Are We Doing Resolutions?

The other day I was at dinner with my mom and we were talking about New Year's resolutions. Usually I have mine all ready...and if I don't, I at least have a list of things I don't want to repeat again this year. This year, though, I guess it just wasn't on my radar. I swear to god, this whole pregnancy thing makes me so absent-minded sometimes....I am more fly by the seat of my pants these days than anything else.

Or, as I put it with my mom in regard to this year, "Let's just see what gets fucked up and then we'll try and fix it." Hey, it's an approach that is likely to work, right???

But then I did think about it a little more and my goals for this year do, in fact, extend beyond crisis management. 2013 was all about transformation of the mind for me. It was a learning year for sure, and the biggest lesson that I learned was that I needed to allow life to happen more naturally. I had to surrender to the inertia of it all and embrace uncertainty.

For this lesson I most credit my grandmother. Her passing, showed me that nothing is certain, that people can be unpredictable, and that through it all you have to maintain who you are. If you know who you are in life, then you should have the confidence to weather any storm. I found a lot of strength this year and the culmination of all of that was getting pregnant. Deciding to have a child meant that I finally had enough faith to take a leap and be connected to someone else forever....well, I guess two someones really (my child and my husband!)

So this upcoming year is about standing in those choices and embracing the messiness of life that is coming at me. It's a little scary, but it's an adventure. What is life but a grand adventure, anyway!? I want to be able to maintain the laid back outlook my pregnancy has given me.

...and also, to see what gets fucked up and to fix it.

What's your resolution? Are you doing one or are you going to fly by the seat of your pants? Either way, I wanted to wish you all out there in cyber space a Happy New Year and BIG thank you for reading my blog and following my adventures!

May 2014 be a magical year for you and yours! 

Asian Coleslaw Recipe

Several months back I came across, THIS Asian coleslaw recipe, and I made it. I fell in loooooove with this recipe and so did my husband. Before I knew it, he was asking for it all the time. I wanted to post this recipe before Christmastime, but I thought to myself that it wasn't a very "Christmasy" recipe. Well what do you know? I made this on Christmas for lunch with my dad.

Again, it was a BIG hit, and I thought, I just have to get this down. I have modified it from the original recipe to be a little easier for me and to incorporate things I have in my own pantry more often. For instance, I always seem to have powdered ginger, not fresh, so that is what I have used.

Either way, if you make this slaw, you might never make slaw another way. It's just so good. Soooooo good. I like to serve mine with hot dogs, hamburgers, or just a good sandwich. Oh, and any kind of pulled pork, but especially this Korean BBQ we get form the store. It's heavenly!

Billie's Asian Coleslaw 

You Will Need: 

1/2 head of green cabbage, sliced thin
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup soy sauce 
1/4 cup olive oil 
2 teaspoons ground, dry ginger 
2 tablespoons brown sugar 
1 tablespoon sesame seed oil 
2 tablespoons rice vinegar 
1 teaspoon salt
20 grinds black pepper 
palmful of sesame seeds 
optional: a bunch of scallions, chopped. These taste amazing, but I forgot them. 


In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir well, coating all the cabbage. 

Chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve. 

That was ridiculously easy, right? I know. 

Feminism Is For Everyone

For the past couple of years the articles, blogs, and general commentary on feminism seems to come in waves as one celebrity after another comes out and “declares” their feminist status. Then, the peanut gallery begins to weigh in on “how feminist” this person is, or they (worse) begin to pick apart why that just can’t be so. It all leaves me scratching my feminist head because I didn’t know that there was only one way to be a feminist....

This ain’t your mama’s feminism, I get it. The scene has morphed a lot since the days where our grandmas and moms were burning their bras. Yet, there is one thing that seems to remain pretty exclusive: this so-called feminist club that seems nearly impossible to get a stamp of approval in.

Here’s what I tend to see in the media with regards to feminism and how the collective “we” bashes on one another. (And I am sure I am leaving some out)
Enjoy cooking? Then you aren’t exactly all that liberated are you? Are you a mom? Well, we’re still at odds in many ways. Stay at home mom? Eh, more questionable still. Took your husband’s last name? Then you’ve given up your identity as a singular human woman. Republican? Traitor. Man? Enemy. And seriously, you can’t be feminist if you have a penis...we don’t include supporters.

It’s this “one size fits all” concept of feminism that just gets to me. It’s like feminism is eating itself when I hear these versions of exclusions. Women bashing women is a serious’s like when you hear a woman calling another a bitch. Well, doesn’t that just pave the way for men to do it as well?

Feminism has changed because people have changed. We’ve evolved and our concept of feminism has to have morphed as well. In fact, I argue that feminism has so deeply permeated our psyches as 20 and 30-somethings which has caused it to become a more well-rounded concept. This means that feminists can be moms (yes, even stay at home ones), or take their husbands last names, or be lesbians, or get abortions (or not), and perhaps even be Republicans.

Can I put this simply? Feminism is for everyone.

Yes, there are concepts that are clearly not feminist, but the feminists themselves don’t have to conform to a box where they aren’t free to stay at home, or change their names or be CEOs, or whatever. The whole point of the movement was equality and a just world that treats us the we have to be able to have choices and probability (and common sense) would dictate that we aren’t all going to choose the same things.

So when Beyonce or whoever is next comes out and declares they are a feminist, perhaps don’t try so hard to punch holes in their argument. Just add it to the list of diversified versions of feminism that we are logging these days. It’s a good thing. We can be different and yet united....what a feminist concept!

I Don't Plan on Being The Perfect Parent

It seems to me that first-time parents are a little obsessed with doing things right. I should know because my husband and I are about to become first timers and they try to market a lot books, theories and other junk that we don't need to us. Some of it I enjoy for its novelty; others, make me want to throw up in my mouth a little bit.

If there is one thing that I have learned so far in the four (almost five) months of being pregnant it's that you can't really prepare for whatever happens once your child is here. Parenthood, in this respect, represents the biggest leap of faith I have ever taken in my life. I'm doing the trust fall, and I hope I'm there to catch me on the other side. Now, I could get wrapped up in what will my child eat, where will more money, time, and more of "me" in general come from, but instead I have decided to focus solely on what I can control, which is basically getting the nursery ready.

