Friday, August 29, 2014

Should I Do a Maternity Photo Session?

That's my beautiful sister and her cuter-than-words daughter. She's not quite 2. Melanie blogged about her 2-year anniversary session over at her photography blog.

Just wanted to share a few of her photos. You know, I was hesitant to do maternity shots when I was pregnant (the bloat, the discomfort, the generally feeling un-photographable) but I'm so glad I did.

I mean, for real, your belly might be huge, but at least while you're pregnant it's huge with the pressure of a little (or big) growing life. These days, my bloat is due to morning donuts and not enough water. I'm not posing for any photos unless my daughter is in them.

And maybe you don't think you'll want to display a big canvas of your ballooned self in your home for all to admire. A.—You might change your mind about that. B.—Even if you don't, you can use your maternity shots in the context of photos of your baby, as my sister did in the grouping above. Oh, you thought this was about you? Ha. Hahaha.

For me, the option of returning to the same spot every year for anniversary photos is OUT. December. Outside. Wisconsin. No. No no. But maybe I'll have my sister to take some photos that time of year inside, in front of a warm fire, with my daughter. And maybe I'll frame them with my maternity photos. And as our family grows, so will our collection of photos and memories.

Expecting mamas: Pose for all the photos you can. It's so temporary. All you want now is to hold that beautiful child in your arms, but somehow, once you become a mom, there will be times that you wish your baby could crawl back inside your tummy and stay with you always.

I never said it made sense.

P.S.—For reference, a photo of me the same day, not taken by my photographer sister. Hello, bloat. At least I look happy. I'm standing with my wonderful friend, Heidi, who you can find at

Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Day as a Stay-at-Home Mom

I thought I was going to roll my eyes a ton.

I thought I would feel catty and jealous.

None of that.

Wednesday, I took .75 of a vacation day after working from home for a couple of hours. I went back, for the first time in three months, to the mom/baby connection group at the hospital. There's usually discussion, a speaker, that's about it. Moms talking to moms, some breastfeeding, some bottle-feeding, babies napping, babies crying, moms laughing, moms crying. It's beautiful.

The discussion leader asked everyone if they had anything to say about depression. The room got quiet. I weighed in my mind whether I wanted to speak up or not. I raised my hand (regressing to grade school) and said, "I've gone to therapy."

And then I just kept talking. I said what I wanted other moms to know: "It's not some big, scary, awful thing. They're not going to lock you away or take your baby from you. You talk to your doctor, then you talk to a therapist, and then it gets better. Just do it if you need the help. Don't waste another minute wondering if you should. If you're not you, if it's not getting better, if everything's OK but for some reason it's not—do it."

Then another mom volunteered that she's been on Zoloft and it's made everything better. That she hadn't been herself. She held back tears.

Then the discussion leader herself said that she'd been to counseling.

I wondered if anyone would've said anything if I hadn't.

There were about 18 of us in that room. Three of us acknowledged our experiences with PPD. Three of 18. Even more than the one in eight that studies show. One in eight of the moms you know have struggled through PPD, maybe more. Maybe it's you.

And even if it's not you, it's hard. Babies are a blessing. They're the biggest, greatest, most wonderful blessing a family can wish to have. Lean on whomever you need. Love them, too.

Stay-at-home moms, working moms, part-time working moms—all moms, we're all working hard to make our children the best little people they can be, to give them the best lives they can have, to make things better for them than they may have been for us. We're raising a generation, all of us. And we all deserve to have each others' backs.

We all deserve to have mom friends to sit by the pool with every now and then, we all deserve to talk about our labor stories and laud the wonders of the epidural together, no matter what our choices have been since we painfully, blessedly became mothers. We deserve the support, the help, anything that helps us to be better mothers to our children. We deserve hobbies and blogs and nights out. We deserve a long bath and a glass of wine. And by being kind to ourselves and to other moms, we'll pass that kindness along to our children.

That's an incredible gift.

P.S.—Lana went swimming for the first time, at the pool with the other moms and babies. It was all I could do to keep her from diving in completely. She loved it. I loved it. We're lucky ladies.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How to Make the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies. Ever.

First of all, it helps if you have some pretty adorable faces to make them for.

And by adorable I mean fun. And/or goofy. And/or hungry.
These are my husband's cousins. They love our baby.

