The morning itinerary of a new mom

by Jessie K on February 6, 2014

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4 a.m.: Nurse the baby, hope she goes back to sleep

5 a.m. Nurse her again to get her to stop squirming

6 a.m. She’s still squirming

7 a.m. Say a little prayer of gratitude husband is willing to take other daughter to preschool

9 a.m. Pull self out of bed and slip downstairs for a bowl of Raisin Bran before baby wakes up

9:02: Baby wakes up.

9:05: Baby in full blown crises mode wanting to be fed and changed

9:06: Wolf down fastest bowl of Raisin Bran on record

9:07: Change and cuddle baby

9:30: Nurse baby

9:45-11:25: Cuddle with baby on couch while drinking coffee and answering emails (sloppy punctuation expected)

11:26: Contemplate whether it’s time to get something done (clean a room, blog, tend to chickens, go outside for fresh air)

11:27: But she’s just so darn cute

11:28: Keep cuddling

11:30: Still cuddling

11:31: Feeling awfully lazy

11:32: Wonder why I never get anything done

11:35: Wonder when she’s going to take a nap

11:36: Wonder if it’s time to change out of my pajamas

11:40: Baby looking sleepy….very sleepy

11:45: Please go to sleep

11:50: Seriously. Go to sleep. I’m getting bed sores from sitting on this couch so much.

11:59: She’s asleep

Noon: Leap off the couch. Time to get something–

12:01: Dang it. She’s up again.

12:03: She can’t be hungry again.

12:04: Can she?

12:04: No really, can she?

12:05: Wish I would have eaten more Raisin Bran.

12:05: Settle back into couch for more nursing.

12:15: Still nursing.

12:20: Look at the clock. The day’s almost over.

12:21: Contemplate whether street clothes are overrated. Pajamas are where it’s at.

 

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Stair runner update

by Jessie K on February 4, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the wake of our recent stair runner installation debacle, I went to a carpet store to find out how much it would cost to install high quality, thick, wide, stain resistant carpeting on our steps. You know, the kind of carpeting June can spill grape juice on and will last forever and ever and won’t rip and tear in our hands if we ever decide to uninstall it.

Well, the least expensive option was nearly $700 not including the cost of the installation (Jake can do that part). And the style of the carpet itself was not that great. I mean, the pattern was perfectly fine and functional and pretty enough, but definitely not “on trend.” (did I just use that phrase? Yikes.) Not like the Nate Berkus runner I’d originally eyed! So now I find myself asking, how much do I really want to spend on this project for a pattern I’m whatever about?

So while I try to make a decision, my gaze has drifted upward to the wall behind the steps. This blank, beautiful wall is in need of something. At first I  was thinking a gorgeous coat of paint, but now I’m thinking wallpaper. How great would this wallpaper from Ferm Living Shop look…

ferm_living_wallpaper_berry_black_grande… on this wall?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI think it would look great.

The only concern I have is that June runs her hand up the wall whenever she climbs the steps and I’m afraid of always having to wipe down her handprints from the wallpaper. I guess the real question is, are little kids and wallpaper incompatible? How easy is it to clean?  Does anyone have experience with this? I wouldn’t want to spend a bunch of money on the paper and the installation (Jake can’t do this part) only to have it ruined by itty bitty handprints.

Maybe wall stencils might be a better way to go? It’s much, much cheaper — the stencil, supplies and the paint are the only costs, besides my time and labor  – but I’ve never stenciled anything and am afraid of screwing up big time . The nice thing about stencils is that if I goof up or get sick of it, it’s easy to paint over. The only thing I’m out is my time. Whereas wallpaper is more of a challenge.  Here’s a fun stencil design from Etsy shop StenCilit that caught my eye.

il_570xN.540334949_n2s5What do you think? Anyone have experience with this stuff?

 

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The Parenting Mistake I’ll Never Make Again

by Jessie K on February 3, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday I did something I swore I’d never do. I left Katie and June in the car while I dashed inside a store to return something.

Continue reading here.

 

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I ate that: Pink and Yellow Coconut Apples

by Jessie K on February 3, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn my attempt to cook my way through only the greatest Christmas gift ever, my vintage Great American Recipe Card Collection from Jake’s Grandmom, I’ve decided to start off super easy because complicated cooking projects are just too hard with a newborn. It may be April before I try my hand at a “shrimp mold.”

This week’s recipe: Pink and Yellow Coconut Apples curiously categorized under the header, The Southwest.  (Other recipe categories include “Sundays at Home,” “County Fairs,” “Low-Calorie Dishes,” “Cooking with Wine,” Budget Stretchers,” etc.) I’m not sure what’s Southwestern about candied coconut balls dyed pink and yellow but it’s best not to ponder the whys of this recipe collection.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a fairly simple recipe, one I knew I could handle with little Katie squalling at my feet. I made it Sunday morning after making June breakfast and before going for a little jog (my first since giving birth! Whoo hoo! Sweet freedom!)

