Wednesday, March 27, 2013

you can't always get what you want

My family didn't travel all that much when I was growing up. We went to the beach nearly every summer and that was always our big vacation — the highlight of each year. But when I was 11 we flew out to Colorado to spend some time with friends and then spent a week and a half driving through Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and Arizona. We stayed in inexpensive hotels and ate bread with cheese and summer sausage in the car to avoid the cost of eating out for every meal. I don't remember what my siblings did to pass the time, but I listened to books on tape and daydreamed about cowboys, turquoise jewelry and living on a houseboat on Lake Powell.

being catapulted into Lake Powell by my brother and sister
family at the Grand Canyon
Mesa Verde
My young eyes were opened to new places and spaces, and I wanted to see more. My horizons especially expanded when I hit college. I've had the incredible blessing of visiting Alaska, Ireland, England, Korea, Uganda, Hawaii and islands in the Bahamas and Caribbean. In between those big trips have been relaxing vacays to the beach with family or with bunches of friends. It's all been amazing.


A couple of years ago it started to really bother me that Andy and I hadn't taken a trip just the two of us since 2008. Other opportunities always seemed to pop up, though, and we never wanted to turn down time with family or friends. As much as Andy likes to vacation, I'm the one with the travel bug. It didn't bother him that we weren't planning private get-aways, because we were still going places together (which certainly is a valid point, and we do always manage to sneak off and do fun things on our own).

I kept telling myself next year we'll go. Last year I was especially sure something would happen in 2013, because we'll celebrate our 5 year anniversary in May. In the past, we've kept our celebrations low key in order to live it up on those milestone anniversaries.

Today Jo from A Cup of Jo posted about the babymoon trip she took with her husband to St. Lucia. We booked our anniversary/babymoon hotel last week. We're going to... drumroll please...


Hehe. So, clearly, this isn't my dream vacay. I figured we could snazz up the trip by booking a nice hotel, but every hotel we looked at within the city had rates of $250 and up. Yeah, that just ain't happening after buying a house, flying to Hawaii, going on a cruise and then finding out a baby is on the way. (2012 was a crazy, wonderful year!) We ended up booking a hotel outside of the city and settled for a room with two queens because a room with a king-sized bed would have cost an extra 60 dollars. For some reason, it was that perfectly practical decision to nix the king bed that made me lose it. I cried.

"This just isn't what I pictured," I explained to Andy.

You know what, though? God has given us MUCH. I don't want to compare our getaway to everyone else's. I don't want to be reckless with the money that God allows us to have, and I certainly don't want to be ungrateful.

I'm embarrassed to tell you what a struggle this whole thing has been for me. I feel silly for crying. It's good to admit we don't have it all together, though, so whoop, there it is.

I gotta say, I am pumped that we are FINALLY going to eat at one of the restaurants featured on "Man Vs. Food." You've probably been wondering why we even picked Pittsburgh in the first place, and the three reasons are 1) we can drive there, 2) our friends rave about it and 3) we've seen the Pittsburgh Man Vs. Food episode at least three times and we're dyyying to try Primanti Brothers. Basically, we're going for a sandwich.

Other than pigging out on sammies piled high with meat and fries, we plan to see the Pirates play the Nationals, browse The Strip and check out a few museums. Got any suggestions for a romantic outing while we're there?

Monday, March 25, 2013

eating for two

My sister sent me a book titled, "The Pregnancy Survival Cookbook" and the very first recipe is simply toasted egg bread (or challah) with butter. I cracked up, because all a nauseous pregnant woman wants is bread or crackers!

I thought I'd share with you what I've been eating at home. Since two of my jobs are outside the home (substitute teaching and nannying), I try to buy or make items that can be easily packed for lunch. Nothing I list here is genius, but maybe it will inspire you anyway.