They wanted to know how to make the best chocolate chip cookies ever, and I told them it starts with Alton Brown's killer recipe. But it changes.
You do the whole wet and dry thing, creaming the unsalted butter with lots of brown sugar and a little white.

Then the egg, +1 yolk, milk and vanilla. 

Then the easy, easy list of dry ingredients.

Tablespoonsful. 325 degrees. Ten to twelve minutes.

You can refrigerate the dough before baking, or just plop em on right away. Depends how hungry you are.
Mike and I used to freeze the dough and bake them on demand. Fresh, gooey goodness whenever you want it.

The white chocolate chip cookie is for my crazy husband who prefers white to dark. (What? It's not even chocolate, you say? IKNOW. TRYTELLINGHIMTHAT.)

In the good ones, I use three different kinds of chocolate chips (2/3 cup each): 60% dark, semi sweet and milk. I like to say it gives them a more complex chocolaty taste. But really, it's an excuse to buy all those kinds of chocolate and keep them in the house.
Either way, it's amazing. Get to baking.

I adapted my recipe from Brown Eyed Baker's repurposing of Alton Brown's The Chewy recipe. Here's what I did:
Makes about 3 dozen.

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever. 
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly to room temperature
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 white sugar or baker's sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons whole milk
2/3 cup each: 60% dark chocolate, semisweet and milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine first three ingredients in a small bowl.
Cream butter, brown sugar and white sugar together over medium speed in a mixer.
In a small bowl, whisk together egg, yolk, vanilla and milk. Add to mixer and beat over low speed.
Gradually add dry ingredients to mixer over low speed until combined. Do not overmix.
Add chocolate chips to batter, stirring until just combined.
Drop by tablespoonsful onto a cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or just until golden brown.

Devour. Share. Wipe the chocolate off of your face when you're finished. Or not.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Home is Where the Baby Sleeps

My daughter wouldn't fall asleep at my brother-in-law's house last night. We'd planned for her to go to bed there (around 7) while we partied on. I breastfed her, she was sleepy. She fell asleep—I mean, OUT—twice in my arms and twice I put her down in her pack & play. Both times, she freaked.

You know how babies open their eyes just a tiny, tiny bit when you're putting them down? Apparently it's just enough for them to notice, "Hey, this isn't my house. I don't know this room. Oh God oh God am I ever going home again how dare you put me down in this strange place are you ever coming back Mom is that the last I've seen of the boob? THE BOOB?"

And so the crying goes on.

I was sad I couldn't stay; my husband stayed. I drove my daughter home and she went to bed here without any fuss. She wasn't even asleep when I put her down. She babbled and cooed a little to herself in her room and then it was silent.

It's silent.

Even though our house is little and there's no front door (Yep. Don't worry, putting a front door on our house is next on our big, save-up-for-it to-do list.) Even though her room is small and there's no cohesive nursery theme to it. Even though the glider intended for her nursery has become a fixture in our living room.

She knows home. I'd like to say that she loves home, but all I really can tell is that she's comfortable here. She's happy here.

All I want is for it to stay that way, even though there may be times when she grows older that she wants to run away. Even though she may sneak out, or lie to us about where she's going. Even though it may not be our house forever, our home is where she's happiest.

And that's about the greatest accomplishment of my life.

P.S.—I told you the other day there'd be news to come. Well, the kick-ass women writers at are going to feature one of my posts! It has to be original content, so I'm hard at work (while baby naps) on getting something awesome and fresh ready to go. That's another little accomplishment. Good days. Little things. I'll TAKE it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

You're Not Alone, Sister

I want to hug you. I want to hug every mom. Every single one of you.

Yesterday was a particularly low day.

I couldn't stop crying on my way home from work. I took the wrong exit ramp. I had to ask my husband, on the phone, where I was going. He asked me, "Do you remember Hawaii?"


"Wasn't it the best time of your life?"

"It feels so far away now."

What ended up actually helping me was his walking me through my surroundings: "Do you see signs for Howard Avenue? Just keep heading west until you get to the freeway, then you head..."

"I know where to go from there. I haven't completely lost it."

A funny choice of words when I lost myself on my way home from work, in an area I've lived in for three years.

I thought I'd had PPD this whole time, because there have been spells of weepiness here and there. Yesterday showed me that I haven't had PPD this whole time. It's hit hard now. It's made worse by bad days. External stressors make the internal struggle a wreck. A mess out of me. I took the wrong ramp. I almost didn't know who I was.

