Friday, July 31, 2009

But Mommy's Isn't Ready for Just One Nap...

Baby is almost eighteen months old now, and it's becoming painfully clear to me that he's ready to go down to just one nap a day. From what I've read, he's at the bottom end of the spectrum, and some kids as young as twelve months old make that transition. I think the reason Baby hasn't is because he wakes up so ridiculously early (for instance, he was up and babbling at 6 this morning), but that's because he gets so much sleep during the day.

The thing is, I kind of need that me-time for my sanity. Even if I'm cleaning during all of my baby-free time, it's still baby-free time. And going down to one nap is definitely going to lessen the amount of baby-free time I get. This is kind of not cool with me, I'm embarrassed to say. I'm so selfish!

Over the last week, I've been experimenting with the napping - laying him down some days for a morning nap to see what I happens. Does he fall asleep? Does he just have some peaceful quiet time? It's been a mixed bag. Some days, he has fallen asleep. Some days, he just cuddles with his blanket and rolls around.

So peaceful when he's sleeping...though he's only pretending in this picture

I don't remember having such a hard time giving up the third nap, way back when. Maybe I was still so sleep-deprived then that I didn't quite realize what I was giving up. Don't get me wrong, I will do what's best for Baby...just begrudgingly. And it will take some serious getting used to. I'm usually counting down the minutes to his morning nap, because I'm tired in the morning and because I'm not as much fun in the morning, so Baby is more prone to getting frustrated with me. Just because I don't wake up all perky and happy like the DJ on Yo Gabba Gabba. (BTW, that show is really kind of creepy, but Baby loves it, on the rare occasion that I turn on the TV. He sees Brobee and just starts flailing his arms around. Hilarious.)

So I think perhaps today will be our last 2 nap day for a long time, and only because our furniture salesperson screwed up setting up our delivery window for today for our new bedroom furniture (yay!). Au revoir to you, Morning Nap. You have been so wonderful for so long, you will certainly be missed.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Personal Training Day Ten:

Today was a good workout. And by good, I mean, that I felt the burn, but that I wasn't going to fall over from feeling said burn. We worked on the upper body, but with a combination of free weights and weight machines, so that was a nice change of pace. Not to mention that I was totally rocking out to my new workout playlist, which made the workout that much more bearable.

For me, music is integral for working out. Music, in addition in this case to my friends and the little jokes we crack in between catching our breath, makes the workouts survivable, even when they're really hard. I think an iPod or some other kind of music device is positively mandatory for working out. I've forgotten my iPod all of one time in my three or four months of working out now, and the one time I did, I plugged my headphones (because somehow, I remembered those) into the TV on the elliptical to pass the time, which didn't work out so hot.

Given how important music is to me when I work out, I thought I would share with you my Top Ten Workout Songs (which also double as my top ten for any kind of physical activity, like cleaning or vacuuming, too). And I'd love to hear about some of your favorites, too! You'll probably notice that a lot of these are older, retro songs, but that's just how I roll, I guess. Totally not on purpose.

1. Survivor "Eye of the Tiger" - Such a total classic, from the "Rocky" movies, it really gets my blood pumping, even at the end of a workout when I want to just fall over.

2. Britney Spears "Womanizer" or "Toxic" (a tie) - I'm a smidge embarrassed to say that I own some of Britney Spears's music, but she makes great music to work out to. Both of these songs make you just want to move, and that's the whole point.

3. Janet Jackson "Pleasure Principle" - This one actually is on the list because of the accompanying music video, which is for some reason burned into my brain. When I hear this, I just picture Janet running all over the place, and pounding on mirrors and such, and it just makes me energized.

4. Rob Base and DJ EZ-Rock "It Takes Two" - This might just be the best song of all time. It always puts a huge grin on my face, no matter when I hear it, and smiling and feeling happy will always make your workout go by faster!

5. Salt-n-Pepa "Push It" - I love this song. I totally rock out (in my head) to this whenever I hear it. It's totally motivational, like they know I'm working out, and they're telling me to work just a little harder. I know, it sounds stupid, but it really is an awesome workout song.

6. Jamiroquai "Canned Heat" - This one also has an image associated with it. This song was featured in the movie "Center Stage," which was kind of like a poor-man's-ballet-version of "Fame" not too many years ago. Love the movie. They used this song for the last part of the last performance, of a super-modern ballet, and I loved the dance they performed to this.

7. Say Anything "Alive with the Glory of Love" - This song just has an awesome beat, you can't help getting up to move when you hear it.

8. Michael Jackson "Beat It" - To be fair, this has been on my workout list for a long time, not just because the man passed away recently. I always loved Michael Jackson's videos, the dance breaks especially. "Beat It" was probably my favorite, with the whole gang-motif and everything.

9. The Dan Band "Milkshake" - This is a remake of Kelis's "Milkshake"...but by a guy. If you've seen "The Hangover," the Dan Band is the wedding band that cracked you up. Enough said. (And if you haven't seen "The Hangover," go see it tonight. You will thank me.)

(NOTE: This isn't "Milkshake," I couldn't find that on You Tube, but this is equally hilarious!)

10. Foo Fighters "Everlong" - This gets me pumped up for some reason. Maybe it's the guitar riffs. Maybe it's because it's just one step removed from Nirvana. I don't know, but it works!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Personal Training Day Nine: Jane Fonda Reincarnate?