A few things to keep in mind: For your first trimester you can follow the rule that any calorie is a good calorie. Once you feel better, though, you definitely need to start thinking about eating well both for your sake and the baby's sake! (This advice came straight from my doctor.) Also, don't be shy about asking a family member or a close friend to bring you dinner one night. Before I got pregnant I had visions of myself doing p90x with a baby bump while veggies roasted in the oven. Bahahaha. I'm not quite there yet! :) I have been making a point to take more walks and eat more fruit, though. Gotta start somewhere.
I buy both plain instant oatmeal and low-sugar variety pack instant oatmeal. I love adding my own mix-ins to oatmeal when I have the time (like fresh chopped strawberries and shredded coconut). I keep meaning to try a baked oatmeal dish from Budget Bytes.

Mini bagel with cream cheese
I loved bagels pre-pregnancy, but they became a MUST during my first trimester. I was eating them every day for weeks! I recommend buying mini-bagels for two reasons: 1, they have half the calories, carbs and sugar as regular bagels (don't forget that butter or cream cheese is going to add calories and fat) and 2: it's recommended that pregnant women eat several small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals. I love butter, but I was obsessed with cream cheese during my first trimester. Enjoy eating lots of dairy while you're pregnant!

Homemade muffins or breakfast bread
You might not feel up to making ANYTHING during your first trimester. I know I didn't! But the first day that I had a break from what I like to call the pukies, I was in the kitchen whipping up a batch of pumpkin muffins with chocolate chips and walnuts. (These banana muffins are great, too.) Then I made strawberry bread. This recipe is similar to the one I used, except I used half whole wheat flour, unsweetened applesauce instead of oil and a mix of honey and sugar. 

BBQ sliders
This pulled pork recipe is SO easy and I promise you'll only be in the kitchen for a few minutes. I made it for Superbowl but used the leftovers for my school lunches. I loosely wrapped each slider in plastic wrap and then microwaved them for about 20 seconds. 

Tuna or chicken salad 
I couldn't stomach chicken salad during my first trimester, but tuna was yummy. I had a really hard time making it (several runs to the bathroom were involved), though! I like to eat tuna plain or in a tuna melt, but my latest favorite way is to toss plain canned tuna with pasta salad.

Pasta salad
See what I did there? Andy made Suddenly Salad on a whim one night and I was delighted to discover that it didn't upset my stomach. I eat it plain or with tuna, but you can also add olives, cheese, beans, etc. You can also buy pre-made pasta salad at the deli counter. If you're up for it, try my summer orzo salad.

Snack plate
This is my most common lunch. I pick two or three of my favorite snacks and arrange them on my wooden serving plate so that I feel picnic-y and fancy.

Grilled cheese with tomato soup
This one is a no-brainer. Serve with some apple slices or a quick salad. I buy Pepperidge Farm's 45 calorie per slice bread.

More soup! 
Andy told me he would happily eat chili every day for the rest of my pregnancy. Our favorite is turkey taco chili, but it's not the healthiest soup in the book. I'm planning to make turkey sausage and veggie soup some time this week. 

I can't rave about these enough. These were also perfect for wrapping up and taking to school for lunch. I've been craving beans and cheese throughout my pregnancy so far, and this is another way (other than chili) to get a filling, protein-packed meal. I tweak this recipe quite a bit, so read my notes if you want your meal to come out the way mine does.

You're probably tired of my constant references to this recipe. Have you tried making it yet? It's a quick dinner and it's got great nutrition for the baby.

Loaded potatoes
This is an especially great meal for when you're in your first trimester, because you can make it meat-free and it hardly takes any time (or dishes) to make. It's such a simple meal, but we get really excited about it — especially if we have green onions on hand! I'm currently obsessed with sweet potatoes, and sometimes I'll save half to wrap up for the next day's lunch.

Banana with a peanut butter sandwich
For some reason I prefer to alternate munching on the banana and sandwich, as opposed to putting the banana inside the sandwich.

Sliced apple and cheese
Can't. get. enough.

Pretzels, pita chips, sweet potato chips, popcorn or chips and salsa

Special K Chocolate and Strawberry cereal

Breakfast bars (Andy recently brought home DOZENS of new products from Kellogg's, and I'm obsessed.)

