Friday, July 23, 2010

Ladies Night and a Play Date

As often as possible (which is hardly enough), I try to plan a ladies night and get all the girls together for some foot loose and fancy free good times. Ladies nights can often get pretty wild and crazy. Although maybe a wee bit more under control then usual, this one was really no exception. Fortunately for me, (unfortunately for you) there are no pictures of me on the dance floor or towards the end of the evening after I had somehow morphed into an extremely hot mess.

We met up at a restaurant called R.T. Weilers. There are cute pictures of dogs everywhere. I had a steak topped with onions and mushrooms with a side of steamed broccoli. Yum. It was my mom, my sister Amy, my friends Gina and Barb, and myself. Gina was such a trouper. She was 33 weeks preggo and looking as adorable as ever. You can't even tell she is pregnant in this picture. Which amazes me, considering I was such a whale.

Me and Gina

Barb and Me

My Sister Amy and My Mom

After we were done eating, Toni and her sister Cheryl arrived, along with my gal Jessica.

Jess and Toni

And here is the last pic I had for the evening. My other sister Erin, met up with us at another bar. From left to right: Jess, me, my sister Erin, my sister Amy, and Barb.

After the restaurant, we went to a few different bars. It was sweltering hot outside and it wasn't much cooler inside. As the night went on, we all became more and more sweaty and disheveled. Luckily, we didn't seem to notice. Although, we probably should have. I had so much fun though. It was great to get out and just let loose. I finally got my dancing fix in, and plenty of it! I probably drank a little more then I should have, but that isn't hard to do when you don't drink very often. I love getting out on the town with both of my sisters. This rarely happens now that we all have kids. The next day was a little rough, but well worth it indeed.

My sister Amy's husband has left to work out of town for 60-90 days. He will be so far away and working so much, that he won't even be able to return for visits. I feel so terrible for them. Their daughter is often seen in my blog and she is only 6 weeks younger then the munchkin. I can't imagine Joe having to leave us for so long. It would be so hard. They had to re-figure their daycare situation for their little one and now she will be coming to our house on Thursday evenings. Yay! Yesterday was our first day.

Look at that cheesy smile. Isn't she just adorable?

Here she was caught playing with the door hinges.

The munchkin puked on all three of us,
so here they are stripped down to their little bloomers.

Trying to climb up on me...

The munch lookin like a frog.

Shortly after this last picture. Things seemed to go down hill from there. Joe had left to go to school and both babies started to get tired and crabby. They are both teething and you can definitely tell. It wasn't anything I couldn't handle, but I felt bad that I couldn't give either of them the one on one attention they wanted. How do mammas with twins do it? All in all, it was so much fun having her over, they are starting to play together really well. I'm kinda excited we will have a scheduled play date with her every week!

The munchkin went to sleep really well last night, but around 11:00pm, she woke up screaming. Her incoming top front tooth was hurting her so bad! Plus her bottom two front teeth are still coming in as well. I gave her some teething gel, but it didn't seem to help at all. I sent Joe to the store to get some infant ibuprofen and she screamed the entire time he was gone. She started to settle down about an hour after we gave her some. Luckily she seemed to sleep pretty good through the rest of the night and is feeling much better today. Poor baby. My sister suggested the teething tabs, so I am going to pick some of those up this afternoon.

This teething stuff is a bitch.

I made pizza the other night, using flax seed meal for the crust. It was so good! I am going to post some pictures and the recipe later.

Oh, and I also wanted to add this little picture that our sitter emailed me the other day of the munchkin and her son playing together. So cute!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Party Planning... Oh How I Have Missed Thee!!

This week I began preparations for the munchkin's first birthday party. I really can't believe she is going to be a year old already. I have to admit, the first part of her life did not fly by. When we were dealing with her acid reflux and breastfeeding issues, along with sleepless nights and a very crabby baby, time seemed to move along pretty slowly. As soon as she hit that 6 month mark, when I was no longer breastfeeding, and we had her reflux under control, time began to accelerate and events and milestones began to come and go at a much quicker pace. It's funny how that works (well actually no, it's not funny, infact it sorta pisses me off). Suddenly she is almost walking, starting to say actual words, clapping when she gets excited, and giving me hugs and big slobbery kisses. She has been the most wonderful, adorable and perfect little baby. I am going to miss her being a baby, but I am also really looking forward to her toddler years and taking her places and seeing her interact more with the world around her.