I am not really planning on a birth plan (though my doula will tell me from time to time that I veering dangerously into birth plan territory) and I am not making much of parenting plan, either. My big plan for parenting? My husband and I are going to be ourselves. You know what that means? We don't plan on being perfect parents. It's a trap, anyway, in case you haven't surmised that on your own.

Parents who think they can do it all right are some of the most annoying people that you can ever hope to meet, and I don't want to be those people. I want to be a real person doing this life thing authentically and as far as I am concerned that means I am going to mess up. I am gonna keep my little fingers crossed we don't screw up too bad, but I am pretty sure that somewhere along the way I will:

Let my kid eat fast food
Drop the f-bomb multiple times in front of my kid (who knows, maybe in the same sentence)
Demonstrate some terrible behavior that I will quickly tell them not to tell daddy about
Piss my kid off over something they can't have, several times over
Fight with my husband only to realize kid has seen the whole thing
Pretend I didn't see them eat that thing off the ground

And many, many more things I can't even imagine....

Any mother I have ever spoken to has their own horror stories about the things they did that make them less than perfect parents. The funny thing is, most of them know that they occasionally screw up, make bad decisions or just plain don't care (exhaustion has a funny way of doing that, they tell me.) It's just that we are all running around trying so hard to "be the best" that we are too stubborn to admit we don't actually want to be perfect--we just want to be ourselves.

In the final analysis, I blame society for putting these ridiculous guilt trips on parents about what we should or shouldn't be doing and when. For whatever reason, American mothers seem to hold in more guilt than Catholics, and I just wanted to say: I'm not playing the guilt game. I'm gonna screw up as a parent, but I'm not going to punish myself over and over again or (worse) tell myself that any of these things make me a bad parent. I am going to be a parent who is present and attentive. I'm going to be funny, down to earth, and not riddled with guilt for the times when I am not living up to the standard of the day.

So whether you are an expectant mom, like me, or already a mom, I suggest you give yourself a break and not try and be perfect. And I don't just mean right this second--I mean all the time. Perfect is dull. Authenticity dictates that we have to be vulnerable enough to screw up, and you know what? Most of the time, it's a great learning lesson for children to see their parents be normal humans. I know that my parents have made mistakes and seeing them deal with it has helped me in my life up to now.

Be human. Be vulnerable. Do not attempt perfection--you'll be disappointed every time. 

Gift Givers & Receivers

I was doing my guided meditation with Deepak Chopra yesterday, and it was very timely to our Christmas holiday: it was about learning to receive the gifts that life gives you. Many of us are all too familiar with the phrase "tis better to give than receive." Likewise, we are also familiar with giving and giving and giving until we are depleted.

For me, during this pregnancy, being comfortable with receiving is something I had to do really quickly. From hand-me-down clothing for maternity wear and kids' clothing to bassinets and advice and even services, I have been receiving a lot of unexpected gifts from friends and family. It was a little overwhelming at first, and I thought, "oh my goodness, how will I ever be able to repay this kindness?!" I wasn't yet comfortable with the notion of just being on the receiving end.

In my meditation, Chopra talked about giving and receiving being two sides of the same cosmic coin. It is a cycle. For many people, the holidays can be a tough time filled with emotion for many reasons, both happy and sad. It can make either giving or receiving an arduous process, so this was the perfect way to be reminded to take in the joy of either giving or receiving.

I loved this reminder I got yesterday and I wanted to have the opportunity to share it with all of you because sometimes we all need a little nudge. If you are receiving, be thankful. Don't shut people out from giving, and don't think that they expect anything in return because most people who are giving are doing so with a grateful heart. I have never once given a gift in the hope that I will receive one back (at least, not as an adult, anyway!) When I give, it because I am happy and I want to share that with someone else.

In the same vein, if you are giving a gift, you probably are already receiving something in return, and that's joy. Don't give out of obligation at the holidays, or any time, because it defies self care. Give because you feel like giving and because it enriches your life and allows you to share that richness with others.

The holidays for me are a feeling--a season--and they are about community and family and love. When we are comfortable receiving from those who love us, it makes the giving so much more joyful. I hope you and your family (whether relatives or friends) have a wonderful holiday season filled with love. 

A Pregnancy Wine Issue....

I always fancied myself to be the type of pregnant woman who would enjoy a glass of wine or beer. In fact, I believe that a little booze now and then can, in theory, be a healthy thing in pregnancy. But, despite my attitude toward drinking and pregnancy, I have not had a single drop of alcohol this entire pregnancy. I just can't.

The problem is that what if, god forbid, something went wrong and it happened to fall on a week that I drank. I don't want to blame myself, and so I have found abstaining from alcohol has been the way to go for me. That, and I really don't drink that much when I'm not pregnant, and I haven't felt the urge to drink, minus the occasional craving for a dry chardonnay, but really I wanted to have the chardonnay while out to lunch, outside on a sunny day. Since it's winter, this craving could not be satisfied.

However, I was really, really hankering for some venison bourignon (I make a version of Julia Child's beef bourignon recipe with venison that just warms my toes!) and it called for wine. God love me, I might not want to drink the damn wine, but neither do I want to waste the damn wine. So, for this reason, which in so many ways seems illogical, I didn't want to buy a full a bottle of wine.

When my sister-in-law was here for the holidays, she purchased a bottle of wine and drank all but two cups and left it for me. I thought to myself, "problem solved!" and I was all ready to make my recipe. Then I came home one day from canning, and the bottle had mysteriously disappeared. My husband said he didn't throw it out....and my father-in-law had been over to feed my chickens that day. I'm not saying he drank it. I'm just saying that these things all happened on the same day: father-in-law over for feeding chickens, disappeared bottle of wine, husband didn't throw it out.

Either way, once again I was in the position of having to buy wine to execute this recipe. My solution was to buy the mini-wine four pack. Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but to me this seems like the perfect solution. I can use exactly what I need and put the rest of the mini bottles in my bar for my guests! This way, when someone not pregnant comes over, I can still offer them something to drink and the wine won't be wasted.

At $6.99 a four pack, this seems a totally awesome solution to me. What about the rest of you? Do you have an cooking booze (pregnancy) conundrums that had you stumped? How did you solve it? 

