Saturday, April 30, 2011

18 Month Old Photo Shoot (With Dad)

OK, this last photo isn't from the impromptu photo shoot. It's from Oliver's lunch date with Daddy. They stopped at Noodles & Company on their way to visit Grandma Colleen and Grandpa Paul. It meant a lot to me that Oliver ate a lot with Andrew because he hasn't been eating quite as much this month. Some days, getting him to eat anything is a struggle.


Oliver is officially a year and a half today! Oh my!

Recently, we've been focusing on Oliver's letters. Oliver has mastered the letter "O," and he can find it almost anywhere--even on a keyboard. However, he doesn't say the letter O yet.

He understands the sounds of "G" and "S" very well. Usually, if I hand him the letter G, he'll look at it and say, "Guh!" If I ask him what the letter S says, he responds with, "Sssssss."

Oliver's shyness is getting even worse. He cowers at the grocery store when the clerks say hi. If I set him down on his feet in public with people around, he starts screaming or crying and has a complete meltdown until I pick him up again. I've ended up extremely embarrassed places, including the park. Yes, Oliver no longer enjoys the park because there are people there. He cries when I set him down on the wood chips. We went outside to play with Owen earlier this week. Oliver mostly freaked out when I put him down on the grass, and I soon had to take him inside. He just couldn't deal with being around Owen unless I was holding him. It's very sad, and I don't know how to teach him to be more independent.

Oliver's Likes and Dislikes:

*Watching music videos
*Stuffed animals
*Helping with chores
*Daddy (Daddy has recently surpassed Mommy as being Oliver's absolute favorite person in the world)
*Learning to kick and throw a ball (he's pretty good at kicking!)
*Nighttime routine

*Walking in public
*Dinner time

Friday, April 29, 2011

Baby Kick? Nah...

Let me start out by saying that I'm 12 weeks pregnant as of today. At my ultrasound appointment on Wednesday, they claimed I was 12 weeks and 3 days. So, it's possible I'm 12 weeks and 5 days along.

That's beside the point.

When I was pregnant with Oliver, I didn't feel him kick until well after 20 weeks. I heard it takes a lot longer to feel it with the first because you don't know what it feels like.

Well, on Wednesday, I held Oliver on my left hip. I was talking to him, and it felt like someone took their finger and poked me on the right side of my stomach. I was so surprised, I jumped! I immediately called Andrew and told him, but I insisted it had to be a weird muscle spasm or something since it's so early in the pregnancy.

I left it at that until an hour ago when I had the same sensation. I felt a little poke on the front area of my stomach, but to the right again. What the heck?! I knew I definitely felt something, but I didn't think it could possibly be the little one. I looked it up online and read that the earliest you can possibly feel movements is at twelve weeks. I'm dumb founded.

I still hesitate to say, "I felt him/her move!" I think the third time will be the charm.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

First Ultrasound

I opted out of the early ultrasound this pregnancy. So, at nearly 12 weeks, I had my first ultrasound today! My midwife scheduled me with a group at Swedish Hospital, where I'll deliver this fall. It was an amazing experience!

I was far along enough for a topical ultrasound (is that the right word for it?). They just got new equipment in, and the ultrasound tech helping me hadn't used it before. She didn't know how to set it to a "first trimester" setting, so she messed around with the equipment while I got to watch my little bean for about fifteen minutes! Then, she went to get another tech to help out. Well, this tech took another 10 or fifteen minutes showing her all the features, and the whole time, I got to enjoy watching my future babe tumbling about. At one point, she even put on the 3D ultrasound! It was so amazing.

This appointment is to screen for some basic genetic defects. Specifically, they look for Trisomy 18, Down's Syndrome, and neural tube defects like spina bifida. It's a very nerve-wracking appointment! Anyway, the tech told me that the measurements appeared normal, but that I could expect a call in a week with the final results.