But I did know. There was sane, happy, regular old me somewhere. Taunting me, almost, with the promise of the fact that I know what a normal life feels like. That I can be present, that I can be smart, that I can be on the ball.

I continue to make jokes. I continue to laugh. I continue to pretend things are normal to the people who don't know, mostly for the fear of bringing them down. For fear of scaring the pregnant woman at work about what may be (1 out of every 8 moms, y'all) to come. For fear—that's been justified—that people just don't know how to handle this truth.
I continue to enjoy the beautiful moments. I toss my daughter in the air and I hold her so close I'm sure she can't stand it. But she does. There's not a second I'm with her that I regret. Not a second that her smile doesn't bring one to my face.

I'm not broken. I'm not weak.

I mean to say that despite the beautiful sunset rainbow I'm looking at as my baby sleeps, I am sad and conflicted. I mean to say that some people don't know how to handle someone with PPD. Or any mental illness.

But I'm grateful for the national conversation sparked this week about depression. Admittedly I am just now starting to consider it a physical illness. I hope that the paradigm is shifting. I hope.
I want you to know that most moms hate and love their lives. I want you to know that no one's Pinterest version of their lives is the whole truth. Behind the perfect-looking recipe is a messy kitchen counter and a sink full of dishes. You are not alone. Not a single one of us is perfect.

I want you to know that I made it home. And good news was waiting for me there, news that made my day, along with a long, long hug from my husband and playtime with my daughter. News to come.

For now, I'll try to rest. Another therapy session tomorrow. This time I'm looking forward to it. I like that.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How NOT to Make: Mini-Chip Cupcakes

Wanna make some of these? Uh-huh. Thought so.
Maybe just rather eat a few? Good news: they're easy. I made these little gems before church on Sunday, they cooled while we were out, and I whipped up the frosting when we got back. Half the batch was eaten by the end of the day.
I have to admit, I'm a little bit of a rebel when it comes to following instructions (especially if I don't see a point to said instructions). You can follow the recipe here, but I'd like to give you a little crash course in what you don't want to do* while making these pretty cupcakes. Learn from my mistakes.
*Whatever. They'll still be delicious. They're cupcakes.

 1. Lining the muffin tin.
Don't wait until your beautiful batter is sitting there, waiting to be baked into delicious glory, to fumble your fingers over the edges of cupcake wrappers, peeling them apart. No, no. Get it done while the oven is warming up.

2. Butter
Don't use salted butter, adjusting the added salt accordingly. Nope: Make sure you have some unsalted on hand so that you can best control your salt.

3. Filling the muffin tin
Don't use a teaspoon (too small!) to fill the tin while sitting on your kitchen floor in front of your baby, two dogs circling the batter like they've been watching too much Shark Week.
Go for a tablespoon and fill 24 regular-sized muffin cups about 2/3 full.

4. Frosting
Don't cut a really conservatively sized hole in the corner of a plastic sandwich bag. Don't be afraid: Make that hole as wide as your thumb. Otherwise, you'll get these little wormy tubes of frosting on top. 

Seriously, though, whatever you do, these are gonna be good. DO share them with everyone you love. I mean, really love. Not just like. You're better than that.

The Recipes

Mini Chip White Cupcakes
Yield: 24 cupcakes
1 3/4 cups +2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Paper line or grease 24 mini cupcake molds. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. On medium speed, beat the butter and sugar in large bowl until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir together the milk, lemon juice and the vanilla. On low speed, add half the milk mixture. Mix until well incorporated. Add the remaining milk mixture and the dry ingredients in the same manner. Add 1 cup mini chocolate chips to the batter and stir. Fill each cavity to the top. Bake on the middle oven rack for about 20-22 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in their pans for 10 minutes. Then unmold and cool on a wire rack. Frost the top of each cupcake and sprinkle them with the remaining ¼ cup mini chocolate chips.

From; I used half this recipe for 24 cupcakes. It was plenty. Also substituted whole milk in place of whipping cream.

Quick Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Total Time:
12 min
2 min
10 min
Yield:10 to 12 servings

3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.
© 2014 Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Read more at:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Thank you, Robin

It seems slightly trite to write about Robin Williams.

But he's on my mind.

