Saturday, January 31, 2009

Maxine's First Tooth

(1st time in high chair and 1st taste of egg yolk)
Wednesday morning Maxine woke up and dry-heaved. I immediately started her on Pedialyte and no formula. She developed a low fever that lasted through the night but never vomitted again. I'm puzzled as to why she vomitted in the first place. She was due for immunizations but we had to postpone that 'til next week because they don't give shots to sick babies. I'm anxious to speak to the doctor about Maxine's seemingly slow development.

Maxine's painful teething process has finally produced a tooth. It's on the bottom left. The one next to it is about to pop up, too! Here is a face she makes when her mouth is bothering her:

Teething seems to happen at night. She gets pretty upset and won't go to sleep until after 11pm. It gets pretty monotonous trying to comfort her and my arm gets pretty tired. Here she is looking sleepy but fighting sleep:

If she lets me, I will get a picture of the tooth and update this post when I do. She doesn't like me looking around in her mouth.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

New in My Kitchen: Fennel

Weight Watchers has been the way I'm living since about 5 months ago. As such, Raquel eats a lot of what I eat plus other stuff that she loves. She is being exposed to some semi-sophisticated ingredients while also enjoying her macaroni and cheese in the blue box. For the most part, she likes what I cook.

My diet consists of foods from a specific list which excludes added-sugar, bread and alcohol. It forces me to try new things and try to present the same-old-same-old in new ways. Avoiding boredom is super important to sticking to this lifestyle. The newest item in my fridge is fennel or anise (not sure why it has two names). I think it's pretty. If celery and onion were to have a baby, this is what it would look and feel like but the taste is completely in a class of its own. Tastes like black licorice with a refreshing hint of citrus. When the oranges in my yard are ripe I'm going to prepare them together, maybe in a salad. But for now, I sautee or roast the fennel with carrots, salt and pepper. You should try it!
Since I gained a little weight last week, this week I'm making up for it, cooking strictly healthy foods for myself and whoever else feels like eating what I cook. I consider this week a big success in regards to losing weight and being a creative cook.

Homemade sushi is really fun to make and it's pretty simple. I make up my own recipe and put whatever I happen to have in the fridge inside the roll. I use brown rice, which isn't as tasty as sticky white rice *drool* and it also makes it more difficult to cut clean slice as the rice kinda falls out a bit but it's still managable. Nori is a staple in my fridge. It is easy to find at a regular grocery store in the Asian foods section. No need to locate a specialty store. Raquel loves it when I make sushi. Although I love to eat sashimi at Japanese restaurants I do not use raw ingredients in my homemade sushi as I have not found a trustworthy source yet.

My favorite vegetable is brussel sprouts. I was buying them frozen and cooking them in the microwave but have recently discovered how delicious they are when bought fresh and sauteed with fresh garlic, salt and nutmeg. The nutmeg really brings out their spiciness--something you don't taste in the frozen variety. Raquel likes them, too!
My strategies for eating healthy...

  • Prepare a big pot of brown rice in the morning. Zap portions in the microwave for meals the next 2 days.

  • Buy only whole grain pasta if you want pasta. Don't buy "multi-grain" because that does not necessarily mean whole grain. My favorite brand is Heartland.

  • If you like ground beef (burgers, tacos, meatloaf) make sure it has no more than 7% fat.

  • Buy frozen veggies when they're on sale. Stock up. You can keep them a long time while you figure out how best to prepare them and make them flavorful.

  • Pretend sandwiches don't exist. (no bread, no deli meat)

  • Search the internet for recipes first, then go get your ingredients at the store.

  • Be aware of expiration dates on fresh meat and store them in the fridge accordingly (stuff you should eat within the next day or so should be right in front while stuff that can wait 6 days should be towards the back)

  • Nonfat sour cream isn't half bad. Try it on a baked potato with I Can't Believe Its Not Butter Spray.

  • Stock up on frozen fruit when it is on sale. You can use it in so many ways: mixed in oatmeal (the heat makes them soft), homemade fat-free parfaits, homemade smoothies.

  • Dennisons Turkey Chili is delicious and it is on sale for $1/can at Vons right now. I melt a slice of fat-free cheese on top of it.

