Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Happy Birthday Dad!

Jeff turned the big Two-Eight on July 6th! Since I had a few pounds of strawberries left over from my jam making adventure, I decided to make a strawberry pie to celebrate the special day. After gorging ourselves on dinner downtown, we came home to this jewel of a treat I prepared the night before.

The experience made me realize I'm not the woman I should be, since I had to borrow all the pie-making tools from my friend Rachel. She also pointed me toward this great recipe, which I tweaked a little (see my recipe below). I did, however, spend way too much money on [necessary?] Pampered Chef pie-making gadgets a couple weeks later...Guess I'll be making more pies soon.

 This simple recipe tastes bomb, and was easy enough for a novice pie maker like myself.

  • 1 (9") pie crust, baked
  • 1 quart fresh strawberries
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 TBS cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup ginger ale
Arrange 1/2 - 3/4 of the strawberries in the baked pie crust. Mash the remaining berries and combine with the sugar in a medium sauce pan. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and ginger ale. Stir cornstarch mixture into strawberry mixture.

Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring ingredients to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue to boil for 2-3 minutes, still stirring. Remove from heat (make sure the mixture has thickened) and let cool slightly for a couple minutes.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pastry shell. Chill for several hours. Serve with whipped cream, or I used Lite Cool Whip (since we had just finished our third batch of Slutty Brownies).

Monday, July 30, 2012

On Becoming a Homemaker - Homemade Jam

Now that I am feeling well, the nesting instinct from pregnancy is already starting to show its cute/exciting/stress-inducing face. I have found myself wanting to be crafty and creative, and I am needing to prove to myself that I am up to the task of becoming a mother. Lately I've been hearing a lot of people say things like, "My mom used to make the best homemade jam. I remember when she would..." Well, I want to be that mom. I want my kids to remember the good ole' days when Ma would slave over the stove making homemade jam, and said children are going to love my jam. For some inexplicable reason, I know I would feel like a failure if I did not complete the task this summer.

One of my favorite places to visit in Spokane is Greenbluff. This countryside haven is tucked away below Mt. Spokane, and has dozens of orchards that yield fresh, local produce throughout the year. I forced my mom to take a trip to the mountains with me, and we braved the Saturday morning crowds to find fresh strawberries for homemade jam. Be proud of me because I picked an entire flat of berries. And yes, my back was killing me at the end. And yes, I did demand that we stop at the Orchard House to eat ice cream and pie afterwards.

Another exciting step in the baby journey occurred this day. To my annoyance, Mom wanted to stop by some garage sales (she's a sucker for these) one our way home. As fate would have it, I found our crib at one of these sales for $35! And it wasn't even recalled. I wish I'd had the foresight to take before pictures because I definitely painted it, and it looks ah-mazing. Photos to come.

Back to my story. The first step in making jam is to decide what kind you are going to make. Naturally, you need to pick a fruit, but you also need to pick a recipe. There are two types of jam: traditional and freezer. The traditional recipes require a bit of an investment in equipment, and you need to be very careful to avoid germs and bacteria since the jar will be sitting on a shelf for months. With freezer jam you do not cook the berries, and the finished product is stored in the freezer after the jam has set for 24 hours. Per the advice of many, I went with freezer jam.

Freezer jam is the easiest to make, however, it is also more difficult to give as gifts - and gift giving is often the central reason one would make jam in the first place. It is difficult to ship a jar to begin with, and embarrassing to have someone unwrap a frozen gift, then after all that effort you would need the gift receiver to read attached instructions to keep the product frozen until use. Talk about a high maintenance gift. Due to these challenges, the jam is mainly used for Jeff and my personal use. However, we have gone through 3 jars already, and I have found you can store opened jars in the freezer without the fruit being too hard to spread for sandwiches. And I would not post about this jam adventure unless it made a delicious treat.

Basic ingredients for freezer jam include fruit, sugar, water, and pectin. I used a couple different kinds of pectin for my project, and can state with certainty that Sure-Jell was my favorite. The other brand tastes wonderful, but once I opened the package and read the instructions, I discovered two other essential ingredients that were not listed on the outside of the box. Naturally, my hormones sent me into a rant of frustration because this necessitated my third trip to the grocery store in the last 2 hours.

