Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Black Bean Salsa

One of my firm beliefs is that dried cilantro tastes nothing like fresh cilantro. Dried cilantro is gross. Fresh is fantastic. I can accept dried basil and thyme in most things. I cannot accept dried cilantro. There is a drastic taste difference in the two and this recipe would taste less like summer freshness with dried cilantro.

This salsa is the epitome of summer yumminess. Juicy ripe tomatoes, bright lemon zip, the firm crunch of green peppers and the tang of fresh cilantro. The only thing that doesn't sing "summer" is the canned black beans. I have no idea how to get fresh black beans out of my garden - actually there's no way to get a lemon out of my Iowa garden either :)

Without further ado, black bean salsa!

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 lb tomatoes, diced

1 large green bell pepper, diced

1/2 c. onion, diced

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 t garlic salt

cilantro, to taste

Mix all of the ingredients together and then let sit for about an hour to fully meld flavors. Enjoy with tortilla chips!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Like mother, like son

Who can turn down a foot long corn dog?

Not even baby!

One of my Iowa State Fair staple foods is a corn dog. They taste the best at the State Fair for some reason. Really, I have lots of ISF staple foods. If given the opportunity, I'll get a taco salad from the Cattlemen's Tent, a cup of chocolate chip cookies, strawberry taffy, and a peppermint ice cream bar from Bauders. However, I do not recommend eating a foot long corn dog and an ice cream bar in the time span of one hour. I felt like throwing up afterwards.

Lance and I did the mega-fast forward version of the State Fair this year, spending only 2.5 hours one evening after work with Lucan. The whole thing was a little nerve-wracking as the moment we stopped moving, Lucan would scrunch up his face and get a look of "I'm-really-tired-and-I'm-not-sure-why-I'm-still-awake-but-I-am."

Maybe next year we can be a bit more leisurely with our State Fair adventure. It seems impossible to believe at that time Lucan will be toddling around and trying to steal my corn dog from me! Maybe we can even do Little Hands on the Farm. If you get a chance, ask Lance about his experience with that endeavor :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Is it fall y'all?

According to Lance and some of my co-workers, I'm not allowed to start whining about how I'm sick of summer and ready for fall. However, it's 88 degrees right now with waaay too much humidity. I'm tired of heat.

The only good thing about this time year is the fresh produce oozing out of our garden. In one of my movie favorites, "You've Got Mail", Meg Ryan waxes poetic about the start of autumn in comparison to receiving a bouquet of sharpened pencils.

Here in central Iowa, the only thing you can wax poetic about in conjunction with the start of the school year is the Iowa State Fair. You don't get a bouquet of pencils at the ISF, maybe a sugar coma instead ...

But this is the time of year when I am entirely sick of summer. The start of the school year has never coincided with fall. I remember being younger and having new, adorable long-sleeved shirts that I had gotten school clothes shopping and not being able to wear them. I want tangy apple cider with a dash of cinnamon, cozy sweatshirts and football games, and most importantly to eat SOUP without being lectured about seasonal appropriateness! One of my favorite things about fall is shopping at the fall farmer's market here in Des Moines. Squash, golden mums, steaming mugs of coffee, all while wrapped up in fleece jacket. Oh fall - where are you?

What are you looking forward to this fall?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Just my boys

Aren't they handsome? Our family pictures may include just Lance and Lucan in the future. Using the timer option, it proved nearly impossible to snap a picture with everyone looking at the camera. I suppose someone has to the photographer! By the end of all of it, I had about 35 pictures with Lance and my head cut off, someone looking away, Lucan looking like he was trying to escape, or pictures that were just plain blurry. Gads. I suppose that's why people hire family pictures out.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Favorite Things: Pandora versus Jango


Here's a new one of my favorite things!

On a random search for Taylor Swift music (quit judging), I came across a music website that I was unfamiliar with - jango.com While I've only been using jango.com for a couple of mornings now, I'm pleasantly surprised. It works on a similiar concept to pandora.com, but has a couple of features that I'm really digging.

First off, you can setup a station based on a particular artist or song - and then they actually play that song. Pandora won't do that. It's rather irritating. Meaning I can listen to Taylor Swift's "Mean" right off the bat. (Side note: Lance and I have both decided that the song would be a great music-hold option for crappy people we have to deal with at work. All you are is mean. And a liar, and pathetic, and alone in life. And mean, and mean, and mean, and mean)

Jango.com does not appear to have a limit to the number of listening hours per month. I appreciate that. When I was in school and sitting in front of the computer at work, I would routinely burn through Pandora's 40 hour-free monthly maximum. With jango.com, that I have yet to encounter, does not have this limitation. Yay! Both music stations pre-populate your station with similar artists and songs and you can rate songs that you like or dislike.

