Oh what a weekend

It’s quite possibly the most cliche phrase ever uttered on a Monday, but – man – I wish it were the weekend again. Luffy and I had a wonderful weekend and I would pay good money to rewind the clock to Friday so that we could do it all again.

The weekend started a few hours early for me when I left work around 1:00 on Friday afternoon. I picked up some lunch for Luffy and I and headed to his office for a little desk picnic. I don’t know about you (and your SO), but seeing him earlier than usual always puts me in the best mood. I then headed out to run some errands and clean up the house a bit in preparation of our EPIC Saturday plans.

First up Saturday were our standing lunch plans with Luffy’s parents. Not all that exciting, per se, but always delicious. We then headed over to a friend’s house for the last baby shower. This one was co-ed (and hosted by mutual friends), so Luffy tagged along. We had a wonderful shower, filled with fun games (the boys tried to guess the flavors of baby food and then, in a much more appreciated game, tried to drink beer from baby bottles), tasty food, and good company. Our friends outdid themselves and some of my favorite outfits came from them (seriously! little tiny Fullmetal Alchemist and One Piece onesies!! so adorable).

And then, as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, Luffy arranged for the most delightful treat for me and our friends: a private Frank dinner, hosted at our house.

Now, I’ve talked about Frank before, but one thing that I didn’t mention is that they actually offer in-home cooking (and some of the Frank experience) for private dinner parties. It wasn’t something I’d ever seriously considered (little awkward with just two people, don’t you think??), but Luffy decided that it would be a lovely thank-you to our friends for hosting our shower and a surprise for me. AND I’M SO HAPPY THAT HE DID. We had THE BEST time. He didn’t quite get to make it a surprise for me (he had to check that I was ok with it being at our home because, you know, he knows me and knew I’d want to clean all the things before I had professional chefs using my kitchen), but he did do all the heavy lifting of the planning and the prep.

Our chef arrived at little after 6pm. Our friends arrived at 7pm. Champagne was popped at 7:10 – and things only went up from there.

I’m not a food blogger, so bear with me and my woefully lacking descriptive skills, but you guys! The food! Was just unbelievable! We had risotto balls and THE MOST INCREDIBLE SOUP I HAVE EVER EATEN IN MY LIFE and octopus with assorted supporting cast members (like a delicious black bean sauce and a Cara Cara orange wedge topped with beer salt!) to create your perfect bite and chicken with waffles and blackberry ginger sorbet with granola and chocolate chunks. The soup! Best soup ever. Tasted like queso, but even more delicious. And I had three waffles to accompany my chicken. And Luffy told our chef that I like pickled things, so there were many freshly pickled items to choose from. And the dessert was incredibly refreshing and the perfect way to end the meal. The entire evening was wonderful. The wine flowed like water (for my non-pregnant friends) and they even made a couple of non-alcoholic mixed drinks for me. I had to turn in earlier, of course (a friend practically put me to bed herself after she caught sight of my drooping eyelids), but our friends stayed until about two in the morning.

Our Saturday was packed full of activities, so we did absolutely nothing on Sunday except enjoy the rain and football (and knock out the thank you notes).

Ahhhh, weekend perfection.

Pregnancy diet

Throughout my pregnancy, whenever I am confronted with a diet “don’t” I always try* to find the reason why because that kernel of truth is the true recommendation. Most rules you hear of these days are watered down for society and mangled through the grapevine like a truly disastrous (or hilarious?) round of Telephone.

For instance, one “rule” (and I’m going to use that word in quotation marks a lot because I can’t stand how much misinformation is picked up by people skimming or not understanding a response) for pregnant women is no soft cheeses. But why? Apparently, this got twisted from the original recommendation of no unpasteurized cheese. Soft cheeses (like brie) are more commonly unpasteurized than your average hard cheese like cheddar. It makes sense that a pregnant woman, with a taxed immune system, should probably avoid unpasteurized dairy products. So why not just say that? Why say soft cheeses? Because I am so tired of reading the thread where a woman is considering a serving of feta cheese her I-shouldn’t-be-eating-this-but-I-still-do-teehee! food. It is exceedingly challenging to find unpasteurized cheese here in the states. In fact, I’d applaud you if you just happened to stumble upon unpasteurized cheese.