I'm Not Recruiting Anyone!

I remember when I got engaged and I was on the verge of marriage...I knew very much then it was like “joining a club.” A married club, if you will. Even if you aren’t married, you know that this club exists because it’s likely that one or more of your married friends at one time or another has said something along the lines of, “Well, it’s different when you are married.”

Try and get them to describe the difference and it’s’s just different. It’s as though everything and nothing has all changed at once. There is also this phenomenon that married people are always trying to recruit others to get married too, and it starts right at the wedding with the bouquet and garter tosses.

This, to me, is strange. My husband and I didn’t do either a garter or bouquet toss...and we don’t try to recruit. I am always happy for people when they get engaged, but seriously, I don’t go around recommending marriage as an institution. It’s not that I don’t like being married--I love it, I think it’s great. It’s also a hell of a lot of work, a huge commitment and a serious dance when it comes to compromise. Even though I knew these things going into the marriage, I could have NEVER anticipated just how hard it would be at times.

That, my friends, is why I say that you must be madly, deeply in love with your partner before marriage. Because if that love isn’t there, when the going gets tough, god help you. And if you think I’m just trying to be a downer or whatever, just ask one of your divorced friends (yeah, we’re at that age now)--they will be all to happy to confirm for you what I am saying.

Now why I am bringing this all up? Well, folks, it’s called pregnancy. You see one of my best friend’s boyfriends (who, by the way was totally kidding) joked with me saying, “Great, thanks a lot, now my girlfriend wants a baby.” I laughed because it was hilarious, but it also got me thinking: I haven’t even had this kid yet, but I know already that I feel the same way about parenthood that I do about marriage. I’m not recruiting anyone!

I have had friends who have wanted me to join this parenting club for years. And then I have friends with kids who have said consistently not to do it unless I’m totally ready (if I choose to do it at all.) That ladder group is where I’m a-falling.

Just being pregnant has shed some serious light on the whole marital communication thing....there is a ton of stuff you have to talk about. Where is the baby going to sleep? How do we feel about co-sleeping? Where are we financially? Who’s responsible for what once the baby gets here? Is being a stay at home parent ‘work’? Not to mention you have to agree on a name! And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Luckily for us, after ten years of togetherness which includes three plus years of marriage, we’re (knock on wood) starting to get this communication thing down. Still, as committed as we are to having a little family, we see this murky grey road ahead and we know that it’ll be filled with a lot of uncertainty. We know it’ll be worth it, and we know we can’t imagine the tests it’ll throw us, but we’re going to be as prepared as we can be as we go forward.

Even still, we’re not recruiting anyone.

So guys, if you find your girlfriends with a case of baby belly envy, send them my way. I will give them all the glorious details of being pregnant, and I will squeal with them in delight about nursery plans, etc. And then I will caution them amply, and scare the ever-loving shit out of them and send them back to you and your quiet, peaceful, non-hormonal home where they can bliss out on the fact that there is no pitter-patter of little feet on the least not yet.

Things We'd Like To Tell Our Friends Without Kids

I’m pregnant now, and that’s a huge change in my life. For 28 years (10 of which I have spent with my husband) I have been child free, kicking back, doing what I want and pretty carefree. Sure, a lot has changed over the years, but nothing quite of this magnitude. I understand that this is a change for some of my friends, too.

And I also know a lot of other people are pregnant right now. I wanted to put this together....nice and neat and in list form and all, so that we can pass it around so that our friends without kids will know what we want to say, but sometimes have the trouble finding the courage to just come out with. Mmm’kay.

We still want to be invited places
Might we decline a little more than usual? It’s possible; it depends on what type of pregnancy (read: day) we are having. But it’s nice to be thought of and included, even if we can’t make it. Also, money might be a little tighter than it was a few months ago (we’re planning for a baby here!) so if you think we are declining because we can’t afford it, invite us to do something we don’t have to pay for. Pretty please....

No matter how anti-baby we were before, we ARE excited about our child
Someone casually joked with me when I said that I would prefer a crying infant to morning sickness saying, “Yea, talk to me a few months!” Granted, this was a person without children, (who has never experienced morning sickness, obviously) but to review: I am pregnant by choice and because I WANT a child. I get it, I’m not the biggest kid-lover on planet earth. However, I am pretty gosh darn excited about MY kid--crying or not. People change, get over it.

We are sober, emotional, and scared 
I don’t know about the second time mommies out there, but it’s my first time on the merry-go-round of childbearing and it’s a scary ride! As if the hormones weren’t enough (hello, I just watched a Cheerios commercial and was BAWLING), we’re also sober. So-ber. Most of the time we don’t mind any of these things, but you know what helps? Someone asking us what is going on those crazy heads of ours. Lend an ear, dear friend, we may be in need!

Yes, we have changed, but still.... 
Yes, it’s true, something immediately seems to shift when a woman knows she’s pregnant, and I am sure that our friends are picking up on this. We are trying not to only talk about nurseries and growing bellies and co-sleeping--we swear! We still want to make dirty sex jokes, and listen to your gossip, too, though and the fact that we are friends, well, that hasn’t changed. So if we are annoying you with all our mom-to-be baby fever, just tell us, we are friends, after all.

We will re-emerge, we promise 
This baby will be born and yes, that will change a lot of, you know, we’ll be able to drink again! It’s sort of like when you get a new boyfriend and then you guys get totally serious and move in together and then we don’t see you for about a year. After that year you re-emerge, and we will too. Be patient, we promise we’ll return the favor someday.

Tom Turkey Sandwiches!!!!!!!!!!!!

Guys, I love Thanksgiving. It's such a relaxing day and there is so much food. This year we are going to my mom's house for the holiday and it's gonna be a big dinner filled with family and fun! I am really excited. REALLY EXCITED. But as much as I loooooove Thanksgiving Day, there is a day I might like just a smidgen more: the day after.

Why? Tom turkey sandwiches. It is my favorite sandwich, hands down. And this year, because I am pregnant, I haven't had a stitch of lunchmeat in over three months. I can't wait to sink my teeth into my favorite sammie! I'm gonna eat a tom turkey, sip a virgin mary and just love life.

