Blog Archive

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Yosemite Tours

My gosh it has taken me a while to get this post up! My hands are so swollen (see below) that even typing is getting to be quite a task.

About two weeks ago, my brother's friend from his MBA program, Cara, came to visit California. She'd only ever been to San Diego so Edward planned all sorts of fun northern California adventures for her. They went to San Francisco one day, wine tasting another day, and Yosemite on her last day. I went to Yosemite with them since I'd only been there once.

Cara and Edward:
Because it is quite a drive from either Davis or Livermore (3-4 hours) and our tour was set to leave early in the morning, we decided to stay at a hotel in Sonora so the morning drive would be much shorter. (My mom graciously offered to come to Davis to stay with the dogs while we were at the park.)

It was super hot when we got to the hotel so the first thing we did after dumping out stuff in the room was go swimming. I'd never actually gone swimming while pregnant and it felt GREAT. The "roof top" pool was very small but the perfect temperature. That night we went to a casino for dinner and watched Cara play a few games of poker (I can't remember the type of poker but it was a slow game, easy to follow, and hard to lose tons of money on it). The next morning we headed off to the park and missed our full-day tour by 5 minutes! Grrrr. I was worried that they'd not refund our money, but the lady said we could just book another tour and get the remainder of the cash back. Whew. So we ended up taking two tours: a morning open-air tram tour of the valley floor and an afternoon bus (with AC!) tour that went up to Glacier Point. Had we known how much better the second tour was, we would have just hiked or played in the river instead of wasting our money on the morning tour. Oh well, next time.

We loved the bus tour because it had AC, we got to see more sights, and we could take a snooze on the way up the mountain to Glacier Point.If you are ever going to Yosemite (either taking a tour or driving yourself), make sure you go up to Glacier Point! You can drive or hike there and it is SO worth it. You can see pretty much the entire is stunning.

Here's a picture I snapped on the tram tour early in the day. You can barely see any clouds in the background. The views at Glacier Point were especially stunning for us because a major thunderhead had built up so Half Dome really stood out. If you ever ask Edward to take your picture, be aware that he'll just snap away until you take your camera back. I always end up with a few pictures of me getting ready to have my picture taken, a few good shots, and then at least one picture of me with a look on my face that says, "Edward? Are you still taking pictures?" That's what this one is and I thought it was pretty hilarious (me giving him that look while pulling up the back of my maternity shorts):
Me and Edward at Glacier Point:
Since Edward drove to Yosemite, I offered to drive back home that afternoon. But the heat and maybe the altitude made my hands SO SWOLLEN that I couldn't even grasp the steering wheel. My fingers looked like sausages. None of my friends have complained of the same thing during their pregnancies, but online resources and the midwives tell me that water retention in your arms is super common in pregnancy. The water build-up puts pressure on the tendons in your wrist, which leads to swelling of the fingers. Many nights I go to sleep grasping a cold, unopened soda can in each hand to reduce the swelling. It is worst in the the point that I can't bend my fingers much, which makes things like holding toilet paper difficult (gross, but true) and my knuckles hurt badly. (Oh, and several fingers on my right hand are completely numb or tingly all dang day...)

My advice: don't get knocked up in the fall because then you will have to be pregnant during the hot summer. =)

We took the hospital bag in the car with us to the park, just in case I went into labor while we were there. Luckily we didn't need it...although it would have made a great story!

Monday, July 27, 2009

T-Minus a Fortnight: 38 Weeks

Nothing new has changed on the pregnancy front: I'm still not showing any signs of imminent labor. As you can see from my latest picture (taken tonight since we forgot to do it yesterday), I look basically the same as a week ago.We had a very busy last week since Edward's friend was visiting. In another post I'll show pictures of our trip to Yosemite and then my and Dave's "babymoon" trip to Reno last weekend.

This week Edward is home with me and we have plans to watch some cheesy movies, cook some dishes we've been wanting to try, hanging pictures in the nursery, finishing up a few minor garden tasks, and perhaps going to a baseball game. So it should be pretty relaxed...but we'll see.

My nesting fervor is kicking into high gear lately: just this morning while getting into the shower I decided to clean the shower doors with some new cleaner I bought. So my "quick" shower ended up lasting 20 minutes while I scrubbed the water scale off the door before doing my regular shower routine.

I bought leather seat cleaner for my car and oil soap to clean my kitchen cabinets. Why I suddenly find it necessary to clean these things is beyond me...but I guess that's what nesting always comes down to.

