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Monday, May 26, 2014

The Size of the Matter

This week, when I went to my 5 month midwife appointment, I couldn't make the scale work (it's one of those fancy high-tech ones, so, of course, it's prone to fail) and didn't get a weigh-in. When I went in to a CVS Minute Clinic to get an Albuterol prescription, I was weighed... and found that I've gained more in the past month than I have in the remainder of my pregnancy all together! I know a lot of that is fluid retention, because by the evenings, the tops of my feet look hammy already. But I'm not worried about any of it; I'm still well within (and maybe even a bit under) "norms" for 25 weeks.

Still, that whole thing has me a bit on edge.

What "whole thing,"? you ask. I'll tell you...

When I've been to see the midwife, my pulse and blood pressure has been pretty consistent, with my pulse ranging from 64 in March to 76 in January and April (the earlier they take it, the higher it is because the walk to the center is extremely uphill) and my blood pressure from a systolic low of 98 in February to a high of 110 in March and a diastolic low of 64 in January to a high of 74 in February.

(P.S. All of this is online for my perusal; I kind of love the future.)

Throughout my pregnancy, I have ridden my bike and walked, typically covering a minimum of 14 miles per week, mostly on bike because that's easier for me... but I get more company when I walk, so I'll do that, too. I continue my chores and have spent the last two weeks moving things, deep cleaning, and building furniture. I don't feel like taking it easy nor do I think that'd be particularly healthy for me.

Plus, today, the errands I ran would have taken longer in the car. I needed to get my Albuterol and called at 4:21 to see if the pharmacy was open. They were, but when I asked if it were normal hours (open until 9 PM), the tech said no. "We close in 38 minutes and 38 seconds." So I jumped on my bike and rode 1.2 miles, most of it up a Guadalupe alternate and if you've ever driven up the Drag or its surrounds, you know it's plagued with stop lights and stop signs and pedestrians and it takes FOREVER. I got my medicine and went a couple of blocks to Breed and Company for Soda Stream supplies, then headed back, getting home by 4:45.

When I'm at the midwife's, they're always pleased about my robust health, but at the clinic it was different... The nurse practitioner was obviously extremely surprised that my numbers would look so good, and the only reason I can think of as to why would be because I am a big old pregnant lady. I'm guessing she took a look at me and figured I was one too-high-curb-climb away from a heart attack, or maybe one brownie away from a diabetic coma. Or perhaps because I don't have insurance (a financial choice at this point, rather than a financial necessity), she assumed that I probably don't take my health seriously.

Now let's forward to today when I was using a 20% off coupon on the Bed, Bath, and Beyond website. I need a belly support band because if I walk more than about two miles, it really starts to stretch the skin at the base of my stomach. My back feels fine, and I have NO pressure when I'm on the bike. But I remember the same thing happening with Daphne, and it got intensely painful, to the point that once I was afraid I'd somehow hurt her.

While I was on the site looking for "belly band" and "belly support," I saw a number of items that really made me frustrated. There were more products for postpartum "reshaping" than maternity support. I don't mean belts you might wear if you'd had a C-section and required support. I mean "sucks you in so no one can see what a flabby stomach you have, you gooey disgusting tub of lard." Literally, one of the nursing tanks is called "Mother Tucker."

Discussing this with James, he told me about a friend of his who had gotten back into bikini shape within 6 weeks of having her baby, and who was very proud of this, loving to shock other new moms when they learned how young her child was. Discussing all of THIS with my sister brought up this picture that made the rounds last year (I think even Dr. Laura posted it, recommending it as motivation and that everyone has time for fitness).



Well.

Here's the deal: I weighed 190 before I got pregnant with Daphne and guess what? I could run five miles. I couldn't run five miles when I was in college and weighed 148 (which is the least I can remember weighing ever; I think I was at about 170 when I graduated high school). I have weighed a lot, and I have weighed a lot less, and I have never looked like the lady in this picture. I have never worn a bikini because it's just not my style, but even if I had, I'd never have been able to pull off the look to a "you oughta be in a magazine!" extent.

