Fontaine à Chambéry

Fontaine à Chambéry

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Easy Recipe: Pumpkin Soup

I'll give a brief update before discussing this amazing new recipe! Adjusting to my new work schedule has gone well; however, now when I get home, there's the dinner-bathtime-bedtime rush, leaving little "quality" time to hang out with my precious Z. I feel guilty, but that never goes away, because it's a mom thing. When I cook, I either rely on my crockpot to do the work for me, or I need a recipe that's fast and healthy. I found a winner! This pumpkin soup is perfect for the gorgeous fall weather we've been having. It isn't too pumpkiny for those who don't enjoy the taste of pumpkin, and it certainly isn't sweet like pumpkin pie, but savory instead. My wonderful husband made a fresh baguette (one of the many perks of a French husband!) and it went very well with the soup.


(Note: I doubled the recipe to take some for lunch. Below is the original recipe.)

1-15 ounce can pumpkin
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup cream
1 apple, cut into small cubes
3 pieces turkey bacon
1 bag shredded cheddar cheese

In a stock pot, combine the pumpkin, chicken broth, and cream. Cook on medium heat, stirring well for 5 minutes, then simmer. Sauté the apple in a little bit (1/2 tablespoon) of butter until soft. Cook the turkey bacon according to the package directions. 

Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle cheese on top of the soup, then place the sautéed apples and crumbled bacon. Serve with bread. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

First Day Fiasco

Last Sunday I was on edge all day because I was starting a new job Monday. All day I had butterflies in my stomach. Having spent two years--which may not seem like a lot but is to me--at my previous job, where, for the most part I really liked it, I was wondering whether I had made the right choice for myself and my family by switching career paths. What if I didn't like the work? What if nobody was nice? Would I be able to have my cell phone out in case daycare called? Was there a coffee maker? (I have my priorities.) 

In addition to the usual worries, I was incredibly anxious by Sunday evening because Z started exhibiting signs of pink eye. Those gooey, sticky eye crusties plus my poor baby's swollen eyes was freaking me out. I wouldn't be able to take her to the doctor if she needed to go, which made me feel like a bad mom. Additionally, the cough/cold combo I'd been battling for a week was starting to feel more like bronchitis by the minute, and I was puffing on my rescue inhaler way more than I liked.   I went to bed Sunday night hoping that when we woke up in the morning, everything would be perfect. Um, no.

An hour after going to bed, I was in a deep sleep, when R started yelling "SHE PEED ON ME!" Lily, our cat who's been spayed twice and battles bladder infections off-and-on, had indeed urinated on her father for no apparent reason. Lucky for me, my side was nice and dry, and Lily came and curled up with me. Girl power! R went to the couch, because our guest room is still a mess from when we painted our kitchen this summer (yes, we've procrastinated on cleaning that). After hearing him yell and fuss at the dog for 15 minutes, he came storming back in our room and turned on the light, deciding to change the sheets. He started doing it while I was still in bed, and I freaked out. Once the sheets were changed, the cats in the basement for the night, and the dog had a treat to calm down, we all drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

I awoke feeling like I had a fever. Z awoke with her eyes swollen shut. Pinkeye indeed. R stayed home with her and took her to the doctor for eyedrops. I went to work, where my first day was incredibly stressful. Things were very hectic because some large projects are nearing completion. As a result, people are stressed and have been working overtime. The high-energy atmosphere isn't anything I'm used to, so that was overwhelming. All day I battled chills and breathing issues and coughing. Getting off work at 5 was a totally new experience for me; at my old job, I left at 3, picked Z up from school at 3:30, and we were home most days at 3:45, giving us ample time to play and relax before the dinner-bathtime-bedtime routine. Not the case here. Right when I left the parking lot, I had a meltdown, wondering if I had made the right choice by starting a new job. I felt so guilty for cutting my time with Z by two hours each day. That's 10 hours a week. She goes to bed at 7:30, so when I get home at 5:30, we have little time to relax because of all of the necessities. 

When I got home, my meltdown was in full form. I know I freaked Z out, because she was looking at me strangely. After I calmed down and ate, I went to Urgent Care to get some antibiotics. 

As the antibiotics began working, and I slowly adjusted to a new office, new hours, new coworkers, new job, and new schedule for my family, I started to feel better. I really love the work. Z is in good hands. She loves her daycare and R picks her up early and they hang out every afternoon. I still wish I could somehow finagle my old hours, but that's not likely. After such an epic first day, I'm looking forward to a peaceful week.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Traveling with Tot

We’ve flown to Colorado twice and Houston once since Z was born. The first time we went to Colorado, Z was only 10 weeks old. She slept on the plane and didn’t make a peep the entire time. The people around us were surprised when we deplaned with an infant because she was so quiet. The second time we went to Colorado, Z was 9 ½ months old and mobile. She still did really well on the plane and stayed occupied by playing, reading, and eating snacks. I was afraid she’d want to get down and crawl around, but she didn’t. Our Houston trip was the weekend after that Colorado trip, and it was pretty much the same scenario on that plane ride.