I am so stoked on my favorite sandwich that we make our own turkey despite going to a fully stocked Thanksgiving meal at my mom's house. Actually, this duty falls to my husband who goes to a friend's house where they deep fry turkeys together. It's great because I relax and then a turkey magically appears on my doorstep, cooked a delicious and ready to be eaten! That's bliss, right?

Anyway, I wanted to put this out there nice and early so that you guys can prepare for the Tom Turkey extravaganza.

Here's some lovely leftover turkey. Heeeelllllllooooo. 

Then I made a box of Stove Top. That's right--no frills ladies and 'gents, just all goodness. 

The no frills continues with a lovely can of jellied cranberry! I don't normally buy things in cans, but for these sandwiches, I will make an exception. 

Slather mayo on some bread (I like mine soft, my husband likes his toasted) and then stack it all up: 

Turkey, stuffing, cranberry! 

Doesn't that look perfect? Let's get closer, shall we? 

Yes, that's right where I wanna be: in the thick of the sandwich! 
Nom nom nom! 

Tom Turkey Sandwiches 

Time: You got 10 minutes? | Makes: 4 sandwiches | Difficulty: Easy! 

You will need: 

8 pieces of bread, or 4 sub rolls 
1 box of Stove Top stuffing, cooking according to manufacturer's directions (or leftovers) 
1 can of jellied cranberry 
Leftover turkey, sliced 


Toast bread, if desired. 

Slather your bread with a healthy helping of mayonnaise. Stack the turkey, two slices of cranberry jelly and a big old helping of stuffing on a slice of bread. 

Top with the other piece of bread. Cut in half. 

Eat and try not to swallow all in one bite. (I know, that's a toughy!) 

Sex In The First Trimester

So, before I got pregnant I heard a lot of people talk about how “great” the sex was when they were pregnant. This post seeks to clear up this misconception. Like a doe-eyed gal, when I became pregnant, I figured, “Oh I can’t wait to have this awesome pregnancy sex.”

You know what I kept picturing in my head? That scene from The Back-Up Plan with J. Lo where she first finds out she’s pregnant and she begins dating this guy. They are basically making out and he’s on top of her and she’s “so sensitive” that she practically has, like, three orgasms. Now, before you yell at the computer screen about how dumb my vision of this was, save yourself the trouble. I know, especially in hindsight, how crazy dumb this vision was.

And yet....

I really thought that it might sort of be like that at least a tiny, weeny eensy bit. It wasn’t. Not even a bit. What I found out instead was that my sex drive took a distinct nosedive over the highest libido cliff that ever lived. Of course me being me, I didn’t let this deter me. I just said that this was a “mind over matter” sort of thing.

Boy was I wrong. By about week nine, I ended up sobbing into my morning coffee and when my husband asked me what was wrong, it came out something like this (through tears): Everyone lied to me! Everyone said that pregnancy sex was going to be so good! It’s awkward and I have no sex drive and I feel sick and I’m exhausted. They are all lairs!!!!!

My husband was very sympathetic to my entire sex tantrum and he reassured that it was going to be okay. I, however, did not feel like it was going ot be okay. In fact, I felt really devastated by the whole thing because I really do enjoy sex with my husband under normal circumstances. Even though I didn’t want to have sex, not having sex was making me wonder if my body was changing and my husband found me unattractive. Now, I know that the logic here isn’t completely sound, but when those hormones start talking, it’s all a lady can do to drown them out.

About week 10, I was more able to let the whole sex thing “go” and settle for less sex which seemed better suited to what my body was telling me. This was hard for me swallow (no pun intended!) But it was reality. The truth is that not every woman will want to have as much sex in the first trimester....she, like me, may not be feeling well. Her libido may be low and on top of it she’s turned off by food and exhausted. IT’S OKAY!

And here’s the silver lining: about week 13, I started to have sex dreams ABOUT MY HUSBAND! I knew it was surefire sign that my libido was on its way back to town. It came a relief to me, as I am sure you can imagine. BUT, if you don’t feel it, don’t worry. There are essentially no rules to how this “sex thing” works during pregnancy. Some will want it, and some won’t.

Here is my suggestion though: if you are finding that your libido is especially low and it’s geeking you out like it was doing to me, find other ways to connect with your partner. Cuddle. Do massages. Kiss more. Hold hands. Ask him to tell you that you look beautiful (I know, it may sound unappealing to ask, but sometimes you just gotta ask for what you need.) There are other ways to forge intimacy until your sex drive comes back!

Stuffed Shells Recipe

I love love love me some pasta! And that goes double for shapes pasta. There is just something about a shaped pasta that makes my heart sing. Anyway, I have been meaning to make stuffed shells for literally weeks...but a few weeks ago when I went to the grocery to get them, they were out of jumbo shells! Can you believe it?!

Well, I was too lazy to take myself down to another store, so I just waited. Last week, I finally got around to getting back to the store and what do you know, they had restocked my beloved shells. Now, I could've just made a casserole, but you know me--I'm a rebel. I wanted to do something a bit different, so I made individual casseroles. I adore these individual casserole dishes. 

This works out perfectly because you can make a little or you can make a lot. I've included the recipe for 4 dishes, but as you will see, it's easily halved. Me? I made four because then I could eat them a second time. I am crazy for stuffed shells and all their cheesy glory!

Start by lining your dishes with a good layer of sauce. (Keeps the shells from sticking.) 

And while I'm at it, I'm also boiling those shells according to the manufacturer's direction. But that's happening behind the scenes. 

Then, mix up your filling. I've got some ricotta cheese, some provolone/mozzarella cheese, an egg (beaten),  pepper, dried oregano and two cups of fresh spinach that I cut up (which is code for I tore it up with my hands.) Hehe. 

Once my shells were cooked, I drained them and allowed them to cool a bit until they were cool enough to handle. Then, let the stuffing begin! I used about a tablespoon per shell. About seven shells fit per individual casserole. 

YUUUUUUMMMMMMM! Check these out! 

Then, top with more sauce and we're ready to bake! 
OR you can wrap these and save them in the fridge until you are ready to bake! 

Bake for 30-35 minutes on 350 degrees and then top with parmesan cheese if you like. 

If you aren't going to eat all the casseroles at once, you can either bake them off and then reheat them in the microwave or you can leave them in the fridge and bake them when you are ready. 