And I had my first Child/Infant CPR class tonight at the local baby store. Because I'm so pregnant they let me put my maniquin kid on a small table so I wouldn't have to kneel on the floor. Even with the assistance of the table, it was still hard to do the chest compressions since my fingers are supposed to be woventogether and mine are so swollen that I could hardly do it. Haha.

I just have to say that I have the best guys in my life: as I write this post, Edward is behind me in his bed, reading through the "Comfort Measures" chapter I photocopied out of The Birth Partner in preparation for him supporting me during labor. (Although now asleep, Dave likely read some of that chapter tonight, too.) Our original plan was to hire a doula but now that Edward is here we decided we'd be more comfortable having him be our secondary support person. He and Dave will make a great team for me: Dave will cater to my emotional needs ("I'm so proud of you, baby...I know you can do it") and Edward will cater to my logical side ("Of course you can do're engineered to give birth!"). Some people might be grossed out at the thought of their brother being present when they give birth. But really people, it is just a body. And as my dad always says: "If you weren't in it, someone else would be."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Our Yards: Summer 2009

It is hard to believe that:

a) we are having a baby in only 3-5 weeks
b) we now have a proper patio instead of bare dirt in our BBQ yard
c) we have new paths in all the yards (except the garden)
d) we have all our landscaping on automatic irrigation.

For some reason, all of these things make me feel old. I never expected to have all of these things in place by now. But "a" led us into a mad dash to get the others done. I feel a huge sense of relief and amazement with all of these...but most obviously with the first one.

I thought I'd post some pictures of our yards as they are today compared to how they were when we bought the house about 2.5 years ago. It is always fun to look back later and see the progress the plants have made (at least it is for watching children grow up). I don't have original versions of all these vantage points, but you'll get the idea that it went from a rental house to an owner-occupied house.

Our front yard and new flag stone paths as seen from our front porch today:Our front yard and new flag stone paths as seen from the driveway today:
Original front yard as seen from the court:
Our front yard as seen from the court:To some, the changes we've made in the front yard might seem outrageous (getting rid of the entire lawn), complicated (retaining wall, flagstones, an additional 8 cubic yards of soil), or unnecessary (I'll agree with that one...but how many home improvement projects are 100% necessary?). I really like variety in everything from the color and texture of my food at each meal to the plants in my front yard. Lawns are boring and use too much water, at least by California standards. And I like the changes in elevation our new yard has--it makes it look bigger and more interesting. Plus, it gave Dave and I something to do together on the weekends and that's what it is really all about.

The big pile of dirt (now mulched...something I worked on doing last week in the early morning hours before it got to be over 100F outside) in the retaining wall will be planted with drought-tolerant plants this coming fall. UC Davis has a nursery that sells natives and other plants well-suited to this area and I plan on buying the majority of the plants from there (it supports the school and I know the plants will thrive in our yard under minimal irrigation).

Original utility yard as seen from the middle of the yard (standing about where the lemon tree is in the photo below--it is the little teeny tree growing inside that terracotta circle):Our utility yard as seen from the north corner:Our utility yard as seen from the garage:Original BBQ yard as seen from the utility yard:Our BBQ yard as seen from the utility yard today (notice we now have gutters on this side of the more drainage problems!):
Our BBQ yard as seen from the porch outside the dining room's sliding glass doors:Original BBQ yard as seen from the garden yard (in the pouring rain--I was trying to document the drainage issues before we bought the house):Our BBQ yard as seen from the garden yard:

Monday, July 20, 2009

37 Weeks

Today marks my 37th week and here's the picture--from yesterday--to prove it:
As of my Friday appointment last week, I have not gained any weight in the last 3 weeks and I'm not dilated at all yet.

This was another crazy weekend of a lot of hard work. Well, the work wasn't all that hard but it was about 103F all weekend so pretty much anything other than sitting under the AC vent was hard work.

On Friday Dave set up a painting tent in the yard and he sprayed the first coat of primer onto the steel posts he and my dad made for our shade structure. He also primed the changing table base my dad made for us:
Then on Saturday my mom and I went to her friend's house for another baby shower--for me! All my "aunties" were there (my mom's group of close friends from grade school) and they gave me so many wonderful gifts--tons of clothes, a few beautiful handmade blankets, and lots of board books. Since I don't know all of the ladies that well, one lady offered to take a picture of each gift giver holding her gift to me...that way I can remember who is who and who gave me what item. What great idea!Right when we got home I changed into my grubby clothes and helped Dave with the painting. I didn't actually do any of the painting but I had to be on hand to help him carry the super heavy (and long) pieces back and forth. In between I was able to prime the changing table top and do a bunch of laundry. My mom occupied herself for a few hours by going through every single gift bag from the shower and making a SUPER detailed list of everything.