Two weekends ago, we decided to take an impromptu trip to Chicago to get away for the weekend. Even though Z’s a laid back kid, I was a little nervous for the 4 ½ hour car ride. She did really well though! I made sure to bring a lot of toys, books, and snacks. We stopped a couple of times on the way up for pit stops. As a last resort against boredom, we turned on Ratatouille and Z zoned out.

This was our first family vacation with just the three of us. It was such a blast! We went to the Field Museum to see the Lascaux cave painting exhibit. I’ve written about this exhibit and the cave’s importance to art history before. It was an amazing exhibit, very well done, and R really liked the fact that the signage was written in both French and English; he felt it was respectful to the Lascaux cave heritage. We walked around Chicago a lot, visited Navy Pier, ate Chicago-style pizza, walked up and down Michigan Avenue, and walked along Lake Michigan.

My bottom line for writing this post: it is possible to travel with kids. From my experience, traveling with kiddos requires flexibility. Each age has its perks and its downsides: nursing on a plane sucks, as does worrying about nursing schedules while you’re in the middle of traveling. Having a toddler in a museum isn’t as easy as having a non-mobile infant. BUT, the important thing is to roll with it. If you’re calm, your kid will be calm, and everyone will have a lot more fun. So here are some tips I’ve compiled:

Travel Tips with Tot:

         Think your kid’s favorite toy or book will be enough? WRONG. Bring 4 times the stuff you think you’ll need, especially if you’re traveling by car and can’t get up and walk around. Kids get bored really fast.

·         Bring a variety of snacks or treats. Having something that you normally don’t buy will be fun and special; however, don’t introduce anything that could cause an allergic reaction (IE: nuts, shellfish—don’t know why you’d do this anyway—exotic fruits, etc.). You don’t want to ruin your trip by spending time in the ER.

·         Always keep a roll of toilet paper or a pack of baby wipes in the car (regardless of whether you have kids or not). You can thank me in advance.

·         Bring extra clothes. For everyone.

·         Buy a stroller with a collapsible seat in case your little one wants to take a snooze.

·         Remember to have fun and go with the flow! 

Pretty skyline

Love this shot!

LOVED this exhibit

Gorgeous view

Waiting for Chicago-style pizza at Giordano's

Z likes to hold hands.

Happy family!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Noteworthy Reads from A to Z

Here are some of my favorites and some that are on my to-read list (an asterisk is next to these), categorized in alphabetical order:

The Awakening by Kate Chopin (Yes, I realize it's a short story.)
Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt by Joyce A. Tyldesley

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century by Edward Dolnick

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Good Thief's Guide To... (series) by Chris Ewan
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Iliad by Homer

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan 

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran 

The Odyssey by Homer

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 
Pompeii by Robert Harris

Quentins by Maeve Binchy

A Rather... (series) by C.A. Belmond
Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart
Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co.  by Jeremy Mercer

Under the Dome by Stephen King*

Venice by Jan Morris*
The Vesuvius Isotope by Kristin Elise

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

The Xibalba Murders (series) by Lyn Hamilton*

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks*

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman* 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Under the Dome

Murder? Check. Drugs? Check. Love stories? Check. Psychos? Check. Mystery? Check.

Imagine you're going through your everyday life just being a normal person when suddenly a dome drops out of the sky, effectively trapping you, your neighbors, and your enemies in your small town. All of a sudden you're very aware of resources such as food and water and your fellow townspeople and their weird/creepy habits. You try very hard to keep your secrets and family safe. This scenario is what happens in Stephen King's novel Under the Dome, which has now been turned into a summer miniseries. It's my newest obsession. 

You know when you're reading a really good book or watching a great series and you want to put life on hold so you can find out what happens next in the story? Well, this is what's currently going on with us. R started watching Under the Dome when it first premiered this summer. He kept telling me about how good it was and how we needed to watch it together. I finally watched the first episode and was hooked. We quickly caught up on all of the DVR'd episodes and have stayed up way too late watching the show. 

I don't know how the series fares compared to the book. With other King novels that have been turned into film adaptations, I've been disappointed. So much of King's stories are psychological and scare the heck out of you while you're reading; some of that material just isn't easy to translate into a film. I'm on the waiting list at the library for Under the Dome so hopefully I'll be able to compare the two soon. Until then, if you need something to watch, I highly recommend this series! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ear Tubes

While Z may have hit the jackpot with her good looks, bilingual background, and her abilities to travel the globe (haha), she did not get great ears from us. Sorry, kiddo. Z has had chronic ear infections since January. In fact, I believe there has only been a period of about two weeks since then that she hasn't been on an antibiotic to treat an infection. That's not good because constant antibiotics can reduce her body's immune system, cause an upset stomach, and, as we found out with the most recent dose, can cause allergies. Yuck. 