The whole process only took a couple hours (including the grocery store runs), AND I was even multitasking by making my third batch of Slutty Brownies. You heard me right - my third batch in the last 2.5 weeks. Some day I would like to attempt a traditional jam recipe, but for now I am happy with my delicious freezer jam.

Recipe: Gloria's Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberries and Strawberry Freezer Jam

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 cup flour (whole wheat works for the healthy cooker)
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Fresh blueberries 
For topping
  • Strawberry freezer jam
Beat egg; add remaining ingredients in order and stir until smooth. Add extra buttermilk or milk until desired consistency. Cook pancakes. Substitute strawberry freezer jam instead of syrup for topping. Enjoy!

Week 18

18 weeks already! This stage of the pregnancy was great because I was finally starting to feel like my normal self. When I say normal, this means despite the fact my feet are swollen and I am consuming food at the rate of a teenage boy, I am now able to comfortably walk long distances (3 miles) and have been going to the pool twice a week.

Now that morning sickness is gone, I realize that all those bubbles in my stomach are not indigestion. I'm already starting to feel the baby move! People describe the sensation as "fluttery." This seems like a pretty good description to me, but many people associate fluttering with morning sickness. It doesn't feel like morning sickness. I guess you could say it feels like you just ate a big meal, then a piece of food came alive in your stomach and started crawling around. It also feels similar to when you eat too much garlic.

I look a little awkward and angry (I was hungry!), but here is my 18 week bump.


How do I feel?
Hungry and completely energized. I can now understand why women love the second trimester

Weight gain?
12 lbs. Now that I am able to get up and move around, I actually lost a little bit of weight.

Food cravings?
I'm going to break something if I don't eat a cheeseburger soon.

Food aversions?
Not really. We went out to Thai food with a friend, and I was worried I wouldn't be able to handle the spices. But it was amazing. Pineapple curry you have saved my life...I guess pineapple is still one of my cravings too.

Sleeping great, still with crazy dreams. Said dreams are not all G-rated.



What have I learned?
Now that we know the gender, all sorts of name suggestions are coming in. When we tell people our ideas, many polite smiles or pursed lips are the result. Our friends decided to keep their baby's name a secret until he was born, and I'm kind of wishing we had done the same. We chose the names we did because they have special meaning to us, not because we want to name him after your favorite celebrity.

Friday, July 20, 2012


After our 16 week appointment, Jeff and I made our way back south to the Oregon Coast. We had a fun-filled weekend planned with friends from Seattle, and I could not wait to eat some maple bars from the Cannon Beach Bakery.

There was one activity we had planned that made me quake with fear: a 10.2 mile hike our friends wanted to take. Having felt terrible for the last 16 weeks, I went into the activity thinking, "If I get tired I'll just turn around." The journey got off to a rough start. We crossed a foot bridge over a small river at about a half mile in, which for some reason gave me intense vertigo for the next 30 minutes. I found myself climbing up tree roots and muddy rocks while combating severe dizziness. I thought I was going to lose it on the trail for sure. Eventually, the trail met up with the highway before it would begin a full-on mountain summit. Hitchhiking back to the car seemed like the most logical plan.

Instead of wimping out and immediately catching a ride back, I made the executive decision to sit down on the side of the road. The group was standing there watching me, wondering what the heck I was doing and whether or not I would pass out. Here's a fact: when your body starts producing massive amounts of progesterone in early pregnancy, fatigue pops its little head in for a visit - combine that with an expanding uterus pressing on your lungs, restricting your breath - and there you have a recipe for disaster. Sometimes I feel like I've run a marathon after doing something as simple as taking the laundry downstairs. Now back to the scene where I was heaving on the shoulder of a highway.

Friend: "So...are you ready to go?"
Me: "Can you just give me five more minutes?"
Jeff: "Emily, you don't have to go on. I'll walk back to the car with you."
Friend [aside]: "Maybe we should just give her our keys. She can walk back to the car then drive home and take a nap."

