Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Kitchen in France (a cookbook review)

Recently I received a copy of A Kitchen in France by Mimi Thorisson to review.




I have a love for all things French so when this cookbook popped up on the market I knew I had to get my hands on it.  Simple french home cooking is what I was looking for but that is not exactly what I got. Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad thing at all! The recipes felt to me like they were meant for the weekend or a holiday.  They were meals to be savored and enjoy.  Not just the food itself but the whole cooking process.  My view is however swayed by my packed schedule and typical rushed weekday meals.  I will look forward to diving into this on the weekends.



To start I love the classic feel of this book.  The beautiful pictures and adaptable recipes make this cookbook one I could see myself using for years to come.  Which is not easy for me to say.  What immediately pulled me in was that Thorisson arranged her recipes by seasons.  I am a huge fan of cooking seasonally appropriate produce.  You don't break the bank and it is fresh!

This brings me to another point.  She includes substitutes for within her recipes.  If you can't find "A" how about "X" or "Y."  As someone who lives outside of a booming metropolitan area, it means that I can always find something within her substitutions.   Far too often chefs forget that not everyone has access to high end ingredients.  This sold me on the cookbook but it doesn't stop there.

"Four 1 1/2-pound/ 680-g Poussins or Guinea Hens"


Mimi Thorisson made the smart decision to include the recipes in Metric AND Standard.  I love French cooking but having to convert everything can be a big pain.  You can see what I am taking about in the picture above.  Having just Metric will often deter people from picking up a cookbook because of the extra effort they have to put into a recipe when they are already intimidate by cooking it.

That said she has done a wonderful job including classic French dishes and making them less intimidating for the basic home chef.  You can find dishes like Ratatouille and Coqou Vin along with many others.  That said though I think there is something in there for everyone no matter what your cooking level is.

On a final note I will say that I found the personal snip its before each recipe very charming.  Whether she is talking about the culture, a personal story or just giving some cooking tips you can see the passion she has for French cooking.  It screams through in her writing and more importantly her recipes.  Thorisson takes you on a culinary journey throughout her cookbook and I for one am happy to join her.



If you would like to know more about this cookbook or Mimi Thorisson click on the links below.





FTC Disclaimer:  I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  The thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Friday, January 30, 2015

Feeling the Strain

Lately I have been feeling the stain of this military lifestyle.  The brunt of it comes down to the fact that Hubby is working crazy hours and we are still waiting to hear back as to where we will be PCSing.  For those of you unfamiliar with military lingo that means Permanent Change of Station.  That's fancy Military speak for moving us to another post or location.  Where that will be at this point is any one's guess.   We are both waiting with fingers crossed and saying prayers that it is at least something in his top 10 choices of locations.  Needless to say not knowing where we are heading is stressing me out.

The reality of it is that we could be moving a few weeks or a few months based of Hubby's report date.  That is a HUGE difference of time when talking about a move!   Yes, they send movers to pack us up and bring our crap to the new location but there is like 300 things I need to do prior to a move.  It is not as simple as pack up and move.  If it is OCONUS (military speak for Outside Continental US or basically moving abroad) then that throws in a whole new level of crazy.

I know I am working myself up here a bit but about it all.  This wasn't like the move came out of nowhere so I did have some idea that we would be moving around this time of year.  We started early going though most of the "junk" boxes, sorting and organizing.   I am freaking out even though I know that we are in a better position to move than we ever have been before.  Two moves within the same duty station will do that to you.  I still can't shake the anxiety over it all.  

This move is big and not just because of the standard new surrounds part.  It's Bears first PCS so I worry about how he will handle the changes.  I worry that Duke's seizures will return because of the stress.  That Coco who doesn't do will with moves will become uber needy and withdraw once again.

I worry but I know it won't change anything.  So for now I will clean and sort and wait.  I'm preparing as if I would be leaving in a few weeks just in case.  I'd rather be wrong than even more panicked if I'm right and had done nothing at all.

