Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments is brought to you by Mrs4444! You can visit her blog here.

Mommy's Idea

Today I stopped at Dunkin on the way to work to get an iced coffee for a Friday treat. There was no ice in it. WTF?

I've decided to take the afternoon off. 80 degrees and sunny? Who wants to be stuck in a cube? I'm going to buy new makeup. If you've known me for any length of time you probably think I'm lying, but I'm not.

We didn't get to do P90X last night and I feel guilty, even though we're making up for it tonight. C didn't get home from his trip until much later than he thought he would, and I'm afraid of the basement so I didn't want to work out alone. How sad is that?

When C is out of town I also stay up as late as I can, until I'm so tired that I fall asleep the second my head hits the pillow. I use the TV and the interwebs to keep me company until then. That way there's less time lying in the dark thinking about someone hiding out in my closet.

I've been devouring novels lately and it's really awesome. I forgot how great it is to read. The day after I finished Oryx and Crake someone told me that there was a follow-up, so I ordered it used from Amazon and read it in three days. Just couldn't put it down. It's called The Year of the Flood. While I was googling for the book I found a picture of the author (Margaret Atwood). She looks absolutely nothing like the person I had pictured in my mind. Funny how that works sometimes.

Now I'm reading a book called Prep. Started it on Wednesday and will probably stay up and finish it tonight and tomorrow night. Thanks to my friend Alison for all of her awesome book recommendations!

After I get some new makeup I'm going to browse Half Price Books. I just decided that. Great way to spend an hour. Then I'll pick up Toddler C after his nap is over and we'll play outside.

Last night's Yankee game was televised. I could watch nothing but baseball and be perfectly content with life. I still think it's the most beautiful thing to watch on an HD TV. <3 watching Robbie Cano hit those balls out of the park!

Finally, the best quote from last night's episode of The Office:

Michael: I can't stop myself from kissing her.
Kevin: Now you know how I feel sitting next to those M&Ms all day!

I can't believe that Steve Carell is leaving the show after next season! It can't go on without him, and I'm really going to miss it :(

Thursday, April 29, 2010

From the Mind of an 8-year-old

C was out of town last night, so I spent the evening digging through a box of crap in the basement that's followed me from house to house for most of my adult life. At the very bottom of the box, I found my elementary school diary. It's so bad and so cheesy that I literally cringed reading some of the entries.

Some of them weren't really so bad.

First entry:

Monday, December 25, 1989 (I was 8, obviously the diary was a christmas present)

Today was christmas day. I got great presents. The power pad was cool we played it.

(Neat handwriting was never my strong point. I can't even make out some of the words in other entries.)

Most of them are mundane and boring descriptions of my days:

Thursday, December 28, 1989

We went to see the little Murmaid but it was sold out so we are going tomorrow to see the Wizard.

Wednesday, February 7, 1990 (I guess I learned how to spell Wednesday)

Today in G.T. (Gifted and Talented.) there were only 3 kids instead of 6! Jessica, Nicole, and Iris weren't there! Only Kevin Jhonothan and I. were there!

Some of them provide an interesting insight into how my 8-year-old self viewed important things:

Wennesday, December 27, 1989 (I guess I wasn't so great at spelling, after all)

I am in love! Tommy B is so cool! Me and my sister went to his house today and had a great time. His other friend (Josh) was there and he played with us.

(under this entry is a note dated November 9, 1990 saying "I hate Tommy B.")

Monday, January 1, 1989

Today I went to my boyfriends house and yesterday I saw my other boyfriend Jason at the movies but he didn't see me. When we went to see the little Murmaid.

I think this one is the absolute worst, though:

Saturday, January 4, 1992

Dear Diary,

I think Richie likes me. Today at roller skating he called me a Bitch. Erica came over. Tiff did too. We had fun.

Love Jene

(Yes, Bitch was capitalized. Maybe we should stop telling little girls that if a boy is mean to you it means they like you. Interestingly, there's an entry a few days later referring to my "former friends" Erica and Tiff. Erica is still one of my BFFs today!)

Plenty more where those came from, for sure. I'll have to scan some of the illustrations I drew to go along with the entries. Complete diagrams of cafeteria tables and basketball courts, detailing exactly where I was sitting in relation to my "boyfriends." My high school ones are even worse.

But really, who didn't love The Wizard?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Things You Want Wednesday - Double Electric Pump

Sounds like it should be a rock song or something, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it's not. Every breastfeeding mom needs to have some kind of breastpump available to them. Stay-at-home moms might be able to get away with a little hand pump like this.

We working moms aren't so lucky. If we work full-time and still want our kids to have the benefits of breastmilk, we become slaves to the electric models. If you're super unlucky, like I am, and end up having to exclusively pump, you'll develop an even closer relationship with this unique torture device.

Just kidding. I meant the electric breastpump. The holy grail of milk machines.

