Some dietary changes

I can’t believe I’ve already passed the 7 months pregnant mark. The rest of the pregnancy has seemed to move pretty slowly and somewhat uncomfortably. But now I actually feel pretty good and time is racing by. One of the reasons I feel better (I think) is that I’m eating differently now. I started this pregnancy 20 pounds heavier than with Harper and was pretty steadily gaining a pound a week, which felt like too much. With it being a lot warmer this time around, I had constant swollen cankles and just felt huge and puffy. So I decided it might help to start cutting carbs out of my diet.

Breakfast and lunch turned out to be a breeze, but most of my dinner recipes that I love to cook have some carbs. So I decided not to mess with dinner much. I switched from cereal or muffins to omelets for breakfast and then a lot of cottage cheese, salads, apples with peanut butter and that sort of thing during the day. The great thing about a low-carb diet is that it’s not a low-fat diet. You can have all the bacon, avocados and ranch dressing you want. So you get to enjoy these really satisfying foods. 

I noticed right away that the weight gain really eased up, even though I was in the third trimester, when the baby gains the most weight. I had just about outgrown all my maternity clothes, but some of them started to fit a little looser. And I just felt better during the day. I had felt so tired the past few months, but suddenly I had more energy. 

So, when all seemed to be going really well, I failed my glucose test. Just barely. It was kind of strange. They take blood 3 times, and only my fasting score was slightly over the limit. But it was enough to qualify me for the “Sweet Success” program they give to moms with gestational diabetes. At first I was PISSED. Mom was out of town and we had just started remodeling our bathroom, so it was already a super stressful time. I just didn’t need anything else on top of it all. But once I took the class where they teach you about what to eat and how to test your blood (4 times a day, eek), I got kind of into it. It’s really fascinating to see how your blood sugar fluctuates throughout the day and how your stress level or exercise can affect the numbers. Last week I got sick and my numbers spiked the highest they’d ever been. I’ve learned so much. So I am trying to turn a negative into a positive. 

The plus side on the diet part is that it’s darn similar to what I had just started doing. The emphasis is on eating more protein and fewer carbs. You still get to eat carbs, but you really have to restrict sugar. And that includes things that we are traditionally taught are healthy, like fruits, milk and yogurt. Obviously, desserts are a no-no. That’s the part that stung. But again, now that I’m not having them, I feel a lot better. For my birthday I did splurge and make lava cakes with vanilla ice cream (I figured a single-serving cake would be better than a whole huge one). And the next day I felt ravenous for something sugary. Amazingly I did not buy a single bag of Halloween candy! We have so few trick-or-treaters anyway that we decided to just skip it this year, and I’m glad. 

I’m trying to shop for more yummy snack foods, and I’m finding that there are a lot of great high-protein choices out there. Cheese sticks, cocoa dusted nuts (which come in 100-calorie packs), organic hummus from Target, cream cheese on brown rice thins — those have all been favorites lately. I got some almond milk so I can have that instead of regular milk in smoothies. I’m really trying to steer away from processed stuff when I do have carbs. I LOVE fruit, so I’m eating apples, pears and bananas when I can. The key is to always have them with a protein. I’ve made some incredible salads. And I really am not a salad person! But when you can pack them with hard boiled eggs, bacon, cheese crumbles, tomatoes, and have them with a rich dressing, they don’t seem so bad. 

I don’t see myself giving up my beloved baked goods altogether. But this has really shown me that I can live without them a lot of the time and still eat really well. I think I can continue on a similar diet once the baby is born and feel a lot better than I did with Harper. I’m still working on the exercise part. It seems like the first thing to go when I’m busy or stressed, but I see now that it has to be part of my lifestyle. 

Unfortunately, my fasting scores are still a little high. So we’ll see if they put me on any medication for the next 8 weeks. Hopefully it will return to normal after the baby’s born. 

If you’re looking for a great low-carb recipe, I can highly recommend these chicken satay lettuce wraps we had the other night. I don’t consider myself a lettuce wrap type of person either, but these were fantastic. Other things that are good this time of year: tortilla soup, beef stew, chili and roast chicken. Apparently Mexican street tacos are great because they come on thin corn tortillas, and some places give you a ton of meat. So I’ve been on the taco diet when we go out. I’ve discovered some really good al pastor at local restaurants. 

