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Pumpkin 2.0: Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

Shocker, the pumpkin I roasted last night (after ravaging it for seeds) didn’t suck! It needed a good bit of brown sugar, but I’m not entirely sure that I ever liked the taste of unadulterated pumpkin so I’m not holding that against myself.

I got about a cup of pumpkin from the roasting and I knew instantly that if I didn’t immediately use it in a recipe I was going to pass it over every day until it went bad in the fridge.

So! I found a recipe that a. looked amazing and b. I had nearly every ingredient for in my kitchen: one pot pasta with pumpkin. Before stopping home I grabbed some cream and Parmesan at the corner store (yeah, yeah, a fridge without Parmesan is super depressing but I have a newborn baby and I’m blaming it on her because she can’t talk yet) and I was ready to go.

20 minutes after Ellie went down for bed, Alex and I were sitting down to a super tasty dinner of what is basically pumpkin macaroni and cheese. It tasted like pepper and fall and was so freaking good! 

Big win. There’s some leftover if you want to stop by and try it, Nora 🙂

  

 

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First Non-Baby Post: Pumpkins!

Does this post lose its non-baby status if I call attention to its non-baby content in the title?

While you think about that, let’s talk about pumpkins!! When the world refuses to give me wind and rain and weather that begs for a fire in the fireplace, I have to look for fall in other places. Tonight, I found fall in a mini pumpkin.

I had been googling recipes for pumpkin seeds and getting my appetite all hot and bothered when I realized that because of daylight savings, it was only 7pm and I had more than enough time to make this thing happen tonight. So, I decided to crack open one of my decorative little pumpkins after my other little pumpkin finally went down (sidenote: babies don’t ‘get’ daylight savings and that really sucks when you’ve spent 30 years thinking, ‘spring forward, fall back… back! yes! an extra hour of sleep!!’). 

After I axed the thing open, I picked my seasonings (too much garlic salt and cayenne) and baked up some seeds. It only took about half an hour — way less than I thought — and the crispy little guys paired perfectly with the smug satisfaction I felt as I sat down to eat them all.

  
Bonus: I had more than enough time to try roasting the actual pumpkin! It’s in the oven now and, honestly, I’m not feeling super confident in my ability to pull off a two pumpkin success night. But either way I’ve got enough residual smug and good fall feelings from the seeds to keep me going until at least Thanksgiving… I’m easy that way.

Moms Don’t Need More Reasons to Feel Responsible for All the Bad

It’s no secret that when you’re pregnant there is an insane amount of pressure around what you put in your body. The list of foods you’re not supposed to eat can be as long as you want it to be depending on your anxiety level at any given moment, and making the perfect choice 100% of the time isn’t helped by your carousel of exhaustion, irritablity and endless hunger (when you’re not sickeningly nauseous, of course).

All of this despite the fact that many of the foods pregnant women are told to avoid come with an incredibly low incidence rate. Listeria for example, the reason I avoided all deli meat until Eleanor was born and then immediately worked my way through an entire party platter until I wanted to vomit, has an incidence rate of less than 10 cases for every 3 million people according to the CDC. But the implications are so terrible, including miscarriage or seriously damage to cognitive functions, that many women decide it’s just not worth it (opting instead for a glutinous post-birth indulgence).

Then, there’s alcohol. There are so many competing arguments on moderate alcohol consumption (a glass or two a week… no one is advocating binge drinking!) and I remember feeling super conflicted about the few glasses I had during pregnancy. Even though I knew it was more than likely completely harmless, the stigma was so strong that I still felt guilty… but damn it if I wasn’t going to celebrate the purchase of our first home with a glass of champagne! 

I just read about a new report issued by the American Acadamy of Pediatrics that advocates complete abstention from alcohol for pregnant women, even while citing the incredibly low incidence rates for moderate alcohol consumption. And I get it. Yes, the only way to completely eliminate your risk of alcohol related disorders is not to drink any alcohol. But a woman is already going to blame herself for any health issue her child has, whether it was preventable or not, so throw us a freaking bone and acknowledge that in most cases a couple glasses of wine is completely harmless and she’s not being a selfish monster by treating herself once in a blue moon.

