Peppermint Patties & Other Holiday Crafts

It's the most wonderful time of the year! 

I love Christmas so very much, and since my daughter was born, I think my Christmas spirit is more spirit-y than ever before. I kick off my Christmasing right after the Thanksgiving holiday with Christmas tree decoration. We get a real tree, and this year we did something pretty cool: we rode our bikes to get our tree from the tree farm down the road. It was pretty memorable for my husband and I, and I dare say, I think we had the tree farm boys quite amused as well. 

I wanted to share some of holiday stuff that I've been doing in case you need a little inspiration, or find a tip or trick that might work well for your household! First up, a picture of what decoration a tree with a 18-month-old is really like...hehe. 


After this photo was taken, I said to my sister-in-law that THIS is what is real. I mean, yes, it's great to have smiley pictures having to do with the holidays, but let's me real: after hauling the tree, getting it set up, and being SO PATIENT about my husband getting the lights precise, this was exactly how I was feeling! Plus, there was the nervousness of not knowing how this whole tree and 18-month-old thing was going to go...which brings me to this: 


   

Ah, Pinterest. I love you soooo much. I saw a picture of a felt tree on there, and I said I have got to make one of those puppies! Granted, is my crafty version of a felt Christmas tree as good as some others? No, but that is not the point! The point is that this is where I direct my little darling when saying "just look" at the real Christmas tree doesn't work. This is activity board I think she'll get a couple of years out of (at least I hope so) and I love it. Great addition to our home and very festive, don't you think? 

And finally....my new Christmas project... candies!!! 


These are a very simple recipe I found for peppermint patties on--you guessed it--Pinterest! I have never been one to tackle candy making, but these just caught my eye. They were as simple as was promised. So easy, in fact, that the majority of them I actually went a step farther and covered them in chocolate! YUM! I am storing those in the fridge and planning to now make my own Mounds inspired candies from a similar recipe. CLICK HERE for the recipe from Mom on Time Out. One change I made was that I used pure peppermint essential oil (from Young Living) instead of extract. It's the purest tasting mint and is food grade. 

My husband thought that these mints were good on their own...but we also agree they are better with chocolate. I bought that melt-in-the-microwave chocolate and it worked well. And I mean, seriously, if I can get these made with an 18-month-old tugging at my apron, so can you! They are impressive for the holidays and make the perfect little gift for that special someone!! 

What are you holiday projects?! Please share them with me in the comments section below--include some links because, who knows, I may need to try them for myself! 


HuffPost Live with Rachel Ray

As some of you may or may not know, I have always thought that Rachel Ray and I would make excellent friends. Well, apparently the universe agrees because it FINALLY bought us together.

Quick story: about two years ago, when I was pregnant, Rachel Ray had a contest for her talk show, which had to do with cooking. I sent in my tape and filled out the application, and actually got a call back from her staff, which was SO COOL. They ultimately passed on me, which was fine because we would have been taping, like, hours before I gave birth. So it all worked out.

Anyway, the fabulous Ms. Ray has a new book called "Everyone Is Italian on Sunday"--catchy, right?! And so HuffPost Live asked me if I wanted to be part of the segment. It's been a while since I've had the opportunity to do anything with HuffPost because, well, having an 18 month old and all that jazz. So being back in the HuffPost saddle was amazing!!!

Check us out by CLICKING HERE. (I'm at the end, and they call me "Stephanie"--this is my life, people, what can I say?!) 

FIRE CIDER!!!!!!!!!! {With Recipe}


How do you all find your immunity these days? Mine used to feel strong as nails, but since my daughter was born...well, not so much.

Over the last year, my immune system has been in the doldrums of its existence. I have heard other women talk about how they felt so healthy while they are breastfeeding, but I just haven't found this to be true for myself. In fact, last winter was a particularly difficult one for me in the illness department, as I got the flu so bad that I actually got shingles!

Coming into the summer, I began to notice that my digestive system just ain't what it used to be. Turns out, over the last several months, I have become lactose intolerant. But I am skeptical of this....even though I have gotten MAJORLY ill from eating ice cream (not once, but twice.) Rather than throwing in the dairy towel completely, I got it in my head that I could heal my gut.

In my journey to healing my gut, I came across fire cider. This awesome concoction is not only great for your immune system, but it's also said to help heal your gut. And since I am such a fan of Mother's Vinegar, which is the main ingredient, I really wanted to give this home remedy a whirl.



It's said to be an old folk remedy, actually, and it takes up to a month to steep, which is why it's taken me sooo long to write this post (well, okay, maybe not, but we'll go with it). For me, living in a small town, the ingredient list was a little challenging to find, but given the challenges, I think I did pretty well and I am totally stoked on my fire cider. I have given this a couple of whirls now, and so I have been able to tweak my recipe a little. It's obviously best if you can use organic and/or homegrown ingredients, but like I learned with my horseradish root, this isn't always going to be possible. Just do your best.

I wanted to share my recipe, which was adapted from Mommypotamous (who, by the way, is amazing) in the hopes that some of you might be interested in making fire cider as well. After giving my first batch a taste, I have to say it's pretty spicy, but I do enjoy the taste. I mixed in some raw honey to give it that extra BAZINGA. My mom felt it wasn't quite as tasty I did, but she still drank it and said, "I think it did something!" I'll take it!


Notice the wax paper on the lids? For whatever reason, you can't have the metal lids touching your infusion. I don't ask questions when directions like this are given, I just follow. Call me a sheep...baaaaa. Now I don't refrigerate this while it's infusing--and let's talk a moment about that; it's not a fermentation, it's an infusion. These are different processes, or so I'm told. I've not tackled fermentation yet. All you need to know is that vinegar is a heck of a thing, and it's not going to go bad. But you do need to shake it every day. If you forget on your first batch (like I totally did) it'll be okay. More important than the shaking part is the storing it in a cool dark place part. 

After waiting...and waiting...and waiting...for a whole month...then you strain out the solids, add some raw honey and VIOLA! Fire cider! YAY! 


Then you can take it several ways. Add it to dressing. Add it to juice. Add it to tea. Or just do like I do and take a shot with lunch. It's how I roll. I mean, seriously, who has time to drink a whole cup of juice with an 18 month old running around? Not me, that's who. What I can say is that in the first week of taking my cider, I was able to eat smaller amounts of dairy without any ill digestive consequences. So I am going to say I'm impressed so far. 

Anyway, if by now you've read this entire post and are ready to tackle fire cider, here's the recipe. I have to suggest that when you fall in love with your first batch, immediately make a second batch. This way, when you work your way through the first, another will be waiting! Also, wouldn't this make a great gift for Christmas?! 


Fire Cider Recipe 
Time: 30 ish minutes +1 month | Makes: 1.5 pints | Difficulty: Easy

You Will Need:

1/2 cup horseradish root, peeled and diced
1/2 cup organic ginger root, peeled and diced
1 organic lemon, sliced into rings 
1/2 (or up to 1 whole) organic onion 
1 bulb organic garlic, minced (you can use much more, up to 1/2 cup) 
1 tablespoon ground turmeric 
1 sprig fresh organic rosemary 
2 organic jalapeƱos, sliced 
Bragg's vinegar to fill 1 quart 

Glass quart jar with lid 
Wax paper 

Raw honey, to taste. 

Method:

Add all your herbs and solid ingredients to the jar. Fill with the vinegar. cover the lid with wax paper and then the lid. Give a little shake to combine.

