Friday, December 28, 2012

Wanderlust: A train ride through the Canadian Rockies

I had this beautiful post almost all written up about wanderlusting to Lake Moraine in Banff National Park - and then I came across a much, much cooler idea. Enough that I abandoned that post (fear not, it might resurface again if I have some writer's block) and started this one.

Once becoming the parents of the Pierogie, the idea of travel has sort of changed for us. We used to be the atv'ing, waterfall climbing, snowmobiling, rafting type of couple. No, not adventure junkies perse - but this kind of goes into the whole preface about how the hubs and I had to find a mutual understanding of how to spend our free time/money. So, he likes all things with motors, she likes all things nature - which led to the purchase of a couple atvs, that trip out to Colorado, and even a trip down to San Francisco.

But as parents some of these things just aren't really possible. Doesn't mean we won't ever be doing it again, but the law certainly does frown upon letting your child ride in your lap on an atv. Even if they are wearing a helmet (JUST KIDDING people, I would never do that!). So we've I've been thinking about how to accommodate the little miss and keep it fun for the entire family.

Starting with road trips. For one, Penny is pretty tolerant of the car seat to an extent. However, I don't see her being cool with it for a trip that takes several days to get there. And I personally don't want her to have to endure that. So that traditional all-American family road trip idea is on hold for a few years, but we definitely will be hitting the Grand Canyon before you know it.

Instead, I've been thinking about how to travel far distances in other ways. The Alaskan cruise was one idea - and my next idea that I have yet to present to the hubs is a train ride across the Canadian Rockies.

A simple google search for "train ride across Canadian Rockies" will turn up a plethora of train companies who have packages all set up for you based on your desired destination, travel time and budget. I'm not going to get into the nitty grittys of what those companies offer - because the idea behind my Wanderlust is to present pictures and ideas. As much as you would like for me to be, I'm not your reservations agent ;)

Come along as we embark on a pictorial journey of what it would be like to ride the train from Vancouver British Columbia to Banff National Park in Alberta.


The best part about the train? You get to sleep through the boring parts. When departing Vancouver, you leave in the evening and when you awake the next morning you're already in Jasper BC.

Jasper was originally a fur trading post and has since become a popular stop for those visiting Alberta.




The next stop is Banff National Park - home of gorgeous Lake Moraine and Lake Louise. You'll travel via the Icefield Parkway.. probably my most favorite part of the trip. Why? Because you get to ride on a bus that's taken some steroids and walk on a glacier!


I was born in Calgary and I know that my mom has pictures hidden away somewhere with us on one of these things..



And lucky you - getting to stay overnight at the hotel at Lake Louise! What a baller.

The next day you spend some time exploring Banff National Park. Depending on the time of year, you have the pick of the crop for hiking, canoeing, skiing, snowshoeing, helicopter tours.. and as always, don't feed the wildlife. From beavers to grizzly bears, it's like the Canadian Yellowstone.

 While you're there, take a dip in the world renouned hot springs..
Cave and Basin National Historic Site
Your final destination is in Calgary - my original hometown. Though to be honest I think the last time I was there I was less than 10 years old... So perhaps it's time for a revisit.

Have you ever taken a long train ride anywhere? 
What did you like or not like about the experience?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bavarian Soft Pretzels



Towards the end of my pregnancy, I started to crave soft pretzels reaaaally bad. A few years ago I spent Christmas in Bavaria (Southern Germany, essentially) and each morning I was treated to delicious, fresh baked pretzels.  Many of my pregnancy cravings were of foods that I hadn't had in a very long time, and so began the hunt for the perfect pretzel recipe.

This post was written back in May, but this past week I revisited and added some new pictures and made it a little easier to follow. 

You will need:
1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water (not hot because you may kill the yeast)
1 T sugar
2 t kosher salt
1 package of yeast - (2 1/4t if you have it in jar form)
4 1/2 cups of flour
1/4 stick of butter, melted
non stick spray
water for boiling (after rising / proofing)
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 T of water (or substitute with more melted butter)
Pretzel salt (I use kosher and I'm happy with it too)
Baking pans lined with parchment paper

Approximate preparation time: about 1 1/2 - 2 hours
*Preheat oven to 450° after proofing process

You will do:
I use a Kitchen Aid mixer for all of my baking, but this can be done by hand as well. The dough becomes too thick for a handheld mixer. For the Kitchen Aid I start out with the regular mixing attachment and then switch to the bread hook.

