Friday, May 31, 2013

Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese

Taste: Super, super creamy. I normally make baked macaroni and cheese, but I wanted a creamier version that could be made in the crock pot - found it! It even reheats well. It  is a convenient side dish because you can leave it alone in the crock pot. I actually first made this for Thanksgiving, because oven room is scarce that day. Definitely not your healthiest macaroni and cheese, but deliciously decadent every once and a while.
Amount: Serves 6-12.
Time: 2 1/2 - 3 hours
Source: adapted from Paula Deen's recipe on food.com

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups whole milk, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups sharp cheddar, grated
  • 4 oz Velveeta, cubed
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 (10 oz) can condensed cheddar cheese soup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • pinch garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Directions:
Boil the macaroni noodles in a large pot for 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat, mix butter and flour until a paste forms. Turn the heat up to medium-high heat, and whisk in 1 cup of milk until thickened. Stir in the sharp cheddar and Velveeta until cheese melts.
In a slow cooker, add sour cream, soup, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dry mustard, and the remaining 1 cup of milk stirring until combined. Stir in the melted cheese. Then add the drained macaroni and stir again.
Cook on low for 2 hours.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Monthly Things

The month of May is nearly over. My legs have been peeling the entire time. Not kidding. This is completely tangential, but come on. My legs will not give it up. Just when I think I must be done, oh look more. It is vexing. But, moving on... I, for one, cannot believe May is basically done. Time must be speeding up. That is the only explanation.

Anyway, I wanted to do a sort of monthly round-up of 'things'. Just things. Any things that caught my eye on the internet or blogosphere. Or, fun things in real life. Or, somethings that are completely random.

[ 1 / 2 / 3 ] These DIY projects look lovely. Even though I have a black thumb, the framed succulents look gorgeous.

[ 1 ] Glowing cockroaches? Count me out.

[ 1 ] One of the cutest pregnant ladies I've ever seen. I love every outfit she puts together.

[ 1 / 2 / 3 ] I've never had much of a desire to go on a cruise, but these posts are doing a good job at changing my mind.

[ 1 ] I want some at cost Italian pottery.
image via Via Fontanelle

I am pretty sure I need this for breakfast, this for dinner, and this for dessert.
image via The Girl Who Ate Everything

[ 1 / 2 / 3 ] I am loving the mint popping up everywhere.
image via For All Things Lovely

I'm reading Dan Brown's latest, and I cannot put it down. I think it might turn out to be my favourite of the four. I also read the second book in Karen Marie Moning's Highlander series this month, the second before the technical first because I apparently can't follow simple directions. It is a bodice-ripping romance, but set in Scotland so automatically better. I thought it was a delightful guilty pleasure to slip into after Turtle was in bed for the night.
image via Goodreads

Finally, I've been listening to Muse's Madness on repeat this month. Not your typical summer jam, huh?

And, there you have it. What has grabbed your attention this month?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Blog Every Day In May :: The Best Part of Waking Up...

Today's topic: Five songs or pieces of music that speak to you or bring back memories.

My favourite type of music is most definitely the type that makes you want to sing along. The type that lifts you up and makes everything better. The type that energizes you, makes you want to dance, and is just plain fun. I enjoy different types as well, but this type the most.

One of the best ways to wake up is to music in my opinion. Unfortunately it doesn't tend to happen much around here. Somebody is always still sleeping when I get up in the morning. And, for some reason he doesn't like loud upbeat music after 3, 4 hours of sleep. Weird, right?

If I could, this would be a few of my favourites to wake up to...

1. We Are Young - Fun or maybe Carry On - Fun

2. Krazy - Pitbull

3. Higher and Higher - covered by Peter Tork on the banjo

4. an 80s medley that includes: Burning Down the House - Talking Heads, Come on Eileen - Dexy's Midnight Runners, You Spin Me Right Round - Dead or Alive, and It's Tricky - Run DMC

5. I Knew You Were Trouble - Taylor Swift


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Florida Walks

Today's Blog Every Day In May topic: Only pictures.
 
I took these on a local nature trail over the Memorial Day weekend.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Baby-Led Weaning: An Introduction

The hubs and I decided that we wanted give the baby-led weaning method a try with Turtle, so I thought I would do a little premise on the topic. It isn't a widely used method, but I would say that is because most people aren't aware of what it is and how it works. And, maybe it just intimidates them a little bit.