Store in a cool, dark place, shaking once a day for a month.

You may need to top it off after a day or two, just keep a good eye on it, and make sure the solids are covered by the vinegar.

When the month has finally passed, strain out the solids. Add raw honey to taste (I used about two tablespoons) and shake to combine. Store in the refrigerator and take about a shot glass worth each day, more if you are feeling sick! 

Make This Apple Cake {Happy Fall Y'all}

The Criswell house has been quite busy these days! My husband started a new job at the local high school (which, I have to brag, I am so proud of him), I've been working, and Ruby has been busy growing like a weed...which seems to all manifest in her bangs, which, no, we don't want to cut, thankyouverymuch.

In all the hullaballoo, I haven't really had much to blog. Because my "free time" (hahahaha) has been taken up with canning the end of season goodies like apples and peppers, working, and podcasting with my buddy Paul. If you haven't checked out my podcast, Honestly, please do, I'm pretty proud of it, and we're now in our second season.

And here we are: it's fall! I love fall. It's just a beautiful season with cooler breezes and falling leaves. I feel a sense of energy in the fall season, and I love how I naturally begin cooking differently. YES, I have been cooking, in case you were wondering. It's just that these days, it's a challenge to get a recipe down (with pictures, no less) when I have a tiny person clinging to my legs and yelling "MILK!"

Speaking of the fall season and all it's bounty: APPLES!

After purchasing a box of apples from my favorite local farmer, Paul Parsons, over at Parsons Farm in Dagsboro, well, it seemed logical that I would make a cake. Because my sweet tooth is alive and well (read: it's a son-of-a-bitch monster that is out to kill me.)

So, of course, I went to Pinterest to find one, and what I came up with was THIS RECIPE. I substituted oil for the butter, but otherwise followed it to the letter. And it was so good I was like, ermagerd, I have to share this on my blog.



This cake is *trigger word alert* SO MOIST! It's perfectly sweet, too, without a ton of sugar being added, which I think is a true accomplishment. So if you are looking for a simple and excellent apple cake, this is the best thing that could happen to you all week. Seriously.

Also, if you are hankering for more of my original recipes (or, like me, you haven't quite satisfied your apple sweet tooth), you can check out this good one from the archives for apple dump cake! Either way, I want to wish you happy fall, and a happy apple season!

We Need To Talk: You Can't "Invite" Rape

The other day a friend of mine posted THIS LINK on Facebook. It's a good read (quick, with good bolded headlines--haha), that basically says we have to stop judging other mothers about what they are or aren't doing. Which I totally agree with.

But some people misunderstood the exercise...and took it as an opportunity to get up on their weird-ass soap boxes. One woman in particular went OFF about how breastfeeding mothers need to cover up in public or (oh my god!) take it to the bathroom. To the bathroom. I can't even. When I tried to explain to her (nicely) about how eating in a bathroom is gross, the conversation got EVEN MORE STRANGE, and she talked about how not covering up when breastfeeding was inviting rape. Rape.

It's been on my mind for days. Not because it was infuriating, which it was, but because of the inaccuracies and the belief that women can invite rape in the first place. The entire breastfeeding issue aside, I was completely bowled over that someone would lay responsibility of even an imaginary assault at the feet of a woman...

Some might say that this is a matter of opinion, which is precisely my issue. YOU ABSOLUTELY CANNOT INVITE RAPE. PERIOD. FULL STOP. 

If we presume that women can somehow prevent rape, the flip side of that is the belief that men cannot control themselves and their sexual urges. I believe this was the cornerstone of the argument the woman on Facebook was presenting...that breastfeeding publicly without covering up entices men to then assault women. The danger (aside from the total inaccuracy) in this kind of thinking that is that it absolves assailants of of their personal responsibility when it comes to this vicious crime and instead places it on the victims.

But that isn't how rape really works. From what science and research tell us, sexual assault is rarely (if ever) about sex--it's about control. And women (or men, who can also be victims of rape) cannot possibly know how rapists think, what turns them toward a particular victim, or any of the rest of it. The best way to prevent rape is for rapists to stop raping. And in our culture, that has to start with good foundations of parenting, sexual education, and ultimately, removing the stigma from victims who come forward.

How on earth can we remove the stigma if our attitudes are that women can prevent their own assaults? It's egregious to me that any woman would be so  unsupportive of other women in this regard...and maybe it's belief born of fear. Maybe it's some religious thing. Maybe it's a lot of things. But what it's NOT is okay with me.

I know that rape isn't a pleasant topic. Sexual assault isn't something people want to hear about or think about, but the reality is that is happens, whether we ignore it or not. It's a huge issue for women at home and abroad. Luckily, some celebrities are beginning to help shed light on the topic, like Lady Gaga's new music video. But there are also set backs...like the fact that Ke$ha is being essentially blackballed for coming forward about her own sexual abuse. 

So what can we do? Well, for one, we can continue talking about it, unapologetically. Mothers and fathers need to talk to their sons and daughters about what sexual consent means (and does not mean.) When you see or hear someone victim blaming, don't tolerate it. Share this blog post. Or write your own. But don't sit idol as people say these things, whether it's online or in real life.

Because an attitude that women can prevent their own sexual assaults is dangerous for all of us. 

I'm Not "Back" (And I Don't Want To Be)

I remember when my daughter was about a month old and I kept thinking "if I can get back to my old routine, I'll be okay." Ha! Sure. That type of thinking was naive and it was never gonna happen. But in hindsight, I have to ask myself,"why did I feel that way to begin with?"

I think it's because our expectation is that we--as women-- need to get ourselves "back" after childbirth... Back to work. Back to body. Back to life... As though it never happened. Part of this has to do with the fact that we are completely discombobulated by the entire experience. We are irrevocably changed, hormonally on the ropes, and it's all a little disconcerting at the start.

But the truth is that childbirth is a singular experience. It's unlike anything else and, once you've come through it, the icing on the cake is you've got a whole new family member. Life will never be the same.

So what does going back really mean, anyway?

I found myself thinking about this as I simultaneously kept my child from jumping off the settee in the living room and read THIS Hello Giggles article about Kerry Washington speaking about how utterly unproductive the language of "going back" is. And I couldn't agree more.

The day my daughter was born, a new version of me was also born; only I didn't know it then. It took me a while to grow into and accept my new roles as a mom and person. I was changed in some unexpected and great ways. Sure, I sometimes mourned the changes, but mostly, I celebrate them. There is, as Washington says, no going back. There was never a way to go back, and we've got to stop telling women this outright lie

A lot of emphasis on this theme has to do with our bodies. On that note all I can say is that my body now is a thing if wonder. I have stretched myself to the brink of its capability and I'm so proud. Breastfeeding is an amazing weight loss regimen (inadvertently I had to give up dairy and lost even more!) I don't mourn a single second for my prebaby body. I know that some women do, but I want to urge self acceptance.

As for work, what can I say? I work from home, as I have for the past several years, and I continue to evolve in my career. My newspaper column was canceled, but at the end of the day, I had to just keep my chin up and continue to press forward in ways that felt fresh and healthy. Because it's not about getting anything back--not even the things that clearly have been lost as a result of motherhood.

All I want for myself and my family is be whole. Mothers and fathers have to find new ways to do that once a baby joins the family, and I think mothers have a few more changes to sift through than fathers. So we should support one another on our journey. No pressure. Don't strive to do anything other be yourself as the new mother who was born on your child's birthday. Scars and all, we are fabulous, strong people!

