Monday, March 28, 2011

A New Adventure!

We were at my parent’s house last night for dinner, and my mom surprised me by saying she had a sewing pattern for a maternity dress and fabric from when she was pregnant with me that she never used, and since I have a sewing machine now, would I like it? I was pretty surprised. First off, I didn’t know my mom sewed, really (well, considering she never made the dress, maybe she didn’t?!?). Second, I actually have no idea how to use the sewing machine at all.

The extent of my sewing knowledge is what I learned in Girl Guides, which is basically how to hand sew a badge to your sash. I have gotten by all these years by employing my very horribly limited hand-sewing talents to the jobs that arose. If anyone ever got a good look at the hem jobs I have done, they would be horrified; it looks like a 7 year old did it. When I moved to Alberta in Grade 9, I was forced to take a Home Economics class, which did include a sewing unit. I remember I made a pretty simple dress. I also remember that when it came time for the fashion show where all the students had to show off their projects, the straps on my dress came off from the shoddy job I did, and I had to emergency MacGuyver it with safety pins. My dress wasn’t even able to stay together for me to wear it once for 5 minutes. So sad. This experience was only slightly overshadowed by the Shop teacher telling me that I was perhaps the worst student to ever attempt the photography unit. Well, I win, because then they invented digital cameras, and I didn’t have to learn any of that crap, SO THERE! Victory is mine!!! Anyway…

So, when Hubby’s sister gave me the family’s old sewing machine, I thought it would be an awesome idea. I imagined myself sewing all these cool outfits, and a whole bunch of stuff for the baby, and having the hems on my pants actually straight. Well, I soon realized once I got the thing home that I have absolutely no idea how to use it. In fact, I don’t even know what I need to use it. I am assuming thread. But I seem to remember something about a bobbin from Home Ec, so that adds another dimension of mystery to it. Needless to say it has sat in the spare room and I haven’t even taken the cover off of it yet.

So this dress is the perfect opportunity, right? It’s a little dated, I admit, but vintage is totally in now, isn’t it? Here is the pattern (I will not be using the beautiful beach fabric, nor will I be making the blazer…let’s keep this simple).

I really think that my expectations are probably completely unrealistic about completing this dress in a wearable fashion. However, I am willing to try. It’s sort of cool that the dress my mom was going to wear while pregnant with me will be worn by me. That is, if I don’t end up like my mom. She got as far as pinning the pattern to the fabric. But hey, at least that step is done, right?!

I have this vision of me all gloriously and radiantly pregnant in the summer (if it ever comes…) with this awesome dress that I sewed and someone will approach me and  it will go like this:

Random admiring person on the street: “Where did you get such a fabulous dress?”
Me: “Oh, this little thing? My mom bought the pattern 30 years ago when she was pregnant with me, and I just whipped it together.”
Random admiring person walks away all envious because it’s so unique and vintage, and they will be flabbergasted at my amazing sewing skills.

In reality, it might end up more like this:

Mom: So, how did that dress make out
Me: I don’t want to talk about it

Or like this:

Random observer: What the heck are you wearing?!
Me: (thinking up a lie really quick) “Um, my 5 year old niece made it for me, and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings” (as I slowly slink away in shame)

So, I will attempt this little project, and I will keep you guys updated on my progress (or lack of). Wish me luck! Also, if anyone knows how to work a sewing machine, I would be much obliged if you could give me some pointers…like, what the heck a bobbin is, for starters.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm a Caveman?! and Other Random Musings...

So, some interesting things have occurred this week.

First off, we saw Baby kicking last night. That’s right, we SAW it. It is pretty creepy, but neat at the same time. It’s like a little alien is in there…Hubby and I were lying in bed reading, and I remarked that Baby was kicking very hard. We both sort of looked at my tummy then, and we saw this little wave of movement. So strange! We both exclaimed in surprise. It’s a strange feeling, being kicked from the inside. It’s strange to know that there really is a tiny human in there.

