Gratefulness

Giving Thanks

November 23, 2016

img_2610I am so, so thankful for:

  • ↑ That hilarious goof, who is so much work but sooo worth it.
  • KC, who puts up with my pregnancy mood swings and always goes above and beyond the call of duty.
  • Babysitters, who give us a night out together when we so desperately need it.
  • My heavy Dutch bike, which is getting harder to ride by the day, but gets us where we need to go.
  • My dad’s Netflix account. 😉
  • European health insurance, which makes all my pregnancy and non-pregnancy complications ever so affordable.
  • Naptime.
  • Our ability to travel while we live abroad — it’s honestly one of the biggest pluses.
  • greenjump.nl — my most favorite Dutch website which delivers so many things I need (and maybe a few things I don’t).
  • This little wiggly lady currently residing in my midsection. She’s certainly making 4am really interesting these days.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.  Hope you have the best holiday weekend ever.

(And in case you’re wondering what we’re doing for Thanksgiving this year, we’ve hired a babysitter to watch P after she goes to bed and are going out to dinner. I can’t wait.)

PS: That picture above was taken while walking around Waterlooplein. Prim decided she didn’t want to walk any farther, so we were telling her we were continuing on without her. She just stood there and yelled, “BYE!!” and then threw her head back and laughed because she’s obviously the funniest thing ever.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy Update — November

November 21, 2016

img_0445I have been having minor panic attacks this month realizing that I’m rapidly approaching the third trimester (one week away!) Even though I’m very much visibly pregnant and this little lady is just as much a party animal as P was when she was in my belly, being so focused on daily life with Prim here in Amsterdam has made this pregnancy seem like an afterthought much of the time. Also, with the second baby you don’t have to do all the reading and research like the first — I know how to breastfeed, what to expect when labor rolls around, and I don’t need to scrutinize Consumer Reports to determine what carseat or crib we’re going to be buying. All of this means I mostly just don’t have to think about this pregnancy so much, which makes the realization that we’re going to have another person in our family (soon!) seem sort of weird and overwhelming at times. But then I think of that moment right after you give birth when you hold your new baby for the very first time and I can’t help but think, yeah, probably like 100 more babies.

weeks: 27

baby’s size: cauliflower

i’m feeling: pretty good still, but I’m definitely getting more tired and daily tasks are taking up more and more energy. Biking up any sort of hill with Prim on my bike feels like what I imagine the end of an Ironman race to be (and I’m just going to go on ignoring those swift Dutch bikers who pass me by while I’m desperately trying to catch my breath, since this little one is impeding my lung space more and more each day.)

food love: ice cream. Ben and Jerry are my BFFs right now.

food hate: scrambled eggs are a total turn-off, which is super weird because I was OBSESSED with eggs while pregnant with Prim — I seriously could not get enough.

3 pros for november: 1. KC and I are finally using our babysitter here in the Netherlands and going out on a date this week for Thanksgiving. I’m super excited for some one-on-one time with him. 2. We’re heading out on a little vacation to visit some Christmas markets in Germany and Belgium this weekend — it’s going to be magical.  3. The events of this month have made me very thankful to be living abroad. (And yes I voted alllll the way from Amsterdam, so if you didn’t vote — I honestly don’t know what your problem is.)

3 cons for november: 1. KC had some hellish weeks at work this month. It was straight-up US busy season style hours. No bueno. 2. My insomnia is so ridiculous these days. I won’t fall asleep until after midnight and then will be SUPER WIDE AWAKE for hours at 4am. It’s like jet lag all the time. 3. There’s a hormonal shift around the beginning of the third trimester, and just like when I was pregnant with Prim, it means I’m super annoyed about things that normally wouldn’t bother me much. (And then I get more annoyed that something so minor is annoying me so much and it’s like this catch 22 where I’m in a bad mood and hate everything but also feel bad about feeling that way. So fun.)

