Make Way for Bébé

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Apart from announcing our little one, I haven't documented much about the process of growing a little human. Pregnancy, in my opinion, is a bit like fingerprints or snowflakes. No two are alike. Sure they share similarities, but by and large every woman has a different experience. Most of my friends and siblings have been producing offspring for years now. Which means I have access to a bevy of stories and shared wisdom about the process. And I should say that by and large I've had a really easy pregnancy. Like annoyingly easy. In my mind I attribute that to continued gym sessions; roughly four times a week, up until week 37. Pregnancy is weird because it's all about keeping track of weeks. And for that I found this book to be highly informative. Forty weeks is considered full term, but when you break that down into months that actually equals 10 months. So where do we get all this nonsense about 9 months?

Now that I'm in the homestretch I miss the feeling in my right hand. (It is entirely numb and tingly all the time.) Breathing has become a bit more strained and none of my shoes fit. Minor inconveniences really. But still. Strangers have starting asking when I'm due, which means my belly has finally caught up to the size of my ass. So there's that. When it comes to crazy cravings I have eaten an obnoxious amount of salsa, which probably just means this kiddo already has a healthy love of Mexican food. Oh, and I should confess, that for someone who never eats red meat, I've had a burger four times in the last eight months.

And whenever I start to wonder how bébé is doing, I just crank a little Miles Davis and kicking ensues.

Making a House a Home

Friday, July 11, 2014

Whenever I go through a major change I find myself slipping into the habit of neglecting important things. Like writing. Seasons of transition and upheaval often translate to chaos in my mind. Which is basically the very definition of moving. Chaos. Whether you're moving two miles or 2,000 miles, the process is largely the same. Packing, purging, cleaning, transporting, unpacking, organizing, rearranging, cleaning, and finally settling in.

I was talking to a friend recently and she said it takes about a year to feel truly settled into a new home. A year! We have lived in our 90 year-old home for three weeks. And like any relationship, we (the house and I) have had our ups and downs. Before we moved in GH and I created a home improvement spreadsheet; a growing list where we could track projects, estimated costs, and actual expenditures. Without even thinking about it the list started off with 30 items. Ambitious, no? Some things, like a washer and dryer, refrigerator (our home didn't come with one), and shelves in the closet fell into the high priority/non-negotiable category. While other things, like replacing all the windows, landscaping, and installing built in book shelves around the fireplace landed in the we-would-like-to-have-someday category.

With a new roommate on the way in just a few weeks our time for home improvement projects has felt somewhat urgent. The time crunch to get as much done as quickly as possible is certainly a motivator, if not a simultaneous stressor. While it's easy to feel overwhelmed, sometimes I have to stop and take stalk of how far we've come. So what have we been up to lately? Since moving in we have accomplished the following:
  1. Replaced master bedroom light fixture
  2. Removed a wall of ivy from the west side of the house. 
  3. Smashed a giant bedroom wall mirror. Making the nursery feel less like a dance room. 
  4. Demolished and replastered the master bedroom closet. 
  5. Had Elfa shelving installed into the master bedroom closet. 
  6. Countless trips to Home Depot (mainly for paint and tools). 
  7. Hired someone to replace the exterior roof valley and flashing around the chimney. 
  8. Had the interior plaster around the fireplace repaired. 
  9. Installed new shelves and painted the kitchen pantry bright teal. 
  10. Replaced the dining room chandelier & living room sconces with Schoolhouse Electric pieces.  
  11. Stripped hallway wallpaper. 
  12. Replaced hallway light fixture. 
  13. Cut back our jungle of a backyard to a more manageable state. 
  14. Survived hiring contractors to gut and remodel our bathroom. (Actually this is still in process. My hope is they'll be done early next week...over three weeks behind schedule.) 
While we still have a long way to go, just reading through this list helps me realize we are making progress. Slowly. Some things just take time. On the agenda this weekend is painting the hallway and nursery and cleaning the wood floors. 

Homemade: Carrot Cake

Monday, April 21, 2014

Yesterday was one of those perfect spring days where everything was in bloom and the weather was so delicious you wanted to savor it with all five senses. Our Sunday church services were a beautiful experience, complete with heartfelt songs and lovely messages. Throughout the day I felt a surge of gratitude for all the good things in my life and cherished all the quiet reminders of God's love for me.

We were lucky enough to get a last-minute dinner invitation and I was only too happy to make this quintessentially Easter carrot cake for the gathering. You can serve this cake with ice cream or whipped cream, but I prefer it as is and slightly cold.

Carrot Cake with Ginger Mascarpone Frosting
(serves 10-12)

2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound carrots, grated (see Note)
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
Ginger Mascarpone Frosting, recipe follows
Crystallized ginger (not in syrup), chopped, for garnish
Ginger Mascarpone Frosting:
12 ounces Italian mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger (not in syrup)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-by-2-inch) round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and grease and flour the pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar, oil, and eggs on medium-high speed for 2 minutes, until light yellow and thickened. Stir in the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together the 2 cups of flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ones.

In a medium bowl, toss the carrots, raisins, walnuts, and the 1 tablespoon of flour. Stir into the batter with a rubber spatula. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 10 minutes, lower the heat to 350 degrees F, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes, turn out onto a baking rack, and cool completely.

Place one cake on a flat serving plate, rounded-side down. Spread half the frosting on the top (not the sides). Place the second cake on top of the first cake, rounded-side up. Frost just the top of the second cake. Sprinkle with the ginger and serve at room temperature.

Note: For this episode, Ina added 1/4 cup chopped crystalized ginger to the batter.

Ginger Mascarpone Frosting:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the mascarpone, cream cheese, confectioners sugar, cream, and vanilla together for about 1 minute, until light and fluffy. Add the crystallized ginger and salt and beat for 30 seconds more. Yield: frosts one 9-inch cake

Note: Grate the carrots by hand on a box grater; if you grate them in a food processor, the carrots will be too wet and the cake might fall.

Recipe from Ina Garten

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