Monday, August 31, 2009

Frozen Key Lime Pie

Mmmmmm! Even though the temperatures are dropping (already!) and the neighbor's maple tree has blazing orange leaves, I had to indulge in one of my favorite summertime desserts this week. It is really too early for a high of 66 degrees and lows in the 40's overnight, but this is Minnesota after all, and one never can tell what the weather will mix up for us!

So, sitting in our hoodie sweatshirts and blankets draped over our laps, we savored one last bite of summer last weekend. Here is my favorite, uber simple summery delight-

Frozen Key Lime Pie

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups graham-cracker crumbs (11 rectangular graham crackers)
4 T. butter, melted
1 T. sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In 9 inch pie plate, with fork mix crumbs, melted butter, and sugar until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press mixture firmly onto bottom and up side of pie plate, making small rim. Bake 10 minutes; cool on wire rack.

For the pie filling:
4 limes (or 1/2 c. bottled lime juice)
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 c. heavy or whipping cream

From limes, grate 1 tablespoon peel and squeeze 1/2 c. juice. In large bowl, with wire whisk, stir sweetened condensed milk and lime peel and juice until well blended. In large bowl with mixer at medium speed, beat cream until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream, about one-third at a time, into lime mixture just until blended. Pour mixture into cooled crust. Cover and freeze at least 3 hours or up to 1 month. Let pie stand 10 minutes at room temperature for easier slicing. 10 servings.
Frozen Key Lime Pie: quick, light, creamy, economical, make-ahead, tart, refreshing, laid-back, satisfying yumminess!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sleeping Out

Eric has been wanting to make some meaningful memories with Eva lately, talking about intentionally "dating" his daughters. He spends lots of one on one time with them, but I guess tagging along on a trip to Home Depot and getting a special granola bar doesn't cut it anymore. Back in July, I read this, and suggested that Eric give it a whirl with Eva. She has been really, really excited about tenting out with Daddy (just Daddy!). Hope and I got to tag along for the roasting hot dogs and s'mores, but then Eric and Eva retired to the little tent in the back yard. Eva was giddy with excitement, even though she came in to the house at least twice to check in about inconsequential things. She was thrilled to play "Hi-Ho Cherry-O" in the tent, and when I asked what they talked about she said, "going to bed... and ballet."

When I went out to get them at 9 am this morning, they were well rested and Eva was still giddy with the fun of one-on-one Daddy time.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pregnancy Update: 33 Weeks

I haven't updated in a while about this pregnancy #3. There's really not much to tell, but I'll interview myself and give all the boring minutia along the way.

First, the most frequently asked question, "How are you feeling"?
Considering I am pregnant, I feel great! I definitely feel better at this point than I did with Hope, which is incredible, I think. Aren't pregnancies supposed to get increasingly difficult? The first trimester was no doubt my worst yet, but second and third trimesters have been good. I have had occasional sciatic nerve pain (like a total of 6 times), but no other back pain to speak of. I also have occasional hip pain, but again, it is no where near persistent enough to have me complaining. My biggest discomfort is that the baby is riding high this time. Both of the other girls were low, low, low from the start, so I never experienced heartburn, gasping for air just to carry a conversation, or leaning back to get a breath. The midwife tells me that my uterus is more "elastic" this time. I think she meant to say, "stretched out and weak"!

One other source of discomfort, and I don't know if I'm strange or nobody else talks about this... From about 22 weeks on, I always have a sore pelvic region. Everything is sore. I must have a weak pelvic wall. Or maybe weird hips. I don't know why, but by the end of each day, my crotch just aches. And in the middle of the night if I (try to) roll over, my pelvis groans and pops and cracks, like I'm cracking my knuckles. You know the really sore muscle feeling- after the first hard workout in a long time, you get out of bed the next morning and can't move. That's what my "pelvic region" is like every morning. But it warms up later, and like I said, I can't really complain overall. Do you other moms experience this too???