  • Eat eggs. Figure out ways to make them different every time you eat them.

  • When you're hungry at night before bed time, drink a big glass of nonfat milk.

I could keep going! If this post bored you, sorry :)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Baby is the Big 6!

Guess who's 6 months old today! She has the tiniest tip of a tooth coming in on top. I felt it. I have been liquidating the 3-6 month clothing from her dresser drawers, packing them away for someone else who might need them. So many of our friends have given birth in the past couple of months or are still due within the next few months so I'm sure there will be someone who would like some nice pre-owned baby girl clothes (and gender-neutral ones, too).
I recently started doing some of my grocery shopping at Target. I use coupons from the Sunday newspapers, too. The deals are great but I was told I'm missing out on "Super Target" which houses its own deli, produce and bakery sections. Unfortunately, the nearest Super Target is in Palmdale, which, if the San Gabriel Mountains were not in the way, wouldn't be as distant. Palmdale is due-north of Pasadena by about 30 miles the way the crow flies. At our local Target, they have a good frozen foods section and plenty of packaged foods like crackers and cereal but the diet I am on calls for produce and lean meats--not lunch meat, not granola bars, not Hot Pockets. I'm still able to get baby items for cheaper than the supermarkets, which is the main reason I shop there.
In the Sunday L.A. Times today I read a really cool story about thrift store shopping (for clothing). With the recession we're in, thrift stores have seen a jump in customers and sales have risen 25-35% since one year ago. The article listed several shops I wasn't aware of and gave tips on what days to shop and which stores offered the best chances for scoring name brand like-new clothes. I really appreciate articles such as this, especially because this year, for the first time, Raquel's wardrobe will be very important and require a big boost come September when she starts kindergarten *bittersweet tear*. Raquel has had a growth spurt since November. The reason I know is because I bought new clothes for our trip to Virginia and the pants she got are now too short! Awww.
Thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Jose's Day Off

Yes, Jose actually took an entire day off today. What a nice Sunday it was for us. He made a big pot of coffee, read the paper outside in this perfect weather we've been enjoying for over a week now. Then he kicked back and watched both of the football games he had been so amped up about. And his team won. Go Cards!
Raquel left for Grandma Rosamaria's house shortly before noon and is spending the night there. You have never heard our house so peaceful!
One of the benefits Jose gets for working at Macaroni Grill is a 50% discount at any restaurant his company owns. We went to Chili's for dinner and used his discount. What a difference it makes! We rarely go out to eat anymore so it kinda felt like a special occasion and without Raquel there with us, there was a lot of silent moments, both of us not knowing what exactly to talk about. Pretty pathetic, huh? Maybe not if you know Raquel.
Maxine is going to be 6 months old in a few days. I've been reading about 6-month old babies and what they should/might be able to do, such as sit up and/or say "bababababa...". She isn't strong enough to sit on her own yet so I have started training her by propping her up with my hands or my feet or a pillow. It's hard because she really likes to do this rocking back and forth thing all the time, so when she's seated, she just flies backward (and I catch her). Some babies at this age are beginning to crawl. Maxine just rolls around and ends up moving herself about the floor quite a bit. Sometimes I put my hands on the bottom of her feet so she has something to push off from.
I have pictures of Raquel at this age sitting on her own and standing on the sofa, holding the arm with one hand and her bottle in another. I can't imagine Maxine doing that now! She seems far from it. Of course every baby is unique but I still can't help but feel at fault for Maxine's, uh, lack of strength. Don't get me wrong, I am in no hurry for her to grow up. I love having a snuggly little baby! I love having someone to hold who is so small and quiet and listens to everything I say and loves to hear me sing. I'm telling you, when I sing her to sleep, she is captivated. I just don't want to hold her back from her capabilities.

