But there's one particular area in which I feel severely lacking. It's actually got me worried, as my problem becomes more and more apparent the more small children I'm around. I have zero patience.
Up until now, you see, the only person that's really had to deal with my lack of patience ("Can't you clean the bathroom NOW? Let's go eat NOW! I'm hungry. Can you please hurry up in the shower?") is Rich, my husband. And thank god he's got enough patience for both of us. But soon there's going to be another person in my life and in my house. All day, every day. And this person is going to scream and cry and drop things and break things and get dirty and pitch shit hemmorages when he/she doesn't get what's desired. And honestly? I don't know how I'm going to react to this.
My friend Marie and I took a walk with her adorable two-year old son the other day to the playground by my house. When we were leaving the playground, the little guy got upset (as any kid would!) and started to cry. Marie exhibited nothing but soothing maternal patience with him, calming telling him we could visit the playground another time, distracting him with a cup of milk and a toy, and never once, not once, getting nervous or upset or raising her voice. And in mere minutes, the little guy settled down and was completely back to normal.
And I couldn't help but worry that I'm not going to be able to be this type of parent. Would I drag my little girl by her pigtails into her stroller, threatening her with severe bodily harm if she didn't sit in her stroller immediately? Would I scream at my son instead of soothing him? Honestly, I don't know. I'd like to think there's no way I could do this. But I've never been a mother before. I've never been put in that sleep-deprived, starving, frustrated state so many mothers exist in and had to think of the needs of someone else other than myself before. And I tried so hard and for so long to even get to the enviable position I'm in right now, so how could I allow myself to be anything but the mother of the year 24/7?
I've got about 3.5 months to figure this one out.
If you've read this blog for awhile, you know I'm a big fan of cheesecake. I like all kinds, really, and made my very first cheesecake from scratch last November, after reading about it on Dawn's blog. Because it came out so well, I've made that pumpkin cheesecake several times since then, and a few regular cheesecakes too. And they've all turned out great, which is as shocking to me as it is to anyone.
But prior to Easter, I've never before made a chocolate cheesecake. Now, as you know, I'm not a chocolate fan. I don't like it, and haven't since I was a little girl. But as most other people on the planet do, my family members love it, so I set out to make Nigella's Chocolate Cheesecake for them.
I wouldn't call this cheesecake a "chocolate cheesecake," because for me, that calls to mind a brown cheesecake, and as you can see, this one turned out more marbled. And I can't give you my review of how it tasted, because I didn't have any. It's still chocolate, people, even if it IS cheesecake! But I can tell you my family loved it, and it went the quickest of the three desserts I made. So, based on their reviews, I'd say I'd make this one again too!
Nigella's Chocolate Cheesecake
1/2 cup plus 1 TBSP graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup very soft or melted unsalted butter
18 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 to 1 TSP lime juice (to taste)
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
8-inch springform pan
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and put the kettle on to boil.
2. Process the crackers and butter together in a food processor and press into the bottom of the pan. Then, stick the pan in the fridge until the filling is ready.
3. Beat the cream cheese until smooth, and then mix in the sugar. Add the eggs and yolks, one by one, beating in after each addition. Pour in the sour cream and the lime juice and beat until smooth and creamy. Taste to see if you want a more sour base, and if so, add more lime juice. Gently fold in the melted chocolate. You want a cheesecake marbled with chocolate, so don't combine fully.
4. Line the springform pan with aluminum foil on the outside, and then repeat. Stand the pan in a roasting pan, and fill it with the mixture. Pour hot water from the boiled kettle into the roasting pan to come 3/4 to 1 inch up the side of the cake plan. Place in oven and cook for one hour.
5. When the cheesecake is ready, it should have browned a little on the edges and the center should be just set on top, with a hint of wobble in the center. Remove the cake tin and tear away the foil. Sit on a rack to cool, then refrigerate before unmolding and leaving it to get back to room temperature.
I also made this Key Lime Pie. While I love Key Lime Pie, and I've made it a few times, I'm still in search of how to make it more sturdy. When you cut into it, it's not that firm, and is a bit wobbly. Anyone have any ideas? Maybe it's supposed to be like this?
But this? Is just downright disturbing.
Apparently, for the low, low price of just $2.25 each, you can have your ultrasound photo made into an edible cookie. Then sprinkled with edible confetti, and tied with a ribbon, for your palette's pleasure.
Chocolate-covered Beastie, anyone?