Katie always wants to know, how much weight have you gained?
At my 32 week appointment I weighed 155.4 pounds, which means I've gained just over 26 pounds. I might actually cross the finish line behind the 40 pound mark, and well behind the last two pregnancies. I already feel my postpartum body thanking me, not to mention my gleeful postpartum mental state! (knock on wood, everyone!)

Are you getting excited to see the baby?
Maybe a little bit. I've never been one to daydream about the baby before it's arrival, sadly. With this being #3, I'm wishing time would slow down just a little before we're flying through the turbulent days of adjusting to a newborn. I should remind myself that I've had very content babies so far, and I shouldn't expect anything different this time. But I think I have pretty low expectations for the other girls' adjustment period. We'll see...

Do you have everything ready for the arrival?
Ha! I have a list that contains no less than 25 things I want to get done before the big event. I have anywhere from 5 to 9 weeks to accomplish these goals (with one week of vacation in the mix), and I don't think I'm anywhere near ready. Today I managed to clean one set of blinds on one window, so at least I'm slowly chipping away at it though :). If past experience is any indication, the baby will be here in about 5.5 weeks, and I'll be content with the things that got done and the things that didn't. Unless I stop blogging and start doing... then maybe the list will be complete!

Are you doing anything to prepare for labor and breastfeeding?
Well, sort of. My goal is to walk each night (increasing the soreness of the above mentioned pelvic region), and so far I'm getting out regularly enough. I'd also like to review the Bradley method handbook and brush up on some relaxation techniques. Nutritionally, I am trying to amp up my calcium intake to ease the gosh-awful after labor pains and have more muscle endurance. I am primarily attempting to do this through vegetable sources like dandelion greens, kale, beets, and other leafy greens. I'd also like to take a little more coconut oil each day, keep up with the cod liver oil, and have a wheat grass shot once a week or so. Just yesterday I started my daily dose of red raspberry leaf infusion. I threw in nettle leaves as well, which are supposed to help with postpartum recovery, among other things. Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking tells all about it, pretty much exactly as I would explain it (references and all). There's a picture of my daily brew at the left.

What are you going to name the babe?
We don't know, but we have a short and uninspired list going. We're open to any suggestions!

Is the baby busy inside you?
Why yes, strange that you should ask that! This is a large motor skills child, I think. All movements (except for two days last week) are big and bold. She has very predictable sleep-wake patterns so far, and I'm suspecting we'll have a night owl on our hands :).

So, how are you sleeping?
Well! Finally, Hope sleeps well most nights (she's almost two, y'all!), so I only wake once or twice to go to the bathroom. Unless, of course, Eva has a bad dream or any one of a million other things happens in the middle of the night. I do try to make up for poor night sleeping with the occasional afternoon nap though.

Speaking of Hope, how is potty training going (crazy woman!)?
Well, that's not really about the pregnancy now, is it? But, good news! She likes it. She didn't have a single accident today, and we put undies on her for the first time this morning. She goes on command, and even recognizes the urge and runs to the potty sometimes, especially for #2 (phew!). Today was our third day, so I feel optimistic. I am not overly optimistic that she will be perfectly trained by the time the baby arrives, but at least we probably won't be struggling to train her. Yay! Hope's favorite reads right now are "Where's the Poop - a lift the flap book", "Michael's Big Boy Potty", and "I'm a Big Sister". Obviously, she is experiencing some major life transitions and trying her best to be well-informed on the issues at hand!

What!?! You're not going to post a picture of your enormous girth?
Say, that's not very nice! I would LOVE to post a picture from my sister's baby shower last week of the two of us and our pregnant cousin, Emily. However, I am still waiting for someone to send me the photos. When they arrive I will definitely post, and you'll see us for what we really are!
If you've stuck with me this long, you get a virtual gold star next to your name... longest post ever. Thanks, and nighty-night!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wishy-washy Wednesday

It was a watery wonderland Wednesday, in more ways than one. First, it rained. A lot. Second, Hope was initiated into the potty training hall of fame. or shame. or something. Actually, she did pretty well, ending the day with a few successful trips to the potty all by herself. I must say though, with the rain absolutely pouring down outside, the alley turned to a raging river, and the frequently flowing fluids inside, it really felt monsoon-ish around here.