I’m sure it will be a challenge to make it through the 8 most holiday-filled weeks of the year on a low-sugar diet, but I feel pretty good about it. 

Best baby gifts, IMHO

Given the incredible baby boom among my friends and family lately, I have been thinking a lot about the best and most useful kinds of gifts you can get for a new parent, especially a first-time one. When I think about all the stuff we’ve acquired since we had Harper it’s pretty overwhelming. But only a few things have been truly useful over and over again.

This list represents super helpful universal gifts that you could give someone, even that person who already has everything. Most are really affordable and some may be life-changing!

• Carter’s jersey baby blankets (top left)
The super popular Aden and Anais muslin swaddle blankets are great, but we ended up using these jersey blankets a lot more, and still do. They come in really cute designs and you can usually find them for a reasonable price at places like Marshall’s and Burlington Coat Factory.

• IKEA bath towel
It has the worst name ever — Stanka — but this towel is cute, gender neutral and super thick considering its $8 price tag.

• Carter’s wash cloths
These are the perfect combination of soft, thin and adorable. Carter’s also makes a discounted version for Target stores.

• Burt’s Bees baby shampoo and body wash
I love this one because it’s gentle and smells great. We use it for bubble bath, too. One bottle lasts a looong time.

• Bath toy set
Bath toys are also a common gift, but I absolutely loved the Very Hungry Caterpillar set. It comes with a cute little book and some squirty animals. So sweet!

Honest Company wipe travel packs
We did the Honest bundle for a while, and in the end it was more than we needed to buy regularly. But it helped me discover these handy travel packs of wipes, which I have shoved in every diaper bag, car pocket and purse I have. They’re also available for $1 each at Target now.

• Planet wise wet bags
These are an absolute must! And it doesn’t hurt to have a few in different sizes. We used them for cloth diapers when we were out and about, and also as a diaper pail for the cloth ones at home. They’re great for holding peed-on clothes during potty training. We probably washed our diaper pail one about 200 times and it’s still going!

• Triple paste ointment
We had very few issues with diaper rash until one period when we could not find anything to help heal a rash that lasted for weeks. We even had a prescription cream! Finally another mom told me about Triple Paste. It’s expensive, about $20 a jar, but it was the only thing that worked for us. I’m a huge fan now.

• Forehead thermometer
Another thing I didn’t know existed until I had a kid. You do not want to mess around with trying to get a temperature from a kid’s underarm or butt when they’re feverish and squirmy. This works with one firm swipe across the forehead. We use it for ourselves now!

Vibrating teether
This feels so good on their gums when they’re teething. The freezer ones are a pain and they didn’t work for us anyway. 

Aveeno baby sunscreen
This sunscreen turned out to be my favorite. A lot of the eco-friendly ones are hard to rub in or leave a chalky residue. But this one goes on really smooth (a plus with a wiggly baby). It’s also really nice to have a sunscreen stick in your purse or diaper bag, just in case. 

• Baby Bjorn or any rubberized bib
Bibs are a dime a dozen as far as shower gifts go. I have a huge pile of them I’ve never used. But these genius bibs with the little trough at the bottom are amazing. They catch all the food goo and then you can wash them out in just a few seconds. 

Placemat for restaurants
This $5 investment will save you so many headaches when you go out to eat. It folds up pretty small in a diaper bag and then you just roll it out on the table and let the kid make a mess on it. It has raised edges to catch any goop. 

• Other feeding items:
-Lifefactory glass bottles with sippy caps – We love that these come with a protective sleeve. And when your kid ages out of breastmilk, you can fill the bottles with something else and use the sippy caps instead of nipples. 
-Evenflo old-school glass bottles – If you’re bothered by the plastic bottles that come with a Medela breast pump, you can screw these into the pump instead. 
-Mesh feeders – These are perfect for baby’s first solid foods. You might need a few once they get teeth!
-Snack catchers – I was so excited to discover these. They cut way down on spilled goldfish and Cheerios. 
-plastic silverware – We learned that you can never have too many spoons, so just get a whole bunch so they’ll last you a while. IKEA has a nice larger set for toddlers. 
-BabyBjorn no-spill cups – wish I’d known about these sooner.