Phew, training today was tough. We always do a lower body workout on Tuesdays, and it's always way more cardio-intense than our Thursday workout. Between the fact that we had the evil box and the table to step up and down on today, it was a miracle I didn't fall off anything. But, even without falling off anything, I seem to have hurt myself a little.

By the end of our hard-core workout, I had one last thing to do - my second visit with the evil box for the day. Our trainer was having us do the little 80's skip-hop up and down over the box, which we've done several times now, but the first time I tried to do it, something about my left ankle felt a little wrong, so I did it again, and it felt worse. A third time proved not to be the charm, so I pulled my trainer aside and told her that I surely wasn't wimping out, but that my ankle didn't seem to be onboard with the idea of doing the box. No problem, says my trainer. You can skip in place.

Skip in place? Oh yes. I felt oh-so-eighties, like I needed a big, thick sweat headband and striped leotard, skipping back in forth in place for thirty seconds, for three sets. In fact...speaking of which, it made me feel like I was in this iconic video, which I only vaguely remember from the 80's...

Go to about 5:25 in this video, and that's pretty similar to what I was doing instead of the evil box. It was super fun. I felt like the world's biggest dork, doing that, but oh well, because my ankle really does seem to be hurt. It's still awfully sore to walk on, and I'm just hoping it will be better in the morning, because I was hoping to go back to the Y for some basic cardio in the morning. Yikes!

Monday, July 27, 2009

"The Help" by Kathryn Stockett

I have just read what quite possibly could be one of the best books I've ever read - "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. I've seen this book on shelves for months now, but never felt compelled to pick it up, despite the fact that every time I look it up on Amazon, it has a million 5 star reviews. What made me pick it up was that my dearest friend in the world happened to read it and raved about it. She polished it off super-fast, and handed it over to me this week, and I then got my turn to polish it off super-fast, and although I wanted to slow down and enjoy every morsel, I couldn't, because I just couldn't put the darn thing down. It was that gripping. I will definitely be re-reading this book at some point, and it's the kind of book I will be telling a lot of people about for the weeks to come. Wow, it was just SO good.

This is another one of those books that I don't want to spoil, so I'm not going to share much beyond the basic premise of the book. "The Help" is set in the early 1960's in Jackson, Mississippi, amidst the start of the civil rights movement, and is told by told black women who serve as maids and one single white woman who lives with her parents, having failed thus far to find a husband. The fact that the author could dip back and forth between these three very different protagonists's voices is just amazing to me.

Throughout the weekend, Husband complained that he was barely seeing me at all (in part because I spent a lot of time with my dear friend, and in part because when I wasn't out of the house with her, I was reading the book - even at the dinner table, which is a bit out of character for me).

My next book is Audrey Niggenegger's "The Time Traveller's Wife," which I've almost picked up a thousand times, but recently saw the trailer for the movie and decided I better read it, because the trailer looked awfully interesting. Speaking of trailers, I finally went to the see "The Hangover" this weekend with two friends, and I must say, it defnitely lives up to the hype. I can't remember the last time I laughed that hard, really. It was just positively hilarious. And since then, every now and again, I'll remember something from the movie, and it will crack me up all over again. I highly recommend it if you haven't seen it yet. And make sure to bring friends, that makes it even more fun. Even if you are the loudest people in the whole movie theater and when you leave, you're walking toward the bathroom, still cracking up, and some little girl says to her mom, "Mom, you should see that movie they went to see!"

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Personal Training Day Eight: The Assisted Pull Up Machine?!?!?!

Yikes, I'm tired today. It was really tough dragging myself over to the Y for training today, after the wild and crazy night at Moms' Night In last night. We had an awesome time, but I stayed up way past my bedtime, so it's a good thing that I paid some money for the training...otherwise I probably would have skipped it today. we worked on the upper body, but with machines rather than evil free weights. Phew! But, of course, it wouldn't be a personal training session if Cathy didn't make us use some kind of freaky new machine. This time it was the assisted pull up machine. I'm not entirely sure that's what it was actually called, but that's what it was. I was able to even find an animated GIF to show you what this evil contraption is for...

The first time I tried it, I couldn't do it. It was like trying to do a real pull-up, pulling up all of my massive weight. Um no. That's not possible. Ultimately, my trainer was able to get the machine set up right for me, and that made things infinitely easier - though still challenging. We also used some free weights to do some arm curls on a balance ball, which I shocking didn't fall off of.

Outside of the evil pull up machine, it was mostly a familiar kind of workout, which was a relief since my brain was working so positively slowly today. Still is, actually. It's taken me over 20 minutes to manage to communicate this much. Ridiculous. Maybe it's a sign I should call it a night and go curl up with a book that a dear friend let me borrow - "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. Stay tuned to hear what I think on that...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Personal Training Day Seven: The medicine ball

OK, did the today's post title scare you yet?

