Friday, April 29, 2011

April recipe challenge: souffle au chocolat

My friend Kelli's recent attempt at Julia Child's chocolate souffle inspired this month's challenge. Anything that involves baking is usually a challenge for me.

The ingredients . . . looks simple, right? What could be so hard about making a souffle? (Ha!)


Julia's recipe called for folding the chocolate mixture into a meringue. "Just this simple change in method gives the souffle staying power so that instead of collapsing rather rapidly into a pudding, it stays up and retains its primal souffle character." (v. 1, p. 619) Ha, ha, HA!


I baked the souffle for much longer than the recipe called for, and it still didn't rise as much as it should have.


Shouldn't souffles have a nicely rounded top, at least initially? Mine is as flat as a pancake.


And then moments after taking the picture above, the souffle collapsed and began to die a slow and painful death, pulling rapidly away from the edges of the dish, and turning into a gooey mess.


We ate it anyway, and although the dish wasn't pretty, it was good, especially served piping hot and topped with vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

addicted


And the sad thing is that the tags from my tomatoes, peppers, and some flowers are not pictured. I can't wait to show you what I've been up to!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

20

Mile 20 of marathons is my favorite mile. Sure, you're exhausted and in severe pain by that point, but physically and mentally, it's a huge milestone. And, although the last 6.2 miles are the longest and most painful of the entire race, you know you're almost done. And even more importantly, you know you'll finish. Quitting isn't an option after running 20 miles.

Today is week 20 of pregnancy for me. Praise God that Baby is still growing and developing normally. I've dreamed of this milestone, but I never thought I'd see it.

And yet, now that I'm here, the finish line feels light years away. In some ways, I feel like I've barely started the race at all. There's still much to experience, think about, and do. I pray these next 20 weeks go as smoothly as the first 20 have. Praise God for carrying Baby and me this far!

Monday, April 25, 2011

going from one to two

In November of 2005, my beloved, sporty, red Toyota Celica died. Brad had just gotten a parking permit for the lot closest to his office (after waiting 16 months for it), but he graciously gave it up and started taking the metro so I could take our other car to work each day. We had planned on being a one-car family for just a few months to save money.

Well, five and a half years have passed and we finally bought our second car last week!

I wonder how many miles my sweet husband has walked in the past five and a half years. Or how many times he's had to deal with crowded trains or metro delays. Or how often he's stayed home on a Saturday because I wanted the car for a girls outing, and staying home was just easier for him than figuring out an alternative form of transportation to do whatever he wanted or needed to do.

I insisted that our new car be primarily his. He's earned it.

Today is Brad's first day driving the new car to work, and I'm already scheming about the errands he can resume now that he has his own wheels! But, for now, I'll give him a break. I'll wait at least a couple of weeks before I start hinting about grocery store runs!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

Brad and I had some friends from church over to celebrate Christ's resurrection. We had eight adults and two children, and I went with the black tablecloth because it seemed more kid friendly than my ivory Lenox one.


We had a great time. None of the other couples/families knew each other, and I think everyone enjoyed making new friends.

On another note, this tiny bundle of lilacs only cost me $5 at Eastern Market yesterday, but has made my entire house smell divine. The heavenly fragrance even drifts up to our bedroom!


If only lilacs stayed in season a little longer . . . but their short lifespan makes them that much more precious to me.

Friday, April 22, 2011

monster plant intervention

Brad moved from a gorgeous, huge, light-filled office overlooking Dupont Circle to a smaller, windowless office in Rayburn, much to his plants' dismay. One plant in particular, the monster pictured below, was only a foot tall when we got it, and grew to over nine feet in length thanks to the wall of west-facing windows in Brad's Dupont office. Just to get the thing in the car and home, where it now lives with Fern, Sprout, and all the others, I had to implement an intervention: plant surgery

The monster in its tiny, original pot
 It loves sun.

Growing toward the windows
 I hacked about four feet off its top.

Severed limb

I pray it lives at home in a shadier location. This plant is still taller than me!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

some of your questions: answered.

What is it about pregnancy that makes some people, even complete strangers, assume interrogation mode? I've been a bit uncomfortable with the endless stream of questions since Brad and I started telling people about our pregnancy. What I'm about to say may sound contradictory because I write a blog about myself, but I loathe being the center of attention in a conversation. I remember that as a bride-to-be, I felt uncomfortable with others constantly focusing the conversation on my engagement or wedding. It's the same now, only worse.