Does anyone else have any other music streaming stations they like to listen to? How about experience with Jango.com?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Here's what's going on at the Knaack household

Tomatoes. Lots of tomatoes. Granted, these ones come from my mom, but lots of tomatoes. Tomatoes that are going to be turned into canned tomatoes. Once again, I embark on another canning journey. A journey that keeps me up to 11:30 at night. Not cool. Especially when you can buy a can of diced tomatoes for 69 cents. These better taste freakin awesome.

This is stuff out of my garden. About a hundred cherry tomatoes, some good sized regular tomatoes, a few yellow tomatoes and some nice cucumbers.

Sounds like gazpacho to me! Too bad I think it's waaaayyy too much work for something that tastes like salsa :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lucan Wall Art - Birth Announcement Info

Back in April, I went through a nesting phase that included many sewing and art & crafts projects. Surprisingly, I got through a good chunk of them - not all of them, but an acceptable number. Now it's all a matter of putting together posts about them :)

This was a project that I was able to do during maternity leave. I had seen several cute birth announcement wall hangings on Etsy, but me, being me, wanted to do it on my own. That way I could a) save money b) do something creative c) have something to blog about!

I think that the results turned out fairly well. It's not the fanciest announcement art in the world, but I'm proud of it. And I saved a considerable amount of money too. Most of the personalized birth announcements I've seen on Etsy have ranged from about $18 to $30 in price, not including a mat or frame. I made mine, including the print and mat & frame, for around $12. The most expensive part was the frame. I'm sure if you shopped around you could do it even cheaper, but when you only have an hour before you child wakes up and wants fed, you'll take what you can find. I printed it through Walmart.com and spent about $2.50 for an 8x10. All in all, easy-peasy!

I used the photo editing program, Picnik, to put this together. But rather than re-invent the wheel, I'm going to link you to the post that I followed to do this project. Picnik is relatively user friendly and it's free options are pretty comprehensive. You could do several variations of this program - you could do something family oriented or holiday themed - the options are endless!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

House of Fifty Fall Issue

House of Fifty is a great online/e-magazine. It's got great decorating and style features, along with entertaining ideas and recipies. You will love this e-magazine. It's remniciscent of Real Simple, Elle Decor and other great decorating magazines. Give it a chance and I guarantee you'll love it!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Balancing Life Part 2: Breastfeeding


Last Friday marked my first day back to work, the end of an era. I remember my conversation with HR. At the time, 8 weeks of maternity leave seemed like an eternity. I foolishly told my boss that it was my summer vacation and I was sure that I would spend endless days on our deck getting a tan. How foolish I was. Those first weeks were a wilderness of bewilderment and doubt. I had spent so much time preparing for the baby by gathering baby gear and making freezer meals, that I had no idea what to actually do once I got the baby home. Breastfeeding was not going well (and is still something I loathe). When you spend a third of your day doing something that wants to make you tear your hair out, it was no surprise that every single day for the first three weeks, I cried. There was an evening when my parents were still here that we went out for supper on our own. I remember sitting in the driveway after supper, weeping, because I was so tired of trying to breastfeed unsuccessfully and didn't want to go back in the house.

I had prepared myself for the challenge of labor, but there was nothing in my arsenal that prepared me for the challenge of breastfeeding. After my prenatal breastfeeding class, I thought that breastfeeding would just be another one of those things that would come naturally. That my body was designed to produce milk and that it would be one of the best gifts I could give my child. They made it sound so easy. Boy, was I wrong. I had heard one or two horror stories about cracked nipples and getting mastitis, but no one mentioned how breastfeeding might not come naturally. I have one friend who had told me her tale of low milk supply. No one talked about having a child who is the slowest eater on the face of the earth or having a child who has a short tongue. Both of which I'm convinced are genetic - Lance has a short tongue and so does his father and my entire life I've been accused of being a slow eater.

Breastfeeding from day one was hard - even at the hospital. Lucan is a baby who, from the moment he entered this world, has sucked in his bottom lip. He barely opens his mouth up enough to latch. He likes to flail wildly and will sometimes anger himself and spit out my nipple. It took almost 6 days for my milk to come in. By that time my child was starving and had lost almost a pound since we had left the hospital. We started giving him a bottle of formula before he was a week old. I was taking a pound of Fenugreek pills and drinking gallons of Mother's Milk Tea everyday. I don't think it made any difference.

