baking

Homemade Cheesecake

For the day after Christmas at my parents’ house (just a week ago), I decided to tackle a cheesecake from scratch. I used the KitchenAid Best-Loved Recipes cookbook recipe for Marble Cheesecake (p. 92).

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I don’t have any pictures of the prep as I was concentrating on getting it put together and in the oven as quickly as possible because I broke the first rule of baking: I didn’t read through the entire recipe and didn’t realize how much time it needed to bake and then refrigerate before we could eat it.

Because of that, the cheesecake wouldn’t have been in the fridge for the minimum required time (2 hours) before we had to leave for my parents’ house. Luckily, they live approximately 20 minutes away, and since it was a dessert, I was able to leave it in their fridge for more than the required time. (But I was nervous it wasn’t going to be good because of that).

The recipe says to bake the cake for 1 hour and 30 minutes. I did it for that long on the bottom rack. Next time, I’ll put it on the top rack and only do 1 hour and 15 minutes. It came out a bit too brown and the bottom, while not technically burnt, was pretty hard (I attribute to the brown sugar-to-graham cracker ratio in the crust; I think I might need more graham cracker)

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It definitely didn’t look anything like the picture in the cookbook. I didn’t do the marbling as they described (like I said, I was trying to get it in the oven as quickly as possible). I think I probably didn’t have enough chocolate mixed in, either. (as I was adding the melted chocolate to some of the batter, the chocolate bowl fell in the batter bowl, so a good amount of melted chocolate ended up on the bottom of the bowl instead of in the cake — definitely not getting my own cooking show anytime soon!)

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some pieces looked layered instead of marbled. (also, I only remembered to take the picture after I took the first bite :))

However, all in all, I was pretty pleased with my first attempt at a homemade cheesecake. Everyone who tried it said they liked it, so that’s good. It wasn’t perfect, but I’ll get there. I’d like to try a plain cheesecake, with various toppings to add, based on the individual’s preference.

Lessons learned/things I’d do differently for this recipe:

  • use top rack of oven
  • bake for less time
  • add a bit extra graham cracker to crust mix
  • try without chocolate
  • melt a bit extra chocolate in case of accidents 😉
Looking Ahead

2017: Realistic Goals (I hope!)

Having experienced my first year of motherhood and understanding exactly what that means, I’m hoping that the goals for reading, crafts, etc. I set for 2017 are more realistic than last year’s. I’m using the same break down as I did in last year’s goals post.

Books/Reading
I’m keeping the same goal as last year at 24 books. I hit 23 of 24 this year. Partly due to times where I just didn’t feel like reading, or wasn’t interested in reading what I do have (I have plenty of unread books on my shelf, so it’s not due to book availability, that’s for sure!) I’m also planning to give the Q&A a Day book another go.

Crafts
Sewing
I still need to re-organize my sewing space (could be part of the reason I never got around to sewing really anything this year, but only a minor hurdle). I told my husband I want to set aside 1-2 hours per week to dedicate to sewing. I’ll attempt to track it and see how well I can stick to it.
I want to finish those diaper pouch/changing pad combos, and need to add another one to the list! I want to sew a top, a dress, and bottoms (can be pants or a skirt). As for The Monthly Stitch Challenges, I hope to participate in one challenge and post it to their blog.

Knitting
I want to complete the My Cup of Tea socks I started this summer. I also want to complete 1-2 projects (a hat and maybe a scarf or another pair of socks).

30×30 List Items to Carry Over
There are still some items I’d like to carry over that we didn’t do (but I can cross ZooLights and Pay off 2 student loans off the list, so that’s good!)

  • NYC weekend – still want to do this, and still want to go see the Cirque du Soleil show (Paramour)
  • Make a pie & pasta from scratch – still have to make the pasta from scratch, but I did do a cheesecake from scratch! (I’ll post about that soon) — Since that’s not really a pie, I still want to make a pie, too!

New Blog Categories
I think my “Mom Musings” posts can be considered regular categories and no longer “new” ones, but I plan to continue with them. I aim to introduce Baking & Cooking posts, as I planned last year.

Other Plans/Activities
A few other things that don’t fall into the above categories. Some are repeats of this year and others are new.