Many of the questions I've been asked thus far I can't answer yet because I am taking small steps and not getting ahead of myself. But, there are a few that I can answer.

Q. Are you finding out the sex?
A. No

Q. Why not?
A. This is a non-issue for us. Brad and I are old fashioned. We have never once considered finding out the sex with any pregnancy. We have no desire to know in advance. We look forward to the surprise when, Lord willing, we meet our son or daughter.

Q. Well, if you're not finding out, then what do you think you're having?
A. (Side note: if I'm not obsessing over this, why are others?! Some people will not let this one go!) We have no idea what we're having. We have not speculated, nor have we had one conversation where we've spent any time wondering about it. The sex doesn't matter to either of us. We just pray for a healthy baby.

Q. (this is really more of a comment) Well, I think you're having a ....
Me: (interrupting) Don't say it! Don't tell me what you or anyone else thinks. I don't want to be influenced AT ALL! (And don't tell Brad either.)

Q. When is your due date?
A. September 14, 2011

Q. Are you going back to work after maternity leave?
A. I may eventually write a longer post about the complexities of this question, but the short answer for now is yes.

Q. How are you feeling?
A. (Side note: when people ask me this, I immediately respond with the state of my emotional/mental health, until I notice the look of panic on their faces, and then I realize they were inquiring about my physical health, something I don't pay a whole lot of attention to.) Well, Gentle Readers, I think you know how I am doing emotionally. You read this blog and I keep you pretty well informed. Physically, I'm doing great. In the first trimester, I had 5-6 weeks of solid nausea and exhaustion, but I never threw up. Now, my nausea has faded and my energy is back. I'm still waiting for my appetite to return in full force. Even my favorite foods still don't taste as good as they used to. I'm not sleeping great, but I don't have as many bad dreams about the baby dying as I did in the early months.

Q. Have you shopped at X, Y, or Z for maternity clothes?
A. My BeBands and I are doing just fine! I'm 19 weeks today and still haven't ventured into a maternity store or done any serious browsing online. Now that I've made it this far, I'm hopeful I can make it a few more weeks or even another month, and only have to buy maternity clothes for one season (hot weather!) rather than two.

Q. Have you read (insert title of any pregnancy book here)?
A. I refuse to read pregnancy books. Many of them focus too much on the myriad things that can go wrong and signs to watch for if something is wrong, which isn't healthy or helpful for me right now. I do hope to read some parenting books, but not until I'm further along and the information is more relevant.

Q. Have you picked out names/cribs/car seats/strollers/nursery colors/bedding/stores to register at, etc.?
A. This is the point in the conversation where I run away shrieking. It's not time to think about or act on any of those things yet. I'll get there. And when I do, I'm thankful to be having a child later in life after many of my friends have already researched these items and are willing to share their findings with me.

And finally, my favorite question:
Q. What will you do about the National Book Festival this year?
A. Yes, I am aware that my favorite DC event, which will last two days this year, is scheduled to begin 10 days after my due date. And I choose to remain blissfully ignorant about what childbirth, recovery from it, or caring for someone who is only days old entails. Unless I'm in the hospital, I believe I'll still go to the festival, or at least make an appearance to see my favorite authors, possibly with Baby safely hidden away in one of those sling things where no one will see or be tempted to touch him or her. Please allow me to live in dreamland about this for as long as I can. Don't burst my bubble here, current mamas!

Monday, April 18, 2011

a year of sprout

One year ago, after losing hope that Fern's stump would produce anything worthwhile, I made arrangements for an eviction.

And then, I spotted hope in the pot.


And that hope turned into Sprout, who is thriving one year later!


Praise God I didn't give up! Look at Mama Fern and her one-year-old . . .


Don't they look cute together? I can't imagine life, or my front window, without them.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

constantly held in check

Right around the time Brad and I found out we were pregnant again, we learned that our friend and his wife had just had their sixth consecutive miscarriage. At hearing this news, I felt guilty for being pregnant, but honestly, I believed we'd soon be following in their footsteps and dealing with another loss.

During my early weeks of pregnancy, I continued to hear of others' losses, sometimes weekly. In my 13th week, I went on a retreat and one of the speakers shared that she'd recently lost a baby during week 13. I sat stoic in the audience, certain her story was a sign that my pregnancy was doomed.