She also told me fetuses show little variation this early, and that ours is measuring at 12 weeks and 3 days instead of 11 weeks and 5 days. She said that when the variance is five days or less, they usually don't bother to tell the doctor/midwife to change the due date, but she told me a more accurate due date for our little one is November 8. I know our baby will come late anyway, so the due date doesn't really matter to me, but it was comforting knowing that it's less likely that I'll be in the hospital over Thanksgiving. She asked me if I was certain about the first date of my last period. I told her I couldn't remember it anymore, but I was certain of it at the time because I was keeping track since we would be trying to have a baby. She didn't seem to totally grasp what I said, and I tried to explain it a different way. I told her, "Whatever I told my midwife was correct, but I can't remember it any more." I don't think she really understood that I'd forgotten, but whatever!

The tech also asked me if I was interested in knowing the sex of the fetus. I was surprised. I answered with, "Can you tell? Really? I'd love to know!" She told me to "save my receipt" on this one because it's hard to be definitive this early in the pregnancy. Then, she told me. Exactly like when I was told Oliver was a boy, I teared up instantly. It's such an emotional moment to hear what you're having! I tried so hard not to cry because I didn't want her to regret having told me when she can't be certain. I asked how often she's right on these early ultrasounds, and she said about 80%. That's way better than 50/50! She reminded me again that I won't know for certain until the 20 week ultrasound, and I told her I understood.

As soon as I left, I called Andrew with the news. He was excited, of course, but asked me not to tell anyone until we know for sure. I agreed, and so know we have a little secret for two months!

After my ultrasound appointment, I headed to my midwife appointment. She went over my labs with me. I kind of liked seeing all the cool tests she'd ordered. For example, she ordered a test that showed I am, in fact, immune to rubella (hurray, MMR!). We listened to the fetus's heart beat (160), and she took my blood pressure. My systolic is now at 100 even, so I've crossed the 100 barrier! When I was pregnant with Oliver, my systolic blood pressure climbed from about 90 to close to 140. Thankfully, it leveled off there. I hope my blood pressure doesn't climb that high this time!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Oliver's 1st Easter Basket

The Easter Bunny was too tired to visit last year. The Easter Bunny also thought Oliver was too young to know what was going on, anyway. So, this is the first year the Easter Bunny paid a visit to Oliver. Check out his special basket! He got stickers, bubbles, Play-Doh, a toy car, crayons, strawberries, and even some M&Ms.

Oliver's First Egg Hunt

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lamb Cake: It's a Tradition, I Swear

The following blog entry is a somewhat winded story about the tradition of the lamb cake. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then I guess you've never been to Chicago during Easter. You're not missing much, but it's got people sentimental all the same.

I mention her frequently in my posts, but I need to start this one by saying that my Grandma Jo was such an important person in my life. She loved holidays, and she made them special for me and my siblings. Every Easter season, she would dye eggs herself. We'd go to her house, where she lived alone, and there would be a crystal basket of dyed eggs waiting for her to enjoy. She did it because she liked it.

On Easter morning, we'd wake up and find our baskets from the Easter bunny. After enjoying our goodies, we'd get dressed and head over to Grandma's. She'd be waiting there, wearing her Easter Bunny ears, and take us out to the courtyard of her condo to hunt the eggs she'd hidden. Afterwards, we'd go in to eat, and the meal was always followed up with a lamb cake.

Her lamb cakes always came from Jewell. They were made of pound cake and stood up. The head was made of plastic, and the whole thing was frosted and covered in coconut. The cake lay in a bed of plastic, green Easter grass. It was tacky, and I didn't like coconut, but it was tradition.

When we moved to Colorado from Chicago, we were disappointed to discover that no grocery store or bakery (that we found) sold a lamb cake. We were older and no longer enjoyed egg hunts, and so Easter tradition slowly fizzled.

This year, I started to think of the lamb cake, and I thought it would be nice to make one for my mom. I looked up a recipe and did a search online for a lamb cake mold. Before making any purchases, I decided not to make the cake. I reminded myself that I don't like coconut, and it'd be a lot of work. I wasn't sure if my mom would appreciate it all that much anyway.