Billie's Stuffed Shells! 

Time: Prep 25mins, Bake 35mins | Makes 4 servings | Difficulty: Easy! 

You Will Need:

28 jumbo shells 
16 ounces ricotta cheese (I used whole milk) 
1 egg, beaten 
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese (I used a blend of provolone and mozz) 
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
pepper (about 10 fresh grinds)
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped small
3 cups pasta sauce

4 individual casserole dishes


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil a large pot of salted water and cook pasta shells according to manufacturer's directions.

While shells are boiling, line each casserole dish with a couple tablespoons of sauce (it keeps the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the dish.)

Next, mix up the filling for the shells. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, beaten egg, shredded cheese, pepper, oregano and spinach. Mix well to combine.

When pasta is done cooking, drain and allow to cool until you can handle it (just a couple of minutes should be good.) About seven shells fit per dish. Fill each shell with about a tablespoon of filling and place it in the casserole dish. Repeat until all the shells are filled and the casseroles are all filled.

Top with the remaining sauce. Bake the dishes on top of a baking sheet (just in case they bubble over) for 30-35 minutes. Serve with a salad and a smile and top with parmesan cheese!

If you prefer to eat them later, you can wrap them and keep them in the fridge until you are ready to bake them. Or, alternatively, you can bake them all off and keep them in the fridge and reheat them later in the microwave!  

Some Pregnancy "Rules" I BREAK!

Me at 11 weeks! Check out my little bumpity!!! 
As any pregnant woman will agree, there are a ton of rules when it comes to being pregnant. There are things you can't eat (lunchmeat, sushi, brie cheese!), things you can't drink (caffeine in the first trimester, alcohol which is questionable....), and things you can't do (super cardio workouts, heavy lifting).

With all these rules floating around, sometimes it's hard to say what is or is not "in bounds." In fact, many other moms have told me, "you just have to decide for yourself." Every woman will be different. Some will be very strict about some things and loose about others. You just have to do what is right for you in the end and people telling you what you can and can't do only goes so far.

I get it, though, really I do because people really like to be all judgy-wudgy about parenting and it begins before you are even a parent....some of friends without children know what I mean because they are constantly getting questions about when they are going to do it (it's annoying, right?!) So, to make my fellow preggo friends breathe a sigh of relief, I wanted to share my little list of rules that I am a-breaking.

I didn't get a flu shot 
My primary care physician's assistant acted like I was doing something truly horrible by not getting a flu shot while pregnant. It made me uncomfortable, honestly....she actually used the words "life or death." Dramatic, right? I have never in my life gotten a flu shot and my motto is: if I didn't do it while I wasn't pregnant, why would I start now?

I eat raw honey 
Yes, I do! You'll find raw honey on the "no no" food list and I get it...there is a slight risk of botulism. But every time I walk out of my front door, there is a slight risk of all kinds of things that I don't want to get into. I believe in the homeopathic value of raw honey during cold season...and well, since I didn't get that dang flu shot, I guess I better keep up on the honey!

I'm not making a "birth plan." 
Seriously? What would be the point? I can tell you now that I am planner, so this isn't the most in character thing for me to pass on, but I feel there are some things you just can't plan for. My plan? To show up when I go into labor and have a baby--however that happens. Sure, I have hopes of how it may turn out, but the ball is definitely not going to be in my court. So, eh, not doin' it.

I'm switching back to regular coffee
Sure, I could go sans caffeine for the entire pregnancy. I'm a half a cup of coffee a day kind of gal, so I am sure I'm not addicted. But let's face facts...I have given up enough! Since I am in the second trimester, I am switching back to regular coffee. The only reason I haven't yet? I bought this decaf for the first trimester (because the intake of caffeine in the first trimester is riskier) and I'm cheap, so I want to finish it.

Well it's a short list, but it's a list nonetheless. I hope you all will share with me what rules you are breaking, or broke, during your pregnancy in the comments sections below! 

Kale & Potato Quiche Recipe

I love me a gooooood quiche! It's just a good way to start the week, don't you think? I like to make one up and eat it alllll week for breakfast. Or you can make it and serve it to a crowd. 'Round these parts, I have tended to make a quiche or two....there was this egg white quiche. Then there was this Italian quiche. And there were these mini egg white quiches. Oh yea, and this quiche with hash brown crust!

Today I am whipping up a kale and potato quiche using some leftover potatoes from pot roast, and some yummy yummy kale. Kale is so good, it definitely deserves two yums, as I am sure you will agree. Any-who, I have been obsessed with potatoes for a good part of my pregnancy; mashed potatoes, tater tots, potatoes in pot roast, hash browns--you name it!

When you think about it, potatoes and eggs just go together sooooo well. So this is a match made in eggy potato heaven. I didn't take a bunch of pictures of how to mix it up and make it, so if you want those goodies, reference one of the above linked posts. What can I say? Pregnancy has made me more casual than I used to be.

Let's take a moment to briefly discuss two things: 1) my obsession with Jiffy Crust and 2) the fact that you can throw just "whateva" in a quiche. First, the Jiffy Crust. I love it for these types of recipes, but as I always say, use what you are comfortable with. If you prefer a premade crust, I am not one to judge. Whatevet gets the job done works just dandy. But if you mix your own crust with crust mix, Jiffy Crust is awesome.

Now, when making a quiche I feel like my "recipe" is mostly a "suggestion" of ingredients that you can use. I mean, yes, kale and potato and onion and cheese is an awesome combo, but if you have some lunchmeat you need to use up, or some great broccoli, throw it in there!! There are rules!! Be free!

Okay, now that we got that covered, let's go ahead and get to the recipe! Happy quiche everyone!

Kale and Potato Quiche 

Time: About an hour | Makes 1 awesome quiche (Serves 4-6) | Difficulty: Easy! 

You Will Need

1 package of Jiffy Crust (or any pie crust) 
8 eggs
1 leftover potato (that is already cooked, of course and peeled too!), diced 
2 tablespoons sour cream 
1/3 cup almond milk (you can use regular milk, too) 
1 small onion, diced 
1 cup of shredded cheese (I used mozzarella/provolone mix) 
1 big old leaf of kale, chopped pretty small 
2 dashes cayenne 
salt and pepper (just add as you feel compelled) 


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Line your pie pan with your crust. 

