I just used about 1 tsp garlic powder)

1/2 to 1 tablespoon of salt (I tend to like it less salty because I use unsalted beef broth that still has some sodium content)

1 tsp of dried basil

1 tsp of preferably fresh black pepper

1-2 tablespoons Marsala or similar wine

6 cups of unsalted Beef Broth (if needing tomato-free for allergy PLEASE watch the label as many, many brands include tomato. I use Pacific organic brand or Field Day organic brand as they have so far been safe for us)
This is a super hearty stew and probably makes between 6-8 servings depending on size/appetite. Moose is a big guy with a big appetite so closer to 6 servings for us.

I hope you my spin on this stew. 

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Gender Reveal

IMG_5798.JPGMy little sister hosted an AWESOME gender reveal for Moose, Lil Bit and I. She is not always the best secret keeper but she was the only one who knew what the baby was and did a great job. We had about 30-35 people over at my parents house where she hosted and we did a live Facebook stream for my family out of town.  As it was just a few days before Christmas she did a Christmas themed party with red and green and gingerbread men.

We had a hot chocolate bar with cups, an Ugly sweater aspect that we voted on with the cutest ugly sweater ornaments and a sweater voting for boy/girl. Boys were 16 to girls 11. Tons of Christmas treats as well as hot food for guests.

My father-in-law has a side photography business including a photo booth that we had a ton of fun with!

My sister tricked us initially by having individual wrapped ornaments and having everyone open them with the stipulation that if you get gold, sorry you don’t have the winner, if you have red its a girl, green its a boy. Well they were ALL gold. Then she had a sack of balloons for us to open. They were also all gold.

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Opening balloons….wait a minute…

So we were taken outside for the real deal and we were literally in the dark about what was going to happen. She and her best friend had decided to be master engineers and create a light display for which Josh and I had the plugs

On the count of three we turned on the sign that said:

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Another sweet girl for our home!

We are very excited to welcome another girl to our family. I will have to come up with a good nickname to call her. Hmm…

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone is having a very Merry Christmas! We are sending you love from down south where our air conditioner will literally be running today. A little warm but it isn’t putting a damper on our holiday. My daughter is busy playing with everything Santa brought and that we gave her as fast as she can. My husband is enjoying his new Garmin Vivoactive watch and I’m typing from my awesome new backlit Bluetooth keyboard. But honestly the best thing about today is that we are all happy, healthy, bellies full of delicious (and organic) breakfast. Even the dog seems super comfortable and happy today. I wish you all the best Christmas and a Happy New Year!

And for some cheer, please enjoy this picture of my crazy bulldog snoring on her back with her jowls flapping in the wind. 🙂

Mommy and Me Day: Christmas cookie edition 

My little one had her first day of Christmas vacation today for which I happen to be off of work. She kept telling me all day how excited she was to have a “mommy and me play day” and it made my heart sing. We played and talked and went to the grocery store together but the best part was baking cookies. We made my “reindeer poop cookies” as my family and friends have gleefully named them. They are a chocolate crinkle cookie with crushed up peppermints (only the ones made with real peppermint oil do the trick) on top while still hot and they do resemble their name sake. I so loved that she is old enough for us to put on our Christmas aprons, sing Christmas songs into our spatulas, and make some love-filled goodies. 

Yummy products of our Mommy and Lil Bit Day


This tradition is especially important to me this year, my first year without my Nana. Nana baked for the holidays like it was her God-given job. My family on that side is very large with even more extended family and friends flocking to my Nana’s small but ever-welcoming home and arms. For as long as I can remember walking into my Nana’s house in the weeks approaching Christmas meant having your olfactory overloaded with the smell of sweets and treats in the oven. Just as many stayed in old-school Tupperware on a small fold out table, in the back of the dining room as were given out to family, friends, co-workers or someone who just looked a bit peckish. And there was my tiny, bespectacled-Nana, all 5 ft-even of her, with one of an assortment of Christmas aprons on and immediately stopping whatever she was feverishly working on to give you a hug and a kiss. 