In your mixing bowl, mix the water, sugar and salt together. Sprinkle yeast on top, and allow to sit for about 10 minutes. It should be foamy and bubbly, because the yeast has a nice full tummy from that yummy sugar and salt you just fed it.

Add the melted butter and slowly incorporate the flour, one cup at a time. With the Kitchen Aid you'll have to switch to the bread hook after 2 cups of flour. Continue adding flour until the dough is no longer sticky and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Remove the dough, clean your bowl and spray with the non stick spray and put the dough back in the bowl.  Cover with a clean towel.

You'll now want to allow your dough to rise in a warm and dark space. My oven has a proof setting, meaning it will hold the temperature between 100° F  - 110° F. It only takes about 30 minutes to proof the dough in this manner, but putting your dough in a warm cabinet (the area under my sink is always warm because of our Insta-hot faucet) works just as well, it just might take a while longer.  The amount of time varies, but you'll want to let it rise until the dough has doubled in size. 

Once the rising process is done, begin boiling a large pot of water and start preheating your oven to 450° F. Take your dough out and begin kneading it on a clean, floured surface. You only need to do this for a minute or two, just long enough to get those large air pockets out. Cut it into 8 equal pieces, and begin to roll each one into a snake that is about 1 inch thick and 12 inches long. I vary this based on how big I want my pretzels to be, or how many I want.

Now, there is no easy way to explain how to twist the dough into the pretzel shape, so I'll let you figure that part out ;)

Bring them over to your stove. A baking sheet is handy :)

Once the water is boiling, slowly add the baking soda. Boil each pretzel for approximately 30 seconds.

Transfer to your baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with the egg yolk mixture or more melted butter. Sprinkle with pretzel / kosher salt if you wish.
Along with regular pretzels, we enjoy pretzel bites.
Bake in your preheated oven for about 12 minutes, until they are slightly brown. Remove from the oven, let cool and enjoy!  These do not last very long at our house!

If you do find yourself with any left over, the way I keep them *perfect* is freezing them in individual ziplock bags the same day.  Then you'll have the same pretzels that you buy from the frozen section. Just microwave for 30 seconds and you've got a great snack!

We love to dip them in honey mustard or softened butter (as the Germans do). Guten Appetit!


Monday, December 17, 2012

9 months

Hmmmm... I'm a little behind on this one.

Dear Penelope,

This month has been SO much fun. Your auntie once said that if she could keep a baby at the same age for ever, it would be 9 months. I whole heartedly agree. I can really see your feisty personality shine though - definitely something you picked up from both your daddy and I.

You like to...
  • walk with a walker
  • toss your head around and get yourself all dizzy
  • breathe onto the shower glass and laugh at the steam
  • constantly talk! You've picked up "lala," "burrrrr" 
  • crawl around with lightning speed! When you get out of my sight, we play "Where's Penny?" and you squeal until I find you.. Sort of a Marco-Polo game.
  • pet Romeo and Squirt - yes, you have learned not to pull on their fur so much anymore and they are becoming more tolerant of your presence. 
  • One big surprise this month: you LOVE pickles (you are such a Polish baby!). We couldn't pry them out of your hand even if we wanted to.  You also like puffs, apples, celery, bread with a little bit of jam, and you go crazy for pears, chicken and coconut water in your sippy. You also went through a phase where you liked yams, but now you're sort of ambivalent to many vegetables.
  • sleep on your tummy 
  • "motorboat" pretty much anything. That is how you give me kisses :)
  • experiment with your voice.. You learned about your echo the other day!
    video
This month we have been working on you learning "uh oh" and "up," and I think "up" is coming along much more quickly. You're not saying it, but when I ask if you want "up" you reach up and clearly want to be picked up.

We weighed you at the begining of November and you were just under 18 lbs.

You also caught your second cold. The worst passed through quickly, but that stuffy nose still sticks around. You took it like a champ and were pretty good natured about it, and there were lots of extra snuggles to be had. 

And you've developed a new nickname..

As always, we love you so much little Pennypot.
Love,
Mama and Daddy


Monday, December 10, 2012

Candy Day {anti-Black Friday}

This post is a little late in coming but I still love to share :)

Doesn't it seem like the holidays is where the most traditions are started?

My favorite way to bring in the holidays is Candy Day.

Until this year, Candy Day didn't really have a name. It was simply the day after Thanksgiving (aka, Black Friday) where my mother in law and two sister in laws got together and we made Christmas candy. This year was our third year.

