Friday, April 29, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 12)

1) He is Risen! Truly, He is Risen! I hope everyone had a blessed Holy Week and Easter. Will and I had a fairly relaxing Easter weekend at home. We went to mass early on Sunday morning in an attempt to avoid a mass that was too crowded then headed over to some friends' apartment for Easter lunch. We had a nice time and I really enjoyed seeing some of my friends back in Annapolis!

2) You know those ads that say stuff like "1 Tip to a Flat Belly" or "Click here for ancient secret for a flat belly?" Yea. Well, every time I see one of those ads I feel like saying "OOHHH!!! ME!! PICK ME! I KNOW! DON'T GET PREGNANT!!!" But, I'm pretty sure that isn't the tip or secret they're willing to share with you if you click on that link.

3) I ran into this while doing laundry last week. 

At least I'm not afraid of killing spiders :)

4) These beauties came out in time for Holy Week! 

They've been so nice to drive home to. They lasted until earlier this week when heavy rainstorms took a toll on the petals. And, yes, one day I will ( husband will) move those bags of potting soil :)

5) I watched my very first episode of "Extreme Couponing" this week. It was a little insane. I've started to try to use coupons more often, but find I forget about the ones I have until they've already expired. I'm working on coming up with a system for organizing my coupons, but it just takes so much time and energy that I'm not sure it's really worth it. I use coupons when I remember, but don't freak out if I forget.

6) This weekend is chock full of awesome events! First, there's the royal wedding which I'm actually not ALL that interested in, but I'm sure I'll poke around some of the photos that get published. Then I get to see my niece/goddaughter get baptized and meet her for the first time. And last, but certainly not least, is the beatification of Pope John Paul II. Lots to look forward to! Yay for weekends!

7) My favorite Facebook post of the week goes to Emily - in honor of all the birthday's that happened in her house this week. Both she and her two daughters have birthday's within 5 days of each other (and her brother-in-law is thrown in somewhere pretty close as well). How awesome is that!? She had several posts that made me smile, but I think I liked this one the best:
"holy moly, two 1-year olds for the next 36 hours. im that mom!"

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why Pregnancy Rocks

I've had a few unpleasant pregnancy symptoms that just don't seem to go away (back ache, stuffy nose), but it's made me think about all the things I actually love about being pregnant. And maybe I'm a bit biased since I'm just starting my 3rd trimester (so I'm still enjoying 2nd trimester bliss). Either way all these things are definitely perks of being pregnant. In no particular order:

- I love feeling the baby kick. Seriously. It's an amazing (maybe a little bit weird at first) feeling. Sometimes I even poke baby Rayel so he'll squirm around :) Will doesn't like when I do that, but it doesn't hurt the baby.

- Similar to above, I love watching my stomach move. If I had nothing better to do I could sit for hours just watching baby Rayel kick and move around. I find that I'm incredibly patient in waiting for him to kick/move and get ever so slightly sad when I've been watching my stomach (umm, yes...just staring at it), then look away and miss a movement.

- I love that I get to eat more. Even though it isn't that much more - still, it's more food. And I love to eat. So this works.

- I love that gaining weight is not only encouraged, but basically required. Obviously, this one is pretty easy to take overboard (as is the whole eating thing since, you know, the two are kinda linked) but it's still comforting to know that gaining 20 pounds doesn't tip me into the next weight category in life.

- I love that I get to shop. A lot. There are so many things to buy when you're having a baby - a crib, changing table, mattress, linens, car seat, stroller, glider, clothes, diapers, and on and on the list goes. Granted, a lot of this stuff other people generously buy for you, but it's still fun to look!! And it's a reminder of just how kind and generous people really are.

- Not only do I get to shop for the baby, but I get to shop for myself, too. In fact, I basically get an entirely new wardrobe that is WAY more comfortable than my old wardrobe. Granted, the fact that I'm buying an entire wardrobe that I will only use for less than a year (per baby, that is) does force me to limit what I buy, which is ok with me for now. Building an entire wardrobe takes time. So, for now I have a fairly limited wardrobe and wear basically the same shirts/pants/shorts/dresses every week, but everything is still new to me so I'm not tired of it yet :)
And did I mention how ridiculously comfortable maternity clothes are? I did? Well, it's the truth. There's no worrying about buttons or zippers when it comes to your shorts and pants. Just pull 'em right up and you're good to go. *sigh* I'm definitely going to miss my maternity clothes one day.......

