Some Favorite Recipes

We were down all last week with a terrible, horrible, no good very bad stomach bug. It was awful. Matt and I are rarely sick at the same time, but this round took us both out for the whole week. We could barely eat, drink or even move…let alone work on the mountain of projects that we have in the works.

But that sickness is starting to become a memory, and we are regaining our stregth. Last night we celebrated a dear friend’s birthday with a homemade cake. I have been on the search for a really excellent basic, from scratch yellow cake. They are always too dense and almost cornbread like. This one make have proved me wrong. For good measure, I also threw in our favorite cookie recipe below.

Fluffy, Moist Homemade Yellow Cake

source: Divas Can Cook
Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened, room temperature (do not microwave)
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated, room temperature
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325. F. (do not use convection like I did…cooked too fast to start)
  2. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar.
  4. Add in egg yolks and vanilla, mixing until fully incorporated. Set aside.
  5. In a seperate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.
  6. Gradually add dry ingredients into wet ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk.
  7. Mix until batter is fluffy but be careful not to over mix.
  8. Beat egg whites until stiff and thick. (holds a nice peak)
  9. Very gently fold egg whites into batter and mix JUST until incorporated.
  10. Pour batter into prepared pans and spread into even layers.
  11. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  12. Remove from oven and let cake cool in pans until pans are warm to the touch.
  13. Carefully remove cakes from pan and place on a cooling rack to finish cooling.
  14. When cakes are completely cooled frost with chocolate buttercream frosting.

 

Lauren’s Amazing Cookies (coconut, chocolate, oatmeal)

  • 1 cup butter (or 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup coconut oil)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 ½ cup oatmeal
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • Vanilla
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cup shredded coconut
  • 1 bag chocolate chips

 

Cream together butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Mix in coconut and chocolate chips. Make into 1-2 inch balls and flatten slightly on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until edges start to turn slightly golden. Remove from oven and cool. They will continue to darken out of the oven. Enjoy!

Nine things that have surprised me about pregnancy

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  1. How exhausting it is to grow a baby.

I had always heard that you would be tired, but I did not anticipate this level of fogginess and exhaustion until after baby arrived. I guess I am probably underestimating that as well!

  1. Loss of my abs.

Now I don’t mean them disappearing and being replaced by a bump. That I was totally prepared for. What I did not expect was not having any strength AT ALL from my core. At week 26, sitting up, rolling over or lifting anything is totally dependent on my arms or legs or Matt hauling me around. It is quite disorienting and frustrating to be honest.

  1. Needing diaper rash cream…well before the baby is here

Let’s just say that there is a lot going on with lady parts in pregnancy, and a lot of moisture that I have never before experienced. Diaper rash cream is a life saver.

  1. Pregnancy underwear.

It is a thing, and totally worth it. I have resisted the idea of buying too many maternity wardrobe pieces, but this and a few other key investments were 1000% worth it. Same goes for bras.

  1. Dates are no longer important, it is all about # of weeks

My mental calendar is no longer focused on months or dates, but around how many weeks along is baby. 40 weeks is the goal. 9 months is just a confusing common metric that somehow got thrown into how we talk about it.

  1. So.Many.Decisions.

Some of these decisions are quick and easy, others take research and sometimes difficult conversations. Where to have the baby? What kind of provider care do we want? What do we register for? Find out gender or surprise? Genetic testing? If it’s a boy, do we circumcise? How do we want our birth to go? Birth photographer? Vaccination schedule? And then finally, at the end of the day, what should we have for dinner? Because life still goes on.

  1. Increased awareness of others and pregnancy challenges.

We had a slightly bumpy road to get here, but very visibly carrying a baby has brought out a whole new level of awareness. A few weeks back a girlfriend had a miscarriage. A coworker due at nearly the same time as I am lost her twins at 5 months. Survivors guilt, empathy, sadness, happiness, love…they are a complicated bundle of emotions that all tangle together harder when you have a constant kicking reminder that you are carrying a miracle.

  1. Leg cramps.

Like terrible, debilitating, wake-up-screaming-like-a-banshee leg cramps. Not just in my calf either, but down the sides of my lower legs, quads, and even hands and fingers. My midwife was great and cleared me from any medical concerns, and got me on extra magnesium which is helping. Some local midwives I met through our birth class also added insight for Epsom salt soaks and a topical homeopathic cream that have made a huge difference.

  1. Hating salmon.

My only real food aversion would of course be one of the BEST things for me to eat while pregnant. It is getting slightly less repulsive now that I am nearly in my third trimester but it still makes me sad that of all things, this is what my body does not want to eat.

 

I am so excited to meet Grain (our in-utero name for baby) and witness many many more surprises that await us on our journey as a family.

