I am one of those people who truly considers most cakes to be merely vehicles for getting the frosting to my mouth. My mom would tell you I come by it naturally– my dad loves frosting so much, he individually frosts each bite of a cinnamon roll.
If you’re going to eat lots of frosting, though, I believe it needs to be GOOD frosting, i.e. you won’t find me scooping up big globs of the canned variety. (Please note: I am not above buying the can of frosting. I’ve done it in the past– notably, when I wanted a super vivid green for a preschooler’s cake. But, for real, don’t eat it out of the can. It’s just not worth it.)
Frosting is crazy easy to make, which is a perk. Typically, I make my chocolate frosting using cocoa powder. It’s good. It is reliable and tasty and everyone likes it just fine.
But you know what’s even better? Frosting made from actual chocolate. Here’s how you do that:
Melt butter and chocolate chips in small saucepan over low-med heat. When smooth, remove from heat and transfer to mixing bowl.
Stir in vanilla extract.
Begin beating in powdered sugar and milk, alternating as you add them, until the frosting reaches a rich, but spreadable, consistency. Add more powdered sugar or mix, as needed, to thicken or thin, respectively.
This recipe will frosting a 9″ layer cake. If you’re frosting a 9″x13″ cake (like I did above), you’ll have leftovers. Oh, the tragedy! Store these in the fridge until you need them. A spoonful of this stuff, right out of the fridge, tastes just like fudge. You’re welcome.
So, in case you didn’t know, I know a thing or two about oatmeal. I mean, after all, I kind of wrote a book on the topic. Okay, okay, free ebook. But, still! I am no stranger to the ways of the oat. I have lots of ways of making it special and, well, it takes quite a lot to impress me in this department.
Still, even though I might cook oatmeal eighty different ways ’til sundown, I am well aware that not everyone does. In fact, I’d venture there’s a larger portion of our population relying on oatmeal packets or coffee shop oatmeal cups than cooking it up in a pot each day. And that’s okay! I get it– traditional oatmeal, though not difficult, does require dirtying a pot and spending at least a few minutes over the stove. It’s not “grab and go.”
The inarguable popularity of the Keurig® is evidence of our love of “quick gourmet.” People delight in being able to brew a perfect single cup of coffee at the touch of a button. Knowing this, and being a bit of an oatmeal connossieur, I was really intrigued to try Nature Valley Bistro Cups™ Oatmeal– the first-ever premium food product designed specifically for use in Keurig® Home Brewing Systems.*
Between laying out clothes, packing lunches, checking backpacks, serving breakfast, and all the other myriad tasks to complete before school, it’s no wonder school mornings can feel jam-packed and stressful.
Do you know what always seemed to throw a wrinkle in my plan? Suddenly remembering that I needed to send in a note with my child. Now, this might seem like a super simple task, but, honestly, it would take me way too long to track down the proper writing supplies, craft a brief but polite note, and make sure it had all pertinent info.
A couple years ago, however, I decided to create a fill-in-the-blank note and make my life easier. While it might seem like a little thing, keeping a stack of these babies handy has saved me many minutes and much stress.
Today, I’m sharing it with all of you in hopes that it might prove to be a bit of a hassle-saver for you, too. Print out a dozen or so and pop ‘em in a file or folder. Your writing hand will thank you!
I’m taking a little break while the bread dough rises to share this week’s menu plan with you all!
Despite the fact that I keep seeing “back to school” shots and stories showing up in my feed (say it isn’t so!), the fact is that we still have half of summer ahead of us. You know me– stickler for the “real” seasons. Summer lasts until the 21st(-ish) of September, so I’m not craving pumpkin and nutmeg anytime soon, thankyouverymuch.
We’ve had a mild, gorgeous summer here in New England and you won’t hear me complain one bit! In fact, we’ve breezed through the last week of July and the first week of August with absolutely no need of air conditioning of any kind. Fantastique! Nonetheless, since it is summer and warm and sometimes erratically busy, I often crave a simple, kind of light, menu plan. This week’s fits that bill perfectly!
Light on the meat and maintenance, these dishes are easy on me and easy on the budget– and the whole family likes them. So! Here’s the plan for what we’re eating:
B–Cheerios, Apples, Milk ( before 7:30AM Mass)
L–Blueberry Pancakes, Sausage, OJ
D–Chicken Breast Stuffed w/ Goat Cheese, Lemon Balsamic Broccoli, Rice (YUM, right? Having friends who write cookbooks has its perks! )
You’re blessed, I’m blessed, we’re all so very, very blessed.