There are many electric pumps to choose from, and I would say without question that you can narrow your search by focusing only on double-electric pumps. These allow you to empty both sides at the same time, rather than doing one at a time. When you're pumping in the car, or in a closet, or at 4:30 in the morning, quickness is essential. I chose the Medela Pump-in-Style Advanced for my poison. Shoulder bag edition for me, although they also come in backpacks. The benefit to the shoulder bag is that the pump motor itself is easy to remove from the carrying bag. This comes in handy when you're traveling and don't want to lug yet another carry-on on the plane or shove yet another bag into your overflowing trunk. (Babies sure require a lot of "stuff" to travel with, don't they?)

Double-electric pumps come in a variety of models at a variety of price points. This is one area where you shouldn't skimp to save a few bucks. I'm a big fan of the Medela pumps because they're high quality and their customer service is phenomenal. The faceplate on my pump cracked one day and they overnighted me a new one, free of charge. As a working mom, and especially as an EPer, I depended on that piece of equipment to provide food for my child. They understand that, and are willing to help out however they can. I also have friends who swear by their Ameda and Playtex pumps, but since I've never used them myself I can't really tell you much about them.

Make sure you find one that has a battery adapter. Bonus points if there's a car adapter available, too. We lost power thanks to Hurricane Ike when Baby C was 2 months old. I was so glad to have battery back-up. The car adapter made it possible to pump on long road trips without pulling over to stop. My pump went everywhere with me - New Jersey, Alabama, Cleveland, Toledo, the NKOTB concert - pretty much everywhere I went. It was like a new appendage. Thankfully that stage is behind me now. I had grand plans for the destruction of my pump when my cow days were over.

When the time came, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. It was like destroying an old friend. Actually, maybe "frenemy" would be the better word, but it made me sad to think about smashing it into little smithereens. Maybe after hypothetical Baby #2.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

P90X 60 Day Photos!

We took them last night. Usually I'm insistent on taking them in the morning before I eat anything. I tend to get that little pooch by the end of the day.

I didn't really see much of a change between Day 1 and Day 30, but I think at Day 60 it's starting to show a little bit better, especially in my back muscles. If you look real close you can even see some ab muscles trying to poke through! I'm down from 22.7% body fat to about 18-19%. I know my waist has gotten a lot smaller, but I don't know how much smaller because I didn't re-measure it yet.

It's hard to take these pictures without feeling like a total toolbag, so please excuse the doofy look on my face. I don't like having my picture taken in general, let alone half-naked and in weird poses. I wish we would have taken the "before" pictures in January when we started Power90. I think the difference from then to now would be amazing. I also wish C could take more consistent pictures. His are all the same from left to right. Same lighting, same coloring, same framing. Mine? Not so much. Lucky for him to have me behind the camera.

(note: you can click on the pictures to enlarge them. you might be blinded by my pastiness, but at least you'll be able to see my little muscles better)

Monday, April 26, 2010

P90X - Week 8 Completed

31 days to go!

I've come to the conclusion that a large percentage of this whole exercise thing is mental. Like with those Oblique V-Ups from Ab Ripper X. For the first 5 weeks that was always my stumbling block. I just couldn't push past 12 on each side. Then in week 6 I finally made it through the whole routine. Ever since then, it's all been a mental game for me and ARX. In the first half, I know I just have to get through those reverse bicycles. Easier said then done when ARX is following a legs and back workout and my hip flexors and quads are screaming in pain. After that I know I'm good until the V-Ups. As long as I can push myself past that, the rest of it is smooth sailing.

I tried the same approach to pull-ups this week. Still no success, but I'm getting closer. I made it halfway up. I keep thinking that I can just "do it." No luck so far. I traded the bands out for the chair again, hoping that's a step in the right direction. We'll see. I'll be happy if I can just do one pull-up before the end of my 90 days.

We started week 9 on Saturday, which included a disc we've never used before - Chest and Back. I knew when we were going through the routine that it was going to hurt the next day. It did. I also found my new most-hated-exercise. Dive-Bomber Push-Ups.

I fell on my face a few times at the bottom of the initial push-up, when your upper body is supposed to go through and past your hands. Mine wasn't having any part of that, I just kept getting stuck and falling down.

We also added Plyometrics back into the cardio slot. I'm starting to wonder if it will ever leave me feeling like anything other than a giant puddle of suck.

Pictures to come soon!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Nuggets. Again.

To the commenter on yesterday's post who said this:

Blogger Juliet And Sasha said...

    It's a shame that Jamie is convincing parents to be concerned about all nuggets, even organic (not processed or preserved). There's nothing wrong with making them yourself. Sounds yummy!

I think you missed the point. Jamie didn't make me concerned about nuggets, he reaffirmed my initial concern with the ingredients in processed nuggets. Processed foods, in general, really. For me, making my own nuggets is about being able to better monitor what my child is eating. Even if they chicken being used in factory-nuggets is organic, that doesn't mean that the pieces that go into it aren't kind of gross. If I was concerned about all nuggets then I wouldn't be making more of my own.