Sun hat with a chin strap
Maybe that sounds obvious, but you definitely don’t want yours to blow away. And you’ll find yourself needing that sun hat a lot if you have a summer baby. 

• Robeez soft shoes
These were the shoes that helped Harper learn to walk and they were wonderful. They slip on over chubby feet and they come in all sorts of adorable designs. Don’t bother getting anything less than a 6-12 month size. They are perfect for that new-walking window of time.

• Slim-fit pajamas with zippers
Do not make the mistake of getting tons of pajamas with snaps. That is such a pain! Always go with zip pajamas. Carter’s makes snug fit pajamas that we really liked. Target’s Circo brand also sells them up to 12 months, I think. And of course if you can afford Hanna Andersson pjs, go for it. 

Hopefully that gives you some ideas next time you need to buy a gift. It’s also a good reminder for myself, now that we’ll have a baby again soon. There are SO MANY products to wade through. It really helps to focus on the things you actually need. 

*More on this topic: useful and not-so-useful items and helpful newborn stuff. Those are more for planning your own registry. 

Girls weekend in Santa Rosa

About a year ago Erin and I were planning a girls weekend in wine country when I realized that my grandma’s funeral was scheduled for the same weekend. Needless to say I would much rather have had a vacation than travelled to Kansas with a toddler for such a sad occasion. But I wouldn’t have missed saying goodbye to my grandmother, and so we had to reschedule. We finally got our trip pulled together, and it was so amazing!

I needed this trip so badly. Life is stressful and exhausting lately, and these trips (even the shortest ones) are so restorative. We got an airbnb guesthouse in Santa Rosa for a very reasonable price, and then we set aside some money for food and pampering. It really helps to have a best friend with experience as an event planner. I pretty much just had to show up and everything was ready to go.

The back yard where we stayed, complete with bubbling fountain.

This gorgeous Victorian was right across the street AND it had an Airstream. I am clearly living in the wrong place.

Our first food stop in the area was the Squeeze Inn in Napa. I have been wanting to try a Squeezeburger for ages! It’s basically a classic California burger topped with so much cheddar cheese that it forms a “cheese skirt” you have to peel off and eat. It was really good, and since I couldn’t finish mine I got to keep eating it all weekend.


That night we walked around downtown Santa Rosa and found this cute magician-themed ice cream shop. It was huge and very kid-friendly, the kind of place I wish we had in our neighborhood. I had a sundae made with sugar cookie ice cream that was as good as it sounds.

The next morning we decided to try the Naked Pig for breakfast. Thankfully, a friend had just posted on Facebook about going there, so I wanted to try it. I had to take this picture so that you could see how this farm-to-table restaurant is situated in the parking lot across from a garage. Kind of funny.

But oh man was this little place a winner. They have these homemade biscuits served with butter and honey that certainly rival any I’ve ever made. And although our food was pretty simple, you could tell they pay attention to every single ingredient. The bacon tasted like maple syrup and the tomatoes in Erin’s frittata looked just like the ones in my garden.

It was so good we actually went back for breakfast the next day. I had to try the bacon waffle, which was SO good. It was light and crispy and just crammed full of bacon.

After that we were ready for pampering. We got hour-long massages. I was so excited that the pillow arrangement allowed me to lay on my stomach. I haven’t done that in months! After that we got a taco lunch and picked up some beer from Russian River Brewing. None for me, but Erin and Mike are big fans.

Then it was onto more pampering! We got the world’s most affordable mani-pedis at Sea Spa. The older lady who did my toes was obsessed with my baby belly. By the end of the appointment she was giving me hugs.

After that we were feeling like we needed to get out and explore the outdoors a little. So we drove all the way out to the Sonoma coast. It was about 20 degrees cooler out there, with such a pretty view.

Then we decided to head back to Guerneville (note to self, stay in this cute area sometime!) to see the Armstrong Redwoods park. I had no idea this beautiful place was up there, but I will definitely be going back.

