Mommy’s solo day out.

Ahhh… yes. The loner in me got to breathe a big sigh of relief on Monday when I got my very first "Mommy's solo day out." OMG… how I needed that. My mom and dad were kind enough to take LJ off my hands for the day so I could go out and do… WHATEVER I WANTED. I've forgotten what that felt like! Here's what I did:

Visited Last Chance. What a madhouse. This article sums up the experience nicely. I got two rad pairs of shoes for a fraction of their original price- SCORE!

Went to Macy's where I fell in love with and purchased a new backpack that we will be using as a diaper bag. It's perfect! Waterproof, lightweight, and SOLD OUT EVERYWHERE. Is it back to school season or something? I wasn't super nuts about the pattern initially, but it quickly grew on me. It's by Le Sport Sac, and in my humble opinion, with all the cloth diapers we have to carry around, it works so much better for us than the Petunia Pickle Bottom bag I was eyeing earlier this week… even though I love that pattern with an everlasting love.

Backpack diaper bag

I enjoyed my new favorite treat, fresh mint frozen yogurt with thin mint cookies, at Mojo Yogurt at the Biltmore. I'm slightly obsessed with this combo and think I might die if they ever stop carrying that flavor.

I ended my day by going to see this all by my solo:

Eat-pray-love-movie 

And now… all I want to do is eat pizza and drink red wine. Therefore, to feed this craving, Cody and I will be visiting Pizzeria Bianco for the very first time like… right now. We will need a babysitter for this outing. Any takers?

Pizzeria Bianco

I kind of can't stand the thought of waiting another second to eat their world-famous pizza… heck, if I can't go to Naples for my pizza like Julia Roberts did, this is no doubt a close second!

margherita

{Pizzeria Bianco photos via The Girl Who Ate Everything}

The hubby called and texted during the movie wondering where I was and I got back to him after the movie got out. He was in a tremendously good mood, considering the fact that I had been out having fun doing things like shopping and watching movies all day long while he was at work slaving away. Then I caught on that perhaps HE was enjoying his solo time too. And he was. So I took my time getting home so he could savor it while he could.

Needless to say, as much as I enjoyed my day, I couldn't wait to get back to this face and get home to her daddy.

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Mac and Cheese with a kick.

On Monday, my parents and Amma came down to Gilbert for a change and we went to lunch at Famous Dave's at San Tan Village. I ordered their mac and cheese as the side for my sandwich on the recommendation of our server, and boy, he wasn't joking: it was The Best Mac and Cheese That Ever Existed.

A side simply wasn't enough to satisfy my new found love for this mac and cheese. So when I got home, I decided to attempt to recreate it for dinner that night in the form of a bake. I mostly made it up as I went along, and I am going to do my best to estimate what I did here, but it is a work in progress and I'll keep refining it as I go if necessary. But here it is for now:

1 box Kraft Mac and Cheese (and butter, milk and cheese mix that's required per package directions)
1 cup whole wheat spiral pasta
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup frozen sweet corn, thawed
3/4 cup bread crumbs
3 tablespoons chopped jalapeƱos (from a jar, stored in water)
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 tablespoons cream or half and half
1 tablespoon dried red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon chili powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8×8 glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook Mac and Cheese and pasta according to package directions. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients except for 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese and stir until thoroughly mixed. Transfer to the baking dish and top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese (or however much you want). Pop in the oven for 20 minutes, or as long as it takes for the dish to turn bubbly and golden brown.

This recipe can be altered according to how mild or spicy you prefer it- just adjust the amount of jalapeƱos you add to the mix. It was super easy and I can't wait to make it again! Thank you Famous Dave's for the inspiration!

Overwhelmed, but it’s OK- I have pickles!

Goodness, I've been terrible at keeping up with this thing. For some reason, last week was incredibly tough- I have been scheduled to come into work an hour earlier than usual because our busy season is starting, and while it means more money in the bank, it cuts into my productive time that I spend working on my business. Add to that the fact that I am finally starting to feel pregnant- lower back aches, pinched sciatic nerve, and a full-blown belly that gets in the way of everything- and I come home from a measly five hour shift feeling quite exhausted. It's a double-edged sword, and I don't mean to complain. I'm thankful to have a job working with good people, but I can't help but be nervous that the clock is ticking LIKE MAD and I can't give 100% to getting No Strings up and running as quickly as possible, and that's the one thing that I will be doing to earn income once Elska (that's her nickname!) arrives. Working outside the home is not part of our plan. And it's getting harder and harder to be on my feet all day the more pregnant I become, but we need my paycheck.

