Monday, January 30, 2012

Gratitude Project: Days 1-10

I'm currently trying to learn how to work my camera. On manual. With aperture and exposure and shutter speed. Oh my. Needless to say, I suck at the process. Because I'm not self-motivated to complete tutorials just for the fun of it, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and try my hand at one of these photography projects. The whole point is to just get my hands on the camera and shoot... learning as I go.

Here are the products of my first 10 days. I'm new at this... it's going to take time.

Day 1: Favorite Food
Obviously, a burrito. Yes, I did bring my fancy Nikon into Qdoba to shoot countless photos of a burrito.
 Day 2: Smile
Since we're attempting to learn together, Ray wanted to tackle this one.
 Day 3: Happiness
Being married to my incredible husband makes me infinitely happy.
Day 4: Leaves
Our deck frozen over with few leaves to be found...
 Day 5: Morning Sky
If you know me well, you know that this task was the most taxing. I am not a morning person.
Day 6: Books
 Day 7: Something Funny
I struggled with this one. I received an email from a friend telling me that this image reminded her of our love story on the exact day of this project piece. Hence the photo.
 Day 8: Favorite Color
 Since it was the weekend, Ray also participated. He said his was far more creative. Mine would be my blue cashmere scarf outside on our snow-covered bench to show contrast.
His would be the grandpa pill container I purchased so that we could be better about taking our vitamins. One of the better $1 investments. As you can also see, he isn't very good about taking those calcium pills. ;)
Day 9: Inspiring Person
Short of photographing another computer screen image, I had no ideas on this one. Take the camera into church and photograph the pastor speaking? A.w.k.w.a.r.d. So instead, I schleped the Nikon into our favorite Jewish deli where we had lunch and took a photo of someone on the wall. A football star. Sure, he's inspiring to follow your dreams and such, right? But really... I wanted to highlight a Mr. Jon Voight in the picture next to him who apparently loves his pastrami on rye. Hopefully some of you remember the Seinfeld episode where George buys the wrong Jo(h)n Voight's car. Love it.
Day 10: Nature
A tree near the pond we often walk/run around near our house.
Installment II coming February 9.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Barefoot, Pregnant, and in the Kitchen

... well, not the barefoot part. I much prefer socks or slippers in the house myself. My pregnant behind has definitely been in the kitchen a lot lately, however! I really love finding new creations to try out and it happens to be an excellent distraction from thinking about gestating like I do for the rest of the minutes in the day. Also, pregnant women (like myself, for example) quite enjoy gorging ourselves with food. It's definitely my pregnant prerogative and I'm quite good at the task.

A couple weeks ago we hosted some friends from our Monday night group and had Brinner. Coined by my lovely friend Alli, it's breakfast-dinner. I think she said Urban Dictionary also had a hand in naming our feast. We had just finished reading a marriage book called Men are Like Waffles and Women are Like Spaghetti  and figured what better way to celebrate then to have a spaghetti dinner (done months ago) and a waffle feast! Here are the crappiest of iPhone photos for your viewing pleasure.
A random plate of food I snapped a photo of. Clearly not mine as I don't eat the sausage.
Regular waffles made by my lovely friend, Kathy.
Fancy-pants waffles made by Williams Sonoma myself. Go ahead... oh and ah about my mad Nikon skills.
They don't look all that sexy, but at least they look edible! I thought they were pretty tasty myself.
Breakfast potatoes also made by yours truly. My recipe is as follows: wash/dice potatoes and cook covered on medium with a small amount of olive oil (just to coat the bottom as the water from the potatoes will be sufficient for the rest of the cooking), seasoned salt, and cracked pepper. Cook covered until soft.
Alternate view of the kitchen island. Others brought over various syrups, whipped cream, fruits, chocolate chips, peanut butter, and sausage.
I mentioned in a recent Pinterest post about my interest to try the 7-Up biscuits. Well, let me just say that they were a big, fat fail. Not only did I only have one of the four ingredients in my house (butter) and had to visit multiple stores to purchase the rest of the items because I forgot them on my normal shopping trip (Bisquick, 7-Up, sour cream), but they didn't cook throughout and were more expensive than buying refrigerated biscuits at full price! And the good kind! Never making these again. Boo. We did salvage the tops and thought they were good, but not worth the effort again.
I made up a batch of veggie burgers the other day to freeze. I like to have these on hand, especially in the summer when everyone seems to be grilling. These are old photos from a previous time when I made them, but the same idea stands. I add different ingredients each time and this was no different. I start by mashing up some black beans, adding diced veggies, bread crumbs, nuts, flaxseed, spices, forming them into patties, and grilling over my stovetop skillet. I haven't mastered the consistency quite yet as they tend to fall apart easily and are a bit mushy rather than firm, but they are super high in protein and hearty. I'll keep working on things.

