Friday, August 28, 2015

The Two Best Books of Summer

"I was made for this" - LL

THIS IS IT. The final week of summer is upon us. And if you haven't yet found the perfect summer read, I'm here to help you. Here are the two best books I read this season. Let's get right into it.


The Rosie Project is the hilarious and heartfelt story of a socially awkward genetics professor looking for love. He creates a survey to weed out the smokers, drinkers, unfit, unintelligent, and the always lates, and yet he finds himself falling for a woman who is all of these things and more. This story had me stifling LOLs late into the night while poor Michael slept next to me. I'm pretty sure I haven't laughed so hard reading a book in ages (I will never forget the dance scene.) Annnnnnnnd, always something to make me happy -- The Rosie Project is being made into a movie!!!!! With Jennifer Lawrence. I. Can't. Wait.



Rosamunde Pilcher wrote The Shell Seekers in 1987, but I read it recently because the cover caught my eye at a recent BJ's run (yes, I judge books by their covers... who doesn't?) Bottom line -- it's a sweet story about a matriarch of a British family reflecting on her life. It's set in 1980s England and Ibiza, but a large part of the book takes place during World War II. Beautiful and compelling, this book has it all: love, heartbreak, family drama, art, war, lasting friendship and beautiful settings. It's the kind of book that makes you want to curl up with a cup of tea on a rainy day, but also run to the ocean and jump in. Read it!

Right now, I'm reading Pat Conroy's The Great Santini. I simultaneously love and hate Conroy's books. He is the one of the best storytellers I've ever read, but often with the most disturbing stories. We'll see how this one goes.

My little astronaut

After that, I plan on reading The Martian! In a compulsive fit of spending, I dropped a whopping $5 on this book at the grocery store yesterday.  The Martian is not at all my typical read (it's about an astronaut stuck on Mars and his survival and rescue.... that is NOT my genre,) but let's be honest, Matt Damon's face is on the cover because the movie version of the book comes out in October. Need I say more?? We all know that the best part of Interstellar was when they open the space sleeper machine and Matt Damon pops out. Surprise! So I'm sure another space movie with him can't be too bad. And The Martian is apparently really funny despite the serious nature of being stuck on Mars and fighting for survival.

Ok sooooo I actually mentioned four books here! Two were freebies... I guess I'm feeling generous. Gottta jet now, but not without a few Liza Love pics to brighten this already gorgeous late summer afternoon.

At the Outer Banks a few weeks ago
Legs moving at the speed of light. Get out your summer whites while you still have time!

Practicing our sunbathing pose


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Summer Dinner Sampler

Holy cow, it's August!

This picture is from 6 weeks ago when Liza Love was about 3.5 months old. 

I don't know what happened, but all of a sudden I am not so sure how I feel about summer.

I knowwww. It's basically blasphemy to even suggest that summer is less than the best. This is coming from the girl who would live at the pool with an endless supply of books and LaCroix and not move until her tan was strong enough to last through December, or the world ended -- whichever came first. 

I will now bury this dream and not re-awaken it for about 15 years. My friend Courtney recently sent me this hilarious article about the difference between a trip and vacation. It's well worth a glance. After reading it, I said that I guess we are going on trips for the next two decades.... but then changed my mind and said just one decade since teenagers can handle themselves. She replied and said teens just add a whole new level of chaos:

"No you cannot bring your boyfriend on our family vacation."

"No you cannot have alcohol with those strangers on the beach." 

So much to look forward to. Liza Love and I will be going to the beach next week so we'll see how that goes. 

I actually do know what happened about my changing summer feelings: baby girl came along. It takes about 3 minutes for us to be outside in the roasting North Carolina heat before Liza Love turns beat red and starts going comatose. AKA not what you want to have happen to your baby. Even at the pool, we are in the water for maybe 15 minutes before she gets bored, and then I sunbathe in the sun and put her in the shade, but then, like I said, after 3 minutes she's not looking so good. So we go home. 

My 2 shade loungers

Anyway.... with this roasting North Carolina heat, I've been wanting some cool summer dinners. So I made one this week. It was delicious. And I want to share it with you. I titled this post "Summer Dinner Sampler" but I don't really know what that means. What is a "sampler?" As in, you're just supposed to "sample" and not eat a full meal? If that's the case, disregard the title. We definitely eat over here.


We had this White Bean and Roasted Chicken SaladMy friend Brandi texted this recipe to me from her beach vacation, and it is the best. She and I both used cherry tomatoes instead of whole. Note: I thought the dressing was super vinegary so I added a bit more olive oil than it calls for.



We also had Kale Salad. I chopped up some kale, threw in some cooked edamame and chopped almonds, and then did everything that this salad recipe tells you to do. Shredded parmesan, salt, pepper, and a simple lemony dressing. Healthy and awesome. Another note: I thought this dressing was not lemony enough so I used more fresh lemon juice. 

This is the ugliest picture. And not at all indicative of how good this dish tastes.