My pride and determination got the better of me. I stood up and we continued our journey upwards. The group was incredibly understanding. We took rest breaks frequently, and Jeff made sure to stay behind and accompany me when our friends were moving at a faster pace ahead of us. Eventually, we all made it to the summit (I must have blacked out because I have no idea how I got there). I fell down on a rock and didn't/couldn't move for a good 30 minutes. Here is a picture of the spectacular view care of Mark:

Please observe that I am sitting on the ground...because I couldn't move. <3 the Oregon Coast!

I enjoyed the hike, and was glad I completed a task I thought would be impossible. However, I couldn't help but feel like a huge burden. My once perfectly capable body was holding back the group, and no one (except the loving Jeff) wanted to walk behind me because I was moving so slowly. On the way down our friends actually ran back to the car, an activity I would have happily participated in under normal circumstances. It made me feel sad, and a little abandoned, but I was not going to get too emotional about it. Rather than cry about my misfortunes like a psycho pregnant lady (I do this frequently), Jeff and I took advantage of our time together and enjoyed the sights, smells, and sounds of the coast in the dense forests of Oregon.

In conclusion, I ate four (4) maple bars that weekend.


How do I feel?
Still incredibly tired. I am still waiting for that "second trimester energy spurt" I keep hearing about.

Weight gain?
~13 lbs

Food cravings?
Maple bars this week! Basically anything that can be classified as comfort food (this has been the case for some weeks now). Cheese, pancakes, lemonade, lemon water, lemon sorbet, berries

Food aversions?
My friends put garlic, onions, and jalapenos in our food, and I was able to eat them!!! I even had an apple after hiking and didn't want to spit it out. Second trimester are you officially here?

Still extremely tired, and I'm still having those strange dreams. I have been plagued with growing pains this week, and find that my back hurts when I wake up in the morning. Sleeping surrounded by soft pillows seems to help.


We think it's a boy, but there's a 10% chance our doctor was wrong. We will know for sure at our 20 week ultrasound.

What have I learned?
The body is an amazing thing. It can grow a baby and climb a mountain at the same time. Don't get down on yourself when you are feeling terrible - the extra emotions are certainly not worth it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

16 Weeks

At about 16 weeks I hopped in the car and made the 6 hour drive to Portland. It was my sister-in-law's wedding shower, and I was excited to see family and get a much needed change in scenery. I don't know why I forgot that pregnancy resulted in my constant tiredness, but after about a half hour of driving it became quite clear I was going to need some caffeine.

Now there are a lot of opinions surrounding caffeine and alcohol intake during pregnancy. My doctor says a cup or two of coffee every day will not harm the baby, and a glass of wine at a wedding is perfectly okay. However, the judging eyes of people who know you are pregnant makes me wonder if CPS will soon be paying the Wirths a visit. The truth is I have had both caffeine and alcohol during my pregnancy. You can ask the barista for decaf, but you will inevitably end up with a shot of pure espresso every once in a while; these are the days when I am most productive. When my husband is drinking red wine from an $80 bottle, of course I'm going to take a couple sips. I ate almost an entire block of Brie cheese before I knew it was unacceptable, and I took a bite of sushi at 10 weeks (millions of pregnant Japanese women have sushi during pregnancy every year...and their kids are smarter than ours sooo...). Call me a bad mom, or just call me human. There is a long list of things you are not allowed to do when you are pregnant, and it's important not to beat yourself up when you slip. If we stressed out every time there was a piece of feta on a pizza, our babies would channel our psychotic fears and turn into uber type A people with anxiety issues. Don't worry folks. I will still order decaf coffee and tea, and I'm not going to order a Long Island Iced Tea (although I want to real bad). I can't make any promises on the soft cheeses though...

The trip to Portland was a success. And thank goodness I visited because this next update changed my world. Katie (my sis-in-law) and I were going out shopping like we usually do. I put on my J Brand skinny jeans, which I LOVE, and walked out of the bedroom thinking I was ready. Of course I was sporting the rubber band around the button, and it was a little more challenging to move my legs than normal, but these will stretch out eventually right? Katie looked at me, and stated with as much tact as she could muster through a laughing fit, "You look like you're wearing tights." There was no hiding it. My jeans no longer fit. Lucky for me she pulled out a large stack of designer jeans that were going in the Goodwill bin. Each of them buttoned around my belly, and would allow me room to grow. I almost started crying from excitement. So here I am in my new jeans. So proud! Although I wish I would have gotten a picture of me in my old pants because it was pretty comical.

