Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sweet Potato and Kale soup

Nothing beats a hearty bowl of soup in the winter.  As I've mentioned previously, sometimes its hard for me to find really tasty vegetarian recipes.  Thanks to my awesome brother for this recipe.  Though he is not a vegetarian, his lovely wife is, and he does a great job of finding recipes that taste awesome, but also provide protein and lots of nutrients.  We all know Kale is a "super food" and that we should make it a staple in our diets, but c'mon, it's like eating leaves off of a tree!  Not with this recipe!  You'll be eating and loving it!

Sweet Potato and Kale Soup

Chop up one small or half of a large onion.  Add to large stockpot with 1 tbsp EVOO.
(Haha, right now, my bro is cringing because I said EVOO!  :)


 Add seasoning.  You could use a premixed blend of Italian seasoning.  I added parsley, oregano, and cumin.  I never measure - sorry!

 While onions are softening, chop up sweet potato into bite sized pieces.  I like to peel them, but you could always leave the skin on!

My bro's recipe calls for 12 cloves of garlic.  12!  I know that seems like a lot, but since it's added early, they really mellow out but still add a punch of flavor.  I only had 7 tonight, but they were big.  Feel free to adjust to your own person feelings about garlic.

 If those onions are soft, go ahead and add 6 cups of veggie broth.  I used 6 cups of water and two tablespoons of "Better than Bouillon" vegetable base.  Add potatoes and garlic.  Add two cans of beans, drained and rinsed.  I like to add white and kidney beans for color and variety.

(Side note: I have a 5:00pm Barnacle Baby.  That means that if I want to cook at all, I can only do it one handed since I'll have to support 22.5 pounds on my hip with the other hand.  So, I put everything together in the pot at this point (with the heat off) and went to pick up T from daycare.  All I had to do later was add kale and adjust settings on the stove - super easy for moms of barnacles!)
Really starting to look good huh?  Bring everything to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash and break 6 dense curly leaves of kale into bite sized pieces.  I love to use my salad spinner for this step.  Makes it so easy!

Add kale and let simmer for 10 more minutes.  I love how bright green the kale turns once you add it.

Add salt and pepper to flavor as desired, I didn't add any.  So yummy and healthy!  Not only will this soup have you eating kale, you'll actually like it!  It keeps its crunchiness without being overpowering.  My sweet hubs said this was my best batch yet!

Monday, January 30, 2012

My superstar!

What a bummer of a month, January is, huh?  Without fail, I am always very sick during the month of January.  This year, it was both T and I that were knocked down by whatever infection was going around.  Hers lasted a week (thanks to antibiotics), mine lasted almost two weeks!  Add to that writing up my thesis, having a committee meeting, and trying to graduate!  Phew!  I am worn out!  But the end is in sight.  I really, really do have some cool posts, tutorials, and reviews planned.  I just need to get to them!  Plus, I'll be sending a HUGE thank you to some lovely ladies for the surprise I got in the mail the other day - so stick with me, OK?

Today, though, I wanted to share what an awesome little lady we have in our house!  Miss T is growing up so fast and I'm so impressed by what she is doing every single day!  She's singing her ABCs, counting to 14 (although she always skips 10!), and potty training has been going so well!  In fact, we met a huge potty training milestone this weekend!  She used a big potty at a store!  Woohoo!  Bad mommy that I am, I even forgot her potty insert seat and had to balance her on the edge and she still did it and had no accidents the whole time we were out!  I'm so proud of my little girl!  On top of that, she did pees and poops on the potty at church yesterday!  She's also staying dry through naptime more often too!  Woohoo!