It's not just about nuggets, either. I just prefer to know exactly what's going into my food. I also prefer to use meat products that were ethically-raised, and when buying processed meat foods that's just not possible. Does that mean that I don't allow myself to eat junk every so often? Of course not. Do I really think that the pizza I'm going to eat tonight has a hand-made local artisan crust, cheese made from milk produced by ethically treated local cows, and veggies grown on a local organic farm? Not a snowball's chance in hell. If I can make a conscious effort to choose local and ethical products for at least a large proportion of our diet, then I feel good about what we're eating. I would be stupid to think that I could cut out everything. I like my Dunkin coffee way too much.

Speaking of food, did you catch Food, Inc on PBS this week? If you've already read Omnivore's Dilemma then you can probably skip it, but if you're new to Michael Pollan, factory-farming, and the corn controversy, then I'd say it's definitely an eye-opening must-watch. It won't make you want to be a vegetarian, so don't worry about that. It will make you more conscious of what foods you're consuming and the politics surrounding the foods that make it into our supermarkets.

Edited: By "It won't make you want to be a vegetarian," I meant that it's not an anti-meat propaganda piece. He doesn't argue that a meatless existence is the best option. No offense meant to my veggie friends :)

Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments is brought to you by Mrs4444! You can visit her blog here.

Mommy's Idea

Someone in the office brought in muffins for this week's Donut Tuesday. Out of curiosity, I googled the nutritional information for an Apple Crumb muffin from Costco. Can you guess how many calories? In one muffin? 920. Holy cow. And people eat those for snacks! And they aren't even that good!

I finally replaced my shattered blender last night. Yay for smoothies returning to my breakfast!

Tonight is pizza night. We're eating pizza with some friends, and that friend happens to love veggies on her pizza, just like I do. Yay for olives and green peppers on my pizza and not having to compromise to satisfy the husband!

The Office finally came back last night and I think it has redeemed itself for the last few disappointing episodes. I love that they're including Pam's return from maternity leave and her pumping-at-work issues. I about died when she walked into the bathroom looking for her pump and found it - attached to Meredith! Ew! I might be a teensy bit jealous that she has a Medela Freestyle. If there's ever a second baby in my future I'm definitely going to splurge on that one.

This weekend begins phase 3 of P90X. We'll take our 60 day pictures on Sunday. I can't wait! Even better, the carb percentage of my diet goes up now. Hooray for more fruits and veggies!

I have two New York Yankees blogs in my google reader. I mark both of them as read without even looking at a single post if they lost the night before.

How the hell do you teach a toddler to blow their nose? I tried and tried and tried, but poor Toddler C is still walking around sniffling every few seconds. I feel bad for him, but at the same time it's kind of annoying. Just blow already!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Recipe - Chicken Nuggets

After watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution series, I renewed my commitment to making as much of Charlie's food from scratch as possible. Until a few weeks ago we bought the Earth's Best chicken nuggets for him. When I saw the chicken nugget sequence on Jamie's show, I decided that there would be no more processed nuggets in our freezer. No matter how organic or natural a product claims to be, nothing gives you a more transparent ingredient list than making them for yourself in your own kitchen.

Chicken Nuggets

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast (you can use any kind of chicken meat, just trim it appropriately so there's no extra "stuff" in your nuggets)

1 cup bread crumbs (I had stale bread lying around so I whirled it in the processor)

1 egg

Seasoning of your choice (we decided to go with an Italian-ish theme this time around, so we put basil, oregano, and garlic)

More bread crumbs, for coating

Olive oil, for browning

1. Combine chicken, egg, bread crumbs, and seasonings in food processor until well blended. If the mixture is too dry, add some milk. If the mixture is too wet, add more bread crumbs.

2. Shape the chicken mixture into nuggets - we found that spoons worked well for this, similar to how you would shape chocolate chip cookies.

3. Roll the nuggets in the bread crumbs to coat. We found that there was no need to dip them in egg or flour, the crumbs stuck pretty well to the chicken.

4. Add a small amount of olive oil to a pan and lightly brown the nuggets on both sides.

5. Bake the nuggets at 400F for 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165F.

6. These come out of the oven pretty hot, so let them cool before you dig in.

The best thing about this recipe is that the nuggets freeze and re-heat very well. It's an easy thing to grab out of the freezer to throw in his lunch for daycare.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Four Letter Words

If you know me IRL then you know that I'm prone to dropping the occasional F-bomb. Ok, so it's probably more than occasional, but you get what I'm saying. It's bad enough to be in the habit at all, but coming from Jersey it's pretty hard to stop. C and I have tried really hard to cut back. I know I've been a lot better lately, especially in the car, so I was absolutely horrified at what happened on Saturday.

I'm really ashamed to even admit this.