Looks are all about looks. You cannot tell whether someone is fit based solely on their looks, or how much they weigh. When I was at my lowest weight, I was the least healthy I've ever been in my life. I was obsessed with every calorie; I wrote down everything I ate including the calorie and fat content. I would not eat more than 7 grams of fat per day. Many of my calories came from fat free things like jelly beans and candy corn. I ate a lot of processed disgusting par-foods like fake butter and Pringles fried in Olean. I had what I would come to learn was exercise bulimia, meaning that if I realized I'd somehow eaten more calories than I'd intended, I would have to work out or walk or do something to even it out or I'd be incapacitated with panic and self-hate. I exercised every other day, and if I was at someone's house and it seemed like I wouldn't have time to exercise at home, I'd exercise there. Like in their living room. While we were talking. I did not eat after 6:00 PM. I was a wreck.

Old pictures are difficult to look at, sort of, because I think that there are times in my life when I looked "better" (read: skinnier) than I did, say, when James and I got married. They're even harder to have shared on Facebook, because when people comment about how awesome I look (because they don't realize how old the picture is), I am very tempted to feel bad about myself. But the truth is, when I lost a bunch of weight when Daphne was a year to two years old, I did it because I was told to. It made me self-conscious about having people look at me. It made me feel like I was not worthy of love because I was disgusting. And when I lost more weight a few years later, it was because my weight was creeping back up and I wanted to address it before it was brought to my attention. Physically, I was a lot healthier than when I was at my lowest weight, but emotionally, I was a wreck.

At some point, I came to peace with the fact that (excepting the ruptured disc), my body does what I want it to. It moves where I want it to go, and it does so without much protest. It's functional. It's borne a lot over time. It is not my enemy.

Being pregnant is awesome for me. I get to be a lot less self-conscious about the shape I'm in (I mean literal shape, not fitness level) because I know how adorable pregnancy is. Especially at 41, I'll take all of the "adorable" that I can generate.

But here's the deal: In the fall, I'll have a newborn. I'll be re-acclimating to that wonderful and terrible world of having another human being completely dependent on me (and my husband) for survival. It's overwhelming. I will not be bullied into obsessing over whether the skin around my middle is unattractively bouncy. I have some choice words for marketers and other moms (please, ladies! We should SUPPORT each other) who would shame me into it, but my mom reads this blog, so I'll just say that the phrase begins with an "f" and it ends with a "u." Or an exclamation point. But you get the idea.

Daphne didn't sleep through the night until she was more than 9 months old. It took me until she was just over a year before I was physically and emotionally ready to address the fact that I was eating as much as I had been when I was expecting, and I hadn't been able to nurse, so I was not doing my body any favors.

The fact that I was still carrying "baby" weight, meaning I was overweight even MORE than usual, after all of that time makes me no worse a person or a woman than James' friend who was back to her fighting weight after 6 weeks. It just means that we had different paths, and different priorities. I don't assume mine were any better or more noble than hers, and I'd appreciate the return courtesy.

Also, my weight was not an indicator that I was lazy or letting myself go. I lived with six teenage boys from the time Daphne was 2 months old until she was 8 months old. I promise you, I was doing plenty. When I could get away from the house to push D in a stroller for half an hour, it felt like a release from prison. I'd have loved to keep up some regular fitness regime; it just was not feasible for those months.

One of the many things I love about going to see the midwife is that, in addition to not treating me like a freak because of my age, the only reason they care about my weight is that they want to make sure there aren't sudden spikes or drops, indicating a problem. If I were sedentary, I'm sure they'd encourage me to move it. If my diet were an issue, they'd tell me. But they don't assume that "big" means I'm doing something wrong, or that I need to fit into some norm that someone has on paper or in a picture of what the "ideal" anything looks like.

Do you know what I did when Daphne was an infant? I wrote a novel. Seriously. You can buy it here, I don't know that it's very awesome, but it's a real thing. You know what I didn't do? I didn't post a link to it on social media and ask, "What's Your Excuse?" You know why? Because I can only assume that, as much as I love writing, that's not everyone's forte, and what's the point of being a jerk about it?

I read this once and love it: "People who choose exercise activities, meaning various types of movement or fitness, as a hobby are no more praiseworthy than people who choose anything else as a hobby."

So, you ladies who have been pregnant in the past and now have washboard abs, good for you! That's your thing, and you go do it and be happy. I wrote a lot of stuff that moved a lot of people during the years between my daughter's birth and when she turned three. If you can agree not to try to make me feel ashamed for being "fat," I won't try to make you feel ashamed for being "less articulate" or "dumber" or whatever. Actually, I won't do that, anyway.

Companies, if you're really mom-friendly, then help me be a good mom without giving me MORE things to have to worry about, like "being fierce" and "reclaiming my pre-baby body!"