As I've said before, a lot of the credit goes to our amazing daycare!  But if you're interested, here was our strategy.  We basically went cold turkey from diapers to underwear (except for nap and bedtime), and didn't turn back.  If we went out, she still wore underwear, we just brought extra clothes and were prepared for accidents (although, we haven't had any outside of the house yet!).  Accidents were expected and viewed as learning opportunities.  "Uh-oh T, looks like we had an accident.  That's okay, we'll get cleaned up, but it's a yucky feeling right?  Let's try to go pees on the potty next time and keep our underwear dry, ok?"  We didn't do any sort of reward system, but tons of praise and being super excited for when she was successful.  We also got undies that she really liked, Hello Kitty, Elmo and Zoe, etc.  Just about every hour we would say "T, let's go pees on the potty".  Sometimes she wanted to and sometimes she didn't, we never forced her.  While on the potty, we supplied books, crayons, stickers, to keep her entertained.  Sometimes I even sang to her.

For now, we're only focusing on the awake times and not sleeping times.  Our house is difficult in that for her to get to the bathroom, she needs to go down and then back up some stairs.  Plus, she's still in a crib, and we're in no rush to change that!  I'm so proud of my little peanut!

On a mommy and T breakfast date at my new favorite Dunkin Donuts!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Overwhelmed with joy

I've been working on this baby for quite some time now - 5 years and 5 months if you're counting.

We've suffered though ups and downs, achievements and set backs, sickness and health.

Through it all, I've had my friends and family supporting me, loving me, keeping me sane, and generally putting up with me, getting me to this point.

There have been days where I could never see myself doing anything else.

There were those others days where "Plan B" was formulated and rehashed - cosmetology school, wedding planner, beach bum.

In the end, I wouldn't change a thing.

I have finally set a date for my thesis defense!  Woot! Woot!

I still have some work to do in the meantime, mostly writing, a few quick experiments, but I can see it.  Not just the light, but the actual end of the tunnel!

I'm going to need some extra prayers to get there as I'm starting to feel the burn out.  If you've been with me all this time, thank you for everything you have done.  Whether you realize it or not, you're support has gotten me here.

On February 24th, my fate will be decided.  From that point on, I will be taking questions directed only to Dr. Hayes! :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Yes, I'm still alive

OK, so where were we...

Right, right, T was sick last week, I caught it and thought I was getting better and then things started to nose dive.

I have been sick for over a week now.  That thesis that I didn't look at last week went untouched again this week.  Crafting?  Sewing?  Yeah right, unless you call the creative mountain of tissues in the waste basket crafting, I haven't accomplished much.  I did actually get some sleep last night and the one before (woohoo!) and I was able to catch up with my awesome friend Aubrey yesterday.

On the mommy front:
We have had some ongoing potty training issues.  I've been waiting to write about it until I could call it a success, but it appears that, like everything else, it's going to take a bit longer than I expected.  She is doing great at it though, and for having started at 20 months, I'm a very proud momma!  My dear friend/cousin Erica has been having awesome success at training her son who turned 2 last month.  Glad I could be an inspiration!  Just hope our successes start to pile up like yours!

Let me state for the record that we aren't pushing her into this.  She has been showing interest for a long time, mostly because her friends at daycare were potty training (and are 4 and 6 months older than her).  One day she decided she didn't want to wear a diaper and so big girl underwear it was!  We've had a few set set backs though.  The week she was sick, we didn't do any potty time, just diapers.  The poor girl had no energy.  She's been using the potty at daycare consistently and almost never has accidents, but for the last couple of weeks, has not wanted to use the potty at home.  Poor girl would hold it all evening until we put her in her night-night diaper!  We had some success last night though, and she went on the potty at home! Woohoo!  I know there will be more set backs and accidents, but that little girl of mine is doing great!  Her teacher at daycare told me that she is the youngest to start potty training.  Everyone else was at least two years old.  Yay T!  On the other hand, not so sure how I feel about her being so influenced by the kids around her - peer pressure! ;)

Hopefully, I'm on the road to recovery and will be able to start getting some things done/made around here.  I have a huge list of things I want to make for Baby#2 as well as getting my shop back on track.  Here's hoping I can manage my time and get some things done soon!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Plague

I think we're finally on the winning side.  For the past week, we've been house-bound.  T spiked a fever last Monday at daycare and is finally recovering.  I started getting sick on Friday and I think I'm getting better.  Super mom that I am, I can't take all the credit.  We had a little help from amoxicillin and tylenol.  I ended up taking her to the pediatrician (we love her doctors!) on Thursday because she just kept getting worse.  What they told me made me even more scared - she was developing pneumonia!  My poor baby! 