  • Facebook hiatus – will do this again in January. It was a nice break and I’m noticing I’m scrolling/posting on it too much again. Need to get away from the screen and be more in the present. I may consider doing it another month in the year as well.
  • Limit TV time – along the same lines as above, just want to get away from the screen & be more present. Will try to limit TV time to after Dom has gone to bed, before I go to bed. (Or if I’m sick and want to binge)
  • Annual camping trip, of course — did I ever post about this year’s trip? I’ll have to go back and look.
  • Savings challenge – hubs and I are going to set a challenge for ourselves to see how much we can save for the whole year.
  • Library visits with Dom – our local library is about a 10 minute walk from our house, so I’d like to take Dom there on Saturday mornings sometimes in the year. I was looking at their website yesterday and they have a bunch of activities throughout the year.
  • Get moving again!
    • More walks! – I want us to get out and do more walks when the weather is nice (local trails, etc.)
    • Gym time – go to the gym 2-3 times per week. I’ve signed up at the gym at work and aim to go during lunch time (even if it’s just 30 minutes)

What are your plans for 2017?

Holidays

ZooLights (Finally!)

So we finally went to see the ZooLights. This was something that I’ve wanted to do for a few years, even put it on my 30×30 list for 2014-2015. I think I might have hyped it up a bit in my head because it wasn’t quite what I expected but it was still nice and I think Dom enjoyed it. Only a portion of the zoo was available to wander around. Some of the animal exhibits had lights (for example, the Bald Eagles exhibit at the entrance had red, white, and blue lights wrapped around some of the trees). So we took a quick walk around those areas then headed over to the North Pole (Santa’s Castle, where we could take pictures with Santa, and little kiddie rides). There were such cute decorations and set ups.  I took Dom on the carousel.

My parents, mother-in-law, and brother-in-law joined us and then friends of ours and their little girl met us there, too.

I took a few photos of the North Pole. Enjoy!

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quick snap of Santa’s Castle

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my dad loves trains 🙂
Holidays

Christmastime is Here…

As I type, Dom is napping and I have Christmas music playing from the Music OnDemand channel. Sonny is also snoozing on the couch next to me. Yes, this is a nice way to spend a little bit of time.

We started decorating the house a few days after Thanksgiving. Usually, we put our (fake, pre-lit) tree up the day after Thanksgiving, but this year we decided to get a real tree. We went to a farm in Boxford and found our tree. I was fairly excited as I had never picked out a real tree before.

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Ready to get home!

When we got home, we set up the tree in the base with plenty of water and let it settle. (It ended up sitting in the house undecorated for almost a week).

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Our naked tree waiting for its decorations

I think it was about a week later that I was finally able to get decorating. When I was little, my grandmother did a collection of Danbury Mint gold ornaments for each kid (one kid per year). My  mom carried that on for me for a little bit, so I have 3 full sets (a dozen in each set), plus each year’s specialty/bonus ornament. However, I end up only putting a few of those on each year since I’ve moved out. Between my ornaments, Mark’s from when he was growing up, and the ones we pick out together each year, our tree is becoming eclectic, but I love it. We decided that we will get ornaments from any place that we might travel to, and each year we’ll pick out one from the Hallmark store. We still need to pick this year’s out!

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Fancy!

This was the first year I had to wrap lights around a tree, and let me tell you, my (self-diagnosed) OCD wouldn’t let me do it once and be happy, I had to constantly make adjustments, with both the lights and the placement of the ornaments– I still catch myself making tweaks here and there. (Don’t worry, I’ve fixed that odd blank space since I took this picture; you can see the better placement in the next picture).

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been wrapping presents and setting them up underneath the tree. I’m almost certain that each present under the tree will have between 1 & 300 pine needles stuck in the wrapping somewhere (the gift bags have a good chance of having around 300). Despite all of the falling needles and sweeping I do everyday, it makes me happy to look at it. (the tree looks slightly tilted in this next picture, but I promise it’s not; it’s just where/how I was standing when I took the picture.) And of course, there’s nothing like the smell of a real tree! (the sprays/candles/etc. make a good effort, but there is always something missing).

Read
Ready for Christmas!

We have just a few more items to get/wait for (thank you, Amazon Prime!), and then we’re all done! I get so excited to give presents to the recipients. I can’t wait until Sunday!

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and that you get to spend it with all of your loved ones.

Baby D · Year in Review

Where Did 2016 Go?

Hi everyone! Remember me?