General ingredients I used this time:
2 cans black beans (smashed-- maybe I should smash them less and they will be less mushy?)
1 finely chopped onion
A few garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped-- can add anything you want. Carrots, zucchini...
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
A variation of spices you like: spicy mustard, cumin, chili powder, pepper, Sriracha, etc.
A dash or two, or five of Worcestershire (I eat fish, so this doesn't bother me)
Bread crumbs to firm them out (I used about 1 1/2 cups I think)
Flaxseed meal with a few tablespoons of water or an egg to bind.
Again, these were not from this go-around. I finely chopped the peppers and onions this time around and prefer it better that way. I let them cool on a baking rack once done and wrapped them in wax paper and threw them in a Ziploc for the freezer. I've had a few now and I should've added more spices. They're a bit bland. Note: always taste the mix before you start cooking. Hah.
We're headed over to a birthday party tomorrow night for a friend who is turning 30 and his wife requested we bring ice cream or attempt making it. Because they were so wonderful at making brownies for Ray's 30th birthday, we I decided to make two different recipes for ice cream. I pinned this recipe here and made it this afternoon. It's currently in the freeze process. I was going for a chocolate with peanut butter swirl... we'll see if it turns out. I had a hard time figuring out how much chocolate to use. The peanut butter strips were frozen on wax paper and pushed into the mix just before freezing. Had I not frozen them separately, I was afraid the PB would just blend into the ice cream and not remain strips of PB like I was hoping for. We'll see.
This recipe is a bit more complex as it requires freezing, hand blending, freezing, hand blending, and freezing again (quite the process!) but we'll see! I don't have a photo, but I plan to make a simple chocolate chip with this one. I bought a dark chocolate bar and chopped it up in my food processor. I just finished my second hand blending effort and plan to hand blend one more time before adding the chocolate pieces and leaving it to freeze firm. I'm not too confident in either recipe, honestly. Breyer's is so much cheaper and likely just as good. Hah. But... I've never tried this before and I'm always up for a time-consuming distraction, especially when it comes to food.

To throw in a random ending for ya (but related to the kitchen), I was at a friend's house the other night and saw this on their fridge:

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Handling Fear

Over the course of this pregnancy, my fear has changed. With that said, it's always been quite present and remains at a steady level (and elevating) as I reach the last month of this pregnancy.

In the first weeks, I was fearful of seeing another empty uterus, or even worse, a baby without a heartbeat. I had just suffered a miscarriage, so the idea of dealing with another D&C or loss was almost too hard to comprehend. I just tried to pretend like I wasn't pregnant, honestly. I was in denial and didn't talk about it or even really entertain the questions from others.

This whole mentality of maybe I am, maybe I'm not remained until about 19.5 weeks when we went in for our anatomy scan. At that point, we both just burst into tears as we left the MFM's office and said, "We just want to bring him home." It started to form more of a reality, but we knew that despite all the vitamins and love and preventative care, we had no control over whether this baby lived or not. No doctor would consider saving a baby at less than 20 weeks gestation.

After reaching 24 weeks, it became even more scary. And then there was 28 weeks. 32 weeks. All these weeks were terrifying because that meant doctors would and could intervene and each week was just icing on the cake. Better chances of survival. Less NICU time. Kristen wrote about how she feared her uterus might be more unsafe than having the baby outside and facing growth on its own in the NICU. That's a sad and scary thing to realize-- but most BLMs who have lost babies in utero probably agree as gestation extends far past viability.

In reality, it's best babies stay in utero and grow there. It's nature's way of babymaking and it's the proper way. But what about when your first baby dies during that "proper" way? You definitely place less faith in that trusty uterus and start having more frequent freakouts. The truth is, despite loss always being loss no matter when in gestation a baby dies, each week makes things harder. Being that much closer to a potential baby in your arms just to lose it again compounds the fear. Getting closer to when Andrew died makes me all kinds of crazy and that's very normal considering our reality of loss.