After warming up today and proceeding to the front part of the gym where the lower body equipment is, my friends and I spot two medicine balls sitting beside the evil wooden box that has plagued us for the last three weeks. Oh yes, friends, we used a freaking medicine ball while stepping all over that darn box. Now, before you picture me hopping up and down on the box with some fifty pound medicine ball, I have to confess: I think it was like five pounds. But still. I'm not the most coordinated of people, so the fact that I haven't fallen off the box yet is pretty amazing (especially given that I fell off the StairMaster). When I saw the medicine ball and put two and two together, I thought for sure today would be that day. I am proud to report, though, I DID NOT FALL OFF! Yes, it was difficult, but I managed to keep my balance and not make a complete fool of myself. Talk about a relief!

In addition to knee ups on the box with the medicine ball, we did more evil walking lunges (have you noticed how all of the exercises that really make me work are evil?), but with weights this time. We even used the medicine ball a second time, for this odd twisting exercise depicted in the picture below.

We also used several of the lower body machines, one in particular that I have used before, and thought I was using correctly. Um, no. It's a machine where you place one knee on a little pad and use the other foot to raise a bar attached to some weights. I thought I was all cool, doing like fifty pounds, while lifting the bar with my toes (you know, the strong part of my feet). Apparently, you're supposed to use your heels, and apparently my heels are ridiculously pathetic. I don't even think I was doing 30 pounds of weight ultimately. Kind of disappointing.

Today was a serious sweatfest, and I'm already starting to feel sore, and I haven't even done much in the way of resting yet. I'm mildly scared to see how sore I'll be tomorrow. On the bright side, tomorrow is a mini-girls' night out for me with some good friends, so at least there's that to distract me from my aching muscles. That and the wonderful wagon wheels I'm making for the festivities...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited

I joined a book club back in March that has picked some interesting reads:A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls, and now the third book I'm reading with them, Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein. I must say, this club's got a pretty awesome track record thus far.

I don't think I would have ever found this book, if not for my book club. I don't read a ton of everyday people memoirs. The few memoirs I read are usually celebrities (I know, so trashy) or historical figures. But, now that I'm thinking about it, I have really enjoyed the everyday people memoirs that I've read...maybe I ought to read more.

The premise of this book is like something out of a soap opera, in a way - identical twins separated at birth and adopted into different households, without neither of their adoptive families being aware of their twinness. It sounds like something that could only happen on a ridiculous soap opera, doesn't it? Except it happened to Elyse and Paula as infants.

This memoir is the story not only of how Elyse and Paula found each other, but also about why they were separated, which was quite fascinating. I don't want to spoil that for anyone, so I won't reveal anything more there. They also search for their birth mother, which also leads them to some interesting information. (Is this the most vague book review I've written thus far?)

There's a good bit of science interwoven into the narratives that Elyse and Paula write. They learned quite a lot about twins in their research as to why they were separated and in meeting other twins that were reared apart, which was very interesting to me. I knew several sets of identical twins growing up and was always intrigued by the way they could communicate with one another and how much they had in common. Elyse and Paula, though reared apart, had some eeriely similar experiences in their life and had many, many things in common, in addition to their appearance.

All in all, I'm looking forward to my book club discussion on this book in a few weeks. This was a wonderful book, and it's the kind of book I will probably read again at some point.

Now it's time to read something lighter...perhaps something Southern...I think I will pick up Rhett Butler's People at long last. I bought it practically a year ago and haven't touched it. I absolutely loved Gone with the Wind and even Scarlett was sort of okay. I'm fully prepared to hate it, since I've heard that it's just awful, but I want to at least give it a try. Stay tuned! And don't forget to tell me all about what you're reading!

Friday, July 17, 2009

My Husband Rocks Friday: The He Rubs My Feet Edition

There's nothing like a good foot rub. And let me tell you, there's nothing like a man who rubs your feet. Really. Yes, I love chocolate and cake and cookies, but sometimes a good foot rub is better. (See that, Husband, the word sometimes?)

I'm a very lucky girl. When I was pregnant with my munchkin, my husband rubbed my feet a lot. In fact, he ultimately kind of wound up in charge of taking care of my feet, once I could no longer see them. He even painted my toenails a few times (and I hate to admit it, but he did a pretty awesome job). After Baby was born, I was eager for the foot loving to continue, so I just continued to deposit my feet in Husband's lap at regular intervals. After all, I was a new mom, tired and often overwhelmed, and the foot rubs were often very relaxing.

Fast-forward to Baby verging on his seventeen-month-a-birthday in a few days, and the foot rubs are still a part of our regular habit. Sometimes I'm super lucky, and I can get one every day. Sometimes I'm not as lucky, and Husband will go away for weeks at a time, and my feet with atrophy with the lack of attention (perhaps I'm exaggerating here). Either way, though, I think it's pretty darn awesome that my husband rubs my feet. Especially since I don't rub his back. And for good reason - my hands are really wimpy when it comes to massaging. They're pathetic. So instead I do nice things like bake oatmeal cookies for my husband or buy him birthday cake flavored ice cream from Publix. I think that's pretty fair, right?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Personal Training; Day Six

For all the anxiety I built up about today, it wound up not being as big a deal as I'd built it up to be - yes, we worked out our arms, but we used machines, glorious machines for said workout! No free weights for me! It was such a huge relief. At the same time, I am already feeling a little bit sore, so I suppose I can't really gloat too much, but hopefully I'll still have the strength to lift my arms above my head tomorrow (unlike after last week's free weight workout).