Public at large, don't look at me and make assumptions about my health, fitness, or lifestyle based on the fact that I'm a certain age or a certain size.

Tomorrow morning, a lot of ladies will get up early and go to the gym. I'll get an equal amount of pleasure from baking, consuming, and watching my family eat the cinnamon rolls I just prepared. As far as I'm concerned, some food *does* taste as good as (or better than) being thin feels, and that's totally okay.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Random thoughts on baby products

For the past few months, I've been making lists and checking them twice. It's time for me to tell you about my secret job at the North Pole.

Not really. As I mentioned in my last post, I'm a planner. I have a list of everything we'll need to have before the baby comes, stuff that can wait until after, and together James and I have an evolving action list of what needs to happen to empty out his office so that we'll have a place to put all of this stuff -- and the baby -- when it all arrives.

First of all, there are some things I'm just not getting. I'm not getting a carseat-compatible stroller. I don't walk the mall very often, and if I do, I'll use the infant carrier. Same thing for walking up the Drag or downtown. Besides, a lot of the stores and restaurants make maneuvering with the SUV strollers extremely unwieldy.

I am on the proverbial fence about a changing table. I didn't have one with Daphne, but we had carpeted floors with padding underneath, and I didn't mind plopping her down on a blanket to change her diapers. I'm still trying to figure out the wood floor situation, and, of course, keeping my eye out for a bargain in that regard.

But enough about me.

During this whole process, I have had some questions about items available for purchase. I've already given you my take on the ladies' undergarments, but purveyors of maternity lingerie aren't the only offenders in my book.

1. Why are so many clothes for newborns and older infants lightly-colored? Pastels or white with some print seems to be *the* thing. Have the manufacturers spent any time with these children? Are they aware of the messes that occur in and around these filth factories? I want some strong browns, navy blues, deep reds, dark oranges, grassy greens. I don't even care if they fade a bit in the laundry and get each other dirty. The whites usually look dingy after the second wash, anyway, PLUS they're stained with drool and whatever other gunk gets on them and never quite goes away.

How did pastels become the color palette of babydom, anyway? Vibrant colors stimulate their vision more.

2. Words. Ugh. Why are there meaningless words on almost every article of clothing made for babies? I mean, I get it if you want to express something specific. In fact, we do have a onesie already that says, "Excuse me; I believe you have my stapler." That means something. It makes James and me laugh. If you don't have context, let me Google that for you.

So I get things like "Daddy's Little Girl" or pop culture references or quotes from famous Renaissance poets. But the words "Away We Go!" with a picture of a truck, or "Let's Play!" or "Cute Playful Pal" with a picture of a dog, or "I Dig You!" with a picture of a backhoe or just the random word "Cute!"... Ugh. The kid is too small to see the words herself, so it's not like you're exposing her to written language when she wears it.

Also, a lot of the wording is very gender stereotyped. Things like "Princess of the Castle" or "Yes, I'm a Diva"... can you imagine Daphne's horror if she saw pictures of herself as a baby and I'd put her in that kind of thing? (For the record: I didn't.)

3. Speaking of sexist, if the clothing has pictures of dinosaurs, vehicles of any kind (including construction equipment, space travel, trains, boats, motorcycles, and passenger cars), sports involving balls, or fish, the clothing is almost definitely for boys.

Some animals seem to transcend gender, like monkeys and dogs. Frogs and raccoon are weighted toward boys, while cats and owls and horses lean to girls. The exception here is if the horse is saddled and looks like it might be from the Wild West.

Ladybugs, fruit, mythical creatures (like mermaids and unicorns), baked goods (cupcakes, cookies, cakes, lots of sprinkles), and, of course, flowers are found pretty much exclusively on girls' clothing.

The clothes are for us, of course; the parents. So why do we buy this crap?

4. Crib sheets. Mattresses with waterproof pads on them aren't the most comfortable, so we need cotton or the newly-illustrious minky sheets to place between baby and pee-proofing, right? Why is the average price of a fitted crib sheet about $25? There are custom sheets on Etsy for upwards of $50, but even on "regular" websites like Target.com, they range from $10-40.

Again, do you know what happens to these things? They get a lot of icky fluids on them and need to be washed constantly. Because of this, I need a good two or three crib sheets. I also need them not to be pastel colored!

Someone needs to come up with a crib sheet replacement that is like the old diaper inserts that everyone uses for burp pads now. It should be cheap, dark and/or infinitely bleachable, and, oh yeah, cheap.