What is it?
To start, baby-led weaning (BLW) is a method of introducing solid foods. A lot of times people tend to think it involves just weaning off of breastfeeding. But, it is a little more involved than that. It is the slow process of changing from 100% breastmilk (or formula) to solid foods. It is also skipping the puree step. And, it is giving the reigns completely to the baby, that is to say it is led by the baby.

Yes, I am saying that I do not plan on pureeing any fruits and vegetables for Turtle. And, no I do not plan on spoon feeding her. We plan on skipping baby cereals altogether. Although, that is what I had planned on doing before I heard about BLW.

What I will be letting Turtle do is explore food at her own pace, and in her own way. I present her with real whole foods that she can easily handle - mainly fruits and vegetables cut into sticks, but also cheeses and meats. You want sticks big enough for her to pick up and bite, not small pieces of food. Then it is up to her. She can taste it and touch it and suck on it and no doubt make a huge mess. But, that is how she will learn about different tastes and textures, and how to feed herself.

Why?
The reigning feeding method is to start purees by 4 months and work up to super chopped up finger foods by 6 months. But, research is coming out that says it isn't a good idea to introduce solid foods that early. The World Health Organization recommends waiting to start solids until 6 months of age. Breastmilk or formula is the best thing to give a young baby. Their digestive system is still developing and the easiest way to get nutrients to a baby is breastmilk or formula because they cannot properly get all the goodness out of solids. And, babies are at a higher risk for developing allergies if given foods prior to 6 months.

The thing is that the research and evidence is still new and isn't widely known. Turtle's pediatrician recommended waiting until 6 months to start solids, she said it was in the best interest of the baby. I was already strongly opposed to starting prior to 6 months so there was no resistance on my part. But, I'd be willing to bet that if I had wanted to start purees sooner she would not have objected. And, I have nothing against Turtle's pediatrician. I just don't think that there is enough of an effort being made to educate parents about solids.

I actually hadn't found that out until I had pretty much made up my mind to try BLW and was reading the book. What really made me take a look at it was that I kept reading about how adventurous the kids turned out to be with food. I am not an adventurous eater, I like my box. But, I don't want that for Turtle. I would love for her to try anything and really give it a chance. The blogs on BLW and the posts from parents who loved it convinced me to buy the book.

I read it cover to cover and it sold me. The simplest solution is sometimes the best. Instead of struggling to spoon feed a baby that is in no way interested and end up with a toddler who only eats chicken nuggets, why not let the child be in control. You keep presenting them with healthy good foods, they can try it all and eat what they want. If something gets passed over keep presenting it in a new way, which ties in to the Bringing Up Bebe book I enjoyed as well. If they end up disliking something it won't be because of a power struggle.

If you are at all interested in giving baby-led weaning a look I would highly recommend picking up a copy of Rapley's book. It is very good at addressing all your concerns - the big one being, won't she choke?  The simplest answer is she might. Just like she might with anything that goes in her mouth. She will, however, gag. It is part of the learning process and you should be ready for it, mentally because you don't need to do anything about it. You should dust off your infant CPR skills though, no matter which way you introduce solids.

There are a few other reasons that we decided to go with BLW also. It is easier than purees. I don't have to steam and process and store and spoon anything. It is great practice for fine motor skills. By giving her the control I will help her build a relationship with food that won't be about power struggles. She will learn to regulate her food intake herself because she is allowed to actually stop eating when she is full. Studies done on BLW say that it lowers the chances of obesity, leads to a lower BMI, and healthier food choices later in life. All good things in my book.

When to start?
In the book there is a check list of the signs that baby is ready to start on solids. First, you want her to be able to sit upright with little or no support - you should never feed a baby that is not upright. Second, she should be able to grasp things and bring them to her mouth efficiently. Third, you notice that she is chewing on her toys and everything else that she can get close to her mouth. Fourth, she shows interest in food. Even after you see all of these signs of readiness, the last and most important sign is that she is hitting that 6 month mark. You want your baby to be ready physically and digestive-ly.

Turtle has 1, 2, 3, and 4 checked off. We are just waiting on that 6 month mark now.

A rundown of how you go about BLW:
After you check off all the signs that baby is ready, you are ready to start. You will need a high chair or your lap. That is it. No special equipment, apart from the actual food.