I remember having a mommy meltdown that afternoon when we got home and I was finally able to get her to take a nap.  I felt so helpless, that I couldn't do anything to help my little girl get better.  Each of the next few days saw improvements and I'm happy to report that she is going back to daycare tomorrow. 

Needless to say, we got very little done this last week.  No crafting, no sewing, still haven't figured out how to use my serger yet. (OK, I did try my hand at making a maternity tunic, stay tuned for that post and let me know if it was a win or fail)  Haven't even looked at my thesis in a week!  I can say that the final experiment to complete all that I proposed will be finished tomorrow and I have the green light from my mentor to plan a defense date!  Woohoo!  The bad news is that he won't be available for the two weeks that I would prefer to set a date.  Oh well, it will be done soon thereafter.  Plan on hearing updates from that by the end of February!

So, here are a few snapshots of my last week.  Poor little girl would go from funny and playful -

to miserable and exhausted in a split second -

We watched a LOT of Sesame.  By the end of the week, she had discovered some DVDs, so we watched a lot more Elmo, but also some Nemo and Horton.  Every puzzle and Christmas gift was played with.  Every single book was read, over and over again.  This is how we rounded out yesterday -

snuggled up on the couch and watching football (yes, even I watched it too!).

I think we'll all be happy to be back in our routine!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Photo Booth

My poor little munchkin has been sick since Monday, coughing so much that she throws up.  Every time I think she's getting better, she has a coughing fit and I know that's another day she'll need to spend home resting.  This is the first time she's been really sick for more than a day and it just makes me so thankful that she has been so healthy most of her life.  My heart goes out to families dealing with chronic childhood illnesses!

We took some pictures a couple of days before T got sick on my iPhone4.  I love that this one has the reverse camera - making self portraits a snap!  It's like having your own photo booth and you can take as many silly pictures as you want!  Here are some of my favorites, put together photo booth style, courtesy of picnik.com.

I saved my favorite one for last.  I call it "WHOA!"

Looking forward to happier healthier times like these again real soon!

Linking up to Embrace the Camera with The Anderson Crew

Friday, January 6, 2012

Easy satisfying soup

T and I are finally getting over the cold that was gifted around during Christmas.  All that is left is the lingering cough.  A few days ago, knee-deep in tissues and no way to medicate myself, my only thought was "I want soup".   Being a vegetarian, shopping for soup becomes very tedious and time consuming.  You have to read every single ingredient on every single can.  I've noticed my stores are carrying less vegetarian soups these days too, so my choices are limited.  Being sick with limited options, I decided to make my own vegetarian tomato and basil soup.

Surviving a grocery shopping trip that evening, we got home and I whipped up this delicious soup in no time.  Many thanks to my friend Julie for the recipe some time ago, it truly is delicious!

Fresh ripe tomatoes - 3 large, diced
1.5 tbsp vegetable flavored "Better than Bouillon"
6 cups water
fresh basil - chopped roughly
minced garlic to taste (I added two minced cloves)
day old Italian bread
olive oil
cheese - sliced provolone is really good.  I forgot it that night and used shredded mozz instead.

Heat oven to 350F.
Slice bread on angle to one inch thickness.
Spread out in a single layer on cookie sheet, apply olive oil and cheese to tops.  Toast in oven until bread is crunchy and cheese is nicely melted.

Bring water to a boil and add "Better than Bouillon" (you could use regular broth or a bouillon cube, but I found this was mighty tasty and easy to use).  Add chopped tomatoes and turn heat down to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Add garlic and basil and simmer for a couple more minutes.

Here's where it gets good.  It's where tomato soup meets french onion soup. Just before serving, place toasted bread in a bowl and ladle soup over. 