Before last year, we just had the oldest grandchild to mind - Pammy. Then last year Pammy was accompanied by a new baby brother and cousin.. This year Penny jumped on board, along with another cousin who moved from Georgia. Things get a little crazy.

 
Clockwise from the top left: Uncle (Adam's twin bro) and biggest cousin keeping the littles out of mischief / Penny ergo'd up while I bake / Big kids showing off their architectural skills with the ginger bread house / Sampling along the way is a necessary evil
Some of our candy staples include:
  • Peppermint Bark
  • Tiger Butter
  • Fudge
  • Chocolate covered pretzels (my favorite!)
  • Peanut Brittle
  • Crockpot Apple Cider
  •  And a new recipe .. Salted Caramels!
 This was adapted from a recipe found at The Yummy Life. It's so easy because you make it in the microwave!

You will need:
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut in 8 pieces
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup (we used Karo)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • coarse sea salt
  • Your choice of toppings - such as chocolate to drizzle, nuts or sprinkles
  • A 2 quart microwave safe bowl 
  • A baking pan lined with parchment paper and cooking spray
You will do:
1. Combine the butter, both sugars, syrup, sweetened condensed milk, & vanilla in the microwave safe bowl. 
2. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, stir, microwave for another 2 minutes, stir, and microwave for another 2 minutes (for 6 minutes total).
3. Prepare your baking pan with parchment paper (or tin foil if you don't have any) while microwaving. Lightly spray with cooking oil.
4. After the 6 minutes, carefully take the bowl out of the microwave and stir again, so that everything is well mixed.
5. Pour the caramel into your prepared cooling dish and sprinkle with sea salt (or your choice of toppings). You can put it in the fridge for about an hour, or if you have the patience (and I applaud you if you do), just let it sit out and cool.
6. Once completely cool, remove the caramel in one whole piece from the parchment paper. Cut into whatever sized pieces you want!

Voila! So delicious, I promise it won't stick around for long.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wanderlust: Alaska

I'm excited to kick off a series about travel, which was inspired by this post,

I have a serious travel bug. When it comes to how I would like to spend my discretionary income I will always push towards a trip somewhere. This was somewhat of a problem when Adam and I were first married, because his idea of spending discretionary income almost always goes towards cars, or something car related. Then we found a perfect compromise.. a way to combine our two passions. Our first combined interest trip was to Colorado Springs for the world famous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, which is a 12.42 mile race up Pikes Peak that starts at 9,390 feet elevation and finishes at the 14,110 foot summit.  Spent part of the weekend exploring the area and finished off with the race. Even for someone who is not a car or race enthusiast, this was fun.  His desire to experience a world famous race also satisfied my desire to see new places. Truth be told, since that trip he has become a lot more interested in seeing the world, and I've become a little more open to spending time along side of the race track ;)  But that story is for another time.

Today I want to share with you my first wanderlust. Alaska. I know, not incredibly original but I've had the strong wish to visit there since probably the second grade, when we had a lesson on Arctic animals. The light turned on for me this year as I was decorating for Christmas, and re-discovered this elegant aluminum reindeer I picked up a few years ago.

 I love cold weather animals. They seriously intrigue me with their drastic change in color from spring to winter, their hardiness in surviving some of the most dangerous temperatures in the world. 


And I won't lie, I want to pet a moose's nose one day. I'd lure him in with a cookie.
But what really draws me in is the landscape.
 
And of course, the aurora borealis (Northern Lights).

The famous Iditarod dog sled race. 
 Riding the train.

Now, if you are the adventurous type.. this is really cool. Ice caves.


It looks fake. Surreal. Photoshopped.

Nope, it's real. Taken Wachusett Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park.


A few months ago, the hubs and I were talking about our upcoming five year anniversary (ok, so it's a year and a half away.. but this mama loves to plan!) and I have made the special request of taking an Alaskan cruise or just head up there on our own. We had a so-so experience with our last cruise as far as getting to see what we wanted to, so I'd be totally up for some real exploring.

In college I *almost* got to make it to Alaska to be one of those tour guides for cruise passengers. I was in the final rounds of interviews when they laid the bomb on me: I'd have to miss the last half of spring quarter and likely the first half of fall quarter. I wonder why they were interviewing at a college that runs on a quarterly, not semester, schedule. In retrospect, I really am not sure which choice was the right one.. But it definitely would have been a lot of fun.