We were driving home from lunch when some jackass made a left turn and cut me off. I had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting him. Ordinarily, this would get a big "What the F%$K" from me, but since I'm trying to be better about my language these days I just got out "What the...." There was nothing to worry about, though, because toddler Charlie added the last word for me from the backseat.

Guess I changed my habits a little too late. Do you have any idea how hard it was not to laugh? The tears were rolling down my cheeks from trying to hold it all in. Hopefully it was an isolated incident. Looks like I'll have to try a little harder from now on.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Public Tantrums

I know I've posted and complained about Charlie's temper tantrums before. They're still a semi-regular occurrence at home, but I've been able to avoid more public tantrums like the Target incident. Until Sunday.

We had to go to Toys R' Us to get a booster seat to take with us on our summer travels. In order to get to the booster seat aisle, we had to go through the toy aisles, including the aisle with all of the scooters and toys with wheels. As we walked past the display, Charlie spotted a Radio Flyer scooter. He grabbed onto it and kept trying to push it around in the display packaging. It wasn't working, so he screamed about it. I took it away and put it back on the shelf and he screamed about that, too. I picked him up to carry him over to the booster seat aisle and that resulted in even more screaming. Screaming, crying, tears, snot, the whole nine yards. He pulled the disappearing armpit act and collapsed in a puddle of sob on the floor in the middle of the toy store. Now we were starting to attract attention. I kept picking him up and trying to make my way out. Every time I would get a good grip on him he would slip through again and throw himself on the floor, kicking and screaming. It was quite a scene. I decided to just let him stay there while we picked out a seat. Once Husband Charlie and I had agreed on a seat, I picked up Toddler Charlie, carried him lengthwise across my chest, and left the store, feeling the judging eyes of the other parents boring holes in my back.

Oh, the joys of being "that parent."

Maybe next time we'll try something like this.

Monday, April 19, 2010

P90X - Week 7 Completed

Week 7 is over and we're in the recovery week of phase 2. I'm looking forward to phase 3 because it doesn't include the Legs & Back workout disc! I've gotten really bored with it lately. Wall squats, pull-ups, lunges, pull-ups, wall squats, pull-ups, etc. I think part of the problem is that I still can't do a single pull-up and it makes me sad. I started out using a chair for assistance and then moved to the resistance bands because I thought it would help, but I think I'm going to go back to the chair. I'm just not seeing any progress on that front. Charlie has been helping me practice. I'm still hoping that I'll be able to do one before we're finished with our first round.

We've also been talking about what we're going to do after we're done with this round. Charlie wants to do a round of P90X Classic, but I really want to do the Insanity program, or at least a hybrid of the two, because I just can't stand the P90X cardio discs. We've compromised - we ordered P90X Plus so we're going to do the Classic and then switch out the cardio nights for another disc or I'll go running. I went running last week for the first time since the fall and it felt really good. I forgot how great it is to exercise outside. I was able to run about 2.5 miles without feeling like I was going to die, which made me happy.

We also ordered the Tony Horton One-on-One Yoga disc. I LOVE yoga, but the P90X disc is just too much. Ordinarily I have no problem with doing 90 minutes of yoga, but between not starting it until 8:00 at night and Tony's constant hyperactivity it's just not the same. The One-on-One disk is only 50 minutes so it will fit into our schedule better.

Today is day 52 so next week we get to take our 60 day pictures! I'm excited!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Fragments

I spent most of yesterday thinking it felt like Friday.

Friday Fragments is brought to you by Mrs4444! You can visit her blog here.

Mommy's Idea

I had a dream about brownies on Wednesday night. Brownies of all shapes and sizes and flavors - dark chocolate brownies, blondies, white chocolate macadamia, fudge brownies. I woke up so hungry for brownies and so sad that I didn't have any.

Tonight I'm meeting with a group of local people to try to start a secular parenting community group. I'm really excited about it. Part of my excitement is because our meeting will be at the cupcake shop down the street, and the rest of it is because I'm anxious to get to know other parents in our non-religious situation. It seems like we're really few and far between. I hope this will be a good resource for us.

I read an awesome book this week - Oryx and Crake. It's from the same author as The Handmaid's Tale.

I started it on Sunday afternoon while Charlie was napping and quickly found that I didn't want to put it down. I stayed up late, reading with a flashlight, and read on my lunch breaks so that I could continue the story. I finished it on Wednesday and I'm sad that it's over. I must have a "thing" for dystopian novels. I can't recommend either of those books highly enough.

I ran 2.5 miles on Tuesday. It was so nice to be exercising outside again. I can't wait until we're done with our first round of P90X - I'm going to trade some of the cardio for running in the second round. 41 more days to go!

I'm loaning out most of Charlie's old clothes to a friend of mine. They're just sitting in tupperware in the basement going unused, so I figured they need to get some use. Part of me is sad about it, but I need to get over it since we're still uncommitted on whether we'll be adding a second child to the family.

