31 August 2012

7 Quick Takes (Wimpy Hurricane Edition)

— 1 —
My mom was here last weekend, and it was nice to have some extra hands.  We took Baby Cora to her first baseball game (the lovely and brand-spankin'-new Pensacola Blue Wahoos), then we went to the beach on Saturday.  She also offered to babysit so that B and I could have a date night.  It was only our second one we've had since baby was born 7 months ago.  It was such a nice night out that I wanted to take a walk after dinner.  We went up to the campus of the University of West Florida and walked around a bit.  It was kinda cool that we probably still looked like college kids!  Well, at least in my mind anyway.  In reality, we still got home around 10 and were in bed shortly after.  We may have looked the part, but I think our party-all-night college days are more than over.

— 2 —
Today is B's last official day of Active Duty.  When he wakes up tomorrow, he will be a full civilian!  Weird, but not weird at the same time.  This shore tour has felt very "civilian-esque," and the building he worked in here was mostly staffed by civilians, so there were no tear-filled goodbyes to a wardroom or whatever.  The stinky thing is that tomorrow his title not only changes to "civilian," but also to "unemployed."  He has been on terminal leave for the past two weeks, and one thing I noticed this week when I did laundry was a complete lack of socks.  We usually have a big pile to sort and match, but this week I think there was only one pair.

— 3 —
Who else is excited about college football starting?!  Yeah, I didn't think I was alone on that.  I'm not sure the baby is going to be happy with me changing her outfit in the middle of the day tomorow, but she needs to start off in a Notre Dame onesie (B's alma mater), and then change into one of her many Georgia outfits (complete with red and black headband and flower) for that game.  I've already been teaching her the "Gooooo Dawgs, Sic 'em!" cheer, and she laughs at the barking part.  (Okay, who wouldn't laugh at that?)

— 4 —
Oh, did you know there was a hurricane that hardly touched us?  Yeah, they closed schools here on Monday and Tuesday, and it was completely unnecessary.  There was some wind, some rain, a tornado watch or two.  But honestly we fared much worse in the flooding we had back in June.  We still didn't leave the house much, even though it was pretty much a non-event.  Our hurricane supplies consisted of a big bag of M&M's, which we've almost finished.

— 5 —
Also, did you know the Paralympics started this week?  Check out this video of swimming.  The guy who wins has no arms, and just bumps his head into the wall to finish the race.

If you want to check out some more Paralympic action, try this site or the YouTube channel.  If you're wondering about the classification system (like S4 or S11), see this handy guide.  Or this one.

— 6 —
Our baby finally rolled from back to tummy.  Yes, her roll the other way was over a month ago, but this little gal hates being on her tummy with a passion!  So once she grabbed the toy she was going for, she swiftly rolled the other way back onto her back.  That being said, no, she hasn't started crawling of any sort.  Less child-proofing for us, so that's fine with me.

— 7 —
Why are McDonald's fries soooo good?  I rarely ever go to McD's (like maybe 3 times a year at most), but I had a coupon for something free that expired today, so that was my lunch.  And, oh, the fries!  Good thing I have willpower.

Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

26 August 2012

Late Night Chocolate Craving Recipe: the BEST Chocolate Mug Cake

Today I'm sharing the best microwave chocolate mug cake I've ever had.  I've tried a TON of mug cake recipes, and most of them are nasty.  I've discovered that if a recipe calls for an entire egg for a single serving, your cake is going to be the consistency of rubber.  I had one other chocolate mug cake recipe that I thought was decent, but it made way too much and always left me with a stomachache.  It didn't actually fit into a normal mug either--I had to make it in a bowl, as I don't own or have any need for an oversized mug.

Perfect dessert for one.  No stomachache included.

But after searching high and low, I have found THE ONE.  I have made this recipe almost ten times now.  And I don't make recipes more than once if they're yucky the first go'round.  I have even printed this one out and added it to my recipe binder!

After mixing, before baking

About 50 seconds in our microwave.  Cool whip adds an extra touch!
I usually make it in a mug, but I've also made it in a ramekin, just for kicks and pics.

Make sure to grease the cup really well if you want it to come out!

