Weight of the World

Baby weight.  Sigh.  It’s been over 9 weeks since Lucy was born.  I can fit into my non-maternity clothes, but they are definitely still a little tight and create a bit of a muffin top.  My shirts are a little shorter than I remember – perhaps because I still have a bit of a belly they are stretching to cover.  I know the adage is 9 months on, 9 months off, but I was spoiled with Lila’s pregnancy.  The weight came off pretty quickly (though my body definitely carried the weight differently after her birth.)  This pregnancy was very different in so many ways.  I carried very differently, I had a much bigger baby.  While I gained about the same amount of weight with Lila’s pregnancy that I did with Lucy and Lucy weighed twice as much as Lila, I think that so much of the weight with Lila was retained water weight because of my blood pressure issues.  As my blood pressure was brought back to normal after Lila’s birth, I shed the water weight.  I think the weight with Lucy should be more accurately be referred to as buttercream weight instead of water weight.

I’ve lost 27 pounds since Lucy was born with about 15 more to go to reach my prepregnancy weight.  My weight loss has slowed to about 1.5-2 pounds a week, which I know is the normal, healthy way to do it, but it is still slower than I’d like to see.  The reduction in cupcake intake has been tough, but we’re managing.  Chasing around after two kids helps keep me active, though I’ve yet to find time to get out to really exercise.  I look at the local gym class schedule every week and try to figure out how I can make it to Body Pump or Zumba this week but I’ve yet to make it happen.  Maybe this week will be the week.

Deep in the Heart

We traveled to Texas this weekend for a wedding and a mini-vacation. LC’s Grandma Dede and Grandpa Mark joined us in Austin for a visit and to watch LC while A and I attended the wedding. I had only been to San Antonio before, so our trip to Austin was an exciting new adventure.  And by adventure, I mean lots of new food to eat, because that’s pretty much all we did.

On the way into town from the airport we passed the Landing Strip.  That’s right – THE Landing Strip.  As you may know, Friday Night Lights, though it takes place in the fictional Dillion, TX, was filmed in Austin.  And the strip club – home to Mandy Riggins and other strippers with a heart of gold – is actually a real place in Austin.  I didn’t get to stop by – I was hoping they had tee shirts – but driving past set the weekend off to a great start.

We started Thursday night with Tex-Mex dinner at Trudy’s, thanks to a recommendation from an Austin native friend.  While I had only a sip of the Silver Fire margarita, it was delicious and I will have to return to have one of my own once I have an outside baby. Friday we visited the flagship Whole Foods – enjoying some delicious tasty goods for breakfast, but nothing too big because we had Franklin’s BBQ for lunch.  (Look it up, I’ll wait.  Franklin’s BBQ is awe-some-sauce.)

The town was abuzz getting ready for the big game on Saturday, UT v. WVU.  Wanting to walk off some of the BBQ we’d enjoyed at lunch, we visited campus and found ourselves in the middle of a pep rally.  All week leading up to our trip, I kept saying that if I could meet Bevo, the trip would be a success.  So as we crossed the square in front of the UT tower and heard a co-ed exclaim “It’s Bevo, y’all!”, I couldn’t  believe it.  There in a giant orange trailer, attached to a giant orange truck – was Bevo XIV.

Here’s LC taking a peek at the beast.

And then the entire fam hanging with Big Moo, as LC referred to him as.

It was a pretty big deal, especially since I wasn’t sure if anything would top the Landing Strip.

While Bevo was the highlight of the trip for me, I think dinner Friday night was the highlight for A.  We headed to Lucy’s Fried Chicken where we had all the goods the South has to offer.  Fried chicken, sweet tea, corn bread, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes (made with Coca-Cola), grits and chess pie.  Yeah, it was pretty delicious.  I think A would travel back to Austin just get another bucket of chicken.

I’m grounded in Seattle until BE2 makes her outside appearance, so this long weekend with family, great food and a giant steer was a great way to get out of town and relax for a few days.  It may not have been Maui, but it was a pretty great babymoon for the family we are now.