- I've really enjoyed watching my baby bump grow - in pictures that is. It's kind of neat clicking from one picture to the next and seeing how my belly is expanding. My only regret on this one is that I didn't start it a bit sooner (I started at 21 weeks). Alas, there's always next time :)

The baby bump at 29 weeks :)
- I love that people always offer to help me carry things. It's only recently that I've started taking some people up on their offers. And it's only recently that I've started noticing that it is, in fact, more difficult for me to lift heavy things. I've even begun to plan major shopping trips around times when my husband will be home and able to help me unload the car.

- I love that my hair doesn't fall out nearly as much as it used to. I realize that my hair is going to fall out after the baby comes, but for now it's nice not shedding all over the place :)

- I love that the baby seems to respond to Will's voice. Maybe I'm just making this one up because I want him to respond to my husband's voice, but if he's been fairly still for a while and my husband comes home and starts talking his movement seems to pick up.

- I love that I'm hardly ever cold anymore. On the flip side - I'm often hot. But this is a welcome change from always being cold.

That's all I can think of for now. Perhaps I'll think of more later on, until then I'll just keep poking baby Rayel whenever I need a good smile :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Baked Ziti

I've talked about my friend, Kristina, before. She's the one who gave me that delicious peanut butter pie recipe. She's been a great resource for yummy recipes for me. This is another recipe she suggested to me that she got off the side of a San Giorgio Ziti box. (I briefly talked about recipes on the side of the box in #5 here, but haven't really gotten around to trying too many of those recipes.)
I really like this recipe because it's super easy and, of course, delicious. My only qualm with it is that my husband doesn't like a lot of cheese....and this recipe has a lot of cheese (I mean, hello, it's baked ziti!). So I have to look for occasions when I'll be serving several people who are not my husband in order to use this recipe. But such is my life and I really like knowing that I can use this whenever we have guests over - especially with the baby coming. It will be a super easy recipe to fix a day (or week!) ahead and have ready for a crowd of people. Without further ado, here's the recipe:

1 package (1 lb.) San Giorgio Ziti, uncooked
3 cups (about 26 oz. jar) spaghetti sauce divided
1 3/4 cups (15 oz) ricotta cheese
2 cups (8 oz) shredded mozarella cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 egg
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375F. Cook pasta according to package directions for 9 minutes (aka - in boiling water until al dente, salt optional).
In large bowl, stir together hot pasta, 1 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce, ricotta cheese,
I waited until the end to mix in the pasta.

mozzarella cheese, parsley, egg, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

In 13x9x2-inch baking dish (I just used a dish large enough to hold everything because I don't have a baking dish of those specific dimensions), spoon pasta mixture;

top with remaining 1 1/2 cups sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese;

cover with foil.

Bake 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  10 servings (1 cup each).

I definitely recommend baking "until hot and bubbly." The warmer this is when you serve it the better. I cooked mine a little before it was served so it had some time to cool down, and I think it took away from the taste (I know this because I've had it served to me steaming hot).

The box also includes "Make-Ahead Directions" which I think are really nice if you want to prepare this dish ahead of time. Here are those directions:
Prepare recipe as directed, but do not bake. Cover with plastic wrap, then foil. Refrigerate up to 24 hours or freeze up to 2 months. Thaw frozen version in refrigerator overnight. Remove plastic wrap; replace foil. Bake as directed, adding about 10 minutes to baking time.

I have also contemplated making this and splitting it into 3 or 4 dishes to make on 3 or 4 separate occasions. It would be easy to do and this recipe makes a lot of food. One other thing I've considered is making it a side dish and preparing and main dish to go along with it - maybe eggplant or chicken or something like that.

Friday, April 15, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 11)

1) The Childbirth and Baby Care class last weekend two weekends ago went really well. We learned a lot, but I'm still totally freaked out about actually giving birth. I'll just push that thought to the back of my mind for as long as possible.

