Third trimester must-haves

This might be my least glamorous post ever, but here goes.

In the last month of pregnancy I feel like I am living in someone else’s body, so I’m doing whatever I can to be comfortable. My midwife suggested I lay on my side a couple times a day and try to give my body a break from just carrying all this extra weight around. So I’ve been using that time to read “Telegraph Avenue”, which might be the most appropriate book for a pregnant person living in Berkeley to read.

Not only does it take place here, and with tons of recognizable details, two of the main characters are midwives and one of them is 36 weeks pregnant at the beginning. There’s this one part that takes place at an Ethiopian restaurant, and I thought it was so crazy because Mike and I always used to eat lunch at this Ethiopian place after our first ob/gyn appointments. Guess where it was — Telegraph Avenue!

Anyway, other things that have been really helpful:

• Comfy lace-up shoes. Although I’ve always been a fan of slip-on shoes, I need something tighter now that I have fat feet. These Asics are great.

SodaStream soda maker. I drink way more water than I used to, so sometimes it’s nice to have bubbly water instead. I have a few flavor packets, but it’s just as easy to squeeze in lemon, lime, or orange juice for extra flavor.

• Raspberry leaf tea. Supposedly it’s good for your lady parts, so I’ve been calling it uterus tea. It actually tastes pretty good.

• Breathing strips. My nasal passages have been swollen for the past few months, so I snore something awful at night. If I put one of these on my nose before bed, Mike can actually sleep.

• Tums Smoothies. Now that the baby is pushing my digestive system way up, I have quite a bit of heartburn. I like taking Tums for it since they have extra calcium. The smoothies flavors taste like candy.

Biscuit cinnamon rolls. If you want something a little more special for breakfast than cereal, these rolls are great. They take way less time than traditional yeast cinnamon rolls, and they’re not quite as sticky-sweet. Still delicious, but a little less high-maintenance.

I would also give high praise to walking and yoga throughout a pregnancy. And the Google group of local moms I joined has been amazing as far as learning about pregnancy, birth and parenting. I would say I get eye-opening emails on pretty much a daily basis. I joined a smaller group for people with babies born this month, so I have a built-in meetup group once the baby is born.

38 weeks

T-minus two weeks until baby. But really it could be any time in the next four weeks. So far everyone in my Bradley class that was due before me has gone past their due dates, some by more than a week. Even though we all knew that was a possibility, I don’t think anyone is dealing with it well. There is definitely a point of pregnancy fatigue.

I feel like I am getting comically round now. Sometimes I catch sight of myself in a mirror and I can’t believe that’s what I really look like. A Target employee practically chased me down an aisle the other day to offer me a cart for the things I was carrying. Finally, good service!

Mike and I have checked a whole bunch of items off our to-do list in the last few weeks. We did tour the hospital, which was, well, hospital-y. They deliver an average of 16-18 babies a day! (It used to be 24, but I guess people have fewer babies now.) I was glad to know that the hospital nursery is virtually a thing of the past, as pretty much everyone rooms in now. And they advocate a lot of the things that are important to us — changing positions out of bed, using the tubs/showers, skin-to-skin contact — and “not just because we are hippies in Berkeley”, according to our tour guide.

We’ve packed a bag and the car seat is in the car. The crib should arrive early next week, along with a bunch of other stuff we ordered for the nursery. I’ve put off closing my etsy shop because I haven’t felt the slightest signs of labor. But pretty soon I’ll have to say that’s it. I have plenty of other things to work on, and pattern sales are giving me a little extra income.

I’ve had a few days of feeling really exhausted, really heavy and puffy and just out of sorts. But I seem to have come through that and now I have at least intermittent energy and I’m getting around OK. I’m still hot all the time (and hungry and thirsty), but I think that’s normal. My midwife assures me that I won’t get a break from that for a while, as soon I’ll have a “milk factory” on my chest. I can’t get over how extraordinarily hard a pregnant woman’s body works. I just have to be thankful for mine.

Any guesses on when this baby will come?


I never used to be a huge waffle fan, but since I’ve been pregnant they sound good all the time. So I was pretty excited when we got a griddler and waffle plates for Christmas. Now we can have them whenever we want!