Cottage cheese with fruit

(disclaimer: sometimes lunch is Wendy's. sometimes dinner is Pizza Hut. sometimes my snack is a brownie. I aim for moderation, not perfection.)

Friday, March 22, 2013

17 weeks

This has been a roller-coaster of a week. I felt really great for the first few days, but then was hit with a massive case of the crankies (impatience, mostly) plus a sore throat and runny nose. I'm thinking some coconut chicken soup might be in order.

I've been trying to take as many sub and nanny jobs as I can these days since I wasn't working a whole lot in January and early February. (Hmm, I wonder how I got sick?) I've been giving myself at least one day a week to stay at home and rest/clean/write, but this week I used my free day to meet a friend in Ellicott City. I'm looking forward to taking it easy this weekend and maybe going on a date w/ Andy. 

One of the weirdest things I'm experiencing is having long stretches of time where I don't want to eat. My nausea is much better these days, so I don't have to snack all the time. Since I was eating nonstop for a while there, maybe my body is just exhausted? I have to practically force myself to eat during the day, but a raging appetite strikes at night. I've found that if I don't eat something before going to bed then I wake up in the middle of the night feeling nauseous. Don't worry, though — I AM eating. 

looking back on week 17...
best meal: baked sweet potato with butter, sour cream, salt and pepper. tastes just like sweet potato fries! 
happy moments: spending a day with Laurel, napping after work with my pup and watching Andy talk to the baby 
baby moments: I FELT THE BABY MOVE FOR THE FIRST TIME THIS WEEK! I had been sitting on the couch for a while when all of a sudden I felt a popping movement in my belly. It was so incredible! We hear the heartbeat again this afternoon. :)

read about week 16 here 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

bff trip to Ellicott City

Laurel and her husband moved from Kentucky to Maryland in January. We haven't lived in the same state since we were in high school, and even though I was sad for her to leave a home she had grown to love, I was super excited to be only two hours away from my friend instead of eight. I'm blessed to have several super close gal pals, but Laurel has known me the longest and has loved me through some crazy times. We lived in the same neighborhood when we were younger and saw each other nearly every day. In high school her family moved to the other side of town (only 10-15 min away), and the night before their move we both bawled like babies. :)

Now that she's settled in and I'm feeling MUCH better, we were able to plan a day for just the two of us. Ellicott City is a nice halfway point between where we both live, and I had heard from several friends that I would enjoy EC's downtown. We had a great time, despite the fact it was freezing cold and rainy! Here are some highlights:

This was the first store we popped into downtown, and it didn't disappoint! I circled the store at least twice and could've stayed for another half hour (or longer). There was so much to look at! Jams, sauces, mixes, cookbooks, kitchen tools, linens, pretty porcelain goodies... the list goes on. The building itself has a lot of character and the owners are a hoot. The reporter in me was dying to write up a piece on this gem of a shop.

Sweet Elizabeth Jane reminded me of my favorite store in downtown Frederick (Silk & Burlap), but it's easily twice as large and has much more merchandise (including more affordable options). Laurel and I found something we loved every two feet. We hardly glanced at the clothes, even though they were lovely, and instead focused on the incredible displays of kitchen and home decor, jewelry and handbags. And candles. Lots of pretty, expensive candles. Give yourself lots of time to explore this shop, and bring a girlfriend!

We actually didn't go in this store, but we wanted to sooo badly! It's not open on Mondays. Boo! We could see through the windows, though, and it looked like a fun place.

Yet another girly boutique! Eat AFTER you go visit this shop, because it has three levels of cuteness and each step will remind you of how full you are. 

We popped into several antique shops, a home decor store and a toy store, too. Every now and then we'd come across a shop that wasn't open on Mondays, but there were still plenty of places to explore. We lunched at The Trolley Stop and split a yummy chicken, bacon and cheese sandwich, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend the place. I read great things about Johnny's Bistro when I was planning our day, but it sadly isn't open on Mondays. I wish I had read about the Little French Market Cafe - we didn't veer off Main Street, otherwise we might've seen it in time. A friend of mine suggested we grab coffee at Bean Hollow, but instead we went to Old Mill Bakery Cafe in hopes of getting a yummy treat. Unfortunately, everything behind the counter either looked stale or looked like it could feed six people. Our mochas were great, though, and the atmosphere was perfect for catching up with a friend.

