Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's an Off Schedule Day

Lizzie is a fantastic sleeper. I've always been a big fan of sleep myself, so I'm not terribly surprised my daughter inherited that trait. After all, I spent most of my time sleeping when I was pregnant with her.

I am suddenly concerned the next kid will be constantly sleep deprived...

Not really, of course. If sleeping a lot while pregnant was the real answer, expectant mothers everywhere would spend nine months in a self-induced coma.

We've made getting Lizzie proper sleep a priority her whole life and I think a big part of the reason she sleeps so well is that we keep to a very regular sleep schedule. This not only has the benefit of a well rested, healthy, happy child, it also makes the days more predictable and easier to manage.

Today, of course, is a totally off day. Lizzie had a fever yesterday afternoon and most of the night, her first one ever, and she's still recovering. I'm not sure what she really needs at this point because I have exactly no experience with how she reacts to being sick. Plus, I had an appointment with my OB this morning and had to take Lizzie with me (even if I could have left her with Sarah, I wouldn't have risked her daughter catching whatever bug got Lizzie yesterday), which meant running about. Running about is never good for the schedule. Result: everything is totally off and I'm not entirely sure where to go from here.

Lizzie's normal schedule runs like this:

7:30 - wake up
7:30-8:30 - breakfast
8:30-11:00 - playtime
11:00-1:00 - nap
1:00-1:30 - lunch
1:30-4:00 - playtime
4:00-5:00 - dinner, bath, and bedtime routine
5:00 - sleep

Now, it's not exact. Sometimes she wakes up a little early or takes a half hour or so to actually fall asleep at night. Some days she only naps for 45 minutes instead of the full 2 hours. But in general, that's how it goes.

Yes, really, that's pretty much our day every day. Yes, I know how lucky I am that I have a 15 month old who sleeps 14.5 straight hours overnight and then takes a 2 hour nap in the middle of the day. And I'm still here complaining about being off today.

I suck and you hate me and every parent who reads this post is never going to speak to me ever again. I get it. Hell, I have the super-sleeping baby. I take a little hate in exchange. ;-)

The downside to having a child who sleeps this much and this regularly is that when she's off, it really hits her hard. So here's today:

6:30 - wake up (after a super crap night of feverish irregular sleep)
7:30-8:30 - breakfast
8:30-9:30 - playtime
9:30-10:00 - nap in the car on the way to OB's office
10:00-12:00 - stroller and car seat playtime at the doctor and on the way home (she's a very active kid and does not like to sit still; this did not go over well)
12:00-3:00 - nap
3:00-4:00 - "lunch"

Um.... now what the heck do I do? Normally, if she wakes up a little early, I just ignore it and hope she's back on track by the next morning. If she takes a really short nap, say 30 minutes or less, I start the dinner, bath, and bedtime routine a little early to make up some of the difference. Or if she takes a long nap, I start dinner, bath, and bedtime a little late because I know she's not going to fall asleep again so soon after waking up.

Alas, today is just screwed up all the way around. I'm pretty sure she woke up early because her sheets were totally soaked with sweat from the fever last night and she can't have been very comfortable. No biggie, we just changed the sheets and moved on.

And the nap in the car didn't worry me, because I knew she'd be going down for her nap late if she took one at home at all. I mean, it was entirely possible she'd fall asleep in the car on the way home from the doctor too, meaning there would be no nap once she was home and at that point I was going to be grateful for that 30 minutes of extra sleep she snatched on the way down.

But she didn't fall asleep in the car on the way home, so she took a great nap in her crib once we were home. In fact, as you can see above, she napped for an extra long time. After a three hour nap, I'd normally push her bedtime back by about half an hour to compensate without depriving her of extra sleep she clearly needed.

But cumulatively, I'm at a loss. I mean, she just woke up and had lunch an hour and a half ago. I suspect that if I try feeding her dinner in a few minutes and then put her to bed, she's just going to fight me. It's not like she had a lot of playtime today to wear herself out with. But she was so sick last night and though she's in good spirits today she still looks a little pale. She's clearly got some more recovery to do.

I suppose we could skip dinner, since she's probably not hungry. But I don't want her to wake up hungry at 3AM either. Maybe a light dinner, half a bottle and two cubes of sweet potatoes instead of a full bottle, three cubes of sweet potatoes, and some ravioli like I'd originally planned?

And then bedtime might just have to be a fight. I'm kinda spoiled in that we rarely have to fight with her to get her to sleep. (Yeah, there's more of that hate coming my way. The post isn't even live yet as I type this and I can already feel it.) Or maybe I'm borrowing trouble. Maybe the fever has left her so beat she'll just drop off like normal in spite of virtually no activity all day.

This being a mom thing is tricky. Why don't kids come with troubleshooting instructions?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Divine Yogurt Cheesecake

Yes, that's really the name of this recipe on the Betty Crocker website. It is, possibly, the most accurate use of that particular adjective ever. I used to refer to cheesecake as ambrosia. I have, I think, finally found a recipe that makes that less hyperbole and more downright fact.

In short, this is the best cheesecake I've ever made. It's also one of the easiest and quickest cheesecakes I've ever made, which, to my way of thinking, makes it just about perfection in dessert form.

I made it for our TriMu Thanksgiving Feastivities yesterday and it turned out so much better than I expected that I was almost sad to share it, even with some of my closest friends. Had I "quality assurance tested" it beforehand, I'm not sure it would have been available for the group by dessert time.