I have always been in love with little owls.There's something about them, I just find them to be endearing and lovable. So for her first birthday party we are doing an owl theme. I figure, before she gets old enough and starts asking for her own favorite characters, I better get my owl fix out of the way while she is still oblivious. Off I went searching for owl supplies. Turns out, I am not the only one semi-obsessed with owls, and finding stuff was actually pretty easy. I was extra tickled when I found items designed specifically for a one year old's party!How cute are these? I am just going to order the plates and napkins. I don't want to go overboard or anything (yeah right). I am going to buy all of the other items (utensils, streamers, ribbon, any other misc. decorations) in matching colors at my local dollar tree. I have recreated the little owl for her invitations which I am almost done with and will post once complete.

So then I thought, wouldn't it be cute to find a little dress for her with an owl on it? Well, I didn't think I would find one with a little owl that looked just like the one we were already using (only a little more cute and crafty looking), but I sure did! I am pretty sure this lady designed this dress just for the munchkin to wear at her party!

I can not wait to get her into this little dress!

My amazingly talented (and I am not exaggerating here at all) friend Sarah, that made my hubby's cake for his 30th birthday party, is also going to make the cake for the munchkin's party. She is going to do a 3D cake with the little owl. I know whatever she comes up with will be incredible!

While I was searching for the munchkin's outfit, I came across this wrap skirt and I immediately fell in love. Not only would it be really silly cute for me to wear it at the party with the little owls at the bottom, I have a feeling I am going to be living in it most of the fall. The party was a good excuse for me to get it. I mean come on, I need to coordinate too, right? I haven't splurged on clothing for myself in ages (yes, I am really trying to justify this to myself here).

There is also something about having a piece of clothing that is handmade by a real person and that is unique and one of a kind. I don't often fork over the extra money for something like this. But for the times that I have, I still own, wear and love each and every one of these items. This really talented seamstress in upstate NY made it. I wish I could sew like this. I also wish I could have bought more of her stuff... but I'll have to wait till more funds come in...

Now I need to start working on the menu. We are having the party in the evening, mostly because of the munchkin's strict schedule (her idea, not mine). She takes a nap from 10:00 to between 11:30 or 12 and then another nap from 2:00 to 3:30 or 4. Then she is awake and bright eyed-pretty much until 8:00 when she goes to bed. So I figure if we start the party at 4:00 she should be good to go for several hours. Because of the start time, people will most likely be hungry for some dinner. So we'll be serving up some bbq (crossing my fingers that my grill master dad will step in here with his Big Green Egg, he's always looking for an excuse to use it). The cake is taken care of, so I just need to worry about some sides and a couple appetizers.

So I have been thinking about favors. I am wondering really if I should bother with them or not. It's a party for a one year old, do people really need favors? I know they are cute and fun, and under different (more financially fluid) circumstances, I would love to have them, but they can get pretty costly. Obviously when she is older, I will make one for all the kids at her party, but I am trying to decide whether to make them for this party. Whenever I throw a shower for someone, I usually make chocolate chip cookies and put some in little baggies for each person. I could always do that. I have a little number one shaped cookie cutter, maybe I will just make some sugar cookies with icing on them and put those in baggies for everyone. Any thoughts? Any super cheap ideas?

Before you think that I am maybe putting too much into this little party for a one year old's birthday, let me just say.... you are probably right. Let me also say, that until I became pregnant, one of my most favorite things in the world to do was host a party. I just love planning parties. We would have several big parties every year. We had a huge annual Halloween party that we spent weeks preparing for, a christmas party, and birthday parties for ourselves or one of my sisters. We hosted my mom's 50th birthday party and really anything else we could use as an excuse.... a spring fling party... whatever. It's been over two years since we have had a real party at our house and I am extremely excited about it!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Salad "freshens without enfeebling and fortifies without irritating." ~ Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

I have been a little salad obsessed lately.