Anyway, the loss of the reason behind the recommendation leads to some very interesting situations and speaks volumes about society in general.

For instance, I’ve routinely heard from others that deli meat is bad and I shouldn’t be eating it cold. I’ve also heard a lot about alcohol ranging from the low end (a glass or two a month shouldn’t hurt!) to the high (a friend’s doctor told her that she could either have a serving of caffeine or a serving of alcohol a day, so here take this over-sized glass of wine).

Now, for the first: Cold deli meat is not recommended because of the risk of transmitting listeria, a bacteria that thrives in the cold. True, listeria is potentially very harmful to a developing fetus and the mother if it is contracted. A couple of things to keep in mind though: 1. Listeria is a food-borne illness, which means that most reputable producers have safety standards and quality control. Obviously mistakes happen and contamination occurs, but what I’m getting at here is that it’s rare. 2. Deli meat gets an unfair rep here at being the big, bad, scary carrier of listeria, but it’s not the only thing that could transmit the bacteria. You can also contract listeria from improperly handled fruits, raw vegetables, and even the cold leftovers in your fridge. (I don’t say this to scare you, by the way, merely to show how many ways you could potentially be exposed. And keep some perspective! How many times in your life have you contracted food poisoning from eating an apple or your leftovers? I’m willing to bet it’s never.)

So! We boil down “no deli meat” to get to “no listeria” which really just means HANDLE YOUR FOOD PROPERLY AND DON’T EAT IT IF YOU AREN’T SURE ABOUT IT. Which, hmmm, isn’t that pretty common sense advice for anyone? Yeah. It is.

Moving along to the second: Alcohol? Yes. No. Maybe.

Now alcohol is tricky. According to research, scientists have been unable to find the threshold where a woman crosses from safe into fetal alcohol syndrome territory. They aren’t sure, but that magical threshold appears to vary from woman to woman, and even from pregnancy to pregnancy. Meaning that Woman A drank five servings of alcohol a week and her baby is fine, and Woman B drank three servings of alcohol a week and her baby exhibits signs of FAS. This is why the recommendation is that complete abstinence is the safest, but small amounts are probably ok.

So. We boil down the alcohol question to find that the answer is truly unknown, especially unknown for you specifically. This means, that every glass serving (because a glass doesn’t always mean a serving) is truly a gamble. Sure the first one may be fine, but what about that second you have a week later? Or the four servings you had last month? You won’t know where your line is until it’s too late.

To me, personally, deli meat poses almost zero risk, especially if it’s from a reputable producer. Alcohol, however, is a giant question mark of a risk and one that I’m uncomfortable taking. Thus, I’ve had numerous sandwiches with salami (gasp!) and prosciuttini (double gasp!) and I’ve also turned down countless offers for a glass or even just a sip of alcohol.

Everyone has an acceptable risk threshold and you should be allowed to make your own decisions. I would not judge you for having a glass or two or three of alcohol, it’s just not something I want to do. What I can’t stand are the people who will judge you (and me) or, and this is almost worse, give advice to you (or me) and not understand the facts.

*I put an asterisk here because I know that when/if Luffy reads this, he’s going to want full credit for being the person who makes me go research the reasons. When I first got pregnant I was all no deli meat, no allergy meds, no soft cheese – OH MY! He promptly called bullshit and went off to do his own research which led me to most of these conclusions… He advocates doing your homework before blindly following what others say.

 

Dinner Fail

Have you ever had a meal just go spectacularly wrong? That was our dinner last night. I mean, not smoke-alarm, blackened turkey wrong, but inedible nonetheless.