Top of the Food World

While it remains an unconfirmed rumor, it appears that the next season of Top Chef will be filmed in Seattle.  A and I have been Top Chef fans for a while.  I loved the first season almost more for the San Francisco locale than the food (A was attending school in Berkeley at the time), but I soon grew to love the food.  While the past couple of seasons have not been as great as others, I have high hopes for Seattle Top Chef – if for no other reason then they have been filming blocks from my office.
As a long time fan of the show, I have a bit of an idea of how the show works.  Being a Seattleite who likes food, while not try to guess what some of the challenges would be.
– Pike Place Market – the easiest to guess (and basically confirmed that filming has occurred there) is shopping for ingredients at Pike Place. Lots of local favorites, pretty colors and delicious foods – not to mention lots fun shots running through the market and catching some fish.
– Gates Foundation – the Gates Foundation works to help people around the world to live healthy and productive lives.  Their international flair will be the perfect place for an around the world challenge – chefs assigned countries/regions from which their cooking style will come.  Or you could take a more “self-aware” approach and perhaps make the chefs cook with rice – the meal most people around the world eat for dinner each day. 
– Cafeteria challenge – there are many large companies with large corporate cafeterias (Microsoft, Amazon, GroupHealth).  Why not take over a corporate cafeteria – cooking large scale food for people to enjoy.  Perhaps the only issue with this is that these cafeterias are pretty high end to begin with – I’ve eaten at the Amazon Garage more than once and the daily portions of Beecher’s Mac and Cheese is not the only highlight. 
– Sports – Sure, it would be great if Top Chef could herald in the arrival of an NBA team, but short of that, Seattle-ites love their football club.  A Seattle Sounders challenge – park food, soccer foods, I haven’t quite figured out the angle here other than Seattle likes soccer. And scarves. 
– Jet City – home of Boeing, Seattle has been known as the Jet City.  Foods than can fly?  Food that factory workers will love?  Union workers love union food?  (I do not know what union food is.  But go with it.)
– Cardboard box challenge – fans of Amazon.com probably have a living room or recycling bin that looks like ours – filled with the familiar brown box.  I think the chefs could do a Chopped style challenge – finding ingredients in a brown box and then creating a meal from it.
– Restaurant Wars! – though always such a train wreck, Restaurant Wars is always a favorite episode of Top Chef fans.  While the challenge itself always follows the same rules, I propose that dueling Tom Douglas restaurants would be used for the locations.
– Book challenge – Ok, so Amazon is an easy suggestion but it certainly helped to put Seattle on the map.  A literary inspired challenged – food inspired by authors, novels, it is pretty easy to pull one together.
– Grunge – I’m not entirely sure how one pulls food and grunge together, but I think Seattle would be the place to do it.  Music inspired?  Maybe Kurt Cobain had a soft spot for haute cuisine?  A broader music challenge – pulling in Jimmy Hendrix, Nirvana and newer acts like Modest Mouse.  Challenge of course could take place at the EMP.
– Organic – Oregon Tilth sure loves Seattle and is a big deal in the food world up here – sustainable, organic, local – those words are thrown around in just about every restaurant opening announcement.  It would be hard to feature Seattle and not involve the organic movement.
– The obvious choice.  Ok, so Seattle probably is probably known for coffee more than anything.  A Starbucks challenge may be the only thing as sure as the Pikes Place challenge.  Chefs could develop the new bistro box, a new pastry, a new favor combo for drinks – or simply cooking with coffee.

If you stop and think about it for more than a few minutes, there really are endless possibilities.  Seattle is a pretty great city, especially for food and hopefully more than those of us who live here will know that after this season of Top Chef.

A Word of Warning

A does not like whipped cream.  I enjoy it a great deal.  This works well because when we split a restaurant dessert, I get all the whipped cream (and any part of the dessert that touched whipped cream.)  At home, I have my very own bottle of Redi-Whip.  Since I’m the only one who partakes in the whipped cream in this house, I feel like when I use the whipped cream, I can lick off the top of the whipped cream.  It’s like drinking out of the milk carton when you live by yourself.

All of this is to say, if you come to our house for dinner and I offer you some tasty dessert with whipped cream, be sure to ask for the guest bottle of Redi-Whip.

Even Restful Weekends Can Be Busy

As you may have guessed, we’ve been pretty busy around here.  The usual stuff – work, toddlers, beagles – everything just has seemed to need extra attention lately which has caused a bit of a traffic jam in our schedules.  Which is why having a weekend in our schedule that had almost no plans was pretty special. 