We used mostly familiar machines today, although we did use a lot of weight on said machines. But that's okay with me. I think free weights freak me out a little because there's nothing between me and the weight - like if I drop the weight on a machine, yes, it will make a big noise, but there's zero chance of me dropping the weight on my foot.

In between circuits with the upper body machines, we were doing various cardio machines to keep our heart rates up. I wound up facing two big fears today: the StairMaster and running on the treadmill.

When my friend and I worked out on our own before starting our training sessions, we tried the StairMaster on a whim one day. I fell off the damn thing. I didn't have a clue what I was doing, and I just kind of fell off. And for some reason, I have a big mouth in the gym, because I told my trainer this, so she promptly put me on a StairMaster. I was TOTALLY doing it wrong. Rather than taking tiny steps, I was taking huge ones, and letting the steps fall all the way to the floor, when I fell off. I must have looked like a ridiculous mess then. I looked a lot better on it today, although it was definitely a harder workout than I anticipated (even if it was only for three minutes).

As for the treadmill, any of you who have read Katherine Center's "Everyone is Beautiful" will know exactly what I'm talking about when I say I'm afraid I'll fly off the treadmill. I've never run, let alone jog, on a treadmill before, in part because I'm not entirely sure how and in part because I just don't run. Short of a few moments of running after my munchkin, I've not run since the summer of 1998 when I had to take Personal Fitness in summer school, and that basically entailed running around the track in 95 degree Florida heat for six weeks. Not fun.

So, I was mildly horrified when at the end of the workout, for our last cardio bit, our trainer said we'd jog/walk on the treadmill - thirty seconds of speed walking, thirty seconds jogging. For three minutes. Seriously? I told her about my fear and she said she'd help me. She came over to my treadmill while I was speed walking (which I do well on a treadmill) and amped up my speed to 4.5. I was still speed walking, though I was having a hard time keeping up, so she told me to add some hop to it, and before I knew it, I was jogging! Once I did it, it was no longer anywhere near as scary, and I was proud that I did it.

Phew, I have officially survived three weeks of training at this point! I'm so proud of myself. In two weeks, we'll sit down and take measurements and all that to see what's changed over the first four weeks of training, so I'm very curious to see what will happen then. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Julie and Julia

I've been reading a lot lately, and honestly, I'm behind on my book reviews, so you might just see two reviews this week. Last week, I finished reading "Julie and Julia" by Julia Powell, which I picked up on a whim during a random trip to Barnes & Noble. I'd seen the book at the library before, so I knew a little bit about the story. Here's a quickie synopsis, in case you're not too familiar:

Julie Powell, nearing thirty and trapped in a dead-end secretarial job, resolves to reclaim her life by cooking in the span of a single year, every one of the 524 recipes in Julia Child's legendary Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Her unexpected reward: not just a newfound respect for calves' livers and aspic, but a new life-lived with gusto.

Well, I must say, I can relate to Julie in a lot of ways, and I enjoyed experiencing French cooking through her vicariously. Her writing style was awfully funny at times, but I found myself often enjoying her personal stories as opposed to her cooking stories. Not that her cooking stories were bad, they just weren't as entertaining (sometimes) as I'd hoped they'd be. It was still a very enjoyable read, though, and I'd recommend it to anyone who has a twisted sense of humor and enjoys cooking. I also think that the movie adaptation looks pretty good. I adore everything I've seen Amy Adams in, so it can't be too bad.

I must admit, though, that the next book that I read (and just finished last night) was a bit better. I'll tell you more about that on Friday, though. :) So tell me, what are you reading? I love book recommendations!

Maryland Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy

Have I mentioned that my mother calls herself the Gravy Queen? Gravy was kind of a necessary part of most meals in our household growing up. As a result, I am kind of a gravy snob. My mother made awesome chicken gravy, pork gravy, cream gravy, turkey gravy - you name it. So, generally, unless it's homemade, gravy doesn't taste right to me.

Imagine my horror when I first made gravy as an adult and it was a ridiculous failure. I was making my very first Thanksgiving dinner, and I mis-measured my pan drippings, so I put in way too much flour. My mom talked me through making a slurry out of flour and water, since I ruined my roux (my fat and flour mixture). It wasn't the same, at all, though it was edible. That was seven years ago, and I've gotten infinitely better at gravy making, though I definitely cannot challenge the Gravy Queen for her title.

I was totally excited when I saw the recipe for Maryland Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy. It sounded right up my alley. My mom's fried chicken and cream gravy is one of my favorite dishes (and perhaps I will make it in the next two weeks so I can share that recipe, too). This, however, was awfully different. Admittedly, I made a few substitutions in the recipe, like I used boneless, skinless chicken because that's what I had around, and I used vegetable oil instead of peanut oil, but other than that, I stuck to the recipe.

I was relatively unimpressed. The chicken had good flavor, but the gravy was dreadful. It was worse than jarred gravy, which I think tastes pretty darn bad. I don't think I'll be making this one again, but I wanted to make sure to share anyway. If you wind up making this and you like it, tell me about it - maybe I did something wrong!