More than that, I need clients! Send 'em my way, people. I can't wait to help small businesses get ahead in this tough economy.

I'm happy to say that I have generated some interest, and I'm doing some work for a friend that will help me nail down certain processes complete with constructive criticism. I am so excited to actually start working with paying clients and building a name for myself, so for now I'm working on marketing and networking- a full-time job all on its own. I have a lot of support and great ideas from friends and family that I'm sure will help me along the way.

But enough about No Strings. This is a mom blog, after all!

I am five days away from the start of my third trimester, and I cannot tell you how shocked I am at how quickly time has flown. We have been in consistent adjustment, covering all the bases including fear, elation, joy, amazement, and just feeling plain overwhelmed by all we have ahead of us. At the very end of September, there was a morning when I had the epiphany that, HOLD ON A SECOND, let me do some math, (October 10 through November 10) + (November 10 through December 10) + (December 10 through January 10) = THREE MONTHS UNTIL OUR DAUGHTER IS BORN. I then woke up Cody (it was before 6:00 a.m.), shared my startling revelation, and launched into full-blown panic mode complete with the urgent desire to jump out of bed and immediately start organizing EVERYTHING in our house, starting with the nursery-to-be. I suddenly realized that I have done very little to prepare for this huge change, and who on earth expects that she will just "wing it" when handed a newborn who is completely dependent on her? Yikes. Definitely have my work cut out for me.

In a nutshell, it's been hard not to feel a bit overwhelmed these days. I suppose last week was particularly hard because I was consistently robbed of precious time I needed by all these things that were totally out of my control- time I must devote to not only preparing for baby, but starting a business too. I don't like feeling like I'm spinning in a tornado, grasping on to anything I could that I would be able to cross off my to-do list. I'm sure that this isn't necessarily going to get better once I have a newborn in the house. Therefore, I can't help but wonder if I'm being groomed for this next stage of life by the presence of the unexpected. How I handle it now will prepare me for the juggling act I have ahead of me. I'm not gonna let it get me down!

For now, here are a couple of updated pictures:

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Hugs for Elska! 27 weeks!

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Yes, I am eating out of a jar of pickles. Yes, I know how cliche that is. They were my Amma's famous bread and butter pickles, made from Cody's grandma's cucumbers from her garden. Simply heavenly! You'd eat 'em by the jar too.

Belly update: My belly makes funny shapes, like triangles and squares, when Elska stretches out and punches her dad in the hand when he antagonizes her. Haha. I actually love that she responds to him- he's just going to an amazing dad. She's really quite active- especially right before bed and right before I wake up. She isn't big enough now (about 2 pounds and 15 inches long) for her movements to keep me up or wake me out of my slumber, so for now I'm just enjoying the sensation of feeling her moving around in there. That will be the biggest thing I will miss about being pregnant- it's just amazing to me. I also figured out that this rhythmic "tapping" sensation I get every once in a while must be her hiccuping- it's SO cute! I've felt it many times before but never made the connection, because it's a different type of movement than her usual kicks and somersaults. But I love it. I love her. She's just the sweetest thing ever.

Settling in…

…to this whole pregnancy thing. The nausea has passed for the most part, I have lots of energy and have gone on a cleaning spree (downstairs at least), and my appetite has returned to normal, although I don't feel like I'm eating all that much more than I usually did pre-pregnancy. However, there are some things that I enjoy eating IMMENSELY, much more than I usually did.

First off, tomatoes. I want them ALL THE TIME. In every form. I went to Costco the other day and left with a gallon of salsa and a giant bag of sun-dried tomatoes, and was thisclose to leaving with three enormous jars of pasta sauce. I held myself back from that purchase because I'm getting back into cooking and love making my own sauce concoctions on-the-fly. The next day, I went to Fry's and got a bag full of roma tomatoes because my favorite snack is cottage cheese with paprika and sliced tomatoes with sea salt. I also occasionally munch on a handful of sun-dried tomatoes, and I add them to pretty much every recipe I possibly can.

Second craving: pickles. Could that possibly be any more cliche? (While I do crave a lot of dairy, ice cream isn't high on that list. Anymore.) On the previously mentioned trip to Costco, I seriously considered buying a gallon jar of Famous Dave's Signature Spicy Pickles. A gallon. I picked them up and put them down twice, stared at them longingly, and then asked myself, What excuse could I possibly come up with when Cody comes home to a jar of pickles so big it doesn't even fit in our pantry? I had nothing, so I reluctantly walked away from that impulse buy. I purchased a much more reasonably sized jar of sweet and spicy pickles at the grocery store the next day, and let me just say that these are the best pickles I've ever had in my liiiiiiife.