It looks like I might need to hit the actual stores for this thing, and I do not look forward to that. On the other hand, my postal carrier might wonder if I'm selling drugs or laundering money with all of the deliveries I'm getting right now. At least one of them knows I'm expecting, since she called me out to help her get the office chair we bought Daphne and then, upon seeing me, asked if my husband was home. Hopefully they'll straighten out my reputation through positive gossip.

____________

Those are my primary gripes, plus this is a pretty long post, so I'll stop for now. I'm not even going to go into the uni-tasker bottle heaters and stuff like that today. Yeah, it's probably coming, though...

Friday, May 16, 2014

West Campus Twisted Root Burger Company - AUSTIN DOESN'T GET IT YET!

Last week, I noticed that Twisted Root had opened up an Austin location, on 26th street just west of campus, between Nueces and San Antonio on the ground floor of the GrandMarc student housing building. We usually walk somewhere in the neighborhood for dinner on Friday night, if I haven't made something here, so we planned earlier in the week to take advantage of this new development.



James lived about the same distance from a Twisted Root Burger Company when he was in Deep Ellum. I've eaten at three TR's and have never waited in line less than half an hour to order. When we got to this outlet, there was NO ONE in line. Literally, the cashier watched us make up our minds. I have NO idea why Austin doesn't get what this place is yet, but I recommend you hurry up and eat here before they do.

The burgers are better than In N Out, better than Five Guys, as good as but along a totally different vein than Hopdoddy's... and the atmosphere is super fun. 


If you click on that picture to see it full size, you'll notice that the menu has Twisted Root burgers first. There are things like the Spicy Goat, which is a burger (hamburger, turkey, buffalo, veggie black bean, or whatever game they might have) with Chipotle sauce, goat cheese, and bacon. There's the Sexy Hawaiian with Jalepeno Jack cheese, teriyaki sauce, pineapple salsa and prosciutto. Or you could try the Enough Said with aged cheddar, house ranch sauce, and potato chips on top.

If none of their choices appeal to you, you can build your own with the choice of meats listed above, several bun choices (including one gluten-free), and a whole slew of toppings, including pickled red onion, peanut butter, fried onion strings, or a fried egg.

Although we forewent the side dishes tonight, I've had their "fried ride," which is basically everything, and they're all delicious. In addition to the usual fries, onion rings, and sweet potato chips, they fry green beans brilliantly.

They also have shakes, adult shakes, and drink specials. I had the banana and Bailey's Irish Creme shake in Deep Ellum (not tonight; I don't think people take kindly to the "I'm drinking for two" sight gag) and highly recommend that.

It looks like they have salads, too, but, really. Why?

After we placed our order, we got our name: Major Tony Nelson (from TV's "I Dream of Jeannie"). They actually gave us multiple choices rather than just handing us a moniker.


Behind the order station is the pickle bar, of which which neither James nor I took advantage. But if you're into that kind of condiment, then more power to you!


The dining area is fun, with lots of album covers, velvet wall art (yes, including a few Elvi and a unicorn), the leg lamp from "A Christmas Story," huge communal picnic tables, and this beer can peace sign.


We opted to sit outside.

But first, because I'm expecting, we always have to visit the ladies' room.


I really want this mirror. There was an awful/wonderful retro hanging lamp... Oh, and what's that? Graffiti? Already? On such a new place?





Yes. So. Back outside to the table to wait.



Check out the happy hour... hours. I can dig it. Oh! And then they finally call Major Tony Nelson, and my "master" heads out and comes back with these:



I got a Nathan's all-beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun with garlicky mushrooms and nacho cheese sauce. It was heavenly, and yes, Rooby and I ate the whole thing (much to James' surprise; he must not have been paying attention lately!).


James added ancho chipotle ketchup to his veggie burger with green chilis, garlicky mushrooms, and cheddar cheese.

Both of us loved our dinner, really enjoyed the gorgeous Austin actual spring spring weather, and basked in the relative slowness of business. Typically, our Twisted Root visits have involved scavenging for seats, talking above crowd ambient noises, and waiting a long time. This was heavenly. You should definitely get out and chow down before the rest of the town realizes that it's there!

Prudence and patience and knowing when to make a move

There was a Hushamok baby hammock on eBay recently that I bid on and didn't win. I had a maximum bid of $200, which is 1/3 of retail, and I was winning at $110 for the whole week, then at the end, within the final 20 minutes, I was outbid. I didn't get caught up in the last-minute battle because I'd determined early on what I wanted to pay, and I wasn't going to pay more than that.

