Friday, September 28, 2012

Foodie Friday: Paella Night

Our dear friends recently cooked up paella and a full Spanish-themed menu. We dined on amazing made-from-scratch paella, olives, smoked nuts, salad, cheese and bread. Delish! Ms. E’s husband is the chef behind this paella. He cooks it up for a lucky group of hungry folk about every six months and Husby and I are lucky enough to be among those invited. There was a slight glitch with this batch, though: it was SO stinkin’ hot outside! It reached up to 108 degrees in our inland-San Diego suburb. Guh! Since they live nearby, don't have AC and we were already using our AC for Lil' O (and let's admit it, ourselves), we offered and they gladly accepted to move the party to our place. Whew!

So, we had a somewhat impromptu dinner party at our place. Five couples, plus three baby boys and a 1-year-old little lady with plenty of Spanish food for all. It sounds like a lot, especially given the impromptu nature of the party changing venues, but we learned a fun secret. Hosting a dinner party is way easier when somebody else does all the cooking! Go figure! Cohosting took a load off for both couples, and since we both have little guys (Ms. E and her husband are the parents of Lil’ O’s best bud, Lil’ Sir), it was a welcome relief to get a break and still host a fun night in. Watch out! We may be co-hosting dinner parties all the time in the future!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Helping Hands

It truly does take a village! I’d be lying if I gave anyone the impression that caring for Lil’ O is easy or that I have it all under control. In reality I have an amazing group of people surrounding me that help care for him and that amazing network allows me to have some time for myself. Because, let’s face it, keeping this mom happy helps everyone. So, this is a public thank you to everyone who has helped Husby and me take such wonderful care of Lil’ O. These precious individuals and groups have eased our way into parenting and I’m so grateful.

First and foremost, Husby is there for constant tag-teaming and support. As my spouse, he’s my partner in life and he’s certainly a partner in parenting. Seeing my husband as a parent has made me appreciate him in all new ways. I’m so grateful for him and so appreciative of his help in caring for Lil’ O. Being able to tag team is huge! Especially in the wee hours of the night/morning during the first few weeks of Lil’ O’s life. Since I had a (not-by-choice) c-section, Husby, Lil’ O and I all stayed in the hospital for four days following Lil’ O’s birth. I didn’t mind much since, beyond staring at Lil’ O and attempted nursing, my focus was made fuzzy by healing. Gingerly walking to and from the bathroom or around the post-partum maternity ward was a big deal. So, given my limited physical capabilities, Husby changed nearly every early diaper and responded to a lot of Lil’ O’s cries while we were in the hospital and for the first couple weeks we were home.

If you’re one of the brave souls that’s a single parent, please know you have my utmost respect and admiration! Single parents, more than any other, need the help of a loving support network.

Religious Community
Our church family has been so supportive, especially when we first came home with Lil’ O. The first two weeks home we didn’t worry about a single meal. They kept coming to our doorstep! The women of the church, led by our pastor’s wife, brought us full meals for dinner every other day for those first two weeks. It was amazing! And, it was so nice not to have to worry about food as we were adjusting to being home with Lil’ O.

We have friends who also kindly came by with meals for us in those early weeks. They also provided a taste of the outside world. By necessity, I think, parents become isolated when they first bring home that bundle of joy. Having our friends come to visit really helped us remember that there was still an outside world and provide a window into what current events we might have missed.

We also have friends that ran out for diapers after we’d had a full day of doctor appointments and are happy to watch Lil’ O so we can get a break. Good friends indeed.

Daycare Provider
I would not be able to go to work and focus on work if not for our amazing daycare provider. Husby found them by searching our local YMCA site and we loved the vibe since our first interview. It’s an in-home daycare close to our home with a mom fully dedicated to Lil’ O and two other little babes. This is where Lil’ O spends his days Monday through Thursday. (My mom, aka G’ma, watches Lil’ O on Fridays.) My little guy loves watching all those kids play and interact! We think he’s an introvert since he isn’t quick to jump into the action, but he sure does enjoy taking it all in.

This is a big one! Husby and I both dearly love our families and I’m so blessed that my parents and Sistah are here in town. My mom, G’ma, has been hugely helpful. She cleaned our place before Lil’ O was born and cleaned a few more times during my maternity leave. Once I settled into rhythm with Lil’ O after Husby went back to work, G’ma also came by weekly to take care of Lil’ O and give me a break. Those weekly visits were also helpful and gave me someone to talk to. Knowing that babies need to hear language, I kept trying to talk to Lil’ O, but being by myself I was running out of things to say!

My parents and Sistah are also on speed dial for babysitting duties. It’s been so, so nice to have dates with Husby out of the house and on our own. Don’t get me wrong, we love Lil’ O dearly, but having a babe has forced us to be more purposeful in connecting with each other, whether by our at-least-weekly at-home date nights or by escaping the house and all its distractions for a few hours. And having ready sitters has made that possible.