Third: Lay on the spice; I will roundhouse kick heartburn in the face if it tries to come between me and my Sriracha! I'm a big fan of all things spicy now, but it's even better when it's the hot/sweet combo (funny… I like my men that way too). I have a recipe for spicy sweet popcorn that involves chile powder and brown sugar that I am anxious to try, most likely when we wrap up our Flight of the Conchords season two marathon, and I'll probably keep eating it through the Big Love season three marathon that will start if we ever get the DVD.

The last notable craving consists of things I used to eat during my childhood. I've had hankerings for Instant Breakfast, Nestle's Quik, and spaghetti with ranch dressing, to name a few. Totally loving the memories these things bring back- the simpler times of my life that I've all but forgotten about.

Yesterday, Cody and I went walking at the mall and ventured into a maternity store for the first time. In the span of a week, my tummy has popped, and Baby Alley has finally started to make his or her appearance, at the sure cost of pants that fit. While I'm not a huge fan of the elastic waistband jean look, I do believe that it's time to seek out and invest in a couple of Bella Bands. If it allows me to wear the jeans I already have, bring it on! Plus, my dear friend in California said she would send out some maternity wear that she doesn't plan to use again. I love me some hand-me-downs from my fashionista friends.

In the meantime, here are a few favorites from our shoot with Session Nine Photography:

Alley 44

Alley 52

Alley 54 GOOD LORD! There's a WHAT in there?!?!

Alley 58

Alley 2

Alley 6_2
Oh, my. How I adore my husband.

Things that make me dry heave.

I haven't actually thrown up yet. THANK GOD. I hate feeling nauseous all the time and a sane person would probably want to hurl in the hopes of getting some semblance of relief, but no sir, not me. Even though I haven't done this pregnancy thing before, I am smart enough to know that all the barfing in the world will not relieve the incessant nausea that makes the process of acting as host organism to a slooooooow-grooooowwwwwing being of the human variety so enjoyable. Why make myself miserable with my head in the toilet five times a day when I can be miserable in front of the TV, or with my face buried in a book instead of a trash can?

My gag reflex, however, has not escaped unscathed. As I sit here watching the Michael Jackson special (what a bizarre day), I am also trying hard not to dry heave at the stench of my dogs' wet food filling every square inch of air space in our house after their evening feeding. And GOD FORBID that we try to feed them their dry food sans wet food. They would rather starve, and usually that's what they do if given the choice. Cody is not here to do the job so I get to take on the task myself, in all my nauseous, pregnant glory. There is also something particularly gag-tastic when the feeding requires that we open a new can of food, as I had to tonight, which means that it hasn't been refrigerated, which means that it's warm-ish and the aroma is that much more intense. But they ate, and they are happy, and true to post-meal fashion, they are running around wrestling with each other as if someone gave them a 14-liter dose of pure liquid speed.

Come to think of it, the dry food is pretty foul-smelling too, and so are these chew bones we got them from Costco. Every time I open our pantry I hold my breath to avoid the smell, which, so I've been told, smells very similar to marmite, something I will NEVER EAT AS LONG AS I LIVE.

I hate anything involving poop, but I don't think that has anything to do with being pregnant. And boy, am I glad that we have had healthy dogs for the past several weeks. April was a rough month for our dogs and the owner who had to clean up after them: me.

I cannot stand coffee right now. The smell, the taste, EVERYTHING. Just the thought of drinking coffee gives me heartburn.

Carrots. I don't even want to look at a carrot. When I look at carrots, I think about the sensation of chewing them, and it makes me sick. Cooked, raw, blanched, dipped in ranch dressing, it doesn't matter. Don't give me carrots.

THOR has an ear infection. How do I know this for sure? Well, besides the fact that after his bath today I had to cut a handful of bloody hair out of his ear, the smell was otherworldly. I distinctly remember describing the odor emanating as I retrieved his "stool" (if you could even call it that) from our bathtub (that story requires a whole other post) as "otherworldly." So there ya go.

The Italian sandwich we serve where I work. Unfortunately for me, it's a very popular sandwich.

The smell of cooking chicken… good God that has to be the all-time worst. Worse than the dog food. Worse than the poop. Worse than the ear infection. Cody has made some doozies in the weeks since I've been pregnant and I finally had to cut him off, I just couldn't take it anymore. If it's baking in the oven with other things in the dish, this is not a problem. But if you're cooking it on the stove top, PLEASE SPARE ME THE TORTURE. Actually, I could handle writing about everything else I just wrote about, but just thinking about the stench I endured on those nights that Cody innocently set about making dinner for himself makes me want to make a beeline for the bathroom.