currently living in: H&M maternity jeans and my Old Navy maternity jacket — which was like the best $35 I’ve ever spent — gotta love those Gap/Old Navy sales! Oh yeah, and those maternity overalls in the picture above, which KC totally hates but make all my pregnancy dreams come true.

looking forward to: our very first vacation without Prim. We will be celebrating this baby-to-be + 5 years of marriage (and 12 years together!) in Paris. C’est romantique!

dreaming about: sushi and beer. (And oysters and champagne and…)

Breakfast / Brunch / Sweet

Bakery-Worthy Blueberry Muffins

November 18, 2016

img_0436I have been on a total blueberry kick lately. A friend brought some blueberries over a couple weeks ago when her daughter came over to play with Prim and I haven’t been able to get enough since. Never mind that it’s not exactly blueberry season and they certainly aren’t the cheapest item in the produce department right now — this pregnant belly doesn’t care. Just give me all the blueberries.

The recipe below is a slight adaption of the America’s Test Kitchen recipe for blueberry muffins, and I will tell you right now — it’s the only blueberry muffin recipe you’ll ever need. These muffins are straight-up bakery status. They are soft and moist on the inside and crispy and full on top — everything you could want out of a blueberry muffin.

If you need an impressive contribution to a breakfast or brunch spread, or simply something delicious to have with your afternoon coffee — these muffins are it. And I really wish these photographs did these muffins justice, but they don’t — they look amazing in person and taste even better.img_0434

Blueberry Muffins

makes 12 muffins

For the muffins:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup blueberries, rinsed and picked over
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

For the quick jam:

  • 1 cup blueberries, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 tsp sugar

For the topping:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • grated zest of one lemon (about 1 1/2 tsp)
  1. Stir together lemon zest and sugar for topping and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°.
  3. Make a quick blueberry jam by combining 1 cup of blueberries with 1 tsp sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir and smash the berries along the side of the pan until they have reduced by about half and become syrupy — about 4-5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  4. Whisk together eggs and sugar until pale yellow and fluffy. Whisk in oil and melted butter, followed by milk, yogurt and vanilla extract, then fold in blueberries with a spatula. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, then add dry ingredients to wet, stirring just to combine. (Do not over mix — batter should be slightly lumpy.)
  5. Spoon batter into 12 greased muffin cups, filling to the top. Add 1 tsp of the quick blueberry jam to the top of each muffin and use a skewer or knife to swirl it into the muffin. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with lemon sugar until well-covered.
  6. Bake 15-17 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes:

  • You will probably only need about half the of the sugar topping for these, so feel free to scale that down. Add more sugar to the top of the muffins that you think you should, though — it makes for a great crispy top!
  • These are really best the day that you make them, so I would suggest making them the day you plan on consuming them, to the extent possible. They will keep overnight wrapped in plastic or in an airtight container.

Drinks / Sweet

How to Make a Starbucks-Quality Mocha at Home

November 15, 2016

I know I’ve posted on here before about making mochas on your stovetop, but since I feel like I’ve really perfected the recipe I thought I’d post about it again. Those of you who know me may know that I have a long history with coffee. I was hired at Starbucks at the age of 16 and ended up working there for 6 years — through college. It was a great job and my love of coffee was solidified during those years. I still frequent the ‘bucks, but more often I can be found making coffee at home and experimenting with recreating my favorite recipes from my barista days.

This recipe works just as well for homemade hot chocolate if you omit the coffee. I’ve never been much of a fan of those powdered packets that you add hot water to, so be warned — this recipe is not that. (And I can definitely recommend topping off your mug with a big dollop of whipped cream — it makes life worth living.)