And here's a picture of me taken yesterday. I can't believe I'm 22 weeks already. I had my monthly doctor's appointment yesterday, and next month, they'll tell me my baby's birthday-the date of my scheduled C-section. I didn't gain any weight from last month, which probably explains why I look pretty much the same in the picture below as I do in last month's picture, taken at 18 weeks.
But with experience came better pies, and I was very pleased with how the three pies I made for Easter Sunday dinner at my grandma's came out. So on the Saturday before Easter, I collected the ingredients I'd need for the pies, and got to work.
The first pie I made was Tangerine Chiffon Pie from the April issue of Martha Stewart Living. Oh, how I love you Martha. This pie seems much more complicated to make than it actually is, and the end result was a light, fragrant, citrus dessert with a crust everyone seemed to really like. I'd definitely make this one again, and I think it's a great dessert for spring.
Tangerine Chiffon Pie
2 cups store-bought tangerine-orange juice blend (I used Tropicana from the dairy case)
3 cups finely ground store-bought shortbread cookies (about 12 ounces)
5 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil juice in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it has reduced to about 1 cup, 18-20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
2.) Pulse cookies, 1 TBSP lemon zest, and 1/4 cup sugar in food processor until thoroughly combined. With processor running, add melted butter and process until combined. Press cookie mixture evenly into bottom, up sides, and onto rim of 10-inch pie plate.* Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
3.) Put lemon juice into a small bowl and sprinkle with gelatin. Let soften 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together yolks, 1/2 cup cup sugar, the juice reduction, and the remaining 2 TSPs zest in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Do not let boil. Remove from heat, and add gelatin, and whisk until gelatin has dissolved completely.
4.) Transfer gelatin-egg yolk mixture to a large bowl. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until cool and thick enough to hold a ribbon on surface, 25-30 minutes.
5.) Put egg whites and cream of tartar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks forms. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry peaks form. Fold egg-white mixture into gelatin-egg yolk mixture in 3 batches, folding until just combined after each addition. Pour into cooled crust, and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours or overnight.I then decorated mine with a pastry bag and my new pastry-decorating tips I received for Christmas.
Serve and enjoy!
* I didn't have a 10-inch pie plate, so I used a 9-inch instead. If I were to make this again, I'd probably use maybe 10 ounces of cookies for the crust, instead of the full 12, since the crust was pretty thick in the smaller plate. Or, you could just press the extra crust into muffin cups, and fill with the extra filling (I had some leftover) to make mini pies.
Stay tuned for Nigella's Chocolate Cheesecake later this week!
For more cute kitties, check out Clare's.
When we connected at the game, we gave eachother a big hug and posed for some pictures taken by my husband. (Ramona made me realize that I've never mentioned my husband's name on this blog before, so I'll reveal it now! His name is Rich.)
Ramona then gave me a gift! These adorable Robeez baby shoes for the Beastie. I told you she was sweet!
After the game, we headed back to our hotel, where we introduced Greg, Ramona's husband, to Rich, my husband, and we chatted away the hours in the hotel bar. Rich and Greg hit it off immediately (sports is the common denominator for most boys, ya'll), and the four of us had such a blast. We made plans to meet up again in Niagara Falls (about the halfway point between both of our homes), at some point.
It was such a cool, wonderful experience meeting Ramona. So if you ever have the opportunity to meet a blogfriend in real life, do it!
The rest of our trip was fun as well. This was the view from our hotel room, where upon check-in we learned we had been upgraded to their "private Club Level floor." That meant complimentary afternoon tea, hors de ourves at night, and free drinks.
The baseball game was alright, slightly spoiled by a rowdy group of fans siting behind us who spent the entire evening screaming at the players, who couldn't hear them anyway. I'm not really a baseball fan, but I do like to people-watch.
On the way home, we stopped at IKEA (yay!). We spent a few hours there, and I bought a bunch of stuff, including some cute lanterns we'll hang around our pool area and some frames.
(For the uninitiated, this is Derek Jeter. Who is very, very adorable. With a nice butt. )
First, I give you the food. The table below is not the dining room table set for a buffet meal. No, pictured are the leftovers, including lamb, ham, artichokes, green beans, and potatoes, after 15 people had their fill.
Also present in the food category, were the three pies I made: Nigella's Chocolate Cheesecake, Martha's Tangerine Chiffon Pie, and Magnolia Bakery's Key Lime Pie. I'll write more about these lovelies soon, but here's a teaser picture. I am proud to say that I used the pastry bag and decorating tips I got for Christmas for the very first time on the whipped cream topping!