And, so, you’re a lousy person if you complain that you don’t like the looks of your meager pantry. You’re really rather UNGRATEFUL if you sigh over the confines of your tiny, tiny house. You’re essentially thumbing your nose in the face of true poverty if you worry you can’t pay your cable bill this month.
Honestly? I’m weary of it. It’s not that I encourage self-indulgence or failing to see how fortunate we may be. There is simply no denying that, if you’re reading this post on a computer, tablet, or mobile device right now, you’re way wealthier than a large portion of the world’s population.
But what kind of messsage are we sending those we love if we tell them, essentially, someone else has it worse, so you should hush your d@mn fussing already?
There’s nothing wrong with gently revealing the good to someone. There’s great love in helping a friend realize that, truly, it’s not all bad and here’s why. It is a sign of compassion to lift up a loved one rather than let them wallow in self-defeating depression.
I believe that if it feels bad, it’s bad enough to matter.
If something is truly hurting/worrying/stressing my friend, then it matters. It doesn’t matter that said friend has a cute house, loving husband, healthy children, and food on the table. Her blessings should not be held against her when evaluating her pain. Her worry should not be dismissed just because “it could be worse.”
Perhaps the way to help someone “count her blessings” isn’t to flaunt them in her face when you determine her concerns are shallow or insignificant or overstated, but rather to firmly establish yourself as ONE of those said blessings when you wrap your arm around her and simply murmur,
“I know it feels bad. And I’m sorry. Your feelings matter to me.”
We tend to have our “date nights” on Wednesday nights. This works out well because it’s the night I take our son to karate and, by the time we get home, my husband has our girls all tucked in. We eat late, linger over some wine, and reconnect– important, because we’ve been apart since 7:00 that morning.
Last night, my husband was really craving Chinese take-out, which got me off the hook for making a fancier, home-cooked meal. Honestly, I enjoy a mix of those things– the fancy homemade stuff and the easy, no-work-for-me stuff.
No matter which option we choose, however, one thing remains the same– I cook for the kids. I feed them all before we head out for karate and I freqently make something very simple like my Cheesy Beans & Rice.
Because they had seen the package arrive, however, my children were all clamoring to try something new last night. Who was I to argue?
I’ve written a fair bit about having Irish twins before. I talked about the joys of closely-spaced siblings. I’ve tried to encourage those in this situation to take heart. Perhaps most notably, I wrote on the topic for Amy over at The Finer Things in Life twice and both posts continue to generate traffic and comments years after their initial publish date– make no mistake: people out there are searching about Irish twins.
People talk a lot about how challenging those first couple of years are. I have people ask me ALL the time about what it was like to have a one-month-old and an eleven-month-old. Or a nine-month-old and a one-and-a-half-year-old. It seems very apparent to everyone that those are some busy, challenging times.
They are. That much is true. Of course, it’s challenging to have a preschooler and a newborn. Or a teen and a toddler. Or “true” twins. Or… well, you get the picture. Irish twin parents don’t have a monopoly on the feeling of overwhelm– no one does, really. Each kind of sibling spacing has its own unique perks and problems.
One topic that is rarely addressed, however, is this:
Irish Twin Pregnancy
Today, I want to talk about this topic a little bit, both to shed light on it for those who might be curious and to stand in solidarity with those women who, right at this moment, are in the throes of it and desperately searching Google. I hear you. I really do.
So let’s start the conversation…
So, here’s the deal– having an infant? Is exhausting. It’s crazy how much those tiny people can suck the life out of you. Ha! Seriously, though. It’s hard having a new baby in the house because sleep patterns become interrupted and unpredictable. Many, many new moms wander around in a sort of zombie state as they make it through those first months.
Here’s another truth: the first trimester of pregnancy is utterly draining. I remember being pregnant with my first and being positively staggered by the fatigue that overwhelmed me. I had never felt like that and it shocked me.
Now, add those two together. Being pregnant while parenting an infant? Is beyond the beyond in terms of tiring. I don’t say this to whine, but just to be honest. I cannot even adequately describe how tired I was at times.
It is absolutely critical that you take help when and if you can get it. Try to solicit nighttime help from your partner, if possible, and nap whenever and however you can. If that means you co-sleep/nap in the middle of the day? Well, that’s what you do.