Have you ever traveled to or lived in Alaska? What part of the state is your favorite?
 Is the tourist experience totally bogus or a safe way to get the best bang for your buck?


Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas is coming...Smiling Tree Toys {Giveaway}

Lately I've been on the search for the perfect ornament for Penny's first Christmas. My mom started the tradition of getting each of us kids a special ornament for the tree, and the year Adam and I got married she passed on all of my ornaments for my own tree.  This year, I get to start this tradition for Penelope!
Baby Bianca's first Christmas ornament
One of the main things I looked for when choosing Penelope's first ornament was quality. I want this ornament to last a long time, something that I dream to pass down when she gets married as well. It'll need to withstand tipping trees or over-eager helping little fingers. I also wanted it to be eco-friendly and unique.









So least to say, when I came across Smiling Tree Toys I knew my wishes had been answered! When this darling elephant ornament arrived in the mail, I gave a huge sigh of relief - this little pachyderm will last through the years.. my own poor pink elephant has definitely seen better days.  But then again, this will be her 26th Christmas so we've got to give her credit for lasting this long!

Now Baby P gets her own elephant ornament!
This ornament is so beautifully crafted. It's not super heavy (so it won't weigh down a branch), but not super thin either. It's sanded down to silky smoothness so I don't have to worry about stray splinters. The engraving is clear and has a year stamp on the back too - not like I'd forget, but hey - maybe Penny's granddaughter will inherit it! "Hey Grammy P, what year were you born? 2012? Holy cow that is ANCIENT!"


One of my favorite things in working with family owned companies is learning their very distinct stories. Doesn't it make it just that much more special to know that the things you own have a face behind them? 

Justin and Kathleen's commitment to literally making the world a better place, one toy at a time, by donating to various Peace Corps worldwide youth development projects is so inspiring! I love that I don't have to worry about if Penny's ornament eventually does make it to her mouth that it won't be met with chemicals and plastics, but instead ingredients straight from Mother Nature.

So this holiday season, why not gift a handmade ornament or toy from Smiling Tree Toys? Check out their store for a great variety of toys from teethers, rattles, blocks, wheeled cars to puzzles..they even have a little wooden camera for your aspiring photog!
And now for the fun part.. Smiling Tree Toys has agreed to giveaway one personalized ornament for The Pierogie Mama readers! This giveaway is open worldwide, and one winner will be notified by December 14th, 2012.

This giveaway is over - thanks to all for entering! 
Keep an eye out for more Pierogie Mama Giveaways.



Disclaimer: 
I received the beautiful elephant ornament pictured above for review. 
All opinions are my own.

Monday, November 26, 2012

All I want for Christmas... I already got!



You can go ahead and bypass my stocking, Santa - I've already gotten what I asked for this year! Isn't that convenient?

Our living situation over the last year was a little outside of the norm. Living with my parents while our house sold has definitely been a huge blessing - it was a TON of help during Penny's first couple months and I know that the grandparents have appreciated getting to see every day for most of her first year. And now the fun can step up a notch! My biggest hope for this holiday season was for us to be settled into our new home - and although it is not ours on paper, I'm still so thankful for the rental situation.

There's nothing like getting to decorate your home for the first time, and I think it's even more special this time around because it is right in time for the holidays :) I also get to do it all again when the Christmas decorations come down and get settle into our "every day" style. And if my heart isn't content then, I will get to think of fun decorations for Penny's first birthday in March! Hold up- I am getting waaaaay ahead of myself.. I am not ready for my little girl to turn one yet.

But since I've technically gotten my Christmas wish.. can I sneak in another one, Santa? Just a small one. Come close so I can whisper in your ear -

Gerard Butler.

I hope my husband doesn't read this post ;)  But then again, maybe I do?

There's a new Gerard Butler movie coming out this holiday season- Playing for Keeps. I'm pretty interested because not only does it feature my heart throb but it also has other big movie stars like Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dennis Quaid and Jessica Biel (now Timberlake).


That isn't too much to ask for, is it? Go ahead and find a way to wrap Gerard up for me, Santa baby. What are you wishing for this holiday season? Spending more time with your family? Spending less time with your family? ;) A new bag, a date to the movies?
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective
and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Teef

It's a little late coming, but it's sort of hard to try to photograph and/or video inside an infant's mouth without her pulling the lens into her mouth ;)

About a month ago, I was letting Penny try some of my homemade applesauce from my finger and felt something in her mouth that I hadn't felt before.. something sharp! Whaaat? I quickly checked again, because I initially thought it might be some toast crumbs from my snack a few moments before. Lo and behold, there really were some little teeth buds just broken through.

