Alone with Harper

Last week was a pretty big week for us. Mike had a business trip to DC, so I was planning to be alone with Harper for a whole 3 days. That may not seem like much, but it was the longest we’d ever be without dad, and it sounded really scary. Then Mike’s grandma passed away, and 3 days turned into a week. 

My first inclination was to panic. But it was the only situation that made sense at the time, so I accepted it. And it was so fascinating what changed during that week. It was like all the fears and doubts I had about my ability to take care of Harper slowly melted away. Even though I care for her every day there’s still a part of me deep down that thinks I either can’t do this or am not good at it. I don’t think I realized before that I was harboring all that. But as the week went on and I realized that I was doing just fine on my own, I relaxed. It was honestly one of the least stressful weeks since she was born. 

I had a pretty big load of orders to make, too. But since I had no one to help me out — in the evenings, especially — I sort of switched into a different mode where I knew I could only get tiny bits of work done here and there. I just didn’t stress about that. And the crazy thing is that I got all my orders done and with much less fretting than usual. So I’m trying to move forward with that new philosophy. I won’t push it when I’m just not able to get something finished.

I also don’t think I realized how much I had been needing some completely alone time. That was something I always had in bits and pieces before, but haven’t really had since Harper was born. I really enjoyed having a few evenings to myself after she went to sleep. I could read what I wanted, watch what I wanted, eat what I wanted. Of course I missed Mike, but think about how much alone time he got! We all need that, and it’s OK.

I know this post has become kind of a brain dump, but I just wanted to mention one other thing that became clear after last week. I think something that has been holding me back from truly being able to enjoy parenting is this constant feeling that we just need to get through this next challenge, weather the fill-in-the-blank (teething, growth spurt, cold) storm, and then everything will be better. But that’s not how it works. There will always be a next thing. And if you spend all your time looking ahead to some perfect time, you’ll never truly be present in your child’s life.

I know that once I accepted that concept, I felt so much closer to Harper and happier in this role. It’s like that wonderful roller coaster metaphor in the movie “Parenthood” (one of my faves). This is a roller coaster and it’s truly nuts sometimes. But you have to get on board to enjoy the ride. You have to tilt your head back and take in all the gut-dropping slides. The last couple days with a feverish baby have brought that home, for sure. But I think I appreciate her in ways I never have before. Seeing her finally master mobility last week made me so proud. I instantly had these visions of her wobbling across a stage in a tutu or kicking a soccer ball into a net someday. I finally get what that feels like. It feels pretty amazing.

Saying goodbye

Tomorrow is the funeral for Mike’s grandmother, Catherine. She was an amazing lady — a nurse, a master gardener, even a pilot (as a teenager!). She will be missed.

Kansas + Iowa

After last year’s epic tour of the Midwest for Thanksgiving we decided to split up future holiday visits to our families. It’s just too crazy to try to see everyone in one trip. So we put our Mason family celebration in Kansas first, and we made it a little early so we could get more affordable flights. I also really wanted to squeeze in a side trip to Des Moines to see friends there (plus all their new babies), so we rented a car to make that happen.

We were really hoping to experience a true fall season, something we both greatly miss. And wow were we rewarded with fall in all its glory. We had great weather most of the time, with just a bit of chill and plenty of brilliant leaves to run through.

And of course we had some excellent food. We went straight from the airport to Oklahoma Joe’s for some authentic KC barbecue. Oh my gosh, it was unbelievable. And huge! Talk about a change of pace. I had enough fries to feed 3 people, and my whole lunch was like $6!

I don’t normally like ribs that much, but theirs were in a league of their own. Just fall-off-the-bone tender. I’m thinking we should make this a tradition every time we visit.

Something about the sky on the way home was really lovely. Black trees against a golden sunset and fields of hay bales. I must have been away long enough to appreciate it in a new way.

Friday we drove up to Des Moines. Can’t say I see a lot of this in the bay area.

We wanted to see the new Des Moines Register building. When we worked for the Register, the old building was in pretty sad shape. Now their new space looks fantastic, all shiny and new.

We checked out their recording studio and got to pretend we were on the Bryce Miller show.

It seems like so many of our former coworkers have moved on to other jobs, but we still know a ton of people there. It was great to catch up.