I have been making salads for my lunch at work and I am loving them! They seem to keep getting bigger and better with each one.

Who says a big healthy lunch salad has to be boring? Well I used to...

Romain Lettuce
Grape Tomateos
Red Onion
Black Olives
Baby Bella Mushrooms
Fresh grated mozzarella cheese
Grilled chicken (thanks to the hubs for throwing an extra chicken breast on the grill for me just for my salad)
Dressing (made up of 1 part olive oil, one part red wine vinegar, Italian seasoning, pepper and sea salt)

For some reason I don't like adding my chicken or cheese until I am actually eating the salad. I'm not sure why. Somewhere along they way I got the idea that it was better to keep them separate until the last minute. Is that wierd?

Oh and my Trader Joe's natural chunky peanut butter and celery for a snack. Have I mentioned my love for this peanut butter? I eat it atleast once a day, sometimes twice:)

I need some more ideas for my salad... anyone have any suggestions (Starch, preservative and Sugar free... )?

Wordless Wesnesday - My Giggle Monster

Thursday, July 15, 2010

All the cousins together!

We had our family all over last Sunday for a bbq. Both of my sister came and brought their girls. We had some good photo opps.

Here is some of the family hanging out in the living room.

Starting in the back, from left to right... my grandmother, my mom, my sister Erin, my sister Amy, then me. Down front are our babies! Girls, girls and more girls!

Here is the munchkin with her younger cousin Q. They are about 6 weeks apart. My friend Gina over at Namaste By Day, bought her this cute little dress while I was preggo.

They threw all of the toys out of the boxes and climbed inside.

I took this pic that same morning. She looked so cute "reading" her books.

Parmesan Crackers (sugar free • gluten free • low carb • gaps)

I made my 2nd batch of these tonight. They are so good with cream cheese or some other type of cheese spread on them. You can top them with all kinds of things really... or just eat them plain!

This recipe uses almond meal. Almond meal is made up completely of ground up almonds. Check out this great article for the benefits of Almonds.

Parmesan Crackers

1 1/2 cups of almond meal
1 1/2 cups of Parmesan cheese (grated is best)
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of dried Thyme (or more)
3-4 tablespoons of water (or as needed to hold the dough together)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine all the ingredients, except for the water, in a bowl and blend well, or place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until well blended.
3. Add the water to the mixture and blend until the mixture forms a ball of dough. Only add enough water to hold it together - avoid making it too moist.
4. Place the dough on a Silpat baking mat or other non-stick baking surface (such as parchment paper) and top it with a piece of parchment paper. Roll the dough out until it is thin enough to be a cracker (about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch in thickness).
5. Score the flattened dough with pizza cutter or knife to make square crackers and place them on a cookie sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the crackers are browned on the top. They are crunchy when they are browned on top. They also brown on the bottom. Don't be afraid to brown these, they don't burn that easily.
6. Cool and enjoy!

Tips: If you are not going to be using up your almond meal within a couple of weeks, store it in the freezer to keep it fresh. Buy a couple of bags, store one in an airtight container in the pantry and the rest in the freezer. The cheapest I have found it, is at Trader Joe's. They sell it for $3.99 a bag. You can buy it at the regular grocery store, as they usually carry the Bob's Red Mill brand, but that is usually around $14 per bag. Big difference!

“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life" ~Shinoda

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was on a mission to lose weight and get fit before the munchkin's first birthday (9-09). I am proud to say that I am nearly there. So far, I have lost 27 lbs. I'd like to lose about 10 more.

I wanted to lose my pregnancy weight. Going into this, that was my main goal. I didn't anticipate all of the other wonderful things that I would learn along the way and the other big changes that would become an integral part of my life from now on.