The first waffle recipe I tried was for bacon black pepper waffles from Joy’s cookbook (which you need). They were really good, but after that I wanted to try a sweet version. So the other day I made them without the pepper and bacon and added cinnamon and nutmeg. I’d go easier on the nutmeg next time, but otherwise I really like this recipe.

I also halved the recipe since it was just the two of us and it came out like this:

adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook
makes approximately 8 waffle squares

1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
Lots of nonstick cooking spray for waffle iron

Heat your waffle iron/griddle to 375 degrees. Whisk together dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another. Fold wet mixture into dry until just combined (it will be a little lumpy). Spray plenty of nonstick cooking spray on the waffle iron and then pour in 1/4 cup batter for each waffle square. You may have to adjust this for your particular waffle iron. Cook for 5 minutes, or until waffles are golden brown.

Don’t be like me and keep opening the griddle before they’re done. 

Serve with maple syrup and blueberries.

Next time I might make a full batch and freeze the extras. We’re getting to the point when the freezer needs to be fully stocked.

Yummy Thai noodles

I just finished reading “Garlic and Sapphires,” Ruth Reichl’s book about being the restaurant critic for the New York Times. It’s a great read, but the book is made even better by the fact that it also contains recipes. And one of them is her take on Thai noodles.

I don’t think I’ve ever tried to make Pad Thai before, so I was excited to give it a go.

Here is the complete recipe, which I followed pretty closely.

You start by chopping up your scallions, garlic and peanuts and squeezing some fresh lime juice.

Then you heat some water until it’s just about boiling and then turn off the heat. Your rice noodles soften up in here for about 20 minutes.

I couldn’t find ground pork at the store, and I was too lazy to pull out the mixer and grinder attachment to grind my own So I ended up cutting a pound of boneless pork chops into strips. I also skipped the shrimp. But if I made this again, I might go with the original pork/shrimp combo. Or tofu strips would be a yummy vegetarian substitute.

So the meat goes in to saute with some scallions and garlic. Then you add in the noodles and a fish sauce mixture. After the liquid has cooked down, you scramble in some eggs and add the rest of the ingredients.

I had half a package of Trader Joe’s potstickers in the freezer, so I cooked those to go with our dinner.

Serve your noodles with an extra squeeze of lime and a few drops of Sriracha.

Honestly, by appearance alone I was not sure the noodles would turn out great. But they are really tasty. Probably just as good as what I’ve had in restaurants. Thanks, Ruth!

8 months

One month left. Holy crap.

At this stage of pregnancy, every day brings something new. Some days the baby moves like crazy, other days she’s mellow. Some days I have plenty of energy, other days I need a nap (or two). Heartburn, sore hips, swollen fingers — I’ve had it all at some point, but it all comes and goes. One thing I haven’t really had is (faux) contractions. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. What’s up uterus?

My feet are starting to disappear.

But even though I feel like a gigantic version of myself, I haven’t gotten any of those ‘wow you are getting big/you must be ready to have that baby tomorrow’ sorts of comments. Actually I’ve gotten more of the opposite, which has really made me feel good some days.

Remember when my belly looked like this? Ha!

Back in July.

Now it’s more like this.

I’m down to my last clothes that fit. I’m thinking of going to a kinder swap this weekend to look for a few things. It’s only $5 if you bring items to donate. I’m saving my money for nursing bras and tanks, which I’ll have to buy soon.

It’s crazy to finally be staring down that checklist: figure out the carseat, tour the hospital, make a birth plan, etc. The nursery is almost finished. We’re just missing the crib and a few finishing touches. Someone asked if I was feeling “nesty” and I said definitely yes. I’m trying to do all the things I won’t have time for later. I got my hair cut. I really want someone to paint my toenails. I can’t reach!

The belly button has definitely popped.

Every week I seem to cycle through a different set of fears. How will I deal with a change that is so permanent? How will the dogs react? What if we can’t afford everything we need? But I’m excited too. The midwife told us the baby is head down, so now we can tell what is a little foot or a little butt. This little girl is so close to coming into the world.

One interesting thing about being this pregnant — it seems like everyone you encounter wants to talk to you about it. I’ve never had complete strangers be so friendly here. Babies just seem to make people happy, so I don’t mind telling everyone and their mother how far along I am. Maybe it’s practice for telling everyone and their mother how old the baby is.