Harper got to ring the copy desk joke bell. 

After that we headed to the always adorable East Village where we got to say hi to my friend Karen from Ephemera.

We also had to check out Stitch, a new knitting/sewing store that is exactly what I would create if I could design my own craft store.

I definitely left with some gorgeous yarns. I couldn’t help myself.

Des Moines was looking particularly lovely that night as the sun set.

This is the part where I could just kick myself for not taking some pictures. We went to visit our friends Tim and Gretchen who just had triplets a few months ago. (I always think of them when I think my life is hard.) They are handling it amazingly well. You can follow Tim on Instagram if you want to see their adorable babies.

After that (yes, this was an epic day) we met up with our friends Brianne, Joe, and baby Emmett and our friend Arin with her baby Jonah for dinner at A Dong. It was kind of crazy with 3 babies, as you can imagine, but so much fun. We miss A Dong so much!

After that we just hung out, drank wine, and ate cupcakes from Creme Cupcake. They only had vegan stuff left at the end of the day, but my coconut cupcake was damn good.

The next morning our babies got to hang out a little bit.


Someday the paper will go from chew toy to actual reading.


Sweetness.

Harper gets a kick out of all dogs, so of course she was entertained by Wilbur, who looks like a fox.

Emmett is just such a sweet baby. I kind of wanted to put him in my bag and carry him off.

Before we left town that morning we decided to take a walk around Brianne’s lovely neighborhood. I was kind of obsessing over the trees, but they were so pretty.


You too could own a pair of hand-knit baby legwarmers

I mean look at that!

I definitely get a lump in my throat when I think about how much I wish I could do this every day.

But I’m glad we got the chance to spend some time together.

When we got back to Lawrence we had a big family gathering with our Mason cousins. Harper got to play with her cousin Isla, who was only 5 weeks old when I met her last year.

Both of the great grandmas were there, which was so cute. We got to take some four-generation photos.

Harper got ultra spoiled with gifts. She basically giggled and shrieked all night. I think she was really overstimulated, but I know she was having fun.

Auntie Erin had to put in a bunch of laps while uncle Jason made the stuffed dog bark.

Later we got to have a little date while my mom stayed with Harper. Erin and Jason invited us to Merchants Pub & Plate in downtown Lawrence. We had some drinks and dessert (sweet potato donuts – fab!). Then we stopped by Erin’s parents’ house to meet their dogs. Believe it or not they have 3 Newfoundland mixes and a Great Pyrenees. Miss Bella owned the dog bed though.

Speaking of dogs, Charlotte was pretty jealous of Harper getting all the attention. She did eventually warm up to her though.

And she knew exactly where to stand when we had friends over for dinner.

The rest of the time we got to relax a little.

We made a big trip to Home Depot so Mike could take on some home-improvement projects.


The extent of our plumbing knowledge. 

The rest of us took some photos in the back yard. Mom’s weeping willow was looking so beautiful.

And we found Harper looked really cute in this red metal chair.

I also did a little shopping in downtown Lawrence. I picked up some cute earrings for Megan at Made, which carries all handmade goodies (including some familiar ones from the bay area!).

I also got a onesie made for Harper from Acme Tshirts. They have so many good ones to choose from.

We were sad to leave, but we have more family visits coming up in December. My dad and stepmom will be here mid-month. And then we’ll be traveling to Wisconsin and Minnesota for Christmas. Looking forward to seeing many more familiar faces.

9 months

This month’s post is a little late due to our Midwest trip (more about that later). But this month has been so busy I hardly remember what happened anyway. I know Harper went through a lot of developmental changes.

At the beginning of the month she was a cheerful, easygoing baby. I had one blissful week where it seemed like I could put her down and she would entertain herself while I got my work done. I had more work than usual, so it came in handy.

But as the month progressed she became more fussy and clingy, always wanting my attention and to be carried around. That is so hard when I’m staring down a huge to-do list! But I think I realized it was important to give her the extra attention while she was having a tough time. Her two top teeth started to show underneath her gums and although they haven’t popped through, I think they have contributed to her moods.


Her hair has thickened and grown into a delightful little swoop.

