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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve Recipes

We don't have a lot of traditions around here, but one we keep up with is fondue on New Year's Eve! We got a fondue set for our wedding and didn't even take it out of the box for 2 years. Then, we realized how freaking delicious fondue was and set out to make it at least every NYE. This year, I wanted to up the ante a little and make some home made pretzel bites to go with it instead of store bought. Plus, it was a change to try out the dough hook on my new mixer!!

Here are our tried and true cheese fondue and pretzel bite recipes! Happy New Year!

Soft Pretzel Bites


1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast
6 tbsp butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 quarts of water
3/4 cup (yes, cup) baking soda
1 egg
1 tbsp cold water
Kosher salt


Combine water, sugar, yeast, and butter. Mix with a dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add salt and flour to bowl and mix on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium and continue kneading until dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl (about 3-4 minutes). If the dough seems too moist, add flour 1 tbsp at a time.

Remove dough from bowl and knead into a ball. Using vegetable oil, grease the inside of a bowl. Place dough ball in the bowl and grease with oil. Cover with a clean towel and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, or about one hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Bring the water to a boil and add baking soda.

Remove dough from bowl and place on the counter. Divide into 8 equal pieces. I found a pizza cutter good for doing the job. Roll each piece into a long rope about 24" long and using the pizza cutter, slice into one inch pieces. They kind of look like pizza poppers!

Boil pretzel bites in baking soda water solution in small batches of about a dozen at a time. Gather up the pieces in your hand so you can quickly drop them into the water one by one. Boil for approximately 20-25 seconds and then remove with a slotted spoon.

Place pretzel bites on a greased baking sheet. They will be wet and slimy, but that's okay. Make sure they're not touching.

Brush the tops with egg wash and season with Kosher salt. Bake for 15-18 minutes until they are puffed up and golden brown.

This recipe makes a bazillion little pretzel bites - like, 4-5 dozen easy. Good thing too...they're addictive! Oh, and if the baking soda and water makes a mess of your stove, don't worry - I totally did the same thing...

Adapted from Bobby Flay

Cheese Fondue


1/2 pound Jarlsburg cheese, shredded
1/2 pound Gruyere cheese, shredded
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 cup white wine
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground mustard
Pinch nutmeg


In a small bowl, coat cheese with cornstarch and set aside.

Rub the inside of the ceramic fondue pot with the garlic, then discard.

Over medium heat, add wine and lemon juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Gradually stir cheese into the simmering liquid. Melting the cheese slowly makes for a smoother fondue. Melted too fast, it can get gritty.

Once smooth, stir in ground mustard and nutmeg.

Transfer to a hot fondue pot and enjoy with a variety of dippers! We often dip steak, bread, shrimp, granny smith apples, cauliflower, broccoli, or pretzels. This recipe makes enough for about 4 people to snack on. Adjust accordingly.

Adapted from Tyler Florence

Monday, December 30, 2013

When Your Toddler Needs Surgery

The tubes are in! Here's to another 18-24 months of ear infection free time. Thankfully, today's procedure when incredibly smoothly; he was in and out in about 15 minutes. Waking up from the anesthesia, however, was a little rougher. After a few minutes, we got him dressed and they let us leave. Once we were home, he was back to himself, resting up, and watching movies.

I realized that this is Charlie's 3rd surgery in as many years. Not nearly as many as some little ones out there, but I think I still have a bit of helpful information to share. Keep in mind, these are tips I've gathered from our experiences and all hospitals and procedures affect the experience, not to mention the age of the child. Over the past three years, Charlie has had a hypospadias repair (June '11), tubes and adenoidectomy (June '12), and today's tube surgery.

Prepare Yourself

Finding out your kid needs surgery, regardless of how minor, can be stressful. Take advantage of your doctor when they ask, "Do you have any questions?" Write down questions as the appointment approaches and keep a list even after you've met. There's no shame in calling the office before the procedure to answer any questions you have. As for hospital or surgery center procedures, you'll have an opportunity to ask during pre-surgery interview and/or hospital registration the week prior.

Here are some questions we've asked in the past...
  • What will happen during the procedure?
  • How long will it take?
  • How do we prepare him for surgery the day before/day of?
  • What kind of anesthesia will be used? What safe guards to you take with little kids?
  • How long can we stay with him leading up to the surgery?
  • Where can we wait during the procedure?
  • How soon afterwards can we see him?
  • What will he be like waking up from anesthesia? 
  • Will he be in pain afterwards? What kind of pain management will be available?
  • What can we expect the first 24 hours? 48 hours? Week?
  • What restrictions will he have on his activity? Diet?
Charlie needed ear plugs while swimming and bathing
for a few months after his first set of tubes.
More often than not, you'll receive discharge orders in written form with some of this information. Read them before you leave and ask any clarifying questions you have. You can always call later if something else comes up.