1 spring form pan
1 large mixing bowl
1 electric mixer
Food processor or some other means of mixing the cookie crumbs and butter into crumbly goodness.
measuring cups and spoons
1 cookie sheet (the kind with sides, not those flat ones)

1 box vanilla wafer cookies, crumbed
4 tbsp butter or margarine
24oz cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
6oz yogurt (you can use a flavored yogurt if you want to give the cheesecake a hint of some other flavor, but I just used plain so as not to distract from the cheesecake flavor)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
Cooking spray or a little bit of oil for the pan

Step 1: Heat oven to 300 degrees. Spray spring form pan with cooking spray or coat lightly with oil. Fill the cookies sheet with water and place it on the oven rack just below the center. (The cheesecake is going to go on the center oven rack just above that. Assuming you have two oven racks. If you don't, skip the cookie sheet.)

The cookie sheet of water is there to prevent the cheesecake from cracking while you bake it. I'm not sure how much use this actually is. My cheesecake did not crack during baking. Of course, it then cracked while it was cooling, so...

Step 2: Mix cookie crumbs and butter in the food processor. Hint: you can just toss the cookies straight from the box into the food processor, which will crumb them as it mixes them with the butter. Press crumble into the bottom and slightly up the side of the spring form pan. Refrigerate while making the filling.

Step 3: In the large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Add sugar and eggs. Beat again until smooth. Stop periodically and scrape down the sides of the bowl so everything gets mixed properly. Add yogurt and flour. Beat again until smooth.

If you are the type who likes to taste doughs and batters before baking despite raw egg dangers, now would be a good time to do that. Though, I warn you, indulge at your own risk. You may not be able to stop once your start.

Step 4: Pour the filling over the crumb mixture in the spring form pan. Smooth it out gently so it fills the entire pan evenly.

Step 5: Bake on the center oven rack for 1 hour 25 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes until the center is set. Cool 30 minutes.

Step 6: Without removing or releasing the side of the pan, run a knife or spatula along the side of the cheesecake to loosen. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Recipe adapted from: www.bettycrocker.com. Not much of an adaptation, actually, as the original recipe was damn near perfect all on its own.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Secret Blog Posts Revealed!

You thought I forgot about you all, didn't you? Not an unfair assumption. I've forgotten about blogs before. But not this time. There are posts going back a while that I'm just now publishing today. Because they were regarding a big secret, which I don't need to keep a big secret anymore.

Curious? I thought you might be.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

I am thankful for my awesome husband, my beautiful daughter, the tiny little baby that's been growing inside me for these past twelve weeks, my wonderful family, and my fabulous friends. I have so many great people in my life and I love you all.

I am less than thankful for the maternity jeans I had to break down and get out of storage this morning. I don't fit into any of my old jeans anymore, but I don't look pregnant yet. I just look fat. Still, the elastic waistband should be useful this afternoon. ;-)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Super Cheesy Mac and Cheese

I have never been big on mac and cheese. Well, I mean I'm sure there was a period in my youth where I could not get enough of the powdered cheese and pasta stuff Kraft puts out there in its lovely blue box. But in general, mac and cheese has not been one of my favorite foods since around the time play doh and crayons also stopped being a serious contenders for that honor. I know it's practically blasphemy here in America to not like mac and cheese, but there it is.

However, pregnancy changes things. I never really had weird food cravings when I was pregnant with Lizzie--my husband was spared ever having to go on a midnight pickle and ice cream run--but I did start craving foods I'd never really wanted before. Like cheese. If a recipe called for a sprinkling of shredded cheese, my pregnant brain immediately decided that it could be improved by about 100000% by using something closer to an entire bag of shredded cheese instead. I never got to the point where I was just going to eat plain cheese all on its own for a snack, but cooking with excessive cheese became something of a given.

Strangely, this fascination with cheesy recipes did not go away once I had Lizzie and here she is almost 14 months old and I'm still thinking super cheesy is the only way to go. Thus, mac and cheese has made its way back into my life after all these years. My husband, a cheese-aholic from way back, is thrilled.

1 large pot
1 small saucepan
2qt casserole dish
spoons for mixing
some device for shredding cheese and crumbling crackers into crumbs (I used my food processor. You could also just buy shredded cheese and smash the crackers by hand if you want.)

1 box macaroni-type pasta (elbows, shells, rotini, whatever strikes your fancy)
16 oz cheese of your choice (In this case, I used 8 oz of sharp cheddar and 8 oz of pepper jack. The pepper jack gives it a great flavor; a little kick but not overpoweringly spicy.)
16 oz heavy whipping cream
1/2 or so of crumbled crackers or bread crumbs

That's it. This is probably one of my easiest recipes ever. Also, not so much in the healthy category. But I feel like you should have expected that, given the name.

Step 1: Cook pasta according to directions on the box, using the minimum cooking time suggested. You want it to be cooked but not completely soft; you're going to bake it too. Drain.

Step 2: While the pasta is cooking, warm the cream in the small saucepan. Don't cook the cream or boil the cream or anything like that. Seriously, warm on low heat, just enough that it's not refrigerator cold. You should also take this time to shred the cheese and crumble the crackers if you didn't just buy them that way.

Step 3: Mix warm cream, drained pasta, and shredded cheese together. You could theoretically use a separate mixing bowl for this step, but I prefer just to use the pasta pot. One less dish to wash, and we all know I'm all about minimizing the cleaning. Pour mixture into the casserole dish. Top with crumbs.

Step 4: Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until bubbly and the crumbs look toasted. Makes 6-8 servings, depending on how hungry you happen to be at the time.

Recipe adapted from: This recipes is a mangled, pretty much unrecognizable version of Annie's Muenster Mac and Cheese. She has dozens of mac and cheese recipes on her site (seriously, I searched her site for "mac and cheese" and got something like 186 results) and this one is by far the simplest, which is what made me want to try it in the first place. I did make the recipe as it stood once, but Lee and I both thought it was too bland and not cheesy enough. As you can see, I've more than compensated for those issues here.