It started with a plan. A great plan, if I do say so myself! Skirt steak using our sous vide, collard greens, and leftover cauliflower mash. Perfect! Delicious! Healthy! And, probably most importantly, beef! Which I have been craving for the past couple of weeks. A perfect Tuesday night dinner: easy, healthy, and tasty.

When I got home (a tad early because of the small fact that I couldn’t breathe), I began scrolling through Instagram which is always a bad idea pre-meal time because I subscribe to a lot of food accounts. And…. yes…. a pic of cheesy garlic bread looked too delicious to resist and Luffy ever so helpfully (or perhaps unhelpfully) volunteered to go get some garlic bread. Yay! The addition of some carbs to our meal surely wouldn’t completely negate the otherwise virtuous meal.

When Luffy got home, the bread looked so delicious that we decided to dig right in. An appetizer! Just add some mozzarella and voila! It was good. Real good. We ate the entire loaf. And had no regrets. I mean, vegetables were still coming, no worries.

And this moment, right here, is when things started going downhill.

When I went to start dinner, I pulled the collard greens out of the fridge and realized they had gone bad. Whoops. I tossed them and got the leftover cauliflower mash out. I reheated it and gave it a taste. Even through my congestion I could taste the fridge (I suppose it’s really staleness, but food that’s been in the fridge too  long just always taste like the fridge to me). Bleh. So I put those to the side.

“Don’t worry!” Luffy said from the living room. “We can have carrots!”

So he pulled baby carrots out of the fridge while I finished prepping the steak. We sat down to a salvaged meal. There’s still beef! There’s still a veggie! All good. And then we each took a bite of the steak.

Wah-wah.

So salty. Too salty. Luffy apologized for over-salting it that morning and wondered what he had done wrong. He had used the same amount as always. And that’s when the light bulb went off for me. He had asked me to pass the salt shaker that morning, which I did. But I passed him table salt and I suddenly realized that he usually uses sea salt. At the time, I didn’t think to ask if table salt was what he wanted. If you’re not familiar with sea salt, it doesn’t pack the same punch as table salt. You need to use a lot more sea salt to season food, so of course if you’re using table salt when you think you’re using sea salt – hoo boy. I kept eating small bites (because CRAVINGS – there was beef right there), but finally I had to stop. Luffy didn’t even try (because he is smart). We finished our carrots and he offered to go get me some food. I turned him down because I’d already eaten lots of bread and carrots, no need to pick up a meal.

I told him to think of the garlic bread as a fancy grilled cheese. Yeah…. that’s what I was going for. Grilled cheese and carrots. Totes healthy.

Dinner rut

We’re in a food rut at our house. We make the same dinners, on the same day, just about every week. The worst part is, we’re starting to avoid cooking because we’re tired of what we’re cooking. So we’re branching out to find new and exciting (and easy!) recipes to put together during the week.

I love cooking, but – you know – on the weekends when I have plenty of time and when putting together a meal doesn’t mean I have to race in the door and immediately start dinner prep. On the weekends I’ll happily put together braised short ribs or multi-step casseroles. Weeknight dinners, on the other hand, get relegated to easy, boring meals that I know will come together quickly and painlessly. Especially because I teach an exercise class after work two or three nights a week, meaning that I don’t get home until late.

Anyway, one of my latest hits was a stew that I actually used to make all the time like two years ago (or was it three??? man I’m getting old). It’s a slow cooker recipe, so of course it’s insanely easy. Chop. Dump. Pour. Set and leave. Done. Plus, it makes enough to give us four meals worth of food. WIN!! As with most slow cooker recipes, the results aren’t that appetizing (why must the slow cooker sap all of the color out of food?) but they are very tasty, so that makes up for it. I don’t even actually have a recipe for it, but I toss in black beans, tomatoes, chopped kale, an onion, garlic, plenty of peppers, and chicken. Top with a can of Rotel and let it cook on low for a while. Then I shred the chicken and stir in some low-fat cream cheese. Serve it with a little extra cream cheese dollop on top cause that’s the good stuff. Call it a meal.