In my 14th week, while I was home on spring break and feeling slightly confident one day, I "treated" myself by watching an episode of A Baby Story on TLC. The couple on that particular episode shared that they had suffered three miscarriages, their most recent one during the 14th week of pregnancy. I gasped, battling the familiar feelings of dread and anxiety rising inside me. When I reached my 15-week milestone two days later, I felt like I had dodged yet another bullet.

One day after I celebrated my 17-week mark, I read a post by a blogger who had just lost her baby . . . you guessed it . . . at 17 weeks.

What's going on here?!

Losses happen. They are real. And they don't just occur during the first trimester. I feel like I've constantly been held in check during this pregnancy, which hasn't been such a bad thing because I'm reminded of the magnificence of the Lord's sovereignty. I am in control of nothing. God knows his children and his plans for them before he creates them in the womb. His plan and timing are perfect, and I believe that no matter what the future holds for us.

So, I tread carefully, continue to take things slowly, and try to trust as best as I can.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

awkward

I've been eager for confirmation that my two lovebirds who work for me this semester are actually an item and not just a figment of my overactive imagination. Well, yesterday I got it, but not in a way that I would have preferred.

Neither one of them showed up for our mandatory 8:30 a.m. staff meeting on Tuesday, which was odd because they're both very responsible. As I left voice mail messages for each one, I thought, "I bet they're shacking and the alarm didn't go off." And, sure enough, that's exactly what happened!

(Side note: Is shacking still the proper word for it? Or have I severely dated myself by using it?)

What makes this situation slightly awkward is that they openly admitted spending the night together. Although it makes me a little uncomfortable, I will say that after all the lying I've dealt with lately, honesty is refreshing. About 30 minutes after the staff meeting ended I received a frantic text message from one of them and a panicked email message from the other. Both messages said things like, "WE overslept." and "OUR alarm didn't go off."

So, now I know! And now you do, too.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

recommended reading

I recently came across this article of how to support those challenged by infertility and I thought it was really good and also applicable to supporting people who have experienced pregnancy loss. Everyone's experience is different, but I agree with most of the author's suggestions and would probably add a few of my own. So, if you'd like some advice on how to support a friend dealing with infertility or pregnancy loss, check it out. It's a quick, but helpful, read.

Monday, April 11, 2011

lies, lies, and more lies

I've often wondered how regularly my students lie to me. Of course, they have an excuse for everything. "I have a family emergency." "I was throwing up all night." "My alarm didn't go off." "I was there--I just forgot to sign in--I promise!" "I took cold medicine right before class and slept right through it." "I didn't know the paper was due today." "I ate something bad at the Diner and got food poisoning." "I didn't get your email." "I had a panic attack on the way to class and couldn't come." Or, what's better, "My friend had a panic attack on the way to class and I had to take her back to her dorm room."

How many of these excuses, all of which I've heard dozens of times, are true? Fifty percent? Ten percent? One percent? I believe few of them, especially because most of them come days after the offense occurred, but hardly ever have evidence to prove that students are lying.

Except, one day last week, I caught two students in lies and I had evidence to call out both of them. And believe me, I did. It was a whopper of a day, let me tell you. Witch Blondie even made an appearance.

Anyone else in a profession where you think you're lied to regularly? How do you handle it?

Friday, April 8, 2011

future runner?

One benefit of all the fertility and pregnancy problems we've had is more frequent ultrasounds and visits to the doctor. If I had to regularly wait four weeks between appointments, like most women in my stage of pregnancy, I would surely be in the nuthouse by now. To date, I've had six ultrasounds--at weeks 5, 6, 7, 9, 12, and 16--and I will have at least one more. And that's not even counting the first ultrasound picture taken moments after my IVF transfer that shows three tiny puffs of white (my three embryos) in my womb. Not only is this extra attention reassuring, I am amassing quite a collection of pictures at various stages of the baby's development. Although it frightens me a little, I love reviewing these pictures from IVF transfer to present day over and over to marvel at the changes that have occurred.

At the last ultrasound appointment, the baby's legs and feet were shuffling and dancing all over the place, and the technician sat back and said, "Well, it looks like you have a future runner on your hands!"

She made this observation and had no idea that Brad and I are runners! I immediately told her and she said, "Well, Baby obviously wants to run those marathons with you!"