Maryland Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy
adapted from
Printer-friendly recipe

Fried Chicken
4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups peanut oil or vegetable shortening

Cream Gravy
1/4 cup pan drippings (from frying chicken)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. For the chicken: Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Combine mustard, garlic powder, and salt in small bowl and sprinkle evenly over chicken. Combine flour and baking powder in a shallow dish and, working one piece at a time, dredge chicken parts until well coated, shaking off excess. Refrigerate on plate 30 minutes (or up to 2 hours).
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat to 375 degrees. Arrange half of the chicken in pot, skin side down, cover and cook until well browned, about 5 minutes per side. Lower temperature to medium, adjusting burner as necessary to maintain oil temperature between 300 and 325 degrees. Cook uncovered, turning chicken as necessary, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. (Internal temperature should register 160 degrees for white meat and 175 degrees for dark meat.) Transfer chicken to wire rack set over baking sheet, season with Old Bay, and transfer to oven. Bring oil back to 375 degrees and repeat with remaining chicken.
3. For the gravy: Pour off all but 1/4 cup oil in pot. Stir in flour and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in broth, cream and pepper. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and serve with chicken.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Personal Training: Day Five...and then some

Boy was I relieved today that my arms got a day off - we worked our legs today.

Even though this was my fifth personal training session, it still felt pretty hard. We did some work on the evil box again, and added a new evil apparatus to our repertoire: the table. Think about the box, add about a foot of height to it, and that's what the table looks like. Yikes. We've seen very fit young men use the table in their exercise routines, mainly to jump right up onto it, like it's nothing, but what we did was very different. We treated it just like the box, and did step ups onto it, though vastly slower than we do on the box. It took a lot out of me.

Rumor is, we're doing arms again on Thursday. I'm totally not looking forward to it because of how sore I was for four days thereafter. Not to mention how wimpy I felt. I'm so surprised that my arms are so pathetic, given that I lug Baby around every day, and I found out yesterday at the pediatrician that he weighs a whopping 27 pounds now. And how did I find that out?

Well, it's Baby's second ear infection in about a month. He's been completely disinterested in food, save for yogurt (occasionally) and Cheerios the last few days, and he did the same thing before the last ear infection. So, I called the pediatrician yesterday, and discovered that indeed, he has another ear infection. I'm trying hard not to freak out about the fact that he's now had two of them in quick succession of each other, but I'm not doing a very good job so far...obviously, since I'm writing about it. I truly hope it's just a fluke and not a sign of things to come. Regardless, I'm glad we caught it before it got as bad as the one did, and that he's on the road to recovery before he gets too grumpy.

In brighter news, I made my first visit to our local IKEA store this weekend with a good friend of mine, and all I can say is wow. It was kind of overwhelming, between the herd of people that you got swept into as soon as you got into the store and the ridiculous size of the place. It was, as my friend said, kind of like going to Disney World. There was just so much to take in. And lots of it was freaking gorgeous. Lots of it was a bit too modern for my taste, but I still absolutely enjoyed the trip. And one more BTW, don't order things from IKEA's website. Shipping is killer. There was a comforter I really liked that they didn't have in the size I wanted, so I attempted to order it online...until I saw that shipping would cost me $20. Seriously??? Is it coming direct from Sweden??? Needless to say, I didn't complete the order. But, at the same time, I don't think you can go to IKEA to pick up just one thing, so I also haven't headed back to IKEA yet, especially since they surely don't have it back in stock yet.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Virtual Girls' Night Out: The Birthday Edition

It's Friday, so that means it's time for another Virtual Girls' Night Out. My apologies in advance, all you blog hoppers, I'm going out for a girls' night out with some dear friends tonight, so I'll be checking out your blogs belatedly either late tonight or sometime tomorrow.

It's our lovely hostess Ann's birthday (well, almost, it's tomorrow), so she's throwing herself an early birthday party, with a neat birthday cocktail and Coldplay as her house party band. This week, Ann's curious who you would have play at your birthday party, if money were no object...

This one was tough for me, because I'm a total music fan. As a teenager, I'd plug in my headphones for just about every activity I enjoyed - reading, sleeping, homework, you name it. I always wanted to have a soundtrack to my activities. Now, I'm an avid iPod freak, and am constantly making new playlists. I realized that the best way to tackle this question was to look to see what's played the most on my iPod. Kind of funny.
There are only four artists that show up in my Top 25 on my iPod, and they couldn't be more random. Paramore, Linkin Park & Jay Z (one of my favorite CDs for exercising), Travis, and Jimmy Eat World. I think in a perfect world, I'd love to have like a Type-A-Mommy-palooza kind of celebration that included all of them. If I had to pick just one, though, I'm awfully torn between Paramore and Jimmy Eat World. If I could go back in time, I'd love to have The Cure, back in the 80's when they were absolutely awesome, perform for my birthday. I just love, love, love their old stuff.

So who would you pick? If you had a ton of money to spend on your birthday, who would be your artist of choice? I think music says a lot about a person, so I can't wait to see your answers. Happy Friday everyone!

My Husband Rocks Friday: The Painting Edition

I know you all realize that my husband totally rocks at this point - I mean, I've been blogging about him for several weeks now. Yesterday, though, he reminded me of one really good reason why he rocks: he paints.

When we moved into our house (our very first house) six years ago, the colors on the walls were hideous. Various shades of Pepto-Bismal pink (and I'm a fan of pink), blood red in one of the bedrooms, and hideous wallpaper in various formations throughout the house.

