Thursday, January 21, 2010

Nick came across the most AWESOME personal finance website I've ever seen. You have to check it out! brings together all of the information from your online banking, credit cards, loans, investments, and property. My favorite feature is the budget tool: you input your own monthly budget, and Mint pulls your transactions from your bank and credit cards to compare your actual spending to your budget. It also prepares a variety of helpful graphs, such as trends in your spending, income, assets, debts, and net worth over time.

Nick makes fun of me for my...well...tight-fisted-ness. I used to update excel spreadsheets monthly with all of this information, so this website makes the job much easier! Not only does it save me time, but it also provides some neat tools. For example, in the budget section you can choose that some categories "roll over" from month to month. This comes in handy for some things, such as my "gifts" category. In one month, I may have two baby showers and a birthday to buy for, and the next month nothing. I can set the same monthly budget and if I don't spend it this month, it will carry over to be added to next month's budget. Love it! They also send email alerts whenever you exceed your monthly budget for a particular category (so, we'll be getting emails about our dining out category pretty much every month!).

Of course, the site claims to be safe and secure (check out their information about this), and it's been named "Best Budgeting Site" by Kiplinger's magazine, and "Top Pick" by Money Magazine. All for free, too!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Baby's Entourage

Here is a picture of Baby's family. Each of these five special stuffed animals has a proper name, and they are often found kissing each other or dancing together. She goes through roll call to make sure that everyone is present during naptimes and bedtimes. The bear on the left is the newest addition to the club so that may be why he hasn't made it into the inner circle.

In the second picture, she's making the face she makes when I ask her to smile.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Local Restaurant: Pizzeria Rustica

I keep reading about Pizzeria Rustica. They've won awards for their environmental sustainability and have been highlighted by nearly every local publication (and some not so local ones) for their artisan pizzas. Although their prices are quite reasonable, this trendy little eatery didn't come across as the most toddler-friendly, so we haven't had a chance to visit. That is, until Baby's grandparents offered their overnight babysitting services! We celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary with dinner and a movie (Avatar in 3D, good movie, not great for morning sickness).

Pizza Rustica
Photo courtesy of Pizzeria Rustica

Located in Old Colorado City, the Pizzeria is a 30 minute drive from our home on the East end of town. Well worth it. I ordered their Quattro Formagi, a white pizza featuring house-made mozzarella, provalone, podano, and fontina cheeses with tons of roasted garlic and olive oil, and I asked them to add some elk pepperoni (featured on their special last night). Nick had their Salumi pizza with two kinds of salami, mozzarella, and tomatoes. The pizzas are individual-sized, but rather large (nearly a foot in diameter); we ignored the waiter's admission that many couples get by with sharing one pizza between them and were glad we did.

The desserts...oh the desserts...the star was Nick's Spumoni, which is pistachio ice cream with dried cherries and nuts and a balsamic fig glaze. I had yesterday's special, a cannoli with lemon gelato.

Nick and I talked about all of the places we would travel without kids or budget restraints. Croatia made the list this time, as did an Alaskan cruise and a weekend in Crested Butte, Colorado. Maybe we'll make it to the latter this Spring before I am entirely too pregnant to enjoy it; with another year of breastfeeding coming up, who knows when we'll be free to travel again!

Nick, thank you for the most wonderful 7 years...I love you!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Babies are Coming

Looking forward to this movie! (April 16, 2010)

Thanks, Sarah at Clover Lane for the heads up!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Baby's Birth Story

What happens when you put two or more women of childbearing age in a room together for any length of time? No matter the occasion, I guarantee that you will hear the following words at some point in their conversation: contractions, epidural, ob-gyn, labor, pushing, percentile, and breastfeeding. We can't help it. Giving birth is certainly the most important and rewarding thing I've done in my life. And I know that I, for one, wouldn't pass on a chance to hear a good birth story. For that reason, and because I have been dwelling on these memories in anticipation of my next baby arriving in June, I thought I would share Baby's birth story today.

Where should I start? How about 10 days PAST her due date. My doctor was concerned that Baby would be humongous, so I showed up at Memorial North to be induced at 7 p.m. on April 21. I felt perfectly normal but was surprised to learn that I was already 2 or 3 cm dilated and having strong contractions pretty close together. And the awesome part? I didn't feel them. I took the medication to start being induced and attempted to get some sleep. The most uncomfortable part was the darn hospital bed and the IV in my arm. Around 4 a.m., my water broke. The worst contractions I ever felt reminded me of a stomachache or menstrual cramp, even with the help of Pitocin.