She’d ask about your day in front of your momand then conspiratorially whisper to question if you wanted to help bake–and lick the spatula with a glimmer in her eye after making you wash your hands and pull your hair back. I always thought of her as one of Santa’s helpers as a child as she moved about the kitchen in a magic way. I know Lil Bit will never get these cherished memories with her “Nanny”, but I can give her as close to an experience as possible with all 5’1″ of me, finding some holiday spirit inside and patience which I do not normally have for a special day of cookie-making. I hope we get to do it every year and I hope she looks as forward to it as I did with Nana. And yes, I gave her the spatula to lick. 😉

Nana and I circa pregnant with Maddie so 2011?

Gestation and Christmas Vacation

Sorry I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for a bit. I had both lost some enthusiasm and been sick and exhausted from being pregnant, work and my busy 5 yr old. Those two things are definitely not mutually exclusive. It’s also sick season. Cue dramatic music.
We’ve been busy reorganizing our house but I need to get back to writing as it’s both good for my soul and eventually would love it to substitute my income especially when I’m on maternity leave. Let me explain, I ended up on bed rest at 34 weeks due to preeclampsia and preterm labor with our first. The problem lies in the fact that our hospital doesn’t offer paid maternity leave, you have to use FMLA instead which is only 12 weeks. This sounds like a lot if you went full-term and popped the baby out with no issues but if you get put on bed rest it’s not a lot, and it’s unpaid. I have to buy up my Short term but that doesn’t kick in until 15 days after and only covers 6 weeks total (so 4 weeks at 70% of my salary). Better than nothing I suppose and I have PTO (personal time-off) but that is not a large amount either due to running from 2 hurricanes and holidays this year (if office closed we have to use PTO).
I won’t get into how I feel about this being stressful for new moms and I feel is likely correlated to the US having high PPD and low breastfeeding rates (how can moms bond well with their babies when they have to hurry up and get back to work?) but I will say I will be looking for a way to supplement and any suggestions are welcome, preferably something flexible like writing. To be honest, if given the choice I’d stay home for at least 6 months with this one and take a leave of absence. I love my job most days but I missed a lot with our first one between working and grad school and this will be our last one. I’ve even considered taking a part time job at a minute clinic or something for now to have a little less work responsibility so I’ll have more of me to give at home.

Any of you out there know in the medical field somedays you just don’t have a lot of give left when you get home, I also went to school with a few kids whose parents were NPs or docs and they were kinda assholes. Most of them grew up to be ok but they were not exactly little angels behind their working parents’ backs. I’m not saying it’s always this way but having been in high school with these people and working in the hospital system since I was 16, I know how often the parents were stuck at work and I knew the trouble the kids were getting into. I’m not saying I was perfect but I’ve always been an old soul and my parents were around or knew where I was 99% of the time. I am not saying they weren’t good parents but I don’t think they could always put their kids and families first and I DO NOT want to live that way.

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I’ll jump down from my soapbox now. So what’s new on the home front? The holidays have been interesting this year. Despite my hormones raging and my threshold for bursting into tears being pretty low, I have felt more like shopping, wrapping and decorating than I have in the past 3 years. I think it’s because Little Bit gets into it so much now. She’s so excited and it’s contagious. I’ve also taken a lot of pressure off myself. First holiday season without the family matriarch, I’m pregnant and tired…if it gets done it gets done. If not–too bad, so sad. As a result, I’ve been less stress than expected and I’ve looked forward to more things that require that holiday-worker-bee-energy instead of with trepidation.

Due to impending arrival of baby 2, we are not going on traditional Christmas travel we had planned on. I’m saving leave and so is hubby. We are however doing a Christmas gender reveal that my sister is hosting. I’ll post some pics from that exciting event.

Stone Mountain Trip

This is something that I should’ve posted a long time ago but I’m trying to get back guys so just bare with me!
Lil Bit and I semi-unexpectedly decided to join Moose on a conference trip to Stone Mountain. I’ve been before with friends that live in the ATL area but not as an adult. I think I was a grumpy/bored teen last time I went which was long enough ago that I’m sure the place has changed drastically. I’m eager for little bit and I to go explore while The Moose is busy networking and learning about park stuff.
I will keep a little photo log and diary for both sentimental purposes and in case anyone is thinking of taking a trip with a preschooler. As of right now, if the weather stays nice, I hope to take little one on a hike and hopefully have a picnic. But lately this has been the case in at least our neck of the woods:

Wish us luck! 