If women could stop using wrote language with one another when it comes to our childbirth/mothering experiences, it would be easier to do this. Stop asking mothers if they are feeling "back" to things...back to their old size, or back to normal. These things don't truly mean anything. It's like asking if your baby sleeps well (no one really wants to discuss this, do they?) Instead, maybe we could ask one another how we are moving forward. Ask: how has this monumental life moment changed things for you? Ask: how do you feel differently now that you're a mother (or father)?

These questions have value and they start new conversations that allow us to think and process our new challenges as women and parents.

I don't feel back to anything...and I don't want to be. I'm evolving in new ways since I've become a mother, and I'm damn proud of it! 

Breastfeeding Past 1 Year

I always knew that I was going to breastfeed. I was completely determined, which was a good thing because it's not always easy, but it's definitely worth it. When I was a baby, my mom breastfed me, and I self-weaned at 10 months. So, I figured that I would probably be breastfeeding my own daughter about that long...so that was my goal.

As it goes with parenting, though, best laid plans go awry, and goal posts are constantly being moved. This is how I found it with breastfeeding: the 10 month mark came and went and my gal was showing no signs of slowing down. Since I found breastfeeding to not only be quite convenient, but also bonding, I felt no reason to slow down, either.

This image of us breastfeeding was also shared on
Take Back Postpartum,
     which seeks to normalize a diversity of postpartum 
        experiences and help women love their bodies.   
And now here we are: my daughter is 15 months and we are still going strong!! I'm very proud. But there are lots of things about breastfeeding after 1 year that are different from newborns and infants, so I figured, hey, I'd share my experience so that others could relate, commiserate, or maybe even get some answers.

Let's talk facts
The worldwide average for weaning is 4 years old. I know lots of moms who breastfed as long. So there is nothing wrong with breastfeeding until you and/or your baby is ready to stop. It's a personal decision. But breastmilk continually changes to give your growing tike the nutrients and immunities they need. Don't EVER let someone tell you that "if they can ask for it, they are too old." First of all, it's no one's business, and secondly, it's just plain false. Breastfeeding is the gift that keeps on giving. I've continued to lose weight and feel amazing, and I know I am nourishing my daughter.

I also find it to be the best (most effective) comfort for upset feelings, boo-boos, nap time, and bedtime. While my daughter doesn't breastfeed as much during the day at this point, she does enjoy touching base with me throughout the day and leaning in for some quick milk. And, despite still breastfeeding like a champion, she's also quite a terrific eater. She eats three solid meals a day, and sometimes a snack.


Let's talk teeth & tweaking
Ugh. The biting. It happens. It's not quite as bad as it sounds (surprisingly), but requires swift intervention. The thing that I have found the most helpful is when she bites (which, I'm sorry to say can sometimes be on purpose), is that I put her down and say "I guess you're not hungry." And it upsets her, and so she stops. I have also found the biting thing waxes and wanes. I'll have a couple weeks where she gives me trouble with it, and then she stops for a couple months.

Another annoyance can be nipple tweaking. OUCH! I am slowly breaking my daughter of this habit. I was interested to learn that the tweaking thing actually serves a purpose; it stimulates letdown in the breast they are eating out of. Ah, nature, sometimes you are a devil! Haha. Of course, it's not comfortable, so I don't encourage the behavior. You can help break it by holding your baby's hand, or offering them a blanket to twist instead.

Jokes!
I was surprised to learn that my toddler JOKES with me while breastfeeding which is sooooo funny. She'll take my nipple and say "nom nom nom" like she's eating food. It's hilarious! These little moments between us are so sweet, and I know that someday they will gone. With her getting older, there is no telling when she'll be ready, so I just enjoy the little things while I can!

It eases worry 
There are times when my daughter doesn't want to eat table food because maybe she's sick or teething  or whatever. When this happens, I find that breastfeeding eases my worry because I know that her nutritional needs are being met--what a relief!

She's a pro and so am I 
At this point, we are both breastfeeding pros. I remember in the beginning, I had to think about what to wear for easy access, or I would cautiously look around in public. Now? I hardly think about what I wear, or how to nurse in public. We are both good on the go, at home, and just about anywhere in between! We've hit a sweet spot.




So what has your experience been like breastfeeding your older baby? Please feel free to share in the comments section below! 

Hello 30!

Today, I am 30 years old. While some people might be wallowing or lamenting, I'm super excited. I have always wanted to be 30. For me, it seems like an age that has experience behind it, and I suppose I always thought that when I got here, I would be considered an adult. I don't know if I particularly feel like an adult or not--in fact, sometimes I feel 16!--but nonetheless, I am really happy to be here.

I was going to write a post that 30 focused...something about things you should've done by 30, or thing you should be over by 30, or whatever. But the truth is, in my now 30 years of experience, the whole "shoulds" and "maturity" things can be highly overrated. And while I enjoy being my bossy self, I don't want to tell anyone what they should be doing.

So instead, I'd like to tell you about 30 things I've done in my 30 years. Maybe you can relate, and maybe you can't, but it's my blog and my birthday, and I'm in a sharing mood. So...here we gooooooo!

1. Traveled to Europe with my mom.
2. Breastfed my baby for over a year (WOOOO! Go us!)
3. Been with my husband for 12 years--married for five!
4. Had a natural childbirth experience.
5. Seen over 100 concerts in 3 countries (35 of which were Phish shows).
6. Auditioned for the local TV station....twice.
7. Not been given the job by the local TV station...twice.
8. Traveled to Europe with my best friend.
9. Failed...more than once. (Always a good learning experience!)
10. Been a massage therapist.
11. Been an office manager.
12. Worked for myself as a writer.
13. Been a stay at home mom (maybe my favorite job so far!)
14. Self published a novella. (Careful, it's awfully STEAMY!)
15. Made my own mayonnaise.
16. Developed a lactose intolerance later in life...boo!
17. Had shingles (I totally don't recommend this one!)
18. Given up dairy, and actually liked it.
19. Been in several stage productions, including my dream role as Juliet.
20. Owned chickens for the past couple of years.
21. Canned with my mother and mother-in-law, learning a ton about preserving food!
22. Learned how to let go, whether it's in friendships, or love, or family.
23. Had my own podcast--which was so fun, and something I hope to do again soon!
24. Learned new depths of love as I walk down the road of life, both in marriage and family.
25. Lived in the city, and in the country. (Country suits me best!)
26. Slept under the stars.
27. Stayed up all night so many times that I no longer feel the need.
28. Had a lot of great pet over the years, and fostered a healthy love of animals.
29. Lived with lots of interesting roommates! (Just typing that made me smile!)
30. Made lifelong friends, and formed a community of friends and family who make my life so incredibly rich, I know that I am lucky lucky LUCKY!

As I look at my list, I am so happy to have had all these experiences. I am so incredibly grateful for the things I have had, and the great things coming in my future. I love a quote I once heard--and you've probably seen it floating around the Internet-- "Do no regret getting older, it is a privilege denied to many." I like it because it helps keeps impermanence in perspective.

Also, one more thing...ever since I had my daughter, I understand the importance of my birthday for my own mother. So, I also want to say THANK YOU to my mom--for all her hard work bringing me earthside. I love being alive, and I love sharing this life's journey with her. So happy birthday TO ME and MY MOM. I hope you all have a great day today, and every day! 