She’s also made some rapid changes in her mobility and communication. She went from barely being able to pick up her legs while we practiced walking to racing down the hallways while one of us barely supports her. Our poor backs are killing us, but it’s a lot of fun. 

She can also stand up for several minutes while balancing on something, sometimes with just one hand. I don’t think it will be long before she starts trying to stand up all on her own.


Who needs a walker when you have a pouf?

Still no crawling, but maybe it just won’t happen. She’s certainly improved her reach. One time we were at the grocery store and she reached out her arm and knocked a whole bunch of boxes off a shelf. Needless to say we’ve amped up our babyproofing. 

She had started to attempt waving last month, but this month she figured it out. Now all you have to do is say “hi” and she waves. She also figured out clapping (so adorable) and high-fiving. She looooves to bang on things, so anything that makes a clapping sound is fun for her. 

We had a lot of fun dressing her up as Princess Leia for Halloween.

We took her to a moms group gathering where we got to put her together with about 15 other babies. That was total cute overload. 

Speaking of cute overload, her new bathtub is super adorable. How could I resist that?

Oh, I almost forgot another development this month. She has become cuddly again.

Although she is pretty squirmy most of the time, she will cuddle up to you when she’s sleepy. She’s started falling asleep in our arms for naps or before bedtime. 

That could be part of the reason she’s also started protesting her naps like crazy. I think she doesn’t want to be alone in her crib, so she often cries even when I know she’s tired. That has been rough. Do I give comfort or discipline?

I still struggle with that, but this past week has been better. As I now know very well, having a baby is a total roller coaster and sometimes you just don’t know the answers. 

Harper is just as social as ever. She is constantly looking around for people to communicate with. I’m glad she is such a smiley outgoing baby. Though it’s definitely different from my personality, I love to see her developing into her own little self. 

Another change this month: girlfriend is hungry! She not only eats bits of what we eat, she can suck down whole packages of baby food, plus several milk feedings a day. I think she is moving so much that she is constantly burning energy.

And since she shows no signs of slowing down I think she will just eat more and more. I’ve figured out how to make my own baby food, so that’s been fun. Pretty much all of her 9-month outfits are smudged with food stains, but oh well. 

I am also relieved to say that Harper is a really good traveler. We took her on two 3+ hour flights to Kansas, plus two 3.5 hour drives to Iowa and she was a champ through all of it. Plus we added 2 more time changes right after daylight savings. We have another trip coming up in December, so I hope she’s good then too.

Blue Bottle waffles, take 2

A while back I attempted to make waffles similar to the handheld ones Blue Bottle Coffee sells alongside their tiny, expensive, and totally awesome coffees. 😉  

They were tasty, but not quite right. I learned I had bought the wrong kind of pearl sugar to go inside the waffles. So I ordered some Belgian pearl sugar chunks, and they were just right.

I gave myself enough time to let the batter rise overnight and used this recipe for liege waffles.

In the morning the batter had puffed up and was nice and airy.

I dropped in the chunks of pearl sugar and let them soak in the batter for 15 minutes.

The batter was so sticky that it just sort of plopped onto the waffle maker and was really easy to work with. I didn’t try to spread it out, so some of the waffles had those signature rough edges. Definitely closer to the originals!

The waffles got better as I made more, and some of the sugar chunks melted onto the waffle maker.

My only complaint is that the waffles tasted kind of eggy. Which is not surprising since the recipe calls for 5 eggs! There was also a recipe on the sugar box that only called for 2 eggs, so I might try that next time (or a combination of the two).

I suppose it would help to have an actual Belgian waffle maker, but we are so out of space in our kitchen!

Pom poms!

I am so excited to share that two friends from college, Sarah Goldschadt and Lexi Walters, wrote this super fun book about pom-pom crafts.

I couldn’t wait to dig into it and make some poms. The back of the book shows you how to make templates for different sized poms.

I started out by making a giant one for the top of a knit hat in Green Bay Packers colors. I’m thinking I might be making a lot of these for family members!

I also made this fun Christmas ornament out of stripey cupcake liners.

I wish I had some minis. They would be adorable next to the big one.

I also tried making the tiniest of poms out of bakers twine.

I have a whole jar of bakers twine in different colors, so I am excited to make more. And those hedgehogs… as soon as I get more free time.