There is a flipside to this, however. We went on a little light rail adventure with our friends Alex and Ryan on Saturday evening with the mission of eating at Lolo's Chicken and Waffles. Little did we know, it was more than a mile walk through The Hood from the nearest light rail stop to Lolo's, and it was more than 100 degrees outside, and the whole way there we were like, this had better be good, and OMG, what if we get there and they're only open for breakfast! And hey! What do you think the odds are of making it to Lolo's vs. getting gunned down in a drive-by vs. suffocating from heat stroke! Because I'm personally thinking the drive-by is the most likely! Needless to say, we didn't do our research, but we made up for our ignorance with pure, unadulterated determination. Half an hour later, we walked up to one of the most ghetto-fied buildings we have ever seen: boarded windows with broken glass still sitting on the sills, bricked-in windows, chipping paint, and an upturned shopping cart for a lawn ornament. We made our entrance- two couldn't-be-whiter boys and their wives- and were immediately greeted by two things: the overwhelmingly appetizing smell of bona-fide soul food, and murmurs of the more appropriate patrons asking each other, "What are all these honkies doing in here?"

All I can say after my oh-so-satisfying meal at Lolo's is that they can call me whatever they want as long as I get to eat their food. It was a soul-altering experience. I can say with utmost certainty that I will be getting more cravings for chicken and waffles, ONLY FROM LOLO'S, AND KFC IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATIVE, than any other food during the baby-building process. Hopefully Cody can put up with being called a Honky long enough for me to pop out this kid, who will no doubt look more like a fried chicken or a waffle than either one of us once I'm through with it.

Rough day.

Actually, it's been a rough couple of days. No energy, extreme nausea, wobbly legs. I remember when I ran track and cross country in high school and then college and having workouts and races that left my legs so shaky it was hard to so much as hold myself up. I have never remembered that feeling with such clarity as I do now- I feel like that ALL THE TIME. But instead of feeling that way because I just ran 10 laps around the track at a successively fast pace, I feel that way because I'm… laying around on the couch, doing nothing. It's the most ridiculous thing I've ever tried to explain. "Yes, I sit around on my butt ALL DAY LONG. And MAN does it wear me out!"

What?

For the past couple of weeks, I seem to have settled into a pattern of feeling generally well during the day and pretty gnarly at night. This is OK because I work during the day and there is nothing worse than being around food that you normally love but now that you're prego makes you want to blow chunks, and dealing with the already-overwhelming smell of the 5-pound block of bleu cheese that the sweet salad lady, just doing her job, is cutting into manageable crumbles, all while trying not to either dry heave or pass out on customers as you take their order at the register- with a smile. 

Yesterday and today were definitely out of the "norm" that I have been experiencing lately. My Sunday started off well enough- woke up, went to church, went to a class, and that's when the fun started. Nauseous, uncomfortable, hungry for a croissant sandwich. We went to Paradise Bakery and I ordered the roast beef and havarti on a croissant, which I was completely unaware contained horseradish, which is definitely one of those things I have a VERY hard time eating these days. Ate it anyway and proceeded to relive the taste sensation for the remainder of the day and night with the release of even the tiniest burp. This was quickly followed up by such intense fatigue that I crashed on the couch and fell asleep- immediately. My poor husband. I had signed us up to babysit Cruz again that day, and guess who did ALL the work? He is such a trooper. And will be such an amazing dad. I have never been more in love with him than I am now.

Anyway, today sucked too.

It's amazing how bringing a life into the world is one of the hardest and one of the best things that a person can ever do in life. With every day that goes by that I feel AWFUL, I breathe a sigh of relief because it means that my baby is taking what it needs from me to grow and be healthy and strong. It's hard, and sure, I wish I felt great all the time like some women do, but if I felt great all the time I would probably wonder if my baby is really in there, growing up a storm. I feel better the worse I feel because of what it means.

It's funny how pregnancy changes your outlook on life. Cody and I both said the other day that no matter how surprised, unprepared, freaked out, uncertain, panicked, or desperate we have felt through this process of facing this new responsibility, it never even crossed our minds to want the baby to stop growing and not make it. It's not that we ever would have wanted that- don't get me wrong. We're still scared, and excited. It's just that our perspective has shifted to want the best for this new person that has been placed in our lives no matter the effect it has on us.

It's made us grow up.