See? I'm not kidding!

My husband, patient man that he is, tore down three layers of poorly hung wallpaper in my kitchen, and wallpaper borders in just about every other room of the house (except the bathrooms, we haven't tackled those yet). And he did it, mostly, with a smile. Meanwhile, I went to Home Depot, and picked out pretty, pretty colors to go on the walls. A light sage green in the dining room, a nice pale blue in the bedroom, a nice pale yellow in the guest room, pale pink in the "third" bedroom (it's attached to the master, so it's not really a separate bedroom), and I completely forget what color we painted the living room, but the kitchen would be blue. I did most of the painting, while Husband steamed and tore and peeled at the darn wallpaper. I was glad I wasn't doing the wallpaper work. I was so proud when we were done. Doing all that work really made it feel like our house.

But then, not too long before I got pregnant, while Husband was out of town, I decided I hated most of the paint in the house. (I guess I was pre-hormonal or something.) I took myself back over to Home Depot, picked out a bunch of paint, and brought home several gallons. I painted most of the bedroom (while not moving the furniture) a deep tan color called Stone Brown, I painted the living room Washed Denim (which was not as dark a blue as it sounds), and I painted the dining room a deeper shade of green. Husband of course came home and was confused, but amused by my painting project. He helped me move the rest of the bedroom furniture so I could finish painting.

But the paint doesn't end there! Nope, while I was about seven months pregnant and away on a business trip, Husband painted Baby's room the exact shade of blue to match the wallpaper border we planned to put up in there. I know, I'm fully against wallpaper...except in kids' rooms. Borders can look kind of cute, I think. He not only painted the whole room, including the closet door and doors to the room, but he also put the wallpaper up. Very impressive. He also painted the master bedroom the shade of brown I'd bought for the guest bedroom a while back, which I'd been wanting to do. How awesome is that?

Unfortunately for us, that's not all. We decided after Baby was born that we needed to look into selling our house and getting something larger, just before the housing market totally fell apart. Our realtor took one look at the house and insisted we paint the blue living room and kitchen and green dining room a more neutral beige. We obliged, even though we had a baby to take care of, and painted during naptimes for a whole weekend and managed to do it. Phew.

Husband has been my painting slave over these last six years, either prepping walls for painting or doing the painting himself, and yesterday, when I put our brand new duvet set on the bed and realized we were going to need to paint the bedroom a lighter color to match, I was a little afraid to tell him. I'm happy to do it, but I didn't want to hear the griping about just having painted the room last year. So I told him over dinner, while he had a happy, full belly, and what did he say?

"Honey, I'll paint it, it's no big deal."

See? This is a wonderful man, and I'm very lucky. Plus, he's also letting me go out tonight for a girls' night out at the best pizza place in town (I'm so looking forward to it!). Don't forget, you can share about how awesome your husband is to and join in the My Husband Rocks Friday fun over at The Great Adventure. Happy Friday all!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Personal Training: Day Four

I've been having bad dreams about our personal training sessions. Namely, that our trainer makes us do ridiculous crunches for an hour straight. After having Baby (and via C-section, of course), I have absolutely zero abdominal muscles. Not that I'm entirely sure I ever really had them before, but after the C-section, they're definitely history. I'm so afraid of when we work on our abs, and surely that day will come, because I'm going to crap out after like two crunches. I will probably collapse on the floor and not be able to move for the rest of the hour.

Fortunately, today's session was not abs. Phew. We worked on our arms today, and apparently my arms are also weaklings. I had a tough time keeping "good form" while we did free weights, and I was using some pretty wimpy weights, so it's not like I was lifting 50 pounds or anything. Somehow, I did survive the session, full of bicep this and tricep that and shoulder this. We only used one weight machine during the whole session, so it was a lot of free weights. No, wait, I take that back, we used two machines - one delt press do-da and one machine that seemed like a reimagined rowing machine. I think the hardest thing was holding a weight above and behind my head and then bending my elbows to stretch (I think) my triceps). That was really, really tough for me. My trainer kept saying that pretty soon that kind of stretch will be easy to me, but I find that a little hard to believe, given how out of shape I apparently am. On the bright side, the evil step box did not make an appearance today, which was a welcome change after two sessions getting up close and personal with that evil thing.

I'm a little scared as to how my arms are going to feel tomorrow... When I picked Baby up from the nursery on my way out of the gym, it wasn't like I couldn't lift him, but my arms got tired of carrying him a lot sooner than usual. I'm sure that's just a small taste of how I'll feel tomorrow. Yikes.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Personal Training: Day Three

I survived another day of personal training, woo hoo! 3 sessions down, only a million to go before I get to where I want to be.

Today was a rough personal training day - we worked on our legs and back today, and apparently neither of mine are terribly strong. The evil step/box made another appearance today, with which we had to skip and hop over repeatedly, and we also had to do more knee lifts with that evil thing.

The toughest thing, though, was something our trainer called the "Porta-Pottie." Some of you might know what I'm talking about. It's a really hard-core squat, where you basically act like you are going to sit on a Porta-Pottie, but you know that no one actually puts their butt on a Porta-Pottie, so it's a squat. We did those with weights today, but I haven't a clue how heavy the weights were. Probably like two flipping pounds or something equally wimpy. But those were truly tough for me. I'm very glad it's over.