This recipe is perfect for one person, but it’s just as easy to double, triple or quadruple it — whatever your fancy. I will admit that an instant espresso machine (like the Nespresso) makes things a bit easier here, but you can certainly make do with a stovetop espresso pot or any other type of coffee contraption that you have on hand. If you’re using a standard coffee pot or french press, just make sure to double the coffee strength to make a more concentrated, espresso-like batch of coffee. (I recommend using 4 tbsp coffee per 6 oz of water to do this.)

img_0350

Homemade Mocha

serves one

  • 25 grams / 1 ounce / 2.5 tbsp dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • tiniest pinch of salt
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1.5 ounces (one shot) or more espresso or double-strength coffee
  1. Place chocolate, sugar, salt, and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk regularly until chocolate is dissolved and milk is heated through to desired temperature.
  2. Take milk mixture off the heat and add vanilla extract.
  3. Add desired amount of coffee/espresso and stir to combine in a large mug.

Notes:

  • I prefer to use semi-sweet chocolate in this, which has at least 35% cocoa content. The chocolate I get here in the Netherlands has a minimum of 45%, which seems to work perfectly. The higher the cocoa content, the more bitter/less sweet the mocha will be. I’ve used chocolate with up to 90% cocoa content in this recipe, and while I prefer the higher cocoa content for general chocolate snacking, I think the mid-range (35 – 60%) works best.
  • You can use any types of milk you prefer in this, but I generally use whole milk as I think it gives the best result.

Personal

What to Tell Our Daughters

November 10, 2016

It’s hard for me to see the upside to this election, especially having gone into it with so much hope and inspiration. I couldn’t wait to inform my daughters of the momentous result, which I hoped to them would seem small and insignificant by the time they heard and understood it. Much like we cannot fathom a world pre- Brown v. Board of Ed. or Loving v. Virginia, I hoped that my girls wouldn’t be able to comprehend a world where people are unable to marry the person they love, or a world where the white male always wins — even if he’s so clearly under-qualified for the position. Unfortunately, that world did not come to exist the other night. Instead, a silent, hateful minority finally made their voices heard, and equality and inclusion lost the day.

It’s hard to know how to proceed. So much of what is before us is unknown.

In speaking with a mama friend yesterday who has a daughter just a few weeks younger than Prim, she asked, “What do we tell our daughters?” We were both at a loss and instead simply sat in silence with tears in our eyes. Luckily I don’t have to tell my girls anything yet. As a mama I will do everything I can to fiercely shield and protect them from the hatred, racism and misogyny that our new leader represents. While they are still little I create their world, and no one — and certainly no man — will take that away from me.

For now, I will continue to raise my girls to be willful, opinionated, free and fierce. I will not silence them to make others more comfortable, just as my own mother would not (and still will not) be silenced. I was raised to be strong, forthright, and resilient, and I expect nothing less of my girls. If I make you uncomfortable because I’m not silent — good. I am educated, opinionated, and unwilling to sit on the sidelines. If you cross me or those that I hold close, I will bare my teeth (and my extensive knowledge of the law and the finer points of the English language).

I am here, I am bossy, and I am not backing down. And I am just one of the many. If this scares you — good, because you are who we are coming for, and you wouldn’t believe our strength and our stamina. I have carried life inside me and clawed my way through pain and circumstance far worse than this. I am the woman of today and I am raising the women of tomorrow, and I’m telling you now — we will prevail, so get behind us or get out of the way.

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And while the wound is still fresh and the future unknown, I will continue to tell myself and the women around me this:

Woman Warriors have always made beautiful worlds out of nothing.

Every time a child gets sick or a man leaves or a parent dies or a community crumbles, the women are the ones who carry on, who do what must be done in the midst of their own pain. While those around them fall away, the women hold the sick and nurse the the weak, put food on the table, carry their families’ sadness and anger and love and hope. They keep showing up for their lives and their people with the odds stacked against them and the weight of the world on their shoulders. They never stop singing songs of truth, love, and redemption in the face of hopelessness. They are inexhaustible, ferocious, relentless.

We’ve been Warriors all along, and nothing will change that.

We are not what just happened. But we might be what we do next.

The world needs our relentless, inexhaustible, fierce, boundlessness love today more than it ever has before. So let’s do what we do: Let’s feed some hungry babies and clothe some hurting families and get the heat turned back on for as many as possible.

– Glennon Doyle Melton

This is not the end. It is only the beginning.

The future is female.