I’ve recently started playing catch up with reading blogs I follow, so forgive me for likes/comments on older posts. (for some of you I even went back to July!) It’s been fun playing catch up to see what’s been going on in your lives.

My M.O. this year seems to be fewer, longer posts. So, as I’ve cautioned with others, this is a fairly lengthy post (and my apologies in advance for the lack of pictures). This’ll be a catch up/year in review type post, using my 2016 plans post as a guide.

Baby D
First of all, to make my life a bit easier when typing, I’ll share that Baby D’s name is Dom. It’ll be much easier to type that than constantly writing “Baby D” (not to mention: what will I call him when he’s no longer a baby? — something that’s quickly happening!) I think my last post was about him turning 1. We’re now at 14.5 months and it’s amazing what’s happened in the last 2.5 months since I posted. For one, he never ended up getting around to crawling, just scooting around on his bum everywhere, and let me tell you, he could really pick up speed! But forget scooting, he’s now fully walking around like he owns the place. He started that at about 13 months. He’s too damn cute. I’m sorry, I’ll say it. He’s also starting to talk a little; clearly saying “mama” and “dada” and knowing who those words identify, he says “blll” for “ball” and “balloon”, “blllum” for a truck/car noise, and sort of saying “bumble” (as in the Bumble from Rudolph). Just because he has a limited vocabulary, though, does not mean he doesn’t understand! He knows his own name, and points to the right items when we say light, fan, Henry (his elf on the shelf), Sonny, hug, book, block, ring, penguin (decoration in the house), tree (our Christmas tree), candle, etc. It’s so much fun watching him figure things out. Just today he threw both arms up in the air when I said “touchdown!” He loves to eat, especially his veggies (corn, peas, and carrots are his favorites). He also has a sweet tooth, like his mumma. 🙂 He’ll be transitioning from “Infants” to “Toddlers” next month at the daycare. Can’t believe we’re already at that point!

Work
Work has been crazy busy. Lots of changes over the course of the year. I mentioned in another post that my manager of 3 years had decided to leave to pursue her dream of sailing down to the Caribbean. I am happy to report that she is absolutely loving it and is completely in her element. Follow her blog here! (we haven’t been as successful with Freddy, but he has had a few adventures that I need to add to his blog). The manager that took over has also left. I had 6 solid months working with her and really enjoyed that time. I definitely plan to keep in touch with her! I am now on my work break for the next 2 weeks (Friday the 16th was my last day in the office for the year. I’ll return on January 3). I am so happy to have this time off and recharge after all the changes we had this year. I still love my job and my team so will still look forward to getting back into things in the new year.

Reading
I set up my Goodreads challenge to complete 24 books this year. I’m at 22, so could potentially hit 24 by the 31st, if I set my mind to it. I joined the Book of the Month Club over the summer so have been getting a book each month (except for December, none of the options appealed to me so I skipped it — but I had 2 free credits for referrals which I used in November, so I still have 2 BOTM books to read — not to mention other books sitting on my real and virtual book shelves!)

Totally failed at the Q&A a Day book — but I can try again next year! (and the next 3 after that).  I think I fell off somewhere in April…

I haven’t used the reading nook at all, except to store more books, of course!

Crafts
Sewing
Right. So nothing to report here. I have done one of the diaper pouch/changing pad things for my cousin back in May (I have a draft post for it as I have a few others to make and wanted to put them altogether in one post). That is the only thing I have sewed all year. I laugh when I look back at my 2016 post and all the dreams I had! I didn’t have anything for any of The Monthly Stitch’s challenges, either. I completely underestimated the amount of time I’d actually have to sew. I pretty much did nothing I hoped to do at the end of last year. And because I fell behind in reading blog posts, I completely forgot about/never checked in about the #stichingsanta hosted by Sheila. Which, in retrospect, is probably a good thing, given that I never accomplished anything!

Knitting
I have completed a sock! I joined a socks KAL (knit-a-long) at the end of the summer and didn’t finish in time for the wrap up, but I’m slowly making my way through. I finished the first sock and will eventually finish the second one (I’m almost done with the cuff). I’ll post about those later on.