In a big mixing bowl, whisk together your eggs, sour cream and milk until combined. I use my big whisk for this job! Add your potato, onion, kale, cheese cayenne, salt and pepper. Combine fully and then pour into your prepared pie shell. 

Using a fork, gently situate the kale and other fillers so that they are evenly distributed. 

Bake in the oven for 45-55 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean. 

Serve with a smile!!!! 

Potato & Beet Puff Pastry Recipe

In February when my friend Jenn and I went to visit my sister-in-law Laura in Scotland, we were in this pub (I think in Edinburgh?) and Jenn ordered something that came with something like what we've tried to duplicate here. Okay, I know that sounds a bit vague. Have pity on my pregnant mind and the way it works. 

What happened is this: I woke up last week and wanted to put beets in puff pastry and thought I remembered that it should also contain potatoes. Carbs with carbs and a little veg? Heck to the yes please! So I called Jenn and convinced her to come over and help me with this and then we ate it. 

This was actually really yummy, and if you want you can totally add some cheese into it. Just in case there aren't enough carbs in it for you and you want to add a little fatty fat to it. I love it. Jenn and I liked it so much that she started work on another incarnation of this same it's possible you may get some variations on this theme on here in the near future. Anything is possible. 

Now for this recipe I use my beets that we steamed and froze in season. They are awesome because you just take them out of the freezer, thaw or microwave and cook with them as you please. You can also use fresh beets, which will add a bit to prep time, but it'll be totally worth it. 

Also? I have a sort of obsession with putting things in puff this torta which is another way I like to cook potatoes in puff pastry! 

Potato and Beet Puff Pastry 

Time: Prep 20 minutes, Bake: 45 | Makes 4-6 servings | Difficulty: Easy 

You Will Need:

1 puff pastry, thawed for about 20-30 minutes 
3 potatoes, peeled 
1 cup of steamed beets, diced 
2 tablespoons butter 
1/3 cup milk 
2 eggs 
2 dashes of cayenne pepper 
1 clove of garlic, minced 
12 grinds each fresh salt & pepper 

Special equipment: springform pan 


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

To cook potatoes swiftly and without fuss, wrap the peeled spuds in a wet paper towel and microwave them for 10-12 minutes or until they are soft. I learned this trick from Jenn, and trust me, it totally works and is awesome! 

When the potatoes are soft, throw them in a bowl with the butter and milk. Mash them up. I like to use my old fashioned potato masher, but hey, whatever floats your boat. 

In a separate bowl, beat one of your eggs. Add it to your mashed potatoes along with your beets, cayenne, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir it all up. 

Grease your springform pan with a bit of butter. Drape your thawed puff pastry over your springform pan. Place your potato/beet mixture into the puff pastry and drape the top of the puff over the mixture to fully cover. 

In a small bowl, beat your other egg. Using a brush, brush your puff pastry with the egg, and then place the whole thing in the preheated oven. Allow it to bake for 45 minutes or until it's all puffy and awesome. 

Enjoy with a good friend and maybe a salad! 

Finding The Right Prenatal Vitamin

Finding a prenatal vitamin....sounds simple right? That’s what I thought. Oh boy was I wrong! Finding the right prenatal vitamin was a challenge for me. Luckily, I worked with my providers to find the right fit, and now I am on my fifth prenatal that *shew* I am happy with!

Whether you are on the search for the perfect prenatal, or have already found yours, I am hoping that you will share some of your favorites (or least favorites) in the comments section below so that others can gain helpful information!

One A Day Prenatal Vitamins with DHA 
I went and picked up a package of One A Day prenatal vitamins with DHA when we decided that we were going to try and have a baby because I read that they help with conception. Well, I was pretty darn fertile and we got pregnant on the first try! So for the first several weeks, I took these, and I was happy with them.

The only problem with these prenatals was that they were pricey (about $20/bottle). However, if you don’t have insurance, they are a great option. I fell in love with the DHA (which became the crux of my issue).

Citranatal Assure & Citranatal Harmony 
My doctor gave me these as samples a couple of times in the very beginning, and these were the bomb! They have a stool softener, which let’s face it, is a god-send with all that extra iron you’re taking with the prenatals. They, again, had the DHA and never made me feel sick. The downside? My insurance company didn’t want to cover these because they were “too expensive.” UGH.

So, I had to go with a generic prenatal.

Generic without DHA/ Generic Chewable without DHA 
When I got the generic without the DHA I cried at the pharmacy. Literally. I was so embarrassed, but I was also distressed because I knew I needed that dang DHA. The DHA helps with mood swings and I knew that without it I would turn into the princess of darkness.

When I called the doctor’s office back, they just gave me a generic chewable instead...again without the DHA. UGH! I was so frustrated because I knew what I needed. BUT, I also didn’t want to become known as the pain in the ass patient. So, I asked my pharmacist what she would do if she were me, and she encouraged me to buy an over the counter prenatal with the DHA to tide me over for a month.

Nature’s Bounty Your Life Multi (with DHA) 
This was a good prenatal, chocked full of a ton of vitamins including A, C and B-12. It’s got the DHA and the prenatal all in one so you’ve only got to take one pill a day, which was convenient. They were affordable ($12.99/60 pills) and on sale (buy one get one free!) For about a week, these were doing great, and then they started to make me throw up. I figured out that if I waited 30-40 minutes after a meal to take them, they didn’t make me throw up. They did make me pretty constipated, so I have been eating a ton of fiber.

Once I got back to the doctor at the end of the month, I asked for another option, preferably one with DHA, they gave me one!

PreferaOB plus DHA 
Finally! I got one that really, really worked for me. Chocked full of iron, but not loaded up on other vitamins, this prenatal comes in two pills, but they are small, so it’s no biggie. My insurance covers them, and they don’t make me sick at all. Also, I noticed that after switching to these, I had less anxiety (another side effect this first trimester has had on me!) I think some of that may have had to do with the large amounts of vitamins in the other prenatals--that has happened to me before.

I’m sticking with these vitamins, and I am so happy to have finally found ones that work for me!