BLT {Inspired} Flatbread Recipe

I like things that sound hard, but are really very easy. Like making your own flatbread from scratch. It sounds like it would be time consuming, but really, it's so simple. Like, you can make it when you are chasing after a one year old simple. I appreciate that kind of simple, don't you?

I have been positively obsessed with this flatbread for about four months. As in: I make this every week. I originally found the flatbread recipe on Pinterest, which you all should know by now is like my favorite place to get new recipes. So. Many. Pictures!

I've tweaked the recipe over time, and now it's all mine. It's my answer to pizza, which, since giving up dairy, I miss so very much. Now, I barely remember that I miss it because this flatbread is the best ever.


Also worth the mention, you can make the dough a couple of days ahead and let it hang out in the refrigerator. Isn't that awesome? In addition to that, this is also one of my 15-month-old daughter's favorite dinners. I make her a smaller, individual flatbread and she goes to town on it!

Now, obviously you can top your flatbread however you want to. My topping combo is mostly just a suggestion. So I'm mostly writing this post so that you can get in on this awesomely awesome flatbread recipe. Good anytime of the year with a variety of topping, your tastebuds and family will thank you for making this!

BLT {Inspired} Flatbread Recipe 

Time: Active: 15 minutes Inactive: 2 hrs | Makes 4 Flatbreads | Difficulty: Easy (ish) 

You Will Need: 

Flatbread: 
2 teaspoons sugar 
2 teaspoons yeast 
1 cup of hot water 
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour 

cornmeal for dusting

Toppings: 

4 (ish) tablespoons mayo 
2 cloves garlic 
8 slices of bacon, sliced up into pieces  
Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half 
Fresh basil, chopped 
Blue cheese (optional)
Avocado, sliced 

Method

In a small bowl (or mason jar), mix your sugar and yeast. Add the hot water, and stir. Allow it to sit for five minutes until it forms a foamy "head." 

In a medium bowl (I like to use my glass bowl that has a lid) place your flour. Add the foamy yeast water to the flour and mix with your hands until a dough is formed. Knead the dough to come together, but don't over mix. When it's a good ball of dough, cover and allow it to rise for 1 hour. 

When it's risen for the hour, punch it down and knead a bit. At this point, you can divide it into four equal balls, or you can do that later, your choice. Cover again and allow it rise until you are ready to use it. If you are making this ahead, you can also put it in the refrigerator at this point for up to two days! 

When you are ready to bake it: 
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Divide the dough into four equal portions. Flour your hands and surface. Roll out the dough using a rolling pin and place on a cornmeal dusted sheet pan. 

To top: 
I like to make a pseudo-garlic aioli by mixing the mayo and garlic. Divide it amongst the flatbreads, spreading evenly. Then go ahead and top your flatbreads however you like best; again, these are just suggestions and I like a variety of flatbread toppings (like bbq sauce, chicken and onions!).

Then, throw these suckers in the oven and bake about 15 minutes.

Serve with a salad, glass of wine, and eat in the company of those you love! 

When Being a SAHM is the Pits

I love being at home with my daughter. It's awesome watching her grow and learn new things, and I cherish the time we spend together....mostly. Like anything in life, it has it's downsides. Some very specific downsides. Here are a few times when it downright sucks to be at home with a kid.

On a rainy day
OH MY GAWD. Just let us out! Some days when it's just too rainy to go outside (but still warm) I find myself climbing the walls and searching Pinterest for "rainy ay activities." Thank god for nap time, or I might lose my mind, which brings me to...

The day they don't nap
Even the best of sleepers has their moments. And when those moments come, I find myself terribly stressed. Nap time is my only break time. Well, I should say for me they aren't even really breaks, they are the times when I am available for working. So when she doesn't sleep, I don't work, and then I am stressed. By afternoon, I am feeling all kinds of crazy.

The day they don't want to be put down, like, at all.
These days I just wish I could get a memo that went something like, "Today you will not be allowed to put me down, at all." I would be better able to cope in that case. But these days come without warning and it's most likely to be on the days when you least expect it. By the time my husband walks through the door, I am practically throwing my kid at him. Though I have to say that on these days, I sometimes am able to find a touch of grace and remember that someday she won't want me to pick her up, and I hold her extra close.

When you are sick
This is my number one hate hate HATE being at home moment. There are no sick days for mom. None. Even when I am sick enough that I have to call over help, I find it so difficult to take the rest I actually need. I don't know why, exactly, but I guess it's in my DNA. For this reason, it takes me so much longer to recover, making the cycle go on for longer than I would like. It's the freaking worst.

When your husband needs alone time 
They need it...because they work and do a host of other fatherly duties that are essential to the function of the family. So I understand the logic between "hey I need a day" or even a weekend, away from the family to recharge. But....BUT! That doesn't make it easier on mom. As if we don't already work overtime on the regular, now you want me to pull an extra day--alone?! Sometimes it can be a breeze, and other weeks? Oh man, look out!

All in all, I love being a stay at homer. It's great...except when it's not. I read this saying once "the days are long but the years are short." Ain't that the truth. But if you are having a day that finds you on the ropes, just know we all have them and, yes, it sucks donkey balls.


Chickpea Summer Salad Recipe

"Never complain, never explain" 

<<this quote has been attributed to Katherine Hepburn, Benjamin Disraeli and Henry Ford, but since [apparently] none of them explain, we don't know who actually said it>>


How can I explain the lack of cooking posts on my formerly VERY cooking-centric blog? Well, maybe I shouldn't even try....All I can tell you is that I have, in fact been cooking. I've been cooking quite a lot and every time I think to myself, "I should put this on my blog!" 

But I don't. Mostly because I never have a camera handy. Sometimes you just gotta grab your camera phone and snap one and say "to hell" with picture quality. I guess. It's hard for me because I am recovering perfectionist. 

However, the other day, I made this salad, and I thought, "OH YES! Gotta share this one." So grab my phone I did. 

This summer salad is my new favorite. 

As many of you know, I've been on a journey since my daughter was born: a nondairy journey. At first, she couldn't tolerate the presence of dairy in my breastmilk. Then, I just liked having a nondairy diet. Now, it seems that through cutting out dairy I've developed a lactose intolerance. I have not come to grips with this fact totally and sometimes I wade in the dairy water, only to be sorry about it later. Very sorry, in fact. 

Anyway, this recipe is dairy free. But fabulous. And healthy. And light. And summery. 

Chickpea Summer Salad Recipe 

Time: 10 minutes | Serves: 4 | Difficulty: Easy 

You Will Need:

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced 
2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained 
olive oil
balsamic vinegar 
salt and pepper to taste 

Method:

Combine the ingredients in a medium bowl. 

For adding the dressing ingredients: Circle the bowl once with the olive oil. Add a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (less or more to taste--remembering you can always add more, but you can't add less!) 

Add in your salt and pepper. 

I like to let mine sit in the fridge a couple hours to get nice and cold and marinate. You can make it up to a day ahead and it'll be delicious! 

Manga! 


Dear Parents: Don't Drink The Kool-Aid

Dear Parents of America,

Hi. I've joined your ranks-- been here just over a year. In my time, I've noticed a few things that have grown me for a loop, prompting this here letter. You see, in America, I've noticed that we tend to worship at the altar of children, and to be honest, it's starting to scare me a little bit.