One-Minute Chocolate Cake

2 tablespoon cocoa powder
3 tablespoons flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 tablespoon + 2 tsp sugar (that's just a bit less than 2 tablespoons; 3tsp=1Tbsp)
1/4 tsp baking powder
2-3 tsp coconut oil or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons milk (any kind)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Optional ingredients:
chocolate chips
whipped cream or cool whip

Combine dry ingredients (the first 5 on the list) in a mug and mix very, very well. Add all of the liquid ingredients and stir well. Feel free to add some chocolate chips into this if that sounds good. Microwave 40-60 seconds (you'll have to mess around with your microwave a few times to find its 'sweet spot). If you want to make it in a ramekin, mix it in a bowl first and spray your dish well before adding the mixture. Let cake cool before removing from ramekin.

Top with whipped cream and chocolate chips for an extra-fun treat!

Adapted from this recipe at Chocolate-Covered Katie.

You should definitely check out Katie's blog.  It has become one of my favorites, because it's mostly desserts!  She's vegan, so a lot of her ingredients are on the "offbeat" side, but she tells you which things you can sub for them.  I made this with all "traditional" American ingredients (and an extra pinch of sugar).  I'm sure it's great her way, but I just use what I have on hand.

20 August 2012

Lying In Wait

Well, B is officially on terminal leave from the Navy now.  He's getting a whopping two weeks before his active duty ends.  Yes, that is on the low side, due to a trifecta of factors beyond his control that worked against him.  (He'll be selling back the rest of his leave.)  Oh well.  He is still waffling on his decision to join the Active Reserve and will make that decision once we know where we're going.

As for that, no, you haven't missed any big announcements around these parts.  He does not have a job lined up yet.  Since so many people ask me, even though it's more of his business than mine, I'm going to explain how separating from the Navy looks like for an LT submarine officer with a B.S. in Engineering.  He's not going back to school.  He wants an actual engineering job, but is also open to a shipyard job or a contracting job.  And  I just want him to be happy and not deal with rotating shift work.  We're not staying here in Pensacola, as we don't really love it here and there are no jobs in his field anyway.  Our location is rather flexible, but we want to stay between Maryland and Texas (and stretching west to include B's home state of Indiana).  That's a good 20% of the U.S., so I'm hoping it's doable.

He signed up with two different headhunting agencies.  These agencies can connect him to a lot of companies he's never heard of who are looking for people with his type of experience.  These agencies also sponsor some of those job conferences, like the one he went to in Houston.  At those, he does a handful of preliminary interviews and then the company will hopefully ask for a follow-up interview.  The follow-up interviews are interesting, as the company will pay for him to fly out to wherever they are and interview.  Hopefully he will get more of these soon, as his Navy job was busier in the summer and made it hard for him to take the necessary leave to go to these.  Yes, he is also applying to jobs on his own, so don't ask about that.

He will be attending a few more job conferences and hopefully flying out to lots more interviews.  We'll be staying here in Pensacola until he lands a good position.  We planned and saved for this, but it still doesn't make it ideal.  We have to pay for our own health insurance soon, and I'm already annoyed at the thought of that (the military version of COBRA is super-expensive, by the way).  I actually quit my volunteer gig this past week, as I need to be ready to leave at the drop of a hat.

B is hitting the ground running on his job search now, but here I am, just waiting.  Taking care of the baby, supporting my husband, and praying that the wait is short.

(If you previously missed my thoughts about him leaving the military, check out this guest post I did at Many Waters.)

Please do not leave job-hunting advice for my husband in the comments, unless you personally know someone at the most perfect company in the world for him.  Thank you.

17 August 2012

7 Quick Takes (Pretty Baby Edition)

— 1 —
Last weekend, the in-laws came in town, and we had lots of fun!  Even though we live only 15 minutes away, we still had not taken baby to the beach.  That situation was fixed, and I think she liked it.  It was windy and overcast, though.

— 2 —
Also, our baby is cutting both of her bottom teeth at once.

See those little white nubs coming out right below her tongue?
This whole week I've been trying to get her to show me her teeth so I can see their progress.  And then I end up getting "Show Me Your Teeth" by Lady Gaga in my head.  (You can listen to it here if you want; language warning.)

— 3 —
I'm really peeved that the "Stuff I've Made" page on my blog hasn't been working for the past week.  I did a normal edit one day, and it just crapped out on me.  I'm hopefully going to get that fixed soon.  But if you want to see a few of the things I've made, check out my "Pinned it, made it" board on Pinterest.