2) I've started paying more attention to coupons and taking the time to look through newspaper inserts and such for them. Although, I'm not always the best at shopping around savings. My husband and I tend to be people who like routine, so my grocery list generally doesn't change much from week to week. This can make it hard to use coupons to find deals, but I'm working on it!

3) Can I tell you how much I love making lists? I do. Last week I started two major lists. One is my list of "things that need to get done around the house (ideally) before the baby arrives" and the other list is "baby stuff" - either things we need to purchase or things we need to do to get ready for the baby. I'm looking forward to checking off items on both of these lists....and then making new, refined lists for me to go by :)

4) I put together the crib and changing table this past week. I'm so excited to have something completed for the baby. Although, we still haven't gotten a mattress or changing pad so I guess neither the crib or changing table would be very useful if we brought home a baby tomorrow. My goal is to assemble and/or organize things as we acquire them that way I won't be too stressed as the arrival of Baby Rayel nears.

5) My tulips finally bloomed!!! Well, some of them bloomed anyway. The rest are just waiting to make their appearance :) They're all so close to opening up. I can't wait to see them all in full bloom. It's going to be awesome!
The whole bunch :)
A few up close

6) Last weekend Will and I spent a night in historic Winchester, VA. It was my Christmas present from Will. It was really nice to get away and be able to spend some time together before the baby arrives.  Below is one of the few pictures from the weekend.

7) My favorite Facebook post of the week goes to Megan. She has two kids. The oldest is a boy she and her husband fostered then adopted named Marlon. I believe he's 4 years old. This post made me laugh:
"any ideas on how to get finger polish off lips? marlon has a beautiful shade of purple he mistook as lipgloss!"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Need Powdered Sugar in a Pinch?

I recently needed powdered sugar for this recipe. But, after meticulously making my shopping list and returning home I realized I had somehow managed to forget the powdered sugar. It never even made my shopping list (so much for being so meticulous)! Unfortunately, I didn't realize this until it was time to put the powdered sugar into the peanut butter pie. And I needed to make the pie as quickly as possible so it had time to set before the potluck that night. My husband reluctantly agreed to go to the store and pick some up for me, but he wanted to finish doing something first so it was going to be about 20-30 minutes before he went (I had literally just gotten home from the store and put away the groceries).
I decided to see if there were any easy, practical powdered sugar substitutes. So, I went online and began searching. I was happy to learn that you can quickly "make your own" powdered sugar by putting granulated sugar in a blender and blending it on high. So, that's what I did!

Now, I don't think the consistency is quite what you'd get with store bought powdered sugar, but it works when you're in a fix. And for how infrequently I use (and therefore have) powdered sugar this is certainly a handy tip to know!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Peanut Butter Pie

My friend, Kristina, knows how much I like peanut butter. And, being a stay-at-home-mom, has also gotten into finding and collecting good recipes. She recently shared this peanut butter pie recipe with me. I made it for a parish potluck because I knew that I would devour the whole thing if I made it for something small (or for just me and Will)!

Peanut Butter Pie
1/3 cup peanut butter
4 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup milk
8 oz. Cool Whip thawed
8 in. crumb pie crust (she suggests Oreo)

Blend together the first four ingredients until smooth.  Gently fold in the Cool Whip. Pour into the prepared pie crust and put in freezer until set.  Can be served frozen or thawed.  Keep refrigerated.  To make richer add a layer of chocolate pudding below the peanut butter cream or some chocolate sauce on top or both.

When I made this I was in a bit of a rush since I didn't go to the store for the ingredients until the afternoon when I needed to make it, so this made it a bit more challenging. I think I didn't give the cream cheese quite enough time to get to room temperature, but I didn't feel comfortable zapping it in the microwave. Even with the cream cheese a little firmer than ideal I still think the pie turned out ok.

peanut butter + cream cheese + powdered sugar + milk
I put all of the first 4 ingredients in the bowl at once. This made the mixing a little messy. Next time I think I'll add the first 3 ingredients and blend, then slowly add the milk while continuing to blend.

blended ingredients
As you can see, it still turned out ok, but the mixture isn't as smooth as I would have liked (I think because the cream cheese was a little too firm to begin with).

Peanut Butter Pie
The final pie turned out really well. I opted to add a layer of chocolate pudding to the bottom, but I forgot to take any pictures of that.
I think it's important to note that you should allow several hours for the pie to set in the freezer. I only allowed a little over 2 hours and it wasn't quite set when it was served. But it still tasted great!