I try to channel the whole most babies live mentality whenever I can. Babies live despite the crazy people having them doing terribly unsafe things everyday. Everyday babies are born to people I wouldn't consider nearly as deserving as myself or some of the BLMs I've met who are desperate to realize that real-life parenting experience. To see love in their child's eyes and to share the world with them. People who don't even consider kick counts or extra supplements, or extensive ultrasounds, or frequent appointments (or any appointments!) are still having babies alive and healthy. Those people on TV who claim they "didn't even know they were pregnant" and go into labor without a single doctor looking at that baby? They're having healthy babies that come home with them and live with them.

Finding a doctor team who allows for you to be yourself in this fear and supports you is key. An OB and MFM team is helpful because that means more monitoring and more hands-on to reassure you is available. It also helps break up the time better between appointments. The at-home doppler we purchased for about $50 has been a lifesaver as well. In the beginning when the heartbeat wasn't as present, I didn't love it. It made me all kinds of crazy wondering if that was in fact the heartbeat of the baby or my own. Once he grew older, I used it to ease my fears. It's likely saved me from a few OB calls. Sometimes I just pull it out to remind myself that there is life within me. 

But being totally honest, fear is always present and always in the forefront of my mind. Finding things to control has helped considerably-- breathing, writing, yoga, counting the vitamins in your jar (yes, I've done that), writing feverishly on calendars, planning appointments, reading extensively on kick counts, praying for strength and comfort, checklists, finding distractions... whatever can get you through one more day. This is a great time to fulfill those dreams of learning how to reupholster furniture or complete some of those Pinterest crafts you've been meaning to try, or even committing yourself to getting your life organized or learning to cook. Find a BLM or two that is currently pregnant again that can talk with you through those really hard days. You will not stop crying or missing your baby. That does not change just because a new one is currently forming in your womb.

I've also started creating goals. I've read this on many BLM blogs. Set a goal to reach 24 weeks, 28 weeks, etc. I tend to split up days between appointments in my head. For example, I am currently counting down until my growth ultrasound. Once I reach that milestone, I'll place another "goal" at delivery. It's somewhat irrational, but I'd say whatever can get you through this time is worth it. It's not easy. 

I think we'll all channel fear (differently), but ultimately, as long as we're doing right by our babies and taking extra precautions and doing our homework, it's all we can do. The fear of losing our children will likely never go away-- even if and when they are finally safe in our arms. A month away and I'm still in denial about this baby coming home with us. I am none the wiser. We buy plenty of things but the nursery remains just as we left it on the day we came home empty handed from the hospital on December 7, 2010. I can't muster up the courage to tend to that and I don't feel like I have to. All we need is a healthy baby to bring home. Love will be enough. It just has to be. Because at the end of the day, I think it's all I have left to give.

Source: via Sarah on Pinterest

Friday, January 20, 2012

Flip Update & Sunday Mornings

I guess we could call this the home stretch. What a long s-t-r-e-t-c-h it is!


Every morning and evening, I wait for kicks before I can start my day or end my day. I read online recently about this woman's experience on how kick counts saved her son's life. Apparently he was in distress and she was able to detect that since he had not moved after having lunch (when she performed her kick counts). She mentioned that she performed a three solid kick count after every meal she had. It was easy for her as she was on bedrest and not occupied with anything else. She had lunch and... nothing. She was able to set up an NST for that afternoon and delivered her son within an hour via emergency c-section.

Now... I'm not on bedrest. Thankfully, I am not. I've been doing the same quick 3 kick count after every meal, counting kicks informally every morning after breakfast, counting kicks informally before bed at night and after dinner, and performing a formal kick count at 3:30 every afternoon. It's expected that you count 10 kicks within 2 hours and select a time of day when the baby is most active. Also, it's recommended to choose the same time of day, everyday. If I chose an active time, he'd pass his count within a minute! I am already doing informal counts during those times anyway, so I chose 3:30 as the time when he's usually least active to perform the formal count. Even when babies are sleeping, they still poke, nudge or roll just a bit. I lay on my left side for optimal blood/oxygen flow and count. I wake up at least 3-4 times per night (aka the pregnancy curse) and cannot fall back to sleep until I've felt at least one solid kick either. I first documented in my daily journal that I've kept this entire pregnancy (for the formal count only), then I started documenting start/stop and total amount of time to reach 10 kicks in the notes on my iPhone. Just today, I downloaded the pregnancy tracker free iPhone app on my phone. It has a button to press at the start, when each kick is achieved, and records exactly when everything occurs down to the second. I think this is definitely the way to go.