Stone Mountain Adventure part 1

Lil Bit and I mainly spent the first afternoon by the pool at the very lovely Evergreen Marriott Resort while Moose attended his conference. (Let me just clarify, I’m not getting paid anything for this review, nor was I comped anything, this is mainly for my memory and in case of curiosity on your behalf.) The service was phenomenal, something we had heard prior to our visit but always take with a grain of salt. That evening they hosted a mock casino that Lil Bit and O excused ourselves from and went back to the room to rest and talk about our adventure the next day.
The second day began with us waking up to perfect temperatures for GA (high 70s) and partly cloudy skies. There was a chance for rain so I wanted to start our day off outside while it was nice. We went for a hike by the Old Grist Mill.

  

Next we decided to explore the Granite Quarry. Lil Bit loved both areas and I tried to let her explore a little more freely than normal because it was not crowded at all and relatively safe. 

  
She kept telling me she wanted to lay down and stare at the clouds 🙂

  

Finally we headed over to the main attraction area, the Crossroads. We paid for the adventure pass and the duck boat ride and the total for the 2 of us was $78. Had we been planning to go back I would have spent the little bit extra to buy the upgraded year pass. I’m also now aware that it’s a little cheaper to buy it all online. 
The Crossroads area was really aesthetically pleasing to wander through and explore. While we waited on time for our duckboat tour, we watched Rio 4D which was cute and Lil Bit actually really enjoyed. 
The duck boat tour was cute, a little cheesy but perfect for kiddos who are preschool and elementary school age. I highly recommend our tour guide/driver Captain Hollywood who made the experience even more fun. He played with the kids and even let them drive the Duck. The souvenir quackers were also a fun surprise and our Captain led us all in song a few times. It allowed for a great view of the lake and he shared a few facts about the park including many Hollywood movies that had been filmed in the 3200 state park. The boat ride also gave us a great view of the relief carved into the granite; supposedly the largest in the world. 

  
 The duckboat was worthwhile for us, although I’m not sure older children would be as excited as the little ones.

  
The next bit of fun was the Candy Shoppe, Glass Blowing Shoppe and lunch at the Marketplace. Both of the shoppes have demonstrations which Lil Bit enjoyed watching with many “look at that momma”s. The food was pretty good but I do wish we would have just gotten the meal deal because it would have been cheaper. We meandered through the village and because it was getting uncomfortably warm, my sweet girl and I walked over to The Great Barn for some air -conditioned fun. The barn is full of fun slides and “harvesting” activities involving foam-ball “fruit” everything from “storing it” in vacuum powers granaries to putting it in the harvester the fun way like shooting it with an air-powered gun (like Nerf). There are even fun places to climb, slide, and bounce. We spent probably a good hour here before Lil Bit started having a meltdown and I knew it was time to go back to the room. Some activities we want to do but didn’t quite make it to (this trip was a child-led adventure) included the train ride, sky lift and plantation house/farmyard. I totally feel that we had our money’s worth of fun but would really love to come back in the fall when the pumpkin festival is going on and the weather is more cooperative. 
That night we went to the laser show and fireworks. We very much enjoyed it as it was included in my hubby’s conference and we had VIP seating, popcorn during the show and shelter for when it decided to rain briefly. The show is a little cheesy but the kids love it and the lawn area was packed. We bought dippin’ dots ice cream before hand and danced to some music they had playing for the guests waiting on the lawn. 
We had a great time but must return to reality! 

Evening Walk

This post was supposed to be a wordless Wednesday but apparently it did not go across as planned so I’ll elaborate a bit.
Moose, Lil Bit, Scarlett (puppy) and I have been taking afternoon walks (late afternoon because it’s so very hot) following dinner each evening. I keep feeling down and restless lately and this has helped. I miss my grandmother a lot lately. I get busy and then think about calling her and realize I can’t. We’ve always done some “back to school” type shopping together this time of year even when I wasn’t in school, even if we didn’t buy anything and just walked, talked and had lunch. This particular evening (2 nights ago) I was particularly down while we were walking and the storm clouds looming in the distance reflected my mood. We decided to turn back and head towards the house. As we did I noticed a rainbow and shared it with my family. My Nana loved Hawaii where she and my Papa had gone a few times and the culture. She had told me about (how she was told) that the rainbow was a pathway to heaven. Now I don’t know how true this is but When I saw it a few days ago it brought me comfort of a kind memory maybe even as a sign from the heavens, however you may take it. Either way it brought me a little peace as we walked home together.