Coconut Chocolate “Ice Cream” (Dairy Free!)

I love making ice cream at home. We have tried many combinations over the years, pretty much settling on a standard base that we mix up with different flavors. In the summer, peach is a favorite, as well as fresh garden mint with cookies. Fall leans towards brown butter or whiskey or something else rich and delicious.

This weekend I wanted to try a dairy free “ice cream” and modified our standard base to accomodate. Coconut chocolate seemed to fit the bill.

Last time I attempted a coconut milk base it turned out a little more grainy than I prefer, so this time I added arrowroot powder. Also note, this is not a vegan base since it does feature rich homegrown egg yolks.

Verdict: this was pretty much perfect! I am looking forward to mixing it up again with different add-ins all summer long!

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Coconut Chocolate “Ice Cream”

  • 4 cups full fat coconut milk (we use cartons from our local Asian market)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbs good quality cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp arrowroot powder
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • pinch of salt
  • vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks

METHOD

In saucepan, heat HALF the coconut milk with sugars, cocoa, oil, and arrowroot powder, and salt until heated through, stirring or whisking constantly (not boiling). Temper egg yolks with some of the hot chocolate mixture, and add to pot. Continue cooking until the consistency is of thin pudding. Add in vanilla extract and remaining 2 cups of coconut milk.

At this point I choose to pour the ice cream mix through a mesh strainer to remove any lumps, but this is optional .

Cool ice cream base in the fridge until cold, overnight is ideal. Churn in ice cream maker for ~20 minutes or until done. Freeze in containers for at least 30 minutes before serving.

YUM!

Oh Baby! 23 Weeks

Time is flying…how are we already in mid-March!? This little Grain sure is growing…and moving a ton now! It is so fun to feel him or her doing somersaults in my tummy. So far I have been able to stay pretty comfortable, especially once I figured out how to sleep with a pregnancy body pillow.

It took nearly a week of practice (it is like having another person in bed…poor Matt has no room!) but it is seriously a life saver. Particularly because my preggo brain decided to obsess about sleeping on my left side. We were told that sleeping on either side is fine, but left is best…which meant I would wake up all night just to check which side I was on. The body pillow helps me from tossing and turning and keeps me on my left most of the time.

Another comfort saving grace? My Storq leggings. Recommended by a friend, I splurged and got a few nice basic pieces of maternity clothes from Storq. Now they are my go tos and are SO COMFORTABLE! No pilling, no stretching out, and they look fantastic. High quality and super soft and stretchy…and dare I say fashionable? No rouching or traditional “maternity” looking style here. I am sold. Now I need to find a new bra that I love as much!

I have dedicated myself to continuing to be active, getting to the pool for lap swim and water aerobics at least once a week, and working out at my office gym at least 2x per week with cardio and weights or a class. I feel so lucky to have a gym at work with trainers that can help customize a prenatal workout. It still amazes me how much weight I have gained (gulp!) but my midwife is not concerned and I still feel healthy.

Cravings: kiwi (well, fruit in general) and dairy. Cottage cheese has become my go-to snack, and chocolate milk is my favorite treat.

The biggest challenge I have had is an onslaught of leg cramps. And not your normal “just stretch out your calf” ones either. These are wake-up-screaming-and-cannot-move cramps. Poor Matt has been scared out bed so many times now to help me stretch my leg. My midwife recommended taking magnesium, which I am, and it seems to have decreased the frequency of the cramps, but they still happen about every 3 days.

Little Grain, we are so excited to meet you! Daddy and I talk to you every evening and love to feel you kick and move. You are our constant motivation to keep making house progress, eating well, staying healthy and loving and supporting each other every day.

Another bonus this week…sunshine finally came out in our rainy part of the world! Spring is close!

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Pantry Progress 

When we bought our house, the sizeable pantry was a total selling point. Directly across the hall from this pantry was the door for the guest room. It was always an awkward entrance, making its own little hallway, and the light switch was behind the door when it opened.

As we started rethinking our new floorplan, and the guest room was being turned into a dining room, we knew this little extra empty space was a diamond in the rough. After nixing the idea of a walk through butler’s pantry (swoon…but it was just not enough space) we came up with a double sided pantry/china closet that stole our hearts.

It used every square inch of the awkward space, added TONS of storage, and will add a critical detail for any craftsman: the built ins. Matt designed the pantry to coordinate with the living room bookcase builtins to make the whole space flow together. It is still too cold to open all the windows, so priming and painting all these cabinets is on hold until Spring really rolls around. But the structure is built and they look fantastic. Not to mention sturdy and will hold all the canned goods we can stuff into it. The china closet side will have glass doors and will feature our extra serving dishes etc, while the pantry side will contain removable shelves and be covered with solid doors. He also added a double deep cabinet with hooks on the far right side to hold 4 folding chairs!