Pom-Poms: 25 Awesomely Fluffy Projects is available now, and you will definitely want a copy in your stocking this year!

One day, hour by hour

I really liked Erin’s idea of documenting a day, hour by hour, so I thought I would try it. When you’re home with a baby there is no average day, but I think this day (Monday) turned out to be a pretty good picture of our daily life. 

7:30 a.m.

Because of daylight savings time, Harper woke up extra early and Mike got up with her about 6:45. He usually lets me sleep a little longer since that’s their time together before he goes to work. When I got up, he was feeding her some baby food I’d made over the weekend.

8:30 a.m.

I tried putting her in her jumper to play, but she didn’t want to.

She used to love that thing, but not anymore. She seems to be making a developmental leap — mimicking, clapping, trying to stand/walk — that is making life chaotic lately. Note to self: get some next-stage toys!

9:30 a.m.

Mike left for work, so now I am trying to check some things off my to-do list. One of them was to try to get a replacement wheel for our stroller. After a few minutes with a grumpy customer service rep, I am told a replacement is on the way.

10:30 a.m.

I’m working on some pom-pom projects for an upcoming blog post. 

Harper is starting to get cranky, so I give her a cold teether. Her two top teeth are starting to come in, so that always makes days more challenging.

11:30 a.m.

Harper is an epic nap warrior. She has always taken short naps, and after getting into a routine of 4 30-minute naps a day, she is now down to two. And she fights hard to go down for them. After another major battle I finally get her to go down. I had to sneak in her room to get this photo of her.

After she woke up, a mere 20 minutes later, I realized that her leg was actually stuck in the bars of her crib. Now I feel terrible!

12:30 p.m.

After lunch (leftover pot pie, which I shared with her), I got some dishes washed.

Harper decided to play with a whisk on the floor. She is very into anything that is not an actual toy.

1:30 p.m.

Harper plays with some toys on my lap. I can tell she is still tired from only having one short nap, especially when she starts slumping over. 

I feel like I have to be consistent with her napping in the crib, so we battle again for her to go to sleep in there.

2:30 p.m.

The nap thing didn’t really work. I was so nervous about her sleeping position that I kept interrupting her sleep. When I finally gave up and took her out of the crib, she was not too happy.

3:30 p.m.

I realized that maybe I was being too strict about the naps and that maybe with the teething, the developmental changes, and the cold she has, she probably needs some extra comfort. So I cuddled up to her in our bed and she fell asleep. For an hour!

Poor thing was exhausted. I eventually got up and worked on the computer while she slept.

4:30 p.m.

Post-nap, Harper is in a much better mood. I assemble some cloth diapers while she plays. Usually we get some kind of outing in the afternoon, but we ran out of time today.

5:30 p.m.

I have one order to finish from a big group of orders I got last week. So I get to knitting. 

6:30 p.m.

I make dinner.

Harper feeds herself one of those baby food packets. She used to only eat a few bites of baby food here and there, but now she has a huge appetite. 

7:30 p.m.

Dinner is ready (veggie chili) and Mike is home.

I live for this part of the day when I get a little break! 

8:30 p.m.

Harper’s bed time. She ends up falling asleep on me without her bedtime feeding.

She hasn’t been this cuddly since she was a month old, and I have to admit I love it!

9:30 p.m.

Now that we don’t have cable, we are totally hooked on “Dancing with the Stars.” Tonight Cher is a guest judge. She’s still rockin’ it. 

I use my baby-free time to get a little more work done. This time of year I’m usually stockpiling accessories for the Renegade Craft Fair in December. 

10:30 p.m. 

Bedtime. Sometimes I get some reading done before I go to sleep, but not tonight. It’s been a long day. 

Easy peasy pizza

Believe it or not, I have never made pizza from scratch. Mike is the head pizza baker in our house, so I have never been motivated to try it out. But I saw Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for “Lazy Pizza Dough” and that sounded right up my alley!


Dough before rising.

I tried it last week, and it turned out really well. The crust was delicious, and cooked all the way through. I followed her advice for draining the extra liquid off the whole peeled tomatoes before I blended them for the sauce, and that really helped. But the best part is that it really was easy. I followed the instructions for a 6-hour rise. And even though the dogs ruined my first batch of dough while I was out running an errand, I managed to make a second dough and let it rise enough to still have pizza at dinnertime. That’s a forgiving dough!