When I was a child, things were different. It's not that they were necessarily better, but they were different. You used to be able to do things like get in playground fights without being considered a terrorist, and we weren't all expected to be prodigies who excelled upon exit from the womb. We didn't have antibiotics in our chicken, and when I got my report card in elementary school "O" was a grade (for "outstanding," and it was above an A). We couldn't talk on the telephone during a lightening storm because you could get electrocuted. Through the phone.

Today, things are a little different for children. They graduate from preschool, kindergarten, fifth and eighth grades as well as high school and possibly college. Everyone gets a trophy at field day, and they are all packing organic bento boxes for lunch at school. They have cell phones and FaceBook and whatever other social media crap is coming down the pike that we'll have to learn about next. My how the times have changed...

In many ways today's kids are going to grow up with a lot more than we had, for example, the Internet, the instant connection to global society, and to be sure, they are going to be a hell of a lot more technologically savvy than we ever were. I already see how children of today are less racist, more tolerant, and generally more accepting of all types of lifestyles than anyone I've ever met. And that's all very cool.

But in a world that is so rapidly becoming global, are they going to have the skills to participate in the ways that will be asked of them? And what I mean by this is: we've gone overboard, and we're staggeringly close to the brink of disaster.

My generation is the first of it's kind. Many of our households had two parents who worked with few exceptions. So when you think about it, we're a generation of children who were raised by nannies, teachers, coaches, and other care providers during the day while our parents worked to make ends meet. This seems to have stricken a nerve somewhere deep in our parenting psyches because today, I see many stay a home parents of both genders, and lots of parents who want to be highly involved in their children's lives. This is a good thing.

Until it isn't.

Helicopter parenting is a real thing. And the inclination to over parent seems to be taking the reigns. Reason be damned, we seem to simply be unable to stop ourselves. It starts slowly with things like video monitors for our children...we feel like it gives us peace of mind, being able to see them--to know precisely what they are doing and when--and the next thing you know, you're terrified to let them out of your sight. Afraid to let them fall. Afraid to let them learn that it's okay when they didn't get a trophy at field day. Afraid to tell them that, no, "graduating" from fifth grade is simply expected of them and a part of getting older.

The thing is, children don't need parents--even awesome stay at home parents-- to hoover over them. They don't need to be sheltered from every disappointment or hardship that comes their way. They need someone who is there to put the bandaid and neosporin on when the cut occurs. What they need is someone strong enough to be there and help them sort through those things and make good decisions. They need to know that they can do it, not someone to to do it for them.

Children are wonderful. They can bring us moments that take our breath away. But they also need space. They don't need to be worshiped and coddled to the point of incapacitation.

Parents: don't drink the Kool-Aid.

Don't believe that you have to do everything for you kid. Don't hoover. Let them be kids and make mistakes and learn through experience. It's not our job as parents to manufacture every moment for them...even if it is our evolving instinct. Keep in mind that you are doing something important: you're raising the future leaders of our world. Parenting isn't about being comfortable all the time, or keeping your kid happy. It's about getting in there and making tough decisions, and sometimes helping your child learn hard lessons.

Now get out there, and live your own life. Your child will thank you.

Most Sincerely Yours,



I'm Not Afraid Of An Unhappy Child

When my daughter was a tiny baby and she cried, I was very attentive. When infants cry, they need something, which was usually food or just being held close (at least for my daughter.) I was not a proponent of "cry it out"--not that there is anything wrong with it, it just wasn't for me.

But those days of having an infant are gone now. My daughter is over a year old and firmly planted in the "toddler" stage. She doesn't cry because she needs something (generally speaking), she cries because she wants something. And that's a whole other can of worms because "want" and "need" are two totally different things.

If you're a regular follower of my blog, then you know that I didn't read a lot of parenting books. To be exact, I've read exactly one, Bringing Up Bebe, which I totally loved. The author talks about how always soothing a child can basically lead to them suffering later on in life. They have to learn that things aren't always going to go their way, and it starts sooner than a parent might think.

For instance, here's a list of reasons why my daughter has cried in the last week...

I closed the refrigerator
I closed the dishwasher
I put up a baby gate
We got out of the pool (after 40 minutes--the nerve!)
She was done eating and we didn't immediately process her request to get out of her seat
I refused to let her chew on any number of inedible items
I put her in a carseat

...you beginning to see what I mean? Toddler cry because they are expressing themselves. Because they are downright pissed. And it's cool. But that doesn't mean I have to feed into the meltdown of the moment.

I'm just not afraid of having an unhappy child. This doesn't mean I'm cold, or unfeeling. I often say something like, "I'm sorry that you can't have what you want." I do try to redirect. But sometimes, I just let her sit there and cry over the refrigerator door being closed and allow her to feel out her upset. It rarely lasts long, and before you know it, she's doing the next crazy toddler thing.

I find that others are quick to try and soothe my daughter when they are around...but I often discourage it. Just because I'm social doesn't mean I need other people to parent for me. If she's gonna melt down, sometimes I am going to let her because it's a part of my parenting philosophy. She has to learn that sometimes there are disappointments, and she is fully capable of getting over them. And I find she truly IS capable of getting over it most of the time. Yes, there are always exceptions, even for me. I figure, I make the rules, so if I feel the need to break them, I will.

At the end of the day, I have to take a long view. I'm aiming for a highly functional adult here, not a momentarily soothed toddler. So a few tears are shed. I think it'll ultimately make her a better person. I find that helicopter parenting and over soothing are a real problem. And children today are so freaking coddled, it makes me sick.

Yes, kids are cute, and brilliant; none more so than your very own. But do the world a favor and stop acting like they need to constantly be happy because it's not realistic. Sometimes you gotta cry. Being a parent is not about always being liked. Sometimes you gotta do the dirty work of helping your child build character. At least that's my take on it.

And it's why I'm not afraid of having an unhappy child--at least a little bit. 

Parenthood & Impermanence

I commented the other day to my mom that "impermanence was my favorite!" She sort of scoffed at me because, in general, and especially as a child, change was something that threw me for a proverbial loop. If plans changed, I freaked out. If life changed, I freaked out. This trait followed me into early adulthood.

Really all of this freaking out was about control and wanting (or needing on the emotional level) to control things so that I could feel better. The truth is that we are in control of very little, of course, and the older I got, the more I realized this.

Change being the only constant was never more apparent than 4 1/2 years ago when my family experienced two shocking losses back to back. It was a pivotal experience in many ways, and shocking to the core. It changed the way my husband and I were, really, on a deep level. We had new fears, but we also would take time to say goodbye in love and we used the moment to think deeply about the type of life we wanted to have.

Fast forward several years and a baby later.

The day my daughter was born was one of the best days ever. The hard work of labor was over, she was here safe, and a new chapter had begun. But suddenly all I could think about in the face of giving new life was death. I was someday going to die. My parents wouldn't be here someday. And the nearly unthinkable: what if my child should die before me? The thoughts ruminated.

I began pondering impermanence much more than I ever had before. Not even death itself had the impact that giving life did when it came to the thoughts of loss. Tara Brach, who is an amazing teacher and meditator, talks about how to begin to wade in the waters of your fears. If you can face them, a bit at a time, then it can actually deepen your appreciation for life and help you live with more loving presence.

But how unpleasant is it to think about death? Well, it may be unpleasant at the onset of thinking, but in reality, pondering impermanence has truly deepened my appreciation for each day, and every moment spent with family and friends. So, I found myself doing just that.