Today I started at 03:30:28 and the duration was 00:07:03 to achieve 10 total kicks. I'm also quite picky. Each kick, roll, punch or poke has to be independent (not trailing or connected to the last) and it has to be relatively strong. If I am not sure, I don't count it. I have my hands on my belly the entire time and try not to distract myself. This is serious business, people. The longest it's taken for him to achieve 10 kicks was 29 minutes (that was painful and scary), and the shortest was about 3 minutes. The average is about 12 minutes, however. I think waiting 2 hours is a little extreme, especially for someone who has already lost a child. If I don't feel 10 in one hour, I will definitely be on the phone with my OB or MFM. That's another reason I wanted to track a formal kick count during business hours-- to try and avoid another trip to L&D.

Phew. This is my brain and I can't stop it.

We had our first NST yesterday and it went quite well. I had about 3 contractions during our visit (though nothing I could feel). He had a nice heart rate and was kicking me like crazy. I'm not sure our little guy likes all those straps constricting him. He's about out of room as it is. My next growth ultrasound is coming up in early February with my MFM and an induction is likely going to be scheduled at the end of February. I'm being vague because nothing is really in stone as we all know. I also feel scared putting definitive dates on anything as if I'll jinx it from actually happening. But to think we could have a baby in our arms at the end of February? No words.

I am even considering going to my first OB appt. by myself this Tuesday. Ray has been to everysingle appointment with me this pregnancy. But, if we can hear the baby on the doppler and feel a few solid kicks, I feel comfortable going by myself since the appointment will be just an hour or so after Ray heads to work. It's unlikely I'll experience anything traumatic within an hour of him being home to feel/hear the baby. Sometimes we have to wait forever at the OB. I hate it. But, I refuse to see anyone but this crazy-awesome doctor and will wait 'til the end of time to see her and only her.

Now onto Sunday Mornings. We lost Andrew on a Sunday. At least, that's when I woke up and went into labor, suspicious about not feeling any kicks that morning as well. Sunday mornings haunt us a bit. We both wake up on Sunday and immediately hold my belly and talk to Flip with hopes that he moves like a maniac baby. Not that we can't lose a child on a Monday or Wednesday... or whatever. It's absolutely true that times, dates, and days haunt you when something so traumatic occurs. For a long time, I counted Sundays. I couldn't even look at the word Sunday for a long time after losing Andrew. You can likely sense our fear in repeating a groundhog day with this baby.

We're surviving. But can I say that I pull out my phone at least three times a day to count how many days we have left? As if the number of days left change multiple times in one day or something. Doesn't work that way. I sure wish it did.

Distraction projects/fun we have planned to get me through the end of January/February:
- Reading two books as part of BlogHer's book club: The Weird Sisters (in progress) and The Rules of Inheritance.
- Attempting to learn our DSLR and starting a 30-day assignment
- Cooking more and baking more bread
- Going away to Michigan to a cute hotel for a night (weather permitting)
- Blackhawks game
- Travel Expo (randomly purchased to pass the time... and we love to travel... why not, right?)
- Dinner with friends
- Working
- Mardi Gras party through House Party (I love them)
- Blogging, journaling, DVRing and watching trash television (oh hello, The Bachelor)
- A million, give or take, OB/MFM appointments

Name reveal to come... not sure why I haven't just up and posted that yet. I don't know. I can't explain my crazy sometimes.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Pinterest Has Invaded My Kitchen

I'm not too big on Pinterest as a whole, but I do use it often for recipes. I think it's the best digital file I can find for recipes I'd like to attempt myself. There's just something about food being visual. That, and it organizes me way better than my file 'o' randomness I had going on in my kitchen before. Here are some recent pins I've made and the commentary...