In a saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup milk and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat’s up with cream of tartar? You don’t really see it used in recipes anymore. I’m not sure why. In this case, I think it was added to prevent the crystallization of cooked sugar.

Cook the ingredients over high heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to boiling. Boil to 225 F on candy thermometer. This is the temperature at which, once cooled, the sugar mixture is malleable enough to form into soft balls.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACut the heat and add 2 3 1/2-ounce “cans” flaked coconut. I’m pretty sure flaked coconut doesn’t come in cans anymore; it comes in bags. I used 1 7-ounce bag and stirred it up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe mixture looked nice and pasty, which I guess is how it’s supposed to look.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, you’re supposed to divide the mixture among two small bowls and, using food coloring (another ingredient that’s gone the way of cream of tartar), tint one portion pink…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA…and the other yellow. It’s here that I started thinking this recipe should have been categorized under “Children’s Favorites,” but no, it’s “Southwest.” Okay, whatever. Cool at room temperature for about 2 hours.

While it cooled, I went for my little sweet jog of freedom (it was more like a jog/walk; I haven’t run in over nine months.)  When I came back, the day got away from me. June had a playdate, Katie needed to be fed, I had errands to run, blah, blah, blah, so I covered both bowls with plastic wrap and stuck them in the refrigerator, thinking I’d form the coconut balls later.

Well, that turned out to be a mistake. Because when I finally had time to form the balls, the candied coconut had hardened to something akin to flaky cement. The balls really needed to be formed at room temperature like the recipe card said. Dang it. Another recipe foiled.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut I wasn’t going to give up. No. Not me. Instead, I scraped shards of the hardened coconut paste and assembled them in a bowl to give the appearance of balls. Then, I delicately rested one raisin on each. Note I did not write “imbed.” I wrote “rested.” Meaning, if you shook the bowl, all the raisins would tumble to the bottom.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs for the taste, well, it tasted like a really, really sweet shard of coconut flake. There was so much sugar in this recipe that the texture was actually gritty, almost sandy. As in, I could feel the grains of sugar getting stuck in my teeth, actively rotting them as I chewed. Other than that, the taste was great. If you’re 5. I finished it off by swallowing one of the raisins languishing in the bottom of the bowl.

I had intended to bring my Pink and Yellow Coconut Apples to a superbowl party but given that the shards crumbled to sugar dust when you tried to pick them up, I decided to save face and leave them home. Which turned out to be a good thing because everyone at the party was incredibly healthy. It was the healthiest Super Bowl party I’d ever been to! No coagulating troughs of cheese and beans. No vats of sour cream and salad dressing powder. Instead, we nibbled on delicately roasted cauliflower crudite, gluten-free chocolate cake, kale and brussel sprout salad. My coconut balls would have been the chain smoking, super tanned, cursing cousin you can’t help but gawk at but don’t really want to talk to.

Will I make this again? Maybe. For June’s 4th birthday. I think it would be a hit among the under 8 crowd and people with comprised dentistry.

(See my attempt at making Ham and Bananas Hollandaise here.)

 

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Dance, Siberian style

by Jessie K on January 31, 2014

It’s been a long cold January huddled on the couch with a newborn in my arms but last night was a reprieve. I had my first solo outing since becoming a mom of two. No kids, no Jake. I went to see a performance by the Krasnoyarsk National Dance Company of Siberia all by myself and it was great.

B-Krasnoyarsk-Dance-Company-Photo-Credits-go-to-Krasnoyarsk-Dance-CompanyIt was a traditional folk performance — accordions, fringed shawls, cossack boots — and extremely athletic. The male dancers performed as many acrobatics as you’d expect from a gymnastic competition: Leaping, jumping, kicking, back flipping, hand standing. It was like folk break dancing. I loved it! Oh, and there were lots of swords!

FLO_0_ta30russ2_1130The physical feats were jaw droopingly impressive. I’m a sucker for acrobatics. I’m also a sucker for costume changes — there must have been 15 costume changes for the hour and a half performance. You can never have too much glitter and sequins on stage.

krasnovrsk1The only thing that caught me off guard were some of the dances performed by the women. For three or four songs, the women came on stage dressed in full, floor length gowns. You could barely see their feet from under the dresses (I could because I was in the first row). They moved across the stage on tiptoe, giving the impression of gliding or floating, not walking. Their doll-like movements were a sharp juxtaposition to the raw physicality of the male performances. It was cool but also kind of eerie. Adding to the strangeness of it were the women’s expressions. They all wore the same dazed, vacant, pageant smile. It was as if they were directed to look like nothing was going on upstairs. And their hair was all uniformly white, white blond with braids extending all the way down their lower back. (The male dancers, meanwhile, had hair of all different cuts and colors.) The effect was very Siberian Stepford Wives (are those women happy or do they want to kill you? It’s hard to tell.)