I'll still keep my eye out for a good deal, but I know how much I want it versus how much I'm willing to pay for it, so I don't feel any kind of pressure. If I don't get it, we just go the "traditional" route of static sleeping; besides, ThinkGeek had an awesome sale and we were able to get this funky bouncer at an AMAZING price a few weeks ago.

This is how I tend to operate: I decide I want something, I research, and I wait. It helps not to be in a position of desperation, which is where being a gleeful planner really helps.

James once had a car die and borrowed cars from friends until that wasn't an option, then got a new job and HAD to have reliable transportation, so he ended up with the car he has now, which he does not love and which he particularly hates because his need put him in a position to pay a lot more than he wanted to pay. This happens. It sucks, but it happens.

I have always loved Chevy Astros and have known that eventually I wanted another one. My car was quirky with the reverse, but it was drivable. When the a/c went out, though, I knew I didn't want to put any money into the car and started looking for Astros. Fortunately, this happened during the fall and not during the summer or else I would have had to make a more prompt decision. As it turned out, I found a van I liked, but it was $10,000 and it was in Kansas City, so I'd have to pay to have it transported.

Because I was in a position of leisure, I waited... and then happened across the van we eventually bought through Craigslist. It was the same age but with lower miles and 1/3 of the price of the first van. And at that point, we were in the perfect position to purchase it.

It's been that way with a lot of the baby stuff, too. I'll find something I want, and because I have time, I'll wait. I did a lot of research on carriers and slings and ended up deciding on one that eventually came up on Zulily, which was also 1/3 of the cost. Also, the rug we ended up getting for the nursery (which was part of the baby bouncer deal). And the bookshelves I bought for our room because I wanted to get rid of James' old black shelving.

Last but definitely not least, it's kind of the way it was with James, too. I've mentioned (often and at length) that I had an unrequited crush on him in high school. I really did make a play for him, but right as it was hitting its crescendo, he started dating another girl. I waited and went for it again two and a half years later, as he was going into the Navy. We wrote when he was in training, and I did my best to flirt via the USPS with him. But he ended up falling in love with someone else. Again.

The next time I tried to see if we could work something out was in late 1997. By the time he wrote me back, it was my turn to have met someone else. In typical James fashion, when I told him this, he asked, "So? What does that have to do with me?" Ah, yes, I love his boldness.

Finally, in 2012, I got the awesome deal I'd been waiting for. I have to say, I'm even happier with it than I am with the van, and I adore that thing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Chocolate cake with chocolate fondant

I used to bake and decorate a lot. I love it. Then there was a hiatus when I moved into the RV for two years. I couldn't get the propane oven to cook evenly; everything was burnt down the middle where the burner strip was. Also, it was so small that I had to bake everything, each layer, each piece, one at a time. Then there was the reality that I didn't have anywhere to store what I'd made until I was ready to take it somewhere, both because of space and the evil cats. So, after a few tries, I took a break.

It occurred to me this week that I don't have an excuse anymore, so I decided to try again. Starting with something simple and pretty straight-forward. Re-wetting my feet, so to speak.

First, I made three small cakes using this recipe. Sort of. I was out of granulated sugar (believe that or not) so I used half brown and half powdered. I figured the excess moisture/cornstarch combo might cancel each other out.

Then I made this frosting.
Yes, I sampled a generous portion of this frosting.
I stacked and trimmed the sides of the cakes, but left the tops "fluffy" because they were already so thin, I didn't want to straighten them out, making them even flatter.


If I weren't using fondant, I would have done a thin layer of this as a crumb coating and then another prettier outer layer. But I didn't have to.

Next was this fondant, which requires that you wade through some typos or perhaps drunken typing. But you get the idea.

A couple of things about chocolate fondant: For me, anyway, it has to be kept thicker than regular sugar fondant. But that's okay, because it also tastes better. Fondant is sort of a "love it" or "leave it" prospect for most people, like Peeps or Circus Peanuts (fondant is actually a lot like circus peanuts, composition-wise). But chocolate fondant is richer and not as sweet. For the two parts sugar, there is one part cocoa, and that makes it a lot less treacly. It's described rightly as recalling Tootsie Rolls.

Adding the gelatin mixture in the well of the sugar and cocoa.

Use the dough hook! It gets really thick.

