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Consider the Cranberry

cranberry-sauce
This week is a guest-post by my culinary genius friend, Z.D. Gladstone! It’s a recipe to consider for your upcoming holiday feast. Enjoy!
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“Consider The Cranberry” by Z.D. Gladstone
To me, no holiday reveals more about people’s personalities than Thanksgiving.  Some folks try to make it about U.S. history, or cultural values, or other deep ideals.  But let’s be honest: Thanksgiving is about food.  Period.  And what we choose to serve (or not to serve) is hugely indicative of our characters.
For me, it all comes down to the big three: roast turkey (duh), the Gladstone Family Stuffing recipe (yes, as in stuffed inside the bird), and cranberry sauce.  The rest is negotiable.  Now roasting a turkey is not for the faint of heart, and I haven’t the constitution to try and teach those skills via blog.  The stuffing is a family matter.  But cranberry sauce…now there’s a glorious world of deliciousness just waiting to happen.  Let me bring you into the fold, and teach you the simple miracle of home-made cranberry sauce!
Most people I know buy their cranberry sauce.  Some go for the high-end jarred varieties, others can’t imagine anything except the can-shaped concoction gracing their table.  I’m here to convince you that this year – yes, THIS year – is your year to make your own.  And here are three reasons to do so:
1) It’s ridiculously easy.
2) You can make it up to a week in advance.
3) You can make it exactly the way you like.
4) Did I mention it’s ridiculously easy?*
All you need is a bag of fresh cranberries, a sauce pan, water, and sugar.  The rest is up to you, and you can’t mess this up.  So what kind of cranberry sauce do you like?  Do you prefer a molded cranberry gelatin thingy?  Allow me to recommend this recipe by culinary genius Alton Brown.  Go ahead and watch the short video, it will de-mystify the process considerably.  And yes, you can do what he does and use an empty can for a mold, so you get those nostalgic ridges around the edge.
But perhaps you go for a saucier cranberry concoction, more like a chutney.  After all, it’s easier to use on your leftovers sandwich. Here is a standard cranberry sauce recipe, with some ideas for how to spice it up:
Mandatory Ingredients:
One 12oz bag fresh cranberries, picked over and rinsed
1 Cup water
1 Cup white sugar
1 pinch kosher salt
Optional Ingredients:
1 tsp fresh chopped herbs (rosemary, thyme, or sage)
finely grated zest of 1 small orange OR lemon
1 tsp ground cinnamon + 1/2 tsp allspice + generous pinch ground nutmeg
2 tsp freshly grated ginger root
1/2 Cup dried tart cherries &/or chopped dried apple
1 tsp freshly ground Grains of Paradise
Directions: 
 – In a medium saucepan, combine all mandatory ingredients.  Choose anywhere from one to three optional ingredients (you could do more, but the flavors will start to get muddy) and add those to the pot as well.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
 – Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring often, until cranberries have popped and sauce has thickened somewhat, about 15 – 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and keep in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.
Yeah, that’s it!  So what are you waiting for?  Should you prefer your sauce a bit more tart, you can reduce the sugar to 3/4’s Cup.  If you REALLY want to get adventurous, you can try adding some heat, like minced chipotles in adobo sauce, or Sriracha.  Or you can go for something more mellow, like freshly cracked cardamom seeds and a scraped vanilla bean (make sure you remove the bean before serving).  Or if you are trying to make the in-laws a little more chill, stir in some Grand Marnier, or Creme de Cassis, or Ruby Port.  Or you can get really exotic, and try sake and miso paste.**
Always taste just before serving, as flavors can mature as sauce sits.  If you find your sauce tastes a little flat, try a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar to brighten it up.  And make sure everyone knows you made this from scratch, because if they like it, guess what you’re in charge of bringing next year?  Easiest.  Bring-along.  Ever.  Now go give thanks!
*Yes I can count.
**Not for the faint of heart, but if you get it right it’s soooooo nummy!
Z.D. Gladstone is a writer and chef who blogs at Scribbles and Munch.
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Introducing our newest little lady!

welcome-roberta-jr

She’s here!!! Roberta Jr. has arrived and is doing great!