European Peasant Bread

I wrote about this in my last post and actually made it yesterday! Of course that meant I had to invest in buying rye flour, whole wheat flour, and yeast, but it was incredible! I was nervous about halving the recipe since any time I attempt using yeast or powders in baking I fail miserably, but it ended up being quite fine! I was worried that my bread hardly rose at all, but it was meant to be a standard, dense bread and that it was. Perfectly crunchy on the outside and super hearty. Went perfectly with homemade split pea soup.

Here was my rendition... one dusted in flour and one not.
 Paired with a homemade pea soup...
Crock Pot Split Pea Soup (how I make it):
1 bag split peas
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 large potatoes, diced
6 cups of water or stock (if just water, use a bouillon cube or two with low/no sodium)
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. dry mustard
Cracked pepper to your liking

Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours (or until consistency reached). Last night, mine was not thickening fast enough, so I added 1/2 cup mashed potatoes and voila! I didn't have any carrots or onions, so I subbed with a hearty helping of onion powder and just didn't add the carrots. It's really quite versatile and as long as you like split pea soup (p.s. I hate real peas, but love this soup), you can add your favorite veggies/spices. I almost never make it exactly the same way every time because it is so versatile. That, and it's crazy high in protein! If you aren't a veggie or cooking for a non-veggie person, I recommend making and chopping up some bacon to sprinkle on the top. That way the flavor is altered to their liking and they are getting some meat protein as well-- though it's not necessary as a veggie dish can often be just as hearty as a meat dish.

Zesty Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken

Super easy and everyone loved it! Ray's parents even called for the recipe to replicate at home! It's a very standard recipe with only a few ingredients: 6 chicken breasts, 1 bottle BBQ sauce, 2 tbsp. Worcestershire, 1/2 cup of Italian dressing, 1/4 cup brown sugar. Super easy and they all loved it. I couldn't tell you if it's good or not, but the husband seemed to like it well enough and it's healthier than pulled pork like I usually make.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts w/ Balsamic & Olive Oil

Loved it. I would add an extra healthy portion of balsamic next time, however. They were delicious but didn't have enough kick to them.

Baked Vegetable Spring Rolls

Definitely delicious. I believe they call for egg roll wrappers, but I used spring roll wrappers and was equally pleased.

Vegetarian Baked Southwestern Spring Rolls

Oh so good. We loved these even more than the Asian-inspired ones! If you'd like, adding chicken can easily turn these into an amazing carnivore side dish or appetizer. I think we even made these one night for dinner. Since they are baked in spring roll wrappers (virtually fat free), it's quite a healthy meal in itself!

Pioneer Woman's Grilled Corn Guacamole

Love. There's nothing really to it, but the combination and the grill flavor makes it all taste incredible. Anything avocado/guacamole pretty much has me sold, though. As you could tell from my last post about that avocado pasta which I fully intend to make very soon.

Two Ingredient Pumpkin Muffins

They turned out quite well, moist, and decent. I wouldn't say they were earth-shattering and ended up being more like cupcakes with a hint of pumpkin then muffins... but still good. Sure, I'd make them again. My friend Alli even added chocolate chips to hers and they also turned out moist and lovely.

Pioneer Woman's Black-Eyed Pea Dip

I didn't have the black-eyed peas on hand but made it with black beans instead. Still incredible. Will definitely make again as a pretty phenomenal bean dip to change-up the ol' 7-layer dip favorite. Or like in the Midwest, I've seen lots of people make a 2-3 layer dip with taco seasoning mixed with sour cream and topped with shredded cheese. All fat... of course and none of the wholesome protein in the beans/avocado. But that's the Midwest for ya!

Homemade Tzatziki Dip

Almost entirely fat free when made with fat free Greek yogurt and incredibly high in protein/calcium. And did I mention absolutely delicious? On the list of definitely making this again and again.

"Potentially Life Changing One-Pot Mac n' Cheese"

While good, I wouldn't consider it life-changing. You basically cook the noodles in milk (not water) and they absorb the milk. Once absorbed, you add cheese and it's done. No straining any liquid = one pot. The more bite the cheese has, the less cheese you will need (naturally, as the flavor is bolder). I have tried this recipe twice now and I think it's fine. I like getting my calcium this way, especially in a dish that's usually quite high in fat content. I hate physically drinking milk, so cooking my noodles in milk packs the calcium in for me and I love that. I've used romano, asiago, sharp cheddar, and parmesan. All strong cheeses. Decent, not life-changing. Sure, I'd make it again.