I know we're doing the responsible thing by not having a second kid right now - we want to save more money, we want to wait until Charlie's daycare tuition goes down a little more, we want to make a bigger dent in our mortgage - but I can't help but feel bitter that there are so many people who go off and intentionally get pregnant when they clearly can't afford to have kids and then complain to everyone about how expensive things are. Yes, having a baby costs money. That's why we don't have another one yet.

I'm also tired of people asking when we're going to have a second one. Like it's just automatically assumed that we will.

In an effort to end on a positive note, we're going to a birthday party for a 3-year old girl tomorrow and I'm super excited about the present we picked out. I kind of want to buy one for myself Charlie!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Shining Example of Healthy Eating

I met a woman the other day who is a director of a pretty well-known daycare center in my area. We were talking about food and lunches, and it came up that she does not allow parents to send lunches (or any food) in with their kids unless there's a severe allergy issue.

Me: Oh, that wouldn't work for me as a parent.

Lady: Why, is your kid a picky eater?

Me: (thinks about it for a second) No, he's not a picky eater, I guess I'm just a picky parent.

Lady: Well, let me tell you about our menu before you make a judgment. You might feel better after you hear what kind of food we're talking about.

Me: OK! (thinking maybe I misjudged and that her center was similar to the organic/natural/green center a few towns over that I would love to send Charlie to but can't justify the additional commute time)

Lady: Last week we served chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers, salisbury steak, pizza, and beef with cheesy mac. You know, like hamburger helper?

Me: (trying hard to maintain a neutral smile that doesn't show my disgust) Hmm, I don't think that would work for me.

Lady: Well, it follows the state recommendation, so it has to be good.

Me: I have to go.

It's one thing to offer a lunch program that conforms to state guidelines as an OPTION for parents. Our center offers the lunch program, we just choose not to participate. There are other parents who do. If that's what works for them, then that's what works for them. But to say that you give parents NO CHOICE in the matter whatsoever, that they HAVE to allow their kids to eat what's being served, is just ridiculous.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Things You Want Wednesday - Diaper Bag Edition

Let me start off by saying that I'm not a "purse girl." Right now I carry my stuff too and from work in a cloth shopping bag. I own one real purse, not by any brand name, and it's from 1997. I also have a purple hexagon purse from junior prom. Purses just never appealed to me, so you won't be seeing me drop serious $$ on a Coach bag or anything like that.

This is probably why I struggled so much when it came to picking out a diaper bag. I wanted something that didn't look too baby-ish or too mom-ish. I wanted it to be functional but not boring, big enough to hold a stash of cloth diapers but not grandma-sized (the running joke in our family is that the older you get the bigger your purse). I also wanted something that was going to last. The diaper bag became my big personal splurge item. I turned into a madwoman searching for the perfect bag, pouring through what felt like thousands of images on hundreds of websites. I enlisted the help of the Nesties, asked for recommendations and reviews, and visited a few bags in person (FWIW, I still wish that "not ugly" was a search criteria for online shopping).

I eventually settled on a JuJuBe BeAll. I was so excited when it finally arrived! It's a very pretty bag, black and silver.

Just as I had hoped, it worked perfectly with the bulkier cloth diapers. I still love this bag, and it's definitely my style, but looking back I wish I would have gotten a backpack either instead of or in addition to the messenger-style bag. Sure, this one is easy to pack and throw in the car, but it's not so easy to maneuver for long day trips when we're out and about, like days at the zoo or anything else that requires a lot of walking.

When you're looking for a diaper bag, consider how much room you're going to need (cloth diapers take up more space than disposables, plus you'll need a wetbag), what kinds of things you'll need it to hold (extra clothes, toys, bottles, wipes, diapers, bibs, snacks, silverware, sippy cups, washcloths), and whether or not you're willing to carry a purse along with the diaper bag. One of the things I love about the BeAll is that it has a "mom pocket" where you can stash all of your own stuff and a small clear carrying case for important things that you can just move from bag to bag. I keep my wallet, phone, cards, and a few other random things in mine so I can just throw it back and forth between the diaper bag and my work bag. Just a feature to keep an eye out for.

So there's the big takeaway. Look for a bag that fits your needs and try to think beyond the baby years. I feel like I was a little shortsighted when I chose mine, even though I still love the bag. Definitely consider getting a backpack, too.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Homemade Yogurt, or What Happens When you Marry an Engineer

I tried to make homemade yogurt a few weeks ago and failed miserably. Yogurt cultures are more temperamental than yeast and the margin for error is much slimmer. Temperatures under 105F will make the cultures dormant and temperatures over 125F will kill them. The first time I tried I left the yogurt in a warm oven overnight (not turned on). I think I got overly paranoid about killing off the cultures and ended up cooling the milk too much before I added them. This time I was careful to keep the milk hot, but not too hot, before I stirred in the starter yogurt.

The other issue was the incubation. While other people swear by the oven method, it obviously didn't work for me. This is where the engineer comes in.