Over the last year, when I think about the fact that we may not all be together in the future, I am so grateful at my core for the moments I am having. I come back to the moment I am in, and find myself changed within it. I know that this is a gift that, however indirectly, my child has given me. I wasn't open to life in the way I am now before I had her. (Not that you have to have a child to experience life in this way, this was just my personal experience.)

I know that lots of parents probably experience this profound fear of loss when it comes to their children. Especially as we journey through life with the realization that some parents do lose their children, and as a children, we will also lose our parents, which is also difficult. If we are lucky, life is long. But no matter what life hold for us, if we function in the reality that things aren't permanent, that they can change unexpectedly, then we can also cherish the moment before us. Even as I was taking care of a newborn--arguably one of the biggest challenges I've faced--I would tell myself that some day, there would be nothing I wouldn't give to go back and do it all again. And it helped me appreciate even the toughest times with a new baby.

The inertia of life had a tendency to carry me away sometimes, and so I am grateful to come back to these concepts. I was reminded of this yet again, as I was pulling away from my mom's house the other day. My daughter was already in her carseat and I was anxious to get on the road. I said goodbye in a hurry, but as I drove off, I said to myself, "Next time, I won't rush that goodbye."

I use a mantra of "no time to rush" that I heard in a meditative talk, and I really find it helps me slow down and be present day to day. I want to take these moments with my family and friends and open to them as much as possible. I hope that you find the oasis of beauty in your everyday life as well. If you are scared by impermanence, I urge you to explore it in a way that allows you to feel safe.

Are there ways that you explore these concepts already? How do you feel about impermanence and the concept of presence? Please discuss in the comments section below! 

Family Dinner is Sacred

Eating dinner together is something that my husband and I have always done. We ate dinner together long before we were married, and even, I'm sorry to say, long before I was a good cook. Even when the food was bad, or wasn't homemade, we would carve out time to sit down, check in, and share a meal.

Back then, we did it without thinking about what it meant. It was something we did because it was something our families did--a tradition we wanted to carry out for the formation of our lives. As I got older, though, the meaning of family dinners became about so much more than just carrying on tradition, and I was reminded of this while watching Michael Pollan, author of Cooked (and lots of other awesome books) on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday.

Pollan talked about eating and how it's a sacred act. I truly believe in this. When you think about nourishing your body, and all the work it took to get those foods to your table, it really is an amazing journey. It's the reason so many people say "grace" before dinner (to give thanks), and generally people are thanking God for the food they are receiving. Why? Because it's a sacred act in many ways.

I believe this is one of the reasons that we have to be mindful of the ways our food is grown, the way animals are treated and how we are preparing the food. I see all of these things as part of my responsibility as a parent, but also as the person who shops for our home and prepares the food for everyone. I believe that way the food is grown is important. I want to feel thankful for the meat I am eating, and I don't want to feel that the animal's life was miserable or that the workers who were farming the vegetables were mistreated or taken advantage of.

I was reminded of this, responsibility and it was reinforced. I was also happy to be reminded about the power of the shared experience, in particular, when Pollan talked about sitting down for a meal with the people we love. That experience of being together is one that is so important.

Sometimes, especially being home with my child so much, I wonder what the heck I've done all day. But when we all sit down together and share a meal I've spent time preparing, and we all enjoy the meal, I feel so good deep down. I feel accomplished (not only that I survived the day with a toddler) but that I made something that nourished my family, and we spent time enjoying it together.

When I think of all these concepts in unison, pulling together a dinner is really a symphony. There are so many different elements at play from the way the food was grown, to where it was purchased, to how it's prepared and finally the way in which we eat it together. All of these things collide at the dinner table, and so I really do see it as one of the most important things we do together each day.

Family dinner is sacred. It's part of the way we are bringing up our daughter, and it's not just about the sitting down, but everything that happens in the world to get us to the table with nourishing, healthy and ethical food.

I wanted to take a moment to appreciate all of this, but also to urge others to take part in sharing a family meal at least once a day if you don't already. But I would also like to hear about how my readers are being responsible consumers. What's one (or two or more) things that you do to be a responsible eater?

For us, probably one of the largest that we participate in is being responsible carnivores. We eat a lot of venison, and only antibiotic, hormone free chicken that has been raised responsibly. (That's pretty much the only meat we're currently eating, aside from the occasional fish, which is usually salmon.) What about you? Let's discuss and share in the comments section below!

Stuff I Use [Baby Edition]: Huggalugs

When it comes to dressing my baby, I like her to be fashionable. But I also like it to be convenient. I guess I'm fashion-comfortable when it comes to style. It's just how I roll. So, at least for now, it's how my kid rolls too.

When Ruby was a teeny baby, it was immediately apparent to us there were some things she totally hated. Swaddling. Oh my word! I tried to swaddle her, and it was like I put her in a straight jacket. She was jerking all around and crying. Never again. Also, she hated having her feet in footed pajamas. It wasn't quite as bad as the swaddling, but it wasn't much better either.

A friend of mine had sent me some of her baby things from when her boys were little, which included two or three pairs of Huggalugs. After trying them out, I was hooked. It was the sleepy time solution for us! We would put our gal in a pair of Huggalugs and a onesie and we were good to go!



Now, I've gifted these for babies, knowing just how great they are for sleeping, and just for fashion in general. I can't recommend them enough. They are cute, and practical and the sales on the website are terrific!!! Also, they stay on well, which can be a major problem with products like these (at least potentially.) Maybe my gal's legs were just perfect, hehe.

Sadly, at this point, Ruby is in between sizes, so we are waiting until she grows a bit to get her in some new Huggaluggs.


By the way, she's looking at her dad in this picture...yep, funny guy that one! 

Anyway, check out Huggalugs on their website. They have amazing sales, and these things are just too darn cute. For boys or girls, they are best! Oh, AND, they just added bonnets. Too bad Ruby already has some super cute ones. Or my wallet would be in serious trouble. 

Lessons From My First Year of Parenthood

Love is a battlefield...and in my first year as a parent, I learned that saying doesn't just apply to romantic love. Being a parent is challenge. Sure, it's a lovely challenge, and there are lots of rewards along the way, but just like anything worth doing, it isn't always going to be easy. I've learned a lot.

And now I'm going to share it with you all because that is my way.

You don't "pick" a style
I never decided to be an attachment parent; in fact, it happened quite by accident. In the 365+ days that I have been a parent, I've read articles where women lament trying to be attachment parents. Either you are, or you aren't. Your style is your style, and it's ingrained in who you are. So just be yourself. There is no style that works better than another, it's all about what's right for you.

A baby's gonna do what a baby's gonna do 
Sleep training. Scheduled feedings. HA! Yea, have fun with those. I swear, a person could make themselves totally freaking nuts trying to get a baby to do something it just doesn't want to do. My daughter, for instance, was never going to sleep in a crib no matter how hard I tried. After a month (or two) of trying, I decided to throw the rule book away and just do what feels right.

Same thing goes for those who would say "you gotta keep the baby awake or they won't sleep later," or "don't let the baby nap after 5:00PM." To you all I say, "poppycock!"

Some people REALLY like babies 
It freaks me the f*ck out when a stranger reaches out and touches my baby's face. Who does that?! I'll tell you who, people who love, love, love them some babies. I learned quickly that wearing my baby in public cut down on weirdo strangers touching my kid without asking. That, and resting bitch face.

Some people REALLY don't like babies 
"To everything turn, turn, turn. There is a season..." And this applies to friends who aren't that into babies (or kids) and/or those who (mistakenly) think that "you've changed" and that having kids is contagious. They will abandon your ass, as in, you won't see them. I think maybe someday they will come around...like when my kid goes college maybe.

