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.

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.

Ballerina Buns

Today is my first ever “dance mom” event and Lil Bit’s dance studio is doing class and head shot photos. I’m a nervous wreck.

Let me start off by explaining that I’m utterly a disappointment when it comes to doing my child’s hair as my mother and sister frequently point out. It doesn’t help that she was graced with her Dad’s more Nordic-looking hair (straight and blonde) but with my thin Irish/English strands with the unfortunate lack of ability to hold curl as well as mine. Poor child. Regardless of the challenge placed before me, I am a smart girl and having been a mini-mom to my sister, 8 years my junior, I learned a thing or two when accompanying her to dance. Hence I’ve bought a hair-hack, a.k.a. fake bun to hopefully assist me in this endeavor. 

  
It worked! And she did so well with pictures. Happy mom squeal! I’ll be honest, I keep hoping she will decide to do a sport like tennis, soccer, ball–anything that I would feel more helpful with but alas, not so lucky as of yet.