My brother called me last night and said, "Make me feel better about this."

For some reason, my brother felt that I was the only person who could relate to how he felt about Williams. You know what, I'm going to go ahead and refer to him as Robin from now on. I like to think he wouldn't mind.

My brother asked me if all young(ish) adults, of the twenty-something to thirty-something persuasion, felt this way about Robin Williams—that he was a fixture in their homes, and for some weird reason in our case, a father figure.

I get it now. Just now. In Mrs. Doubtfire, Robin played a divorcing father who would do anything to be with his kids. I read Scary Mommy's Facebook post about his courtroom monologue in which he pleads to not be separated from them.

And I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of us many children (at that time) who were experiencing their parents' separation or divorce never heard a monologue like that. How could we? The eloquence? The Hollywood timing? The delivery from an actor who no doubt knew pain and expressed it so well on screen?

For us kids of "broken" homes, I'll say thank you, Robin, for showing us (in whatever fictionalized way) that our fathers do care, for delivering those lines that we wished our fathers would have said, for showing us that we weren't being abandoned.

I don't think I'm the only one who can relate. And I don't think Robin would mind.

Monday, August 11, 2014

I Knew it Was Bad When Coffee Couldn't Make it Better

Though chocolate might make it better. I will take that kind of help.

It knots up my chest to think about telling my boss I have PPD. I guess there's no need for her to know. But it might help in explaining why I'm leaving work early every now and then (for counseling appointments) and I'm afraid it may turn into something bigger. I guess it can't hurt for her to know. There are times I feel like I just might break.

I hope this is PPD and not just motherhood. What if I go to my counseling session tonight and the therapist tells me that this is just what being a mom is? This constant state of feeling awful but loving your child so, so much? It can't be motherhood. It can't.

I mentioned the other day how I wanted to avoid medication if I could. The doctor offered Zoloft to me like it was candy. He said "This is a chemical imbalance, something with a very physical basis and solution." But I guess I don't agree with the solution part. I'm glad he's not my doctor (my doctor sent me to him because she was booked through the afternoon but wanted me to see someone right away).

I'm excited but also all up in knots about the appointment tonight. I'm taking my baby. I'm not giving up time with her for these sessions—I mean, it's counterproductive to my PPD to spend less time with her. And she's so well behaved most of the time that it won't hinder our session. I don't think. (Watch, I just jinxed it.)

I'll let you know how it goes. I hope the knots and the courage and the scheduling and the running around are all worth it. She's worth it.

UPDATE: Worth it. My fears about the therapist were unfounded. She did what she's there to do: Validate my feelings, encourage me to talk through it, give me hope that it will get better. She did even more than that. It's strange but I have to admit that I went there so full of hope, so excited that I would be making the best sort of friend—the kind that's paid to listen to you. Well, I don't think we'll be best friends but I believe this will be extremely good. In fact, I don't know what I would do without it.

My baby breastfed during my session, like the angel that she is. My therapist asked, "Have you been tired?"


"Trouble concentrating?"

"Extreme. I've never had that problem before in my life."

"Withdrawn from things you normally enjoy doing?"

Somehow, these words, when written, DO seem like a script. Like something unfeeling out of a textbook. And maybe they are. But I suppose it means she's either a really great therapist or I am desperate for some sort of help that I felt like they were the right human questions to ask. They're what I've needed to be asked, rather than all the unfeeling demands that surround life as a mother.

She's confident we can make progress without medication, and if we need that extra boost, we'll use it. I'm confident. And I'm confident any mother can do this.

We just have to be able to accept the help.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

CrabFest in Your Kitchen

I hardly need to write. Thank you, photos!
So, my husband had been craving crab legs since seeing all of the recent Red Lobster commercials on TV. So we decided to have CrabFest at home.

Go on, drool. Here's the recipe I use for these at-home Cheddar Bay Biscuits. (Shh, they use Bisquick.) I prefer the chunkiest shredded cheddar out there, so that you get a little cheddar bite. A little texture. They're so easy. You'll seriously never have to go to Red Lobster to satisfy that cheesy biscuit craving again.

I fed my daughter butternut squash for the first time while I was cooking. She was not a fan.

The only thing I did differently was to use whole milk and pre-minced garlic. Maybe a little extra salt, and pepper if you like. I suggest using the brightest, freshest red potatoes you can find at the grocery store. They're still a bargain.