In any case, making fondant at home guarantees it will taste better than the stuff you buy in tubs at the store, and it's pretty forgiving, in terms of covering cracks and uneven spaces and being able to pull it off and start over if you mess up. But the even finish and keeping the cake inside moist is the main point of fondant, so if people eat your cake and leave the fondant, don't be offended. It's sweet, and to some people it's just too much. (I'm not one of those people.)

Fondant rolled and ready to move!

Draped over the cake.
With regular sugar fondant, you can even out the corners and make seamless edges. I haven't been able to do that with chocolate fondant, ever, so I wrap it like a present.

After a good trim.
Fortunately, you can cover the folds, and any over-enthusiastic trimming you might have done that allows some icing seepage, with frosting or other fondant or whatever you're doing to finish your cake.

Recently, I got a bunch of supplies from Amazon. This included a cool fondant kit I'm eager to use, but decided not to make flowers or anything for this cake, and I didn't want to pile the fondant and make it too much. I did use the sharp edge, which was so much better than my kitchen knives.

Also, when I was ready to do the final touches, decoratively, I was able to move the whole cake with this genius 8-inch cake lifter.

Oh, how I love this thing.
I used the buttercream recipe from the Wilton 53-piece cake decorating kit book. I learned that their pink gel is pretty intense, and I could have used less, because it came out super dark and orange-y.

Anyway, here's the final product. I made the cake for our small group, and the birthday girl will likely prefer a bagel, but that's okay. It was fun starting to get back into the swing of things, anyway!






Sunday, May 11, 2014

Gelato World Tour

Long time, no blog! We were on vacation, so preparing for and recovering from that took a while, but now we're back, settled into the Nuthaus and enjoying our increasingly hot and humid surroundings.

Today, which also happens to be Mother's Day, my husband and daughter walked me downtown to Republic Square Park for the Gelato World Tour! Yes, that's a real thing.

If you're not familiar, gelato has less fat and air than ice cream, but most importantly (to me) it's served at a higher temperature. If you're someone who likes to let your ice cream melt a bit before you eat it, then you'd love gelato. Because of the higher temperature and less air, it "tastes" creamier (i.e. less crystallization) and, to me, more decadent.

The Gelato World Tour is what it sounds like, a chance to educate people about gelato, and it also has a competition element. Although admission is free, to get 5 tasting tickets is $10 (I got a bonus, I suppose because I'm a mother? or pregnant? I didn't ask questions!), and at the end, you use your ticket stub to vote for your favorite.

Here are some of the flavors I sampled:
Salted Pecan with Montmorency Tart Cherries & Tahitian Vanilla. This is from the Bella Gelateria gelato shop in Vancouver, British Columbia. The first thing I tasted, and it set my tongue on edge, in a good way, were the tart cherries. After that mellowed, the salted pecan kind of came up at the end and was a mildly sweet caramel finish.


Raspberry Beet from Bent Spoon Gelato in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Pretty straightfoward, flavor-wise. The raspberry was dominant, and the beet gave it the very beautiful color and a depth beyond just a berry-fruity flavor. I think it's raspberry enough that a kid would like it, though. 

This was a delightful pistachio gelato, but it wasn't part of the competition. The booth had a "Hello Kitty" flavor that looked like maybe vanilla (or white chocolate) gelato with some cherry or raspberry jam swirls. They also had a chocolate that Daphne got, and after she ate that cup, she said she was full, so James and I each got one extra ticket!

Goat cheese cashew caramel from Black Dog Gelato in Chicago. This was another very balanced flavor: sweet, but not too sweet. 

Profumi di Silicia. This was from the Versace Galeteria Italiana in Doral, Florida, and we had such high hopes for it. The ingredients included nougat, ricotta cheese canoli, pistachio grains, and chocolate chips. As a footnote, it mentions "lightly flavored with orange zest" and swirled with caramel. However. The main flavor that came through was orange zest. Not in an "I'm an awesome foil to dark chocolate" way, either. It was bitter and totally eclipsed the caramel or chocolate or pistachio and definitely the mild ricotta. Oh well. 

Sweet G's Candied Bacon from Sweet Ginger's Gelato in Fort Myers, Florida. This one delivered on its promise. The tiny bits of candied bacon added a smoky contrast and textural difference to the creamy gelato. There was also the nice additional flavor boost from some cinnamon. Delicious.