Our almost plan free weekend allowed us to do things we hadn’t had the time to do recently.  I went grocery shopping.  Not just a ten minutes, grab the five things we need for the next three days, but real Grocery. Shopping.  This meant I was able to cook.  I made egg salad for lunches.  I had found that on the weekends I tended to only eat carbs because we didn’t have that much protein in the house for lunches (we’re not home all week for lunch).  With my newly stocked refrigerator with eggs, mayonnaise and pickles, the perfect egg salad was born.  I made dinner last night – chicken with mango chutney, jasmine rice and zucchini.  THEN, I baked a cake.  It was just an angel food cake with pineapple, but it is delicious – and with my newly restocked whipped cream supply, it is quite the treat.  For breakfast this morning I made cinnamon rolls with cheesy eggs.  (Not like Pioneer Women cinnamon rolls, but they still required baking.) To end the weekend off right, I made a recipe from Pinterest for dinner, very yummy Mexican stuff peppers that everyone liked. 

Our unplanned weekend was thrown a little off kilter by the appearance of someone’s molars breaking through (which meant less naptime than we would have liked) but between the number of loads of laundry done, the meals prepared and the fantastic extra time we spent playing with LC, it was still pretty awesome.

My Trip was Just Peachy

I made it – I survived the trip without LC.  By the last day I was ready to leave Atlanta and get home but I made the best of it.  I even threw some education in on the last day and traveled to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.  (I was *this* close to the Nobel Peace Prize.  Which was kinda awesome.)

A few reflections on Atlanta:

– It is warm.  It was 80 degrees when I landed.  On March 28.  While that was nice, to be outside and have sun and such so early in the year, I imagine come July it is much more than 80.

– You can have too much of a good thing.  I do not think I ate too much in Atlanta, it is more what I ate.  The food was so rich and involved many types of pork.  Delicious?  Yes.  Did it make my belly crave something not made with bacon grease?  Also yes.  But I must say, I may have to re-write my burger post after experiencing Flip Burger.  I wish I could have tried every burger on the menu.  (I had the chorizo with sweet potato tots).  I also wish I had been told that the shakes may be advertised as single serve but that you will live to regret that choice. (Krispy Kreme shake.  A-MAZ-ING.  It was like drinking a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts.)

– Being on the East Coast from the West Coast is a difficult transition.  Everything starts early (one day began with a working breakfast at 7:30am and did not end until 6pm), but you can’t sleep before midnight.  Also, when you end your conference day at 6pm, it is only 3pm back at your office so there is lots of people waiting for you to respond to email.

– Watching tv without a DVR is just uncivilized.  Do people really watch commercials? It makes Idol soooo long.

– It was nice having the time to myself – for about 24 hours.  I traveled, I read, I had dinner by myself, I had a massage. . . and then I was ready to go home.  I missed my family and being in the hotel room was lonely. 

– Every hotel should have a Ham Bar.

Best Burger in the Country (?)

Esquire recently hosted a poll for what readers believed was their “Life Changing Burger”. Readers, overwhelmingly, voted that Seattle’s own Dick’s Drive Thru was the most Life Changing Burger.   With all due respect to Dick’s and its local history, I just have to disagree with the voters.  Having both lived in a number of locations and tasted a few burgers in my time, I had sampled 50% of the surveyed burgers. 

Dick’s – yeah, its good.  Very old fashioned, cash only, small menu, no special orders.  The burgers are good, but to me, very similar to a McDonald’s cheeseburger.  Small, not very filling.  Pickle, sauce, eh-bun.  I don’t know.  I was underwhelmed when I tried this burger for the first time last summer.

In & Out – while I wouldn’t declare this to be my “life changing burger”, it’s up there.  I had my first In & Out when I was dating A and visited him in CA.  The fries, the made to order burger,  the bible verses.  Wow, I would fly to LA right now for an In & Out burger.  It may not have changed my life, but boy, is it delicious.

Ray’s Hell Burger – This Arlington burger joint is part of the Ray’s empire in the Other Washington.  Ray’s the Steaks is probably one of, if not the, favorite restaurant of mine. However, I think Ray’s Hell Burger is trying a little too hard on too many levels. They want to be a little too Soup Nazi, a little too “crazy”, a little too big burgers.  I enjoyed my meal here, but I just haven’t had the desire to return.