One of the girls I'm training with suggested we take a group picture of all of us - so we can do a before and after kind of thing. I think as much as I hate pictures of myself right now, I think it's a good idea. I really hope that I will see a difference in myself. I know I've lost some weight so far, but I don't see it in myself at all. I don't see my double chin receding, I don't see my flabby arms becoming less flab-filled. Can you tell I'm impatient? Realistically, I know I shouldn't really see a change in myself yet. But boy, there's a part of me that keeps hoping to see one every time I look at my reflection. I can get my engagement and wedding rings off my ring finger now without feeling like I might die, though, so I guess that's a change. I'd just much rather lose some weight in my face rather than my hands, you know?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Buttermilk Caramel Cake

For the Fourth of July, I decided that I couldn't just bake some brownies (even if they were Supernatural Brownies) for a dessert, I needed to also offer something non-chocolate. Totally not my specialty - in fact, I know of very few desserts that I like that are not chocolate-y. Anyway, I dug out several cookbooks, and ultimately found a recipe for Buttermilk Caramel Cake that sounded appealing and not too difficult, a big plus. The cake turned out so awesome that my dog stole a few bites of it even, while we weren't looking. When we discovered that, we called the vet to make sure that it wasn't going to hurt him, so other than being ridiculously hyper from a sugar rush, Dog survived just fine. Phew. So, without any further adieu, here's the recipe!

Buttermilk Caramel Cake
from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book
Printer-friendly recipe

2 1/4 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature

Caramel Frosting
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. For the Cake: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Crease a 13 by 9-inch baking pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.
2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat in the vanilla.
3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk. Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture and the remaining buttermilk. Beat in the remaining flour until just incorporated.
4. Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure it's thoroughly combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and gently tap the pan on the counter to settle the batter. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.
5. Let the cake cool completely in the pan, about 2 hours. Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake and flip the cake out onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper, then flip the cake right side up on to a serving platter.
6. For the frosting: Bring the butter and brown sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is foamy, 3-5 minutes. Whisk in the milk, return the mixture to a brief boil, then remove from the heat. Stir in confectioners' sugar and vanilla with a wooden spoon and beat the frosting until smooth, 2-3 minutes. Spread the warm frosting evenly over the surface of the cooled cake and let set, about 25 minutes, before serving.

Menu Plan Monday for July 6th

Wow, I did an awful job sticking to my menu plan last week. I didn't make either of my new recipes! Yikes! Yesterday, I had a good excuse, I came down with a horrible migraine that didn't really resolve itself until after 7 or 8 o'clock in the evening. I have no excuse for Friday, really. So, you'll see both of those recipes back on the menu for this week.

Monday: Pioneer Woman's Chicken Strips
Tuesday: Type A Mommy's Meatloaf
Wednesday: Spaghetti
Thursday: Beef Teriyaki
Friday: Girls' Night Out - boys will fend for themselves
Saturday: Type A Mommy's Mom's Baked Chicken
Sunday: Maryland Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy (a new recipe)

Stay tuned to hear how PW's Chicken Strips go - I've made them once before, the night my A/C went out, so hopefully I won't trigger that super-fun event again, but we'll see.

What do you have on your menu for this week? Make sure to visit Org Junkie if you need some menu-related inspiration!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Supernatural Brownies

I have company coming tomorrow for the Fourth of July, which I'm excited about, so naturally, I've been cleaning and baking like crazy to prepare (because okay, the Fourth of July is about grilling, but I can't grill, so I bake instead). In fact, I've baked a huge pan of brownies and a new cake recipe (to be posted this evening after I frost it). But first, let's talk brownies.

I love brownies. In fact, I love brownies so much that I have discovered, and religiously follow, a blog called The Brownie Project. It's tons and tons of brownie recipes. It's pretty darn awesome. Anyway, I found a recipe I really wanted to try there recently, called Supernatural Brownies, and it comes from a Nick Malgieri cookbook called Chocolate: From Simple Cookies to Extravagant Showstoppers. Right off the bat, they sounded pretty awesome.

They were super easy to make, and didn't call for anything wacky or unusual, so I was able to put them together very quickly. And wow, are they amazing. Here's the recipe - hang on to it, this one's definitely a keeper! These might just be my new favorite brownies!

Supernatural Brownies
from Nick Malgieri's Chocolate: From Simple Cookies to Extravagant Showstoppers

Printer-friendly recipe

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (I used semisweet)
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

1. Set the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter and line a 13x9x2-inch pan with buttered parchment or foil.
2. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and turn off heat. Combine butter and chocolate in a heat proof bowl and set over pan of water. Stir occasionally until melted.
3. Whisk eggs together in a large bowl, then whisk in the salt, sugars, and vanilla. Stir in the chocolate and butter mixture, then fold in the flour.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 45 minutes, until top has formed a shiny crust and batter is moderately firm. Cool in pan on a rack. Wrap pan in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature or refrigerated until the next day.
5. To cut brownies, unmold onto a cutting board, remove paper, and replace with another cutting board. Turn brownies right side up and trim away edges. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares.

