Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Mommy and Daddy club

Mattie and I feel that we have passed a number of milestones over the past 30 weeks or so, but we are especially proud of our most recent venture into Babies R Us and the ongoings there. When we put things on our registry we tried to register for mainly things we needed and only a few "Awww how cute" things. One thing we knew that we needed was a car seat/stroller combo, but we thought it would be one of those things we had to save up gift cards and such for. Much to our surprise the travel system we registered for showed up on our front doorstep one day. With no information about who it was from, we lugged it inside and pondered about this generous gift. After finding out (through family networks) that it was from my Uncle Kerri, Aunt Julie, and their daughter Krista we decided to see how well the car seat fit in the backseat of my Jetta. Much to our dismay the car seat did not fit well into the backseat...not as well as other car seats had anyways. So rather than buying a new car (I love my Jetta and could not bear to let it go so soon) we packed everything back up to take back to Babies R Us.

Once there we got help from a store employee in trying out several car seats in the car. We finally settled on the Baby Trend brand (which we knew would work because we tried out a friends earlier in the month). Once we decided on the brand we had two options. This one:
Baby Trend Expedition Travel System Stroller - Stride - Baby Trend  - Babies"R"Us
or this one:
Baby Trend Travel System Stroller - Mojito - Baby Trend  - Babies"R"Us

Each system had merits, the three wheeler had more of an overall sporty feel and look, while the four wheeler was more compact and was a little "prettier" while still being gender neutral. We liked the ruggedness of the three wheeler and the fact that it had a traction-ey grip on the adjustable handle and that the wheels were real rubber wheels. The green stroller also had an adjustable handle, but not as high of an adjustment (but still plenty high) and had a very tight turning radius. Of course we had to fully try both out so I set up a slalom course in the aisle for Mattie and I to try and steer the strollers around. The last test remained...the folding and unfolding of the stroller. For those who don't know most modern day strollers have a "one hand" capability for folding and unfolding the stroller. So we tried to fold both problems. Now for the unfolding part. Matt unfolded the three problems. Matt unfolded the green Four wheeler...let's try that again...Matt unfolded the green four wheeler...let's try one more time...Matt unfolded the green four wheeler. It was then that Matt and I both thought "What the heck is wrong with this thing" and "We are not getting this one". We could not unfold the stroller one handed, we could not unfold the stroller at all. Convinced that there was some grave malfunction in the mechanism of the stroller we continued to try to unfold the thing. Matt grabbed both ends of the stroller and tried to pull them apart. No luck. I grabbed one end and he grabbed the other. No luck. We thought it was the wheels that were stuck so we "unstuck" them and couldn't get the stupid stroller to unfold. Very glad that we had not bought this stroller we tried to simply get the stroller back in presentation mode so we could take the three wheeler and go. Finally Matt saw a little latch on the side of the stroller, curious about what exactly that did he looked closer. Ding-Ding! The latch was keeping the stroller closed tight all along (making for an even more compact travel system). Once we (quite easily) unlatched the mechanism it popped right open at our command. And Babies R Us now has at least five minuted of footage of us trying to open a stroller.

After much deliberation and the unfolding ordeal we decided on the green four wheeler. It had overall better handling, a smoother ride (which will be important for the sleeping T-Rex), folded up more compactly (thanks little latch), and a nicer aesthetic appeal. We wanted to like the three wheeler more, but just didn't. We made our purchase as Matt drug me away from the Thanksgiving outfits (which I will get one when we know how large Baby T-Rex will be at that point) and headed to the 'Stros game. All in all it was a wonderful adventure. I tried to convince Matt to go ahead and install the car seat in our cars, but he insisted we have plenty of time for that.

We have a check-up on Thursday and I will be sure to post about more perfect T-Rex progress and the wonderful shower from this past weekend!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cornbread, onion, and bell pepper stuffed porkchops

Tonight's meal was a creation of my own mind and the main course turned out pretty well. We have finished dinner and the Spaghetti Squash is still cooking in the oven because it was not ready yet...o-well it will be good tomorrow with our extra two pork chops.