— 4 —
Did anyone else read this ridiculous article about the CO of the USS Pittsburgh submarine who got relieved after only ONE WEEK in command?  An extramarital affair 23-year-old is bad enough but faking your own death to get her off your case?  He sounds like a real piece of work.

— 5 —
I've been reading a book lately that I have come to absolutely hate.  I've read this author before and liked his work, but he went a different direction this time and it's just not working for me.  The problem is that it's such a quick read that I feel like I should just finish out the book to make sure I still hate it.  It's a collection of short stories, so it's not like there's any plot I'm missing if I don't finish it.  I don't think I could give the book a real review, though, if I stop.  I remember an article in my high school newspaper where a girl tried to review a book she never finished and it came off as really ignorant and amateur.  But then, what about the opportunity cost of my time?  Can I do something better with those 30 minutes of my life (perhaps writing a halfway-decent blog post)?  What would you do in this situation?

— 6 —
I won an awesome giveaway over at Nicole's blog, and I'm really loving the hair clip I won!  It's a Flexi Hair Clip from Lilla Rose, and I've worn it almost every day this week.

Isn't it pretty?
— 7 —
My sister is a second grade teacher at a Title One (high poverty) school back in Georgia.  She wanted to get some materials for her class that she couldn't afford on her lowly teacher's salary.  She posted the projects on DonorsChoose.org earlier this summer so that random generous people could help.  Well, she got the best surprise ever on Monday when she found out that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had funded the rest of BOTH of her projects!!  I'm hoping some other teachers got some fabulous news like that this week.  Check out DonorsChoose to see what projects the teachers in your area need help with!

Check out more Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary :)

12 August 2012

Recent Reads

I've finished a few very different books lately, and here are my thoughts on them.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

This was the first library book I got on my Kindle Fire!  Actually, I had it on hold and it came through while we were in Houston.  I was able to "check out" the book while on vacation!  I'm officially SOLD on fancy technology now.

As for the book, I liked it!  Mindy Kaling is a writer and actress from The Office (she plays Kelly Kapoor).  Her writing was funny but honest.  She reminded me a ton of one of my good friends that I grew up with.  This book gave a look at her past but it also jumped around to her opinions on random stuff.  I loved her views on leaving a party without saying goodbyes (I had to share that one with B, since he absolutely hates that social convention) and about marriage not being "work."  While I have never been much of a fan of The Office, it was both Mindy's character Kelly and Ellie Kemper's character Erin to whom I always gravitated.  And gravitating toward Mindy is a good thing, since she has her own sitcom on FOX starting this fall!  It's called The Mindy Project, and you can watch a preview here.

My only gripe is that she kinda jumps around a lot in this book, going from childhood memory to a present-day opinion on a matter with no transition.  It's a little weird, but it actually kind of works.  Kind of.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Meh, this book didn't impress me.  B had read it already and has said the writing was like someone who hoped to get a movie deal out of it, not like someone who loved to write.  The book was about a traveling (train) circus during Depression-era America.  There was a naive college dropout and some villains, and of course a love interest.  All of the characters were pretty flat, and I wasn't exactly cheering for the main guy to get with the girl.  The story was also told switching back and forth between an old man in a nursing home getting ready to go to the circus and then him when he was younger actually working as the vet for a circus.

In my copy of the book, there was a "conversation with the author" in the back.  All it basically said was that she did a ton of research and found all of these great stories from traveling circuses back in the day.  Yeah, she threw every single one of them into this one fictional book.  It actually was a bit much.  Aside from learning some new terminology like "redlighting" (throwing someone from a moving train) and "First of May" (circus newbie), this book was not good.

However, since I do own it, and it's been made into a movie (which I have no desire to watch), and some people seemed to enjoy it, I will be leaving this one for Bookcrossing in order to cross it off my 101 list.

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern

This was another library Kindle download, that I just sort of chanced upon.  I've never even read the Twitter account that inspired this book (and the short-lived TV series), but I thought it might be funny to just read some quotes.  I was thinking of it like a coffee table book (which I realize now is one type of book these e-readers have basically killed, by the way).  I had no idea I'd be getting the memoirs of Justin and his dad, but that's what sucked me in.

It was a super-de-duper quick read, probably one day for most people (a week of bedtime reading for myself).  Each chapter starts out with a funny quote from the dad, and then the reader learns the context of that quote.  It's through this that you learn a short biography of both the father and the son, and more importantly, the quirks of their relationship.  Each chapter ends with a quote-dump from the dad, usually about five of them.  The dad likes to use a lot of profanity.