16 weeks!

One more thing must be noted: P90X during pregnancy is not comfortable. As per usual, I let Jeff's dad pressure me into working out with him. I regretted it for about 5 days.

At 16 weeks it's possible to see your baby's gender. Parents usually find out around 20 weeks, but an OB friend suggested we ask our doctor to take a peak. He was willing AND...

That's right! We saw his man package in the ultrasound. Also, I bought a really cute blue cake to make the announcement to our friends. But then I ate it. However, these Slutty Brownies are worth mentioning. A layer of chocolate chip cookie dough on the bottom, a layer of Oreo cookies, then a layer of brownie mix. Attention pregnant women everywhere: you will need this recipe! Regular brownies will never taste the same again.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Famish and Fatigue

Weeks 13 and 14 were a busy time in our lives. Jeff's family was visiting from Portland to attend his graduation ceremony, and friends were visiting from Seattle to help us celebrate. To top it all off, I planned a graduation party at my dad's house and invited about 50 people...AGH! We all know what parties, company, and house guests mean: crazy preparation.  These two weeks were spent cooking, cleaning, and napping between chores. Although there was a lot to be done, I only wanted to lay on the couch and watch TV. It took a lot of effort to peal my lazy, expanding behind off the couch and complete the long list of necessary chores.

 I'm so proud of my little graduate!

For the party, I found a great recipe for springtime beverages on a local wedding blog. For anyone who loves lavender as much as I do, this is a great refreshment for any upcoming parties you have planned. I saved some lavender from my garden last year, and was happy I finally had a use for it. I imagine it would taste amazing with some vodka mixed in too...for non-pregnant parties.

Sparkling Lavender Lemon Tea:

Find the wedding/party sized recipe on this website.

This beverage is perfect for Sunday brunch, or just for having in the fridge during the hot summer months.


  • 4 lemons
  • 1 TBS dried or fresh lavender buds, crushed
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar or honey
  • 1 cup steeped lemon balm tea leaves, or I just used lemon flavored green tea which can be found at most grocery stores
  • 5-6 cups sparkling water (I used San Pellegrino)

1. Brew the tea in 1 cup water. Set aside.
2. Zest the lemons then juice.
3. In a medium sauce pan heat lemon juice, zest, crushed lavender buds, and agave nectar/honey over low heat. The house will smell AMAZING while you're doing this, so turn on the stove and do some laundry (or watch TV) while the mixture fills your home with a delicious scent.
4. Once the mixture starts to simmer, remove from heat and allow to cool.
5. In a large pitcher combine lemon and lavender mixture with the sparkling water and tea. I used a strainer to remove some of the lavender buds. There are a lot of people in my family who have issues with texture, so doing this was more family and kid friendly.
6. Serve over ice and enjoy!


It was right around this time when I received a lecture from a friend about the frustrations I was having with the changes in my body. It went something along these lines: "You are pregnant, so you are going to gain weight and things are going to change. It's normal, so you shouldn't complain or worry about it." Though she was right, I never really had any issues with my weight gain, and the changes I have faced will all be worth it when I have my little bundle of joy. My real issue: there was an alien growing in my stomach who was sucking the life and soul out of me, and to top it off I could not get any of my clothes to fit comfortably.

Being an active person who enjoys roofing strangers' houses, running marathons, hiking, and staying up late with friends, I found myself stripped of all activities that made me feel happy and fulfilled. Instead, I was sitting at home watching How I Met Your Mother and Anne of Green Gables - not because I'm a big TV watcher, but because my body wouldn't let me do anything else.

To top it off, every morning I'd wake up to get ready for work only to find that yet another article of clothing no longer fit. A hard part about the early transitions in pregnancy is that you can't go buy new clothes every time you expand another inch. Not only will you end up spending a lot of money, but you will only be able to wear the garment for a week or two. Although I've been lucky enough to avoid spending a lot on transition clothes, I have already spent close to $500.00 on new undergarments, wider shoes, cotton dresses, stretchy skirts, longer shirts, maternity tank tops, and BeBands. Of course I was going to be upset and stressed about not having any clothes that fit. Also, what woman doesn't freak when she suddenly gains 12 pounds?