Have you ever been to Ellicott City? Where would you recommend shopping and/or eating? I'm sure Laurel and I will meet up here again, hopefully in better weather!

Friday, March 15, 2013

16 weeks

baby avocado best get used to make-up less and no-shower mama
I seem to be feeling better with each passing week. I now know to pack snacks and a water bottle even if I'm only leaving the house for a few hours. I don't know what I'll do with myself once morning sickness passes for good! Maybe we'll celebrate with a vacation? Haha.

Last night I had a dream that I received $100, and my first thought was now I can buy the diaper bag I've been eyeing! Yikes. Who am I!? (In case you're wondering, the bag is well under $100.)

I didn't expect my center of gravity to be affected until my belly was bigger, but I'm constantly wobbling and running into things! I also mix my words up and struggle with finishing sentences. I called an octopus an "octopotamus" the other day. I thought I was weird before I got preg, and now I'm SURE of it.

looking back on week 16...
best meal: baked onion au gratin soup ("apple cider, Gruyere cheese, vidalia onions, crostini, thyme" omg YES) and an oyster po'boy from Firestones. also, tomato soup and grilled cheese. also, Outback bloomin' burger. OK, EVERYTHING I EAT IS THE BEST! 
happy moments: sleeping 10-12 hours a night, going downtown with my momma, laughing at Arrested Development with Andy and sipping on an iced coffee while getting a pedicure 
baby moments: I've seen some occasional movement when I look down at my belly. I haven't felt the baby move yet, but the sudden movements were under my belly button right where the nurse said the 
baby was. Was that you, baby?

read about week 15 here

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

what makes me happy right now

Sunday was a beautiful day. The sun was warm, the breeze was cool but not chilly... it was just perfect. After church I had to blitz the main floor before a friend came over while Andy was outside putting down new mulch. I kept looking at him outside and wishing I was out there with him.  A few hours later, once my guest had come and gone and Andy had finished his work, we returned our Redbox by walking to the gas station instead of driving there. We walked hand in hand and talked about how proud we were of each other for working so hard. I voiced my surprise that he was willing to go on a long walk after toting heavy bags of mulch around, and he said, "I know you've been wanting to go outside all day." :) Is there anything sweeter than when your spouse makes a sacrifice for you? It was a small part of our day, but that walk made me so happy. Walks do the mind and body good. Just don't tell the dog that we took a walk without her.

This morning I was supposed to get up at 6:10 to leave the house at 6:35 for Bible study at 6:45. Instead, I woke up at 6:25. Whoops. I brushed my teeth, threw on yesterday's clothes and dashed out the door... right into pouring down rain. Gah! It was worth it, though, just like it's worth waking up every Tuesday morning. Great women, great discussion, sweet encouragement. Plus, decaf coffee with a splash of half and half. YES, PLEASE. (Aaaand a cheese danish, because I've been eyeing them for weeks and haven't gotten one til today. Worth it.)

I mentioned last week that I'm starting to be more productive at home instead of a permanent blob on the couch. Well, I've been blobbish today, but I'll chalk that up to my 6:25 wake-up and the lack of a nap. Anywho, last night I made spaghetti squash au gratin to go with our leftover eggplant with turkey bolognese. Having a nice dinner made and having a tidy house main floor was so, so nice. Happy suzy homemaker.

I'm getting a pedicure and a burger some time this week.
Happy me.

What seemingly small thing is making you happy right now?

this is how I felt about my cheese danish

Friday, March 8, 2013

15 weeks

I'll admit, I'm already struggling with comparing my belly to other bellies. I KNOW it's ridiculous, but it's still a struggle. You wouldn't know it from the picture, but I've only gained a half pound since last week! 