 30×30 List Carry Over
Well, I haven’t really done any of these either, but the year isn’t over yet! We have plans to do the ZooLights tomorrow!!! (Finally!!!!) We’ve also talked about going to a Cirque du Soleil show (Paramour) in NYC next year, so I’ll get there eventually. (I did see a different Cirque show this summer, Kurios, which was Amazing!) Won’t get around to the pasta from scratch this year, but I plan to make a cheesecake from scratch to bring to my parents’ house the day after Christmas (our new tradition started last year) — can that count toward a pie from scratch??

New Blog Categories
Baking & Cooking 
Haven’t attempted too much. I did make peanut butter banana bars at the end of last year which were pretty good (oh, I guess I mentioned them in my 2016 plans post). I tried a mug chocolate chip cookie and that was not so good. I’ve done the typical banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, etc., but I want to try more.

I also do pancakes & french toast pretty regularly. Recently the pancakes have been with Bisquick, but occasionally I’ll make them from scratch (depends on time!). Dom loves pancakes! and I love them with blueberries. (the other day I was so excited to make blueberry pancakes and when I sat down to eat them, realized I forgot to add the blueberries — I was so disappointed). I’ve also figured out that using whole milk makes the pancakes better! (I only have whole milk on hand because of Dom).

I haven’t done too much in the way of cooking (hubby does the cooking more often; I’m the baker). I have a couple of go to dishes (like meatloaf or pork chops), but I’m hesitant to venture out of my comfort zone because I don’t want to screw up dinner and then not have anything to eat! (especially now that Dom eats table food with us and no longer does the baby purees). But with some time off from work, maybe I’ll try something. I’m always going through the cookbooks I have and folding down pages of things to try, and then never get around to doing anything.

Mom/Family Posts
Probably the only successful part of my goals! (look for “Mom Musings” to see those posts).

So to wrap up: I definitely didn’t do pretty much anything of what I hoped to do. However, aside from a few things, I’m OK with that. It’s been a fast, busy year learning to juggle being a mom with a full time job, and trying to fit in things I did before Dom. I can only hope to learn more each year and figure out the right balance for me. I’ll do a 2017 plans post and hopefully make it more realistic so that my review post a year from now will be sharing successes across the board!

Baby D · Mom Musings

Mom Musings: One Year

Let me repeat that: One. Year.

I’m still struggling to believe how one year has passed by so quickly. This has been the happiest, most challenging, and most fulfilling year of my life. I can’t imagine our lives without him. He brings us so much joy and he’s just the best. Allowing myself a moment to brag: he’s the cutest, smartest, and funniest baby. His little personality is really starting to shine through and he makes me laugh more than anything (he must get it from his dad). He’s also a pretty friendly baby and loves to wave at everyone (though sometimes it’s a delayed reaction and he waves after the person walks away, but that’s OK).

Someone once said to me “the days are long but the weeks are short”, and I truly understand the meaning behind that now!

Part of me would love to start all over again (with Baby D, not a new one any time soon!), to be able to snuggle my teeny newborn again, watch all of these amazing milestones happen again, and if I’m being honest, make some changes (breastfeed longer and set a better sleep schedule/routine earlier than we did are two that specifically come to mind). Another part of me is happy to have some of these things behind us (you know, like the colic) and doesn’t want him to grow too quickly. And yet another part of me wants him to grow up just a little faster so we can start doing things together. It’s very conflicting, being a mum.

I don’t pretend that this has been all rainbows and butterflies, it really has been the toughest “job” I’ve ever had. The colic in the beginning was really rough. Going back to work full-time added its own challenges, and it’s certainly harder to make last-minute plans with friends. I don’t think I could be a stay at home mom because I definitely need the socialization, adult interactions, and the chance to apply my brain to things other than baby 24/7 that a full-time job outside of the house offers. But it can definitely be hard to spend so much time away from him. And when I have a day off part of me wishes I had more time off. And let’s not forget to mention the sleep! Or lack thereof. There have been some really tough nights… even recently, just a few weeks ago, we had a really crappy night with minimal sleep for us and we had a cranky Monday (or at least I did!); but I think we chalked it up to teething as his first tooth finally started showing up within a day or 2 of that night.

Today I’ve been periodically looking at the clock, thinking back to what I was doing a year ago. (at the time of typing this sentence, 9:41pm, a year ago we were in the hospital getting ready to meet our little man). In honor of that, I’ve set this post to publish at 11:42pm today, the time he was born.