And now for the scary chocolate baby. As you know, everyone in my family is crazed about the bambino. My grandma went to a speciality chocolate store with my two aunts last week and picked up two chocolate baby stroller lollypops for me and my husband. And also, the scary chocolate baby pictured below. It reminds me of a sort of Chuckie-possessed version of the Dancing Baby from Ally McBeal. With scary uneven eyes. I didn't want to look at it for too long. You shouldn't either. I don't want to be responsible for your nightmares.
And lastly, here's a picture of my husband and my uncle's whippet Joey sharing some sweet doggie love.
I'm off to Toronto for two days. We're seeing a Yankee game (snore) and going to IKEA (yay!). And, the best part is that I'm arranging to meet Ramona from Kross-Eyed Kitty at the game! Stay tuned for a full Toronto recap later this week.
Cat naps are also not an independent affair. There is no imaginary Baby and Johnny "dancing space" the other kitty cannot cross. Oh no, where these cats are concerned, there is all sorts of intermingling: legs thrown over backs, front legs and paws encircling necks, and yes, even paws outstretched into ears.
Here you have Louie giving Chubbie's ear a thorough cleaning.
And here you have Chubbie performing the proverbial "leg toss" over Claudia.
For more cute kitty pictures, head over to Clare's.
Easter really began the night before for us. We popped the colored tablets into the memorably stinky vinegar solution cups, and watched them fizz and pop to form the colors we'd use to decorate the eggs. And of course, my artist sister's were always much prettier than mine.
Before going to bed, we'd set out carrots for the Easter bunny, and then scurry up the stairs to our beds, awaiting the first of two egg hunts when we awoke. On Easter morning, there was always a chocolate-fueled frenzy to find the eggs the "Easter Bunny" had hidden in our house. While "the Bunny" would write down the location of each egg to ensure we found them all, one memorable Easter egg hunt ended with a still-missing egg. Several weeks later, we identified its location by its putrid smell: it was underneath a cushion on the wicker bench we had in our kitchen.
After the hunt and having pawed through our Easter baskets, it was time to get ready for church. My mom ascribed to the "Go Big or Stay Home" philosophy where our Easter outfits were concerned. There were big frilly, poofy dresses with matching purses. There were white gloves and white tights. And there were bonnets adorned with ribbons. Looking back at our Easter ensembles now, we likely resembled Jon Benet (minus the makeup gun dialed to hoochie) about to sashay down the runway, but in the late seventies and early eighties, all the little girls dressed like this.
After church, it was time to head to my grandma's for the big family Easter dinner, but more importantly, for the Easter egg hunt my grandparents put on for us and our numerous young cousins in their backyard each year. They would painstakingly hide dozens and dozens of colored plastic eggs. Some contained pennies and nickels. Some contained candy. And one, the golden egg, contained a crisp new $5.00 bill. Needless to say, the competition to obtain that prized egg was fierce. As as the oldest grandchild, I adopted a "take no prisoners" mentality with my younger cousins, and found that egg more often than I didn't.
Dinner after the hunt was like every family meal at my grandparents: expansive, indulgent, and with enough food to feed at least twice the number of people who were there. The meal always culminated with my grandfather chopping bits of a giant chocolate bunny or basket into small pieces for everyone to sample.
And later that evening, fully coked out on spent adrenaline, chocolate, and candy, we went home to bed.
I was talking with a childhood friend last night, and she was trying to put together special Easter baskets for her two young sons. She remembers the care her mother put into her own Easter basket growing up, how it was decorated with a crocheted bunny overlay (hey-what do you want? It was the 70s), and loaded not just with chocolate, but with special toys and surprises buried beneath all the fake green and pink grass. And it had her name satin-stitched on the outside. And she said something that really struck a cord with me. It's things like this, special touches to an otherwise ordinary Easter basket, that kids remember about their childhood. It's not big overblown parties or expensive toys, but the little things your parents and grandparents did for you to make the holidays and every day special.
So what's your fondest Easter memory?
Alas, I shattered my coffeemaker's carafe on my kitchen floor.
R.I.P, dear carafe. R.I.P.
And while the original will never be far from my mind, I've replaced her with an exact replica. Oh, she won't be the same. You can never replace in your heart one who has lived there for so long. But she will serve me well, never knowing that I actually longed to purchase this instead.