The worst part about this, is that people are literally terrified to admit that they don't want to have a relationship with your child. I would be totally down if some of my friends who have abandoned me just came out and said, "Hey, you know, I want to be your friend, but I don't want to hang out with your kid." It would incentivize me to hang out with them sans kid...which, let's be honest, I could totally use!

People will treat you differently
This is not entirely a bad thing, except when it is. See, some people will treat you as though you are more special, and I'm not gonna lie, that feels terrific. But then, on the flip side of that, some people will treat you crappier. It's weird, but some people aren't anymore tolerant of parents than they are of kids. Which is insane because we were all kids once...so when people treat me poorly based on that fact that I'm a parent, it's kind of like they are treating their parents badly (at least, that's how I see it.)

All I can say is God bless the people who treat me the same. (And thanks to those who treat me better!)

Compassion, compassion, compassion
This lesson is two-fold. First of all, I have so much more compassion in general; for my mom, who did a fantastic job raising two children on her own, and for moms, overall. This shizz can be hard. There's a lot to consider, and a lot to contend with. This has made me a better, more kind person, and I am super thankful for the experience.

Also, there is the compassion for my daughter that helps me get through rough days (and nights). Like when she wakes up teething and crying and we're up in the middle of the night. I have to dig deep for compassion in some of those moments, but when I do, I find that I am present as a nurturing parent. Compassion goes a long, long way.

Perspective is subject to change 
When my daughter was born, my perspective changed considerably. It continues to evolve, but it's sure a lot different these days than it was before I had a child. Different things are important to me now. Some things just ain't important at all. And due to my current perspective, I know that not everyone is going to get it. They don't have to.

May: A Month for Self-Love

It's May and you know what that means? It's the month in which we celebrate what I consider to be the foundation of good sex: masturbation!! I've written before about May being National Masturbation Month. And really, self-love is such a great thing, why shouldn't it get its very own month? This year, I'm back in the saddle again (hehe), and I've got some great stats to back up just how popular masturbation really is. So, in honor of May and masturbation and all that jazz, I thought I would share it with all of you.

I know some people can be a bit hush-hush about bedroom practices, and if you are, that's fine. That is, I won't tell anyone you're reading this right now. But me? I'm not that way. I'm pretty open about sex in general, which I think is healthy. You what else is healthy? Orgasms.

Orgasms are a terrific way to release tension, boost your immune system, and let's be honest, it just feels good. And if it feels good, you know what I say: DO IT! Whether it's alone or with a partner--makes no difference to me.

I don't always see self-love as a solo sport. Some people do report, though, that they prefer sex by themselves to sex with a partner. Surprising, but true!!

Personally, I've always found that what's good for the goose is good for the gander. By that I mean if you know what pleases you, it can only enhance your sex life. With a little self-love and some good communication, you are well on your way to lots and lots of pleasure.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there--er, in there?--and give yourself a little love. Because you deserve it. Because it's May. And because it's healthy!

Happy Masturbratory May everyone!


“Self

Crab Cake Recipe

I love where I live. We are just a few miles from the beach, and the living is eeeeeasy. One of our friends owns what is arguably the best crab place here at the beach, and so in the summer, we like to take full advantage.

I pride myself on being an expert crab picker. It's an art. I have little fingers, so I can pick faster than anyone I know. That's why I always win crab eating contests against my friends. It's not that I eat faster, but I pick faster.

Whenever we get a bushel of crabs, we eat what we can and then we pick. And pick. And pick.

And then...we freeze our crabs.

And then we enjoy crabs all year long! *Muahahahahahaha*

Which is how this post is coming to you. I've had all winter to perfect my crab cake recipe, and it's damn-near perfect at this point. This recipe is for two, but you can easily double or triple it, depending on the size of your crowd.

Now, I like to cook my cakes in either a cast iron skillet or a Pampered Chef stone.

The key to these? I make them in the morning and let them sit in the fridge all day. I think it makes a better crab cake. And so does my mother-in-law. So that's two people who think that, for what it's worth. It's nice because then they are done and all you have to do is throw them in the oven.

When it comes to baking them, there is flexibility. For instance, when I have something else baking, I can throw them in and let them heat and then crisp them on a low broil. When I have nothing else, I will put them under the low broil exclusively for about 15 minutes. It's all about how crisp you like them on top.

Suffice it to say that the real art is what goes into the cake, not the way you bake.

Billie's Perfect Crab Cakes 

Time: 5 min prep, 15 mins to bake | Serves 2 | Difficulty: Pretty Easy 

You Will Need: 

1 cup of cooked crab meat (hopefully freshly picked!)
1 small egg
1 tablespoon mayo 
1 tablespoon mustard (your choice)
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning 
1/4 cup bread crumbs 
Fresh ground pepper 

Method

Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix well. 

Divide into two cakes. 

Place the cakes on a pan or in a small skillet and place them in the fridge. Let them sit a few hours (or all day...I make mine in the morning.) 

When you are ready to bake them, the easiest way to put them under the broiler of your oven, set to low. Keep a good eye on them, but as a general rule, you can expect them to go about 15 minutes (or so) until the top is nice and browned! 

Serve with tartar sauce and lemon! YUM! 

Thanks For Not Having Kids

Dear Childless Friends,

I know you have a lot of pressure on you to procreate, and I'm sorry about that. I can totally relate since my husband and I waited (an astounding) 10 years to have a child together. I understand all too well how obsessed society is with your womb. No, I can't tell you why, but I can apologize just the same.

Allow me to have your back for a moment here.

It's true, there are lots of reasons why having children doesn't make sense. There's the cost, the fact that you'll lose both sleep and autonomy, and then there's all that damned work that goes into raising a little human-- what a time suck! I get it. I don't agree with some who would say you don't know love until you have a child-- there are lots of kinds of love in this world to know. Sure, there is no love like the one you have for your kid, but I hear there is no love like that you have for your cat, that doesn't mean I want one. (Okay, I do have a cat, but he's an outdoor one and I know it's not the same.)

Really when it comes down to it, all arguments considered, there is only ever one reason good enough to push you over the edge when it comes to procreation: because you want to. At least, that's my opinion. All the rest of it is just background noise.

The bottom line is this: I'm glad you don't have kids.

There are lots and lots of kids in this world, and while its a great and beautiful thing to be a parent, there are also lots of other great and beautiful things to be in this world. It's my opinion that society undervalues the non-parents, but I want you to know I don't, and here's why...

People who choose not to become parents pay a lot of taxes and that goes into our schools. You guys work more hours (some of you, anyway) because you can, and sometimes that means holidays so the rest of us can enjoy our families. You guys bring us wary parents presents, booze, and friendship when we are too exhausted to reciprocate. You remind us of our former selves, but also of what we might get back after the trench work of early parenthood is done. You bring your personalities, unscathed by the malaise of children, to the world, and that too is very valuable.

And while a portion of you may eventually change your minds about children, I won't insult you by suggesting you ought to. The choice to be a parent is a deeply personal one, and one that simply isn't all that important to some. You don't have to have a child to live a full life, and that fact isn't lost on me. I don't see your life as any less meaningful than my own. Your time isn't worth any more or less than my own. There are even times when I envy you.

Most of all, I want to tell the non-parents: don't be afraid to walk your path.