Ricotta Meatballs Recipe

I love meatballs. Regular meatballs, spicy meatballs, or turkey meatballs--if it's meat in the shape of a ball, it's for me, plain and simple. So for a while now, I've been brewing this recipe in my head to make ricotta meatballs. I mean, who in their right mind doesn't love cheese and meat all together in one great bite? Crazy people, that's who.

I only had one problem: morning sickness. It was keeping me from wanting anything to do with the cooking end of my kitchen for about a month. It was a dark month filled with *gasp* ramen noodles and caesar salads and apples. I would honestly like to never again speak of this, but it's not like I have to be ashamed...I'm growing a human here, and it gets a little strange sometimes.

Anyway, now that I am officially out of that god-awful phase, I have been getting back in the kitchen and the first order of business was making some meatballs! This is a very simple meatball, I assure you. Simple is good. Simple is great, actually.


Simple round-up of ingredients here: a pound of ground meat (I used venison, but you can use beef or turkey or whatever you fancy!), 1 egg, 2 cloves garlic, ricotta cheese, bread crumbs, cayenne pepper, oregano, salt and pepper. 

Basically you are going to throw all these ingredients into a medium bowl and then you are going to remove your wedding rings. Or any rings that you may be wearing. 

Because the only way (I repeat ONLY WAY) to properly mix a good meatball is with your hands. Your. Bare. Hands. Mix it up. 

Now, normally I would put down some parchment paper on my pan, but I was out and so I just greased my pan instead. Do what you will. 
Now make your meatballs into nice rounds and lay them out on your pan. I like mine about the size of my palm. I always take a nice picture to give you perspective. But this is my personal preference. Heck, you can make these suckers the size of softballs if you want. 

Then, I popped them into the oven on HIGH BROIL for 12 minutes. This gives them a nice brown and I think it helps them to stay together. 

If you want to talk about this further: I know that some people (eh-hem, some people in my family) like to fry their meatballs, which gives the same effect. However, my thing is, the less I can move these meatballs around, the better. Plus, this does them all in one shot which is generally easier for me. 

One more thing: when I pulled these out of the oven, I got a big whiff of them and it was GLORIOUS! To me, these smell like Christmas, which I guess means that I think they smell like love and family. I feel all warm and fuzzy. 

Next? Pop them into a big old pot of pasta sauce. 
I used a recipe of THE Marinara Sauce but I want to also note that I used my home canned tomatoes, not store bought. You can use canned sauce, too--no shame and NO judgments!!! 

Let these suckers simmer away for at least 40 minutes or until you are ready to serve them.... 

I served mine with rigatoni. Seriously though, is it just me or does anyone else love shaped pasta?! I just feel like it tastes so good. Because of the shape, obviously. 

Billie's Ricotta Meatballs 

Time: 1 hr | Makes 15 meatballs | Difficulty: Easy! 

You Will Need: 

1 pound of ground meat (I used venison, but feel free to go with whatever you like)
1 egg 
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of ricotta cheese 
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (mine were seasoned) 
1 teaspoon oregano
10 grinds each of fresh salt and pepper 

A pot of sauce, which can be homemade or store bought (NO JUDGEMENTS!) 


Combine the meat, egg, garlic, ricotta, breadcrumbs, oregano, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Remember to take of your rings. Mix it up reeeeeaaaaalllllly well with your hands. Do not use a spoon. Only with your hands. 

Grease a pan or line it with parchment paper. Roll that nicely mixed meatball meat into palm-sized rounds, and place them on your greased pan. You should get about 15. 

Place your meatballs in the oven on a high broil for 12 minutes. 

Get a pan of sauce heating on the stove if you haven't already. When the meatballs are done in the oven, they should have a nice crisp layer on top and smell delicious. Plop them into your sauce and allow them to simmer for about 40 minutes or until you are ready to serve. 

Serve over your favorite pasta with parmesan cheese on top!!!! 

Notes From The First Trimester

Me showing off my lil tiny bump (10 weeks)

I am 12 weeks pregnant now, which means that I am nearly out of the first trimester of my first pregnancy. I have to say, I am totally relived to be out of this first trimester because it was HARD for a number of reasons (one being not telling anyone about the pregnancy!) It was also a learning experience for me as a woman, a wife, and a person.

I wanted to share some of my experiences in the hope that others can relate and/or feel better (or just good) about whatever is going on in their first trimesters. I hope you will all share your experiences with me in the comments section below!!!!

Oh the morning sickness
Call me crazy (it wouldn't be the first time) but I thought that I wasn’t going to have morning sickness...that is probably because my mom bragged about how she never had any! If you are one of those women who don’t get morning sickness, you are lucky honey! But for me, at seven weeks, I was not only nauseous, but I threw up a number of times. It was crazy-terrible because nausea, for me, is an awful feeling.

The only way to beat it? Eat. I kid you not. Eating every two hours helped a ton, but it wasn’t the easiest thing to get used to. Luckily, about week 10 or 11, the nausea began to ebb. So if you have morning sickness hang in there, it gets better.

The idea of food was unappetizing 
The strangest part of being pregnant was that the idea of certain foods made me feel sick. It wasn’t actually the food itself. Often, once I started eating, I was just fine, but thinking about eating made me grimace, literally. This led to some funny eating the week I ate spaghetti with clam sauce five days in a row because that was all that sounded good. Or the fact that I have eaten more caesar salad in the past month than in my whole life.

I just went with it. Whatever sounded good was what I ate. Period. I tried to keep it as healthy as possible, but honestly when you can’t stomach much, it doesn’t much matter.

Exhaustion like I’ve never had
I sleep a lot anyway, but the type of tired I was: insane. Somedays all I did was watch television in bed because anything else was too taxing. I fell asleep at 8:00pm on the regular. I skipped workouts because I just couldn’t get out of bed. It felt like it was going to be forever, but it wasn’t. My energy started to come back as I approached the second trimester. So don’t worry, your energy will come back, too.

Why am I crying? 
I would cry for no reason at all. One minute I would talking normally and the next, I would be crying. It made no sense. Other times I would be angry over something so simple, I seemed like a crazy person. The emotional roller coaster of those hormones hitting my system was not pretty for a couple of weeks there...even my mom told me I was being, eh-hem, bitchy. Worst part? I couldn’t disagree with her!