I’m so excited to share the highlighted version of her entrance into this world. I won’t be sharing her given name or the date/time of her arrival on the blog for privacy reasons. Like it or not, I’m going to continue calling her Roberta Jr. for now, even though that’s not her real name! 🙂

Regarding what we did name her, we chose an Indian name that resonated with us. A friend of ours has the name and since we spent some time in India and it made such a huge impact on our lives, it seemed fitting even though we aren’t Indian ourselves. I also cleared the name with a few of our Indian friends to make sure it was “ok” to name a little white girl an Indian name! Ha! We got the seal of approval, so it’s done! Her middle name is a family name on Rob’s side.

roberta-jr-collage

My overall feeling with her entrance into this world is, “I DID IT!!! I FREAKIN DID IT!!!” Of course she’s beautiful and amazing and perfect too, I just have never felt more proud of myself than in the moments just before and just after she was born.

To be honest, the thought of going through labor again made me shudder. Yes, I wanted another baby, but did I really have go through the whole labor thing to get her? I did lots of mental prep and worked to get myself pumped up for delivering a baby again, but I knew what I was in for. I just couldn’t get myself ready.

With Pookie, I had pitocin and did no epidural. The pitocin was needed to get my labor started after my water broke but I had no contractions and was already 10 days overdue. No epidural was a personal choice based on that fact that I’m a bit of a control freak and am terrified at the idea of an epidural. Call me crazy, but the epidural fear was stronger than the fear of unmedicated child-birth. To each their own!

With Roberta, I was undecided about what I was going to do. “Natural” childbirth was no picnic for me, and I couldn’t decide what I wanted more: less pain/intensity or more control over my body. I really wanted to want to get the epidural, but it just kept not feeling right for me.

So here’s how it ended up going down:

I started into labor a few hours before Rob’s MICU shift (medical intensive care unit) – the shift that lasts 14 hours! My contractions were regular and intensifying. By the time Rob got home, it seemed like a good time to head to the hospital. Poor thing – he was so tired and was facing a night of no sleep!

We showed up and I was doing good but then my labor stalled. Enter pitocin. I really was hoping this wasn’t necessary this time, but it seems that my body likes to have a little “jump start.” However, this ended up not being a jump start. I kept needing more and more pitocin because the contractions weren’t regulating or intensifying. Once we got to the max dose of pitocin typically allowed, I was very discouraged.

I felt like I was rushing this. We had gone to the hospital too soon. I felt there was no way I could do a natural labor maxed out on pitocin. With Pookie, I had the smallest dosage possible and the labor was still overwhelming. I called for someone to come do epidural pre-op just in case I decided to go that route.

My spirits were low and I was starting to lose heart. But THEN…

There was a shift change and I had a new midwife come in. She also had a student midwife with her. That team of midwives was like being given the golden ticket and I’m so in awe of how we lucked out.

These midwives came in and turned the whole situation around. They pumped me up, gave me some very effective tools to get things going (like specific exercises and stretches), and assured me that we just had to get through this early stage and once I hit active labor, things were going to fly. They reassured me that I could do this.

It also turns out that it was a light evening for them patient-wise, so the student midwife asked if she could just stay with us to help. She had been a doula before deciding to go to midwifery school and had just finished six weeks of home births. She was in Galveston for her next 6-week internship as part of her training. Lucky, lucky me!!!

I honestly feel like I was able to go through the labor with such confidence and control because of her assistance. Specifics on how she helped is a topic for another time, but the difference between this birth experience and my first was huge.

Here’s how: Since I knew what to expect, I was much better prepared than I realized. I was more relaxed, inward focused, and clear-minded. My body would be overwhelmed with the contractions, but I could hear myself say, “You got this. This one’s almost over. Your baby is almost here.”

I almost started crying during the last phase of labor (transition/completion) because although it’s one of the worst things I’ve ever gone through in my life, I was doing it and not losing my sh*t.

Once I pushed Roberta out, I just started bawling. I couldn’t believe I did it! I couldn’t believe she was here when I thought I’d be in labor for days. I F-ING DID IT!!!

The craziest part was when they placed Roberta on my chest, she gave out one cry and then immediately stopped and starting looking around in wonder. She looked at me and then at Rob with this, “Oh hey guys, what’s up?” look on her face. It was incredible. Island babies, I guess!

So there you have it. The simplified version of her birth story and how I rose to conquer one of the hardest tasks of my life.

Apologies if you are reading this and are about to have your first child, or are trying to do a non-medicated birth. I don’t mean to make it sound horrible. If it was too horrible, I would have never done it again!! I was challenged and it was crazy hard, but it’s doable. You can do this, just like I did!

family-pic

So for the coming days and weeks, I’ll be soaking up all this new baby love and marveling at how it all transpired. We are now a family of four and it couldn’t feel more perfect. My heart is so full!

Sending baby snuggles out into the world!! xoxoxo

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We’re ready to go.