This book was okay, nothing spectacular (yet still sucked me in, like I said).  The dad had some decent insights into life, but nothing earth-shattering.  My book expired, so I can't even tell you my favorite quote now, although I think I bookmarked it.  I obviously don't care enough to go dig for it either.  Oh well.

Have you read any of these books?  What were your thoughts?

07 August 2012

Starting Solids

A few weeks back, at a week shy of 6 months old, we decided to try some "solid" foods on Baby Cora.  I was planning on waiting a bit longer, but honestly, her drop-in daycare had been trying to bully me into it because I'm pretty sure they were overfeeding her.  The WHO and now even the AAP recommend waiting until 6 months for solids now, but it seems a lot of people and places--daycare included--haven't quite gotten the memo.  We are taking a semi-Baby-led Weaning approach to solids, which basically means that baby will be fed whatever we're eating within reason.  Some people will preach that this approach is better and healthier and blah blah blah, but honestly, I like it because I'm kinda lazy.  And I think jarred baby food is overpriced.  I also hate having to get my blender down from the high shelf because I'm short.  (If starting solids earlier, purees, and making your own baby food works for you, that's awesome.  One of my friends is a baby-food-making fiend, and I'm happy for her.  No mommy judgment here; in fact most cultures introduce mashed foods or porridge as a first food.)  Our approach is half-assed anyway because true Baby-led Weaning doesn't use spoons and lets baby feed herself, but that hasn't been working for us quite yet.  (She has mostly been eating food off of our fingers.)

For a few weeks before we started solids, we put her in her high chair during meal times and let her play with a baby spoon and a basket of stuffed fruit.  She may not have been ready for solids, but she was definitely ready to be part of meal time.  Occasionally we would let her taste something, but she usually wasn't interested.

Baby with her faux first foods
Once she was sort of ready, I decided to try sweet potato first.  I just baked it in the oven for an hour and scooped it out once it was cool.  We tried to feed her from a spoon that we were holding, but she had no interest in that (even though she likes to chew on the spoon when there's nothing on it).  We then let her try  to feed herself with the spoon or with her hands.  Well, you can just imagine how this went.  She had very little interest in actually eating, but she made a pretty awesome mess!

She only wanted the end of the spoon with no food on it.
I also believe in meal time being a time of exploration and learning, so I was expecting (and sort of encouraging) the mess.  I had bought a cheap tablecloth to put underneath the high chair, since our dining room is carpeted and our kitchen is just a galley.  This is also nice because when she throws food onto the floor, I feel okay picking it up and giving it to her again.

The tablecloth was on clearance; next time I'll get a white one
so I can find and clean up the sweet potato slop more easily.
Since the sweet potato a few weeks ago, we've tried some other foods.  I did some rice cereal, mostly to appease the daycare.  She was not interested at all.  The daycare tried and basically told me that she didn't eat much so they just let her play with it.  And that day I actually got a whole bottle of milk back (i.e., she wasn't overfed), so that was a win in my book!  We were eating soft tacos one night, so we gave her some pieces of a tortilla.  She actually did great with that!  Breads seem to be easier for her to grab and put in her mouth, so I gave her a piece of sandwich bread the next day.

We had porkchops and apples one night, so I reserved some extra apple pieces for her.  I'm no chef, so I couldn't quite get the consistency right, but she was easily able to pick it up and gum on it.  The next day I threw some apple slices in a small slow cooker to make them easier to eat for her.  (Yes, I should probably get a steamer basket and try that, but that's not really how I cook, so I haven't gone that route yet.)  She ended up doing really well eating the cooked apple off of my finger--they were a bit slippery for her to self-feed though.  That was probably the day she ate the most food.  I kept the rest in the fridge and have been giving her more.

This is her nomming on some soft-cooked apples.
We recently did half a banana cut into sticks for her to pick up.  Each day she makes a bit of progress, so I took a video today at lunch.  In it, she both eats off my finger and she feeds herself.  I was really happy that she opened her mouth for my finger feed!  I don't try to force the issue when she keeps her mouth shut.

(I added some background music to the video, since it was mostly silent.  Enjoy.)

We've continued to give her stuff from our plates, too, like last night when we had slow cooked chicken with carrots and celery.  The carrots and celery were super soft, and I was surprised when she picked up the celery piece and ate it all by herself.  Oh, she has no teeth yet, if you're wondering.