So, thank you to all these folks and more who have helped Husby and me! We and Lil’ O thank you and love you!

I hope all the other parents out there also have amazing support networks to turn to. I admit, it takes some humility to accept the helping hand, but it also takes off a load of stress. If you don’t (yet) have a strong network of helpers to turn to, look to these groups of people in your life. I bet they’d be willing to help, especially if it means time with that precious child.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Foodie Friday: Figs!

Welcome to my first Foodie Friday post! I’m passionate about food and eating fully, though ideally healthfully. I make no promises as I'm learning that balancing life with Lil' O and Husby can take many turns, but it is my goal to post a foodie note weekly and share some of my foodie outings and kitchen feats.

We start with the sweet, sweet fruit that’s taking over my backyard: figs! A lot of my experimenting in the kitchen lately has been trying to use up these sweet jewels, but I must admit our tree is producing far, far more than I’m able to cook, dry and jam. Little did we know when we bought our house how much work a full-grown fruit tree requires. At peak season, which is August through October, we could easily harvest pounds and pounds of figs twice each week. So, if you know of any fig recipes worth trying or want to come over and pick some fresh figs, please let me know! The comment section is open. ;)

Since not everyone will rush over to help with the harvest, though, try finding some fresh figs at your local farmer’s market. They are super good in a variety of recipes and are elegantly simple and refreshing with a little bit of cheese to cut their sweetness. Recommended cheeses include smoked gouda, blue cheese or goat cheese. But, for those who’d like to cook up some fig-infused goodness, here are two recent successes from the batch of fig experiments I’ve been trying lately: honey fig scones and sun-dried figs.

I love scones. Hands down, it’s my favorite thing to make. This is largely because it seems you simply can’t buy a good scone just anywhere. So, it seemed natural to find a scone recipe using figs. This one is a winner. It got the coveted gold star in our household, meaning it’s pretty amazing. My first batch tasted great, but came out a bit flat (see pix). My second time around, I wanted to make them a bit healthier, so used whole wheat flour and they came out perfectly! I swear switching the flour is the only thing I did differently, but it sure seems like another adjustment was made based on the results. I’ll have to try them a third time to be sure I can replicate these awesome fluffy whole wheat results.

Sun-Dried Figs
The internet is an amazing thing! I came to the realization, after looking at so many fig recipes, that with all these fresh figs now, if I needed dried figs later in the year I’d be upset I didn’t take the time to dry my own figs. Only problem is that I’m a city girl and have no idea how to dry fruit. Luckily, there’s this crazy thing called the internet and you can type in questions and find instructions! Yay! So, that’s what I did. I searched and found instructions, then followed them (mostly). My amendments: I used cheesecloth instead of tulle and put my figs in the sun for about four days to really be sure they were good and dry. Next time, I think I’ll try putting a food tent over them as well, since bugs still tried getting to the figs through the cheesecloth. Overall, it worked really well! I just had to remember to put out the figs in the morning before I got Lil’ O up and began our morning routine. (FYI, mornings aren’t my thing, so remembering something outside of the routine was a bit of a challenge.) Thankfully, I prevailed and we have a small batch of dried figs! Weeee!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Nursery Décor & Dreams

One of my best girlfriends, Lulu, is having a baby! This lucky little one will be joining us sometime in February and has two adoring parents eagerly waiting. In addition to beginning to research baby shower cuteness (yes!!!), I got to thinking about all the wonder of decorating a nursery. I have a few pregnant friends, some near and some far, and I love watching the process they each take to decorating that now-precious room that fills up with so many dreams. In honor of my prego gal pals, below is some nursery decorating inspiration, as well as pix from the grand opening and ribbon cutting of Lil’ O’s room, before he arrived and we knew he was a him or how awesome becoming parents could truly be. Enjoy.

Balancing Tip: Decorate *before* that bundle of joy comes along and ideally before the third trimester. After a certain point, nesting aside, there’s little inspiration to move, let alone decorate. Plus, Husby and I both really enjoyed having Lil’ O’s bedroom done early and just sitting there thinking of all our dreams for him and praying for the life to come. I hope all the parents-to-be out there get a similar blessing of time and reflection.

Nautical Nursery 2
Baby Girl Safari Nursery
Homemade Touches
Hunting Lodge Nursery
Winnie the Pooh Nursery

And, finally, Lil' O's nursery is below. We didn't know he would be a little boy, so we had to decorate in a gender-neutral way. This was somewhat challenging, but I really like the end result. The theme, if there is one, is simply "color." And, the beauty of decorating without knowing the sex of our child is that this nursery will serve kiddo #2 just as wonderfully, even if that babe is a girl. :)