First, let’s just address the elephant and the donkey in the room. Today is going to challenge all of our blood pressure levels. We have survived this ridiculous presidental campaign, we’ve cast our votes, and now we wait for the cards to fall. The media will make it as dramatic as possible and no matter the outcome, there will continue to be drama for the forseeable future.

Whatever happens tonight, my biggest hope is that we can find a way to start coming back together again and start healing our wounds. We all have to live with each other, so we might as well figure out a way to make it work!

Alright, now we can talk about some fun things!! Like how my due date is in two days!

39-weeks

We have everything setup and ready for Roberta Jr. – as best as it can be! We’ve also reached a finishing point for our household organization and decoration for awhile. I posted a few initial pictures of our cozy apartment back in July and now I’m ready to share the progress we’ve made!

Baby’s bed is up! We will use the Pack ‘n Play until the baby is around a year old and then we’ll transition her to a floor bed. No crib for us and we love it! Read my post about that topic here!

Pookie has started practicing for Roberta Jr. by putting her doll and stuffed animals in diapers and laying them down for naps in the bed. She periodically checks on them to change their diapers, and she also lets me know if they’re sleeping and if we should be quiet. It’s pretty freakin’ adorable. I hope she’s this interested when Roberta arrives!!

Baby's bed

This is one side of our bedroom. We are making the most of the space we have! It’s tight, but functional. We have our bags all packed and the car seat ready. It’s so close!!

Bags packed

Sorry friends, but this is all of our room that you get to see! The other side is, well, a disaster. A work in progress. It’s our dressers plus a corner desk. Imagine piles of stuff that still needs to be sorted and stored…somewhere.

The good news is that I finally found a comforter for our bed!! I’ve been looking for months. One day I was strolling through Ross and this gem caught my eye. Elephants!!! Now we just need to put up decoration over the bed. I’d like to put up a collage of our travel pictures. A project for another time.

Bed

Pookie’s room has really come together. We put up some wall hangings and our friend actually passed down to us her daughter’s outgrown comforter. It fits our color scheme exactly!

Pookie bed

This is the other side of Pookie’s room. The piano needed a home and this is the only place it would fit. We try our best to not treat it like a piece of furniture. I still have the Pookie picture collage from my Columbus medwife friends but haven’t mounted it on the wall yet!

Pookie room

Pookie’s room will eventually be both girls’ room. We’ll see how Roberta Jr. sleeps and hopefully we can transition her into Pookie’s room when she’s around six months old. Where exactly the pack ‘n play will go is still in question. We’ll figure it out!!

I’m most excited about our dining room! I have looked for months for the perfect piece to hang over the island. Nothing quite fit, until I found this beauty. I love it so much and think it adds such great character to the space!

Dining room

And finally, our living room! We’ve done our best to make the most of the space while artfully storing all of our stuff. I’m really happy with how it’s turned out!!

That big red ball is my current “chair.” It’s great for pregnancy – and labor!

The patio is finally cleared, and it stores just a few of Pookie’s bigger outside toys like her scooter and buggie. Eventually I’d like to get a small patio set so we can enjoy sitting outside!

Living room

So that’s it! A few more things to do, but we’ve done a lot and have made it livable while being as organized and tidy as possible.

Now we wait for Roberta Jr. to arrive! I’ll do a post once she gets here.

Btw, we’re not actually naming her Roberta Jr. It’s the online nickname we’ve come up with for her. I don’t share my children’s real names on the blog, so Roberta Jr. will be around for awhile!

Good luck surviving the craziness tonight! Have a glass of wine for me! 😀

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Halloween – Galveston Style!

Man, this little island has some pretty great stuff going on. I love how the community really comes together. There were so many Halloween events and we took advantage of as many as we could!

On Friday, we attended this adorable Spooktacular at the Park event hosted by Hike-It-Baby Galveston. Have you heard of Hike-It-Baby? If not and you’ve got little ones, I definitely recommend seeing if they have a chapter in your area. It’s a great way to get outdoors and meet some new people!