I’m so excited to watch what the next days, weeks, months, and years will bring and all the other firsts and new things he’ll learn, and what we’ll learn by extension. Even though we may no longer be considered new parents, we still have a lot to learn and we’re always surprised by the new things he can do. I truly feel so blessed to have this little boy in our lives and I feel that I can’t always adequately express that.

So here’s to all the parents out there. I have a better understanding and appreciation of what it’s like to be a mom (though I still sometimes wonder when I even became an adult and can still be surprised that I’m a parent). And a special shout out to my parents: thank you so much for all you’ve done and continue to do for me & now for my little family; being a parent isn’t easy and I so appreciate all you had to do or may have had to give up for Kristen and me. And to the newer parents or parents-to-be out there reading this: it’s a wonderful experience and I wish you all the love, luck, health, and joy (and sleep) in your life with your new or soon-to-be babies.

(Side note: today is my WP anniversary! I started this blog back in 2011)

General

Hello!

It’s been ages since I’ve posted or read blogs (shame on me!) but things have been so busy.

Baby D is 10 months now; insane. 

I’m planning to do a catch up post soon, but just wanted to say hello in the meantime. 🙂

General

Freddy the Cat’s Travel Adventures

This is just a quick post to introduce you to Freddy and a new blog 🙂

My former boss, Linda, announced earlier this year that she was going to leave the company to pursue a dream of an extended sailing adventure (you can follow her on her blog: Argon Voyages). I’m not kidding! Her last day was this past Friday. I was emotional about it as she and I have worked very closely for the last 3 years and I consider her not only a great manager and mentor, but a friend, too. Anyway, one of our colleagues gave her Freddy the Shipwrecked Cat (who has his own story). Instead of taking him aboard her boat, she decided to leave him here so he can make the rounds among the team, both in our Massachusetts office as well as our office over in the UK. So, we decided to take it one step further and set up a blog to record Freddy’s adventures (whether they’re in the office or on vacation/at home with colleagues). This way, we – including Linda – can all follow Freddy’s adventures. So all that to say, follow Freddy! Freddy the Cat’s Travel Adventures

(I’m just getting the blog set up this week while I’m on vacation so it’s bare bones at the moment, but check back to see what he’s up to, and be sure to follow Linda, too! — This past weekend they sailed from Boston to Nova Scotia (about 52 hours sailing straight through.)

Mom Musings

Mom Musings: 6 Months In

Well, this is a couple of days late, but Baby D is officially 6 months old! I cannot believe how fast the time has gone by. So much has happened and it’s crazy to think we’re already in April.

I’ve been back to work since early January and I’ve settled into my old, pre-baby routine, which is nice, if I’m being honest. D is either at the daycare on the first floor of my building or he’s with my parents, so I don’t have to worry and can put my energy and focus into my work. (it also helps that on the couple days he’s at the daycare I can go and visit him on my lunch break! — it’s nice to see his face during the day).

Overall, it’s been a whole new routine and lifestyle to get used to, and while it’s a lot of work and very tiring, I wouldn’t change it for anything. He’s brought so much joy into our lives, it’s incredible. But I definitely won’t say it’s been easy. Being a mom is one of the hardest, but most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

It’s so much fun to watch him grow and discover new things every day. The simplest things we take for granted are so mesmerizing and enchanting to him. It’s really quite remarkable. At the time I’m typing this, he is making noises and playing with his fingers and toes. He’ll hold his hands in front of his face for minutes at a time (which is a long time to a baby!) and watch them move.

He discovered his toes a few months ago, and he has been rolling from his belly to his back since he was 4.5 months old. He has yet to master the back to belly, and I know once he does we’ll be in trouble because it will only be a matter of time before he starts rolling every where and then crawling! We’ve also been practicing sitting up. He’s been “talking” for some time now, too, and it’s so funny to watch & listen to him testing out new sounds.

We read together most days/nights and he seems to really enjoy Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. I can’t wait to have reading time with him as he grows up. He also enjoys doing Itsy Bitsy Spider, Patty Cake, and Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. (Mommy sings lots of silly songs, or regular songs in silly ways, and he loves to laugh at with her..)

He’s still sleeping in a bassinet in our room, but we recently started putting him in his crib for naps. It’s going OK – today was the first day that he stayed asleep for at least an hour for both naps (the last few times he only slept for about 30-40 minutes while in the crib). I figure this is a good way to ease him into sleeping in his crib all night. He’s growing so fast that he’ll likely only be able to sleep in the bassinet for another couple of weeks. It’ll be weird to not have him right next to me.