On Sunday my father-in-law, John, flew down to Davis in his friend's small plane and stayed with us through today.

Dave applied the second coat of paint--we used Dark Taupe oil based Rustoleum...what a great color. Here are the posts drying on the trailer inside the garage: Dave also made these beautiful redwood boards to hang on the wall for a row of hooks. Isn't it amazing what a router, sander, varnish, and a handsome guy can do to a regular ole piece of redwood 2x6?
While Dave's dad took his contractor's license test and then they went to a meeting in Sacramento, I drove my brother and his friend, Cara, to a BART station in the east bay so they could tour around San Francisco. Then I continued on to Livermore and had lunch with my dad. Did you know that it is REALLY hard to eat with chopsticks when most of your fingers are numb? For some reason it didn't even occur to me until I'd finish to have asked for a fork.

Then I scooted back to Davis so I could make John some fried catfish and pesto pasta for his special dinner--today is his birthday. We celebrated with a chocolate cake. (I look gross in this picture and his face is blurry...but it is the only picture we have.)Although I'm still not supposed to eat chocolate, lest the caffeine mess spark another tachycardia, I did allow myself to eat a very, very small sliver of it. And it was so, so worth it. Gosh, I can't wait to eat chocolate (and wine and beer and sushi and coffee and rare steak and soft cheeses like brie) again.

Whew...I'm super tired tonight from all that driving today. Tomorrow I'm heading back to Livermore to eat with my family and then Edward, Cara, and I will drive to Yosemite so we can go on a tour all day Wednesday while my mom graciously stays with the dogs in Davis.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Post-Birth Food Stockpile

I've been making lots of food lately for our post-baby stockpile. I've heard lots of my friends say how terribly they ate during those first few weeks after the baby comes when they're so bleary-eyed from lack of sleep that anything more than reheating is just too much to handle.

Rather than have Dave go out and buy fast food for every meal, with heat-and-eat stuff on hand we'll both save money and eat relatively healthy. Dave generally depends on me to either cook or tell him what to do to make a meal so I've been putting directions on everything (other than the stuff that you literally just heat in the microwave) so he doesn't have to ask. I'm sure I won't be all that coherent during those first few weeks of Eddie's life. Those directions will also be helpful to my brother and my parents when they are here.

So far I've made:
  • a triple batch of beef stroganoff
  • a triple batch of huckleberry muffins (one batch made a loaf that I presliced before popping into the freezer so we can grab one slice at a time)
  • five loaves of banana bread (using discounted bananas)
  • seven loaves of zucchini bread (but I only kept 4 for us). The flour I used for this bread was that fancy whole-grain all purpose flour from Costco; Dave's brother bought it and decided he couldn't use it so he gave it to us. So now in addition to our regular 50 pound supply we had another 15 pounds or so. Free zucchini and free flour--not bad!
  • a double batch of waffles (I only cooked them part way so they will finish in the toaster)
  • Eight 3-serving Mexican casseroles (I put them into those disposable tin containers from the dollar store):
  • a whole bunch of twice baked potatoes (with cheese, cottage cheese, ham, and broccoli):
  • three big no-cook noodle lasagnas that I cooked only part way before freezing (also in disposable tins):
  • a bunch of quinoa-and-corn stuffed red bell peppers with spicy tomato sauce. I froze the sauce in ice cube trays and then put them into a baggie.
  • 18 pints (only 15 are in this picture) of canned pizza sauce (so it doesn't have to go in the freezer):
  • 10 jars of pizza dough ingredients to go with the sauce. Each batch of dough makes enough for two pizzas, which requires about 2 pints of sauce. All we have to do is add the oil and water, mix, let rise, and form into a pizza. I buy those big bags of shredded mozzarella and Mexican mix cheeses from Costco and divvy them up into quart sized freezer baggies for the deep freeze so making a quick pizza is always an option.
  • baggies of pre-cooked, diced chicken. I roasted 6 whole chickens about 2 months ago in my roaster ovens. Once they cooled I pulled all the meat from the bones, diced it, and put it into freezer bags. Now I add it to quesodillas to up the protein content. (The midwives were concerned I wasn't getting enough protein.) Since it is diced, I can loosen a small amount in the bag while it is still frozen then defrost the portion I want. That way I don't have to commit to defrosting and using up the whole bag within 3 days. Hopefully I won't eat it all before the baby comes! It is getting too hot to roast chickens these days.
  • triple batch of Cook Su base so all we have to do is add cooked noodles
We always have lots of stuff on hand to go on the massive amounts of pasta we buy from Costco:
  • jars of sauce, frozen ground beef, canned olives and mushrooms (takes about 15 minutes to brown up the beef and heat the sauce)
  • jars of frozen basil pesto (takes about 2 minutes to defrost in the microwave)
  • frozen Polish sausages, canned tomatoes, and bags of beet greens from the garden to get sauteed together(takes about 10 minutes to make this sauce)
Knowing that I love variety in flavor, I'm also hoping to make some Indian food that we can pair up with rice (very easy since we use a rice cooker). Curries and saucy dishes freeze really well so I'll make some tikka masala, butter chicken, and maybe a vegetable dish. But we'll have to see how much room is left in the freezer and how my energy holds up...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Losing My Mind