Steak and Shake – I think this one should not be included in the list.  Too fast foodie and really more of a patty melt than a burger.  The fries aren’t great.  My time in the Midwest gave me some opportunities to sample this burger and I really don’t recall too much about it.   It rated fairly low in the survey, which I find unsurprising.

Five Guys – So think back to a time before there was a Five Guys in the Emerald City.  Before there was a Five Guys in North Carolina.  When there was a Five Guys in downtown DC and that was it and you had to make special plans to go.  That is what life was like the first time I had Five Guys and yes, that was life changing.  It was my first, non-fast food, not $12 restaurant burger.  It was juicy and fresh and delicious.  I could personalize my burger with mushrooms and onions but it didn’t have 13 other ingredients on it like Ray’s.  The fries are very similar to In & Out, but just a little thicker (and since I had them first, they stand out more in my mind). 

The specialness of Five Guys may have been diluted by its recent explosion, but it will always be to me the burger that changed my life and taught me what a great burger is really like.

When a New Friend Becomes an Old One

Ever meet someone for the first time and just thing, hmm this was nice and all but I bet this is the last time I see them?  But then maybe a little bit later – a few weeks, months, maybe even years you run into that someone again and realize that just maybe there is something more there? That, dear readers, is the story of me and Papa John’s.

You know Papa John, right? 

I first met Papa John at a student activities conference in North Carolina in 2000.  We flew into North Carolina – staying at UNC-Charlotte – and arrived famished.  My group requested the number for pizza delivery and the student working the info desk asked “Like Papa John’s?”  Being from the Northeast, none of us had ever heard of Papa John’s – so we were all very confused when this pizza arrived with cups of garlic butter, little green peppers and a smiling Kentuckian on the box.  None of us were impressed – after all, we came from the land of Mike’s.  Since there was no Papa John’s in the Northeast, there was no chance that we would be having this again, even if any of us wanted to do so.

Flash forward a few years to St. Louis.  Relocated to a new region of the country, I had to relearn some things – including where to order pizza.  Out here, everyone ordered Papa John’s and so I got on board.  I learned to enjoy the extra doughy pizza (and the ridiculous commercials) and once I discovered cheesy bread, oh, how I came to love Papa John’s.  After marrying A, a lifelong Papa John’s fanatic, it was clear my pizza ordering fate was sealed.

While I sometimes long for some real Northeastern pizza, or maybe even just the occasional Pizza Hut personal pan pizza, I’ve come to prefer Papa John’s.  So much so that this weekend when preparing for the UConn-Syracuse game, I was brainstorming for easy, fun dinner ideas.  I practically tripped over myself when an idea struck me and I ran back to the office to share it with A.  “You will never believe this idea!  We have TWO free pizza codes from Papa John’s, we should so order Papa John’s tonight!”  To say that A was happy with this idea is putting it mildly.  Sometimes your preferences change for some things when you get married – and while the seeds for a lifetime of Papa John’s may have been planted on the UNCC campus all those years ago – being A’s wife has definitely helped to shape this side of my palate.

Not always so well planned

I’ve always been a planner and definitely still like a good to do list and well maid plan.  (And I really hate changed plans.  I do not do well with changed plans.) In becoming a mother, I’ve discovered that I either do not have time to make plans or the inability to follow through on them.  This is a constant frustration I am battling with as a still relatively new parent and trying to adapt my desire for order and predictability in our lives. 

One of the largest areas of frustration is our weekly meal planning.  You can find endless websites and blogs on how to menu plan, coupon, prepare a month’s worth of meals to freeze, 365 crock pot meals.  (I’m not couponing.  Sure it saves money but I think it is a pretty quick ticket to crazy town.  But hey, if it works for you, more power to you.) But I don’t have time to master any of these “time-saving” techniques for our meals.  I’ve tried to work planning time into our newly freed up Sunday time so that we can at least try to defrost what needs to be defrosted for the week.  This holiday weekend we even made two meals with plenty of leftovers to use for dinners and lunches.  Trader Joe’s is my partner in crime for quick meals and we have a pretty decent standard collection of meals that we use from TJ’s to fill in holes in the menu.  As we continue to grow in our new roles and try to adapt to the new demands (which BTW are ever changing), I’m proud of the small bit of order we’ve managed to find and the decent set of meals we’ve developed.  I’m always looking for more ideas though so what’s your best (non-crazy) time saving menu planning tip?

Life is Sweet

and so are sweet potatoes.