But then, Luffy and I got real crazy last night. Our typical dinners usually involve a protein (salmon or sausage or chicken) and a veggie, so last night’s meal of cod and quinoa was way out in left field for us. I found this recipe a few weeks ago. We finally got around to making it and it was so delicious! And super easy. It took us probably about 45 minutes to put together, but I imagine that time will decrease once we make it a couple more times. Our only critique was that, though it’s billed as “spicy,” it wasn’t actually that spicy at all. (Hey – we’re from Texas – if it doesn’t burn our tongues, it’s not spicy enough!) Next time, we’ll up the level of cayenne and I’m also thinking of adding a jalapeno to the sauce. Still though, it was a delicious, healthy, and fairly quick dinner that I think we’ll add to our regular rotation.

Other surprise additions to our weekly rotation include the mythical unicorn dinner and pizza at a Neapolitan pizza place that we loved when we lived downtown and then we moved and were sad but then they opened a location in the burbs!! And yeah, that doesn’t really count as a dinner that we make but it’s real good and makes me happy.

And now, a few random thoughts

Nothing much going on around here, so I have no full-length post today. Rather, I present a collection of random thoughts and we’ll see where it takes us. You on board?


I had a mythical dinner-prep experience this past Sunday. The unicorns of dinner-prep, if you will. I was putting off making anything. I knew we needed to use up some lesser-loved ingredients. I wanted it to be simple, since it was Sunday evening, but also tasty, since it was still technically the weekend. I wanted clean-up to be simple. I wanted to be able to eat it out of a bowl, since I was hours-deep into my latest binge-worthy show. To top it all off, I was bored with my go-to recipes and thus needed something fresh.

And then. I got into the kitchen and everything flowed like wine. The salmon came together with a quick marinade that was thick enough to stay put like a sauce. The pea shoots, ever easy, sauteed perfectly. The noodles, dressed in a light blend of sesame oil and rice wine vinegar, turned out beautifully. No recipes needed. No measuring cups. No complicated prep. Though, to be fair, I did use several pots/pans. Once done, I piled it all into large bowls and served it up in under 20 minutes – start to finish. Then Luffy declared it delicious and polished off every bite, including some of mine.

See? The unicorn of dinner-prep experiences. I wish every dinner were like it.


Confession: I am obsessed with an adorable little app called Neko Atsume. First off, and perhaps most importantly for me, it’s free! It’s an adorable little app where you “collect” cats by putting out toys and treats and beds and stuff. Then they give you presents so that you can buy more toys and treats and beds and stuff and collect more cats. So simple! So addictive! I check in on them at least four or five times a day.


I still haven’t gotten my CD yet and I’m getting a little antsy now that I’m approaching it’s official delivery window. YouTube thinks I’m crazy because I’ve listened to that one song four or five dozen times and it hasn’t gotten old and I’m still so excited about my purchase.


Luffy is out of town again today. It’s his last trip for a while, so I’m happy about that. Although, to be perfectly honest, it’s also been sort of nice to have the house to myself for a while. Because I have a not-insignificant commute, I leave the house before Luffy in the morning and then get home later than him in the evening. This gives him almost two hours of solitude at home, each day, not counting the fact that he works close enough to home to have lunch at home every day. And on the weekends, if he’s out and about, I’m with him. So basically, I never get any alone time at the house. And I’m a person who likes some alone time. I have really enjoyed it this past week. I miss him when he’s gone, but it’s nice and quiet at the house.