And because I'm one who always likes to please my reading public (all four of you), and because Shannon reminded me that I owe you this story, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I'm not the only half-baked one in my world.
#4 is also half-baked. If you're a frequent reader here, you know that my mother's dear fourth husband has told my 76-year old Italian grandma that she drives a mafia car, informed my 78-year old great aunt that she could stand to lose some weight, and is generally a monumental arse in every sense of the word. Needless to say, there's no love lost between us.
For my surprise birthday party, he stayed in the background and took some nice pictures. I'll give him that. But his good behavior lasted for that night only. On the Saturday following my party, he reverted to his old ways.
My mom, sister, and I had a nice afternoon shopping alone, sans #4. We went to lunch, crib-browsing (thank you again, Karrie, for tolerating that excursion), and food shopping for the dinner I was hosting for my entire family that night at my house. #4 went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to browse for gadgets, which the man lives for. Great. Go for it. We returned home to my house where #4 was waiting for us, bogged down with tons of bags of food from my weekly grocery shopping, as well as all the extra food for the family dinner. My mom, my sister, and I made multiple trips from the car, into the house, and back again. #4 didn't offer to help. Instead, he had show-and-tell on his mind.
Like a little chihuahua who has taken hold of his person's pant leg and is dragging her, in between ear-piecing barks, toward the biscuit jar, #4 darted into the kitchen where we were dumping the groceries and immediately began to demand my mother's attention: "Kathy! Wanna see what I bought? Huh? Huh? Wanna see what I bought at Bed, Bath, and Beyond Kathy? It's really cool. Come on. Come on! COME ON! WannaSeeWhatIBought?"
And like any dog owner fed up with a whining, persistent tiny dog that won't quit yapping, or barking, or chasing its tail, my mother kept telling #4, "In a minute. In a MINUTE. IN A MINUTE."
It was absolutely, unequivocally the most pathetic display from an adult I've ever seen in my life.
Later that night, as my family members were leaving, and as my husband was helping to load leftovers and older family members into their cars, my sister and mom were taking down the extra tables and chairs I had brought up for the dinner and were making trips down to the basement with them. I couldn't help because apparently pregnant women are fragile. My mom has a bad back and bad knees and really shouldn't be hauling tables and chairs anywhere. That left one able-bodied person, my sister Karrie. #4 sat in the kitchen, on a bench, with his legs outstretched and his hands behind his head, watching my mom and sister haul the furniture down the stairs. And didn't offer his help. My mom eventually asked him for help, telling him she has bad joints and shouldn't be straining them (something he knows already). He told her, "Oh, I think you're doing a fine job all by yourself." She got angry at that point, and asked him again to help. By the time he hauled his arse off the bench to help, my sister was taking the last load down the stairs.
Anyone out there looking for a new man? I will pay a hefty sum of money for you to take #4 out of my life forever. No? I didn't think so.
That said, being pregnant has brought about some major changes in my relatively ho-hum life. Certain activities that I enjoyed doing are on temporary hold. Certain eating and drinking habits that were as much a part of me as my too-thin blah hair are now contraband.
So I present to you the Top 6 Things I Miss About My Pre-five-Months-Ago Life
Turkey sandwiches from Panera
If you've read this blog for awhile, you've probably heard me mention once or twice that I'm an extremely picky eater. I eat...oh...probably in the neighborhood of 10 different foods. Vegetables? Not really my friends. And variety? Not really my friend either. So for lunch almost every day, I'd take a plain turkey deli sandwich to work. No condiments. No lettuce. No cheese. Nothing. And when I'd go out to get lunch, Panera's turkey sandwiches always hit the spot.
But when you're pregnant, deli meat of any kind is a huge no-no because it can cause listeria poisoning, which can cross the placenta and do serious damage to the baby. You can, however, heat up the deli meat until its steaming, and then it's fine to eat. But that? Is disgusting. So, I'm going without, and considering turkey made up a huge part of my weekly food intake, I'm still going through serious withdrawl, even 19 week later.
Diet Coke with Lime and all other caffeinated beverages
While vegetables are most certainly not my friends, caffeine, on the other hand, is my bosom buddy. I chugged the equivalent of a pot of coffee everyday, between home, car, and work consumption, and always, always, had a Diet Coke, or a Diet Dr. Pepper, with lunch. And now, of course, caffeine and aspartame (the artificial sweetener found in most diet soda) are off-limits. Withdrawl from this addicition at the beginning of my pregnancy was not pretty. Headaches, bitching, and much moaning ensued. I have found one diet soda flavored with Splenda (which is made with sugar and not aspartame) of which I can partake-Diet 7Up-but it's not the same as a cola beverage. Waaaa.