After getting information from your doctor about what to expect, gather up supplies you might need before you head in for the big day. Pain medication, ice pops, gauze, even diapers - whatever your little one may need for recovery. Its no fun having to run to the store post-op because you forgot something you need.

Prepare Your Little One

Considering what your child is afraid of can help you focus your conversations about and prep for the surgery. For Charlie, he gets very anxious with a lot of strangers around and when things have to be done to him that are out of his control (checking his ears, taking his blood pressure, or even getting a hair cut or sometimes brushing his teeth, etc.) Perfect storm, huh? To help ease these anxieties we bought him a doctor kit for Christmas and talked to him about how we were going to the doctor and that the doctor would fix his ears. At this age, he can understand that his ears hurt and what the concept of "fixing" was, so he was amiable to the idea. You will know best what will work for your child, but here are some other ideas the nurses gave us as we were scheduling his surgery.
  • Don't give your little one too much time to think about it. Talking about it a day or two ahead of time is plenty of time for a toddler to process it without having time to worry. 
  • Ask if you can take a brief tour of the surgery center. I remember my sister going on a tour like this when she got her tonsils removed as a youngster. She tried on a gown and hair cover, got to hold the anesthesia mask, etc. 
  • Read books about doctor visits or going to the hospital. "A Visit to the Sesame Street Hospital" by Deborah Hautzig was recommended to us as a good general book for little ones. 
  • Buy a children's doctor kit and play check up. We bought Charlie the Fisher-Price Medical Kit for Christmas.
  • Its important to stay positive about the surgery, even though you'll be nervous about it. Offer lots of support and answer questions as best as you can. Avoid making promises you can't keep (i.e. "I promise it won't hurt")

Surgery Day

Depending on the type of anesthesia being used, your child may not be able to eat or drink for several hours before hand. Because of this, when offices are scheduling they try to get the smallest kids in earlier for surgery. Charlie's first surgery at 7 months old, he was the first case at 7:00am. The second, he was called in around 8:00am, and today's surgery was at 9:30am. He couldn't eat anything past midnight and couldn't drink anything past 5:00am, but he did surprisingly well as we waited for everything to get started. We at our breakfast before he woke up and didn't mention eating and he didn't ask.

We asked ahead of time and found out that Charlie could bring a comfort object like a stuffed animal or a blanket, so he chose to bring Goofy with him. We also brought my laptop to watch Little Einsteins, his doctor kit, and a few other activities to distract him while we waited. The nurses gave him stickers (which he used to decorate Daddy) and a coloring book. 

Jeff and I brought some things to keep us occupied in the waiting room, though our wait was minimal. If at all possible, I recommend bringing another adult with you for surgery day. Kids can be unpredictable after waking up from anesthesia - some are sleepy and cuddly and some, like Charlie, are writhing, pissed off, incoherent messes. We took turns holding him in recovery until they released us. It was also very helpful for Jeff to bring the car around while I got Charlie ready to leave. 

 Tiny post-op Charlie. He was never a post-op cuddler. Always pissed.


Recovery will vary from person to person and procedure to procedure. The important thing is to be patient. Your normally chill kid might be inconsolable and clingy for a day or two. Their activity might be restricted or medications might be on a round the clock schedule. 

With Charlie's hypospadias repair, he couldn't sit in any kind of crotch restricting seat or carrier for 6 weeks. A 7 month old, who could not sit up yet, couldn't sit in a bouncer, jumper, or baby carrier? Let's just say it was a long 6 weeks! With Charlie's tube surgery, there are no restrictions on activity and he will bounce back quickly. 

Remember to take care of yourself as you help your little one recover. Charlie's surgery today was a breeze, but his previous two lead to a long first night of pain medication and crying. Jeff and I were able to trade off and get some rest while still helping Charlie as best we could. If your'e concerned about your child's recovery or have other children to juggle as well, call in back up ahead of time to stay for a day or two.

Surgery can be very scary for parents and for toddlers, but it doesn't have to be. All you can do is prepare yourself the best you can and be strong for your little one. If anyone reading this has specific questions about hypospadias repair or tube/adenoid recovery, please email me! I'd be happy to give a Mom's perspective. 

I hope you never need this information, but if you do, good luck and best of recovery to your little one!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ear Tubes: Take Two (Part Two)

Okay, lets try this again. Last Sunday, I wrote about how Charlie would be getting another set of ear tubes the next day, but when we arrived on Monday morning there was a mix up and we were bumped to a later date. Well, that later date has arrived. At 8am, we will be heading up to the hospital for new ear tubes.