I spent the morning at my parents' house. Grandma Jo came up in conversation, and I thought to mention the lamb cake. My mom got excited about it and told me how much it reminded her of her own grandma (Grandma Jo's mother, my Oma). I laughed and told her how it reminded me of Grandma Jo. She explained that Oma bought one every year. I learned later (from my Aunt Jackie) that Oma purchased it from Weiden's Bakery in Chicago. Grandma Jo always bought hers from Jewell-Osco. My mom told me the lamb cakes didn't always have plastic heads as I'd remembered, and part of the fun was cutting off the head. I laughed and told her the fondness for me was how tacky the cake was, and I loved the plastic head. We then reminisced a bit. She remembered black jelly beans for eyes, but I insisted the ones we had when I was little never had jelly bean eyes (which makes sense since the head was plastic). We both remembered the coconut and Easter grass.

Before long, we talked each other into baking a lamb cake. We drove to Hobby Lobby, World Market, and Michael's. There were no lamb cake molds for sale. I called my mother-in-law who recommended a cake shop in Englewood, and so we set out. We arrived and inquired about a lamb cake pan. Success! They had four. One lady asked us if we'd called earlier. We had not, so I assume someone else was on the hunt. My mom and I bought our pan and some cake trays, and then we headed out to the store for supplies. Unfortunately, all the Easter grass was sold out, but we felt confident we bought all the remaining essentials.

When it came time to extract the baked pound cake from the mold, my dad wandered over. I told him the head was a little weak. He said, "Oh, my grandma always put a popsicle stick in the neck." Then he wandered outside for a smoke. I couldn't help but follow to hear more. I was surprised to hear that his family also had the tradition, and I was further surprised to hear his grandma (Grandma Kelly) baked the cake. My dad joked, "My brothers and I would always complain and ask her to let us eat some before she put all the coconut on it." I laughed because I thought the coconut was the worst part, too. He told me that his grandma had a very old mold that she used to bake it in.

At that moment, I realized that the lamb cake must be a tradition in Chicago. It doesn't exist in Denver, but it's so mainstream in Chicago that you can buy them at the grocery store. It must be an old tradition, too, because both of the great-grandmothers that I knew had lamb cake for Easter. When I got home, I started searching through articles online. Other than info on how to make them and where to buy the molds, there was almost no information at all. There wasn't anything on wikipedia about the lamb cakes. I found one article that briefly mentioned them and said they were Polish (my German family also shares Polish roots). However, another article said the Polish tradition is actually butter molded into the shape of a lamb (another Easter item familiar to us from Chicago but not Denver). Yet another article briefly mentioned the lamb cakes and said they were Czech.

Finally (finally), I found one blurb of an article in a Chicago dining website. Here's the link:
According to this article, it's a Catholic tradition that has taken off in Chicago, where there were many Catholic immigrants (my great-grandparents on my mother's side were some). My father's grandmother was not Catholic (at least, I don't believe so), and her family was Danish. My dad described her lamb cake mold as very old, so I imagine the tradition goes back before her time. I wonder if her family picked it up after they immigrated to Chicago in the 19th century or if their tradition started in Europe.

My internet searches led me to an editorial in the Chicago Tribune. It's a personal story written by a woman who married a man from the South Side of Chicago (where my parents' families are from). His family was very traditional, and his aunt baked a lamb cake (article here: Indeed, the "tacky" lamb cake tradition must be an old one in the Second City. I continued browsing deeper and deeper into my Google search. I found a fraction of an article in the Chicago Sun-Times ( that explained that the tradition is also still popular in Europe, especially in Poland.