The bread soaks up so much flavor but provides some heartiness to the otherwise light soup.  The heat of the soup makes the melted cheese nice and gooey.  If you're not a "soggy-bread" fan, like my loving husband, you could just serve the bread on the side and dip into the soup.  The combination though is so yummy!  Even T liked it!  I did warn her that, being a vegetarian, this would forever be my version of chicken soup, so get used to it!  Haha, poor girl!

*I should mention that the Better Than Bouillon I used I received as a free gift  when they launched their facebook page and were doing a giveaway.  They were overwhelmed by the responses they got and ended up limiting what they could give away.  I think I got mine because I wanted the vegetarian base!  This stuff is awesome though, and they are in no way compensating me now for including them in this recipe.  I am done with buying boxes of vegetable broth or rock hard bouillon cubes!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Round One - Toy Organization

I may be weird here, but I actually like making resolutions and improving myself!  One year, B and I decided we needed to lose weight.  Together, we lost over 60 pounds!  It takes a lot of dedication and committment to achieve these goals, but I think they're totally worth it!

This year, I am committing to being more organized.  I know, I know, I already have OCD, how much more organized can I be?  Well, here's a little hint...

Complete with a crazy-eyed, wild-hair child, the play section of our living was getting out of control.  This picture was from September.  Factor in the three large new toys and a ton of others she received for Christmas and we couldn't walk through anymore!  With an unusual burst of energy, I got to work.

First, I cleared out the "baby" toys.  We'll need them again, that's for sure.  But, for now, they are disinfected and safely stored out of the way in the basement.  We can pull them out as we need them and even rotate them to keep Baby Girl #2 interested.  To make that easier, I linked together all the dangle toys and links so they'd be easy to find when needed.

B put together this toy box I got from Target for just $60!  It has a slow closed hinge and a gap between the lid and the box so no fingers will get smashed.  Plus, it is sturdy enough as a seat even for my preggo bum.  Score for more living room seating! In it went all of the smaller toys that could fit.  After clearing out the baby stuff, this wasn't so hard.  Everything in here got disinfected too.  It's germ season around here - you can't be too careful!

This year, I wanted to encourage pretend play for T, so one of the toys that I suggested was play food.  She scored big time!  More than I expected, so, all those food type toys went into one big basket.  The bonus here is that the basket can easily be transported to the kitchen so she can "cook" with me!

T also got some more wooden puzzles (I love those!).  The best part, and the gift for me, was that they came with a wire rack for storage.  Her other puzzles fit nicely in here too.

The hardest part for me was trying to figure out what to do with the big toys.  She loves playing with Little People and she got a castle, zoo and Noah's ark for Christmas, as well as a Weebles play house, complete with techno grooves (she tells Daddy not to dance now, hehe).  I think B had as much fun putting these together as she does playing with them!  I didn't want to stack them on top of the toy box for fear of them falling on her.  So, for now, they are strategically placed on the play mat.

So, that's our play area, and round one of Organization 2012!  Of course it doesn't always look like this!  T actually does really like to clean up and does a great job.  After she goes to bed, Momma take a minute to satisfy her OCD. Let's hope I can keep it up!

OK, my pregnant self did too much and now needs to sit down for awhile.  Up next, sorting through all those hand-me-downs that we are so blessed with!


We are so incredibly blessed to receive hand-me-down clothes from my niece.  Her and T are a year apart and follow the same growth trend, so what fit my niece last summer will fit T this summer.  Of course, we've also bought some along the way too, and with Baby Girl #2 (BG2) due right around T's 2nd birthday, the sizes and seasons should match.  We are also blessed to get some clothes from my friends from high school who also have young daughters just a year or so older than T.

The bad news is that we have a TON of clothes! Way too much for any one little person to wear, even if you do change their clothes 5 times a day!  On top of that, the girls will be sharing a 3-drawer dresser and a small closet that, luckily, has two hanging rods.  So, with clothes for T and clothes for the new baby, I felt we needed to take some control back. 

The first thing I do, no matter who gives me clothes is to wash and dry them first.  All of them.  T has had sensitive skin and I'm sure BG2 will too, so better to start off with detergent you know is safe.  After washing 5 loads of laundry, it's time to sort:

-by size
-by season
-by type
-by quality

Size, of course, is an obvious one.  No explanation needed there.