When I was pregnant I stopped eating soft boiled eggs. These are on the ‘don’t eat’ list because, like any undercooked item (good by ahi tuna poki lunches…), there’s a small risk of salmonella. So, every morning I would eat my second favorite breakfast: oatmeal with a banana and walnuts. Risk free and yummy. Until one day, well into my third trimester, I go to the market and see a recall of my walnuts for possible salmonella contamination! I first called my doctor to make sure I couldn’t have had a mild case that affected my baby without causing symptoms in me (turns out you have to have an incredibly intense poisoning from salmonella, so bad that it enters your blood stream, in order to put your baby at risk), and then I cried a silent tear for all the soft boiled eggs that had gone uneaten under the false pretense of ensuring a salmonella-free pregnancy.

I walked away from that experience with a new outlook: the constant stress and anxiety that comes from trying to eat perfectly throughout pregnancy was far more of a risk to my overall health, and therefore my baby’s health, than the one in a million chance of contracting a serious food related illness. I didn’t start eating a Russian roulette of risky foods, but if I was going to get salmonella poisoning from a fucking walnut then you better believe that I was going to have a mile-high mortadella sandwich in the final weeks of my pregnancy.

Best. Sandwich. Ever.

Child Care IRL

There has been a lot of recent coverage and debate about child care in the U.S. — issues ranging from access and affordability to timing (in California we have paid family leave for a total of three paid months of baby bonding… in most other states families are forced to choose between a paycheck or spending time with their barely month old child after just six weeks).

I’ve been following a lot of these discussions because a. child care is a necessity and soon-to-be reality for my family and b. it’s been in the news a lot with the 2016 presidential election ramping up.

Anyway, all along I had been thinking about child care from a purely financial perspective (I was less concerned with finding the right person to watch Ellie since there are far more options in our price range here than in San Francisco). 

Would we be able to afford it or, like many people, would the cost of child care match or even exceed my or my husband’s income? Turns out, we’re fortunate enough to afford child care so long as we do what’s known as a nanny share: usually two children from different families who share the time of one nanny at a reduced rate. Fine. Great. A playmate and a discount, score!

With the financial aspect squared away, I thought I was clear to avoid any emotional breakdown about this particular topic. Spoiler alert, I was wrong.

With my return date to work less than a week away I’ve realized that the real cost of child care is the time that you lose, not the money. At less than four months old, my child will spend more of her waking hours with someone other than her mom or dad. There might be days when I get home and she’s already down for the night. It happens to my husband at least once a week. I can’t even wrap my head around that! 

How is this ok? How is this the norm? Three months of bonding time and then you become ancillary to your child’s everyday experience and development?  The second-most important influence? 

I understand that this is why it’s so important to know and trust the person you choose to watch your child — but we’re lucky enough to have several candidates to choose from and it still feels impossibly hard to relinquish that kind of time and responsibility to another person. Those with less to spend have far fewer options and it’s unconscionable, not to mention heartbreaking, that income is a determining factor in a family’s ability to place their child in a safe and nurturing environment.

On a somewhat related note, I wonder if there will be a different breakdown for every day of the week leading to my first day back at work… that could be interesting…

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Staying is Hard Until You Have to Leave

Motherhood is something I still haven’t come even close to wrapping my head around. This is ok since I’m pretty sure it’s one of those things that never stays the same long enough for you to really ‘get’. 

Still, three months in and I continue to be surprised by my inability to predict things… Ellie’s next feeding, how long she’ll be down for a nap, if that’s a diaper cry or a tired cry. And my emotions, those things I’ve been feeling for years, are even more unpredictable.

Three weeks ago I was so excited to get back to work that I spent a whole night cleaning out and updating my task management system. Night hours are like gold, precious and in short supply (at least in my world). I get maybe two or three full hours each night when I have enough energy to keep my eyes open and Eleanor is sleeping, and I chose to spend this time updating a to-do list? 

It seems crazy to me now as I stare down the barrel of a Friday return date at work, but at the time all I could do was daydream about leaving. In between deciphering crying fits and feeling like I always had my boob hanging out, all I wanted was the predictable monotony of my old work schedule. And then it changed.