It has the perfect set of easy trails through an amazing redwood canopy. As soon as I get to a place like that, my blood pressure drops 20 points and I am just so restored.

After that very full day we wanted something good to eat. We had the hardest time deciding on a restaurant. At first we wanted Indian or Himalayan, but there are just so many restaurants to choose from. So somehow we landed on Belly, which is sort of a gastropub. We were able to walk there from our airbnb place and we got seated right away. They have a lot of small plates that are good for sharing so we went kind of crazy trying them all. And they were all so good I didn’t even take pictures.

We had chorizo with brussels sprouts, mac ‘n cheese with sun-dried tomatoes and spinach, a wedge salad and then the surprise of the night, corned beef tacos. We kind of rolled the dice on those, but they were so much better than anything I could have pictured. They kind of crisped the meat like carnitas, and then served it with a cream sauce and cabbage (St. Patrick’s Day alternative meal next year?). We actually didn’t even eat the guacamole it came with because the tacos were already so flavorful. After that we were in total bliss and about to burst. But then we saw the table next to us order this incredible looking chocolate mousse served on a wood slab with whipped cream and berries. So yeah, we had to have that too. We ended up taking so much food home.

When we got back, Harper couldn’t get enough of her “auntie Erin.”

All in all I’d say we crammed in just about as much enjoyable stuff as you possibly could in two days. And yet it still seemed incredibly relaxing. I cannot wait to do something like this again!

Biscuit donuts

Um, why did no one tell me about the wonderfulness that is a biscuit donut?

I learned about them on the Say Yes blog and couldn’t believe I’d never tried them before. Basically all you do is crack open a can of biscuit dough, stamp out the middles, fry the donuts in oil and roll them in cinnamon sugar.

They come out remarkably similar to donuts you would buy in a store. They remind me a lot of the cider donuts you get when you go apple picking.

It does take a pretty large amount of oil for frying, but you can actually save it an reuse it another time. Because you will be making these again.

I am a lazy cook, so I did not use a thermometer to figure out how hot the oil was. When it seemed like the donuts were cooking too fast, I turned down the burner a little bit. That seemed to work fine. They got brown and crispy really quickly, so it didn’t take long to make a batch of 8 plus the donut holes. Harper ate most of those and we ate the whole ones. Perfect!

This was sort of the opposite of the breakfast baking I did the weekend before. I have been determined for a long time to find a yeast cinnamon roll recipe that was worth all the effort. I’ve tried 3 times, I think, and they were never good enough. I mean, how can a cinnamon roll that takes 3 hours to make be just OK?

But I finally found THE recipe. I think it came up on Pinterest and it just looked too good not to try. One morning I actually had energy so I got to work. I had to be at the store later that morning so I ended up taking some shortcuts and the recipe still turned out fine. For the first rise, I probably gave it 40 minutes instead of an hour. Then I think I shortened the second rise a little too. The dough was very sticky, but it rolled out just fine.

I made some other changes too. I used all butter instead of margarine because I am a butter girl. My yeast was expired but that didn’t seem to matter either. And then I probably used 1 tablespoon of cinnamon instead of 3. That seemed like plenty to me.

The cream cheese icing seemed like it was too sugary and not cream cheesy enough. But then later it seemed fine, so maybe it just needed to meld a little more.

I couldn’t make this recipe everyday (and definitely shouldn’t!) but I will keep it on file for special occasions. It is everything you want from a cinnamon roll — soft, crumbly bread with a gooey center and melty frosting on top. And at least when you make these at home you know what’s in them.

Garden good, bad and ugly

Now that we’re coming to the end of the growing season and everything is starting to get brown and crinkly, I feel like I can evaluate everything we decided to grow this year. Overall it went really well, I think.

• Both cherry tomato plants grew well beyond anything we could have imagined. They got so big they actually flopped over and have nearly collapsed their cages. We had so many that we got sick of them a long time ago.

These have grown way up into the orange tree, well above my head. And they’re still covered in green tomatoes!