We read Halloween-themed books and did a candy hunt while we walked around the park. The kids had a blast and the parents were happy to have a bit of time outside of our houses!

hike-it-halloween

Pookie Kitty at the park

On Saturday, we stopped by Target to get some free Halloween goodies. I had no idea that Target did this – and I’m not sure if it’s every Target – but we got a cute candy bag and we walked around the store stopping at the tables they had setup. Most of it was to advertise upcoming holiday sales and various brands, but I’m not complaining about getting free goodies! We also did some Target shopping while we were there. Kudos to Target because their little Halloween event totally worked on me. I was lured in and spent a good amount of money! Ha!

target-halloween

Pookie Kitty at Target

On Sunday we went to the “Great Pumpkin Festival” at a local church called Moody Methodist. I had no idea what to expect and it was really well done. It was pretty packed!! We enjoyed the trick-or-treating candy walk inside the building as well as some outside activities like face painting, story time, and a maze.

moody-halloween

Pookie Kitty at the Pumpkin Festival

On Halloween, Pookie had a party and costume parade at her school (so adorable!!) and that evening we were able to trick-or-treat with some of our new Galveston friends. Pookie was so happy in her black and purple kitty outfit! She really enjoyed the festivities this year and I loved watching her run from house to house with her new friends!

With the exception of Rob having to work, it was a perfect day! Hopefully he can join us next year. We <3 Halloween!

halloween-2016

Pookie Kitty, me, and Roberta Jr. rockin’ Halloween!

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Intern year + 38 weeks

 

38-weeks-belly

Just a bunch ‘o belly.

So here we are – 4 months into intern year and I’m a couple weeks away from popping out our second kid (Ahem, I mean, beautifully birthing another precious human into this world). Rob is on another demanding rotation with a schedule that allows him about seven hours in-between shifts. Seven hours to get home, eat, get ready for bed, sleep, wakeup, get ready, and go back to work. It’s like Groundhog Day. With a lot less sleep. Plus, to add to the fun, the schedule switches between nights and days for the next several weeks.

Besides the intense hours, he’s learning a lot and feels very supported in his program. His spirits are up and we’re enjoying the passing moments when we do get about 15-20 minutes to catch up with each other. I actually think his biggest concern right now is that I’m going to deliver Roberta Jr. early and he won’t be able to take any time off.

I’m in the same mental state I’ve been this whole pregnancy, “Eh, it’ll be fine.” Somehow for this pregnancy my worry button got totally turned off.

But, I do have to admit that my “Eh, it’ll be fine” attitude is starting to sour as I become more and more unable to do things. I’m slowly growing into the size of whale (or it feels that way), I tire quickly, my whole body hurts, my circulation is terrible, and I’m constantly hungry but don’t want to make anything. Plus, I’m solo-parenting a 2-year old.

Now here’s a fun mental picture for you: Imagine me in my super preggo, full-on-waddle state while I wrestle a testy toddler on the ground to get her pants on. Pookie is so amazing, cute, loveable, fun, blah, blah, and all that, yes. BUT, she also is an almost three-year old who lives by the motto, “I wonder what will happen if I…”

Unfortunately for her, I love following through with consequences (that’s one of my strengths that I’m happy to admit – perhaps it’s my rule follower nature), so she gets to experience the consequence full on, the first time.

I do get a little sassy at times, to keep it bearable. For example:

Me: “Okay, it’s time to get dressed to go. Would you like to put on your shirt or your pants first?”
Pookie: “No!”

Me: “I see you don’t want to get dressed, but it’s time to go. If you don’t choose, I’ll choose for you.”
Pookie: “No!”

Me: “Okay, pants it is. Please come over here so I can put your pants on.”
Pookie: “No!”

Me: “I will ask one more time and if you don’t come over here and help me put your pants on, I will hold you down and put them on for you. Can you come over here and help me put your pants on please?”
Pookie: “NO!!” with a devilish grin on her face.

Me: “Seriously? We’re gonna do this? Okay, here we go. This isn’t going to be pleasant for either of us.”

Commence holding her down with one hand and pulling on the pants with the other hand while Pookie is acting like a rabid dog half-crying and half-laughing. I get the pants on because I’m pretty badass like that, even in my whale-ish form.

Pookie: Stands up, smiles and shouts, “Mommy, I’m ready!” Tears gone, refreshed and ready.

*face palm*

At least once I lay down the law, she’s pretty cooperative for the next several hours. I start to regain hope that I’ll be able to survive having more than one of these things called children.

I’ve decided after moments like this to not check social media for the rest of the day. I can’t see pictures of happy kids or friends on vacation. I just feel like I’ve spent all my energy reserves for that day not enjoying the time with my kid, not developing myself, and not serving others in some great capacity. All I’ve got is that I put pants on my daughter. Sainthood, here I come!

But these are the moments, right? In the thick of it, rising to the occasion and giving it your all. This is what I keep telling myself. As I prepare for labor and our new toddler+infant life, I might adopt this as my motto:

I will rise to the occasion. I will give my it all!! (And not drink too much wine afterwards.)

P.S. Oh wine, how I miss you so…

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