My exercise place is having a challenge right now: attend 30 classes in 35 days for a t-shirt and BRAGGING RIGHTS. I mean, hello, that’s exercising six days a week for five weeks, you totally deserve to brag a little after that. And this is a class, I should say, so it’s a minimum of 60 minutes working out – no cheating by showing up, piddling around for a little, and then leaving. I want to participate so badly for the BRAGGING RIGHTS, but I can’t. Le boo. It’s a two-fold issue really. I live about half an hour away from the center (I’d have to explain the whole thing to you, but basically I make this big triangle from work to center to home. I actually spend less time in traffic on the nights I teach as compared to the nights I drive straight home from work. But I digress…) so this means that the hour class doesn’t take an hour of my time, it takes two. Almost two and half, if you factor the wait time for class to start. And that’s just too much time to be committing to six days a week for five weeks.

The other issue is that we’re in the midst of a Clomid cycle. My ovulation is already exceedingly flighty, as is. The last thing my body needs is for me to suddenly almost double the frequency of my workouts.

But still. Boo. BRAGGING RIGHTS will have to go to someone else.


Speaking of Clomid, I think I’m gonna start ovulation testing tomorrow. I’m technically scheduled to start testing Friday, which is day 12 and also five days after my last dose. In other words, that’s the “official” first chance at ovulation. But I always start getting nervous that I’ll miss it if I wait too long. Even though the last time Clomid worked, I ovulated on day 17, way late into the cycle, I still don’t think I’ll be able to wait until Friday. And then I realized that I have exactly one leftover cheap test, so guess what’s gonna be used tomorrow morning?


That’s all I’ve got for today folks. Luffy and I are headed to Napa for the weekend for a friend’s 30th birthday, so I’m sure I’ll have drunken shenanigans to report next week. Until then!

Counting down the days

That’s me. That’s what I’m doing right now. I technically have three two and a half days of work left and I am already so over them it’s not even funny. I am done. DONE I TELL YOU. I keep making comments about “working” from home the rest of the week, but my coworkers laugh and I try to pretend I was joking.

It didn’t help that I got in this morning and everyone in my office was being all productive and shit. Didn’t y’all get the memo about Christmas being this week!! I swear the admin sent it out on Friday….

Alack and alas, I have two and a half days to appear productive. To get up in the morning and put pants on. To not eat one or all of the 1,325,749 cookies/sweets/snacks we have in our kitchen at work right now. True story*.

I’ve already planned the menu for this weekend with my parents. There will be braised short ribs and sous vide steak and morning bread pudding (with caramel!). There will be chocolate chip cookies and linzer cookies and brownies. There will be champagne and wine and whiskey. There will be Star Wars! There will be so many, many delicious thing and so many, many wonderful moments and I want them all RIGHTNOW.

*My office is very small. We have fourteen people who are routinely in the office. And all of our vendors and business contacts seem to forget this during the holiday season. We get cookie baskets with cookies for literally 50 people. We get actual trunks filled with crackers and cheeses and meats and chocolates. We get candy and toffee and more cookies no more than that. And many places will send something to each of our three partners – and all of that winds up in the kitchen. So we have three baskets of cookies and three trunks of snacks and fourteen boxes of toffee since they sent one to every person in the office. There is probably a metric ton of sugar in our kitchen right now, just waiting to be eaten and turned into those four or five pounds of “holiday weight” we all struggle to lose each year. There is no hope! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES…. or at least for your hip and thigh region.

Hello again!

Well hello there! Nice to see you again; it’s been a while, no? I, unfortunately, had to buckle down before Thanksgiving to get through all the work stuff that I needed to get done. And then Thanksgiving happened and I was too busy stuffing my face cooking for my wonderful family to post anything.

So! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Luffy and I, with Jas in tow, set off to my West Texas hometown Wednesday morning. We made record time now that the speed limits are pretty much all at 75 MPH (which means we go 82, but shhhhh). It was wonderful to see my parents and they’re at the tail end of a home renovation so it was weird/fun to see my childhood home look COMPLETELY different. My mom and I dived right into cooking (a new Brussels sprouts recipe for that evening’s dinner) and drinking (champagne, our favorite). Jas dived right into being Queen and ruling over my parents’ three boy cats (with much hissing and growling). Luffy dived right into eating (ice cream cones that my parents always get for him, like I never feed him anything fun). It was glorious.

