wrapping up September

What a weekend. So fun, yet so tiring!

Friday night my brother and his fiancee came into town, but didn't get to the train station until 11:30. Trav and I were in bed about 10 minutes after he walked them in the door.

Saturday Gwen slept until 7 and woke up singing! It was a nice way to wake up. Started getting ready, then got Ethan and Elise up, and were out the door by 9ish to head to the Celtic Classic. 

We met my parents there and proceeded to eat Celtic foods (Sheppard's Pie, Haggis, Sticky Toffee Pudding, etc), listen to Celtic music, and watch some of the Highland Games. I had to stop and see my favorite cookie man, and get some Welsh cookies.

Gwen's favorite act. Sisters who played guitar, fiddle, and drums;
and danced jigs. They all had blond hair, and blue eyes like her!

Gwen made friends with this police officer who was there to keep an eye on the crowds. He was so great with her and explained was each piece of his equipment was for. She has been saying for a few weeks that she wants to be a police officer when she grows up and work with the K9 unit, and this just made her want that more!

It was a really great day. We headed home, ate a quick dinner, then got Gwen to bed. We were all in bed pretty early that night.

Sunday, again, Gwen slept until 7 and woke singing. Gosh I wish we could just let her sleep until 7 everyday! She's in such a good mood then. ::fingers crossed for finding a new house soon::

Got up and quickly showered and got dressed. Woke Ethan and Elise up so they could say goodbye (they were walking to the train station an hour or so later), then headed out the door to the March for Babies. Trav's company forms a team every year, and I finally got to join them this year.

These two, with the holding hands! Gahh, my heart!

It was fun, though hot. We were back home before 11, and besides laundry and some cooking we were mostly lazy for the rest of the day. We all needed it at that point!

24 weeks

Everyone was in bed early again, and now we are on to another week.

It was a beautiful morning, and there is a beef stew cooking in my crock pot right now; so as far as Mondays go, this was a sleepy, but good one. Hope your weekends were as full and fun as ours!


happy little notes

I talked recently about how the news has been depressing me lately between sickness and fighting, it can be pretty bleak. But I found some news stories this week that have made me really happy, and have restored a bit of my faith. I collected them here for a little Friday Pick-Me-Up Link Round Up. Enjoy!

- Helping Others is not only a great thing to do, but it gives us a lift as well. This tells about a Company Hires Anyone, Gives Second Chances; and other people who are giving back.

- These students show how its done by wearing skirts to school.

- I love this kid. He has the best attitude! On or off the field, this footballer is going somewhere.

- Okay, so this isn't inspirational the way the other links are... but here's my kitchen inspiration for the week, Braised Lamb with Orange, Fennel, and Pomogranate Molasses. Dang this sounds so good!

- Man and dog reunited after hospital stay... and a new life for them both. Heart strings, officially tugged! 

- Just love the ongoing theme of people helping people: Moms for Moms "So many people have such an abundance, and so many others strive to afford even the basics," Cutler said. "What we're doing is trying to bridge that gap."

Enjoy, and I hope you have a great weekend!


tasty, easy recipe: Chia Seed Pudding

Getting there, but not ready yet.
I first had Chia Seed Pudding at a restaurant in Philly. It was yummy, but probably not worth the price tag. However, chia seeds are amazing for you, and I have a huge sweet tooth, so I wanted to look into it more. If I could easily make something that satisfied my need for sweet, without making me feel guilty, that would be a huge win.

Thankfully Chia Seed Pudding is the easiest to make, and endlessly customizable. The seeds do all the work really.

Here's the gist: Grab a container that's easy to cover and dump a bunch of chia seeds in there. Add liquid and flavor and let sit. That's it, really!

Here's what I did more specifically. Traditionally I think CSP is made with coconut milk, but I didn't have any so I used a combination of greek yogurt (to bump up the protein even more, and add flavor) and milk. I think I used about a cup of chia seeds, a cup of greek yogurt (lemon flavor), a heavy splash of my homemade vanilla extract, then topped it off with milk until it was thin enough and there was enough liquid for the chia seeds to absorb (maybe a cup and a half?). Give it a good stir, pop on the lid, and stick it in the fridge overnight.

At the same time, I grabbed a little over cup of the frozen berries I have stashed in my freezer, stuck them in a bowl and sprinkled them with a half teaspoon or so of coconut sugar, and another super healthy splash of my vanilla extract. I stuck the bowl in the fridge to defrost overnight while the chia seeds worked their magic. 

The next morning I dumped the berries and all the juices that had been released into our magic bullet, and pulsed until they were completely broken up into a sauce of sorts. My measurements above, gave me about 2 servings of pudding, so I put half right into the bowl I defrosted the fruit in, and topped with half the sauce, then put the other half of the sauce over the rest of the pudding in the jar, and stuck it back in the fridge for the next day.