And a few I cannot wait to try...

Brie & Apple Tarts

We're having people over in a couple weeks and we'll be providing appetizers. This is definitely what I'll be making. I may even make some with a little ham for a non-vegetarian's snack. How can you go wrong with pastry, brie, and apples anyway?

Homemade Ice Cream without the ice cream maker

I am afraid this will be too creamy, but I love how easy the recipe is. I love her website for more than just recipes. One, she's an incredible photog and has been helpful in teaching us some cool DSLR tricks... and then there's the baking. She's fabulous. I love her energy. And did I mention that I once won a giveaway by commenting on her site? A bunch of ice-cream related items. Nummers.

Blue Moon Cupcakes

While I don't love the wheat beers as much as the pale ales and ambers, I would love to try my hand at these. I imagine once I'm not gestating I'll be able to drink a beer while making said cupcakes. :)

7-Up Biscuits (only 4 ingredients!)

These get incredible reviews and I see them all. over. the. internet. People rave about them. I just wish I wouldn't keep forgetting to buy the darn Bisquick at the store.

Crock Pot Chicken Tikka Masala

I've never attempted Indian food, let alone in a crock pot! But, we love it. It's one of my favorite types of food, actually. There's something about all the flavors and being a veggie. For some reason it's often assumed that vegetarians don't like meat and therefore don't like spices and flavor. At least that's an issue I run into a lot. On the contrary, I love spice and flavor... I just don't want the animal added in! I'm anxious to see if the husband will enjoy this. We usually get our Indian fix by buying the $2 boil-in-a-bag at TJ's. Before you scoff, try them! They are surprisingly pretty tasty and quite filling paired with some quinoa and a grilled veggie (usually fresh green beans).

I'll let you know more successes as they come! We're having friends over tonight for breakfast for dinner. I'll be serving up some Organic Oatmeal waffles, breakfast potatoes, and others will be bringing dishes to add to the mix.

What about you guys? Anyone tried any of the above recipes (since a few are very popular on pinterest)?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

When Random REALLY Means Random

Remember the Monopoly game McDonald's puts on once a year? The one where you peel off a little label and win free fries or gain the coveted Boardwalk piece? Well, a local grocery store here in Chicagoland is playing a similar game called Wish Big, Win Big. I rarely shop there because their produce is crap, but when I do, I collect game pieces for our board. You can win an iPad, cash, a car, etc. etc. But mostly you win a free donut (which is a huge score for a pregnant chick) or nothing at all.

My husband should take full credit for this, but we won. We won.

Moving on. 

I'm having a hard time dealing with loss and struggle lately. A girl I work with, only 25, just lost her mom in October. She woke up to find her dead on the couch. She then had to endure her mom's birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas with her sister and dad while attempting to piece through the loss. She's on antidepressants and confessed to me she's been drinking a bunch, started smoking, and can't afford therapy that she thinks she needs. To add to the madness, she went in for a routine OB appt. and they found abnormal cells that require a biopsy (possible pre-cervical cancer) and a lump in her breast. Breast cancer runs in her family as well. Why so much heartache?

Our favorite pastor at our local church is 55 years old and was diagnosed 2 months ago with stage 4 carcinoma that is all throughout his body. He was suffering from severe back pain and found out he is terminal.

Why loss, heartbreak, and all other sufferings happen upon some people, but others are spared simply boggles my mind. Why was my son to be the one of the 26,000 stillbirths a year and not any other person I know to give birth that year? Why was my friend's son Nathanael born with hydrocephalus? Why was my other friend's son born too early-- though thankfully spared? Why such a rough start? I'll attempt to ween myself away from this topic as it plagues my heart everyday... but I'll never accept this reality of loss and struggle for the innocent and wonderful people I've met in life.

I saw this on Pinterest and thought... yeah. freaking. right. Disagree.
Not sure about my followers, but somehow a house foreclosure or whatever sounds a little better than living the rest of my entire life without my son. Life is hard and we all have our struggles. But I have to say that some struggles manage to last a lifetime while others can be repaired or improve. Loss? Notsomuch.

Moving on.