I remember at the end of two weeks thinking there was no way I was going to be able to breastfeed a month, more of less the entire first year of my child's life. The best piece of advice a friend (Carrie - that's you!) gave me was to make small goals and take it day by day. At the end of two weeks, I told myself to hang in there another week. There was a point at the end of the third week I almost gave up. I had gone to a Mommy & Me breastfeeding class at the hospital and Lucan refused to breastfeed there. I ended up giving him a bottle at the breastfeeding class. I was mortified and at the end of my tether. I ended up crying in the parking lot and decided then and there I was done with breastfeeding.

If you are acquainted with me, you know that I am stubborn to a fault. Even though I had vowed to be done with breastfeeding, I really wanted to make it to a month. I wasn't quite ready to give up. The lactation consultant that I had called everyday (yes, I realize that I'm annoying) suggested that perhaps I make an early move to my "work" schedule - meaning breastfeed first thing in the morning and then again in the evening and pump in between. That suggestion is the only reason I am still breastfeeding and still sane.

Now that I am back to work and pumping here, I'm finally grasping what everyone warned me about - that it's hard. It's hard to force yourself to leave your desk to go and pump. Most of the time I feel like I'm a bad employee.

I'm continually struggling with balancing plugged milk ducts, a child who just does not breastfeed well and the hassle of pumping with the pressure I feel from other moms to breastfeed. How long will breastfeeding last? I have no idea. But just like Carrie told me, I'm taking it one day at a time, setting one small goal after another. At some point I may be forced to examine the balance of breastfeeding Lucan versus our family life and what is the best for everyone. It will also force me to accept that I am not a horrible mother if I end breastfeeding early.

Now the biggest challenge may be is convincing myself that I am not a lesser mom if I give my child formula. Formula will not kill Lucan, nor will it give him a lower IQ or automatically ensure he will get ear infections. I was a formula baby, am relatively intelligent and had very few ear infections as a child. Motherhood, for me, is about finding balance and letting go of my preconceived expectations.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Lucan: 2 Months Old

My teeny, tiny little man is growing up to be a chubby little guy! Happy birthday to Lucan, he was 2 months old yesterday. It never ceases to surprise me of how much he has have grown in such a short period of time!

Here are his two month statistics:

Weight: 13 lbs 6 ounces - 85th percentile - up from 50th percentile at 2 weeks
Length: 24 inches long - 85th percentile - down from the 90th percentile
Head Circumference: - ? (I need to check this out) - 75th percentile - down from the 90th percentile

  • At about 4.5 weeks, Lucan started sleeping through the night until 7 am or so. I know. We're spoiled. Our routine is to put him down at 8 pm-ish and then wake him around 10:15 pm for his last feeding. Then he's good to go for the night!

  • Our schedule, pre-daycare, was pretty scheduled. We would do a routine of 3 - 2.5 hour feedings with feed time - awake time - nap. Typically Lucan would be up for about an hour with combined feed and awake time and then nap for around an hour to two hours. I know that I've gotten some flack about his routine, but I absolutely believe that this has contributed to him sleeping through the night at 4.5 weeks. Read Baby Wise. While I don't agree with things 100%, the basic concepts are really good. Babies need routine. Now that he's started daycare with other little kids running about, his schedule is going to be a little rough for a few days. Not excited.

  • Lance and I have managed to survive a few outings. We went to Harry Potter and left Lucan with some friends' parents while we were gone. That was our first long outing with leaving Lucan in the care of others. It went fine. Since then he's had a couple of our friends watch him while I have had doctors appointments. Our friends have said that Lucan is a great baby and we should consider ourselves blessed - we do!

  • Happiest Baby on the Block - it works. Lucan has his routine crabbiness at 7:15 pm every night. So we'll swaddle him up, shush him and then throw him in the swing. Works every time.

  • Lucan is routinely swaddled for naps and bedtime. If he does his "superman" (this is what Lance calls when Lucan breaks out of his swaddleme wrap) he'll inevitably wake himself up by hitting himself in the face. Swaddling works and we'll keep doing it as long as it is effective.

  • A day and a half before my first day back to work, we got a phone call from our daycare provider stating that she had an unavoidable conflict come up and she wouldn't be able to watch Lucan. Panic. Fortunately, we have good friends and were able to con one of them into caring for Lucan for the day. Now he's at an in-home daycare ... Mom is probably having a harder time adjusting than Baby K. I have to stop myself from calling and checking-in and being a crazy first-time mom.

  • He apparently like to poop infrequently, sometimes waiting almost 6 days before going! As a result, we have some monster poops. Our pediatrician recommended giving him a couple teaspoons of Dark Karo syrup to get things moving, which in my opinion, is better than some other, more uncomfortable options. One word - Oxyclean. It works.

  • Slowest eater. Ever. Doesn't matter if he's breastfeeding or taking a bottle, he's slow. This hasn't improved with age and in fact, I think he's regressing. Really.