Because of her history, we were referred to the Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor at Children's Hospital. Z actually had her consultation on her first birthday, poor girl. At the appointment, they did a hearing test to see if the infections had caused any damage. Luckily, her hearing was perfect and she didn't fuss at all. The audiologists were impressed with Z's laid back nature and said she had made their job easier and had subsequently made their morning. Way to go, Z! Next we saw the ENT. Z's ears were perfect and there was no fluid from her last infection. The doctor said at that point, the surgery was optional, but if Z got another infection, she'd definitely need the tubes. We left feeling excited and hopeful that she'd never come down with another infection.

Fast forward 10 days: Z was fussy all night and woke up with a low-grade fever. I took her to the pediatrician, and surprise, surprise, she had another infection. It took 3 days for me to get through to Children's because nobody was returning my voicemails, but I finally was able to schedule Z's tube surgery for this morning. 

The entire ear tube procedure is an easy one: the doctor merely inserts a tiny--and I mean tiny, since it's no bigger than the size of this 'i'--tube into the patient's ear drum, which allows fluid to drain out. When fluid is retained, it harbors bacteria and becomes infected frequently. Until the child's ear is fully formed, the fluid can't drain out. After 6-12 months, the tubes fall out on their own, the hole seals itself, and voila, you've got a happy kid with fully-developed ears. The tubes don't eliminate the odds of getting an infection, but they do make it easier to treat and often cut down on the number of infections a kid will have. 

We had to arrive at Children's at 6:15 this morning. Naturally, I didn't sleep much last night because I was afraid we'd oversleep and miss the appointment. Z was also really clingy last night, probably because she could pick up on our stress. When we walked into the Same Day Surgery waiting room, it was packed! From the looks of it, there were a lot of kids there for procedures that were far more invasive and serious than ear tubes, so once again I realized how lucky we are for our healthy little Z. Our nurse came and got us and took us to the pre-op room. She went over Z's health history, listened to her breathing, checked temperature and weight, and printed off Z's hospital bracelets. There was a cool playroom down the hall so we went to play there; we also waited in the room and were able to watch Clifford, which made Z a very happy camper. The ENT's assistants came and talked to us, then the anesthesia general practitioner came in and talked about Z's overall health. The nurse brought Z a mixture of Tylenol and oxycodone, which Z sucked down. The nurse and general practitioner were impressed and said they usually have to fight kids to take the medicine; we call medicine "yum yums" and make a big deal out of it tasting good, so we've never had problems with Z taking her medicine. Before we knew it, the anesthesiologists came to talk things over and take Z. They asked what flavor of laughing gas Z would like--cherry--then they took her off. She didn't even cry or look back. We waited in the room for only 7 minutes, then the ENT doctor came back and said everything was great and went well. There was no lingering fluid from her recent infections, and no signs of permanent damage from the infections. We have to go back in 4-8 weeks for a checkup.

We went to recovery to see Z. She was really mad at the nurses but calmed down when we held her. She took a bit to come out of it, and was sleepy. She woke up for some graham crackers and water though. On the way home, she projectile vomited, which is very common after this procedure. We came home and she ate a bit, then went down for a nap. It's been almost 3 hours and she's still dozing. The girl never naps! 

I'm just so glad this is over. Yes, it's best for Z to not be in constant pain or taking antibiotics constantly, but it's terrifying when your kid has to go under. There are risks anytime surgery is performed or anesthesia is involved. Yes, the procedure only took 7 minutes. Yes, everyone says it's harder on the parents than the children. It's still scary though. There's nothing like being down at Children's Hospital to make you realize how good you've got it, and how lucky you are for your biggest problem being ear infections. 

Friday, August 16, 2013


The past couple of weeks have been stressful for us. We've each had big job interviews that we're either still waiting to hear about or the job didn't pan out. There's some negative stuff going on at work for me. Z has been sick with yet again another ear infection; she's had them nearly constantly since January. She developed an allergic reaction to this last round of antibiotics and broke out in a rash, which was pretty severe on some parts of her body. It appears that the rash is now coming back again. We've been at the doctor four times in the past two weeks. Monday we have an appointment at Children's Hospital to get Z's ear tubes. Although it's a minor procedure, we're freaking out. Everyone says it's not a big deal, but that's easy to say when it's not your kid. The thought of the doctors putting her under anesthesia is absolutely terrifying.

When all is said and done...I need to be more thankful. I need to be grateful that we are each employed, have a wonderful healthy, happy daughter, live in a nice house with our pets, have supportive and loving families, etc. Sometimes it's hard to remember to be grateful for things when you've been under stress. So, this weekend, I'm going to take a time out from my to-do's and enjoy quality time with my husband and daughter. It's important to keep in mind that everything will work out perfectly and the way it should, even if it's been a little stressful lately.