I recommend doing overnight in the fridge to let the chia seeds really soften, but as long as you do at least 2 hours, you should be fine. The second helping was still great on the second day too. I'm making another batch now with vanilla, coconut yogurt, so we'll see how that one turns out!

Easy, delicious, and pretty guilt free as far as snacks go!


Happy Autumn! Officially.

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

Excuse me for being a day late.  :-)

These amazing, huge garden spiders where
enjoying the sun too.
Well, Fall is officially here, though the summer weather resurfaced briefly for the last weekend of summer, and it looks like it will be back briefly for next weekend as well (for Celtic Classic!!). But overall the Autumn weather is upon us, and I'm using it as an excuse to stock up on all the fixing for some of my favorite Autumn meals. Beef stew, biscuits and gravy, and I found an amazing looking recipe for braised lamb that I want to try. Yummm.

As for this past weekend. We soaked up tons of outdoor time, first visiting with Nonnie and Papa on Saturday, so I could get my hair cut; then running around with GG and Casey at Ro and Pat's on Sunday. Gwen loves every second with her Nonnie and Papa, and this time was no exception, especially since she got to see the Wizard of Oz for the first time. And Auntie Ro even took Gwen for a ride on the back of her bike, so that was golden!

Gwen was a happily worn out girl both days, and actually shut her eyes to rest (though not really sleep) on the ride home from my parent's, which she hasn't done in forever.

Overall, a great weekend. And now we are on to the last week in September! Time continues to fly!


Autumn Cold

So many of my favorite things about fall can't be captured in pictures. Some, like the autumn leaves, of course can. But some of the best things just can't be captured that way: cool fall breezes, warm sweaters, rich foods, the smell of leaves and burning campfires.

I left work early today. Gwen gave me our first cold of the season, and today was the day when it hit me like a ton of bricks. I needed to be at home wrapped up in a sweater with a warm mug of tea, relaxing with the dog and watching a movie. I think that's the greatest injustice about summer colds, you can't enjoy any of the little things that could possibly make you feel better: wrapping yourself up in something warm and drinking something hot. 

That's exactly what I'm doing right now. The doors thrown open to capture the cool breeze, I have my warm PJs on, and I'm drinking my favorite cold relief drink: hot water with lemon, ginger, and honey. 

We have a nice weekend ahead, not too much stuff but what we are doing is fun. In an hour my family will be home, and I will get everything started with dinner and the evening routine, before going to bed early. But for now I'm just going to sit and relax and enjoy the fall cold remedies. 


on this day

I worked from home yesterday, and it was pretty wonderful. I can't even described how much I missed those days in August... even though the reason I missed them was because I only worked a single Friday.

Yesterday's was especially lovely since the cool Autumn weather has continued, and I spent the first half of it in PJs, and the second half (post-lunch time shower) in yoga clothes and a lovely soft, warm hoodie. I worked while listening to the elementary school kids scream and yell and laugh outside at recess, and thought about the fact that Gwen would be there next Fall*.

I made myself mugs of steaming hot peppermint tea, forced the dog to snuggle with me when she came in from laying in the sun, and forced myself to slow down and breath it all in. I ran an errand in the morning, washed some dishes at lunch, but otherwise didn't get done all the things I had hoped to do. Thank goodness. I needed that, truly.

I'm still overwhelmed by life, and how much is going on, and how much of what is going on that I have very little control over; but I'm feeling better about it too. I'm focusing on an image of next fall: us snapping a picture of Gwen on our new front porch on the first day of school. I know that some how, some way, we will get there.

For now, work continues relentlessly, and the weekends fill at alarming rates. And we will enjoy it all.

* I'm filing this post, The Beginning of Big Kid School (Dooce), away here because it really struck me, and I want to have it on hand for next year. I hope Gwen will have no growing pains when she transitions to Kindergarten, but I want these suggestions available to me if she does.


telling Gwen

My stomach was getting bigger and it was becoming obvious to everyone else that I was pregnant, so by the time Cape Cod rolled around, I knew it was time to talk to Gwen about the surrogacy. I was already in my 2nd trimester and everything was looking good. We wanted to wait until we were secure in the pregnancy, and also minimize the time that my 4 year old, who hasn't quite mastered the calendar or the linear passage of time, had to ask the same questions over and over and over again. But we obviously wanted to be the ones to tell her, and not have it be a slip by someone else. Plus my belly was getting to the stage of being slightly an obstacle and I needed to be able to tell her why she couldn't bounce on it like a trampoline.

I wasn't sure what to expect. She had finally seemed to come around to the idea that we weren't going to be giving her a brother or sister, and had now settled on being excited for one day having her own babies, so I didn't know how this particular news would affect that. I also knew though, that we have a really caring girl on our hands. She loves to help others, she loves to give back.