As I watched them move, I wondered if the Company only hired white blond female dancers or whether the non blond women were asked to bleach their hair before taking the show on the road. They all looked like natural blonds to me, but it was hard to tell.  It got me thinking about how so much of dance still plays on antiquated gender roles. The women are there to be pretty and idealized — doll-like and ultimately won over — while the men get to be proactive and reactive. I realize most of this stems from traditional dance itself — that’s just the way the performances were designed — but it does get a little tiresome. I wanted to see some of those Siberian Stepford Wives backflip too.

 

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Stair runner installation gone wrong

by Jessie K on January 29, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had been looking for a black and white runner to install on our staircase forever and finally found one I loved at Target: Nate Berkus Arrowhead Runner in Onyx. The stuff he designs for Target is so great and it’s so affordable. It was exactly what I wanted — graphic, black and white, modern with a slight rustic edge. See it in action here. Plus it’s reversible.

The only problem: It was sold out. So I ended up buying four  – the amount I needed for the steps  – on eBay, which turned out to be not so bad since they were $10 a piece cheaper and they were brand new, tags still on and everything.

Jake and I set aside last Sunday to install them while I minded the kids. We used Young House Love’s staircase runner tutorial as our guide. They also went for a graphic black and white look and it looks so sharp.

I won’t bother going over comprehensively how we did it (you can check out instructions in YHL’s very informative post) but we did learn some very valuable lessons along the way that YHL didn’t get into in their write-up… [click to continue…]

 

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Painting the banister

by Jessie K on January 28, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHome improvement projects are few and far between these days as I hold Katie pretty much all day, but one project I’ve been able to cross off my mile long list is paint the banister! It looked like this a month or so ago:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s nice but I’m craving a bold, graphic look for the staircase so I thought a black banister would look great. I was inspired by these shots here and here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecause the staircase runs along the wall, I figure I can be “loud” with high contrast black and white and a bold light fixture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd because Jake and I both come from a long line of work horses (my Mom painted my living room), Jake’s Dad said he’d paint my banister. It’s like both sides of the family are in a competition to see who can perform the most arduous paint projects in a given household. Naah, just kidding — our families are just really, really helpful and supportive. And they’re very precise painters, I might add.

I went with Benjamin Moore Onyx for the paint. It’s deep and rich with an almost burnished quality. The first coat goes on almost dark brown and gets darker with each additional coat.

First Jake’s Dad — G-Daddy — taped off all the spindles and the floor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith any paint project, prep is key.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe used one of June’s toy paint brushes to cut in around where the spindles and banister meet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen he spent the next several hours — it took roughly a weekend —  very slowly painting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI think it came out great. Thanks, G-Daddy!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext up: I gotta select a stair runner and look for a high impact overhead light fixture.

 

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Praise the swaddle

by Jessie K on January 28, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love the swaddle! Nothing calmed June down faster than wrapping her extra tight in a blanket. It saved our sanity on so many occasions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt first, Katie hated the swaddle. She pitched a fit every time we tried to wrap her, so we assumed it wasn’t for her. But then she’d fidget and fuss for a good two to three, sometimes four hours every night.

Until a couple of nights ago, Jake tried wrapping her again and she fell into the deepest, sweetest baby coma and has been a lot more calm since.

So don’t give up on the swaddle if at first a baby seems to hate it. They may come around!

(Bottom swaddle courtesy of Swaddle Designs. They have the cutest, most well made baby blankets.)

 

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3 great new country songs

by Jessie K on January 27, 2014

Do you like country music? I’m always on the fence about it. I love the old stuff but the new stuff can be so soft rock cheesy and maudlin.

But here are three songs I’m loving right now.

“Merry Go ‘Round” by Kacey Musgraves. (The link only provides a snippet of the song, sorry.) It picked up the Grammy for Best Country Song over the weekend. It’s a stunner with awesome lyrics.

scarlett-gunnar-scarlett-and-gunnar-33560332-640-360“Love is War” by American Young. For the longest time, I thought this song was performed by the actors who play Gunnar and Scarlett on Nashville. This duo make the sweetest, almost angelic harmonies ever — they were born to sing together. But then I found out it’s actually performed by the group American Young. Oops. They sound so similar.