Ham and cheese puff pastry

One of our favorite things to do on the weekends is pick up breakfast pastries at La Farine. It’s this lovely French bakery that has all kinds of beautiful baked goods like chocolate croissants and morning buns. But our absolute favorite treat to get is the ham and cheese pastry. We take them home and warm them up in the oven. They’re made with puff pastry so they’re flaky and buttery, and then in addition to the salty ham and cheese there is also a creamy bechamel sauce inside.

La Farine goodies. 

So when I saw a recipe for a very similar ham and cheese pastry on Joy’s blog, I had to try it. I ended up changing the recipe a little to incorporate the bechamel sauce, which seemed essential. And although my tart was quite a bit uglier than Joy’s, I liked how it turned out. It’s also really easy to make, and goes well with the salad I have been obsessed with lately (spinach and bibb lettuce with tomatoes and hard boiled egg).

Ham and cheese puff pastry
adapted from Joy the Baker

1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted but still cold
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup brown or whole grain mustard
1/2 pound thinly sliced Black Forest Ham
1/4 pound Gruyere cheese, sliced into strips (plus a few shavings for the sauce)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while you make the bechamel sauce. In a medium-sized skillet or saucepan, heat the butter over medium. When it melts, whisk in the flour. Then whisk in the milk and continue to cook until the sauce becomes thick and bubbly (5 minutes or so). Season with salt. Mix in a few shavings of cheese just to boost the flavor.

Now you can roll out the bottom sheet of puff pastry on a lined cookie sheet. You just want it large enough that you’ll be able to roll up the edges. Brush the bottom of the pastry with the mustard. I was going for a circular tart, but it ended up more squarish — go for whatever shape you like.

Pour the sauce on top of the mustard and spread it evenly. Then layer on the ham and the cheese slices.

Place the second layer of pastry on top, then crimp the edges of the bottom piece over the top, using a fork to press them together. You may need to remove the corners of dough if you’re going for a round pastry. Then brush the top with the beaten egg and cut three slices in the dough for venting.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. When my pastry first came out of the oven it had puffed up huge, but it eventually sank down.

Cut your pastry into slices, just like a pizza and enjoy!

Road trip: Bodega Bay/Eureka

After Christmas, we were thinking it might be a good time to take a little babymoon. Mike had the time off, and we figured late December probably wasn’t the biggest touristy season (unless you’re up at Tahoe). So we booked a hotel in Eureka, CA, which is about a 5-hour drive north of us. Mike wanted to eat at a crab shack in Bodega Bay and I wanted to drive through a giant redwood tree. Don’t ask me why these are the things we wanted to do before we had a baby — we just did!

Fortunately, traffic was not bad at all and we made it to Bodega Bay in about an hour. If Bodega sounds familiar it’s probably because it was the setting for the Hitchcock movie “The Birds.” In real life, it is significantly less creepy.

The day we were there it was chilly, but absolutely beautiful. We got there around lunch time so we went straight to the crab shack, the Spud Point Crab Company. Clearly it was the place to be.

We each had a crab sandwich — just extremely fresh crab meat with a little sauce — and shared some clam chowder. Mike is the true seafood lover between us, but I can definitely appreciate crab that’s right out of the bay.

After lunch we drove up to Bodega Head and hiked around the cliffs. It was gorgeous up there.

I am not much of a hiker these days (and it was extremely windy), but we had fun. We want to go back another time because you can see whales up there.

After that, we continued our drive up north. To get to Eureka you drive through Mendocino and Humboldt counties, the pot growing center of California. So things are a little…different. The landscape is beautiful, all forest and mountains. But at times it looks almost like Appalachia, but mixed with hippies. The best way I can describe it is that we drove through a tiny town that had a natural foods co-op with a huge American flag in the front window.

Anyway, we got the sense that this part of the country was a little quirky. And that was fine by us. We got to Eureka just in time to check into the hotel and make our dinner reservation at the Brick and Fire Bistro. I didn’t take any photos because it was super dark in there, but it’s a nice little romantic restaurant where all the food is made in this big brick oven. I wanted to love this place, but many missteps into dinner I just couldn’t. Thankfully Mike’s coq au vin was out of this world and he shared it with me. I forgave them after that.