Enough of my rambling, it is time to get back to my PCS Prep list.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Update of 101 in 1001 (Jan 2015)

once again I am back with an update on my 101 in 1001.


Completed

46.  But three new board games and actually use them (4/3)

For Christmas we received Catchphrase and The big bang theory.  Both will be getting lots of use.


Working on

19. Eat one vegetarian meal per month for this project. ( 6/31)

Tofu (instead of chicken) tortilla Soup.  It wasn't anything too exciting but it does take care of this past months vegetarian meal.  Since I have decided to start eating more vegetarian meals I really need to spend some time and search for something good.

20.  Bake something new every month for this project (sweet or savory) ( 6/31)

This month I made Damaris Phillips Stuffed Acorn Squashed with Sausage, Brown rice and Goat Cheese.  I substituted the barley for brown rice which I don't think affected the dish.  It is cooked part in the oven and part on the stove so I am counting it.  You can find the recipe here.


22.  Cook ten new breakfast (1/10)...

I made something quick and easy but new to me.  I  made Oeufs en Cocotte or eggs in pots.  I used Rachel Khoo's recipe that you can find here.  Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures because I was in a rush that day.  However I am positive I will be making this many more times because it was so beyond easy!

57.  Watch twenty-five movies Hubby recommends that I have not seen (11/25).

Guardians of the Galaxy 

Snow White and the Huntsman


Jack the Giant Slayer



Failed

On the positive side I did not fail anything.  


Monday, January 19, 2015

15 goals for 2015

I know everyone makes a list of resolutions but that is just something I don't believe in.  I do however believe in Goals which to me is different than resolutions.  It's clear, its focused and heck I already have a whole list of them via my 101 in 1001.   This list of goals are specifically things that I want to make sure happen this year.  Some of the things I have already planned on doing anyway but I really wanted to spend some time and really think these ones though.  Putting pen to paper or really type to text box isn't a bad thing.  It's a way for me to hold myself accountable.  So here are my 15 goals for 2015 in no particular order.  Some you may recognize from my 101 in 1001.


1.  Read at least half the books I own but haven't read.  I have dozens upon dozens of books that I have not read between my bookshelf, nook, and kindle.  It's ridiculous in my mind and it needs to change.  Specifically with the physical books that I own because the "space" taken up on my eReaders doesn't bother me at all.  Now I've already gone through and tossed the ones I have already read and don't want to keep into the garage sale boxes, as well as the ones I'll never read.  This took it down by half.  Still there are at least 50 books on there that I haven't touched since I bought them.  Many if which are ones that I know are a read once then toss kind of book.  It's about time I get around to reading them.  Not to mention it would be nice to check this off my 101 list.

2.  Start tot school with Bear.  I have been looking into this more and more as a way to simply enrich Bears' day to day activities.  He is still pretty young (18mo) but that doesn't mean I can't start working with him on the simple things.  I like theme curriculum for early childhood  and so picking a few activities for him every week wouldn't be all that difficult thing to start.  Hello old teaching files!  I could easily expand from there based on how he likes it.  If I even think I have a shot at potentially homeschooling (just a thought at this time, don't freak out people.) tot school could give me a glimpse into how it would all work for us. 

3.  Use cloth diapers more!  I use them for a two to three days and instead of expediting the wash of them so I can get him back into them they sit on the drying rack for a week until I remember they are there only after walking in with an arm full of wet clothes.  It's not really all that hard or difficult to cloth diaper.  I don't even mind stuffing them.  I just forget about them until I need the space on the drying racks.  possibly washing less diapers more often or removing one of the extra inserts from my "night time" diapers and using them during the day when I wash the bulk of the stash.  Regardless I need to address this especially now that he is taking his pants AND diaper (disposable) off more and more.  ugh. 

4.  Get serious about potty training Bear. Which is obviously as you have just read above sort of counter productive to my previous goal.  At any rate, Bear is using the potty anywhere from 1-3 times a day depending on how many times I chose to put him on it and if he he has already gone to the bathroom in his diaper.  I don't want to push him and have him end up hating it but then again I also want him fully potty trained by 3.  Call me crazy all you want, that's fine, but every child in my family has been potty trained by 2 1/2 years old.  I'm giving him some flexibility by saying 3.  I think this is entirely doable based on how much he hates a dirty diaper, tells me when he has gone or about to go, and even asks to use the potty.  All things that lead me to believe that he is ready to start potty training full on.