C hates yogurt but took it upon himself to come up with a solution to my problem, because that's what he does. He solves problems. We have a basement laboratory full of gadgets and tools, so he built me an incubator out of a cooler, a temperature probe, an electric blanket, and some contraption that monitors the temperature recorded by the probe that would turn on the blanket when it got too cool and turn off the blanket when it got too hot.

This morning I came downstairs to three beautiful jars of yogurt.

The recipe:

1/2 gallon skim milk (you can use 1%, 2%, or whole milk for creamier and probably tastier results, but in the interest of the P90X diet I went with skim)

1/4 cup nonfat powdered milk (supposedly if you're using full-fat milk you can leave this out)

1/4 to 1/2 cup starter cultures - you can use store bought yogurt as long as it contains "live, active cultures" (for future batches I'll just reserve some of my own)

The steps:

Heat the milk and milk powder in a large stock pot until it reaches 180-185F. It's best not to let it boil because then you run the risk of scalding the milk, especially on the bottom of the pot.

Once you reach the temperature, remove from heat and cool down to 120F. This could take a while - you can move things along by stirring it or by setting the pan in a sink of cold water. Just make sure you don't cool it down too far or the cultures won't wake up.

Ladle out a few scoops of the warm milk into a bowl. Stir in the starter culture, then add back to the larger pot.

Pour the mixture into airtight jars (or one big jar).

Now comes the incubation period. There are a variety of recommended methods - heating pad, warm oven, water bath, sunny window - I used my engineer husband. Either way, the goal is to maintain a milk temperature as close to 115F as possible (of course, a yogurt maker will do this for you, but who wants that unitasker taking up space in the kitchen?).

Either way you choose, let it sit from 5-8 hours. The longer it sits the firmer and tangier it will be. I prefer Greek-style yogurt, so I let mine go all night long and then strained the whey out. Next time I'm going to make it during the day and probably pull it out of the heat a little sooner. It's just a tad too sour to eat plain.

You can eat it plain or stir in flavorings. Make sure to put aside 1/2 cup of plain, unflavored yogurt for your next batch! My favorite yogurt add-ins are strawberries, granola, and honey. Yum!

Here is the whole setup:

The finished product:

Monday, April 12, 2010

P90X - Week 6 Completed

I can't believe we're halfway there! Today is Day 45. This week I have an accomplishment and a setback to talk about. First of all, on Wednesday I made it through all 349 exercises in the Ab Ripper X. ARX is basically 16 minutes of abdominal workout hell. Before we started P90X I thought that core strength was my "thing," after years of pilates and the like. I was able to cruise through the AR100 and AR200 on the Power90 disks, so I thought that ARX would be more of the same. Not so much. I don't know if it's the exercises themselves or the fact that you're doing it right after completing an hour of resistance training - it's probably a combination of both of those factors - but it's really freaking hard. My wheels start to fall off at the same two points each time - halfway through reverse bicycles because my hip flexors are screaming, and halfway through the oblique v-ups because my sides just can't take anymore. I knew that if I was able to push through those two exercises then I could make it the whole way. And I did! I was so proud of myself. We'll have to see if I can repeat the accomplishment tonight.

Here's a video of some random guy doing the oblique v-ups, to give you an idea what I was up against. I couldn't get past 12 without having to stop for a break. I busted out all 25 on both sides! Yay for me!

The setback for the week involves my poor knee and my out-of-alignment patella. It's been a nagging problem for years now, and I should have taken the time to strengthen it up again before we started P90X but I didn't. So it hurts, especially during lunges and squats. We're taking Plyometrics back out of the program and putting Cardio X back in. Technically we were supposed to be doing Cardio X anyway, but I preferred Plyometrics. Hopefully I can build some strength back up and then be ready to go for Round 2 of P90X.

45 days to go! Whee!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Fragments

Tonight we're having a cheat dinner - we're getting pizza from some new place in town that claims to serve "New York Style" pizza. I'm trying to keep my expectations low, but it's promising that they serve pies by the slice. It looks closer than anything else in Cincinnati, and they have a white pizza with garlic, olive oil, ricotta, mozzerella, broccoli, basil, and tomato that sounds freaking awesome.

I won something on a blog giveaway! Confessions of a Working Mom had a weeklong celebration in honor of her birthday and I was lucky enough to win a digital food scale. I've wanted one of these for a long, long time. We've been using C's old balance scale from college. It works and it's accurate, but it sure is a PITA to use. This is going to revolutionize our diet habits.

We're planning a dessert luncheon at work. It's going to be on a Friday, and it's going to be the last Friday of our P90X program. Well, the first round, anyway. I love dessert. See those cookies over there? They're my favorite. It's an Alton Brown recipe and he's never steered me wrong. You should try them. Unfortunately, if I don't make brownies for the party my co-workers will kill me.

It's cold out today, and it's a big shock to my system after a few days in the upper 80s. I hope it's warm again tomorrow so we can play outside all day. I want to go back to the park.