Mom and I started taking cherry tomatoes to our neighborhood crop swap (such a great idea, btw!) and I think even our neighbors are sick of them. Next year I think one plant would be plenty. The orange variety tasted better, in my opinion.
• Cucumbers grew and produced like crazy. If I had to do it over I might choose a variety that is a little less bitter. Ours were nice pickled but not so great plain.
• The San Marzano tomato plant has also grown like mad. It’s overflowed into the surrounding plants.

We’ve picked buckets of tomatoes from that plant, but the good thing about those is that when you peel and cook them down for sauce they make a much smaller amount. So you can’t really have too many.

• The “Michael Pollan” tomato plant took a while to mature, but now it has what I would call a sane amount of tomatoes on it and they are really tasty. Just like a tiny Green Zebra.

• The standard looking tomato we planted has been producing a lot of tomatoes without going too crazy. They’re good, but nowhere near as tasty as Purple Cherokees. Next year, heirlooms!

• Mint just needed a little compost in order to go nuts like normal mint.

Getting there:
• Strawberries did pretty well, but we need more!
• The blueberries and raspberry plants produced a few berries, but I think these plants need time to really grow to maturity.
• I had just about given up on our pepper plants when one of them perked up. It now has a nice looking pepper on it. Maybe more compost next time?

• I’m still holding onto hope that our little mandarin tree will produce edible fruit. Most of the oranges that survived to a bigger size are still there and some of them are turning yellow!

• I think we grew about 3 edible green beans before all the plants died. We may have started them too late or put them in not-great soil.
• The purple tomatillos grew tons of flowers and little casings, but they are all empty inside. Not sure why since they appear healthy.

We don’t have a ton of room to add more plants but I think next year it would be nice to have some sort of zucchini or squash. It just doesn’t feel like a summer garden without them. So funny that at our crop swap no one had any! But there were all sorts of interesting things like lemon cucumbers, Thai papayas and Meyer lemons.

We’d love to have rhubarb, too. And maybe some beets. We’ve grown carrots and lettuces in the past, but I’m not sure we liked them enough to do it again. 

My first pickles

I promised I would report back on pickles and I’m finally getting to it!

Our cucumber plant produced a TON of cukes so we had to figure out pickling. I wanted to keep them as simple as possible, so I followed Deb’s instructions for the easiest fridge dill pickles.

First, I had to use a vegetable peeler to scrape off all the little spiky bits on the cucumbers. Some of them were really sharp. Then I decided to slice mine into spears.

I didn’t have fresh dill so I used dried and I think it worked just fine. One thing I had to adjust, though, was to add water to fill the jars to the top. Maybe because I had spears instead of slices, my cucumbers didn’t let out enough water and they were super vinegar-y. Once I added the water they were just about perfect.

I thought they might go bad quickly in the fridge, but they have lasted weeks and weeks. In fact I think they get better over time.

Harper at 2.5

I just put this in the kids category rather than baby – I guess that says it all.

She loved when grandad played guitar for her.

Harper has changed so much in the last few months. I find myself wanting to freeze her in time when she does something really sweet and funny. She’ll be a total monster one minute and then the next minute she’ll cuddle up and say, “I love you SO MUCH!”

She’s a constant imitator, both of what we say and what she sees on her favorite shows, Daniel Tiger and Peg + Cat. One time my mom walked in the room and she was playing her xylophone like a “pinano” while watching a character play a piano on TV. It was just so precious. I’m not one to use that word often, but there’s no other way to describe her right now.

I do see her trying to exert her will more. Like with very basic things I ask her to do like put her shoes on. She’s testing boundaries and realizing her power. I’m starting to understand all the things I’ve heard about the 3-year-old personality. I’m definitely concerned about how she’ll react to the new baby since she’ll be almost 3 when he arrives. (Oh yeah, we just found out it’s a boy!)

She does not want to talk about having a baby brother at all. She will repeat pretty much anything you say, but if you bring up a baby in mommy’s tummy or being a big sister she just shuts off. It’s so weird. How could she know that?

But we have more pressing concerns right now with potty training. We’ve been putting it off for a while, but I think she’s finally ready (and we’re finally ready to commit).