Also, we are buying a car tonight (just don’t tell our salesman that…). After humming and hawing about it for a year or more, we finally came to a decision. Our 20 year old Honda, which we generously received for ½ a brownie (long story, but cheapest car ever!) is perhaps not the most reliable vehicle with a little one on the way. So we decided to take the plunge. We found a pretty good deal. I really felt that the whole car-buying process is a man’s job. It’s like a primal caveman thing; Men buy cars, it’s just what they do. So I kept telling Hubby that the final decision rested with him. I was just there to look pretty, and ooh and aah over the shiny new car. Maybe it’s been all the comparison crib shopping I have been doing lately, or the research on strollers, but after the meeting with the salesman, I was the one to start doing all the math and crunching the numbers. I then enlisted the help of my Dad and Uncle and started researching the price we were given, and the financing rates. So all in all, I told Hubby I think this is a good move, and came up with the negotiating plan of attack which will be implemented tonight. Hopefully it all works out according to plan! It will be the first new car either of us have ever bought. Exciting! So I guess I am the caveman this week? I think I need Hubby to bring home a big slab of meat for me to cook up in my high heels just to restore the gender-role balance in our house…

She will be mine...oh yes...

I also just want to put on record somewhere that I think the amount of snow we have been receiving this past week is obscene. Mother Nature needs to get her act together. It’s almost April for gosh sakes! Yuck.

And lastly, just wanted to mention that a screen legend passed away today. I have a large amount of love for the movies and style of the ‘50s (as most people who know me know…k, that is a strange sentence. But it makes sense…). So it was a sad day today when I heard that Elizabeth Taylor had passed away. One of my favourite movies is Cat on A Hot Tin Roof. She was such a gorgeous, talented, big-personalitied woman. Rest in Peace Miss Taylor!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Analysis Paralysis

So, it has occurred to me that almost everything baby related has a million different choices to be made. For instance, take a simple thing like a crib. You would think this would be straight forward. It is not. There are a ton of different options, colours, brands, features, and gizmos. All of which you, as parents, must choose. And don’t even get me started on the price. You can get your baby a solid wood cherry finish Cadillac that costs $2000, and we are sleeping on a $150 Ikea special. And once you get through the impossible task of choosing a crib, you have to choose a stroller. That’s almost worse. Do you go with a travel system? A jogger? Do you want cup holders? One handed folding options? Off-road capabilities? The possibilities are endless for every single thing you buy for your baby. And the retailers totally play this up. OF COURSE you want this feature; it ensures the safety of your baby. Once they play the safety card, they know they have you hooked, even if it actually does nothing. Everything is made to be more convenient, more streamlined, has more gizmos and gadgets, different looks for different moods. It’s insane. The only industry that seems to come close to this is the wedding industry. And in both cases it’s because they know you are going to eventually shell out the cash for it, even if it’s twice the cost of the same product without the word “baby” on it. How do you even begin to decide what to buy? What features will I actually NEED on a stroller? I have never had to use a stroller in Calgary before. How will I know if I will need it to go “off-road”? I don’t even have my freaking baby yet!!!!

And even if you can somehow navigate through the crazy jungle of baby products, you are still faced with lifestyle choices, which inevitably lead to more product decisions. Diapering is a good example of this. Should we use disposable or cloth diapers? This is such a complicated choice to begin with. Once you do weigh the pros and cons and research the costs, you are then faced with another decision of which brand of diapers to use. It never ends, really. It’s an endless cycle of decision-making. And what about choosing a name?! I tell you, it’s impossible!

I mean, it’s nice that we as parents (to-be) have choices, don’t get me wrong. But honestly, it is all too much. Preparing to become a parent is mentally exhausting and overwhelming in itself. Layer on the millions of decisions you need to make about what your baby uses and it’s enough to make one lose their mind. And while I was overwhelmed planning my wedding, that was essentially just a party. This is another human being. There are simply way too many things that need to be decided upon, all while I am an ever-enlarging blimp of hormones. Too many options, too many choices to be made, all leads to analysis paralysis. I physically and mentally cannot analyze or compare or weigh pros and cons anymore. Does. Not. Compute.