I had a deep desire for fall foods. I really enjoy fall and I especially enjoy the foods that come with fall. I love squash, pumpkin, maple, cinnamon and all of the other flavors that others seem to forget about the rest of the year. Some of my favorite foods are only available at restaurants at this time of year. I love a warm and creamy butternut squash soup and crave pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake all year long! Whether it be because of t.v. and movies or because of my own deep feelings, fall food is so comforting and helps to rejuvenate me for football season and gearing up for the winter.

Because I was wanting fall flavors and Matt wanted something different from our usual meals I decided to do stuffed pork chops. We had made a similar dish years ago, but I decided to wing it this time. The following "recipe" is not, I repeat NOT, my cornbread dressing/stuffing that I use for Thanksgiving. Thus I will appreciate it if the thought does not even cross your mind. I will try to replicate that delicious dish soon enough and post it well before Thanksgiving for the general enjoyment of the public.

Basically grab 4 (or so)1 to 1 1/2 inch pork chops. We look for a leaner pork chop so we usually go for the loin cuts. Salt and pepper one side of the chop and sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on each (trust me...cinnamon and pork were made for one another). Cut a deep pocket into the side of the pork chop: just take a sharp (steak) knife and run it along the side of the chop. You can separate the meat a bit extra if you need to. For the stuffing make a batch of cornbread. For this recipe I used a box of Jiffy cornbread mix because I like the sweetness and soft texture that Jiffy has. I used half of that (once baked) and combined with a teaspoon or so of butter, a third of a sauteed red bell pepper, and a quarter of a sauteed onion. Mix all of this together and spoon into the pockets of the pork chops. The cornbread should be soft enough that you can press (and mash) it into the crevices of the pork. Place in a glass baking dish with a third of a cup of chicken stock mixed with a tablespoon or more of maple syrup. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until cooked throughout. Enjoy with your favorite sides...we were supposed to have spaghetti squash and green beans but will have to wait on the squash.

The chicken stock mixture kept the pork nice and moist and the cornbread stuffing soaked all of the pork juices as the meat cooked. It had a good meat flavor without being greasy or fatty and the cornbread stuffing lent a sweetness that complimented the pork well. Hope you enjoy this and many other meals!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Our perfect little T-Rex

I am not trying to sound too much like a proud mama yet, but I cannot help it...the doctor uses the word perfect so frequently in my appointments that I cannot help but burst with pride! I went in for a routine appointment today. My blood pressure is nice and low, my fundal measurement is right where they would like it to be, none of my symptoms are out of the ordinary, and despite being incredibely tired (especially with school starting) I have no big complaints. I was happy to hear that my glucose test came back extremely normal. Dr. Norton said that anything under 135 is normal and I was well under that with a result in the 70's. She also said that my blood count was good which means no nasty iron pills to take. So work is stuck with me for atleast another two weeks which is good because I have planned out my maternity leave perfectly and don't want to have to miss anything more than I need to (although I will of course, if neccessary).

At non-ultrasound appointments they do pull out the fetal monitor to listen to the T-Rex's heart beat. The nurse located the little clomping (or stomping) heart and measured it to see what the heart rate was. In the middle of listening she started laughing and informed me that Baby T-Rex kicked (or punched) the fetal monitor. I found this amusing and very typical of this baby who definitely has a clear idea of what constitutes it's personal space. The heart rate, in case you were wondering, is a solid 157 beats per minute which has remained pretty consistent at all of our appointments.

We were also happy to confirm that as long as everything goes well with labor and delivery that I will get to hold the baby right away and have some mama time. I cannot wait to hold that little T-Rex in my arms although if it is not wrapped up in a blanket I might have to be careful of the claws!

Soon I will post some of the house renovation project progress, which we have humbly turned over to professionals seeing as we simply cannot devote to ourselves. A huge thank you to Freddie for helping make this possible!