The following pictures deserve some explanation. At lunch, Hope announced that she had peed in her booster seat. Being that I take the "bare bottom" approach to toilet training, soon there was a "sunny" marigold-colored puddle under her chair. On any other day I would have taken the whole ensemble to the patio to be sprayed down with the garden hose. Today, I just tossed the booster onto the patio. Soon, I looked out the kitchen window to see the already-potty-trained one stirring a soup of rain water, beach toys, gardening tools, and urine soaked booster seat. Later, there was a knock on the back door and a high pitched voice announced, "Delivery! Your new chair." I said, "Thank you very much!" At this point, if you question both my parenting and housekeeping skills, I don't blame you. In my own defense, the rain was the warm, play-in-it variety, and the chair got thoroughly cleansed after an afternoon on the back stoop. Of greater importance, we all still have our sanity, which is an accomplishment on such a wringing-wet Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Campfire Cooking III: the Staycation Version

We've harassed our nearest and dearest friends about never inviting us along on camping trips for as long as we've known them. To their credit, we did camp together once about 3 years ago, and once because our entire small group from church went. Somehow, our nagging finally won them over (I'm not sure that's always a recipe for success, folks!), and they suggested we set a date for this summer. After much procrastinating, we decided on the weekend of August 8th. And after much more procrastinating, we discovered that every place we wanted to camp was full for that weekend. We set up an alternative plan involving a nearby campground, and everyone was pleased and excited. BUT, as I drove to the nearby campground at 7:15 AM to attempt to guarantee any available campsite, I realized we were in a torrential downpour that showed no signs of stopping. After several quick phone conferences, we determined that this (our final planned camping trip of the season) would be a sleepover at our house.

Frankly, this option suited us all well. I appreciated a whole extra day at home with nothing planned. I recall getting a lot done, though I can't remember what! When it thunder stormed most of the night, we were happy that we weren't holding down the tent stakes with a four year old and three girls under two. And, when I did a single load of laundry the next day and packed and unpacked nothing, I thought maybe we should make sleepovers an annual event. Wahoo!

I had, however, planned for a lot of camping food. So, we replicated our rainy campsite in our own intermittently rainy backyard. The dinner menu was meatloaf flower dinner in the dutch oven. It is basically a ring of meatloaf, with a pretty arrangement of carrots, potatoes, and asparagus in the center.
The flavors are nothing out of the ordinary, but it was fun to put together! We had planned to make stick biscuits (using refrigerated biscuit dough) over the fire, but I popped them in our oven instead. A simple green salad came along for the ride! Here are the proud tender of the coals and the finished (wilted) product:

Here are the girls enjoying their outdoor meal:

After throwing the dirty dishes in the automatic dishwasher (see staycations are pretty sweet!), we lit up the fire for some tasty desserts.

The desserts, Hobo Pies and S'mores, are ordinary pleasures to some, but they should not be overlooked in one's camp food repertoire. In case you need a visual tutorial-

Eva demonstrates an effective heat shield for one's face, in the occasion you have both short arms and a short roasting stick.

This is the cast-iron hobo pie iron, double wide. To make a hobo pie, you must thoroughly butter the inside of the pie iron, place a piece of bread on one side of the iron, add fillings of your choice (we used canned apple pie filling, but broken-up snickers bars are my fave!), and top with a second piece of bread. Clamp the pie iron closed, and place it in the fire, turning occasionally. Depending on the heat of the fire, these can cook up really fast, so be sure to check your progress often! Here are side by side "apple pies."