  • Lucan is gaining more neck strength. He holds his large head up quite well when he's being burped.

  • Knock on wood, Lucan is not a spitty baby. His original ped (which we are not going to anymore because she annoyed me) told us that he has acid reflux. He does not. He doesn't fuss or cry when he's being fed and rarely does he spit up. That ped didn't know anything.

  • Lucan is growing like a weed, he was out of his newborn clothes at three weeks and at 2 months is outgrowing his 0-3 months clothes. It makes me a little sad, my baby is getting so big! It also makes me sad that these clothes are hardly getting worn at all. There's a small part of me that hopes for another boy just so the clothes go to waste (just a small part of me - there's a very large part of me that aches to go to Baby Gap and buy the store out. BTW: why aren't the Baby Gap boys clothes as fun as the girls clothes there?)

  • He is a smilie baby. Lucan especially loves to smile at Lance. I read somewhere that babies smile more at their dad's because they associate dads with fun and moms with soothing. But his smiles will melt your heart, he's sooo cute!

  • Tummy time is going so-so. Lucan either gets annoyed being on his stomach or he falls asleep. Silly baby.

  • He's ticklish, especially on his feet.

  • I love how much hair he has on his head! I firmly believe that all his hair makes him even cuter!

And now for the good stuff - his two month photo. I took these yesterday morning after his feeding. I think both Lucan and Lance were annoyed by the sheer volume of pictures that were taken. It's hard to get a good picture of a squirmy baby!

His boppy pillow still dominates him. I use it to prop him up but someday Lucan won't need it. I'm enjoying the time that he still needs it.

Half-smile. "Mom, quit taking my picture."

"Look at me hold my head up for my 2 month pictures! I'm awesome!"

I'm putting together a brief post that will include how to track your baby's growth through their own developmental onesies!

Balancing Life Part 1: A New Rhythm

This is my first full week back from maternity leave - last Friday was my first day back to work. This transition is being met by mixed emotions that I'm finding hard to clearly articulate. I've loved my time off with Lucan and would not turn down another 4 weeks off if you offered it to me. However, because of the way our leave is setup here at work, that wasn't an option unless I wanted to use all of my vacation by the end of August. I found that to be a dangerous option, leaving me no sick days - for me or baby. Hence, I am back to work.

Maternity leave flew by. I loved my moments of cuddling with Lucan and getting to know him and know exactly how he spent his day. I wouldn't have traded those weeks for anything - even the early weeks when I was overwhelmed. It's too bad that I had to go back at 8 weeks because we were finally finding a rhythm to life. I was able to feel like I was keeping up on house stuff and be a wife and mom.

Now we have to find a new rhythm. A rhythm that includes a flurry of feeding, diapering, lunch and coffee packing, and getting myself out the door all by 7 AM (it's a good thing Lance does drop-off, there is no way I'd ever make it to work by 7:30 AM). It's a rhythm that includes me trusting someone else to the care of my baby. It's a rhythm that forces me to accept that while Cindy, my daycare provider, might not do things exactly the same way as I do them, it will be okay. It's a rhythm that is forcing Lance and I to work as one flawless team. This is our new rhythm. And while I'm not really enjoying this rhythm right now, I'm adjusting to it. We all are.

Our new rhythm also means that I'm learning how to accept letting some ideals go. Dinnertime is going to be less spectacular. If I forget an ingredient at the store, I'm going to have to learn how to accept it and move on. There will be more crockpot food and casseroles that are shoved into the oven with little thought. With a baby who takes almost an hour to breastfeed and a husband whose new work schedule means he'll get home close to 6:15 pm every night, supper will be less interesting and served closer to 7 pm.

Furthermore, in addition to adjusting to working and having a baby, Lance is also starting classes again. Hard classes. Like calculus 2. Mind-boggling math. As a result, honey-do projects will linger longer than I prefer. I'll have to do most of the nighttime feedings and more house chores. My husband will be stressed out and probably sleep-deprived most of the time (I'm basing this on the previous experience of the spring semester). While this isn't a life I enjoy, it's a life that I will endure for our family's sake. Someday Lance would like to be able to have a job that fulfills him, so in the meantime, we'll all gird our loins and struggle through together. Would I like to stay-at-home with Lucan full-time? Perhaps. Is it a choice for us right now? No. Someday in the upcoming year, Lance will have to try and negoiate a change in his job schedule so he can take classes during the day. This may or may not be an option and Lance may have to find other means of employment. All in all, it comes down to tightening our belts, holding our collective breaths, and trusting in God to provide.

So here's to finding a new balance with our new rhythm!