Just a few cute pictures to tide you over!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

28 weeks down...12ish to go

So we are now officially in our third trimester. We cannot believe how quickly the pregnancy has flown by and cannot believe even more that in something around three months we will have our little T-Rex in our arms. We are wondering more and more what he or she is going to be like. I am still glad with our decision not to find out if T-Rex is a boy or a girl because I feel like it is harder to get a sense of who this baby is...and makes it exciting to see when he or she comes out. T-Rex is interacting with the arm/hand that is on the belly at the time and is really not a big fan of having his or her space invaded. T-Rex will definitely fight back if feeling that the territory is being infringed upon!

I am getting good bursts of energy which is nice for school starting back. I hope that I can teach these students well until I leave and still have some energy for after school when I "nest" at home. We got rid of all the carpet upstairs and are living on the hardwood until the Southeast Asian wood shipment comes in.

Here are this months belly shots. I have not decided if we are going to do them more often now that we are nearing the end. I suppose we will see how much change there is each week.

With school starting I am hoping that 10th graders and up have enough sense to keep their grimy little hands away from my belly...I would hate to have to go ninja/Jedi master on them!!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Baby T-Rex and Mattie like steak...

If it was up to Matt and we had an unlimited budget we would probably eat steak every other day. Mattie loves steak and partakes in it whenever possible. As most other people in the country, I grew up with the feeling that steak was a special occasion food and like that we only have it every once in awhile, it makes you appreciate it more. I would however like to partake in it more than we do and I feel like the baby T-Rex would agree seeing as I really enjoyed steak (and meat in general) for the first part of this pregnancy.

I will admit that Matt and I are both steak snobs. We would never choose to purchase a Ribeye and would rarely purchase a Sirloin. We would happily partake in a Sirloin at someone else's home and would eat a Ribeye there, but it would not be our first choice of meat. Plain and simple we are both Tenderloin filet kind of people. Matt does not like having to work for his meat and he hates having large amounts of fat in his steak, bacon, chicken, whatever. There has been no amount of marbling (the fat distribution within a steak) that we have found in a Ribeye that makes it worth it to him. Quite frankly I like the pure beef flavor of a Tenderloin and I like what a well defined piece of meat it is. I feel like you know where you stand when you get a filet and overall the quality of a filet is very hard to compromise, there is little room for deviation.

When I made the steak in the picture above I actually got them from the butcher at HEB. For me, if I am going to make a filet, I want to pick out what I will be taking home. I acquired the filets of my choice looking for little fat (and what fat there was having equal distribution through the cut), thickness (to acquire perfect medium-rareness), and a nice red color. Mattie and I both like our filets salt and fresh cracked black pepper on the both sides and bacon wrapped. Matt likes the flavor of the bacon but not the usual softness so we have started par-cooking (cooking until barely cooked) and then wrapping so it can become fully crispy around the steak. I imagine you lose a little bit of bacon flavor this way, but it works out in the end. We will usually sear the steaks in olive oil and finish in the oven unless we have the grill going (which is rare).

These steaks we enjoyed with buttery baguette, green beans that had been sauteed with mushrooms and tomatoes, and a loaded baked potato. As far as baking the potato goes...don't. Pierce your potato (we prefer red potatoes) with a fork several times, rub in olive oil, and nuke in the microwave until you can pierce easily with a fork. Wrap that sucker up in foil to get an even, creamy texture, then indulge as usual.

So enjoy my foodie friends...I have a request for a certain recipe by one of my readers, but don't have any pictures to go along with the we will see...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Quick props for Kroger...

I am usually unhappy with both of our nearby grocery stores. HEB has an awful tendency to be out of two or three of the main things we go there for which frustrates me to no end. I have been known to abandon carts full of groceries there (although I usually tell someone so they can put all the cold stuff away). HEB does have excellent customer service though. Their checkers are usually good about being able to tell that I don't wish to chit chat, I would just like my items scanned quickly. Their baggers are also excellent and I usually don't have to tell them that the insulated bags we got at the commissary (which we visited with McKay) are for cold things. I rather like the Kroger around our house because it is rarely out of what we need (but the items are still fresh) and it has great manager specials. However their checkers and baggers are notoriously slow, eat and drink while touching my food, are incessantly on their phones texting, and never know what the insulated bags are for. I have not noticed much of a price difference (overall on your entire bill) between either store. There are some things that are cheaper at each place and I think it balances out in the end.