Then, in late morning (the details have become a bit fuzzy), I was dilated to 5 cm so my doctor recommended we do the epidural. Here is where the story goes bad. It took the anesthesiologist over 30 minutes and at least 5 stabs with the big needle before he got it right. I have a curve in my spine (scoliosis), which made things difficult. I felt electrical 'zaps' going down my right leg several times and was terrified that I would be paralyzed. Finally, the numbness kicked in and I was feeling pretty great.

Fast forward another 5 hours or so...of sitting on the hospital bed without the use of my bottom half...and it was time to start pushing. I never felt the instinct to push. In fact, I couldn't feel what the heck I was doing. After about an hour of pushing with little progress, the powers that be decided to turn off the epidural. This is when I finally started feeling contractions and getting some work done. Those last couple hours, all I remember feeling was exhaustion and fear; the pain was secondary. I had a deadline to meet: if that baby didn't arrive after 3 hours of pushing, I would be wheeled into surgery for a c-section.

Two hours and 55 minutes later (nearly 24 hours after being induced), the most beautiful being in the world was placed on my chest. She was perfect and huge (8 lbs. 12 ozs. and 21.5 inches long). She quietly looked around the room, taking it all in, and her eyes seemed wise to me. I fell in love with her instantly and that love has only grown since.

Now I am faced with the question: should I get an epidural next time around? On one hand, I seem to have been blessed with a high tolerance for the pain of contractions. Also, the epidural may have slowed me down, so going a natural route may speed things up. However, why choose to feel pain when the epidural is so safe and effective? I would love to hear your advice, my wonderful readers!

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Fruits of My Labors

It's January, and our North-facing driveway is covered in ice, but we've been eating farmer's market and homegrown tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, basil, peaches, and apples. This is the time of year when I'm thankful for a long summer of food preservation. When I grab a jar of tomato sauce for a quick dinner, I think about all the August nights I was up past midnight waiting for those jars to seal. As I open another pint of salsa when visitors drop by, I remember trashing my kitchen during nap-time to end up with a few jars cooling on the counter. When pregnancy cravings prompt me to raid our linen closet for a new jar of dill pickles, I am happy to have destroyed my fingernails peeling all that garlic. And when Baby requests more "sauce", it's satisfying to open another quart of sugar-free applesauce for my little angel...even if it meant hours of pressing cooked apples through a food mill.

My desire to learn about home canning was inspired by a friend who stayed with us a couple years ago during a road trip with her family. She brought salsa and jam as a housewarming gift, which struck me as the most thoughtful gesture. It's been nice to have a pantry full for my little family, but even better to have quick gifts on hand. Everyone on my Christmas list ended up with at least two jars of food. A loaf of bread and some jam or apple butter have become quick sympathy and get-well-soon gifts for friends.

I thought I would share two more recipes that have brought the best of summer flavors to my table in the middle of winter. Both are freezer recipes, so you don't need any special equipment to enjoy them next year.

This Pesto Torte has been described as "the best thing I've ever tasted" by multiple people in my life, believe it or not! It's a spread for crackers, the perfect hors d'oeuvre to bring to a party. You basically make an entire round spring-form pan and divide it into slices, wrapping and freezing each individually so that you have eight portions ready for parties throughout the year.

By the way, this blog is one of my favorites: Thy Hand Hath Provided. Her young family grows and preserves most of their own food and buys the rest from local farmers. She posted instructions for roasting and freezing roma tomatoes. They are flavored with olive oil and fresh herbs and end up similar to sun-dried tomatoes. I have a gallon bag of these guys in my freezer and am LOVING them! I have yet to buy a single hard, waxy grocery store tomato all winter (except when I asked Nick to pick up some bananas and he came home with about three pounds of tomatoes instead...???). These roasted tomatoes have found their way into pasta dishes, grilled cheese sandwiches, white pizzas, and casseroles. Yum!

It's a bit cruel to share these recipes now, when tomato season couldn't be further away. Sorry. Just giving you a taste of summer before you have to go shovel your sidewalk again!

Photos courtesy of Thy Hand Hath Provided.