Being THAT tired can actually make you start to feel kind of crazy, so it’s super important to rest whenever you can.
If you’re prone to the queasy nausea that can come with pregnancy, then you know that certain scents can throw you into a fit of gagging or waves of despair. It’s not fun. Getting up too early or without eating first can also make the sickness worse.
Guess what? Taking care of an infant means you get to be exposed to all kinds of possibly unpleasant aromas, from messy diapers to pureed baby food, all while dealing with the sensitivities of pregnancy. Awesome.
Here’s another wonderful joy of new motherhood: despite all the kegels in the world (and maybe you, like most women, didn’t do all that many), your pelvic floor muscles likely aren’t what they used to be. What this means, in the bluntest of terms, is that some pee might leak out when you’re vomiting. Seriously, people– that’s just adding insult to injury. Nonetheless, it’s a fact of life.
So, what to do? Well, if at all possible, enlist help with what you can. If a spouse, parent, or older child is around, see is he or she can’t handle feeding the baby the pureed broccoli. At the very least, save the stinkiest of the meals for when you don’t have to do it and stick to the milder blends, like squash or applesauce. To combat early morning queasies, keep some granola bars, nuts, or dried fruit in your nightstand to nosh on before you even attempt to get upright.
You can’t very well leave a baby in a filty diaper, so you might have to deal with the stench yourself. Try to breathe through your mouth or smear something minty-scented under your nose. It’ll help, though it won’t block everything.
Wear a light pad or pantiliner during those times of day you feel sickest because, seriously, having damp undies is just too much to have to deal with when you’re going through this. Better to just be prepared and bear with the annoyance.
Finally, to lessen to nausea, you might ask your OB for a prenatal containing a really high dose of B6. The B vitamins “flush” through your system and don’t build up, so you won’t overdose on it. Many studies (and my personal experience) have shown that taking extra B6 can help keep the queasies at bay a bit.
Sometimes, you’ll be given restrictions in pregnancy, such as lifting. Given that my firstborn weighed 24.5 pounds by the six month mark, this was a bit of an issue for me.
You honestly have to just do your best. Take help when you can get it. Try to minimize your motions. Don’t do excessive, unnecessary things.
But don’t beat yourself up if you needed to lift your 22 pound baby out of the crib, either. Pregnancy is not a disability and pregnant women lift, carry, and do things all the time. I’m not saying you shouldn’t heed your doctor’s warnings or try to follow guidelines– I am saying that there comes a point when stressing about it might be more detrimental to your pregnancy that actually lifting the weight.
“You DO know how this happens, right?”
This is one we Irish twin parents share with the parents of large families. Ah, people are always so free to throw out their opinions on your child-bearing habits.
You can get offended by this or you can just ignore it. Or, if you’re a little spunky, you can try some humor. Personally, I like either, “Sure do! And we love it.” or “No! I truly don’t– can you please explain it to me? I don’t know why this keeps happening!” Either one will quiet the remarks pretty quickly.
“Did you PLAN them so close?”
No one’s business. End of story. Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t. People should really NEVER ask this question, because it has no relevance whatsoever. All it does is satisfy their curiosity. Feel free to ignore it.
Finally, a post on Irish twin pregnancy would be remiss if it didn’t include a brief discussion of worries.
And you will worry. You’ll worry that you got pregnant too soon. You’ll worry that your older baby will get cheated. You’ll worry that your younger baby won’t get as much cuddle time. You’ll worry that you can’t do this. You’ll worry that you’re a lousy mom because you’re tired and sick and unable to get excited some days. You’ll worry that your kids will hate each other. Or hate you. Or both.
You’ll worry a lot.
What makes it harder than your average pregnancy worries is that you likely won’t have a large group who can relate to these worries, rallying around you. You may not know one other single person in real life who has had two babies within one calendar year. Honestly, I’ve never met anyone in my real life who has. Lots and lots and LOTS of those with 14 and 15 month gaps (and they’ll try to tell you it’s the same and you’ll know it’s not, but be nice anyway.) Even more with “two under two”, which is still not the norm, but isn’t exactly uncommon.
But that’s okay. You’re NOT alone. You are not the first woman to have her babies wildly close together. You won’t be the last. You’re not nuts and you didn’t do anything wrong. Your children will sometimes hate each other and sometimes hate you– as do all children. But they will also treasure each other. You have given them a special gift that very few children have– a sibling who is super close in age, but with whom they don’t have to share a birthday.