On the way to the hotel I noticed this funny little place called the Chalet House of Omelettes and I immediately knew where we’d be having breakfast the next day.

It’s basically a quirky diner, sort of in the spirit of Des Moines’ Waveland Cafe, where pretty much everyone knows each other. The food is huge and not at all fancy. But it’s great fuel for travelers (and I imagine loggers and fishermen, too). I had a bacon/broccoli omelette and some pancakes.

By the time we left I felt like we were friends with half the restaurant, including the woman at the next table over who, in a very grandmotherly way, had a lot of questions about my pregnancy. But it didn’t bother me at all. I kind of miss that instant kindness and trust of strangers.

By the way, if you get a chance to read a little history of Eureka, it’s a really interesting town. It has Gold Rush roots, but eventually became a center for lumber. There are tons of Victorian houses that have been restored, including the huge Carson Mansion.

The real attraction up there, though, is the Avenue of the Giants. It’s a 31-mile stretch of road in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, where you can drive through a canopy of some of the world’s tallest trees and stop at some sights along the way. And it really is mile after mile after mile of dense redwood forest. My kind of place!

We included the people for scale.

We stopped in one area that was supposed to have some of the tallest trees and hiked around. We were kind of lost, but it was still really beautiful.

It felt like we were in Oregon rather than California. Everything was so lush and green and mossy.

I know I’ve said this before, but being in the woods, especially in the mountains, is truly my happy place. It calms me down a lot. I think something about being dwarfed by nature is very spiritual, and it kind of steadies you. At least it does for me. I think this is what Gaudi was going for when he built the inside of the Sagrada Familia.

Later that day we stopped at a visitors center, where they had this truck carved from a single redwood tree. We are total nature and history nerds, so we spent kind of a long time there.

Then we headed to the last part of our trip — driving through a tree!

There are actually several places where you can drive through a tree. But this one also had little cottages carved out of trees.

Seems like it would be a fun place to take a kid, no? We’ll definitely be back.

Christmas recap

Mike got this gorgeous shot of the bridge from the top of our hill.

After so many years of trying to squeeze in multiple family visits with minimal vacation time, it was really nice for Mike to have more than a week off work and nowhere to go for Christmas. But I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t have any big plans because it seemed like there were a million things to do last week. And since I didn’t have family around for this holiday, I tried to squeeze in some of my traditions — mostly involving indulgent foods — where I could.

We had quite an adventure getting a Christmas tree. I was just going to buy one at the Berkeley Bowl for around $20 like we did last year. But they were out of trees! So we went from lot to lot on our way home, gasping at the prices. We ended up paying $50+ for a noble fir, which seemed crazy to me (they didn’t even have hot apple cider!). But it is a beautiful tree.

Unfortunately, one day while we were out, the dogs decided to tear into our wrapped presents and ruin my surprise gift to Mike. The gift was a Sodastream (which is awesome and you should totally get one), so that night also involved trying to get colorful syrup smears out of our couch and carpet.

We made out pretty well in the gift department. Of course the baby got lots of adorable goodies, but we also got a new Cuisinart griddler (plus waffle plates, thanks babe!), and a grinder attachment for our KitchenAid mixer so Mike can make homemade sausage. I got Mike some fancypants Scotch and some curvy Belgian beer glasses.

I had a lot of orders to fill after Renegade, including some that needed to arrive before Christmas, so I was a busy bee knitting and boxing up orders. But I also made time for some baking every couple of days. I made Chex Mix and puppy chow, plus these yummy pecan balls from Real Simple. Then, from my classic cookie archive, I made peanut blossoms and sugar cookies.

And most importantly, Mike and I prepared a bundt pan of bubble bread on Christmas Eve so we could wake up to it Christmas morning. It was just as good as I remembered it.

For Christmas dinner we decided to try this recipe I found in the New York Times magazine for smothered pork chops with anise brine. I’d never brined anything before, but it was really easy to do the night before we cooked. (By the way, I halved the recipe). Though it takes some time to cook in a dutch oven, the recipe could not be simpler. And it was so, so good. Probably the best pork chops I’ve ever had, and the recipe makes a ton of gravy that goes well with mashed potatoes.

We watched A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, and all the other classic movies we could find on TV. Then we planned our trip to see the northern coastal redwoods, which I will tell you about very soon.