In this photo, my husband demonstrates "double fisting it" with s'mores :)

Although the original s'more is pretty delicious (albeit a little sweet for my tastes), there are many incredible variations on the theme. One of our favorites lately has been to skip the Hershey's bar and graham cracker and use Keebler Fudge Stripe cookies instead. And a word to the wise, on Eva's prodding I caved and bought "strawberry" marshmallows last summer (you know, the pink ones!). Though they might have eye appeal, they are not delicious campfire fare. I doubt the multi-colored variety would be any better. Just a warning based on our own personal research :)!

The rest of our sleepover involved indoor cooking, movie watching, board games, an indoor pool, and a rainy picnic, but we had a blast nonetheless. Here are some parting shots: what are little ladies to do when it rains for 36 hours straight, but DANCE!?!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ohio Vacation: Final Edition

Did you think I forgot all about the last days of our Ohio vacation? I know you were waiting on the edge of your seat for it (hah!). Truthfully, I've been without my computer for a week or more now, and have had to use Eric's laptop which does not house any of our family pictures. So, we were on hold. But we're back now!

So, we spent our last day in CW in a very laid back fashion. In the morning we hit some neighborhood garage sales, finding a few little treasures. The girls were starting to really melt down from all the chaos of the week. I mean -good- chaos... you know, vacationing and sightseeing is just very different from our predictable days at home. So, garage saling was not the greatest outing for hot, crabby, hungry, tired little girls. But we all survived, and maybe even had a little fun along the way.

After much needed naps, we decided to hit the CW pool. Due to Ryan's status and popularity in their small town, we were waved on through the admission gate, saving a few bucks. The girls had a lot of fun playing in the pool and meeting other little fishies to splash with. One kind little girl shared her goggles and foam noodle, which were a total thrill for our uninitiated little swimmers!Ryan and Eric goaded each other on to great acts of bravery on the 3 m. diving board, which (to me) seemed like child's play after the cliff jumping adventure earlier in the week. For some reason, they were both a little nervous about the high dive, but by the end of the afternoon they had conquered their fears. Stephanie even took a turn, making a great splash in her sunny, yellow swimsuit. After pool fun, we headed back to the house for pizza and packing. We sat on the patio eating small town pizza and drinking Ryan's home brew (except I drank water :). And watching Thor gnaw on unripe black walnuts. It was perfectly restful.

I have no recollection of our activities after pizza, aside from lots of packing and puting little children to bed. I do recall my last full night's sleep on the world's most comfortable couch though (a pregnant woman says so!). We slept in every morning in CW, and both Eric and I LOVED sleeping on the long brown couches. They were perfectly supportive and cushy, and for some reason we woke each day feeling wonderfully rested. I'd say that is a great feat to be accomplished by couch sleeping!

Anyway, after one more night on the couches, we quietly slipped out the door and into the van at 6:15 the next morning. Mercifully, the weather was basically cool and rainy most of the way home. We had another excellent day of travelling, sans air conditioning, and made excellent time cruising across the Midwest. Once we hit the MN border it was like a switch flipped, and the girls immediately started bugging each other. So, 30 minutes from home, we pulled over for our first and only disciplinary action in the car. All in all, after 30 total hours of driving, they did well and I cannot complain! We're already planning our next journey East, although we're doubtful it will be next summer. Maybe the following year, and maybe I'll be 28 weeks pregnant on arrival as it's been the last two trips!

And that's all about the Ohio vacation.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Ladies and kids swimming day at the Flu's pool.

I guess it's nap time...

Won't be able to load us and another family in the van much longer!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

What's in YOUR freezer?

An unofficial baby countdown has begun around here. My sister is officially full term, due in just under three weeks. I am on the downhill slope, due in 9 weeks. The next nine weeks will fly by no doubt, so I am starting to think I should make a list of all the things that really need to get done, as well as all the things that I really want to get done but realistically won't accomplish. I know myself, and that's how it goes folks. Babies don't really need much, but moms of new babies seem to need an awful lot. That is, we need a lot of help, a lot of preplanning, a lot of grace for unwashed floors (to say the least), a lot of sleep, a lot of bottled sanity. No, it's not really that bad, but I am starting to mentally prepare myself for the first few months with another little one. Sigh.