My dad and stepmom came for a visit recently, and they had a lot of fun taking Harper on some outings. The last time Mike took her to the Little Farm she was terrified of the cows, but not this time. She LOVED feeding the animals. She was just cracking up the whole time.

And I know everyone says this, but my god, their energy! I’m still extra tired all the time and I would give anything to suck a little bit of energy out of her.

On the plus side, she has been sleeping so much better lately. Pretty consistent 2-hour naps and longer nights without waking. I don’t know what the secret is with this kid, but I’m just going with it.

She’s still a little daredevil. When we walked around the houseboats in Sausalito she kept going right up to the railings next to the water and poking her head through. I think she would have just jumped in the water if we let her.

Another thing she really seems to enjoy is gardening. She “helps” us pick cherry tomatoes and puts them in the back of her little dump truck.

She is also still very much an outdoors gal. She decided our overflowing geranium plant was the perfect hangout spot and sometimes I find her laying there.

Large trees are not all that common in our neighborhood so when she sees one she will literally go up and hug it.

She still has a great appetite, and it must be fueling her growth because she has really stretched out. She’s pretty tall compared to her peers now, so I think she is going to end up taller than me.

We’ve had her in part-time daycare for a few months now and it’s kind of a mixed bag. They say she is really reserved and plays by herself there, which is the total opposite of how she behaves at home. I think she’d probably open up more if she was there daily but we just can’t afford it. So we’ll see.

This next 6 months will hold a lot of change for this little girl, but she is nothing if not resilient.

Easy strawberry jam

I feel like jam is one of those things that seems intimidating, but is actually really easy to make. I think it’s the canning aspect that’s scary, but you can make a quick fridge jam that will disappear too quickly to bother with the canning anyway.

We were only getting a handful of strawberries from our garden every day, so I decided to save them in a bag in the freezer until I had enough to make jam. I found this recipe in Real Simple and it worked perfectly.

Basically all you do is combine the fruit with sugar and lemon juice and simmer it until the fruit has broken down into a soft, chunky mixture. Let it cool and pour the jam into a jar.

You can make a decadent toast with cream cheese and berry jam – yum!

Butter shrimp

I never knew the magic of butter chicken until we moved to a place that has a Nepalese restaurant on every corner. I’m not sure the connection, but we have a LOT of Indian/Nepalese restaurants in our area, and they are wonderful. Have you had momos, those little meat or veggie-filled dumplings? Sooo good. Anyway, I tried the butter chicken at Taste of the Himalayas (my fave) and was totally hooked. So when I saw Posie had posted a recipe for butter shrimp, I wanted to try making that at home. 

I didn’t have tandoori paste, so I tried making it myself and it was super easy. I was thinking you could put that in a lot of things to add major flavor. 

The brilliant colors of all those spices remind me that I need to cook with them more often. 

I think I only used 1 pound of shrimp instead of two. It was frozen in a bag so I thawed it in some water first. 

Anything with this much butter has to be good!

I skipped the sliced almond garnish but I definitely added peas. Overall, I was happy with how quickly this dish came together. I think the sauce is even better than the chicken tikka masala recipe I had been making before, so I might just go with this one from now on. 

No. 2

I can’t believe I forgot to mention that we’re having a baby!

One of my lab tests got lost (WTF?) so it took longer than expected for us to reveal the news on Facebook. But yes, Harper is getting a sibling around Dec. 30. We probably won’t find out for a few more weeks whether it is a boy or girl, but we are definitely finding out.

It will be interesting to see if this winds up being a Christmas, New Years, or super late baby. We keep joking that we need a December baby for tax purposes!

So far everything has gone well, although it has been harder than last time for sure. I started my job right around the time I found out I was pregnant, so it was a lot of new things at once. The nausea was a little worse and I feel a lot bigger a lot sooner. I get these pains under my ribcage that I probably didn’t get until I was 6 months along last time. But one bonus is that at 16 weeks I can already feel some little movements.

I’m hoping to start prenatal yoga soon, and I’m thinking it might be fun to take a little babymoon in Calistoga. I hear there is supposed to be a big energy boost in the second trimester, but I’m still waiting for that to kick in…