I believe your contributions to society are just as valid and important as my own. Please don't feel the need to justify yourself to anyone. In fact, the next time someone asks you about whether or not you're having children and you say no, add in, "and you should thank me!" Because whether society at large wants to acknowledge it or not, we need some people to choose not to be parents.

So here's a "thank you," that you may not get often. Keep on keeping on. (And please, bring me a bottle of wine. I still haven't figured out how to go to the liquor store with my 1 year old.)

With love,

Bossy Italian Wife 

Cannoli Poke Cake Recipe

So I know, I KNOW, that I have been on a poke cake bender. BUT...1) It's my blog and can bake what I want to, and 2) Seriously, there is no such thing as too much cake. So, with that being declared, here's another freaking poke cake. Deal with it.

Now, there are a lot of pins on Pinterest boasting a cannoli poke cake. But, as a cannoli eater, I wasn't impressed. They have issues. Condensed milk issues. The issue being that my husband prefers the poke cakes that have pudding. I couldn't find an alternate recipe on Pinterest, so therefore, it must not have existed. So I made my own.

This is for you people out there who, like my husband, prefer the pudding to the condensed milk in your poke cake.

Also, I feel that my poke cake gives a more well-rounded cannoli cake experience. Although I would also say that I think that I can improve on this cake by adding cherries to the cake mix and actual nuts to the top. If you agree, go for it. Because I'm busy and the likelihood that I am going to remake this recipe AND post it here is pretty slim....

Although I will say that my mom and I made cassata cake cupcakes at Christmastime, and we plan on making them again, and those we will probably post on the blog. They were the bomb. Cassata cake is basically a cannoli cake. This cannoli poke cake is its easier, bastard cousin. Yep, I said it.


So, this may seem obvious, but if you use a white cake mix and you use the "full egg" recipe (which includes egg yolks) you will get a yellow cake, not a white one. Go figure. Dammit. 


With instant pudding, you have to work fast. As in, mix that shizz up and pour it on without time to think in between. Lucky for me, I was also watching an 11 month old while doing this and what do you know, she pulled up a tupperware to the water cooler while I was doing this. I heard water being poured. Need I say more? 


I still managed to get this sucker all pudding-ed up, and into the fridge. Ha. I win! 


I let mine sit overnight generally, or from morning until evening. Top with the entire thing of whipped topping and then sprinkle *liberally* with mini chips. 


Not to be all political or anything, but you never hear people being like, "let's be conservative" about their desserts. And I think that says something, don't you? *wink wink*


Bossy Italian Cannoli Poke Cake 

Time: Active, 30 minutes | Makes: 1 Hellofa cake | Difficulty: Easy 

You Will Need:

1 box white cake mix + the ingredients on the box
2 boxes pistachio pudding (instant y'all) 
4 cups milk 
1 tub of whipped topping, extra creamy
15ounce whole milk ricotta
Mini chocolate chips 

Method


Prepare cake according to package directions, keeping in mind that if you want your cake to actually be white, you should use the recipe on the box sans egg yolks. Geez.

Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool for five minutes.

Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the cake.

Mix together the milk and pudding mix (quickly, while your kid is secretly preparing to drain all your water resources using the tupperware as a step stool).

Pour onto the cake, ensuring you make it into those nice little holes ya just poked.

Cover and refrigerate overnight or however long you have. It'll be fine.

When ready to serve, mix whipped topping & ricotta cheese. Top your cake with the mixture and mini chips! YUM.

Also: take that dang whipped topping out of the freezer and let it thaw. Otherwise, you won't be able to spread it. Sheesh.

Things To Do While Waiting For a Baby....

It's really hard to believe that this time last year I was counting down the days until I would meet my new baby. Sometimes it seems like it happened to someone else, I swear. But anyway, in honor of my daughter's first birthday, I thought it would be fun to share some stuff I wrote last year this time, but never published! This is one of those things.

So, to my still pregnant, or newly pregnant, or pregnant yet again friends, here's a list of things you can do while waiting to give birth!

1. Pretend like you don't care when the baby comes.
2. Watch all mine seasons of 19 Kids and Counting on Netflix.
3. Decide you no longer care about the weight gain, and purchase gelato.
4. Engage in Pinterest projects. Lots of them.
5. Meditate.
6. Try to decipher your baby's position in the womb.
7. Freak out because you swear something is wrong.
8. Decide it's probably okay... Feign casual indifference.
9. Watch everything on the DVR.
10. Clean the floor.
11. Clean the bathroom.
12. Clean the EVERYTHING.
13. Freak out and have a good cry because no matter how much you clean, you can still see the dirt that no one else can see.
14. Go on lots of walks.
15. Do pregnancy exercises (bounce on the ball, squats, lotus pose, cat/cow).
16. Google random symptoms to see if labor is imminent.
17. Drink tea and read a non pregnancy related book.
18. Make a house manual for after the baby is born (yes, I did this).
19. Stock up on toilet paper.
20. Turn off everything in the house and bask in the silence knowing that your life will never be this quiet again.


What would you add to this list? Share it with me in the comments section below! 

I've Been Gifted A Climber

Every parent looks forward to their child becoming mobile. Or perhaps I should say, every first time parent look forward to their child becoming mobile…because once it actually happened, I found the parenting workload went from manageable to, “Oh my god, get her! Get her! What’s she doing?!

It used to be that I could lay her on a blanket while I cooked or worked on a project. Now she’s licking the glowing apple on my computer while I pry her little fingers from around the screen. It’s lovely to watch her making her way around the little play table we got her—and boy is she quick—but it was a whole new ball game the day we nonchalantly put up a baby gate only to watch her scale it like a well-trained spider monkey.

Yes, it’s true, we’ve been gifted a climber. She climbs things I didn't even know could be climbed. She reaches heights that are really something to marvel at as well as to be scared of. Um, hello, earth to my little offspring, you could really hurt yourself!

While I try to keep it in perspective that having a baby who walks early and climbs is really awesome in many ways (for instance, she impresses the pants off people), I’m also left scratching my head about what to do with this kid. It’s not as though I can reason with her at this stage and explain that climbing that high could result in an injury. I can’t pad the whole house in wrestling mat material to avoid injury (can I?) And despite myself, I can’t seem to stop worrying.

All of this, and my mother, as she observed my daughter trying to climb the chest of drawers in my bedroom, says, “You should really get Ipecac. Kids who climb sometimes get into things they shouldn’t.” Literally, my jaw dropped because I didn’t need a new fear, and I didn’t want to buy Ipecac. Of course, I will be buying the Ipecac because it’s one those situations where you have to “reverse black cat.” This is a technique where you act pessimistically so that you get lucky, thereby “reversing the black cat.” It’s not a guarantee, but hey, it’s worked before.

In the name of practicality, I suggested that perhaps when she’s a little older we get her an indoor climbing wall. From a more psychological standpoint, I love that my child is fearless and daring. It’s a trait that I know will continue to haunt my nerves, but it also excites me. My husband is not as afraid as I am, so at least there will be some ying and yang in our approach to parenting; he was born with a bit of the fearless gene himself.

Moments like these, when I realize that my child is her very own person with her own quirks and traits, I am in awe. It’s what makes being a parent great and also scary. She’s this little human, all her own, and she’s only beginning to discover it. Who knows, maybe some day she’ll scale mountains! Until then, I guess I’ll continue to chase her around the house, pulling her down off tables, chairs, dishwashers, and….oh what’s that? Great. She’s using the oven as a chin-up bar.