The discovery was immediately followed by some mama snuggles and the inauguration of her new terry teether.


The weird thing was that there wasn't any indication that she was teething - she wasn't fussy or drooly over the last few weeks. I guess I'll be giving that amber necklace she's been wearing a lot more credit...
video


Since the eruption of these two bottom teeth, there hasn't been any indication of more teeth coming through. But I'll definitely be more prepared this time around!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Moving!

So if you've been reading along for the last 9ish months or so, you've probably heard me mention that we've been living in limbo somewhat. To bring you up to speed, about a year ago Adam accepted a position which relocated us 3 hours north of where we owned our home that we had been renovating. He started at that job, while I stayed down south and finished working at my job until I went on maternity leave. In February, while our house was put on the market, we made the semi-permanent move north with my parents (the hubs *hates* it when I say "we live with my parents" but is there a different way to put it? not really.). This put our new home base about 1 1/2 hours south of where Adam works.

Then, in September OUR HOUSE SOLD and very soon after we had our offer in on a house that is much closer to his work. It listed as a foreclosure and was outside of our price range but it had been on the market for about a year and hadn't had any offers. So we suuuuuuuper lowballed it with little expectation to be taken seriously. But, we were and after a few counter offers we agreed upon a price. We learned that we were negotiating with a bankruptcy trustee who was in charge of the estate.  We were even given a closing date. We prepared to move into our new home and then were hit out of left field. The house was not a foreclosure - but a short sale. The price we negotiated with the trustee was not the final say and that the bank hadn't even seen the offer yet. That closing date we were given - completely fabricated. At least it feels that way. There isn't any other way to explain it. Somewhere, someone (likely the listing agent) dropped the ball. Who lists a house as a foreclosure and allows an offer to go through as such and then 2 weeks before the closing date have something like this fall through the cracks?

We were told that the new plan is to wait til November 30th, where our offer will be brought to bankruptcy court for the bank to see our offer. Then we were told that it could be another 120 days until we hear a final decision. Frustration does not even begin to explain it.  (2 second rant: WHY oh WHY can't there be like 10 routes for buying/selling homes? Why does each and every transaction have to be unique??)

Then we got the bright idea to see if the bank would be willing to rent us the property - after all, the house had been vacant for a long time and our personal interest in moving in (beyond having our own space) was that winter is coming - and the heat had been turned off long ago. Because we are under contract to purchase this home, it is in our best interest to keep that house safe during the winter.

So we proposed the idea and were quickly hooked up with the property manager who works for the bank and we negotiated a rental agreement and guess what? WE MOVED IN YESTERDAY!

Oh man. Words cannot explain how great it was! What made it even better was that typically Adam and I have very bad luck when having to deal with contracted work (such as our kitchen designer, title companies - on 3 counts - sellers/buyers, etc) but this time - everything went so smoothly. The movers were professional, polite and careful with our stuff, we got the water and electrical back up and running as it should. The house warmed up quickly and after cleaning up the floors, we let Penelope crawl around and explore her new home, while Adam and I basked in gratitude and accomplishment.

Penny and Daddy walking the property
This move was very last minute (like - less than 12 hours notice) so there was quite a bit that we left behind at my parents' (namely, the dogs!). I'll be here through the end of the week, finalizing our packing and we'll all be back up at the house this weekend. BIG SIGH of happiness. I even found my Christmas decorations - I'm totally putting them out before Thanksgiving.

It's a really weird position to be in, to rent one's home prior to owning it. Basically we've been told to expect sometime in early Spring for a closing date. It's even stranger because we're big DIY'ers - we renovate for fun. However, we won't be touching this house until it is ours.

And so there you have it. A little over a year and we're back to "normal life," as I call it. I'll be posting pictures soon... blogging will be somewhat intermittent because we don't have internet at the house yet, and apparently it is rural enough that Comcast/Century Link etc don't service out there (??? but it's really not THAT rural!).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sour Cream Pumpkin Bread

Sour cream. One of my favorite condiments. And now, one of my favorite ingredients to bake with.

You've seen my post on sour cream banana bread. This is a rendition of that recipe, only with pumpkin instead of banana. So festive, right?