However, HEB has been running a major advertising campaign against Kroger specifically and especially that their prices are much cheaper even without a special card. I would like to officially endorse my use of the Kroger Plus Card for a number of reasons:

A) You don't have to actually carry around the card, if it is linked to your phone number you can just type in the number on the key pad.

B) If you use your card enough you get extra free stuff...we always qualify for a free Turkey at Thanksgiving and we have recently been getting tons of Kroger specific coupons in the mail. These coupons are tracked through what we frequently buy so this last visit we got Free eggs, Free cherry tomatoes, a few other free things, and discounts on items we buy anyways. I like that.

C) We learned recently that by linking your phone number to your card and with their tracking (which is probably mainly for marketing research which I am ok with) that if you buy a "tainted" item, they will call you to warn you and you can bring said item back for a refund (if you still have it. Mattie was surprised to receive a phone call that a batch of cilantro (which was gone by two or three days) that we purchased may have been tainted with salmonella. I like that I do not have to worry about these items and that Big Brother Kroger is watching out for me...

So shop where you wish, but don't listen to the advertising scheme by HEB to shop somewhere just because you don't need a card...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Glucose Screening/Test

Today I took the often heard about and much dreaded Glucose Screening to see if I need to have further testing for gestational diabetes. I have heard awful things about this test and was prepared for the worst. Basically you go into the lab, drink a very sugar filled drink, sit there for an hour then have blood drawn. I went in prepared to be grossed out by the drink, bored for the hour despite bringing some good reading potential with me, then to hate having that much blood drawn. Instead I was promptly greeted by the receptionist who informed me that instead of waiting in the regular waiting room I would have the company of the other pregnant women who were doing this same test or the longer test (because they failed the first one). She handed me a nifty little bottle of what looked like orange soda and asked me to finish it all in five minutes. It was chilled, which from what I understand helps immensely. I drank it not incredibly grossed out by the first few sips and only moderately so by the last half. I walked into the special waiting room to be greeted by three other expectant mommies in reclining chairs, reading magazines, and gabbing about their growing bellies...I had found my people! The hour passed by really fast as they were all shocked by the idea I did not know what gender my little T-Rex was. Three of us have the same OB/GYN who we are very pleased with and I am glad that Dr. Norton is such a sought out doctor in this area. Before I knew it my hour was up (I will honestly say I was a little sad to leave such a special place) and went to have my blood drawn. The lady was quick and efficient and before I knew it I was on my way.

So here is to hoping that the test results were as good as the experience (although I really liked my special pregnancy place) because I don't want to have to go back for the three hour test where you have to fast the night before and they draw blood four times...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Belly Painting/ Time with Auntie J!

This past Saturday my sister and I decided to spend some quality time together. We went to Newk's which is a wonderful local sandwich shop not far from the house then went on a quest to try and find a baby book. The baby book alluded me which means I need to order one online, but I had a good time with Jessica (especially after she bought me an icee)!

When we got back to the house we decided to take the plunge and have Jessica paint my belly. She had brought over all of her acrylic paints in preparation of just such an event. Jessica is a very talented artist, she just lacks the time to pursue her artistic endeavors to the degree that she wishes. Jessica had come across belly painting when looking for baby shower ideas not too long ago and while I was a little creeped out by the people that paint little embryo's and fetuses on their stomach I was open to other ideas.

Because we don't know if T-Rex is a boy dinosaur or a girl dinosaur we couldn't really decide what to paint. So, we took the safe route and when I mentioned doing an already famous painting, like VanGogh's Starry Night, Jessica jumped at the chance. We got out towels and water for her brushes, lifted my shirt up, and Jessica got to work. The paint was cold and a little uncomfortable at first, but I enjoyed watching her work...she was fast! She quickly added layers of swirls and lines to create the famous painting and not long after (with a couple of seating adjustments to accommodate the fat, pregnant woman) she was ready to take pictures.