I win Mom of the Year. I didn't look at the forecast for yesterday and Charlie went to daycare without a coat. I knew it was raining when we left the house so I assumed that they wouldn't be playing outside. I was wrong. Poor kid had to borrow a sweatshirt four sizes too big.

Speaking of four sizes too big, all but one pair of shorts that I bought at the consignment sale are too big for Charlie's skinny little butt. They fit fine over the bulkier cloth diapers, but if I try to put them on over the disposables that he has to wear to daycare they just fall right off. He might be rocking some short shorts this summer if I have to resort to pulling out the 12 month shorts from last year. Good thing there's another consignment sale next weekend.

Cloth Diaper Review - Update

I updated my long Cloth Diaper Review post to include the Haute Pockets I ordered a few months ago. Unfortunately, they didn't meet my expectations, even though they came in really cute colors.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

On Food Issues. Again.

Wow, I can't believe how many comments and emails I got about yesterday's post. It's reassuring but sad to see that so many of us share the same story and deal with the same struggles when it comes to food, weight, and body image issues. I spent most of my adolescence and early college years in a size 2-4 and always thought I could drop a few pounds. There are very few times I can remember actually being happy with my body. While it's comforting to know that I'm not the only one who felt/feels this way, it makes me sad for the newest generation of girls because I think that things are just getting worse.

A lot of people commented on the pressure that society puts on girls to conform to an unrealistic standard of beauty. In that respect I feel like I kind of got off easy because I have a son rather than a daughter. I don't think that boys/men feel nearly as much pressure from the media, from their peers, to live up to an ideal image. Where are the men's beauty pageants and swimsuit competitions? Are men's clothing brands incorporating vanity sizes the way that women's brands are? It has really gotten out of hand. Not only does it make shopping more difficult because the sizes fluctuate so much store-to-store and season-to-season, but it sets completely unrealistic expectations for what size a woman "should" be. Sizes labeled 00 and XXS do nothing but make us feel like we could (and should) be ever smaller. Why can't designers take a cue from men's clothing and just go by waist/hip measurements?

How can we be expected to teach girls healthy eating and lifestyle habits when they're constantly being bombarded with images of super-freaking-skinny women? Even the cover on this month's issue of Seventeen Magazine features a story called "Get Flat Abs - Fast!" As if there's a quick way to lose weight and spot tone abdominal muscles. We're just setting the bar too high for these poor girls.

This is C and I in February of 2001, two months into dating. I was obviously a thin girl, probably too thin, but I felt like I could be thinner. I wish I had taken the time to enjoy that 19-year-old body of mine.

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It was obviously not a sustainable size for me. A few years later, when I had gained a few pounds and didn't have ribs that stuck through my skin, I made the mistake of trying on that dress and cried when it didn't fit anymore. It SHOULDN'T have fit. It was a size 0 dress made for a high school girl with no boobs and no hips and no real measurements to speak of. The rational side of me knew that, but the irrational side of me was upset that I had let myself put that extra weight on.

If I had known then what I know now about what it means to be healthy rather than what it means to be skinny, and that the two ideas could, indeed, work against each other, maybe I could have been comfortable in my own skin. Maybe they should start using real people in advertisements. Maybe they should re-evaluate the way they talk about beauty and thinness. Maybe they should stop selling diet pills to the under 18 crowd. Maybe we should start focusing on health and eating real food rather than the processed junk and diet "food. I'm sure it's too much to ask for, but maybe if enough of us commit to raising our children differently, somewhere down the line we can change things.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Things You Want Wednesday - a Good Grip on Food Issues

Shelly at Things I Can't Say started a weekly blog topic called "Pour Your Heart Out Wednesdays." Like last week's Mommyologist Glam Check, I've never actually participated, but when I decided to recommend these food-related books to moms and soon-to-be-moms I decided to go ahead and tell the whole story, so that you know where I'm coming from and why these books were so helpful to me.

I grew up in a family full of food issues. There were weight issues all over - both overweight and underweight, and lots of talk about weight, thinness, and calorie/fat counting. To be clear, I am in no way blaming my parents for the food issues I developed later in life. This was all my own doing and probably could have been avoided altogether if I had just asked some questions and did some reading.

I can still vividly remember the summer when I was 10 and I overheard my mom telling my great aunt that I had really "plumped out" since I had broken my arm and couldn't swim much that summer. I know I ate a lot of cookies, but I don't think I was really overweight. There was a period of about a year where I had some chubbiness, but doesn't every girl go through that? I like to think that it was just the weirdness of the age, because the next year I started on swim team and lost a decent amount of weight pretty quickly. Ever since then I've been on the leaner side. But really, what 10-year-old should be worrying about how much weight they need to lose? I remember begging the lunch ladies to tell me how many calories were in our lunches because I needed to make sure that I didn't eat too much.