Now, current parents, if your ultrasound technician said the same thing to you, please don't tell me. Please don't burst my bubble. Let me believe that Brad and I may indeed have a future runner on our hands. After confirmation that the baby was still alive and had grown since our last "peek", the technician's observation made my week. It allowed me to daydream a little about running strollers and to make the decision to buy one, but I didn't even browse online for them because it's not time to yet--that can be a post-birth research project and purchase.

In fact, I was so excited about a healthy baby thus far and the possibility of having a future runner that I didn't take any small steps during week 16 beyond mentally deciding to buy a running stroller and reveling in the miracle of our baby's existence and development. But, for someone like me who struggles with fear, celebrating and marveling at God's creation is enough of a step for any week. I will cling to joy any place I find it.

I also feel more encouraged to keep running for as long as I can during this pregnancy. I took an eight-week running break when things with IVF got hot and heavy (you can't exercise after a certain point in the IVF cycle) through the early weeks of pregnancy until the doctor gave me the okay to start again. I've been running regularly, albeit shorter distances and at a slower pace (there go my 2011 running goals, but Lord willing, I won't hit them for a good reason), for weeks now, and I've felt great while doing it. 

Baby likes running, so that's what I'll do! What greater motivation exists to keep it up?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

the other side of the race

Brad and I volunteered at water station #4 (mile 7.5) at Sunday's Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. Although we volunteered for mostly selfish reasons (guaranteed entry to next year's race), I am glad we finally did it. After running 20 or so races, it's about time we gave back.

And now I have a new appreciation for race volunteers!

We arrived at our station promptly at 6 a.m. to set up tables and fill thousands of cups. Look how clean and orderly the water station looked before the race began.



Brad and I, along with one other volunteer, prepped and managed the first Gatorade table. We initially started with more than 800 cups stacked in four layers.


And the cups go on and on.


We finished setting up just in time for the elite women runners to fly past us at 8:05 a.m. They were true beauty in motion, and of course, they don't stop for water or Gatorade!  The pack quickly thickened, and we went through our 800+ cups in about 20 minutes. I spent the next 90 minutes furiously scooping Gatorade from large coolers into cups. We saw the first runner at 8:05 a.m. and the last runner at 9:50 a.m. That hour and forty-five minutes passed in the blink of an eye. Despite the chaos, Brad and I still managed to see and cheer on our friends Erica, Diane, Carol, and Abel. They looked great!

And then, as quickly as the chaos began, it ended.


As a first-time race volunteer, I learned a few lessons:
  • Prepare to freeze. I bundled up, but should have used hand warmers and foot warmers. Four hours in the cold and wind gave me a nice, rosy glow (aka wind burn) the rest of the day.
  • Gatorade is sticky and messy. Opt to hand out water instead.
  • The faster the runner, the greater the tidal wave of Gatorade that occurs during the hand off. Stick your arm out as far as possible, and then jump back!
  • Avoid working the first table in the line of water or Gatorade. Our 800+ cups ran out in only 20 minutes because everyone stops at the first table. And, I almost got trampled a few times.
  • Once our cups ran out, my cheers went from "Looking good, runners! Go! Go!" to "Gatorade--next table! Next table, please! Move down! Move down!" Over and over and over.
  • People will stand in line at the first table and wait for you to pour them a glass of Gatorade if they see a stack of cups in your hand instead of immediately going several tables down where mountains of Gatorade cups still tower.
  • The slower the runner, the greater his or her vocal appreciation and acknowledgment of volunteers.
  • You will finish your volunteer shift just as tired as if you had run the ten miles yourself.
Nice job runners! And I vow to cherish race volunteers even more from this day forward.

Monday, April 4, 2011

capitol hill is a great seductress . . .

. . .  and she has lured my husband back for one more affair! Brad begins his new job today as the Senior Education Policy Advisor for K-12 education with the House's Committee on Education and the Workforce, the committee he worked for previously.

I am excited that Brad will get borrowing privileges at the Library of Congress again, but somehow I suspect I'll still have difficulty snagging a copy of Room in time to read it before book club later this month.

Friday, April 1, 2011

meet me at mile 7.5



Cherry Blossom 10 Miler Runners,

Brad and I are stationed at water stop #4, roughly at mile 7.5. Look for us. Let us quench your thirst. And we'll cheer you on so that you can finish strong!

Let me know if you're running this race so I can watch for you.

Run hard and good luck!

Dr. Blondie