In my pre-pregnancy life, I was a Sweet-n-Low girl. Not an Equal girl, or a Splenda girl, but a Sweet-n-Low girl. It went in my caffeinated coffee several times a day. Splenda just doesn't taste the same.
My extremely expensive Citizens of Humanity designer jeans
While visiting Karrie this past summer, she talked me into buying my first pair of designer jeans. Now, if you know me in "real life," you're well aware that I am not a designer jeans type of gal. Gap or Old Navy jeans suited me just fine for 29.5 years. However, Karrie the fashionista insisted that I needed a pair of jeans that cost the equivalent of two weeks of food shopping, and that I would immediately notice that they felt better, fit better, and looked better than any other pair of jeans I'd ever owned. And damn her, she was right. I heart me those jeans, which now hang abandoned in my closet with every other item of clothing I own, save for the 10 or so pieces I've recently bought that are designed to fit girls who are the size of a small island and are currently growing Skeletor.
I know there are those of you out there who are going to read this and say, "huh?" but I miss running. Prior to the start of my IVF cycle in November, I was running 30 miles a week. Now, though, with my doctor axing running because it can cause your heart rate to get too high, I have to content with walking instead, which is NOT the same. Now that the weather is rising to a balmy 40 degrees here in upstate NY, the joggers are out. And I hate them. Although pretty soon, the sight of me running wouldn't be one that anyone would want to see anyway.
Ever heard the saying, "Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most"? Yeah? Well, I think it was coined for pregnant women. I consider myself to be pretty intelligent. Except I cannot do the math. Please don't even speak the word in my presence. But since carrying the Beastie, I swear to you I have lost a significant amount of brain cells. I've told you before that I've left the oven on hours after I've finished using it. More than once. I forget things people tell me seconds after they've finished speaking. And just the other night, driving a friend home from a movie we'd just gone to see, I was about two seconds away from sailing through a red light and killing us both, had he not yelled, "Are you going to STOP????"
One thing I don't miss: scooping the cat poop from the litter boxes. That, friends, is a reason to get knocked up all in itself.
Turns out, though, we likely wouldn't have been able to find out the sex because of the position of the baby. Beastie was facing downward, with his/her face turned inward toward my back. Also, Beastie's body was curled into the fetal position, making identification of his/her "parts" all but impossible. Toward the end of the ultrasound, Beastie graced us with a partial face shot, which I can't help but liken to a certain cartoon character from my childhood.
You can't ask the sonographer any questions, because she's not a doctor and can't give you her views on anything she sees. However, she did tell us at the end that everything looks good. We saw two arms and two legs. We saw the heart beating away, and the tiny little bladder and the kidneys. Beastie measured perfectly, and was even two days ahead of schedule (19w5d instead of the 19w3d I actually am). Every ultrasound is looked at by my practice's perineonatologist, and then a copy will be faxed to my doctor. If I don't hear anything from her within the next 2-3 days, I can assume all is well.
Right now, I just feel blessed and lucky, despite the last 18 hours or so, where I've had the worst round ligament/stretching pain so far, which has made pretty much all movement, including walking, pretty painful. There are so many women with infertility (and yes, I still consider myself one of them) who have not had the amazing experience of seeing life growing within that I saw this morning. I went through IVF and received the best possible outcome. Many others aren't as lucky. And for this, I will forever be grateful.
I love this Beastie more than anything, but this shot, and that EYE, creeps me out. It makes me want to yell....
"By the power of Greyskull!!!!"
One day two weeks ago, Little Big Head was featuring everyday desserts, and prepared her grandmother's Lemon Ricotta Biscuits. As a sucker for all things lemon, I decided to give these a try this past weekend. They're yummy, easy to make, and are denser than a muffin, but not as crumbly as a biscuit. And the lemon zest and lemon juice in the recipe will make your kitchen smell wonderful both during prep and while they're baking.
Nonna's Lemon Ricotta Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar or more as needed for sprinkling
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup thinly sliced almonds (I omitted)
Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to blend.
Using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar, butter, and lemon zest in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the ricotta. Beat in the egg, lemon juice, and almond extract. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended (the batter will be thick and fluffy).
Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the almonds and then the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar over the muffins.
Bake until the muffins just become pale golden on top, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.