Thursday, May 26, 2011

Prelude to Work

I don't know if it's pregnancy hormones, or Lady O herself, but my golly did I cry during Oprah's final bow yesterday. Over the years her "aha moments" did sometimes grate on me, and her admiration for Babs or Tommy Cruise, but her last goodbye was beautiful. The last time I regularly watched her show was in high school: me on the recliner, my childhood best friend on the couch, and I've only revisited her during these dog days of unemployment, but boy if she'd didn't grab me in again.

After almost three months of yearning for nothing but work, I'm suddenly - to my befuddlement - kinda scared! I start on Tuesday and I have not started a new job in five years. I am a creature of habit: I have my spot on the couch, my side of the bed, and (I did have) my mindless commute. I've glad to have the opportunity to use my brain and get my mind off another anxiety: the baby. When you don't particularly feel pregnant, nor do you particularly look pregnant, you start to wonder: that thing still in there?!

Last week my ob/gyn took several minutes to find the baby's heartbeat with her doppler. Last time it was instantaneous. She assured me this was normal, the baby moves, and that perhaps I should get an ultrasound to confirm all is alright, when, bam, there it was: tha-ump, tha-ump - so quick and rhythmic and beautiful.

I hope everyone has a spectacular Memorial Day weekend. Matt and I are going to the beach for a few days (the calm before the storm, I suppose); photos to follow (but of course)!

Friday, May 20, 2011

New Beginnings

I've wanted to write this post for quite a while, and I've thought about the tone in which I'd write it, or the language I'd use and all of those writer's flourishes that dance on so many of the blogs and pieces I adore. But now that pen is to paper (or, in my case, fingers to keyboard) no fabulous cheekiness is coming to me. No play on words or goofy sentiments, either. So, with that, I will say this, plainly but full of love, hope, and giddiness: I am pregnant (I have to say it again: I am pregnant!!!) and Matt and I couldn't be more happily terrified.

We have entered our second trimester and are due mid-November. We learned of the pregnancy the second week of March, with very little pomp and circumstance. I went for my blood test on a Friday morning (a week after I was laid off), and Matt planned to come home around 2 pm to take the results call with me. They always call after 2 pm, but that Friday the phone rang at 12:30 pm and the nurse said - I remember so clearly - "So, ya ever have a positive pregnancy test?".

We didn't celebrate that night, or the following few weeks. We tempered our expectations - my progesterone and estrogen levels were woefully low and I was being propped up on several supplements. But, my beta numbers (hCG - the pregnancy hormone) kept rising, and then we had an ultrasound and saw the yolk sac. Our next ultrasound we saw a smudge in the yolk sac. On our next ultrasound the smudge was now a shrimp, and was larger and had a heartbeat, and now, many weeks later, our smudge is a baby the size of a lemon who kicks, punches, and makes us hold our breath every time we see him or her on the ultrasound monitor.

As the weeks progressed, I felt more free to believe everything would be okay. I visited baby forums, read no less than 200 reviews of strollers on Babies R Us and and last week, as we entered our second trimester, Matt turned to me and said, "We have so much to do before the baby comes; we have to make a list!" There is always risk, and it is still early, but we've finally exhaled, and we have never been more happy.

Matt, being Matt, has named the baby "Cletus the Fetus". "How's Cletus today, K?!" Me, being me, usually snottily retorts with, "Well, our CHILD weighs an ounce, so it's not like I feel him wiggling around in there." Matt wants a boy, but only because he doesn't know what to do with a girl. He is scared of them and their pink and lace and temper tantrums. I have no gender expectations, but I do hope he or she has Matt's kindness, patience, joie de vivre, and perfect health, and what I'd like to think of as my strong sense of self and sardonic humor. I'd also like them to not inherent Matt's hairiness - well, that goes more so if the baby is a girl.

When it rains, it pours. I'm starting a new job in Philadelphia after Memorial Day (yes; it take a lot for that to be second-rate news!), and although nervous and a bit overwhelmed, I think I'm really kickin' ass these days. Of course, there are some hiccups: today my ob/gyn told me I really need to to control my rocketing weight (oops - I finally looked at the number on the scale after many appointments of eyes squeezed shut and, sadly, I have to admit, a few tears were shed), and then there's the whole thing of the world ending tomorrow on the 21st. Just when things were really starting to look up...