So we armed ourselves with a book (there's a book for everything now!), and one day in Cape Cod, she and I found a quiet spot to read it. She really enjoyed the book. We read it twice. Then I talked to her for a bit about how mommy was doing was the mama kangaroo was doing in the book. That there was a little baby in my belly that I was growing until it was ready for the family who couldn't have it on their own. She was fine with it all. Actually pretty indifferent to it, at first. The only question she really had was, "What are their [the parents] names?" Which she replied to my answer with, "I don't like that, lets call them the Bouncing-Hopsalots [the kangaroo family in the book]!" Had to laugh about that, and that's what we've called them ever since!

Since then Gwen has had some more questions (including, the fun one, how does the baby get out of your belly...), and we've answered them all to the best of our ability. She happily answers, "What's in Mama's belly?" with "A baby!" And answers, "Who's baby is it?" with "The Bouncing-Hopsalots baby!" She's told her teachers at school all about the baby we're not keeping, and has become happy about the whole situation.

She did show off how that smart brain of hers works by asking me, "When you are done growing this baby, can you grow a baby for me?" (Aka. You won't have a brother or sister for me, but maybe you'll grow me my own baby!)  We put the cabosh on that one, gently but firmly, with the reassurance that when she was an adult she could grow her own babies. She took it well.

So that was that! I continue to be impressed with Gwen's compassionate and giving nature, as well as her understanding of adult situations. We'll continue to answer any questions she has, and have these talks many times over the course of the next few months. But this Mama was pretty pleased with her girl!!


house hunting, trouble concentrating, and other random Monday missives

I wish I could get it together, to get it together on Mondays. Lately I just can't seem to though. Its a week from the official start of Autumn, and it feels 100% like Autumn already, and that is making me happy. But our house search is leaving me frustrated, and work is overwhelming. So Mondays lately, are too much for me.

Our weekend was nice, though busy, and too fast. Saturday we went to visit 7 houses! Gwen was great until the last place, it had just been too much for her at that point. We found one we like, but don't think we can swing it pricewise (its out of our range, and our realtor had added it at the last minute because it just came on the market). Even that house wasn't perfect, it was a ranch, which isn't my favorite and the kitchen was small, the bathroom needed a little TLC too. But the finished basement was AMAZING, and the bedrooms were a great size.  ::sigh::  I was feeling pretty discouraged about the whole house hunting thing after that. It feels like we're never going to find something that both fits our needs, and doesn't need big work, within our price range. Bahh.

We looked at probably 40 houses before we found the one we're in now, so I understand that it takes time. We were just hoping it would be a little easier this go around. We've already looked at a dozen.

Anyway, the rest of the day we spent getting ready for the yard sale.

Sunday was Yard Sale day. We started moving everything out and getting it all organized about an hour beforehand, and I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. I wish I had taken a picture of how much stuff was out there! Or before/after pictures of our basement, because the difference is astounding. Gwen and I headed off to a birthday party for one of her best school friends, while Trav manned the sale. We got back in time to help him finish it off. We had on the signs that it ended at 2, and Trav posted a message to freecycle that people could come by and take what they wanted for free at 3:30. So we basically just let it run until 3, then pulled the few things we didn't just want to give away, and put up a giant sign that said FREE. We didn't make a ton, but enough to feel good about it, and got rid of most of the stuff, which was amazing! Our basement is so much emptier!!! I'm really glad we did it.

We used some of our earnings to get some Thai for dinner. Decluttering never tasted so good.

This morning came way too fast and we are all tired. I did find another house yesterday that apparently just came on the market, so we are going to go see that this weekend. Fingers crossed that this is a good one. Or that I win the lottery this week so that money isn't an issue anymore!

Other random things:

- I kind of want to set the NFL on fire lately (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Don't worry, just figuratively...  no combating violence with more violence.  ::sigh::

- I didn't write about 9/11, 13 years later. There are so many beautiful posts about it out there, stunning memorials, and it still gets to me just as strongly how people's lives were impacted by it. Personally, I just can't keep hashing it out every year though. I will always remember. How in the hell could I forget. I'm just not going to write about it.

- Between Ebola, Enterovirus, ISIS, and the above... I pretty much can't handle the news lately.

So that's my Monday post. Sorry it isn't more upbeat!!


dispatches from home

21.5 weeks and ready for my mat!
I'm working from home today and heading to the yoga studio tonight. I haven't been to this studio in about a month (because of how weird my August was with days off), and I'm so excited to see everyone.