5.  Eat more vegetarian meals.  I don't hate meat of any kind. I simply like vegetables more than I like meat.  I grew up loving vegetables.  I clearly remember helping my dad in the garden.  Planting seeds, watering the plants, weeding, and often eating more than I picked to bring inside. Raw or lightly cooked veggies taste the best to me.  No sauces or seasonings needed, just the veggie flavor itself.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  I may not have my own garden to tend to, but I can still increase the amount of vegetables I eat by making more vegetarian meals.  Really it would be "meat on the side" type of dishes since there is no way that Hubby could deal with a bunch of meatless dishes every week.  My 101 list has me making one meal a month.  That is just not enough for me lately.  While Hubby was deployed I lived a flexitarian or semi-vegetarian diet.  I ate mostly vegetables but had meat on occasion.  I felt better when I ate this way so I want to go back to this even if Hubby does not join me in it.

6.  Crochet more!  Something you may or may not know about me is that I started Crocheting when I was a little girl.  My grandmother taught me when I was about 6 years old.  It gave me something to do that kept me out of trouble.  The whole idle hands thing and all.  I have over the years picked it up here and there to work on various projects.  Recently life has gotten in the way of me working on any projects.  Back in the closet they all went.  I want to finish up any unfinished projects that I have.  Mainly two basic no frills blankets.  The first is a camo and black striped blanket and the second is shades various of purple and pink.  Both of which are to far along to abandon so I would like to finish them both.  I would also like to make a blanket for Bear.  One that will match his toddler bedding whenever we decide to make that transition.  

7.  No soda all year.  I already am well over one year without soda and I don't miss it.  I get the random craving for something other than flat water or drinks so I make seltzer with our soda stream.  Carbonated water is not soda but it does keep me from wanting a soda. Here is to another year!

8.  No more than a single cup of coffee per day.  I have a real coffee addiction.  I will easily drink 2-3 cups a day.  I drink them black without any sugar but I actually like the taste of coffee.  I also hate to drink my calories for the day so why waste it on the extras when I can buy flavored coffee.  At any rate we are trying for another kid and drinking so much coffee is not a good thing.  I need to start cutting back big time.  Now is as good of a time as any.

9.  Attempt to be more Eco friendly, green, granola, whatever you want to call it.  I am not one that is all "save the planet" but I do think that if everyone did a little something it would make a difference.  It is also economical to do so.  I feel like I need to set a good example for my son in doing just that.  Simple things like washing full loads of laundry verse half loads like I mostly do now.  Making sure to bring my reusable bags when grocery shopping.  Using towels to clean up spills more than paper towels.  Use my reusable water bottle more than the store bought plastic ones.  Small changes like this to me are ones that I can do that could easily be done by me.

10.  Let my hair grow out and NOT cut it short!  I am hating my short hair cut.  Like really hating it.  I wish I never did it.  Sadly this overwhelming dread happened almost instantly upon returning home from the hair dresser.  This is my own doing though not hers.  After having a dozen different hair lengths and colors over the years I have realized that my hair looks best at a certain way.  There is only so short I can go before it looks bad on me. no matter how many times I try it never looks good.  Long and medium length hair look best on me and I just need to stick with what works for me.  The same goes for coloring my hair.  There is only so light I can go before it looks ridiculous on me.  I need to stop pushing that limit and work with what I've got.

11.  Purchase a buffet table or sideboard to hold all of our fine china.  The current solution of stacking it all in a closet on shelves is driving me bonkers.  I lose close to an entire closet with just our fine china and kitchen linens.  I want it where it belongs in the kitchen or dining room in something other than a traditional massive China cabinet.  I greatly dislike the old fashioned china cabinets where everything is on display, so a buffet table or sideboard will work better.  I can hide all the crap underneath and put whatever I want on top of it.  I am thinking of looking into getting one from a second hand shop rather than a new one.  I find the deals on these are much better.  I also am willing to put in the work it would take to fix it up.  