I have always tried to eat healthy on a regular basis. Any time I would need to lose weight in the past (like before my wedding), I would implement a low calorie, low fat diet and lots of exercise. I knew exactly how many calories I needed to stick to in order to lose a certain amount of weight in a certain amount of time. This works. But it is hard, it's not REAL food and it's alot of work to prep and make food that doesn't really taste all that good anyway. And the calorie counting.... ugh!! I hate counting my calories. I found a website that would keep track of everything for me and it was definitely easier, but who wants to have to pay that much attention to every single detail about every single bit of food that they are putting into their mouth? After I had the munchkin and realized that the weight wasn't going to just fall off on its own, as I had hoped, I turned to my old tried and true weight loss methods. But without being able to have all of the time I had before to work out and go to the gym along with the diet, I was only maintaining my weight.

Then my sister and her husband started the HCG diet (homeopathic version). I was more then skeptical. In fact, being concerned about her health, I begged her not to do it. It just didn't sound like a good idea. After extensive research, I did a complete 180 and decided to try the diet myself. I ordered my drops, followed the very strict eating plan and the rest is history. I am not going to go on and on about the details of the diet and how it works. That information is readily available all over the internet. Plus, that is not the part that I am the most excited about. That is not what I really wanted to share with everyone. The diet helped to kickstart my weightloss quickly, but it was what I have learned along they way that will stick with me forever.

Update: Knowing what I know now, however, I would NOT recommend the HCG diet as a healthy way to lose weight.

I started to do alot of research about food and how it all works and breaks down in our body. The dynamics of the diet, really got my wheels turning and I wanted to learn more about my body's relationship with food. I didn't want to have to "diet" ever again. I never want to count my calories. I just want to be healthy, to eat healthy, to maintain a healthy weight without really having to try hard to do so, and to set a good example for my daughter. I want to be able to feed her everything I am eating without having to worry about the decisions I am making concerning her health. I didn't want to eat to stay thin or maintain my weight. I wanted to eat to nourish my body, along with the rest of my family. I wanted the food we put into our bodies to help us live longer and to feel good.

Is that too much to ask? Was that even possible for someone like me who had a very long history of working hard to not become overweight?

I think it is very possible. I feel so empowered and excited about everything I have learned. Not only have I lost weight, but I feel amazing. It may sound silly, but I feel like I have discovered the fountain of youth or something.

I am no longer counting my calories or paying attention to how much I eat. I eat whenever I want and as much as I feel that I need. And I am still losing weight. If I had to guess, I would say that I am probably taking in somewhere around 2,000+ calories a day right now (it could be even more then that). I also eat 3 pretty good size meals, along with several snacks, throughout the day. And I am eating real food. Real butter, real cheese, real cream in my coffee. Natural Peanut butter, not to mention my love affair with almond butter. And lots and lots of olive oil.

I am staying away from most starches and sugar in any form, except those found naturally in fruit and vegetables, and those with almost as much fiber as the carbs (like flax seed), making a net carb count of close to zero. The only sweeteners I use are stevia and erythritol (and splenda on a very, very rare occassion). Other then that I am trying to stay away from anything artificial and unnatural.

I have been making my own crackers, muffins and other "faux starches" using almond flour, coconut flour, and flax seed. I am still eating desserts and sweets. I haven't given up carbs completely, I am just trying to cut out all the bad ones.

What is the most amazing part to me is that I not only feel better then I have felt in many many years, but I am enjoying my food more then ever. And I am enjoying it all completely guilt free! I am not just eating food that is keeping the weight off, I am eating food that tastes delicious and that is stocking my body with everything it needs to be healthy. I feel like I am nourishing my soul. I am also going to be setting a good example for my daughter, which has admittedly made eating healthy more important then ever.

Whether you think it sounds like a boring menu of options and alot of work cooking and making everything from scratch (this was me before), or you are already a veteran in this area and are saying to yourself "nice that you finally caught on"... I feel like I have made an enormous revelation.

To me, this is HUGE. And I just wanted to share my excitement. I plan on sharing some of my new creations and recipes as I go.