In my "real" life I am still keeping this news to close friends and family and there will be no Facebook announcement (now or later), but a few readers have reached out individually, and I'm so glad I can now share the news with everyone on the blog. I owe you a world of gratitude: however cheesy this sounds, your support and comments were rays of sunshine in my inbox, and I can only hope I can return the same happiness you have given me.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thai Cucumber Salad

Today I told Matt I was going to eat healthier. Then we got a Cadbury Fruit and Nut chocolate bar at the grocery store and I just made cookies with chocolate, raisins, and oatmeal and my god were they full of gooey deliciousness. Oh well - tomorrow is always another day!

In honor of eating healthier (but not actually doing so), I'm going to do the next best thing: post a reasonably healthy recipe. I say that's good enough for today. As promised, here is a titillating (well, if cucumbers can be titillating) Thai cucumber salad I had with the previous curry recipe. It's fresh and simple, and like any good starlet or, um, cucumber salad, healthy and attractive. Great side dish for your Asian fare, and the coolness provides an excellent juxtaposition to the heat of the main dish. Enjoy!

Thai Cucumber Salad
  • 3 cucumber (peeled, halved lengthwise, and seeded)
  • 1 Tb. salt
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar (if you get the seasoned rice wine vinegar with sugar, then the additional sugar is not necessary or you will only need a couple Tbs.)
  • 2 jalapeƱo peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 5-6 radishes, thinly sliced
  • OPTIONAL: 1/2 to 1 cup slaw mixture (we used broccoli slaw)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
After prepping cucumbers, toss with salt and leave in a colander for half an hour. Rinse with cold water and pat dry. Then whisk together sugar and vinegar. Add rest of ingredients to this (except for peanuts). Toss and top with chopped peanuts.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Simple Thai Coconut Curry

Strawberry season is here! Matt's been making smoothies galore, and I had them atop some french toast this morning. Later, some plain yogurt with bananas and strawberries and a (ok - hearty) drizzle of honey, and I'm already thinkin' up excuses to make my simple and delicious strawberry peach pie. It's a summer slice of heaven.

But this recipe isn't about strawberries, but don't be sad. It's still meets all the criteria: delicious, simple, and...well, that's all the criteria, really. It's an adaptation of an ol' Betty Crocker recipe, and old Betty girl sure knows how to cook. I served with basmati rice, pot stickers, and a Thai cucumber salad (recipe coming!).

Simple Thai Coconut Curry
  • 1 lb. skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 tsp. lime zest, plus juice of lime
  • 1-2 tsp. minced ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 serrano chillies, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (reserve some for topping before serving)
  • 1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas
  • 1 Tb. soy sauce
  • 1 large bell pepper (any color will do)
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • Thai basil for topping, if available (cilantro will also do)
Stir-fry chicken in a large skillet with oil. When chicken is no longer pink in the center, add garlic, lime zest, ginger, chillies, and cilantro and stir-fry for another minute or so. Add coconut milk, brown sugar, sugar snap peas, the pepper, soy sauce, and salt to taste (about 1/2 tsp). Simmer up to five minutes until the veggies are starting to get tender but still retain some crispness, and then stir in tomato. Serve with rice and top with Thai basil or cilantro.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

2 Months Unemployed - Whaaa??!!??!!!

This will be me...soon enough!
You know you reached a whole new level of "total lazy ass" when you complain about having to run errands two days in a row and thus have to put on normal clothes (sans holes, stains...or most likely both), brush your hair, and put a lick of mascara and balm on. Because that, my friends, is just too much damn effort. At this point Matt is lucky if I dust the crumbs off my sweatshirt. Scratch that: he's lucky if I'm wearing a different sweatshirt than I wore the day before. And the day before that. And yes, I'm gonna say it: the day before that. Weep for him.

I'm not doing well with unemployment. As much as a clock-watcher I was while working, my house has become an insufferable prison. I have long conversations with Penny. (I swear, I am not being cutesy.) I argue with her about totally humanoid topics while she wearily chews her bone. Today we had a frank discussion about the Bin Laden death photos, which I was against releasing. Penny, as misguided as she is, disagreed. When you're having fake conversations with your dog you know you need to get out more.