The newest thing for him that he really enjoys is trying new baby foods! We started with rice cereal to get him used to new textures and then gradually introduced him to a few different veggies and fruits. The pediatrician recommended that we try veggies first as some babies tend to get a “sweet tooth” with fruits and then reject veggies because they’re not as sweet. We have given him a different veggie or fruit every few days to give him a chance to get used to it and to also give us a chance to see if he has any reactions. So far, he’s tried sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, apples, and we started bananas today. I’m happy to say that he enjoys them all!

He smiles and laughs so much and is generally a pretty happy baby. I feel so blessed to have him in my life. Everyday I think I can’t possibly love him more than I do and then he does something and I think “nope, guess I was wrong – I love him even more.” I can’t wait to see what the next 6 months bring!

General

Facebook Hiatus

One of my other plans for 2016 was to take a break from Facebook for the month of January. I logged out on my computer and uninstalled the app from my phone.

I’m really glad I took the time off. I felt like I was on it too much. I’ve never been one of those crazy status updaters but I did post every once in a while and shared lots of things (such as memes, other posts, article links, etc.). But I would mainly scroll through the news feed to see other people’s posts and whatnot. I realized that I was constantly clicking on the app and scrolling through (especially during the night after feeding Baby D) and I needed a break. Not to mention I’ve had an account since my college got it back in 2005, so I was long overdue for a break! (Side note: I sometimes miss the older versions of it before it got all crazy with games and all that junk)

Anyway, one of the upsides to not being on Facebook was that I spent a bit more time here! I actually kept up with reading posts from the blogs I follow and felt that I commented more, therefore participating in the blogging community. And I posted a bit more — and even pre-wrote some posts that I set to schedule! (usually I just write and post at the same time). So does that really mean I just traded one version of social media for another? I don’t really think so, as I feel there’s definitely more “substance” in the discussions here (and no passive-aggressive complaining!). I’ve learned things about people, sewing, crafting, books, etc. And seeing the sewing & knitting posts definitely inspired me to get back with it and attempt more projects! (I picked up my sweater knitting again!)

I also got into Instagram a bit more, and have started following more sewing and knitting accounts.

Though I logged back in on February 1, I am really going to try to limit my usage from now on and so far that hasn’t been difficult. I initially installed it back on my phone but it slowed it down tremendously, so I uninstalled it (again). So I periodically sign on from the web browser on the phone or computer. And I’ve found that I’m not logging in every day and, more importantly, don’t feel that compulsion to click on the app (though that automatic scrolling to the app on my phone stopped after a couple of days, anyway). I do still have my Instagram account linked to my Facebook account, so that’s probably going to be the majority of my connection to Facebook for now.

I may also take a month off each year, as I felt it went really well and was a nice and welcome break, especially if I catch myself logging back into it way too much.

Book Review

The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel, Nina George

The Little Paris BookshopThe Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel
Nina George
Kindle eBook
(image links to Goodreads)

From Goodreads: Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.
After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

I enjoyed this book. It was a pretty fast-paced story but the characters were well-developed, and we continued to learn more about them as they continued their journey along the Seine. Perdu’s ability to really listen to people and “prescribe” the right book is fascinating, as is the encyclopedia he decides to create. Some of the sailing terminology was over my head (when they were talking about docking and pulling up at various ports), so that was a bit confusing. There was a bit of back and forth between past and present, but it was clear when that was happening. Perdu is a character that really blossoms throughout the story and I enjoyed seeing it. I liked seeing how the relationships between the characters developed; being in close quarters for an extended period of time really allowed them to become intimate (in the sense of learning about each other and each other’s histories).

Essentially, this is a story of how grief can transform a person, but also shows how new beginnings can do the same. I highly recommend it.

Sewing · The Monthly Stitch Challenge

Monthly Stitch Challenge: January – Cheers for New Year!

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As mentioned in my Looking Ahead post, I wanted to participate in The Monthly Stitch‘s Monthly Challenge. January’s theme is Cheers for New Year and we’re supposed to sew something inspired by a favorite drink. I’ve been on a tea thing since my birthday back in November (I recently bought a tea for two set for myself as a birthday present along with loose leaf tea samples of a bunch of different teas) so I decided to use that as my inspiration.