The artist signing her masterpiece...

I suppose the big canvas helped!

The final product...pretty good replica!

All in all, baby T-Rex and I had a good time with Jessica. The baby moved a bit during our painting session which I think Jessica is taking as a sign that the baby is going to be an artist...we shall see...

Friday, August 7, 2009

A salty and sweet soap box

I am a firm believer that there needs to be a good deal more balance in this world. Aside from the saying that there needs to be darkness in order to appreciate light and Sirius Black's firm contention that the world is not divided between good people and Death Eaters, balance is an important component to the world of cooking and enjoying cooked food. One thing that I really appreciate about a good burger is when the vegetables (lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions) are cold in contrast to the hot hamburger patty. Throw in a soft bun to help hold together the crisp veggies and you get a very happy! The Japanese contend that this is part of the sixth sense of gastronomy...mouth feel...but it is more than that. However, I would argue that the Asian world has a better sense of where I am going. I refer mainly to that complete contrast of flavors that makes some food so appealing. The contrast of sweet and spicy or sweet and sour that awakens our taste buds in a way that more complimenting flavors can not. While most of us appreciate (and are beginning to appreciate even more) the presence of sweet and spicy in everything from fast food Sweet and Sour Pork to the Cherry BBQ glazed, Free-range, Lamb Ribs I had at Madden's a few weeks back, few of us realize what an important component this is to baking...especially when baking with Chocolate.

I didn't realize how few people realize the importance of salt to balance out the flavors of sweet items was until I continued to get crazy looks from several people when describing different cookies. Even people that know a little about baking would look at me strangely if I commented on a particular dessert having just the right amount of saltiness. I suppose that some would write off salt in a dessert because often (not always) unsalted butter is called for in the recipe, but this is to control the amount of salt in a dessert, not to eliminate it all together. Forget about the fact that many desserts simply cannot behave properly in a chemical sense if the salt is left out, the simple fact of the matter is without the salt you have an overload of sweetness that is not enhanced by more sweetness in the way that it is with that touch of salt. A really easy way for you to understand my soap box is to go buy a package of Rainbow Chips Deluxe cookies. Once you get home with them, do not enjoy them right away, instead stick them in the fridge for at least (and I really mean this) a day. When they are nice and chilled, slowly eat one specifically looking for the salty, buttery flavor. If you do not have the patience to wait for it to be chilled, buy Oreos, eat all of the creme filling, and look for the salty flavor in the cookie. You will be surprised by the depth of flavor in a simple packaged cookie when your mind is open to receiving it.

A place that knows a thing or two about the salty, buttery balance of flavor is the Corner Bakery Cafe. It is something of a chain and if you have not been there, it is like an upscale Panera with the same prices. I first partook of this wonderful Sandwich (and more) shop when attending the Holocaust Museum Houston's Summer Institute and was delighted to find a cookie very similar to this one in my lunch. It is a chocolate chip and m & m cookie with m & m's on both sides of the cookie. One might think this was too much chocolate, but you would be wrong because of one simple fact...yes...because of the salt/butter balance present in the cookie. I was given an extra cookie by a friend, took it home, and showed my complete devotion to Matt by letting him enjoy it after dinner. He did not believe how much of an act of love this was (thinking it was a regular store bought cookie) until he took his first bite. He now knows how much I love him with this simple gesture.

I had to include a picture of myself and Mattie's grandmother because she understands a thing or two about the salty necessity in her baking. Her chocolate chip cookies are famous among the grand kids. They are not ooey, gooey cookies, but there is something about them that screams "Eat me" when all of us make the trip up to Oklahoma to see her. The cookies are dense, chocolate chip filled, and not only do they have a nice layer of butter flavor (thus having a good amount of salt and butter) but they also have pecans which adds more texture and a contrasting flavor to the chocolate. She has so perfected her cookie that you can literally experience different flavors as you eat her cookie. It is first sweet, then chocolaty, then nutty, then has that wonderful bread/salt/butter flavor. Any woman that can take a three bite cookie and turn it into such complexity definitely has my admiration. In fact, I have some of her cookies in the freezer, I think I need one now.