This is when she took her bib off. Rebel.

Those legs... Maybe you already knew this, but I didn't: Crab legs are almost always pre-cooked (ON THE BOAT. WHAT) and THEN flash-frozen (also on the boat) so that they're super fresh. Don't be like me and ask the pimply kid working at the seafood counter if they have any uncooked crab legs. He'll laugh at you. And then you won't know why until you read up on cooking crab legs. Yeeeah.

Any reddish legs like these ones are already cooked. Yup.

Boil 'em in a big old pot. Just for a few minutes. Really, you're re-heating them. I added a big squirt from the lemon juice bottle to cut the fishy/salty smell and flavor.

Biscuits. Taters. Legs. Get outta here.

Oh, and that's just the biggest, tenderest, juiciest piece of crab meat I've ever seen. From a claw. At my house. Red Lobster, it's not you. It's me. And this crab meat.

Cheddar Bay Biscuits (from


 2 ½ cups Bisquick baking mix
 ¾ cup cold whole milk
 4 tablespoons cold butter (1/2 stick)
 ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
 1 heaping cup grated cheddar cheese

Bush on Top:

 2 tablespoons butter, melted
 ¼ teaspoon dried parsley flakes
 ½ teaspoon garlic powder
 pinch salt


1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine Bisquick with cold butter in a medium bowl using a pastry cutter or a large fork. You don't want to mix too thoroughly. There should be small chunks of butter in there that are about the size of peas. Add cheddar cheese, milk, and ¼ teaspoon garlic. Mix by hand until combined, but don't over mix.
3. Drop approximately ¼-cup portions of the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet using an ice cream scoop.
4. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until the tops of the biscuits begin to turn light brown.
5. When you take the biscuits out of the oven, melt 2 tablespoons butter is a small bowl in your microwave. Stir in ½ teaspoon garlic powder and the dried parsley flakes. Use a brush to spread this garlic butter over the tops of all the biscuits. Use up all of the butter. Makes one dozen biscuits.
Recipe courtesy of Todd Wilbur, "Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2," Plume Books.

Garlic Mashed Red Potatoes (from

6 ServingsPrep/Total Time: 30 min.


  • 8 medium red potatoes, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk, warmed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  • Place potatoes and garlic in a large saucepan; cover with water.
  • Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or
  • until potatoes are very tender.
  • Drain well. Add the butter, milk and salt; mash. Stir in cheese.
  • Yield: 6 servings.
Nutritional Facts: 1 cup equals 190 calories, 5 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 14 mg cholesterol, 275 mg sodium, 36 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 8 g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 2 starch, 1/2 fat.

For the crab legs:

Boil pre-cooked (frozen or thawed) snow crab legs for 5-7 minutes, adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to water after it reaches a boil, if desired.

CrabFest at home! Save money and eat. Really good.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Hardest Phone Call I've Made as a Mother

It's not like me to be a downer. But right now, to post anything other than this feels inauthentic. I hope that by sharing this, I encourage other mothers to seek help when they need it, although that can be a really, really hard thing to do.

I lied in the fetal position on the bed, not sleeping, for two hours last night. I never do that.
My husband wanted to talk, but I told him that I thought what was best for me was to lie with my baby.
I had cried the whole way home. I cried anytime I wasn't with my baby.

This morning, I made the call from my desk at work. I guess I didn't care who overheard me tell the receptionist, "I don't know if there's anyone in the area specializing in postpartum depression, but..."

Her tone changed immediately and she said she'd talk to my doctor right away. I got a call back within minutes, from a nurse who spoke to me as if we were at a funeral, or as if I were a child who'd gotten hurt. This was surprisingly OK for me, but since I was at work, I continued speaking in a "normal," upbeat office tone.

"I gave birth January 30th."

"I can't say when it started, more so that I've been waiting for it to go away and it hasn’t." (The baby blues, as they're known. I'd thought my weepiness in the weeks after birth was normal and part of having family stay with you while adapting to being a parent. Oh, it is normal, you say?)

"I don't have a specific plan, but I just started thinking of it yesterday, which is what prompted me to call." (re: hurting myself.)

"I'd prefer to avoid medication if I can. I'm not sure what kinds of options that leaves me with, but definitely avoiding medication."