Anyway, that comment really stuck with me (obviously, as I can still remember exactly where I was standing and what kind of gestures she was making at the time). I had a pattern of disordered eating off and on throughout high school and into college and I was very weight obsessed. I went from 14 to almost 20 without ever reaching over 100#. Food was not my friend. I'm sure the OCD didn't help things, because it was just another aspect of life to obsess about. I wasn't anorexic or anything, I ate enough, but my views on food and weight were certainly pretty fucked up, to put it bluntly.

So the reason I'm spilling all of this is because I'm so terrified that I'm going to pass on these habits to the Minion. The books I discovered were recommended to me by other moms on a parenting board that I frequent. I've read two of them so far and my entire view on food and how I should be feeding my kid has completely changed.

The books I'm talking about are written by Ellyn Satter. The two that float up in conversations most often are Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense and How to Get Your Kid to Eat... But Not Too Much.

The main gist of both books is this:

"You can't control or dictate the quantity of food your child eats, and you shouldn't try. You also can't control or dictate the kind of body your child develops, and you shouldn't try. What you can do, and it is a great deal, is set things up for your child so she, herself, can regulate her food intake as well as possible, and so she can develop a healthy body that is constitutionally right for her."

and you accomplish that by doing this:

“The parents’ job is to do the what, when and where of feeding, and it is up to the children to do the how much and whether of eating.”

So in simpler terms these are the basic rules that we follow:

1. Parents decide when kids will eat and what they will be offered (but make sure that at least one of the dishes is something you know the kid likes).

2. Kid decides which of the offerings to eat and how much of it they will have.

I wish I would have read these when I was pregnant - because of our latch issues I had to pump and bottle feed. I think that made it even easier to obsess over his breastmilk intake and whether he was eating enough. I measured and tracked and charted and worried about not making enough milk and not feeding him enough milk, and when we would go in for check-ups and his weight wouldn't be above the 15%ile I would feel like it was somehow my fault. Once I discovered these books and talked to our pediatrician about her philosophies, it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

Meal times in our house have been so much better since I was able to wrap my head around these ideas. A toddler won't starve themself. They'll eat when they're hungry. I'm not worrying about it anymore. I'm not obsessing about it anymore. That doesn't mean that I occasionally worry when all he eats for dinner is an apple, some cheese, and a rice cake, but at least I know that he'll make up for it the next day, and that I'm doing a great thing for him by allowing him to follow his own hunger cues and hopefully develop a healthy relationship with food. I can't possibly recommend these books enough.

So, yeah.... That was a freaking novel. This is also why food is so important to me. Good food, whole food, non-processed food, healthy food, and tasty food. I don't want food to be a scary thing in our house. I don't want there to be "forbidden foods." I want to set a good "everything in moderation" example. If you're going to eat, at least make it worthwhile.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

If you have kids, or are planning to have kids, or care about kids in any way, then you need to be watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Move over Alton Brown, I have a new culinary hero. Jamie stands for everything I believe in when it comes to food and healthy eating, especially in terms of what we're feeding our children.

Jamie is a BBC TV chef who I've watched regularly over the years. He transformed the school lunch program in the UK and now he's come over here to help with ours. The US series takes place in Huntington, West Virginia - the most overweight city in our country. It starts off with a visit to the elementary school where he finds a veritable horror show of processed crap and junk food, including flavored milk, pizzas of all imaginable variety, chicken nuggets, french fries, and the boxes and boxes of pre-cooked, chemical-filled "food" stacked in the freezer.

I still can't get over the fact that the people involved in the school lunch planning and preparation saw nothing wrong with what they were feeding their children - thought it was just fine to serve high-fat, high-sugar strawberry and chocolate flavored milk, sugary cereals for breakfast, breakfast PIZZA followed by more pizza for lunch, and an ingredient list 20+ items long on what was being called "chicken breast."

It saddens me to think that we're completely ok with feeding our kids this kind of garbage. It made me even sadder when he went into the first grade classroom and none of the kids knew what an eggplant was. Sadder still when they couldn't identify a tomato. How did we get to this point?

Then he did the "nugget demonstration" and I thought I was going to puke (if you don't have a weak stomach, you can watch the video here). What made it even worse is that the kids still wanted to eat the nugget after they saw what was in it!

I've now got a renewed commitment to making sure I'm feeding my child the best that I can. I wish I could just stick him in a food bubble.

There's A Car!

Do you remember the Tiny Toons Summer Vacation movie? From, oh, about 1992? Yes? Good, because we watched the hell out of that movie when I was little(ish). Anyway, Plucky Duck's vacation was spent on a road trip to Happy World Land with Hampton Pig. They passed time by playing "Spot the Car." Check out the video clip for the details of this game.

Apparently Charlie has been taking lessons from the Hamptons, because that's all I hear from the backseat whenever we're in the car. He looks out the window, gets his pointer finger ready, and points out every. single. car. we pass. Car! Car! Car! Car! Car! Truck! Car! Car!

Monday, April 5, 2010


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