How do I feel?
Please see above.

Weight gain?
12 lbs!

Food cravings?
HOT DOGS! Also, I'm a vegetarian. In addition cheese, berries, and pizza. And I'm still wanting to eat all the time.

Food aversions?
Garlic, onions, anything spicy.

What's with the crazy dreams?! I have some good material for novels now - lost love, pirates taking revenge - and I'm still somewhat uncertain if events I remember come from recent dreams or real life.

Only time will tell.

Here come the hormones...


What have I learned?
Here are some must-haves for early pregnancy when your body is going through that awkward transition stage:

 1. Cotton dresses and skirts - you can find cute dresses at Target or Nordstrom Rack for great prices. They will grow with your body, and can even hide your little bump if it's still a secret. My general rule with these is that if it's more than $30.00 it's not worth it. Places like REI are also great for finding stretchy, comfy skirts and dresses. They will be a little more pricey, but the material tends to be a higher quality than your general cotton dress.
2. BeBand - when I started gaining weight I knew something like this had to be invented for women like me. It's essentially a giant rubber band that can be used to push down on your unbuttoned jeans to make them look buttoned, or can be worn over your entire tummy to smooth you out. And it comes in white, nude, and black, so if it starts popping out from under your shirt, it just looks like an undershirt. The BeBand can be found at Target.
3. Hair ties - chances are you already have many of these in your possession. Hair ties in all shapes and sizes can be used to keep your pants from falling off when you can no longer button them. Use the small sizes for early pregnancy, then gradually move to the bigger ones.
4. Leggings - when your belly is cramping and all you want to wear is sweatpants, leggings are an answer to your prayers. I like to use the lululemon pants as leggings because they can be used for prenatal yoga classes, brisk walks, lounging around, and can also function as leggings under a long shirt or dress. The lululemon Will Pant has a waistband that can fold down for use during non-pregnant times, or worn up to smooth out your belly, serving as a BeBand of sorts.
5. Maternity tank tops - I bought four of these in early pregnancy, and have already got my money's worth. You can wear them as undershirts, alone as a cute top, or layer them for a fun look. I got the ribbed tank from Gap.com because they don't look like a maternity top at first glance, but will expand with your growing belly.
6. Wide shoes - I will be spending a large portion of my pregnancy in hot weather. It 's good to invest in a pair of sandals that have adjustable straps and plenty of room for swollen feet to expand. I bought these Steve Madden sandals from Nordstrom in the early spring, and get complements every time I wear them.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Early Days - 0 to 12 Weeks

I first knew I was pregnant when I took a group of college students to Knoxville for a service learning project. We were helping out a wonderful elderly woman who insisted we call her Granny West. We rebuilt the roof on her house because she had insane leakage problems - which is a big problem with the mid-western storms that frequently assault Tennessee - and painted her multicolored home a cheerful blue color. By the end of the trip, I could feel what I can only describe as a "burrowing" sensation in my lower abdomen. Also, those tampons I packed remained unopened. I passed on the complementary adult beverage offered on the airplane ride back to Spokane, and took a pregnancy test the minute I got home. It was positive. [Cue panic attack]

Jeff and I talked about having children, but never thought it would happen so soon. One factor I did not take into consideration was my regular visits to the acupuncturist. Not wanting to be on birth control any more, but also wanting to rid my body of the painful ovarian cysts that plagued me since high school, I had been seeing her once a month for 3 months. Though I was feeling much better, my past struggles lead us both to believe that it would be at least 6 months before I would get pregnant. And now here we are.

Many of our loved ones have been plagued with miscarriages. My sister had a terrible miscarriage a few months earlier, very nearly taking her life, and my brother and sister-in-law lost their first few pregnancies before finally giving birth to their beautiful little boy. And of course everyone has friends who have also been through the experience. It is a normal part of life, but is also devastating. Although we were both in shock that the pregnancy happened so soon, we were very excited to have another life join us and were worried about losing the baby. Every twinge, cramp, and spot was monitored, and I quickly memorized the number to my doctor's office...I still need to write that poor nurse a thank you letter. Once the first trimester was over, we felt more confident and posted our happy news on facebook. However, there is always fear that something will go wrong, and this stress still comes around again at times when it is least expected.