We started to get a real routine down. Up between 6 and 7, out the door with papa to walk him to BART and then on to a coffee shop for breakfast. Nap time while I ate and read my book. Another walk home for a feeding, quick change, and then out the door again for grocery shopping and errands. Another nap and a late lunch  then some reading and time at her baby gym. Maybe a visit from a grandma or friends. Instead of feeling hostage to a barrage of unpredictable whims, I started looking forward to our days together. It was amazing, and unfortunately it was also just weeks before my scheduled return to work.

Now, I find myself approaching these last days like the last four M&Ms in a bag. I want to savor each one. Every second of it. As if there’s some way to bottle up this time we have together and relive it after it’s gone. Instead of putting Ellie down at nap time, I let her sleep in my arm (long after it goes numb), bath time is twice as long and I take a little longer reading to her in the afternoon while we snuggle together on the bed. I’ve even started bogarting burp time during midnight feedings, something I’ve always gladly handed off to papa, because I can’t get enough of the way it feels when she’s passed out on my shoulder.

I know it’s not like I’ll never see her again, but I’m blown away by how much it truly feels like that. At the same time, I also know that I’m not built for staying home to raise her full time — something I’m reminded of at least once a day when my exhaustion reaches epic proportions or she flips out and I can’t for the life of my figure out what’s wrong. 

So, here’s to living for nights and weekends! There’s no real option and deep down I know it will just make me slow down and cherish our limited time that much more.

Also, she’s currently snoring on me. Are babies supposed to snore?? God, I hope so. It’s adorable.

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Fortune Cookies of Three, Give It to Me!

First, I know what you’re thinking… Amanda, were three fortune cookies really necessary? To that I say: a. rude, b. they wouldn’t give you three if you weren’t supposed to eat all of them… immediately… without sharing (duh), and c. I wouldn’t be publicizing the details of my gluttony unless there was a much bigger story here that had to be told.

With that out of the way, I can begin. This story, like all of the classics, unfolds cookie by scrumptiously crunchy cookie…

1. “Life is a series of choices. Today yours are good ones.” I can only imagine they’re referring to my choice of Chinese takeout for dinner… perhaps to my (ill-fated, according to my tummy) decision to eat all three fortune cookies in one sitting… or, maybe this is cookie #1’s sly way of suggesting that I make the ‘good choice’ today of taking cookie #2’s advice on what I should do tomorrow, something like:

2. “Do something unusual tomorrow.” Well, that goes without saying… I always do something particularly unusual on the last Wednesday in the 8th month of even calendar years… but, just for the sake of argument, what if I were on the fence about doing something unusual tomorrow? Or overwhelmed by the choice of exactly which unusual thing to do? Honestly, cookie #2, I really don’t see why I should take your advice (aside from the impressive fact that you’re clearly in cahoots with cookie #1, who so cleverly buttered me up by pre-praising my decision to do so). Perhaps:

3. “You will attend an unusual party and meet someone important.” My apologies, cookie #2! You were clearly a setup for cookie #3. I shouldn’t have gotten heated with you.

It’s all so clear… I’m going to make the good choice today to do something unusual tomorrow, specifically: attending an unusual party and meeting someone important! Cookie(s), you’re as brilliant as you are tasty.

Now, I think we can all agree that Tai Chi Chinese wins the award for most persuasive fortune cookies in the history of the world ever. But more importantly, I also think there’s a lesson in here for all of us. There is only one way to avoid spending your Tuesday night fretting over important people that you’re supposed to meet at upcoming mystery parties, and that to request four fortune cookies every time you order takeout. Always four.

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Random Bag of Kindness

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A woman I ran into on the street earlier this week brought me a gigantic bag of apples today from what I can only imagine is the coolest backyard orchard, ever.

After crossing paths a few blocks away from our office building, we walked together for a couple minutes. In our short conversation she mentioned her commute and, when I asked, said she lived in Sebastopol. I told her that my favorite childhood memories were staying with family friends up in Sebastopol during the summers. That was the end of our conversation. Not a word more.

Today, she hauled a 10lb bag of beautiful little apples all the way into the city to give to me. Just because. And it absolutely made my day.

Will post a follow-up picture of what comes of this bag… I’m thinking applesauce, cobbler, baked apples, or maybe tiny little apple pies baked in my mini cupcake tin!

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