I'm glad I called. I don't know what's going to happen next, but I think the courage it took to call beats out the consequences I'd face if I hadn't. The consequences not only for me, but for my daughter and for my husband. 

I'm hopeful for the first time. I'm hopeful that some sort of treatment may help change my thinking about depression and mental illness. When I struggled with depression as a young adult, I always attributed it to something: The turbulence in my home and family life, being an outcast at school, being rejected by crushes. While maybe those things were triggers, perhaps they weren't to blame. Perhaps there's just something I can see as clinical that makes me respond in this way to stressors. Something resulting from the physical process of giving birth and becoming a mother. And somehow, maybe, it means I'm not as fucked up as I sometimes think I am. Perhaps I'm helpable.

UPDATE: I'm seeing a doctor today. I'm impressed at how much of a priority they make this. They practically ordered me to get in for an appointment.

I want to thank Abby Heugel for posting this on yesterday. For some reason I stumbled upon it while lying in the fetal position and related to every. Single. Thing. About it. Thank you for helping to give me the courage to make that phone call.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How Baby Brain Never Goes Away

My husband, our just-bathed and pajamaed daughter in his arms, walked into the bathroom as I stood in the shower and turned the water off. I could see my raccoon eyes and short hair in the mirror behind him and wondered if that was me.

"I saved your cookies," he said.

It took me a second. "OH. Shit." I'd left a batch of cookies in the oven probably 20 minutes prior. When I'd seen the wetness in my daughter's diaper, I knew it was time for her bath (assuming her emptied bladder would prevent her peeing in the tub. I was wrong.) I sat her in the water and saw the ripples; the pee. I undressed, got the shower going and told my husband to come get her when I called. I washed her in my arms in the shower and called a few times.

"Honey. Honeyyyy. We're done!"

Nothing. So I walked, dripping, into my daughter's room, laid her down in her crib and started putting a diaper on her. My husband apologized for not coming to get her when I called. I got back in the shower to wash my hair, leaving those cookies without a bit—not a teeny bit—of memory of what I'd been doing. Forget the cookies I'd planned to take to work tomorrow.

The mix looked pretty much like the one you see here, but with blue off-brand M&Ms mixed in, too. They turned out nicely, thanks to my husband (although I did add about a tablespoon of whole milk in addition to the butter, egg and vanilla the package instructs...seemed a little dry for my liking). Pretty freakin adorable packaging, though.

I got that mad-at-myself feeling. You know, like when you leave your keys in the front door overnight or forget to hit send on an important email. Oh, you don't know? Me neither.

My daughter is clean and now sleeping, after breastfeeding in my arms here at the computer. I hope my co-workers like these damn cookies. I also hope I don't burn our house down. 

As always, all opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My Labor & Delivery Story: Part 1

Pregnant mamas, if you're anything like me, you'll devour every detail in the hopes of preparing for your own labor.


Of course they tell you every labor is different, but they truly are unique. I could not have imagined the way mine would go. When I got to the hospital, nurses told me the average first-time mama birth lasts 12-14 hours. So they guessed I'd deliver around 1 AM or later. I think this is some kind of sick game that's fun for them: Guess the birth time! Will this one be wailing for 12 hours? 20? 30??

Here's the suck of it: I had contractions (for real, early labor contractions) for a week before my daughter was born. My doctor said they were not Braxton Hicks because I was dilating. Slowly, but still. They were painful, and they were happening all the time. Had not expected that. At all.

I had planned to work until my water broke, basically, because I am in generally great health and was feeling well the whole pregnancy. No swollen feet, sleeping well, no reason to miss work. And we were (almost) ready, anyway.

Plan changed a week before Lana arrived. I had been having contractions since the previous week, when my OB partially stripped my membranes. Shit, was that uncomfortable. I was 1 cm dilated, and had been since week 36. Every week, we were waiting for more progress. My doctor said she didn't want to schedule an induction date because she had a feeling I would go by my due date.

All was well. She fully stripped the membranes at week 39, I had contractions, and then they stopped. The next morning, Friday, contractions five minutes apart. I stayed home from work thinking I'd be going to the hospital. Nope. Contractions slowed down.

Let me say here: My husband was SO uncomfortable with all of this. My philosophy was "This may take a while, so I may as well be at home where I can eat and drink whatever I want and play Wii bowling and pet my dogs and sleep in my bed if I need to." His was "Hospital. NOW." He is not trained in baby catching.