This was James' turtle gelato from The Turtle Gelateria in Brownwood, Texas. It's only 2 hours from here, but since we just drove through it last week on the last leg of our 900+ mile road trip, we're going to hold off visiting for a while. James and Daphne tried several other flavors that I didn't: Chocolate Guinness Caramel Crunch (which James said I would have hated, what with my not liking beer in general and probably stout specifically; he enjoyed it, though); Carmastachio, which was marscapone swirled with caramel and pistachio; and Nuts, peanut butter and chocolate hazelnut. Fortunately, that last one was from here in Austin, so I can try it some time!

This, though. This is the one for which we voted. It's the only one that James got, and after I tasted it, I had to go back and get my own. It was La Grande Bellezza, or the Great Beauty. Avocado basil. If you know me at all, you know I'm all for using avocado as a substitute for pretty much any fat in any food. I love it. And the basil is a perfect complement, giving a spike to the otherwise pretty laid back flavor of avocado. There was also some sea salt, and though this was a dessert, it was not, by virtue of the ingredients, overly sweet. Definitely our favorite.

I can't wait to see who won!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What Not to (Under)Wear

(In case you're wondering: Yes, this post is about drawers for pregnant ladies. If that doesn't interest you, you should come back another day... though I can't promise it will be much better.)

As I've mentioned before, this pregnancy is very different from the one I experienced 13 years ago. Not because I'm older, no; actually, I'm in better shape at 41 than I was at 28, believe that or don't. I actually LOVE being pregnant (until the last week or so) and my body responds really well to it. Also, this time I have access to much more attractive clothing than I did before. It seems like maybe 2 years after I was expecting Daphne, maternity clothes got super cute. While I do still prefer the more loose, forgiving stuff over the uber-body-conscious curve-hugging stuff, I appreciate the variety that's available now. (I also appreciate my husband, who hasn't flinched at the many Zulily packages we've received over the past couple of months.)

However.

One of the first things I noticed, when realizing it was time to bust out the maternity clothes, was that my normal undergarments -- the lower installment -- had no waist around which to rally and therefore were prone to slide off of my hips and disappear forever.

This led to my first (unsuccessful) venturing online to locate some comfortable underpants. If you look at Motherhood Maternity's underwear selection (and I don't recommend that you do, because, frankly, I am moderately disturbed by out-of-context pregnancy bellies in varying degrees of expectancy), you will notice that they have precisely ZERO over-belly selections. They have "high cut" and "fold over" and bikini and hipster (the hipster underpants do not flatter any of the models, by the way), but no over-belly "these definitely won't fall off and if you're really worried, you can tuck them up under your bra" underpants.


I found a few pair on Zulily and Amazon, but they're all in the $20+ range, and it's difficult to break out of my cheapskate propensity to justify paying $5+ a month to rent a pair of underwear.

Not much better.

Thus far, I've bought nothing of this ilk, but I have learned a lot. One thing I've learned is that there are some products that should just not exist. For instance:


What? Why? NO.
Dude, I like to look cute... but I can't imagine any scenario in which I would want to be messing with a thong right now.

Note that these maternity thongs are unavailable for men. Sorry, friends.
You might think that wearing a thong would be... uh, invasive enough. But wait! There's more!

I can't. Um, let's say only that the models in these pictures are definitely *not* pregnant. Speaking of which:



Hot Milk doesn't seem to understand what pregnant women look like. A) I don't look like this when I'm not pregnant. B) As much as I don't like seeing other women's naked prego bumps, there are mannequins for the below-belly stuff, and like actual baby-incubators for the rest of the stuff.

Besides, I don't get the French Kicker thing... You know who is seeing my underwear right now? NO ONE. Not even James. It's not that I don't feel attractive when I'm pregnant, because I do! But I can't even see my own underpants, so I can't be sure I have them on, say, right side out or correct side front or any of that, so no one else is looking, either. I'm playing to my strengths.

Oh, and here's something else that super frustrates me that's available for those of us whose bodies are hosting increasingly sentient other beings.


Ugh. No. Just. NO.

"Support" is one thing. "Control" and "slimming" is another. I'm freaking pregnant. My body is changing. It's kind of awesome. I don't owe it to anyone to look particularly "slim" or in "control." This is a utilitarian weight gain, and I have enough to think about without wondering if this pregnancy makes my thighs look meaty.

Yeah. Spanx has a maternity line, too. Just be grateful I didn't show you the big picture.

Speaking of which, I saw this picture (or one of the many taken on this occasion) in a popular weekly gossip magazine. Don't judge. I was stuck in a waiting room.