Honestly, it was annoying when it happened, but the extra week to talk to Charlie about the procedure has been nice. He got a doctor kit for Christmas and has been giving us all several check ups a day. Not only is it adorable, but it gives us a lot of opportunity to talk to him about how the doctor is going to fix his ears.

So, say a little prayer and wish us luck. I'm not so much worried about the procedure as I am about how he'll react to it all. I'm hoping with Mickey and his doctor kit in tow, it'll be an uneventful morning. Here we go!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ginny: 9 Months

Three quarters of a year down! Three months to go until she's one. Wow.

Stats: 16lbs. and 25 1/2" long

Favorite toys: LeapFrog Picnic basket, her Rapunzel doll, and her basket of toy cars.

Favorite activities: Pulling absolutely everything out of the toy storage. At least it keeps her occupied for a long time while she's doing it. She has also been trying her hardest to rock herself on her new rocking giraffe, thought it mostly just looks like she's head banging to some rock music.

New foods this month: I can't even keep track at this point! She eats just about everything we eat (save for the obvious baby no no's) and feeds herself so well. We've started giving her baby size utensils to play with and while she's not exactly graceful with them, she understands what they're for.

Clothing: On her way out of 6 months and starting to fill in 9 months.

Teeth: Four on top, four on bottom...and she's still teething!

Sleep: Mostly sleeping through the night, but wakes up once in a while. I think she's been going through a growth spurt on top of the teething, so night time is a crap shoot.

New Tricks: Pulling to stand on just about everything and trying to take a few steps while holding on.

Firsts This Month: Time in the snow, Christmas

Over the past month, I've really started to see her personality come out. She is social, flirty, feisty, and quite the trouble maker. She's starting to understand the word "no," but cares very little. She is curious about every strange noise, new person, new place, or new thing. She still loves to be worn and cuddled even though she's getting bigger - and I love it.

It blows my mind that in three short months she will be turning one. I thought time went fast with Charlie, but that was nothing compared to how fast this first year has been going. When she wants to be cuddled a random times during the day its like she knows time is flying and we want her to be little for as long as we can. <3 p="">

Friday, December 27, 2013

Fitness Friday: On Being Type A

As I've gotten older, I've swung from totally go with the flow to a seriously Type A personality. Maybe it was college? Or my job? Or being a parent? Who knows. All I know is that I am a crazy planner and need to know what is happening next. This seems to make running more difficult.

The second I start running I'm already planning out how far I'm going to run, how long I want it to take, etc. While there is nothing wrong with having goals, I really wish I could just set out....and go. Run until I'm done, go wherever I go, take as long as I want (or have time for) without thinking about it too much. I'll be 30 seconds into a run and already wondering if I'm going to make it. Make it where? I'm not due to be anywhere at any certain time!

Music seems to help keep my mind off of it, but otherwise I'm still trying to figure out how to chill out and stop thinking so much. I think it'll be good for me to learn how to let go of least a little.

Things I learned running this week:

  • When you run around your town, you will find hills that you didn't even know existed. And you will hate them.
  • If its 28 degrees outside, remember to wear Chapstick. Or better yet, just slather on some Aquaphor for good measure. 
  • Remember to charge your cell phone before you go or you'll spend the entire run praying it doesn't die.
  • Apparently, my Galaxy SIII came with really, really nice head phones and I can stop stealing Jeff's. He's happy about it.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

An Elf's Goodbye

We haven't done the Elf on the Shelf thing around here. I tried explaining it to Charlie and he grabbed the elf and ran away, then gave him to Ginny. We all know how that ended.

Okay, maybe next year?

My sister, Christina, on the other hand, went all out this year for my 3 year old nephew, who loved every second of it. My nephew, Landon, named his elf "Santa." Santa went on many adventures over the past few weeks including spa days, lounging on the beach, and of course some mischief.

When Landon found out that Santa would be leaving on Christmas Eve, he was understandably upset. Instead of just writing a goodbye letter, my sister helped Santa make an elf sized photo album of all of their fun.

Check out a flip book of the pictures here on Instagram!

Landon was thrilled to get his letter and photo album and made the goodbye a whole lot easier. Get ready, Christina, you're going to be making these tiny little books for the next few years! ;-)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Change of Plans: Tubes Update

As I said yesterday, today was supposed to be tube day. We kept Charlie up later than usual and he thankfully slept until 7am. We dressed him and threw him in the car so we could drop Ginny at daycare and head to the surgery center. When we got there, the doctor spoke with us and apologized for the confusion. Confusion? What confusion?!