You want baby to not be hungry. Breastmilk or formula will be the primary source of nutrients for the first full year. Eventually baby will learn that solids are a form of sustenance, but not right away. So, if she is hungry give her breastmilk or formula. After she has eaten and is in a good mood, then get her to the table to share in a family meal. One of the benefits of BLW is that you feed baby what you are eating, as long as it is healthy and can be shaped for her to grasp.

So, maybe you want roasted sweet potatoes for dinner. Cut them, roast them, let them cool, and then give them to her. Eat your roasted sweet potatoes and keep an eye on her, but let her do her thing. Babies are naturally curious about everything. They want to do what you are doing. If you are putting sweet potato sticks in your mouth, she will want to do the same.

And, that is about it. Don't add any salt to the foods you prepare. Stay away from nuts, egg whites, and honey. Talk to your pediatrician about any food allergies that run in the family. Don't give small food pieces to her right away (like blueberries), she'll grow into them. Start with soft foods cut into sticks. Be prepared for her to not eat anything, and don't try to talk her into it. Remember, she is in control. Be prepared for a big mess. Don't feed her processed food. Aim for the simplest, healthiest whole foods - lots of veggies and fruits. And, finally remember that gagging is not choking. Always talk to your pediatrician before starting any solids, and discuss if BLW is right for your baby.

More information, and links:

I am excited to get started, and a little nervous. There will most certainly be a follow up post...so stay tuned. And, maybe wish me a little luck.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sweet Sunday

May 19th - 25th

 Her new favourite part of the jumperoo is the butterfly. She will play with it and play with it and ignore everything else. When she is tired of it she is ready to not be in the jumperoo another second.

 I put Turtle down on her activity gym and 2 seconds later she is off of it. Those play mats are certainly coming in handy.

 She eventually remembers that she doesn't really like being on her tummy.

But, then she rolls over and all is well again.

 This is what Turtle looks like 90% of the time - completely covered in drool. That and super duper cute.

  By the way, this happened.

 It is shortly followed by this, but she can sit unassisted for a whole couple of seconds and corrects her balance a few times before flopping over. Most exciting milestone yet - to me anyway, I'm excited.

 It is particularly adorable when she is sitting and wants to hold your hold.

She still manages to flop over though. That is okay because daddy is there to catch her.

 When she is tired of the sitting, she likes to do the standing and the smiling.

We had a splendidly rainy day on Tuesday.

Turtle and I stood out on the front porch to listen and watch for a long while. I am a lover of rain, too bad there wasn't any thunder and lightning.

I let Turtle practice with her new cup. She got water everywhere and none in her mouth, but she sure gave it her best. Then she dropped the cup over the edge and cracked it. Fiddle sticks.

I think she enjoys hanging out with her dad.

Turtle and I were playing on the floor and Lizzy came over to lay right behind her. I think somebody has a new friend.

This was a magical nap. I laid her down, gave her the blanket, and then she grabbed it, rolled on her side and fell right to sleep.

That nap refreshed her for flailing around with her stuffed chicken.

 I managed to capture a picture of Turtle still on her activity mat.

This nap was not magical. This nap was a hard fought 30 minutes before crashing type nap. You win some, you lose some.

8 days until the high chair can get used for actual eating! I am not prepared.

After going through my folder of pictures from this week, I realized we did not spend much time outside. It is already getting too hot to enjoy being outside. Dammit, Florida.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Blog Every Day In May :: How To Baby

Today's topic: things you've learned that school won't teach you. Technically it was day 23's topic, but I didn't finish it on time. And, not even because I was procrastinating. I just ran out of time.

I don't know about other schools, or even what my old high school does now. But, back in 9th or 10th grade as part of our 'physical education' class we had to take care of 'babies'. Babies composed of flour. Flour babies. And, apart from some class on how sex is the worst thing ever, and never have it because you will get pregnant, which was taught by the I keep my condoms in my oven mitt lady, that was the extent of what could sort of be construed as parenting lessons.

I remember the flour babies. I think mine was a boy. It was entertaining for half a day. Then for the rest of the week everybody just toted around a bag of flour in baby clothes during the school day and left him/her on the table at night. At the end of the week everybody made up crap about changing diapers and putting flour to sleep at night. I learned a lot. So so much. Ish. Nothing at all actually.