See my feet holding her up?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Ugly House

Jose liked my blog about houses in our neighborhood (yesterday) but he said he would've liked to see more pictures. So I mentioned that I snapped some shots of the ugliest house I've seen in a long time and on his suggestion, I'm going to show you what I'm talking about. I did not get a picture of the front of it. Just as I started to snap away, a family parked in front of the house and I left.
I cannot tell if this is all an add-on or if they tore down the original digs and built a new one from the ground up. Either way, it is grotesque. Weird shape, ugly color, strange jutting-out window on the second floor, no style or sense of direction. Sucks to be in the same vicinity as this structure. I think it's vacant-- there is a bunch of crap outside, like a toilet and old toys. Just my guess. If the owner is reading this, what the heck were you thinking? I feel sorry for the neighbors and their property values.
Okay, on a lighter note, here are Maxine and Raquel playing in the yard. We have been loving this warm weather and spending a lot of time out in it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Walking by Craftsmans in Pasadena

Today I was inspired by this blog, a photographic contender in The Craftsman Challenge, to take a walk in my 'hood and try to photograph the Craftsman style houses, or what I think are such. I found it difficult to get a picture without phone lines, cars or trash barrels ruining the image. A lot of homes around here are dilapidated or at least need a good paint job. That doesn't mean they aren't "Craftsmans", it just means the owners are unable to take care of them or they don't realize how great their homes really are on the outside.

This house is on my street. We pass by it a lot on our walks. It looks very homey and pleasant, especially at night.
This house is on Los Robles, a fairly busy street loaded with pretty Victorian and Craftsman style houses. I'm not fond of the color choices here but it's still quite charming. There is no way to get a clear picture of it.
Now, to my untrained eye, this is a Craftsman but the more I look at it, the more I doubt my guess is correct. That circular area on the porch there is throwing me off. It, too, is on Los Robles. I like it and I bet the inside is much more interesting.
Actually, my favorite photo from today is the one at the top. I just happened to walk right by this ugly, forgotten, maybe-empty house and these, I don't know, brackets caught my eye. It is details like this that can inspire a whole new life for a dumpy old house in need of major TLC. Like a jumping-off point.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

History in a Family Heirloom

My Grandma Emma has been "liquidating" her Earthly belongings for at least a decade now. She is going to be 85 years old in February. My grandparents have lived in the same house for nearly 60 years and were lucky enough to hold onto keepsakes and certain other items from long ago. Grandma's goal is to simplify her life by getting rid of things she has no use for. To clarify, her house is not cluttered--she has a shed, a garage, and a few closets worth of stuff and memories--her house is neatly kept.
Grandma's only sister, Eva Laura, passed away a few months ago, just before her 99th birthday. Until a few months before her passing she was an active person, unlike most 98 year olds! She traveled, gambled, went out with friends and was always making her own little crafty creations, like dolls and potholders.
Grandma's mother, Lena Looney, was alive during my lifetime. I'm told Grandma Looney adored me. I do remember her wanting my attention when I would pass her sitting in her rocking chair or her bedroom. My closest sibling, Susan, did not like her, was afraid of her as a matter of fact. She called her "The Witch". Grandma Emma has told us that Grandma Looney was not fond of Susan either. I do not know why. What could someone have against a 3-year-old girl? Anywho, I believe Grandma Looney died at the age of 98, on her own terms. That's another story.
My point is I think Grandma Emma has a lot of years left. I think she thinks so, too. She doesn't want to be bogged down with a bunch of belongings and prefers to take care of that business right now while she is able. She's been handing down a variety of items to her three sons and myself and probably others, too. I remember being a teenager and Grandma telling us grandkids to go around and put dibs on any of her household things that we wanted to inherit. We all thought it was morbid of her to talk like that. But eventually we realized she was serious and we ought to start staking claims now before someone else took what we wanted. Susan chose my grandma's beautiful old art deco vanity, one of those that has a big huge circular mirror and a cute little matching seat. It looks to be in pristine condition.
Some of Grandma's hand-me-downs have already been given to us. I've received several of them. The most recent one is the subject of this post: My grandma's charm bracelet. This dates back to the beginning of WWII, when Grandma graduated high school, the beginning of the "Golden Age of charm bracelets" which lasted until 1960 when the fad fell out of fashion. There are 21 sterling silver charms on the bracelet, each one a gift from her aunts, uncles, friends, parents, etc. I think they were graduation presents. She said each charm sold for between $5 and $25 back in those days, which was a sacrifice for anyone during those times. Each charm had special meaning. Almost every charm is inscribed or engraved with the name of the person who gave it to her. Those left blank, Grandma has no recollection of the gifter. She typed an entire page describing each charm, who gave it or why it was given. I have photographed my favorites, the most unique.
The flag charm was a gift from a Colonel Caphton (pronounced Capeton). The Colonel's wife lived in a big house up the street from my Grandma and she would stay with this woman while her husband was away during the War so she wouldn't have to be alone. I like that story.