Last night I went to the grocery store and bought, among other things, a dozen eggs. I only had two left in the fridge at home. (So that would be a total of 14 eggs...right?)

I hard-boiled 8 of them this morning and ate another 2 for breakfast after that. (So that would be a new total of 10 eggs...right?) I cannot for the life of me figure out what happened to the other 4 eggs.

All day today I've been stepping through what I did last night after I came home from the store (went to the dog park, made mozzarella cheese, watched Wild Pacific on Discovery, ate my fresh cheese on toast with pesto and tomato, chatted online with my brother...none of these things require 4 eggs!).

I've sort of convinced myself that someone either came into my house while I was at the dog park and took 4 of my eggs or that I'm simply losing my mind and misplaced 4 eggs (but where? And more importantly, how?). The fact that I'm even considering the idea of someone stealing eggs from my locked house is proof that I am, in fact, losing my mind.

Being scatterbrained and forgetful is just a side effect of pregnancy, right? And it'll all go away once I birth this little guy, right? Right??

Always Take the Stock Option

Yesterday I made chicken stock from all the carcasses I had in my freezer. Making chicken stock is super easy and tastes SO much better than that store-bought "broth" you buy at the store (but in a pinch, I do use it).

Sometimes I think it is worth buying a small chicken (a "fryer") just so I can make yummy stock!

I always keep a zipper bag in the freezer to which I add any chicken pieces (bones and skin after we've eaten the meat) and random bits of veggies or veggie trimmings (carrots, onion, celery, garlic peel, parsley stems, etc.). Once the bag is full and/or I need some stock I throw it into a pot of water.

These are my ideal components to making chicken stock:
  • chicken pieces (skin, bones, left over meat)
  • celery
  • parsley
  • onion
  • carrot
  • bay leaf
  • pepper corns
  • celery seed
Here's how you do it:
  1. Grab a stock bag from the freezer (or two if you have a big pot and want a lot of stock like I did). Dump it into a big pot.
  2. Depending on what's in your stock bag, add any remaining ingredients. If you don't have some of these things, don't worry about it because it'll still be good. I used a whole onion, a container of frozen shredded carrots (someone gave me a BIG bag of carrots a few months back and I knew I'd never be able to use them all before they went bad so into the freezer they went for cooking), tired-looking parsley that I've had for a while, and the spices. My stock bag didn't have anything but chicken and a few carrot peelings in it. Oh, and there's no need to chop things up much since they'll cook to pieces anyway.
  3. Fill the pot up with water until it is just over the ingredients.
  4. Bring the pot to a boil. I did this on my BBQ since it was super hot and I didn't want to heat up the house. Ghetto, yes. But it works. (Plus the neighborhood started to smell really good after a while!)
  5. Let it simmer for an hour or more. The longer, the better. The heat and the water actually work to hydrolyze the collagen in the chicken bones to form a gel. This is why the meat drippings from your holiday ham or turkey turn into jello when you put them in the fridge...while baking in your oven the juices and heat turned the not water soluble collagen into water soluble gelatin. This is why vegetarians don't eat jello (or Tylenol gelcaps or marshmallows many brands of sour cream or anything else containing gelatin)...because it is made from animal bones. =) Yummy. Anyway, the small amount of gel that forms in your stock gives it a creamy, smooth taste. You'll never have that from store bought broth.
  6. Then scoop out all the cooked-down ingredients with a slotted spoon and throw them away.
  7. Strain the small bits out of the stock by pouring the hot stock through a cheese cloth (or an old but clean shirt).
  8. Refrigerate the strained stock until the fat solidifies on top.
  9. Then just remove the fat and throw it away. Depending on how long you cooked the stock, it may or may not be a gel once it cools (mine sure was!).
  10. Make your favorite rice, soup, or whatever recipe you want. It'll be fantastic!
I'm going to make this stock into several jars of Cook Su base for after the baby comes. I'll add all the ingredients (minus the cooked noodles) and freeze it in jars. Then all we have to do is boil up some noodles and we have a very quick, light meal. Yummy!