When I got the call on Friday to pre-register Charlie for the surgery, I mentioned that he was finishing up a round of Vancomycin for c diff, but that he was better at this point. We don't have a negative test result yet (he's getting tested again next week), but he's been significantly better for a few weeks now.   The nurse we spoke to didn't say anything. Apparently, she called back an hour later to cancel the surgery because the surgery center was uncomfortable with Charlie not having a confirmed negative test yet.

Except, she never called.

We showed up, after spending 3 days talking to Charlie about how the doctor is going to fix his ears, just to leave again. We'll have to schedule the surgery with the main hospital as they have better "precautions for this kind of thing." Charlie's ENT seemed so embarrassed - I felt bad for the guy. He was so apologetic about the whole thing, but I knew it wasn't his fault. He just gets time at the surgery center, its not like its HIS office. We're hoping we can get Charlie in on Friday at the hospital. It should be easy to squeeze him in - the whole procedure only takes about 15 minutes. He wants it done ASAP, before another ear infection has a chance to set in.

So instead of surgery and resting today, Charlie and I are having a cookie baking and movie date. I've wanted to take him to see "Frozen" since it came out, but haven't had the time. With Ginny at daycare, today is perfect.

Hopefully we can get rescheduled soon. In the meantime, back to the holiday grind.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tubes Round 2

About 18 months ago, Charlie was referred to an ENT after 6 months of ear infections. It was awful - ear infection after ear infection and antibiotic after antibiotic. Eventually, it was recommended that he get tubes and have his adenoids removed. Once the surgery was done, it was like he was cured. He didn't have a single ear infection for well over a year.

This fall his tubes fell out. Its totally normal for them to fall out 12-18 months after being put in - usually the kid grows out of the problem and its all good. Within a few weeks, however, he was having problems again and not just ear aches - full on infections that perforated his ear drum and drained for days. Three in three months landed us back at the ENT. The good news is that the doc wasn't going to make us wait for more infections to pop up and wanted to put new tubes in right away. The bad news is that he's scheduled to go in tomorrow morning - two days before Christmas. The other good news is that aside from being a bit groggy, he'll recover quickly and be back to normal in a day or so.

So, tomorrow is the big day. Last time this was done, he was so much younger and didn't really understand what was going on. This time, I'm scared. He's so anxious when things are being done to him (like getting his ears or blood pressure checked) and I'm afraid he's going to be a screaming mess. We've been talking to him for the past few days about how the doctor is going to fix his ears so they don't hurt anymore and he understands at least that much. Poor kid's ears have been hurting him and he's lost a bit of his hearing, so I can imagine he's as excited as a 3 year old can be about surgery.

Hopefully, bringing Mickey Mouse will help ease his nerves. We have a matching Donald Duck (originally meant for his Christmas stocking) waiting for him when he comes out of surgery.

Wish us luck!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I've joined the dark side...

Say hello to the newest member of my technological family...

Hello, beautiful.

I've joined the dark side; the Mac dark side. My family is a PC family. I remember typing my 3rd grade papers on my super advanced DOS computer with a whopping 256 mb of storage space. I thought for sure this would get me disowned, but it was time for a change!

For the past several years, I've had an HP Pavilion laptop and while its served me just fine, it has....quirks. Aside from the fact that it weighs a ton, if you pick it up to fast, the battery falls out of the bottom and when its not plugged in it only lasts about an hour. So, quirks that make it basically a desk top. Not helpful at all considering its supposed to be portable. I needed something lightweight, durable, and was strong enough to run Adobe Creative Suite. Nothing too demanding, if you ask me.

I spent a lot of time on CNET searching for something new, but found that my options were pretty limited if I wanted a straight up laptop. The new rage is the tablet/laptop combo thingers that are either very expensive, don't actually run windows, or are such new technology the jury is still out on its quality. I kept coming back to the MacBook Air. J has had a MacBook for several years now. A few years ago while my HP was in the shop, I was borrowing his Mac to blog and hated the thing. I don't know what it was, but I felt like it was completely backwards and counterintuitive to everything I knew about computers. 

Well, I'm not sure what has changed since then, but DAMN I LOVE THIS THING. I ended up with a 13.3" MacBook Air with a 128 GB SSD. This thing boots in 15 seconds, was set up in under 10 minutes, and works like a dream. I was super hesitant to get a Mac and was ready for a huge learning curve, but it has been incredibly intuitive. Maybe having an iPad the last few years has prepared me? Who knows. Between the iCloud, crazy battery life (~10 hours), and how lightweight it is, I'm in love.

So here I am. The girl raised on PCs sitting with her Mac. Let the PC vs. Mac smack talk begin.