On Thanksgiving day, my mom and I made doughnuts for breakfast (baked, for the record, pumpkin and a plain powdered sugar one). Then I made mini cheesecakes and an accompanying caramel sauce. My mom started cooking for Thanksgiving lunch. Everything came together right on time for my half brother and his family to join us. It was all delicious, of course.

(A side note – I have the perfect cautionary tale of why you should never ever, EVER drum up more enthusiasm for a dish/present/whatever than you actually have. Several years ago, my half brother’s wife made a pie for Thanksgiving. It doesn’t really have a name, that I know of, but it has a chocolate cookie crust (think crushed Oreo’s), with a peanut butter filling (it’s lighter than peanut butter, I’m thinking perhaps peanut butter with whipping cream), with a whipped cream top, drizzled with chocolate and peanut butter sauce. Now. Reread that. Do your teeth ache just reading it? Cause mine do. One bite is good. Two bites are ok. And any more than that are just upsetting. The pie is so sweet – too sweet. Plus, I’ve come to loathe these types of desserts that are “no bake, just throw crap in a pan then refrigerate and who cares that everything going in is super sweet on its own and that it’s not really a pie but more like a blob of semi-firm ingredients!” – ahem. Anyway, the first time she brought it, I was being my nice self, I’m sure, and gushed about how delicious it was. The fact that I only made it through 1/4 of my slice blob clearly didn’t matter. But that’s ok! I was just being nice. Surely nothing bad could come from being nice! Flash forward five or six Thanksgivings and she’s brought that pie EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. This year, she even brought two. TWO! When we can barely get through half a pie with the obligatory post-Thanksgiving-feast slice. And this, my friends, is why you never say you love something when you kind of just tolerate it. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!)

The rest of Thanksgiving passed with a haze of tryptophan and snacks and football until about 6:15, when my phone rang. As I answered the 1-800 number, I saw that I had also gotten a notification from my Amex app. A sense of foreboding spreads…. Sure enough, an automated voice on the other end of the line was notifying me that suspicious activity had been noticed on my Amex account and that I should verify that I had made the following purchase. In a panic, I hit the option to repeat and urgently asked Luffy if he’d used my credit card that day. He hadn’t. I hadn’t. But someone had.

When I responded that I hadn’t made the transaction, I was immediately forwarded to a live-person-type representative who went over the charges with me again. Strange transactions from Google Payments and some restaurant I’d never heard of. I assured the rep that I hadn’t even used my card today – I’d been at home! He shut my card down immediately, issued me a new one, and marked the transactions that had gone through as fraudulent, assuring me that I’d bear no responsibility for them. YAY Amex!! He was very polite and exceedingly helpful and I will forever be grateful that Amex was watching my card while I was enjoying the holiday.

When I got off the phone, I recapped the conversation for Luffy and pulled up my card activity through my app. There were about eight transactions that had gone through, totaling about $90 (Amex had declined the transaction when the thief had tried to push through a transaction for $164). You could see that they’d done several small payments to see if the card number was good. Once they finally had it, they pushed through increasingly larger transactions.

I’m not responsible for any of the charges, of course (YAY Amex!!), but it is a very strange feeling, to have one’s credit card number stolen. I feel vulnerable, like I’ve had my privacy invaded. I have no idea how or where they got it. If it was a pull from a swipe of my card at a physical location or  a hack into a database that stores my info. I don’t know if they got it months ago and just got around to selling it/using it or if they stole it recently. All I can do is update my accounts to my new card information and hope that it doesn’t happen again.


So that put a bit of a damper on Thanksgiving. We tried to turn the evening around though (champagne to the rescue!) and dug up old videos of my brother to initiate his girlfriend.

The rest of the week passed quickly with family activities. More baking. Watching movies together. Cooking. Chatting. Watching more movies. Fun times. And Jas did eventually stop hissing at my parents’ cats every time they moved – success!