So we stayed home for the weekend. Contractions came and went, and we ate out on Sunday. I asked for the spiciest sauce they could give me, and Sunday night, we thought that (and the whole pineapple I had eaten) had worked. We went to the hospital (4 days before due date), contractions strong, painful and less than three minutes apart. Obviously labor, right? Wrong. They sent us home.

I stayed home from work that whole week, having regular contractions the whole time, folding laundry, finally watching The Color Purple for the first time ever (and crying). Thursday was my due date, on which I had an appointment. I was already having regular, stronger contractions that morning, and my doctor stripped the membranes again. She said that whenever I wanted to come in and have my water broken, I could. I asked her about putting myself at risk for a c-section, since breaking your water supposedly puts you "on the c-section clock," but my doctor was confident that my body was ready (2 cm dilated, 90% effaced) enough that things would progress nicely after my water breaking, and not force a c-section.

I went home. Contractions were so strong in the car that I cried. But they were bearable. I cleaned the house, knowing that guests would be coming. I watched Good Morning America, where I heard Pharrell William's Happy for the first time. My husband was going absolutely crazy. Around noon, he forced me to call the doctor. She said, "Did it do the trick?" referring to the membrane-stripping. I said, "Yeah."

"How soon can you get here?"

"15 minutes."

It took us longer than that. My husband wanted to kill me for taking so long. I kept cleaning tiny things here and there, leaning on the kitchen counter through contractions. But he got me in the car and we made it.

Find out if your birth-time guess was right in Part 2 to come. (12 hours? 20? 30??)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Hot Mommy Tip #3: How to Make a DIY Bottle-Drying Rack

Alright, now's the part where you get to know just how cheap I am. Or frugal. Let's go with frugal.

I've always eyed up these grassy bottle-drying rack thingies at Target. But I've never pulled the trigger. $15 for something that's gonna sit on my counter and get wet? Nah. I should've registered for one, but pregnant me didn't realize what a large part of my mommy-life washing and drying bottles would be.

So here's my thrifty solution. It goes with my overall kitchen/household philosophy: Everything must multitask. How are you supposed to multitask if your tools don't? I'm talking utensils, appliances, bowls, cups, knives, everything.

Invest the couple of dollars in a silicone potholder or two. Like this. You can use it as a trivet, a pot holder and a bottle drying rack. You'll get a lot more use out of it. Trust me.

Here's what mine looks like:

Maybe not as pretty, but sure a lot more worth your $15 (or less) than the grassy thing.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

No Recipe Needed: Perfect French Toast

Read on if you're into crispy, brownie, soft-in-the-middle French toast.
If not, I don't know if we should continue this charade.

The best part of French toast is that you don't really need a recipe. But I've failed at it a surprising (and embarrassing) number of times. Here's what I've found to be the keys:

Heat your oil. Medium heat at the highest. Oil > butter because it can stand the high heat and give you those crispy edges without over-browning. Don't let it go over medium (waka waka breakfast joke) or your last pieces will be French char.

More cream (or whole milk, or skim milk) than egg. Otherwise, you end up with some weird egg fried onto a piece of bread. And that's gross. Totally not what we're going for here.

Hint of vanilla, dash of cinnamon. 

Fry, baby, fry. Only let them go a couple of minutes. That's all they need.

SEE THE BUBBLES? For some sick reason that's my favorite part. Bubbles=success.

I got my taste for super fatty French toast from my childhood babysitter, Margaret. Picture the two smoking aunts on The Simpsons. She was wonderful, rest her soul, and had a penchant for lots of oil, perms, soap operas and chain-smoking.

If you're really out for the perfect French toast, use a day-old loaf of crusty French bread, baguette preferably, and slice it into little thick medallions. Mm. But if you're just home on a Sunday morning and really want some French toast, use whatever ya got. Same goes for the cream: Heavy whipping cream is best, but whole milk (or any milk) will sure do.

May your Sunday be filled with maple syrup and sunshine. xo

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Make-Ahead Pizza (From Scratch!)

I was going to save these pizza doughs—all three of them—for dinner tonight, but then I got hungry. And our contractor canceled his appointment (although yippee! I had cleaned the kitchen thinking he'd be coming over, so I had a nice clean space for taking photos of my food babies. My kitchen is not normally clean enough for this.). 
And I made these doughs from scratch, anyway, so I can have one for breakfast if I want, right?