Anyone who knows me well and sees me on a regular basis knows three things: 1) I love coffee, 2) I love wine, 3) I run off all the food I consume (including copious amounts of cookies).

They say it can be up to 20 weeks before some women start to show, but for me I was showing immediately. At 4 weeks my pants were already tight, and I was brainstorming stealthy ways to wear sweats to work - thank you lululemon for making workout pants that also function as leggings. At 6 weeks my coworkers were gossiping amongst themselves saying, "Does Emily look a little pregnant these days?"

My body was definitely changing. I had to unbutton my jeans while sitting down. When I went out for a run, I was experiencing so much discomfort that I had to turn around and walk home after only a few blocks. My past eating schedule was a solid three meals, with a small snack in the mid-morning; but by 6 weeks I was consuming my entire lunch by ten in the morning...and I was starving again by lunchtime. It seemed that no matter how much food I packed, I could not be satiated and would need to make a Starbucks run for a bagel and a large hot chocolate. Also, if dinner wasn't ready the minute I got home, I went on a binge eating spree.

By 8 weeks my appetite was the only thing that kept morning sickness at bay. If I wasn't snacking, I had a terrible taste in my mouth...you know that taste you get right before you throw up. The solution: eat a pastry whenever I feel sick. Lucky for me, morning sickness also rid me of my love for coffee and wine, meaning I never had to go through withdrawals. The smell of these beverages was repulsive. It wasn't until shortly after 12 weeks when I started to feel normal again. Thanks to my recent love of pastries, I gained 10lbs in the first trimester (about twice as much as the "average" pregnancy), but I made it out alive.


How do I feel?
Like the only thing worth doing in life is sitting on the couch. And eating. I will eat my own arm if I don't have something to snack on at least once an hour. I wish I could run, but I don't have the energy, and when I try it feels terrible. This makes me feel like I am no longer in control of my body. I'm looking forward to the second trimester when I can exercise and feel normal again.

Weight gain?
10 big ones!

Food cravings?
Pastries...any kind of pastry, pancakes, eggs over easy (a big NO if you are pregnant, but I had to risk it!), lemonade, Dairy Queen Blizzards.

Food aversions?
Apples, garlic (sad face), sandwich bread (so weird right?), peanut butter, anything spicy or salty.

If I don't get at least 9 hours of sleep every night I am a mess. My bedtime quickly went from 10:30pm to 8:00pm. This drove Jeff insane when we were out with friends, but he knew that it was what I needed. During my lunch breaks I'd turn off the lights in my office and take a nap.

Twas a mystery! I really would like a girl, but something tells me it's a boy. My girlfriends all think it's a boy too.

What have I learned?
When you think something is wrong, DON'T GOOGLE. Cramps are completely normal in early pregnancy, and it makes sense because your uterus is expanding to make a comfortable, roomy environment for your little passenger. Some bleeding is also normal. I had spotting a couple times, and rather than having a panic attack, I called the doctor and was reassured it was normal.

Scared to death, but very excited.


Little baby's a-growing!

Friday, July 13, 2012

In the Beginning

A Brief Introduction - Love In Action

After 5 years of marriage, Jeff and I have finally decided to document the seasons of our lives. Though much has changed over the last few years (international travels, four years of graduate school, new jobs, buying a house, getting a puppy...and then getting a crazy cat), the craziest change yet is about to occur: we're having a baby! And I am in FULL nesting mode. From baking a pie every week to making earrings for my best girlfriends, all while frantically and intensely cleaning the house, I cannot be stopped! These crazy shenanigans must be documented and enjoyed by all who are interested.

Through all these changes, we could not have survived without labors of love. On this blog you will find fun and easy DIY projects, the affordable ways in which we have seen the world, and updates from our daily lives - and the pregnancy of course. Enjoy!

And here is a picture from our first moments of marriage (and believe me marriage is a labor of love in itself).

"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."

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