This is actress Kate Winslet posing by her brand-spanking new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Do you know what the headline said? "'Divergent' star Kate Winslet flaunts her post-baby body for Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony." REALLY? She just had her vocation's accomplishments acknowledged, and you have to draw attention to the fact that she doesn't look like a frumpy milk factory? And so what if she did? It's bad enough to assume that "fat" means "ugly" or "unhealthy" or "lazy" or "unmotivated." It's even WORSE to pressure women who have spent 9 months with their bodies changing to care for a child to "look" a certain way in the few weeks after delivery. For what it's worth, I have friends who can "bounce back" right after having a kid (or two or three) and others whose meat hangs on a while. In my experience, a LOT of it is genetics. But either way, what the heck? Kate Winslet was being feted for her ACTING. Way to strip the meaning out of that whole thing!

I wouldn't buy these because they look exactly like "normal" drawers, and, besides, all of the models look uncomfortably bound at the "waist." You know how usually underwear models have no rolls or pulls or even mini-muffin tops? Not so with these.

Two more products you didn't know you needed, but you... don't.


Apparently, this is for those times you might carry your cell phone in your pants pocket. Upon further inspection, I found that there is actually a whole market of maternity anti-radiation clothing. I'm filing this under "I have exorbitant amounts of cash sitting around in piles, and not nearly enough baby stuff to purchase. TAKE MY MONEY!!"

And, finally...


I think this might be for new mothers. If you're expecting your first, then I need to tell you something: Nursing only affects the top half of your undergarment-clad areas. I mean, true, you might be sitting down. But these briefs don't have a cushion or anything, so probably not strictly a true "nursing" item.

The whole thing is an education, isn't it? You're welcome.



Monday, May 5, 2014

What I Learned from Pike's Peak

When we rode the Manitou Springs Cog Railway, we were not cleared to go to the top of Pike's Peak due to high winds and snow. The danger was that wind could blow a snow drift in behind the train, trapping us at the top. As disappointing as it was not to have looked out from the crest and gotten a picture with the summit sign, we had no desire to get trapped on top of the mountain.

On our ride up to 12,500 feet, we learned several things about the area, the railway, and the mountain itself.

First of all, the man after whom Pike's Peak is named set out with an expedition to ascend to the top in November of 1806. However, due to conditions much worse than what we encountered (waist-deep snow, and without the right gear), he and his team had to turn back. The first Euro-American did not reach the pinnacle for almost a decade and a half. But because of the work he had done describing it, eventually the mountain became known as Pike's Peak.

Secondly, there are a lot of mountains in Colorado, what with that whole Rocky Mountain chain and all. Pike's Peak is not the tallest. It's not even in the Top 10. It is in 31st place. There are a whole thirty mountains taller than Pike's Peak in the state of Colorado, but you'd be hard-pressed to think of any that are more well-known.

Why is that?

Pike's Peak stands alone. It's not surrounded by other mountains. If you look at it from the satellite view, it dwarfs everything around it, including Garden of the Gods, other peaks, and Colorado Springs. It is visible for over a hundred miles from the east, across the plains of Kansas. This is why "Pike's Peak or Bust" was a famous gold-rush slogan; gold wasn't actually found near the Peak, but it was a landmark. It can be seen from Denver, and for miles around in every direction.




On the east side of the mountain, the view from what is now called "Inspiration Point" moved Katharine Lee Bates to write a poem she entitled appropriately "Pike's Peak" but which later was put to music and became a little song you might know as "America the Beautiful."

Pike's Peak has a mystique. It is host to a summit race wherein competitors speed up the 13 mile trail ascending 8000 feet to the top. A record of 2 hours, 8 minutes and change is held by Matt Carpenter; that's a consistent 10-minute mile under extreme conditions, even when the weather is "good..." In summer the average high temperature is in the high-40s, and there is only 60% oxygen compared to what those of us at lower elevations are accustomed.

All of this to say: You don't have to be the biggest (or best or most spectacular or superlative anything) to be the stuff of legends. You don't have to succeed in every endeavor to be remembered throughout history. Being set apart, true to yourself, uncompromising, naturally beautiful, trying and even failing, being who you are where you are... that is enough.

I need to contemplate this some more, but for now, that is the wisdom with which I walked away from Pike's Peak.





+++++++++++++++++++++





Incidentally, when I was fact-checking to make sure I remembered some of this correctly, Google's search parameters tried to wrong my right grammar...
Nope, Google. I meant "after whom." Look it up.