So listen. Pizza is amazing. We can all agree on that. It's also gotten (at least to me) kind of out-of-control expensive in the last few years.
Make your own crusts and BAM—money saving, you can make exactly what you like, and you can kinda impress people when they come over for pizza. "Oh this, you ask? I just made the dough from scratch."
Here's the rub: It's better if you make the crusts the night before you need the pizza. So there's a little planning involved. Although if you're a mom like me, make-ahead recipes are actually a wonderful thing. So make these crusts the night before you need 'em (all it takes is a regular old cereal bowl and ideally a stand mixer, although your hands will do in a pinch) and bake 'em up fresh for ahhh-mazing homemade pizza. From scratch. And save some money while you're at it.
NOTE: If you don't have a whole night for letting it sit in the fridge, just give it at least a half-hour's rest before baking.
My brain calculates cost for everything we eat, out or at home. I figure a batch of these bad boys costs 3 bags of shredded cheese ($6 if you're a savvy shopper) plus toppings, flour, salt, yeast etc. which are pretty minimal. You can feed at least 6 people with these three pizzas, if not more. At $1 a person, this is super economical. And impressive. It does not get better than that.

ONWARD! To the pizza. After dough has sat in the fridge overnight, dust a pan with cornmeal. This is optional, but helps keep the crust crispy and make it feel more professional, somehow. In my experience, it doesn't really help on the non-stick front. But maybe I should have used more.

Stretch your dough out. With one hand, I grab the ball of dough at one side and let it hang. Gravity does the work. I kind of spin it, super slowly of course, until it seems like it has a somewhat even thickness. Slap that baby on the pan.

Now it's ready for whatever you want. Stretch it to the edges of the pan, or leave it whatever shape and thickness you like. Three doughs from this recipe yields just what I like: thin and crispy in the middle, with a crust that's crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside. Here's the bonus recipe for sauce (I make these as an appetizer first...they ALWAYS go super fast and everyone seriously loves them. My brother-in-law named them Lizzie sticks. Whattup.)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp each dried oregano and basil
1/4 tsp each dried thyme and rosemary
Mix. Spread over pizza.

I then added 1 cup of shredded mozzarella and 1/2 cup shredded cheddar jack. I couldn't resist, so I sprinkled a little garlic powder over it all. Into the 450° oven.

10 minutes later, DONE.

As my brother-in-law's name for this suggests, I slice the pie into sticks. And then I eat half of the whole damn thing. I'm still nursing, you guys. Plus it was delicious. Slightly sweet from the olive oil I used, a great yeasty flavor from proofing overnight, rosemary (one of my favorite herbs), oregano, GARLIC. CHEESE. Sprinkle on some parm and crushed red pepper. Go to town. Love it. Eat it. Share it.

It's 12:30 and I've already eaten half of an appetizer pizza. Tonight, I'll make the other two doughs—one with red sauce (usually from a jar...sometimes even Prego) and pepperoni, the other topped with leftover shredded BBQ chicken and plenty of cheese. I'll share pics if I don't eat it all too fast.

Love and lunch,
Here's the recipe!

Homemade Pizza Crust
Yield: 3 crusts (or 2 thick crusts)

4 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (or 1 packet)
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil, optional

1. Mix flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
2. Mix water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Let stand 10 minutes or until yeast has formed a foam on top of the water.
3. Add water/yeast mixture and olive oil to dry ingredients in stand mixer. Mix on low until well combined, adding additional flour or warm water if necessary. (More water is needed if flour is settling at the bottom of mixer bowl, more flour needed if dough is sticking to the bottom of the bowl.)
NOTE: Olive oil is listed as optional because I sometimes forget to add it. In fact, I did this time and the dough was still phenomenal.
4. Using a chef's knife or pizza slicer, cut dough into three equal parts. Add 1/4 tsp olive oil to three small cereal bowls, adding dough to bowls and turning them to coat. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. (If you're in a hurry, or just really hungry, let dough rise in a warm spot for at least 30 minutes instead of overnight.)
5. Preheat oven to 450°. Spread each dough over a pizza pan to desired thickness. Top with sauce listed above or other favorite pizza sauce, 1 1/2 cups cheese and bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is browning and crust is crisp.