I've been baking and cooking and doing laundry and trying to re-establish some normalcy in this house. It feels so good to be productive, and now I feel a lot less guilty when I take naps or catch up on my shows. We've been eating out in the evenings more than usual (trying to catch up with all the friends we hardly saw when I was at my sickest), so I'm trying to make smart decisions when I pack snacks and make lunch. I'm really into oatmeal, strawberry bread and apples and cheese. And for dessert, a quarter half of a plain spinach tortilla. It's all I want to eat at night!

Preg moment of the week: Andy came over to the couch where I was sitting and pointed at my sweatshirt that had taco salad stains on it. "Hi stain-y," he teased. "I'm pregnant!" I said, trying to look cute and pitiful. "Yeah, but your mouth is in the same place that it was before you got pregnant," he said back. He sure knows how to make me laugh. And be a pain in my neck. (Love you, babe!)
also, I started sobbing uncontrollably in a coffee shop. yikes. I think I need to wear a sign on my neck warning people of my crazies.

looking back on week 14...
last week was a total blur, so we'll move on to this week. 

looking back on week 15...
best meal: We had dinner at Dan's in Boonsboro last night with friends, and the fish and chips I ordered took me right back to Ireland.  
worst meal:  this category isn't necessary now that I'm eating normally. 
happy moments: see below!
baby moments: I couldn't stand not knowing how you were doing, so I went to my doctor and requested to hear your heartbeat again. It took a long time for her to find it, and Andy wasn't able to be there to hold my hand. I prayed hard and begged please, baby, let me hear that you're alive, and not too long after I heard that beautiful thump-thumping noise. You're hanging out right on top of my bladder. No wonder I have to go all the time! 


Friday, March 1, 2013

growing up

A year ago I was wrapping up my final pieces for the newspaper I worked for. I was breaking the news to all our friends that we were moving to Maryland. We were house hunting in a city that we didn't want to move to. I was saying goodbye to Andy and heading to Uganda for my first missions trip. 

A year ago I was completely confused by God's timing and plan. I knew that Andy's promotion was a blessing and I felt confident in our decision to move, but I still wasn't thrilled with all of the changes.

Here we are, twelve months later.

printable here
I really grew up this year. I became more confident in myself. I was proactive about what I wanted. I forgave quicker and apologized more often. I slept more, read more, cooked more, explored more. I decided that moving to a city where I knew no one meant I should embrace going to the store with no makeup on, and embracing that mentality eventually lead to me caring less about how I look in general. I created space in my days for therapeutic activities, like taking baths, reading by the creek with my dog, buying myself an iced coffee or getting a pedicure.

Yet, the most vital growing had nothing to do with coffee or books or naps. It had to do with learning an important lesson: that happiness is a choice. If you take a look at a post I compiled two years ago about secrets to a happy marriage, you'll notice that I knew the importance of choices back then. I guess it's just taken me this long to fully get it. One event in particular hit this lesson home, and that was my trip to Uganda.

I had an absolutely fabulous time in Uganda, even though I was without my favorite person, without cute clothes, without a hair dryer, without my regular group of friends or my bed or my dog, yada yada. While there were many reasons why the trip was wonderful, I firmly believe that the biggest reason was my decision to stop thinking about me and what makes me feel happy and to focus entirely on Jesus and what makes Him happy. I prayed for weeks leading up to the trip (and I had many people praying for me) and asked God to help me set aside all of my self so that I would be completely flexible to do whatever He wanted me to do. I guarantee you that I COULD have had an awful time if I had allowed myself to give in to negativity.

This world is full of things that can bring you down. Negativity can creep in so cunningly that you don't even notice it at first, but it spreads like a disease. Yet we are given the opportunity to resist and to choose something better. I am happier in my marriage because I choose to be. I am happier in my work because I choose to be. I am happy living in a place I never desired to live because I choose to be.

And now, I find happiness through my misery, because all of this nausea and vomiting and mood swings and food aversions and gas and pimples and constipation are the result of a highly anticipated human being growing inside me. I couldn't be grosser looking happier. :)