In Charlottesville this past weekend, my friend Carrie made roasted sweet potato rounds. Ok actually, I made them, at her house, under her direction.... but I went a bit overboard with the salt so watch out for that. But they were great and I think will be a new staple for me. All you do is slice up the potatoes, season with olive oil, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper, and bake on a baking sheet at 400 for about 20 minutes.



We drank this wine. This is the third bottle I've purchased of it because we think it's pretty dang good for hot summer evenings. 

For dessert, which I forgot to photograph, we had fresh berries and homemade whipped cream. Light and heavenly! 

Homemade Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Whip the whipping cream with a standing mixer or hand blender at high speed until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla and slowly add the powdered sugar. Beat on high until stiff peaks form. Chill. 


This is the whole spread with our dear friend George who came over for dinner last night.


And Michael brought home the prettiest wildflowers from Sassafrass Fork Farm. Love love love. Wouldn't it be wonderful to work at a flower farm?? 


And then Wrinkle Butt had a bath! 

Go and make someone happy and cook them this summer dinner.

The end.

(This has nothing to do with this post, but seeing that I mentioned four friends who enriched my life in the past few days by telling me about funny articles and good recipes and eating my food, it goes without saying that I love the people in my life. My people are good people.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Charlottesville Debut

WHY HELLO!

It's been a while.

Life is so different nowadays. Let's do a brief recap:

FORMERLY: I lived in DC where friends were plentiful and nearby, I had a job, saw a lot of my hubby, and had no baby.

PRESENTLY: I am living in North Carolina where I'm making friends slowly but surely, don't have a job, am not seeing so much of my hubby, and there's a baby.

Talk about different. I hope to eventually unpack those statements.

Baby girl currently is lying next to me on the floor with her legs in the air as she drools and makes girly squeals of delight. I love love love love love this babe. Sometimes I have no idea what to do with her, but she seems to be doing ok so I'm not too concerned.


Michael had to go to neurosurgery resident bootcamp this past weekend (woof), so Liza Love and I did the best thing ever and went to Charlottesville! It was high time that girl saw some of my roots.

There, she met a strong contender for her future hubby. (Arranged marriages are not dead.)


She checked out the Cville market.


She met some good people who have known her mother since her mother was her age.



LL spit up all over Frank after this

Annndd she got in the Hooville spirit.


It's the beginning of a long-lasting relationship with Liza Love and Charlottesville. Can't wait until she's sixteen twenty-one and we can drink wine at Pippin Hill!

Actually, I really don't wish she was twenty-one. I don't want her to be a day older than she is right now. It's no joke when people say how fast these babies grow. Sometimes, all I do for hours is sit on the floor with Liza Love and watch her coo and gurgle, kick and laugh, and chew on her hands and toes. Michael will come home from work and ask me what I did all day and I blankly stare at him with very little to say because my day consisted of hanging out on a little square blanket and squeezing LL's thighs (I can't get enough of her thighs) while kissing her neck every ten seconds.

All the while, Michael is assisting with craniotomies and tumor resections and diagnosing glioblastoma multiforme.

Talk about different ways we spend our days.

Visiting Michael at work

Just recently, I feel like I'm coming back to life a bit. Moving with a 3-month old in tow is mildly chaotic. I was an emotional wreck the week we moved and honestly don't think I was thinking straight. This continued for several weeks afterwards, so sitting on the floor and hanging with Liza Love was pretty much my max capacity. It's been two months since our move, and I feel like I'm finally coming out of the Mom Brain Fog (it's real) and can actually focus on other things instead of LL's squeezable thighs.

But she sure is delightful!

Toes for breakfast


Thursday, May 14, 2015

How To Make Your Baby Come on Your Due Date

This past week has seen the births of five new babies to four of my friends. How can that be?? My conclusion is that there most definitely was something in the water around July 4th of last year. Just call me Sherlock. (Side note: have you seen the BBC Sherlock series?? Benedict Cumberbatch is my new TV crush.) May 6, May 7 (twins!), May 9, and May 10.... new babes were welcomed into the world. Let's not forget Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge born on May 2nd. July 4th fireworks bring May babies.

And Father's Day "fireworks" bring March babies, I guess. Our little March baby came right on time. Apparently, only 5% of babies are born on their due date -- who knew? I don't think I did anything extra special that prompted Liza Love to make her debut, and there's definitely no magical formula for making a baby arrive on time, but here's what I did. Take it for what it's worth. (And if you don't care, just skip this next part. There's pictures at the bottom.)