I guess you could call our approach "lazy" but it does take a lot more clean up.  Many times we just make bath time immediately after the meal!

If you want to see more pictures and stories of Baby-led Weaning, check out this awesome blog.

03 August 2012

7 Quick Takes (Olympic Fever Edition)

— 1 —
B and I have been having fun keeping up with the Olympics.  He's a lot more into it than I thought he would be!  I think he's watched about every sport that has come on.  He likes to whine and moan about some of it, though.  I sometimes agree.  One thing he hates is swimming.  I get this.  Why is someone who won a gabillion medals in swimming the "greatest Olympic athlete"?  You can win a gabillion medals in swimming because it has a gabillion events.  (17 events, I just counted.)  But what about those sports that only offer one medal?  I personally love women's beach volleyball, and I think May-Treanor/Walsh is one of the greatest teams of all Olympic history.  And what about skeet shooter Kim Rhode who has won gold in five consecutive Olympics?

— 2 —
Speaking of beach volleyball, can I just say that Kerri Walsh is amazing?  Did you know this gal popped out TWO kids between the last Olympics and this one?
I remember hearing Jillian Michaels say she didn't want to "ruin her body" with pregnancy.  Um, I think Kerri Walsh just proved that it does not ruin your body if you don't let it.  (I can personally vouch for this, as I have a similar body type to Jillian and have lost every ounce of pregnancy weight and even a pound extra to boot.)

— 3 —
Going back to swimming, what in the world is the point of the butterfly stroke?  Why would you ever use this stroke in swimming?  Freestyle is the fastest, breaststroke is an endurance stroke, backstroke probably has the least risk of drowning . . . but butterfly?  To look like a fish?  I don't get it.

— 4 —
I really enjoyed this YouTube video that shows the evolution of uneven bars routines over the year.  Neat, huh?

— 5 —
Did you catch my guest post over at Many Waters earlier this week?  I talked about my views on my husband leaving active duty military service, which you can read here.  His replacement is checking in today, which means it's turnover time.  Less than 30 days left until his end date.  Yeep.  And, no, we still don't know where his job search is going to land us.
— 6 —
I've crossed two items off my 101 list lately.  The first was that I got my butt back to that farmer's market and finally bought a few items:
Flowers, local raw honey, and some yummy bread.  Total was under $20.
The honey was from a church friend's yard, so that was cool too.  You can check out their website here.
— 7 —
And yesterday I blogged about how I made ice cream from scratch without an ice cream maker.
Check out how I did it here.
And check out more quick takes at Conversion Diary!

02 August 2012

Truly Old-Fashioned

I should have done this a long time ago.

Yeah, that?  I made it.
Thus fulfilling . . .

✔ 38. Make ice cream from scratch

Now before you roll your eyes and say, "Whatever, no big deal," let me inform you that I did this without an ice cream maker.  Let me say that again, but in bold and all caps.  I MADE IT WITHOUT AN ICE CREAM MAKER.

We don't have the space for one, and I didn't want to buy something I might use only once a year anyway.  (Yes, I know you can get them for cheap at a thrift store, but that's not the point here.)

Okay, so how did I do it, you ask?  I have actually made ice cream in the bag method before, way back in my Girl Scout days.  That's sorta fun, but you should probably buy rock salt and you'll need some good plastic bags.  Also, the ice cream isn't as good as the kind you buy.  For that, you need a custard base, which means eggs and a little bit of cooking.

Where's an easy place to find a good ice cream recipe?  Screw Pinterest, this one calls for tried and true.  Betty Crocker red book to the rescue.  Here is her vanilla ice cream recipe.

Now, as for the freezing it into ice cream part, I searched around and found this guy's method.  The basic premise is that you put it in the freezer and just keep stirring it every half hour or so for at least 3 hours.  Yes, it takes much longer than whatever magic an ice cream maker does, but it worked!  The timing was perfect, too, as our ice cream was ready right after baby went to bed!  (It was soft serve consistency around the 3-hour mark, so I actually tacked on an extra hour.)

It was pretty cool watching it slowly turn into ice cream over the course of the evening!
It came out so good!  The only ingredient I actually had to purchase specifically for this was heavy cream.  Everything else was on hand.

I actually did a little happy dance in the kitchen after getting these two beautiful scoops into the bowl.
Have you ever made ice cream without a gadget?  How did it turn out?