I decided I wanted to make a cardigan as it made me think of curling up in a comfy chair with a cup of tea and a good book. I found the Ladies Library Cardigan by Little Lizard King Sewing Patterns on Etsy and thought it was the perfect make. (I didn’t need to tackle button holes just yet!) It was an automatic download so I had to print out all the pages and tape them together. (I’ve done pdf patterns before and I much prefer paper patterns; taping the pages together takes up so much time! — However, I try to keep them in good condition, or trace them onto Swedish tracing paper so I can re-use them.) One of the great things with this pdf is the ability to remove the lines for the sizes you don’t need. They use the overlap feature in Adobe so you can uncheck the sizes you don’t need. Brilliant! (and they provided full instructions on how to do this and how to do it if you needed to grade from one size to another)

Originally, I wanted to make the sweater in grey with purple elbow patches, but then I thought about a navy cardigan with grey or cream elbow patches, which might get more use. BUT I just couldn’t find any fabric that called out to me in the store. I started considering other color combos but just wasn’t feeling anything I saw.

Then, I never got ’round to actually properly setting up my sewing space this month. And going back to work and taking care of a 3 month old just took over and before I knew it, the month was over.

So all that to say I didn’t make anything this month, despite all my ideas/plans. However, I really do like the pattern and hope to find the fabric I want and make it within the next month or so. I need to find other fabric stores nearby other than Joann’s (buying online is fine, but I like to walk up and down the aisles and feel the fabrics).

Ah well, there are still 11 other monthly stitch challenges and I’ll be pleased if I complete a third of them this year!

Knitting

Mini Mystery Create-A-Long ~Almost~ Complete

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(image courtesy of Melody’s Makes. Links to her blog post announcing the MCAL)

As I mentioned in this brief post, I decided to participate in the mini mystery create-a-long (MCAL). I chose the knitting option. Though I’m not publishing this post until the project is complete, I’ll be updating it after I complete each segment.

January 15
I didn’t get started right on the first day (January 11), mainly because I went back to work this week it and was exhausted every night I came home. But since I have Fridays off, I decided to get it going during Baby D’s nap times today.

Melody stressed the importance of gauge, so I went ahead and actually did a swatch. Want to know a secret? I basically never check for gauge, but I figured since I didn’t know what I was making, I should probably do that.

I no longer had the label for the yarn I chose (shame on me!), but I could tell it wasn’t Super Bulky, as the pattern called for. Melody did say we could double up the yarn if we had Bulky yarn, so I tried doubling it and got gauge on the first try! Not bad for a non-gauge-checker.

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Once that was out of the way, I cast on the actual project. The needles I have are juuust long enough for the size option I chose (3-6 months… Obviously I’m making whatever this is for Baby D.)

It’s a simple beginning, but does have cable work, which I’ve never done. But Melody was prepared for that and provided video tutorials, and cabling is easier than I thought. (It’s smushed on one needle. Next segment, I’ll take a picture in the middle of the last row so you can see it flat.)

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January 16/17
Segment 2 was released on January 14. This segment was even easier because it was just alternating knit and purl rows to a certain length, based on which size we decided to make.

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I’m a little concerned I won’t have enough yarn, depending on what’s left to do. I did some browsing on Joann.com to see if I could find the yarn I’ve been using. I thought it was Lion Brand. I found Lion Brand Wool Ease Chunky yarn in color Nantucket that looks like what I’m using. I’ll have to pop by the store with my swatch and see if they have it and if it’s a match. I think we might be making a hat and based on the size I’m making, there’s a possibility we’ll start decreasing in the next segment, so maybe I won’t run out of yarn?? Fingers crossed!

I’m all caught up with the clues (segment 3 is going to be released on the 18th). I’m enjoying this create a long so far and think I’ll participate in another one sometime this year.

January 18
And so begins segment 3. Well, we’re not decreasing, doing just the opposite, actually! I’ll have to see if I can get more yarn. Hopefully I will be able to. However, if I can’t find it, I suppose I’m at a good place where I could start a second color. (I’ve just completed the first step of this segment). It still seems it could be a hat, but maybe more like a bonnet type thing. Since I’m using 2 strands of the yarn and knitting g pretty tightly, the piece is a bit stiff. Not sure if Baby D will be comfortable with it. But we’ll have to wait and see until the end! Also, using the 2 strands made the first step a little harder than I imagine it would be with a single strand (or maybe it was just because my knitting was sort of tight?)