I don't remember learning a thing about forms of birth control, or pregnancy, or babies. I'm pretty sure we were part of the abstinence only school of thought. Honestly, just make everybody live with a pregnant person for a week during the third trimester, followed by witnessing a natural birth, followed by two nights with a newborn. Bam. Not having sex? Sign me up! I remember learning something about how condoms never work and you still contract every disease ever because gross things get left behind on tape and babies are fine sitting on the table for hours until you have to remember to bring them to school the next day. Again, I learned a lot. So so much.

Flash forward something like 12 years, I have a baby! My baby is nothing like a flour baby. First, she is way cuter. Second, she is alive.

Changing a diaper on a sack of flour is not at all like changing a diaper on a flesh and blood baby. Changing a diaper on your little sibling, baby cousin, or friend's newborn isn't even like changing a diaper on your own baby. Everything you do is a learning process. You figure it out as you go. You know that babies need diaper changes. But, you learn how to hold her feet, and where the poop hides, and to always keep a diaper underneath or the changing table will get peed on, etc. It is hard to teach that. Especially with flour.

I read how to baby books while I was pregnant. But, they really didn't teach me anything - the one thing I did learn was that baby poop is suppose to be yellow but can also be green or brown, who knew? The only book I  liked was Bringing Up Bebe, and it isn't so much a how to book but a comparative anthropology book. She gives you ideas to keep in your mental toolbox and use if/when needed, and if that doesn't work try a new tool. And, that is really how it is with a baby. You should know that babies need to eat, sleep, have a clean diaper, and be enriched. But, there isn't one way to do it, and you won't know which way to use until you have a baby to try it on. And, then it won't even work the next day so you get to find a new tool.

So, a 'how to baby' class wouldn't be successful. Even with real babies. Everything is so different with your own baby, and experiencing it all day and all night. Maybe a 'fill your baby tool box' class would be better. But, I think the idea behind the flour babies was more don't have sex because babies are a lot of work. Sorry, flour babies don't really convey that message well. Just wake the kid up every 2.5 hours and make them stay awake for an hour continuously for a week. I would so have failed that lesson...

Friday, May 24, 2013

Blog Every Day In May :: The Worst of the Worst (the most hated and cursed...)

...is the one that we call Scrooge - The Muppet's Christmas Carol. Moving on.

Today's topic: your top 3 worst traits. This should be a joy to write about (did you notice the sarcasm font I used?). Alright, here we go.

1. I am lazy to a fault. A constant procrastinator. And, have terrible follow through - That might seem like three, but they are all interconnected. I enjoy sitting on my ass. It takes a lot of convincing for me to get up and do something, whatever it happens to be. Once I get going I am pretty good at getting whatever it is done. But, if I stop then the procrastination starts all over again. For example, cleaning the house or folding the laundry. And, if that something involves talking on the phone...forget about it. I hate hate hate talking on the phone. I couldn't even say how many months it took me to finally make a dentist appointment.

2. I am extra super duper stubborn and I like to be in charge - If I think I am right I will argue something to death. If I realize I am wrong I usually keep arguing for a bit longer just because I don't want to be wrong. I don't like getting help with certain things because I feel like I could do it better. If I want it my way, I don't want it any other way but mine. For example, I asked the hubs to melt cheese on tater tots for me. I specified a cheese. I was feeding Turtle, so he brought them in. Then he said now the test is to see if you can taste which cheese I put on. I almost didn't eat them because I wanted the cheese I asked for, I didn't want any other damn cheese. I had to get a guarantee that he actually used my cheese. And then I still had to talk myself into eating them because for the love of God eat the damn tater tots Courtney.

3. I am terrible about eating healthy and I am a picky eater - I mean you did see the tater tots above, right? But, even when I make meals I prefer comfort food. Good, old fashioned, made with love comfort food - bread fresh from the oven topped with butter, mashed potatoes with extra gravy, anything covered with cheese. I don't like spicy foods, I don't like fish, I don't like game-y meat, I don't like 90% of vegetables, I don't like meat if there is any redness to it, etc. I have my work cut out for me with Turtle and being an example of a good eater, a healthy eater, a try anything eater.

Don't I sound like a wonderful person? A gem of a wife? A stupendous friend? I hope one of the next topics is "reasons everybody should love you"...no, I have still not read through them all. I told you I was a procrastinator. And, I stole the idea of using the ecards for visuals from Story of My Life.