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A Week in the Life

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I have been meaning to write this post for a while now. I have always been curious about how other people live, and now that we are expecting a baby, wanting to capture how WE live pre-baby. I am sure it will be fun to look back on when we are a family of three with a very different schedule!

A few facts to start on:

  • We purchased a house with just under an acre of land nearly 4 years ago. At the time, Matt and I were both working, but always had the intention of being on one income at some point.
  • In 2014, Matt moved his focus home full time. Remodeling, cooking, cleaning, growing food. It has been THE.BEST.DECISION.EVER for our family. He is far happier, we have more free space to do things (only one work schedule to accommodate!) and had planned for this so financially it was an adjustment, but manageable.
  • I work in the city, and commute 4-5 days per week. Most of this is on public transportation (bus, water taxi, bus) but once or twice per week I will drive for work meetings, and get reimbursed for mileage. On these days I also make time to run our off island errands and do the bulk of our grocery shopping. Matt keeps a dynamic list of what we need and I can pick it up when I am out.
  • We have one vehicle: our trusty but little mini cooper!

Now that there are a few basics in place, our story becomes pretty routine.

I am up at either 5 or 6 depending on my work schedule that day, shower and dress while Matt puts together my breakfast and lunch. By 7 or 8 I am at the office and Matt is home doing is morning routine (take care of chickens, cats, doing dishes for previous night, playing some guitar). While I work so does he. Right now, the focus is our house remodel…which is extensive and we have been cranking on for nearly 14 months.

I walk in the door around 5:05 which means the work day is over for Matt as well. We make it a priority to not work past 5 o’clock on any day (unless there is a real exception that we need to keep going on a project) and get cleaned up and dinner going. Most of the time we whip something up from scratch, but recently I have been making a larger meal on Sunday that can get us at least through two nights of leftovers.

During the week, I usually shower off the work day (being on the bus feels kinda gross when I am back home), and start cooking while Matt puts away the chickens, plays a bit more guitar and winds down. Eating by 6:30 is the goal, and these days are in front of 2-3 episodes of something on Netflix. It is a low key evening, and we leave the kitchen a mess. Ha! Around 8 or 8:15, we are off to bed.

Weekends are a little more flexible, and we give ourselves space to sleep in and have a slow breakfast. Often we will make pancakes or waffles one morning, and then smoothies and eggs the other. We eat and hang out and listen to a slew of radio shows. By noon, we are usually moving towards more “productive” things: Matt working on the remodel, I am cleaning the kitchen, bills/taxes/paperwork, cooking, making sea glass mobiles for my Etsy shop, or in the garden. If the weather and tides cooperate we will do a beach walk. A quick pause for a snack if we need it, but often times we will just work through lunch. Dinner is not much different than the weeknight routine, but we may stay up till 10 (!) or so watching a movie. Big night!

We also try to pack in weekend adventures (though those are on hold with remodel taking #1, #2, and #3 priority!!!) of surfing/camping at the coast, going to Matt’s parents lake property, hiking, visiting family etc.

So yea, that is how our life generally looks these days. As we prepare for a baby this summer it was important for us to consider many aspects of this lifestyle to help us figure out what we needed/wanted for a car/stroller/sleeping arrangements etc. It was a worthwhile exercise to really focus on! We are certain that things will change as a family of 3, but this is a solid baseline to adjust from.

 

Wood Floor Inlay & Garden Planning

While the rest of the country is running straight to summer, our little corner of the PNW is having a much colder winter than usual. Cold and wet to be more specific. Even this morning I saw snowflakes as I was waiting for the bus. I want to get out in the garden but it is just not quite the season here yet.

This weekend Matt finished laying the wood floor inlay around the fireplace and built ins…such an accomplishment and it looks A-MAY-ZING! We can now move on to the next area of the house, and will come back for final painting of the mantle and trim when it is warm enough to open windows. And for good measure, a cute photo of me and the baby bump checking on daddy’s progress.

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I spent my weekend dreaming of the garden and working on a crop rotation plan. We are starting to hone in on the crops we like to grow that we actually use…which is not always obvious when you start. Spinach for example? We did not reach for it. Bush beans were prolific but we preferred the climbing romano beans so bush beans are out. Matt does not like beets. All the learning that goes into a maturing garden! This year we are focusing more on sweet corn, tomatoes, squash, kale and beans. Those are our staples and I want to optimize our soil and production with lessons from crop rotation.

I am still refining this model in Excel, but here is the basic idea that I am working from. First box is last year’s garden, with the second box one option for this year. For some scale, our garden is 45×60 feet and has been divided roughly into quadrants.

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