Even though the history of the lamb cake is vague at best, I truly enjoyed learning that my family (on both sides) participated in the tradition. It was also fun to make our own lamb cake. To be honest, I couldn't even stay long enough to finish decorating it, and I find it so cute to think of my mom and dad decorating the cakes together. Yes, cakes. My mom told me that we should make two so I could bring one with me to Easter brunch tomorrow with Andrew's family. The best part is that two of Andrew's father's cousins will be there, and they're from the Chicago area. I'm eager to find out if they recognize the lamb cake, too. If not, everyone will just assume I brought a tacky cake. Too bad.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Oliver's Works of Art

My mom invited us to come over this week and dye Easter eggs. I was excited to have Oliver try dyeing eggs and wasn't brave enough to let him attempt at our house. However, I also know Oliver's cautious personality, and I thought it was unlikely he'd be "brave" enough to actually try dyeing any eggs. Boy, was I wrong! He took to it immediately. I set a tray of hard-boiled eggs in front of him and told him to put them in the cups. He dunked away and had a blast! His eggs turned out lovely, too.

Toddler Dyes Easter Eggs

Monday, April 18, 2011

Meatless Monday: Coconut Curry Tofu

Ah, another tofu dish! I just can't help myself. This dish is flavorful and packed full of veggies. It's easy to cook, tastes incredible, but requires a lot of chopping. The best part? It also makes good leftovers. With our family of three, we always have leftovers. I hate when we go to eat leftovers the next day for lunch only to find it's gooey, mushy, and gross. This recipe is not one of those. Eat some for dinner and pack up some for the following day. Yum!

My husband and I don't eat out much. About once a month, though, we have a date night, and then we do dine out. Sometimes, we do something fun like pizza or veggie dogs. Sometimes, we go somewhere a little nicer, like PF Chang's. They have the most incredible coconut curry tofu dish there. It is so good, and they give you so much. I always have to force myself to only eat half and save the rest for later.

This recipe I'm about to share with you is not quite as good as PF Chang's version. I wish it was. It's still one of our favorite meals to eat at home, and it's a lot cheaper to make at home, but it doesn't quite compare in taste. Looking up the nutrition from PF Chang's, their coconut curry tofu is about 600 calories per serving (one order is two servings), including the rice. That's actually not too bad for a restaurant meal, but the home version is superior at 450 calories.
I use a recipe from (where else?): However, to try to make it a little more like my favorite restaurant version, I add a tablespoon of peanut butter and often add some chopped peanuts on top. To save money and time, I also substitute some dry, powdered ingredients for fresh ones in the recipe (like chili powder for chili paste, ground ginger for fresh, and sometimes even dried basil for fresh, depending on whether or not I have any on hand). Sometimes, the grocery store is out of light coconut milk. When that happens, I purchase the fatty stuff. It works well, and actually tastes a little better. The recipe holds up to my substitutions.

Finally, this recipe claims to serve six. Perhaps it's because my husband and I like it so much, but we only get four servings from it. The nutrition information I include at the end will be based on four servings.
Without further delay:

Coconut Curry Tofu, serves 4

1 bunch of green onions
1 (14 oz) can light coconut milk
1/4 cup soy sauce, divided
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder (more or less to taste)
1 pound firm tofu, cubed
4 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 head of bok choy, chopped
handful of chopped peanuts (optional)

1. Remove the white parts of the green onions and finely chop. Chop the greens into 1-inch pieces and set aside.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, mix the coconut milk, 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, brown sugar, peanut butter, curry powder, ginger and chili paste. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
3. Stir the tofu, tomatoes, pepper, mushrooms, finely chopped green onions, and the thick thems of the bok choy into the skillet. Cover and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in the basil and the leafy greens from the bok choy. Season with the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce. Continue to cook for five minutes. Serve over brown rice and garnish with the green onions and peanuts, if using.

Per Serving:
Cost: Approximately $4
Calories, including 1/2 cup serving brown rice: Approximately 450

Friday, April 15, 2011

10 Weeks Pregnant

My pregnancy has officially hit the 10 week mark! I've gained exactly 5 pounds as of today. The weight gain is all in my waist. At the moment, other people cannot tell I'm pregnant by looking, but I can. I'm wearing larger shirts to cover my tummy because I'm at that awkward stage where I just look like I have a fat stomach, close to a beer belly. Last pregnancy, I looked this way at 13 weeks. I could either play up the fat stomach with a small maternity dress to make me look pregnant, or I could hide it. I did a little of both!