Truthfully, it's not the housework or the exhaustion, or attending to the baby that has me worried. It's the other two little girls. They have been largely difficult to be around for the last few weeks, which I hope is attributed to our chaotic summer schedule and constant diet of junk food and no sleep. I hope it's that, and not a complete personality shift to whininesss, hyper-sensitivity, bossiness (the eldest), and pickiness (the youngest). Call me crazy (it's OK, because I probably am certifiable), but I think I'm puting Hope in potty-training boot camp on Monday too. So, we can add bathroom stressed to the list of adjectives describing Hope, and wearied to the adjectives describing mom.

Are you wondering what in the world all of this has to do with freezers??? In a Spirit inspired move of generosity, my mom and her sister (Aunt Mary) offered to make my sister and I some meals to put in the freezer for after the babies come. I thought it was a brilliant idea, so the girls and I sallied up to my parent's house one day last week to help with the preparations. For the record, that was the happiest, least demanding day the girls had last week... thank goodness! Anyway, my Aunt led the charge in the kitchen, with my mom, sister, and I helping for a good 8 hours. When we fell into bed that night, the freezer was jam-packed with:

3 loaves of squash bread - 2 loaves of cranberry bread - 2-3 dozen carrot muffins - 2 macaroni & cheese casseroles - 2 chicken parmigiana casseroles - 2 stuffed shells casseroles - 2 bags of BBQ shredded beef - 2 pots of black bean soup - 2 gallons of cabbage-beef soup

Add that to my previously started stash of two Mexican meatloaves and two chicken-spinach-rice casseroles, and I'm feeling very good about what's in my freezer. If I spend an afternoon making bar cookies or other desserts, I should be basically prepared to bring "a dish" to some unforeseen gathering or opportunity for hospitality. I think I'll still try to freeze some homemade waffles and muffin tin quiches to help out with breakfasts, but honestly, the bulk of my pre-baby cooking is done. Yay!

Now, if there is a Fairy Godmother out there who can do some pre-baby child training and housework for me, that would be great. I imagine it neatly packaged and waiting for me in the hall closet, ready to pull out in a moment of exhaustion, desperation, or general meltdown... any takers?!? :)

Monday, August 03, 2009

Ohio Vacation Day 6

We've been busy, busy, busy around here, so I haven't had much free time for blogging. I'm back to chronicling the Ohio trip for two more days though.

On Thursday of the great adventure, we took a much anticipated trip to the Columbus Zoo. This zoo is rated one of the top zoos in the nation, and, based on our experience, it certainly lived up to it's reputation! We only saw about 2/5 of the whole zoo, but it was really fun and we can't wait to go back and see the rest.
One unique thing at the zoo right now is the baby elephant exhibit. Apparently it is very rare for baby elephants to be born in captivity, and we were lucky enough to see one. We waited in line for 30 minutes or so, but it was definitely worth it. The elephant calf was super cute, and watching the mama and baby interact was really endearing. We didn't take any pictures of the actual animal, but here is one of the girls sitting on a bronze elephant outside the exhibit. Here we are eating lunch in the zoo. The girls picked out all sorts of junky snacks to bring along in our little brown bags (is there anyone else out there who is inexplicably fond of brown paper bags?!?) along with PBJs and fruits and veggies.I'd like to prove that we actually saw animals at the zoo, but I took very few pictures. Here is a sting ray in the aquarium exhibit, just for proof :).
At the end of the day, upon realizing that I had been negligent with the camera, I made the girls sit in front of a huge photo of a frog. Enormous frog pictures shout "I went to the zoo!", right?!?
Eva quickly shifted to silly faces, so there aren't too many great shots. We indulged the eldest daughter by allowing her to get her face painted, so you can see the really sweet green bird she chose here.

Final installment coming soon... stay tuned!