“Goodbye in Her Eyes” by the Zac Brown Band. It’s about dying love and is a real heart breaker.

 

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I ate that: Ham and Bananas Hollandaise

by Jessie K on January 27, 2014

What happens to a woman who is housebound with an infant combined with freakishly cold weather? She begins to lose it a little.  I went ahead and made that Ham and Bananas Hollandaise I blogged about a few days ago (apologies for the dearth of posts lately — Katie has been on a bit of napping strike. I can’t do anything right now!)

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Why would I make a recipe that looks this gross? Morbid curiosity. Bottled up energy. A hint of insanity. And an inkling that the recipe’s creators might not have actually been smoking crack when they devised it (did they have crack back then? I mean, besides what you show when you bend over?). I prefer to think that the recipe’s editors knew what they were doing. They knew something about clever food combinations I do not. 

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See, when embarking on a culinary adventure such as this, it’s important to start from a place of Yes. Yes, there is a chance bananas wrapped in “boiled ham” might actually be tasty. Yes, there are humans out there who might actually boil ham. Making something this bizarre requires an open mind because it’s too easy to dismiss it otherwise.

There was only one problem — I couldn’t find any boiled ham or premade hollandaise sauce mix (they went the way of Captain and Tenille, I guess). And since I didn’t have a ham handy to boil, I used prosciutto.

As for the hollandaise, I had to make my own, which turned out to be the hardest part about this recipe. I’d never made hollandaise sauce before and it is a bear. So much whisking. You can’t stop whisking or the egg yolks and butter will separate. Adding to the challenge was having my trusty sidekick strapped to my chest the entire time:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI thought I was going to give her a brain hemorrhage with all the whisking but it was the only time that day she napped comfortably.

Once I had made the hollandaise, it was time to assemble the recipe. (Oh, I should point out that I didn’t make the entire recipe. I was being conservative. I made a one ham banana meal.)

Here goes: Take one banana. Slather it in lemon juice to prevent it from browning. You’ll notice my banana is split down the middle. That’s because it broke upon peeling. I eat a banana every single day of my life and the only one that’s ever broke on me is the one I want to photograph. Figures. It was a head’s up from God: “What are you doing, you fool?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext, take a piece of prosciutto — or “boiled ham” if you live in an underground bunker  – and slather it in mustard. I used Dijon because it is my favorite.  Carefully wrap the prosciutto around the banana.  The prosciutto seemed insufficient to me so I doubled up on it, wrapping nearly all of the banana.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYikes. Anyone still there? Anyone? Come back.

Bake the ham wrapped banana in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. As it baked, I thought the concept of wrapping a banana in prosciutto is really not so different from prosciutto wrapped melon; the flavor profiles are the same: sweet with salty. That’s what the recipe’s creators were going for.  If you can accept ham wrapped melon balls, you can accept ham wrapped bananas. Maybe this recipe wouldn’t be so terrible. Meanwhile, Katie slipped further and further into the depths of the baby pouch:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShe was still hanging in there. Barely.

After ten minutes, I spooned hollandaise over the banana and let it bake five minutes more. I pulled it out of the oven and slid it on a plate. Here’s where things got real.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUh. The recipe says it goes “nice with a green salad for brunch or lunch.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYeah, anything to camouflage the botched operation on the rest of the plate. There’s a reason why this recipe didn’t go on to reach iconic Waldorf Salad like status.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had to speed things along because I was about to lose Katie out the side of the pouch onto the floor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs for the taste, well, it was pretty hard to get beyond the visual, but I will say the baking process gave the banana a mellow caramelized  flavor that paired surprisingly nicely with the mustard and prosciutto. The flavor wasn’t as garish as I presumed. The problem with this dish — aside from the obvious — was my hollandaise sauce. It didn’t set up nice and thick the way it’s supposed to, nor was the flavor all that great. It just tasted kind of oily and buttery and gross. I wouldn’t mind trying this recipe again with a really superb hollandaise…or dispensing with the hollandaise altogether. Or tearing up this recipe and throwing it in the trash.

The other problem is that it’s really not easy to eat. You can’t cut through prosciutto with a fork. It requires a steak knife, which is just dumb with a meal involving a banana. Lastly, the serving size is way too big. There’s no way a lady who lunches could polish off an entire banana that looks this gruesome.  I could muster only a couple of bites before the presentation killed my appetite for good. The rest went to the chickens.

Do I think this recipe is ripe for a resurrection? No. It’s too graphic and portions are way too big. But I think bite size pieces of roasted bananas wrapped in mustardy prosciutto could be a very interesting appetizer. Look for it on menus.

 

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