I just think this one is the prettiest. It's a flower on a platform of mother of pearl. None of the other hearts are anything like it.

There is a charm in the first photo that was replicated from Grandma's high school class ring. She grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. I would love to visit there some day. Maybe on my "dream-roadtrip"! And maybe Grandma would go with me. We've only been talking about doing that for, I don't know, 20 years now. Ha!

Included with the bracelet were four other unattached charms/pendants. One from "Daddy" her dad, one from a "Harvey" she doesn't remember, one that looks like a four-leaf clover with Catholic Saints on each petal and one photo pendant with a picture of me and Susan when we were very little. Grandma's wish is that Raquel gets this charm bracelet when she graduates high school 13 years from now (gosh, that doesn't sound very far away). She has another bracelet that is meant for Maxine but I haven't seen it yet. I really appreciate knowing my family history and especially having meaningful items from the past that show what kind of family my girls and I came from. Thank you Grandma! Love you much!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Short Nature Hike

This afternoon Jose had an appointment that got cancelled, so we packed some snacks and went to the Eaton Canyon Natural Area Park. I got the idea from this blog I recently started following. While we live here, I'd like to start taking advantage of all the natural attractions that surround us. Being that we live nearly at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and not far from Griffith Park there is presumably much to see.

I'm not happy with some of the landscape shots I took. It seems I had the flash on when I shouldn't have. But here are my favorites. There was no water at all in the wash (creek). And the birds in the tree are Woodpeckers, busy pecking (so cute)! Raquel was actin' stank. Look at her face.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Crisp Night Walk

We expected it to be cold outside for our evening walk through the neighborhood but it was actually pleasantly chilly. The walk was a long one and everyone we passed said 'good evening' or 'happy new year'. Some kids told us of a dog named Maxine just a few houses up the street from ours. But we didn't see the dog outside when we passed.This is the sign on our block. I don't know what it means yet. But I do know we live in a ghetto area. There is a half-way house very nearby where Scott Weiland has stayed in the past. And the elementary school that Raquel is supposed to attend this Fall is the worst one in the district and is in the Accelerated Schools program which I am learning about. I think it is for kids who live in not-so-good 'hoods, whose parents might be addicts or in jail or for kids who live in broken homes, kids who need extra attention at school because their homelife isn't nurturing. We are`applying to other schools.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sunny Day In January

The girls and I went on a walk yesterday in our neighborhood. We are relatively deep into this neighborhood and it would be a long walk to reach any retail establishment or place to grab a refreshment. So on our walk we just talked about the trees and flowers we saw and Raquel learned to be careful when approaching a blind corner, one where she might meet a dog who barks at the sight of her. It usually just takes one time for her to get frightened about something.

Maxine was in the Bjorn (the best front-loading hands-free baby carrier). That's why she isn't in any of these photos.

Raquel wanted to touch this big Oak. She said, "It's so soft, like one of my blankets." Maybe she just wanted to give it a compliment.

Our street is lined with these Oaks. They are protected by the City of Pasadena. The street just north of ours' is called Flower and it is lined with Palms, I think the Washington variety. It amazes me how the trunk is so straight and narrow, yet the trees are about a hundred feet tall, give or take.

I feel funny taking pictures of peoples' houses but sometimes I try to be sly and sneak a shot. I am afraid of upsetting anyone in their house who might see me. We have so many quaint century-old houses I'd love to take pictures of. We just found out our house, which I thought was built in the 1920s, was actually built in 1905!

We passed a tree that had dropped a bunch of these weird fruits on the ground. They're really pretty, covered in tiny dull spikes. Raquel picked one up and took it on a walk with us.

There was this one Oak with a root system that was very above ground. It looked kinda neat.

Then we came home and swung in our backyard.

Not much else going on except cleaning up all the Christmas crap and WAITING for my sister and friends to give BIRTH!