12.  Do not purchase makeup ALL year.  With a few exceptions of course.  The intent behind this is for me to use up what I have and not just continually adding to it.  There are however certain things that I only have one of like eyebrow pencil and concealer that I only use one specific brand or type of.  I will repurchase those as needed.  This is intended to target my 19 tubes of mascara, 2 dozen lip glosses, countless eye shadow palettes and singles and my 30 plus bottles of nail polish.  Seriously, you all I have a problem but I am working on it and have been for over a year now.  I will include in this asking for makeup for holidays or my birthday.  Here is where the real exception comes in.  I have a homemade coupon for the Naked 3 palette.  It was out of stock when hubby when to purchase it.  I will not get anything else though until what I own is seriously cut down to a small fraction of what it is.  
13.  Expand the family.  Obviously, at this point that means working with a fertility specialist to try to conceive baby number 2.  The recent set back has with the ectopic pregnancy has not stopped us from wanting to try again when medically able to.  While it is unlikely at this point that I will actually birth another child in this calendar year, I would like to be pregnant by the end of the year.  This too is a roll of the dice but it is a goal (possibly pipe dream) none the less.

14.  Socialize more.  Moving (more below) will obviously make this more necessary for me in the future but it is something I should do more off.  I have a dwindling (thanks military lifestyle) group of friends that I see and we all hang out together when we can.  It isn't as often as we all would like but such is life. Outside the circle of friends there is nothing.  I have lost my ability to small talk with strangers or enjoy functions especially large group ones.  I mean, if there isn't at least one of my friends going to a function/event/whatever I simply dread going. At the last function I want to I sipped my punch in the corner and count down the time until I can bolt out of there!  This was not like me at all. I'm much more of an introvert now than I ever have been.  When I lived in New York, pre marriage and baby, I was rarely ever home.  There was always something to do and somewhere to go.  I miss that.  Now that is simply not the case.  There is a child to tend to and a household to run.  This should not consume my entire life.  I need to get out more and socialize more.  Even if it means BSing simply with people while waiting for my yoga class to start.  Just something.  Anything really at this point is better than what I am or have been doing.  

15.  Move to a new location AND create a list of things of things to do and/or places to visit in for that location.  Does it count if we were scheduled to move anyway?  We are still waiting to hear back about where we are going to be PCSing to but we know that we will be moving sometime in early spring time.  That said, I want to take advantage of the new location no matter how amazing or crappy it is.  I know that where we are (Fort Polk) can and does suck pretty bad as far as Army Posts.  There is very little to do in the local area.  I find if you look hard enough you can always find something to see or explore.  Here that meant really looking for places to take day trips to like Grant tree farm or Natchitoches.  If I stayed local all the time I would go crazy.  We did a lot of that here, don't get me wrong.  Between Doctors appointments, field rotations, deployment, and a new baby we did a lot of staying home and not going out.  I don't want to get stuck in a rut at the next place like we did here.  I am hoping really researching the next place and creating a "to-do" list will help us branch out more.  

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

waiting is emotionally draining

This has been a rough, crazy couple of weeks/months.  I apologize for the horribly written post you are about to read.  I just kind of needed to get this all out.  Write it down so I don't forget what happened and is happening.  

______________________

As you all know we have been working with a fertility specialist trying to have another baby.  The stars aligned and we had a perfect cycle.  I got a positive pregnancy test in the evening of all things then Aunt Flow came for a visit.  my doctor sent me for a beta test and the levels came back low.  It was assumed I was having a chemical pregnancy.  My numbers needed to hit zero for me to start a new cycle.  With the mass amount of things that needed to happen for us to start the next cycle (assuming my numbers hit zero) we quickly adding up.  Family would need to be told, which we did not want to happen, and hours of driving just for a small shot at the cycle working.  It wasn't worth it so we decided to take a break.  More of this later.  I want to keep things in order of how they happened.