I finished teaching my second MA course (but first all by myself!) on December 12th. I was just sent the results of my student evaluations and received all "agree" or "strongly agree" related to my teaching abilities... in addition to this wonderful comment:

This was the best experience I have had in this program so far. The
teacher did an excellent job giving examples and explaining her

I'm teaching this course again in March and it's all set up and ready to go! That definitely brightened my day when I read it. I imagine it's really hard to handle receiving poor reviews from college students. Luckily, these are grad students and not undergraduate students. I remember being an undergrad and disregarding my professors as people at times. All of that changed when I entered grad school, of course. Thankfully, these students have treated me with great respect. I realize that won't happen every semester... but thrilled that this was the feedback for this go-around. I can use all the encouragement I can get at this point!

Moving on.

I was chosen as one of BlogHer's book reviewers for The Weird Sisters. My review to come. I'm quite excited to read this book! Gets 4/5 stars with 160 reviews on Amazon.

Moving on.

I'm a big Yelper. I love trying new places and always consult Yelp on our travels for little gems. I've been Yelp Elite status for three years and was just picked up as Yelp Elite for my fourth year in a row! I'm not compensated or anything... just love trying new places and reading reviews myself. They do host Yelp Elite-only events which I occasionally attend and score free dinner and libations. We've had some delicious and free eats thanks to Yelp! I do have a degree in journalism and sort of love writing for free. I know that might boggle some minds, but I enjoy it. Plus, it allows me to document where we eat/visit so I can remember what I ate, what I loved/hated, and places I'd love to re-visit. I also want to keep my faves in business and touting them definitely helps their business! I found this dorky article about us Elites this week.

You're probably wondering why the heck I bothered to mention that. Well... I reviewed a local Jewish deli the other day after being told to try it for months now. I told Ray about it and he'd been twice before taking me there... and he's since introduced his Friday lunch group to the place and they keep asking to go back. Well, I loved it. No surprise there. Five stars and a fabulous review. Because of my review, the manager emailed me and offered a free sandwich on my next visit. Score!

Moving on.

Speaking of freebies, my friend Alison sent me something free. The cutest little Kleenex box ever! There are 15 tissues in that cute, little Flip-sized box.
She knows me so well. I love receiving mail and I especially love freebies! I refuse to admit how much fun, free stuff I receive in the mail each week. Hah. It definitely makes it worth visiting the mailbox in the winter. Well, I have since stopped that little endeavor since ice and snow = a very scared Brandy. I even had someone escort me to my car the other day after work. I'm taking no chances. None.

Moving on.

The comments are starting to flow with this pregnancy.
"You're almost done! You can do it!" (yep, done it before)
"Just wait until he's here... you'll never get any sleep!" (don't get me started on how annoyed that makes me)
"You're going to love having a son!" (yeah, I think I would've loved having a son 13 months ago too)
or... any advice related to pregnancy and/or parenting.

I had a complete stranger ask me if she could touch my belly on Friday. I didn't know her name and she didn't know mine. As a matter of fact, I'd never seen her before in my life. All I could do was respond by saying, "Haven't experienced this in awhile, have you?" Seriously, what else am I going to say? Back off... I have a dead child and this is my second chance at possibly having a spark of my dream come true and I'm utterly uncomfortable by you near me?

Sigh. Moving on.

My friends Alli and Liz both use this special wifi card to send their pictures from their camera automatically to their computer through a wifi network. As long as you have wifi connected and are within the network's reach, the pictures will automatically upload to your computer immediately upon taking them. Cool eh? It's definitely awesome.

Moving on.

We bought Flip a Christmas present today. Seems a little presumptuous, I know. We attended this event at Ikea and scored free breakfasts, free bags, and BOGO lunch... but also went to check out the Ekorre rocking moose. We love moose. We bought Andrew a moose wall hanger for the nursery and knew that when we saw this bad boy, we had to buy it for Flip. The only reason we bought it was because they are discontinuing the item and figured it was our last chance at it. It's put away in a closet to hopefully be used by a special little boy in the next year or two. Note: I typed in Ekorre to Google images and up popped this:

Apparently there is such a thing as an Ekorre-- European red squirrel. 
Here's what I was meaning to search for:
Moving on.

Flip updates to come along with a name reveal in the next week or two. I'm part lazy, part apprehensive. We plan to start a DSLR tutorial schedule tomorrow. Also, I pinned two things on Pinterest that I pretty much want to make like immediately. That sounds like a good way to end this smorg of a post.

European Peasant Bread


Avocado Lime Pasta