Try to relax, pregnant Irish twin mama. It’ll be okay. It’s way hard right now. So, so, SO hard. You’re not crazy to think it’s infinitely harder this time around. Your body is simply SPENT.
But you’ll make it. And, someday, when you sit with your own eight- and nine-year-olds (or maybe both eight!– depends on the time of year ), perhaps you can reassure another mother who’s tiredly crying as she worries about the baby due to arrive before his or her sibling even has a first birthday… and you can tell her it’ll be okay.
First of all, let me just tell you that it was hard for me to type that title. I kid you not! I just don’t really ever say “ain’t” and, apparently, it doesn’t even flow well when I’m typing. Ha! I probably should have gone with, “August? That can’t be true!”
Anyway, August arrives this week and I am not really thrilled about that. I’m just not ready to admit that summer break is more than half over. Boo hoo! Still, we have plenty of hot, sunny days ahead and I plan on enjoying them to the fullest!
Here’s the plan for what we’re eating:
B–Cheerios, Bananas, Milk (for A, before 7:30AM Mass– my girls were with my parents)
Or, just the other week, I talked about this? I meant it. Health needs to be the focus.
But, I’m sort of ashamed to admit that there’s a part of me that might not completely subscribe to all those espoused theories. There’s a part of me that refuses to get totally onboard with all of those logical conclusions.
There’s a part of me that’s simply relieved.
I’ve told some people in real life before… always sheepishly, always with downcast eyes, always with just a whisper of being a ashamed.
I’m glad it’s my son who is wildly tall.
I’m glad it’s my daughter who is waifishly tiny.
I mutter it, cheeks pink, expecting rebuke.
I never get it.
Now, some is that is undoubtedly that most people, at least in real life, tend to be pretty kind and don’t immediately jump down your throat. These are also people who know me and know my heart and, I would hope, realize that it takes a lot for me to even admit that.
But I think, no, actually, I KNOW, that some of it is because people agree with me. On some level, there are pre-wired societal preferences of which we’re all aware.
A. is the tallest one in his class. He has been since kindergarten. He still rides well above the “6’3″ line on the doctors’ charts. I hear– over and over and OVER again– about how tall he is.
You know what being crazy tall has meant for him? It hasn’t been feeling awkward. Or self-doubt. Or getting picked on.
Nope, being the tallest boy in the class hasn’t posed one problem. If anything, other boys respect him simply for being the “biggest” (<– tallest, just tallest, but that makes him one kind of big.) Honestly, their dads comment on it, too. “Who’s that kid a half a head taller than everyone else?” they ask and then nod approvingly when I mention he’s mine.
The nine-year-old girls are starting to catch the boys, and will continue to until high school, if I remember my own experiences correctly. They’re steadily creeping above the boys in their class. But you know who they’re NOT creeping past? A. He remains the boy they get to look up to, just a tad.
And they like it.
I don’t blame them. I still remember the ONE boy in my eighth grade class who was taller than me that year. Nevermind that the very next year in high school there was a wide array of tallness around me– I still remember Adam. He made me feel girly and not gangly. And A. does that for the tall girls around him.
C. is tiny. She’s not particularly tall and she’s very slim. On top of that, she is very, very small-boned, which makes her look more delicate than she really is. The overall impression is that she’s very little.
You know what being tiny and fragile-looking has meant for her? It hasn’t been getting picked on. Or being treated poorly. Or being left behind.
Nope, being a small, fine-boned girl hasn’t posed one problem for C. She’s perceived as sweet and dainty and girly. She’s smaller than her friends and they, even at the tender age of eight, place some value on her lightness and “cuteness.” I’m not saying that’s right– but it’s very real. Her tiny feet and little face are both praised, not criticized.
The boys around C. act protective. Now, there are admittedly times that this annoys her, but it’s not mean or nasty at all. They are more likely to hold doors for her, carry things for her, and make sure she’s okay. Her tiny stature triggers something in them that makes them try to take care of her. And you know what? Some of them like it.
I feel like such a hypocrite. I hate having to admit this.
I don’t see short, tiny boys and think anything bad about them. Why would I? I know it doesn’t matter.
I don’t see tall, strong girls and think anything bad, either. Not at all. Heck, *I* was a pretty tall girl, myself.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that, given the choice, I’d pick my supertall son and tiny daughter over a short, small-boned son and a girl who was the tallest in her class.