**UPDATE** Whoops, I totally forgot to give you guys the link to The Brownie Project, so here it is! This is what happens when you try to finish off a blog posting when your toddler is trying to climb you. The Brownie Project

My Husband Rocks Friday: The He's Home Edition

I know, I took last week off from writing about how my husband rocks, but I'm back this week. Husband came home last night from his work trip, and appears to be home for (seemingly) a while, which is a super relief. I hate when he's traveling. Although, when he's traveling, it often makes me realize how much he does to help me out. Baby's been difficult, though, so it's been hard to keep a level head and not be upset that I've been dealing with him all on my own.

So, why does my husband rock this week? Well, my house is in need of a serious deep clean, which is really hard to do when you've got a baby like mine, who is horribly desperate for you to watch him do everything (not to mention who finds ways to get into trouble in perfectly babyproofed areas). Baby gets awfully upset if I step away from him to dust an end table or wipe off a counter. He's a smidge impatient (wonder where he got that from...). So today, Husband is going to take the little munchkin off my hands - at least for the morning. I will get to attempt to pretend that I am not a mommy for a few hours so I can clean my house the way it needs to be cleaned. Now that's not to say that Baby will be onboard with this plan. He will probably scream and wail, but I plan to put on some headphones and to try to not let it upset me if he cries when I leave him alone with his dad to scrub the toilet. I mean, seriously, I almost think I'd rather be with my tempermental toddler than to scrub my toilet, but I know it needs to be done. If only I could afford a cleaning person, that would be so ridiculously awesome. I think I'm going to ask for one for Christmas, actually.

So, dear readers, what did your husbands or boyfriends or significant others do this week to endear themselves to you? Or what did they do to get into the doghouse? Tell me all about it, and don't forget you can join in on the My Husband Rocks Friday fun over at The Great Adventure.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Personal Training: Day Two

Today was pretty brutal at the Y with our personal trainer. We were focusing on legs today, which used to be something I would say "oh goody" to, because my legs used to be quite strong. Somehow (despite the fact that my legs can carry my fat butt around all day), they're not what they used to be.

We started out with a quick warm-up on the treadmill, then proceeded to go through the motions of killing ourselves slowly with things like squats and the leg press machine and walking lunges. By the way, whoever invented lunges? I kind of hate them. Lunges kill my legs. Yes, I understand that means they're working, but darn it, they freaking burn! What else did we do...oh yes, the evil box. Remember back in the 80's when step aerobics became very trendy? Similar concept, except this looked like a shoeshine box (so taller than the 80's Reebok step you're thinking of) or high like this step system I found online, and we had two hideous exercises to do on the darn thing. One was a knee lift, where you keep one foot planted on the box, and lift the other knee to your chest 15 times (three times over). The other was the opposite, sort of. One foot on the box, bring the other foot to the box from your side, rather than from behind with the knee lift. Both were brutal.

I had to refill my one-liter sized jug of water at one point because I drank it all, from all of the exertions. It was a tough morning. I must say, though, if anything's going to kick me into shape, it's something like this. I've been working out at the Y for a little over two months now, and I definitely was not pushing myself this hard. I wonder how bad I'm going to feel in the morning...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

An old family recipe: Wagon Wheels

My mother is the one who instilled my love for baking deep in my veins. She baked probably millions of time during my childhood, and every time from scratch. She made pies, cakes, cookies, bars, breads, you name it. She came from a huge family of ten, with a mother who baked everything, too, so I imagine this whole baking thing goes way back in our family tree.

One thing my mother was obsessive about was Christmas cookies. We always baked upwards of five or six or seven different varieties of Christmas cookies to share with our family and friends as gifts for the holidays. My mother was like a drill sergeant when it came to decorating the spritz and cut-out cookies, ensuring that every cookie get decorated (whether we liked it or not). Oddly enough, my favorite cookie at the holidays was not a traditional cookie, it was a cookie called a Wagon Wheel. A chocolate cookie that would get rolled in powdered sugar, and would bake up looking a bit like a wagon wheel, with the pattern the powdered sugar would leave on it. They are still my favorite cookie, and now both my mother and I tend to keep a batch of dough in the freezer for whenever the urge strikes to have a wagon wheel. They're best right out of the oven, and tend to get stale quickly, so if you keep some dough in the freezer, you can bake up a couple whenever you're feeling peckish. They're a ridiculously easy cookie to make, the only difficulty is waiting the 24 hours to let the dough fully freeze before you dig in to the dough.

Wagon Wheels
Printer-friendly recipe

4 squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

1. Melt butter and chocolate together. Let cool approximately 5 minutes.
2. Add sugar to chocolate mixture and mix well.
3. Then add vanilla and eggs and mix well.
4. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients, then slowly add to chocolate batter and mix until fully blended.
5. Pour batter into a tupperware container and stick in the freezer.
6. Freeze at least overnight (or longer).
7. When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350. Prepare a cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment.
8. Roll approximately a tablespoon sized ball of dough and roll in a bowl of powdered sugar until fully covered. Bake cookies immediately (they tend to absorb the powdered sugar if they sit for too long) for 8-10 minutes. They will NOT look done when they come out. Let them cool on the cookie sheet for at least 3 minutes before moving them to a rack to finish cooling, then feel free to devour!
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