I'm interested too, to see how my practice will have changed in the past week. Already now, my savasana is either spent on my side, or propped on bolsters; my floor work on my stomach is still okay with two carefully spaced thick folded blankets (one under my chest/shoulders, one under my hips/thighs, leaving room in the middle for the belly to hang!), but I'm not sure for how much longer; floor work on my back is okay, as long as I'm not laying flat. I'll have more time for yoga at home now that my Lactation Counselor Educator class is ending, but for the past month its been an interesting exercise in adaptability each week when I hit my mat in class. I'm still loving it though.

I'm 21.5 weeks and feeling good. I'm noticeably pregnant now, but not so big that its getting in my way. A good place to be. My nausea is gone, but the heartburn has started in earnest. Not everyday yet, but often enough. I've been sleeping pretty well, and am not so tired anymore. I'm using the body pillow full-time, I absolutely need it to get and stay comfortable. I miss laying on my back to sleep! The baby is good, and moving all the time. That's one of my favorite parts, is feeling the movement. We told Gwen about the pregnancy/surrogacy and she took it so well. I'll write more about that another time though, because it feel like it deserves its own post.

And I guess that is where I am today, on this random Thursday!


pregnancy and "nothing new"

I haven't written about nothing new in a while, and I'm not going to lie, that's because my nothing new project took a hit as my pregnancy has progressed.

There are parts that I've been really good about: other then some seasons of Scrubs that I bought myself with birthday money, I haven't been buying "stuff." But I realized quickly that the combination of being a month ahead of last pregnancy, plus it being my second and showing a lot quicker, meant that I really needed some summer maternity items that I was able to completely go without last time, as well as some transitional items for these in between summer/fall days. Plus I'm doing yoga now, which I wasn't then, so I've just hit the point where I need to retire my regular yoga clothes so I don't stretch them out and ruin them. So there has been some clothes buying. I tried to get some items that I could keep afterwards for the transitional period back to my "normal body," and possibly beyond. Things with great stretch, and longer/looser cuts, that could work as non-maternity clothes. I bought 2 long sun dresses, 1 skirt, 2 pairs of yoga pants and a yoga top, 3 tank type shirts, and 2 short sleeved shirts. I also bought a nicer dress for our biggest work event of the year, during which I will be, well, big. Hopefully I'm done with that buying now, though we'll see how big I get at the end!

The other place of deficiency is food. I mentioned before that my first trimester was so so much easier this time then last, but I still had some nausea issues and had some food aversions. I consciously decided to lift my ban on eating out. If there was something I wanted, and it was all I wanted, I would get it rather then struggle to eat some of something else. Now that I'm in my second trimester, I'm working to cut down on that and only allowing myself to buy food once or twice a week. While I'm pregnant though, I'm letting myself have some leeway on this one.

Still, things are still better then before I started this project. Even Gwen is learning from my experiences. When we went to Cape Cod we walked around Hyannis more then once. The shops were a gold mine "I want this!," but she was happy to "add things to her list" and at the end of the week picked one item that she wanted as a special vacation treat (a wolverine mask). And for something extra special, we each picked out 10 pieces of candy from the penny candy store. When she discovers new things that she wants, we talk about asking for them for Christmas, and she is fine with waiting. We've also started clearing out space for these new items, but going through her toys and sorting out items that she no longer plays with, which she is happy to donate.

Overall, my consumption habits are still so much improved from before I started all of this, and my plan is to continue it more strictly once this pregnancy is over (and in its modified form in the interim). The rewards of more money in my savings account, and less clutter and junk in my house, is infinitely better then the temporary joy of a new purchase. And the few things I do allow myself to get (like my birthday money Scrubs purchase) are so much more exciting now!

Has anyone else cut down on their consumption habits?  What are your strategies?



September is upon us and we are back in the swing of the school year schedule, but frankly my mind is still somewhere else:

It took me all of the days this week so far to remember how we used to make the mornings work with having to get Gwen and Trav out the door so early, but we are finally there. Today went pretty smoothly.

I miss the extra sleep for all of us (well really 2 of us, since Trav still got up with the dog, then logged into work before the rest of us were up), and extra time with Gwen in the morning, and the fact that I wasn't responsible for closing up the house everyday. That said, I am so so happy to have back my quiet morning time back! They leave between 7:00 and 7:15, and I don't leave until 8:00 -- and while now I am the one running around checking that all the windows and doors are closed and locked, and taking the dog out, turning on the A/C for her, etc. -- it is so nice to be able to sit down with my breakfast, flip on the weather channel, and just chill for a few minutes.

I think I'll need that especially in these next few busy months at work. Right now I just can't imagine how I'm going to get everything done, as I'm having trouble focusing to get anything done! But get done it will.

As will a yard sale, more house hunting, the Celtic Classic, the start of Autumn (18 days!), a hair trip to my parents, and of course, continuing to gestate a baby! Because September is busy!

Happy last quarter of the year!