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So it turns out I definitely didn’t have enough yarn and Joann’s did not have the color in the store. Boo. So I wasn’t able to finish it. It was a really cute hooded cowl for kids. With the yarn so stiff, I don’t think it would be something Baby D would be comfortable in (since he sometimes objects to wearing hats). Melody had recommended maybe adding just ties to the hat if I had enough yarn to have some kind of finish to it, so I think I will eventually add them to finish it off.

Because over 3500 people joined in on the mini MCAL, Melody gifted everyone 2 free patterns from her Ravelry store, so cool. I picked an earflap hat and a Yoda hat. Also, if you completed the project and had a Ravelry project page for it, you were entered to win one of five $25 Etsy gift cards or one of two mini skeins from XoXo Yarn. Pretty sweet. (Unfortunately, I’m not eligible since the project needed to completed and posted by yesterday.)

I did sign up for her regular Mystery Create a Long for February, called Wisteria and I’m looking forward to that (there will be a post about that once it’s complete.)

Q&A-a-Day

Q&A-a-Day — January 24

I am going to periodically post the daily question from the Q&A-a-Day book I mentioned in this post because I thought it might be fun for us to share our answers. Today’s question is:

If you were to start your own company, what would it be?

I would have a craft studio/store. Knitting, sewing, etc. There would be classes, all types of fabrics, yarns, patterns, and whatnot. And I’d love for it to be a place where crafters can gather together. I’d want an area with nice, big comfy couches and chairs, maybe a little bookshelf with crafting books, etc. Also I’d want to have authors of those books do signings at my shop.

What would your business be? Share in the comments!!

Mom Musings

Mom Musings: 5 Things New Moms Can’t Do Without

I’ve been following mom blogs since having Baby D. One of them, freddieandi, owned by Eve, had a good post about her top 5 things that she, as a new mom, found to be the most helpful and/or invaluable. I’ve decided to follow her lead and make my own version of that post.

As a note: I do believe having a partner and family members around makes things infinitely better and more manageable, but this post is about actual items. Please know that I definitely couldn’t do this on my own. Having my husband by my side and our families nearby for support has been invaluable.

Another note: I started this post at the beginning of December, and while some things have changed since then, I still think the below 5 items were the best things for me at the time!

So, in no particular order:
1. Nursing bra/pads – these are life savers. It makes everything so much easier. The bras are comfortable to wear to bed and while you’re on the go during the day. Easy access to quickly feed your baby is always appreciated! The pads of course are the life – and clothes – saver, by preventing leaks onto your shirt!

2. Breast pump – such a great invention! In the beginning when breastfeeding was painful, the pumping wasn’t, so I was able to pump between feedings and feed Baby D with a bottle to give my boobs a rest.

3. Baby Bjorn/baby carrier – boy, I wish I had started using this sooner! I got it as a gift from my coworkers, which was such a surprise and appreciated — and even more appreciated after I started using it! I’m able to get more things done with him strapped on me instead of having to hold him. (Mainly baking ☺)

4. Boppy pillow – he loves this thing! We have 2 kinds, the open c-shape and a “closed” one. The c-shape was great in the beginning to help prop him for breastfeeding. It was also a nice support for when younger family members (read: kids) or people slightly uncomfortable with holding babies wanted to hold him. The closed Boppy has been great to use for him to chill or nap in. Also it’s perfect to put on the floor in the bathroom when I have to pee so I can keep an eye on him!! (He loves being in the bathroom; I think it’s the brightness — he loves lights!)

5. Netflix/Amazon Instant Video – I would definitely be remiss if I didn’t include this! I’ve been able to binge on TV shows (watched all 6 seasons of The Good Wife!). And recently, a total guilty pleasure that makes me feel about 14 again, Sabrina the Teenaged Witch (so cheesy!). When I was too tired/sore in the beginning it was a good way to pass time if I was unable to sleep.

You might be surprised that books didn’t make the list. But there were days where I just had no energy or even, gasp!, the desire to read. I like to be able to fully focus on what I’m reading and I just didn’t have that ability early on.

Mums & Dads: What items were must haves for you as a new parent?