A few weeks ago we took a visit to the local pumpkin patch, where we picked our our family pumpkin and I also snagged a yummy sugar pie pumpkin.

Did you know that the canned pumpkin that you buy is actually winter squash? That's why when you taste something cooked or baked with actual pumpkin, it tastes so different (and better!).  But, be warned, the carving type of pumpkin does not taste the same as the type of pumpkin you'd use for baking or cooking. You'd want a sugar pie pumpkin for that. The reason for that is because carving pumpkins have been cultivated to grow large quickly, and they really don't have very good flavor to them. But sugar pie pumpkins are soooooo delicious!

Now that I've really piqued your interest, you might be wondering how to prepare said pumpkin. Super easy.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Cut pumpkin in half (horizontally)
  • Scoop out the guts and seeds (save the seeds to roast them!)
  • Place halves face down on a tin foil lined pan
  • Bake for 30 minutes to an hour. The reason for the variation is that the thickness of the walls can vary. My first pumpkin this year only took about 30 minutes, but my second was much thicker and was almost the full hour. You will know when it is done by after 30 minutes, take it out quickly and flip one half over - stick a fork into the flesh and see if it is soft (like mashed potatoes). If it is hard at all, turn it back over and return to the oven for at least another 15 minutes.
  • When it's done, remove the pumpkin from the oven and turn the halves over and cover with a dish towel and allow to cool off. Putting the dish towel over the pumpkins will allow them to cook off but not overly dry out because of the steam escaping.
  • After the halves have cooled, take a spoon or ice cream scoop and start scooping out the flesh. It should be very easy. You can either store it in a tupperware as is (with a little bit of chunk to it), or you can puree it immediately and then store in a tupperware. It should last in the fridge for about 2 weeks.
  • One sugar pie pumpkin will produce around 4 cups of pumpkin puree.
 Ok, so on to that awesome pumpkin bread recipe.

You will need:
non-stick cooking spray
1/4 c of sugar with 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 c softened butter (or 1/2 c Tropical Traditions Extra Virgin Organic Coconut Oil)
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 c of home made pumpkin puree (see above)
2 c sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 c flour
*Optional: 1/4 c candied pecans

You will do:
1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
2. Spray 2 bread pans with your non stick spray.
3. In a small bowl mix the 1/4 cup of sugar with the 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon. Dust onto the greased pans.

4. In a larger bowl, cream butter and remaining sugar together. Add eggs, pumpkin, sour cream, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Blend until well mixed.
5. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Slowly incorporate into the pumpkin mixture.
6. Divide batter between your pans.
7. Top with candied pecans.
8. Bake for about an hour (but check at 45 minutes), or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

I promise, just like the original sour cream banana bread recipe, this sweet bread won't last long in your house.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. 


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

8 (eight, osiem, ocho, huit) months

Penny-pot:

Sweet girl, you've got mama and daddy running around in circles after you this month. You've pulled so many new tricks out of your hat. You continue to be such a joy to us, you always make your needs known and there is so little guesswork when it comes to you.

Penny's new skills this month:
  • Food: because two of the weeks this month we were battling some sickies, there hasn't been a whole lot of new foods introduced. She loves steamed pumpkin and asparagus. She's tried a bit of home made jam, cucumbers, bananas (still not a huge fan), she's played with a spaghetti noodle but didn't quite connect that it could be eaten as well.
  • She started with scooting, then graduated to a few crawl-steps at a time, and now we're in full on crawl-sprint. She's even faster when uninhibited by clothes.
  • She pulls herself up onto everything - she insists on being Queen of the Mountain. No matter how tall or short, she's got to be on top of it. I tested just putting a piece of paper on the floor and no surprise, Penny bee-lined to it and had to land that cute belly on top of it.
  • In the last few days she's even shocked us when she simply chooses to let go.. luckily, that big fluffy butt of hers pads her fall ;)
  •  She now loves to crawl around in the bath tub and splash with her hands. 
  • In the middle of the month, her bottom two teeth broke though. I was so shocked because she didn't give us any indication that they were coming. She wasn't fussy or overly drooly. One afternoon, I let her taste some of our home made spiced pear jam from my finger and I felt something sharp.. I checked again and there were definitely some little white caps in there! It took about another two weeks for them to be visible above the gum line.
  • Her sleep has varied a lot this month. In retrospect, I should have guessed that her teeth were bothering her. Normally she likes to sleep between mama and daddy, but doesn't really need either of our warmth. The couple weeks leading up to her teeth breaking through, she needed to be snuggled up to me or sleeping on top of me (which hasn't been a requirement from her for a very long time - I usually pull her onto me in the early morning for my sake). Now that her teeth have broken through and we seem to be in a lull between the next set, she's back to needing a bit of her own space. 
  • You  might not see it in pictures, but her hair is starting to come in a lot more.. Maybe by her birthday I'll get to put it up with cute little hair clips?? Here's hoping...
We took her to a local park and found a swing set.. just couldn't resist! She had so much fun.