Meditation helped...but so did alone time. If no one is around, there is no one to get mad at!

Side sleeping....ugh! 
I have always been the type that slept on my stomach, until now. The first week I was pregnant that went out the door because my breasts were so sore I couldn’t lay on them. I’m learning to side sleep, but it doesn’t come easy. Here’s a tip: pillow between the knees, and one down the side. I’m getting the hang of it, and I’m getting one of those pregnancy pillows soon too!

Putting the pants on 
I have read how women hold out on getting in the maternity pants, but at 12 weeks, I had to give in as my lil' bump popped out. My pants were just uncomfortable. And wearing them unbuttoned just didn’t make sense to me. Maternity pants are COMFORTABLE and hey you’re pregnant, so why not? I get it ,though, because I was a bit reluctant. I got a much-needed confidence boost from my husband who said, “Put them on, it’s fun!” and then he added, “You should be proud!” I AM proud!

I was also lucky because a friend of mine gave me a ton of maternity pants. So check with your girlfriends who have children--they might be willing to help you out and get you in some maternity pants!

Bossy Italian Meditation Review: Creating Abundance with Deepak Chopra

If you read my review of the Perfect Health meditation review, than you already know that I am HUGE fan of Deepak Chopra's guided meditations. They are a great way to get your meditation in and have a little structure in doing so...I can always use structure, and honestly, I thrive on it. So I was thrilled to be moving on to Creating Abundance Challenge, which is (again) a 21-day challenge.

Can we just take a moment to talk about abundance? I don't know what it means to the rest of you, but for me it's a feeling. You have to be able to FEEL the abundance in your life in order to see it. No matter who you are, I guarantee you that there are things that are abundant in your life. I feel that abundance always thrives with the power of positive thought.

I used to be very big into actively using the power of positive thought. I used it for everything and it made me so happy and it genuinely allowed me to see the magic of life. I am sorry to say that it took me doing this 21-day meditation challenge to realize just how far off the mark I had gotten. It wasn't so much that I was in a "negative" way, but I wasn't working my positivity...and that was getting me down a little, I think.

This was the PERFECT time in my life for me to do this meditation challenge. I'm pregnant, as you all might know, and the first trimester? It's an ass-kicker. So cultivating a little joy and abundance? Priceless. I credit this meditation challenge with making me a generally more tolerable human in the last several weeks. That's not to say you have to be a grumpy preggo to benefit from this challenge. In fact, I think everyone should do it....we'd all be a lot nicer and more positive!

I loved it so much that I think I'm going to do it again. BUT, first, there is a new challenge coming up with Deepak and Oprah! It's called "Desire and Destiny" and it begins on November 11th!!!!! I'm really excited about this one because it's FREEEEEEEEEE! And I'm not going to say that I manifested it with the power of positive thought or anything, but I will say that I was hoping for a new program to come about and I am feeling pretty darn happy about it! CLICK HERE to get registered for the new challenge, or to learn about this one!

*This was not a paid review. The opinions I've expressed are my own and I love these programs so I thought y'all should know about 'em! 

Stuff I Use: Bodem Electric Water Kettle

I am a big fan of hot tea, but if you can believe it, up until this past August I didn't own a tea pot. Now, I have tea pots that you pour the hot water into....but I didn't have a pot to boil water in. I know...the irony is rich. What I used to do was boil water in a pan and then make the tea in the tea pot. Not exactly stone age technology, but there was distinct room for improvement.

When I went to visit my sister-in-law in Scotland in February, she had an electric water kettle that was amazing to use. It wasn't long until my mother-in-law got a Bodem one in her own home, and I was like, "Oh my god! I must have one too!!!" But I ONLY wanted the Bodem one that my mother-in-law has because it was an awesome green one and it would match my kitchen.

My champagne tastes on my ramen noodle budget prevented me from going out and getting one. I would stalk them online, but I just couldn't click and purchase. Lucky for me, I have awesome family. For my birthday, my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law went in and got me my very own Bodem. I am totally in love with this thing.

It boils water SO FAST! And I swear, I use this thing so much, I have no idea how I lived without it before. Lately, I have been using to make my instant coffee in the morning. During my first trimester, I have been caffeine free, and rather than brewing a whole extra pot of coffee (and battle my husband over that point) I figured instant would be the way to go. So every morning I use the Bodem to get my cup o' joe on!

Also, I use to make a quick broth from bullion when I am making soups. And I have been making a ton of soups lately because they seem to be one of my favorite things during pregnancy. Can we also just talk about how positively cute this thing is?! It's modern, and lovely, and sleek and it matches my Kitchen Aid Mixer. I swear, this point makes me sooooo happy. So. Happy.

If you are looking for an electric water kettle, I have to say that this is the cream of the crop. You will love this sucker. 

10 Years, 1 Amazing Announcement....

Generally each Halloween, I write a nice post about my husband and I because Halloween is the day we became an official "us." This Halloween marks 10 awesome years of togetherness, and also an amazing announcement we are overjoyed to share with everyone....

That's right: Our family is officially growing!!!! 

My husband and I are really excited to share with the world that the Criswell family is getting another buckaroo! And honestly, aren't those little boots adorable?! They were my husband's when he was a wee lad. Now we don't know if it's a boy or a girl...I'm just 11 weeks right now, but what we do know? This is big news and it's gonna change a lot around here. 

So if you've been wondering where in the heck I've been in the blogosphere, well, the simple answer is that I have been growing a darn baby. Contrary to all those awesome pictures you see where pregnant women look all happy and well rested, I have been anything but these past weeks! I couldn't stomach food for about two of them, was too exhausted to do anything during the last month, and was just plain hormonally imbalanced for several weeks now. Long story short? I was hiding out! 

Now that we are nearly in the second trimester, I am feeling loads better (and a lot more excited). I'm ready to get back out into the world and resume most of my normal schedule. That includes blogging. AND, as I am sure you can imagine, I am completely stoked to add some great new pregnancy oriented blogs to my roster! 

So the format may be changing a little around here, but don't worry, you can expect the same great sass and recipes with a little bit more family stuff!!! I hope you are all as excited as my husband and I to welcome a new little bossy-pants to the family!!!! 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! And happy anniversary, babe, it's been a great 10 years!!!! *Muah!*