How To Make Your Baby Come on Your Due Date:

  • Raspberry Leaf Tea - I had heard that raspberry leaf tea is supposed to soothe your uterine muscles, so I walked down to Chin Chin Cha in Georgetown and picked up a bag about a week and a half before my due date. (Beware: it looks like marijuana. Just saying. Don't ask me how I know.) I drank one or two cups of tea a day after that. Who knows if it really works or if it helped my muscles relax enough to start labor, but it tastes good and it warmed me up since early March was absolutely frigid in DC. 
  • Walking - I was pretty sedentary for a lot of my pregnancy. A few weeks after I found out I was pregnant, I had a bit of a scare and thought I had miscarried after one particular work out. Because of that, I decided to take a break from exercising for the rest of the time. I still would take walks, but they were pretty slow and leisurely. By about 37 weeks pregnant, I was so ready to meet this babe that I started walking like crazy again. Even through the icy sidewalks and snow, I power-walked about 3-4 times a week. I swear this helped a whole lot to get my hips moving and make the baby drop. I also shoveled snow (a lot of snow.... I cleared the whole sidewalk!) the day I went into labor. I think that also helped.
  • Breathing into Braxton Hicks Contractions - Not everyone gets Braxton Hicks, but I had them for most of my pregnancy. They really ramped up about two weeks before my due date. Michael and I watched this video on how to practice belly breathing, so every time I had a Braxton Hicks contraction, I would work on breathing into it. I was 3cm dilated three days before Liza came, and I think this breathing technique definitely helped make that happen. 
  • Ice Cream - I can't explain it, but like a typical preggo lady, I craved ice cream like crazy in the two weeks leading up to labor. It was below freezing for much of that time and Michael thought I was insane, but I still went to Thomas Sweets at least twice a week in the end. 
  • Potato Spinach Soup - We ate this for dinner, and I went into labor 2 hours later. Here's the recipe. Do it! (ps. Add cooked bacon when you add the potatoes. And cheddar cheese for serving.)
And now for some pics! 

Getting ready to watch Duke win. Not sure how I feel about this. 

Easter Sunday

Seriously NOT happy about the bonnet. It's hard being a girl. 

Staring contest. Liza Love won. 
A visit with Aunt Tilly! 

How we feel about her receding hairline...

I may be balding, but I sure am cute! 

One with the animals

How we feel about her hair growing back!

A new kind of Friday night

Hello little love

My heart just skipped a beat...

Liza Love's first selfie with the girls

Picture of contentment 

Power to the little people! 


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Baby Love, My Baby Love...

The many faces of Liza Love



So. We are now 7 weeks (tomorrow) into this crazy world of parenting, and I think the honeymoon is over. Kidding -- let's be honest, there is no honeymoon with parenting. A honeymoon is a nice way to ease into marriage and life with your new spouse.  There is no easing into parenting. You're just thrown into it, and it's a sink or swim kind of thing. And you just have to force yourself to swim and keep swimming. Like Dory.

I'm making this out to seem like Liza Love has been a wild child. Not so! (Well, maybe so between the hours of 7-10pm.) She was sound asleep for the first two weeks of her life (so maybe that was a honeymoon after all,) and then around week three she totally woke up from her cocoon of baby love -- and I woke up to the reality of what life is like with a newborn. I called my nurse friend Ellen and asked if I should give up dairy in my diet since LL seemed to cry a lot and I couldn't figure out why. Ellen said, "CB. Relax. Your baby is acting like a baby."

Oh! Right.

Liza Love is still a great sleeper (I'm praying this never changes!) but now she has all these opinions and thoughts and agendas that she expresses mainly through loud, girly shrieks of protest. Things like:

You are not paying attention to me, mom! Mom, change my diaper! It's cold in here! It's hot in here! Feed me! What is that noise? You are being too loud! Why is it so dark in here?? Why is it so bright in here? What is that music?! Why are you not taking me for a walk? Why are we out walking?

Oh man. Keep sleeping child.

Liza Love is now in this sweet, cuddly stage where she actually falls asleep on my chest. Oh, to have a baby fall asleep on your chest! There is nothing much sweeter in the world. She refused to do this for her first few weeks and it nearly broke my heart. Thank goodness that changed. And LL is seriously the biggest wiggler. I mean, I think all babies are, but she will lay on her back and kick and flail her arms for nearly an hour. Michael and I find it amazingly cute and have about 10,000 photos and videos to document this phenomenon.... annnnd basically anything else that LL does.

Here are a few!


Ellen popping in for a quick visit while in town from Nashville! She's the one who told me to take a chill pill. Noted.

Liza Love sporting a tank for her daily dose of tummy time. (She immensely dislikes tummy time.) 

After her first bath.... which she also immensely disliked. She's more into it now-a-days. 
This was after LL's first shopping trip (to Target of course... where else??) It was the first time I fed her out of the house, the first time she had a diaper blowout, and the first time she pooped on me, her outfit, the pillow, the car seat, the swaddle blanket and the burp cloth. And it was the first time I was left alone without backup support as my mom just so happened to be popping into a shoe store for a hot second when all this went down. #motherhoodinitiation #ipassed (#ithink)

Morning devos

Molly came to town and took us out for lattes! 

LL being the center of attention from her grandma and aunties :)

Chief and his grandbaby 

Squishy

Liza Love's hoist at church! 
 (Btw, to understand what the heck is going on in the picture above, see this post, point #6.)

Florals on florals

"Mmmmm why yes, old chap, that's brilliant!"

Such a nugget

Primpin'.  And so smug about it.

A little slice of heaven

Be still my heart

Ps. I have my own domain name now! No more ".blogspot" :) Now just www.graceanddaisychains.com. SO EXCITING.