Dough after rising.

Since the dough recipe makes enough for 2 pizzas, I decided to make them different styles. One with traditional red sauce (whole peeled tomatoes blended up with garlic and basil), plus mozzarella cheese, Italian sausage, caramelized onions, and spinach.

For the second one I mixed up some leftover shredded chicken with barbecue sauce. I used more barbecue sauce in place of the red sauce and then topped it with the chicken, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese mixed in with the mozzarella.

They were both really good. Mike preferred the sausage one and I liked the chicken one, so it worked out well.


Not the most beautiful pizza, but it tasted good!

I did have to add a little extra water to my dough, something she mentions in an edit of her original post. And I had a hard time stretching it out on the pans, but that might have been because the dough did not rise long enough.

I think in the future I will try an overnight rise, and I might also use some whole wheat flour and maybe a little honey. I’m glad to know that I can actually make pizza from scratch, and I will definitely be making this again.

33


My peanut butter birthday cake. 

I never had that freakout you’re supposed to have at 30. So many exciting things were happening in my life at that time — getting married, moving to California, turning my focus to the business — that it didn’t seem like there was anything to worry about. I felt the same at 31 and 32. But this birthday feels a little different.

I’m sure it’s the becoming-a-parent thing. But it really gives you this sense of closing one door and opening another. Like I’m finally accepting that one era of my life is over and I will never have it again. You certainly are never the same once you have kids. And that’s a good thing, but there is definitely some mourning for all the good things about being young(er) and carefree.

In the past year I’ve put my body through hell physically, so there’s also a bit of the ‘it ain’t what it used to be’ going on there. I’m so impressed with my body for being able to grow a human, but all the stretching and weight gain/loss and sleepless nights take their toll. I’m not saying I feel old. I just feel different. I think I have to figure out who I am in this new identity. Because although I’ve always wanted to be a mom, I’m so many things I never thought I would be — a business owner, a Californian, a person who is very far outside of her comfort zone. Maybe that’s what 33 will be. Finding out who I am now that I’ve opened that other door and stepped on through.

Vanilla bean ice cream

I fiddled with the recipe for vanilla mint chip ice cream to come up with a simple vanilla bean ice cream that would be perfect for any occasion when you want to top some fabulous dessert with a scoop of vanilla. I love that the recipe uses honey for the sugar and that it’s so simple to make. But I don’t love the fact that the eggs aren’t cooked at all. So I sort of combined the recipe with the technique from the Bi-Rite ice creams I’ve made in the past — this will allow you to temper the eggs before you put the mixture into the ice cream maker. The result was just what I was hoping for — thick, creamy, and studded with flecks of vanilla bean. 

I’m sorry I don’t have photos of the process, but I will add them to this post in the future if I get some taken. 

Vanilla bean ice cream
A simple vanilla ice cream for all occasions. Makes 1 quart.
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups heavy cream
  2. 1 cup whole milk
  3. 1/2 cup honey
  4. Scrapings from 1 vanilla bean
  5. 2 egg yolks
Instructions
  1. Whisk the cream and milk together in a saucepan set over medium-low heat. When the mixture begins to bubble ever so slightly at the edges of the pan, stir in the honey until it dissolves. Then whisk in the vanilla bean scrapings.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Carefully scoop out 1/2 cup of the milk/cream and very slowly pour it into the bowl of egg yolks, whisking the whole time. Repeat with another 1/2 cup of milk/cream.
  3. Now slowly pour the egg yolk mixture back into the heated pan, whisking as you pour. Continue cooking the mixture until it thickens slightly, maybe 2 more minutes. It should coat a spatula.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat. Pour it over a fine mesh strainer into a big bowl. This will remove any bits of egg that tried to scramble.
  5. Let the mixture cool down before you cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  6. When the ice cream is nice and cold, pour the mix into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Mine took about 25 minutes.
Notes
  1. If your ice cream seems like it still has some lumps after you cooled it in the fridge, go ahead and put it through the strainer one more time.
Adapted from Nourished Kitchen
Adapted from Nourished Kitchen
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/