So far we have decided on a crib, and it’s sitting in the future nursery right now. After months of looking at every brand, wondering if we need a convertible style, deciding which finish to get to match the other furniture, Hubby and I saw a sale at Zellers and went in and bought it. We didn’t even have a choice of colour. And you know what? Best decision ever. It fit perfectly into our budget (i.e. we didn’t have to sell our belongings to afford it), it’s sturdy, and it took 10 minutes to put together. This, to me, means that it is good quality, as there are no moving parts or complicated installing procedures that we could have screwed up which would result in disaster down the line. But I know that every decision will not come as simply as this, just as I know that the decisions will not end when baby is born; there will only be more decisions to make. After all, as Hubby said, we are now responsible for a tiny little human. We have to make choices for him until he is old enough to be overwhelmed with options and bombarded with choices by himself.

So, where do you begin? Anyone have tips on how to deal?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Greatest Musical Story Ever Told

So, as today is the beginning of Lent, I felt a need to confess to you all a secret love. Well, it’s not so secret from my family, or from my husband. But it is most likely secret from most people who know me. The first part of this confession is that I love musical theatre. I have always loved it since I was very small. I used to put the soundtrack to ‘Cats’ on and make up dance routines in my room. I think the thing that attracts me to musicals is the perfect combination of music (which is one of my loves which is not secret) and incredible melodrama.

I llloooooovvve over-the-top drama. This may come as a surprise to many of you (insert sarcasm here), but I am a very dramatic person. Hubby may say that I exaggerate. A lot. Ok, I know he would say that. Things that would seem like mundane occurrences to most people become incredibly interesting dramas that unfold as I watch. When I was a pre-school teacher the kids always asked me to read ‘The Paper Bag Princess’ by Robert Munsch because I did all the voices. I often break into little song and dance routines for my family.  I basically have no shame. And nothing gets me more interested in something than crazy theatrics. So, this is probably why I love musical theatre. You never get a crush in musicals. It’s always the be-all-end-all love of your life. The emotions are so high and so low, and so I guess I feel like my mood-swingy self fits in just perfectly.

Which leads to my confession. The musical I love above all other musicals; the one that truly has stolen my heart is…don’t judge…Jesus Christ Superstar. I love absolutely everything about it. I love the incredible score. I love the subject matter. I love the amazing singers they used. I even love the crazy hippy movie you were probably forced to watch if you went to Catholic school as a child. I have probably watched that movie more than any other movie in my life. The other 2 that may come close are the Princess Bride and Dirty Dancing, but they still have nothing on JCS. I have seen it 3 times live in different theater productions. I have the soundtrack on my iPod. I even have a t-shirt. Oh the shame! I sing along at the top of my lungs while washing dishes, I listen to it almost daily around Easter time. Honestly, it is probably one of my desert island choices.

So there, I said it. The funny thing is that I am not exactly what you would call a “religious person” anymore. So this love really isn’t because of faith. Unless, of course, it’s faith in the amazing institution of musical theatre. So, as a new season of Lent begins, and my daily commute is conducted to the soundtrack of JCS, I feel a small tinge of guilt that my unborn son is probably absorbing the beautiful strains of the best musical in the world. I mean, it is sort of a sad legacy to pass on, is it not? But then again, musicals are making a comeback! Look at the popularity of Glee! Rock Operas are resurfacing, popular Hollywood actors are starring in revivals of old musicals. So maybe, just maybe, I am helping him to be a super trendy “with it” sorta guy!??! Or, maybe I am just baking a son who will roll his eyes and say “Not THAT old movie again, Mom. Give it a rest!” every Easter…

"One never knows, do one?"