There is no recipe for this post because the flavor is out there, I am just asking you to go look for it. And just because I mentioned cookies, does not mean that there are not other salty and sweet combinations already out there. Take your time, don't wolf down your food, and look for multiple reasons to enjoy it!

Really easy Chinese...thanks Paula Deen

I would like to thank the one and only Paula Deen for making this post possible. Surprisingly enough the recipe calls for no mayonnaise, no butter, and no sour cream. I didn't think it was possible, but I guess there are surprises everywhere. The recipe was super easy, it is simply Paula Deen's Chicken Stir Fry. I have listed my modifications below.

Because I am trying to find recipes that are quick and easy for when the baby T-Rex comes I did take a little help from the store. I used a bag of frozen Asian/Stir Fry veggies, nuked those, then threw them in the stir fry to crisp them up a bit. I did use fresh onion and mushrooms (I had regular mushrooms on hand, not shiitake) and sauteed those like normal. I love the crisp water chestnuts even though Mattie is not partial to them, so I just picked them out of his and added them to my bowl. Instead of powdered ginger, I used fresh grated ginger and it turned out fine and we served it over rice instead of noodles. We also used a bit less chicken (because it was what we had) and liked it with less chicken because it meant that we had a little more sauce. We are going to try freezing it next and I would think the best thing to do would be to remove it from the heat before the sauce tightens up too much from the cornstarch mixture so that when you reheat it, it will be nice and saucy.

I really liked this recipe because it was fast, light, and relatively healthy. As far as flavors go, it was the perfect balance of sweet and salty with a bit of an emphasis on the sweet undertones (from the Hoisin sauce). The veggies were a nice compliment to the chicken, so you could feel good about eating Chinese. We served it with brown rice which is supposedly healthier for you, but we like it because it adds a hearty, nutty feel to the meal. I think next time I make this I am going to add just a touch of crushed red peppers to the oil when I saute the chicken or veggies to add a little spice to the sweetness. This meal was light enough that we probably wouldn't feel incredibly guilty if we got egg rolls to go along with it next time.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Random things...

I don't have a good deal to post about, but thought I would give a few little tidbits so anyone checking the blog might feel rewarded for their efforts.

Next week I go in for a standard glucose screening. For those of you who do not know about the screening you go to the lab (thank goodness you do not have to be fasting), drink an awful sugar filled syrup drink, sit there for an hour, and get your blood drawn. If you pass then you probably don't have gestational diabetes...yay! If you fail you get to go in for more awful sugar syrup drink in a THREE hour So here is to hoping that I pass (you know how I am about testing anyways)!

The week after that I go into the doctor for a regular checkup and that begins my two week doctor rotation (rather than just the monthly rotation we have been doing). I am so excited that we are far enough along that I get to spend more time at the doctor's office which usually means listening to that little heart beat!

The baby is kicking a lot more frequently and a lot more during the day. There are times that I feel like the baby is going to kick me out of my seat! I am enjoying the interaction with the baby and feel like the T-Rex and I have some games that he or she likes to play...most of them involve tricking mommy!

Matt is working hard to get the house ready in the next 13 weeks. I really appreciate all of his hard work especially considering the lack of free time he has off. Between working more than 40 hours most weeks, participating in the social activities that I always schedule us for, and spending time with family (which we deem extremely important), he has little time to just relax. He says he likes working on projects and getting stuff done, but it makes me feel bad when he doesn't get as much rest as I think he needs. I am looking forward to putting our baby on his chest and watching the two of them fall asleep (because who can resist taking a nap with a precious little T-Rex).

Since I don't have much in the way of pictures to go with a random post here is a picture off of Matt's phone of me wearing the awesome T-Rex holding wrap that McKay (Matt's sister) sent us!