Friday, April 1, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 10)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 121)

1) I finally managed to sign up for a "Childbirth and Baby Care" class this week. Apparently, I called much later than most couples because the next open class was for June 25/26 (unless we wanted to do a 6 week class that met every Friday night). Uhh...that's literally 2 weeks before my due date. Yes. TWO WEEKS!!! I wish someone had warned me to sign up in like the 4th month of pregnancy (I'm only a couple weeks into the 6th month). 
As I was calling later in the week to schedule my breast feeding class and a maternity tour I had the presence of mind to ask if there is a waiting list for classes that were already full. I mean SURELY people cancel on them occasionally! Luckily, they DO have a waiting list. And, in fact, the class for this weekend had one open spot. So, I quickly called and emailed my husband to confirm with him that it would be ok with him if we took the class this weekend. I realize it's a LITTLE early (they suggest finishing the class 3-5 weeks before you're due) but seriously...I don't want to walk into that hospital in labor without having SOME clue as to what I'm about to do/what I'm getting myself in to. Bullet dodged.

2) I tried several new recipes this week. You can find the first one here. The other two will be posted in the near future. One will be for peanut butter pie while the other will be for baked ziti! Yumm!

3) I *think* I've figured out why my back has been hurting, but I'm still in the process of testing my theory. My (current) theory is that it's all the driving I've been doing that's causing this one particular back pain - in one very specific spot toward the top right of my back. I think it has to do with DC traffic and my driving a stick shift. I just noticed yesterday that when I put the clutch in it puts an extra strain in that specific spot on my back. So, I decided to try moving my seat closer to the steering wheel (only by 1 notch even!) this way I wouldn't have to push as far or hard to push in the clutch. I tried it out for the first time on my commute home from babysitting yesterday, and it seemed to help. But, the real test will be if this continues to help and if the pain goes away completely. Only time will tell.

4) The ants are getting on my last nerve. The baits aren't working. Or they at least don't seem to be working. I noticed yesterday that they got into my flour canister (which has a rubber seal!). Those pesky little monsters. I'm sooo ready to enlist the help of a professional to take care of this problem once and for all - even if this means I'll have an exterminator come to my house several times a year. I'm just so done cleaning the counters 2-3 times a day, not leaving food out, being diligent about washing dishes right after they've been used, etc and still finding ants all over the kitchen. 

5) Many of my friends seem to be talking about the start of baseball season lately. Sadly, baseball just isn't a sport I've gotten in to. I mean, it's not that I dislike the sport, but seriously the season seems to last FOREVER!! It's not like we've gone ALL that long without it. I can't seem to wrap my mind around the obsession. Can anyone out there please explain this to me? I just don't seem to get it.

6) Happy April Fool's Day!! There are days when I'm happy to not be teaching and this is one of them - even though none of my students ever did anything bad to me I definitely can't say that about what they did to each other or even to other teachers. I'd like to share one particularly funny April Fool's joke a couple of my students attempted to pull/pulled (you can be the judge of their success) on the entire school community a couple years ago.
To give you a little background the school I worked at was set up much like a college campus in that it had several buildings (6 I believe) where classes took place, and they would go from building to building depending on where their next class was.
This particular year two students came up with the brilliant idea to post a sign on every bathroom door on campus that read "Out of Order go to [insert another building here]." So, someone would try to go to the bathroom in one building, realize it was "out of order," then head to the next building only to find the same sign, then head to the next building, etc. The teachers figured it out pretty quickly. After one teacher went to 3 different buildings in an attempt to go to the restroom s/he emailed the entire faculty asking them to check the bathrooms in their respective buildings for these signs. Sure enough there were signs in every building (which were promptly taken down, of course).
What about you? Do you have a favorite April Fool's joke/story?

7) My favorite Facebook post of the week goes to Lisa. I think it speaks for itself. Oh - and when you're finished reading this you should check out her blog.
"I fly out to Boston tomorrow at 1:00 for Faith & Family Mom's Day Away...I can't get myself to start packing because I don't know how to fit Elena in the suitcase. Should I strap her to the outside or put a little doggie bed in there??"