Today, like an adult, I attended to my previous 401(k) and moved it into an IRA. I spoke to real humans at Vanguard and went to the bank for a change-of-name guarantor signature. I felt good about this. It was a very adult thing to do (more adult than talking to your dog, at least). Matt has been pestering me for the last two months to call our insurance company to inquire about life insurance. I figure one adult thing a day is enough and - if he's lucky - I'll tackle this tomorrow.

This Friday I'm having friends over for a potluck, which I couldn't be happier about. Another week and I would have ended up all Nell-like in this vacant house. Then Saturday Matt and I are volunteering at the annual Crohn's walk. I'm sure there will be a lot of humans there, which will be good for me. One friend said I should volunteer somewhere, and another said to take a class at the local community college. I keep putting all of this off because I'm under the delusion I'm going to get a job. Really, really soon. I swear!

Until then, excuse me, as Penny and I need to have a heart-to-heart regarding the amounts of dog fur she's leaving all over the house. I tell ya, someone's not earning their keep!

Dog gone goodness

I love dogs. Their desire to serve is humbling and heartwarming and whenever there is a dog store anywhere (even our local 11 o'clock news which often warrants an eye roll) I cry. A lot. I turn to Matt, who is often unmoved, and stammer, "Don't you...don't you see what they DO for us?! They are AMAZING!" I make quite the scene.

I don't understand people who don't like dogs with all they do for us: seeing eye dogs, dogs who serve individuals with epilepsy, rescue dogs, bomb-sniffing dogs, sled dogs, police dogs, parachuting dogs used in war (!) - the list is endless. Of course, then there's the ubiquitous pet dog who enjoys sniffing unmentionables and whining for kitchen scraps. They're pretty good too. Check out these amazing pooches!

UPDATE!: Wonderful, eye-opening photo essay on war dogs.

These dogs work with the Navy SEALS! Look at them strapped outside of that helicopter!

Three dogs who risked their lives and saved 50 military personnel from a suicide bomber (video).

I can't get enough of parachuting dogs!

Here's another parachuting dog in Norway!

Look at this amazing mutt!

Okay; the last one was Penny. Fine. You got me!

But regardless, show me a cat who can do any of this. Meeeeoooowwww!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Greek Orzo Salad

I hope everyone had a nice Easter. Or Passover. Or, if neither of those are apropos, a good weekend! We spent the weekend with Matt's parents. Penny loves it there because she can roam the property and take hourly dips in the pond. Every night, after exploring, she curls up in her dog bed and snoozes through the night so she's ready to go at 6 am the next morning. Promptly at 6, she comes to my bedside, sits down so her face is no more than a foot from mine, and commences her staring. She's got it down pat, and I gotta say, it's unnerving.

For the festivities I brought a simple-as-pie Greek orzo salad. I make a lot of stuff like this that require no recipe and virtually no thinking: take a grain (couscous, quinoa, some sort of pasta) and mix with a simple vinaigrette and summertime vegetables. Easy on the eyes and the stomach. (It also travels well and you really can't botch it up.)

My go-to vinaigrette is this, and it's a classic: 2/3 cup of good olive oil to 1/3 cup vinegar (this time I used red wine). Whisk in a heaping tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a diced shallot, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme (this is patented by yours truly) and salt and pepper to taste. If I have cooking sherry I add a splash of that, but you know, that's when I'm feeling particularly opulent.

All my salads have a Mediterranean flare given the warm-weather vegetables, and this one focused on Greece given my very eye-brow raising amounts of feta involved. My favorite cheese is feta cheese. Actually, every cheese is my favorite cheese. Duh.

Greek Orzo Salad

  • One package orzo (16 oz.), boil to al dente
  • One jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and diced
  • One jar sun-dried tomatoes, drained and diced
  • One large red onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers (orange, red, or yellow will do), diced or cut into think 1/4" strips
  • 1 package baby spinach
  • 1-2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup packed and chopped fresh Italian flat parsley
  • feta cheese to taste (about one Athenos package)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Vinaigrette, recipe above - makes 1 cup
  • Optional: toasted pine nuts

Directions: Mix all ingredients to a large bowel (except pine nuts and feta). Add vinaigrette and mix. Fold in crumbled feta, and garnish with pine nuts and additional parsley, if desired.