Season is critical.  A lot of our hand-me-downs come from New England where winters are a lot colder and last longer than here in the mid-Atlantic.  I'm probably not going to need 5 snowsuits for my entire family, never mind one little person.

Type is more for my sanity.  I love onsies, pajamas, dresses, etc., but how much of each thing do you need?  I figure, if I do laundry once a week (Ha!  I only wish), then I'll need 7-8 of each type.  I pick my favorites and set the others aside.

When we are so blessed to have so much, I have the luxury of being choosy.  I'm probably not going to keep a stained outfit unless I am totally in love with it and really think I can get the stain out.  I also try not to keep ones that are visibly worn.

With all that said, whatever doesn't fit in with my criteria gets donated or passed along to someone I know can use it.  When they are young like my girls, these clothes only get worn so many times and are generally in good condition.

With these bags set to go to Goodwill, I'm ready to start storing items away.  Needless to say, I have more for BG2 right now than T, since BG2 will go through at least 3 different sizes in her first year.  I like each girl to have their own color coded storage bins so its easy to figure out who's clothes are where.  T = green (because that's my favorite color), BG2 = Purple (because that's what Target had!).  I know you're not "supposed" to store clothing in plastic, but I figure, they aren't going to be in there long, 3-6 months at the most!  I also prefer to have transparent storage bins, so you can see what's inside, but also for my nifty size labels!

With T's clothes sorted, I started to tackle BG2's.  I found I had so many 3-6 month clothes that they wouldn't all fin into one bin!  The problem is that in 6 months, we are spanning 3 different seasons, spring, summer and fall. 

Here is where seasonal sorting is really important.  I seperated the 3-6 month bin into warmer and cooler clothes and labeled them as such.  Having done that, I was also able to sort out more types of clothes that I didn't need so many of.  Finally, all of the 3-6 month clothes fit into one bin.  I have already taken all the newborn clothes and put them in her dresser and closet and we have some clothes up to 12 months set aside in her other bin.

Each bin then gets a notecard labeled with the size, and if necessary the season, placed in front of that stack. And, voila!  All sorted and ready to be stored in our basement.  And so pretty too!

So what's next?  Perhaps their closet?  Or under the sink?  You have to wait and find out! :)

Things to look forward to

Aside from the quick story of T's demands for M&M's, the holidays brought an unexpected but greatly needed break from blogging.  We've been back for a few days and I think I'm finally rested up enough to just back on the blogging horse and get going again.  I've got a lot planned for the next couple of months, even the rest of the year.  This year is going to bring some big changes to our household and we are so excited.  Here are some things to look forward to on this blog:

My thesis defense and long anticipated graduation.  (Is it too early to start calling me Dr. Melissa?)

My "time off" in February and March.  (I might be looking forward to this more than the actual graduation!)

The arrival of Baby Girl #2! And, no more "morning" sickness!!! Woohoo!!

Maternity leave, where I re-experience the joys of sleep deprivation induced hallucinations.

Starting a new job - eek!

In the land of Ticklebugz, I have a lot planned too.  I will be revamping my Etsy shop.  I figure, what better way to use my time off than to do other work!  I will be writing more tutorials to share and of course doing more Pinterest reviews - my favorite!  I'm also planning on getting organized this year.  As you can tell from above, the only way we're going to keep above water is to be a smoothly running machine.  That means, cleaning out, cleaning up, and staying that way!  I've already got two projects under my belt that I will blog about soon. We've got some home reno's planned too that I would like to share the progress as we go along.  (hehe, B hates when I say reno!)  And, of course, I plan to do a year-in-review post, very shortly!  I'm a little behind on this, I know.  But, Ticklebugz went from just a few hundred views per month at the beginning of the year to over 1500 views per month by the end.  You may have missed a few things along the way!

Alright, so stay tuned as I've got a lot planned (and a lot to do!).  Thanks for reading!