My symptoms are calming down a bit. I don't feel nauseated much. I still get really hungry when I don't eat for two hours, but most food still doesn't sound good to eat. While I still feel exhausted even when I climb down stairs, I have a lot more energy than I did when I was pregnant with Oliver. When I was pregnant with Oliver, the exhaustion made me want to cry. It was the worst feeling ever. Now, it's an inconvenience, and it's enough to make me lay down during the day while watching Oliver, but it doesn't make me want to crawl into a hole and die.

I've successfully cut out almost all of my caffeine intake. That's a huge accomplishment for me! I usually make a pot of coffee and drink it throughout the day. Now, I drink a few cups of chamomile tea instead.

I had my second appointment with my midwife last week. She'd confirmed that my uterus was definitely above my pubic bone. She couldn't yet get a heartbeat for me to hear, but I come back in on the 20th to try again. My first ultrasound is likely going to be scheduled for the 27th, and I'm excited to see the little bean. I'm also looking forward to confirming it's one little bean and not two. I've had my worries this week with my bulging stomach and insatiable appetite..

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Numbers and Letters

Olivers knowledge of numbers and letters has started to improve rapidly. He now understands the concept of "one." For example, if he's trying to eat a handful of something, I can tell him to just eat one, and he will.

He also recognizes the letter "O" in various settings. He points to it in books and such. Just today, he started pointing to letters on other objects. He pointed to each letter in the word "Cheerios" on his cereal box. He says something that sounds like "This?" when he wants me to tell him what something is called. Anyway, he started pointing to each letter in "Cheerios," and he was especially delighted about the letter "O" in the name.

I really like when he wants me to tell him what things are called. He touches the wall and asks, "This?" and I say, "It's the wall." Then he'll touch the bed and ask, "This?" The game continues for about half a dozen objects until he moves on to another game. Oliver doesn't repeat words and sounds very often, but he definitely has a large vocabulary in terms of understanding what words mean.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Meatless Monday: Mushroom Risotto

I love mushroom risotto. Yesterday was the first time I tried making it on my own. I must say, it's such an elegant dish, especially for being fairly easy and inexpensive.

As it was my first time making this dish, I followed the recipe almost exactly:

I used brown rice instead of the arborio rice for nutrition reasons. It took a long time to cook with the brown rice, although I'm sure our high altitude had something to do with it, too. It took three hours! By the time it was done, the baked potatoes I served it with went cold. I must say, the deliciousness of the risotto made up for it. It's so good, and I plan on making it again and again. I just also plan on starting it much earlier! I'm also going to add the salt later in the recipe because it might have prolonged the cooking time.

By the time it was finished, we were so hungry (and it tasted so good) that two of us ate half of it. Under normal circumstances, though, I don't think this dish only serves four people as it states. It really makes 6-8 servings, in my opinion. This photo was half the amount of risotto we ended up eating, so you can see it makes a lot.

Here's what you need for the mushroom risotto:

1 tablespoon olive oil
2.5 small onions, minced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon minced celery
1 teaspoon minced parsley
6 oz package sliced mushrooms
1 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
1 cup rice
5 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic until onion is tender. Stir in parsley and celery. Once celery is tender, add the mushrooms. Reduce heat to low and cook until the mushrooms are soft.

2. Stir the milk, cream and rice into the skillet. Increase the heat, and heat to a simmer. Add one cup of vegetable broth and cook until it's absorbed. Continue adding vegetable broth, one cup at a time, until it's absorbed.

3. Once rice is finished cooking, stir in butter, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and serve hot.

If you get four servings out of this recipe, each serving contains approximately 440 calories and costs about $3.50/serving.