 Thanksgiving we had the in-laws stop in for a visit.  We kept buttoned up about all of it.

I was told by the nurse to take a pregnancy test in a week or so to make sure my beta levels went down.  A week later about mid day I am cleaning out my nightstand and see an old digital pregnancy test and figured what the heck lets just try it.  It's old anyway.  Worst case it tells me invalid.  well not what I expected.  It told me "pregnant."  In complete shock I call hubby and ask him to pick up more on his way home.  He does and I take both an early response and a digital.  Both came back positive.  So the doctors is closed because it's Friday at 6pm and they don't open until Monday.  Guess I will be waiting.  
The next morning I take another test.  faint positive on the early response, but it is lighter than it was the evening before.  No big deal, I'll call the doctor on Monday.  

We went to the grant tree farm to pick out our Christmas tree.  Everything was fine however when we got home I noticed I was bleeding again.  Clearly its not good.  I held off for a few hours and then decided to go to the ER.  I needed answers.

The ER was basically a waste of my time.  The ER doctor did nothing.  He did not want to do anything because I was seeing a specialist and because I wasn't feeling anything more than moderate cramping he told me to wait until I can see my doctor.  I was fed up and pushed for them to draw blood for a beta which I should add was the worst experience I have ever had getting blood drawn in my life.  That is another post for another time.  After the blood draw the ER prick Doctor pops his head back in to tell me that they tested my urine sample for pregnancy and it came back negative.  Not pregnant.  I am baffled by this point.  what the hell is going on.  If i can trigger a digital shouldn't their test have come back positive?

Overnight be betas came back and they were no where near the range they should have been.  I called the fertility doctor the morning.  Since my betas were too far apart there was no viable data for them to know.  I went to get a beta 2 days later.  

The number barely went up.  Certainly not the 40% needed for this to be viable pregnancy.

I was and am heartbroken over this.  You hope and you pray and you see the positive and then the world gets flipped and you're dealing with the fall out.  

My fertility Doctor had me come in for some additional tests and to discuss how to proceed.  Since my numbers were so low there would be nothing that could be seen on an ultrasound so there is no real way of knowing but he believed I may have an Ectopic pregnancy.  For those of you unfamiliar with that term it means a pregnancy outside the uterus, most commonly in the Fallopian tubes.  They best course of treatment is to get a Methotrexate shot.  The shot blocks folic acid which is needed for cell growth, thus stopping the cells from multiplying.  This would allow my body to absorb the cells.

I went for the shot.  I trusted my doctor.  The thought of the what if's from not getting the shot terrified me.  They weren't as painful as I thought they were going to be.  Actually the harder part was walking into the labor and delivery section of the hospital past the well baby room.  Emotionally I was a wreck.

The side effects from the shot were minimal.  I was tired and slept a lot.  I am thankful hubby was off to care for Bear.  Now all I could do was wait and get betas drawn.

The first one came back and my numbers were going down.  We were excited.  The shot worked and I began to feel less nervous about it all. 

The second beta was did not go down.  It in fact shot up higher than my numbers had been before.  This meant another shot.  Another awkward walk past those new babies.  This time I had no choice but to go by myself.  

With shot number two done I was a wreck.  The first beta after it the numbers went up.  That isn't uncommon though.  The next beta the numbers went down.  I could finally breathe again.

The following week the beta level was cut in half.  

This brings me to present time.  I am not back at zero, yet.  I am however under 100 which is a big improvement. 

From here we wait and get beta tests and wait some more and get some more beta tests.  I need to have the beta level reach zero before we can proceed with anything at this point.  

This has not and is not an easy thing to go though.  Especially not when you go through it over the holidays.  This didn't ruin them but it did put a damper on things.  Especially when everything is closed!  ugh so frustrating.  

For now we are laying low, just dealing with everything.  Getting back into the swing of things and waiting for my beta level to hit zero.  Until then prayers and warm wishes are much appreciated.