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mommy Guilt

So, Hubby and I were talking the other day that things have really changed for us now. Before, we just thought of what was best for ME, then it changed to what was best for US. Now, it's what is best for BABY. It's weird. Peanut is apparently the size of a banana, and right now the only way we know he is there is because I am fatter, and I have little kicks going on inside, sort of like Alien or something. But still, he is slowly but surely taking over our lives. And with that comes the Mommy Guilt that I am not doing things right.

For instance, the other day we were laying in bed, and Hubby asks "Do you think you should have the laptop on your belly?". If anyone else would have said this to me, my preggo monster would have gotten upset and something snarky would have come out. But, this was my dearest Hubby saying it, and all I could think was "I don't know. I am endangering our Peanut!" and promptly removed the laptop to a more awkward side position.

I know my dietary habits and physical activity level are definitely not ideal. Actually, they are probably the opposite of ideal. I mean, I ate poutine two days in a row. Two. Days. In. A. Row. That cannot be good. And my exercise is walking 2 blocks from the train station to work every day. So yeah, needless to say, I could definitely be putting a little more effort in there. And I sometimes forget to take my prenatal vitamins. GASP. I mean to do well, I really do. I want to be that perfect mommy that does absolutely everything right. It's just I have no willpower. Like most other things in life, I start doing something, and then old habit and general laziness set in. But this time it comes with the high cost of Mommy Guilt. Before, it was just me I was letting down. Now, it's me, Hubby, and Peanut (I sincerely doubt that Kitty is feeling let down in this situation. As long as she gets her laser pointer and I have a bath every now and then so she can worship the faucet, she is pretty content).

I realize that I can't be perfect, and that I am probably baking a perfectly fine little Peanut. In fact, the doctors keep telling me that is the case. I am not gaining too much weight, and all tests have come back normal. I know Hubby still loves me and thinks I am doing a fabulous job (after all, I am a pretty decent baker...), but it is really hard to let go of that nagging little voice that you are doing things ALL WRONG. And the trouble is that I know it is only going to get worse. Once Peanut arrives, then there are a million other things to feel guilty about. Everything you do is wrong, and there are people, and books, and doctors and TV shows there to tell you all about it.

But you know what? I must not be the only Mommy that feels this way, and we can't ALL be wrong, you know? So that means I am right some of the time. I can only do what I think is best. And I suppose that means that perhaps not giving into every craving (maybe once a week is sufficient for poutine?) and maybe busting out that prenatal yoga DVD once in a while would be small steps that would make me feel infinitely better and help to assuage the guilt for the time being. After all, we can't all be perfect, can we?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Thai Butternut Squash Soup

So, I have been planning on doing a cooking post since I started this blog, but so far I have not cooked very much, or at least nothing too interesting to post about (does anybody care about my frozen fish and chip recipe?!). So, finally I tried something that was interesting enough to post about: Thai Butternut Squash Soup. This is the first time I have cooked Thai food that wasn’t from a recipe I learned in Thailand. I have never really trusted cookbooks that call things “Thai” but aren’t actually Thai dishes. But, the recipe looked pretty simple, which in my experience is a signature of Thai cooking, and the ingredients pretty authentic, so I thought I would try it out.

Let me begin by saying I have never cooked with butternut squash before. I have eaten it, but never prepared it. So I had no idea what one even looked like when I went to the grocery store. After assuming it was one of the other more normal looking squash, Hubby determined it was, in fact, the one that looks a little *ahem* “interesting”. After allowing a few seconds of immaturity to pass between Hubby and I, we grabbed 2.

For the recipe I needed 4 cups of cubed squash. I was a bit lost as to how to begin cubing it. It looked like peeling may be difficult, so I decided to try cutting it into more manageable pieces, and then cutting off the peel. This worked fairly well. They are tough little suckers though, and I was immediately regretting not using my really good chef’s knife to cut with. I expected it to be hollow with seeds and stuff inside, like a pumpkin. Eventually, I did find this was true. It is just located in the *ahem again* ball-like area. As I was not really anticipating getting so much usable veggie from 1 squash, I ended up only needing 1 large one for the 4 cups that I needed. I suppose the other one will sit until I find some use for it. At the end of all my efforts, this is what I ended up with:

I then took 1 stalk of lemon grass and bruised it with a kitchen mallet. The recipe said to use the flat side of the knife, but that did diddly-squat, so I brought out the big guns. After that, I chopped it into 1 inch pieces. The most important thing I have learned about cooking with lemon grass is that the pieces should be large so that you can fish them out when the dish is done cooking. There is nothing worse than biting into a spicy piece of lemongrass. The texture is somewhat akin to eating twigs. So don’t cut them too small!!

Then I dumped a can of coconut milk into the slow cooker. This is the expensive stuff they have at our local grocery store. I only buy it because they don’t have another option. When I make a trip to the Asian supermarket, I stock up on the equally delicious, but much more budget friendly kind there. Also, I always use the full fat coconut milk. Using the low-fat is almost never a good idea. It’s much more runny, and you lose a lot of the flavor that the milk brings to the dish.

I then sliced up some ginger very finely and tossed in about 5 slices. The one thing I hate about ginger is that you always use such a small bit of it, and then I find I never use it before the rest of the thing goes bad. Then I have to throw it out, while feeling incredibly guilty about it, and thinking I should have used it. Starving children could have eaten it…okay, probably not, but still. Guilt. I wish I knew how to save it. Any tips?

Then add some Thai red curry paste. I added just over 2 tablespoons, but this is definitely something that can be adjusted to taste. Red curry paste is pretty spicy, so if you don’t like the heat, maybe reduce it a little. Likewise, if you like your Thai food burning hot, go crazy and add more. The amount I added was enough to give it a bit of heat. Normally I would have added more, but pregnancy=heartburn, so I tried to play it a bit safe. 

Then, about 2 teaspoons of fish sauce went in. I like the bottle so much. It reminds me of my time in SE Asia, and that happy little baby always brings back the memories. I have no idea why fish sauce has a happy baby as a mascot. No idea at all. Anyway, it sounds disgusting, but it actually brings a lot of flavor and saltiness to the dish. Try not to omit it. I promise the soup won’t taste like fish!

Also, a teaspoon of packed brown sugar for sweetness went in as well.

Add the squash, and about 2 cups of chicken stock to the slow cooker. Stir to combine.

Then, cook the delicious concoction for about 4-6 hours on the low setting. When it’s done, fish out the lemon grass and ginger. They have served the soup finely, and are being dismissed to the garbage. Thank you! Then, mash the squash until it’s nice and smooth. I prefer to be lazy and efficient and use a hand blender. Waaayyyy easier.

After that’s done, you can either enjoy the soup as is, or add some meat. The original recipe called for shrimp, but when I gave Hubby the choice of shrimp or chicken he didn’t even hesitate and picked chicken. Normally when I make Thai soup I add the chicken when I add the coconut milk, and just poach it in the soup. But as this was in the slow cooker, and I had to mash the squash, I opted to cook the chicken separately and add it in after. I am sure you could just add the chicken at the beginning, and then fish it out to mash. Or, you could just add shrimpies after mashing and cook until they are done.

Then, to make the soup look very awesome, and impress your husband or dining partner into thinking you are pretty much a gourmet chef, you can garnish the soup with a little fresh cut basil. Also, it makes me feel like I am on Iron Chef if I “plate” the dish.

Ta da! I should note that Hubby and I aren't actually particularly fond of squash. I tried this recipe because I was trying to get some more veggies into our diet. This soup was good enough that we ate the whole bowl, however I imagine that if you actually LIKE butternut squash, this would be a way better dish. I feel like maybe it was a bit lost on us non-sqaush lovers. But we definitely ate our veggies, and it did taste good. Just being honest...

(Recipe adapted from the Canadian Living Slow Cooker Collection)


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