You might be noticing the super cute hat upon her noggin. Her crafty babcia whipped it up for her, it's a little giraffe hat. Just need to find the perfect buttons for its eyes.

I'm so especially excited for the coming months because the holidays are coming, which means getting to see the look of wonder in her eyes when she sees the Christmas tree lit for the first time, getting to try Thanksgiving turkey and getting to play with all of her cousins.


    Monday, November 5, 2012

    Barlean's Review and Giveaway!

    Some major growing up has been going on at The Pierogie Mama! Today I am hosting my very first review and giveaway. I get to talk to you about Barlean's Omega Swirl and Flax Oil - one of the ways that I make sure that I'm getting the proper amount of Omega 3's into my diet. Want to learn more about the importance of Omega 3's? Check out this truly adorable video!

    Barlean's was first recommended to me by my midwife, and I found their gel caps at my local Fred Meyer in the organic vitamin section. I tried these with hesitation - I had taken fish oil in the past and was seriously grossed out by the fishy smell coming from the bottle and from my pores later. With the Barlean's gel caps, I was so pleasantly surprised!  When you twist open the bottle, you're greeted with a citrus scent, which reminds me of squeezing lemon onto my fish chips! And I'm also sure you're dying to know - I never felt like I was sweating fish.  Even for someone who does have difficulty swallowing larger pills, these gel capsules are very easy to take. More recently I've gotten the chance to try the Omega Swirl (which comes in many flavors).  This is in liquid form so it's even easier for those of us who have difficulty with pills. Here's another cute video...
    When I squeezed the Omega Swirl onto a spoon for the first time, I found myself humming "just a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down..." And again, Barlean's has proved me wrong. The Key Lime flavor was actually yummy! Would you believe me if I told you that I look forward to taking this each and every morning? It's the truth!  When Penelope was born and in my bleary alertness in the first couple weeks, there were a few days that went by that I'd forget to take my supplements. One of her eyelids had a tendency for being dry and flakey, which I was treating with Aquafor several times per day. I soon found a correlation between whenever I was good about taking my fish oil supplement, the irritation went away. I talked to our pediatrician about it, and she agreed that taking fish oil daily would help with Penelope's skin as well. The other supplement that I've become more knowledged about since having Penelope is flax seed oil. Barlean's prides itself on having the freshest flax seed oil around, with a proprietary press that extracts the oil from the flax seeds without damaging the product. Their Flax Oil is also organic and non-GMO certified (this is important, folks!! Read more about why you need to know about GMO's here) Now, to be completely fair, I also tried the flax seed oil straight via tablespoon and I wouldn't liken the taste towards "yummy." It truly had a very fresh grain taste to it. The consistency is a little less viscous than olive oil but it looks very similar, and can be incorporated into many different recipes without anyone being the wiser, like salads, cookies or soups . I've mixed it in with my cereal, oatmeal and cream of wheat. For a list of recipes that you can use any of Barlean's organic oils with, check them out here. You might find yourself wondering, what is the difference between Fish oil and Flax Oil?
    • Both provide Omega-3 fatty acids that many of us do not have enough of in our diets. To get it the old fashioned way, one should eat oily fish (salmon and mackerel are good examples) several times per week, which is not feasible for many families. Getting your daily requirement of Omega-3's is so easy with Barlean's Omega Swirl or Flax Oil. 
    • According to the Barlean's website, Flax Oil and Fish Oil have the following mutual benefits: Heart Health, Cholesterol Levels Already Within a Healthy Range, Joint Mobility & Bone Density, Energy & Endurance, Blood Glucose Levels Already Within a Healthy Range and Skin, Hair & Nail Health. 
    • Flax Oil is a great way for vegetarians to get their Omega-3's.
    • Flax Oil is a natural lactogenic - meaning it can help increase your milk supply while breastfeeding.
    Ultimately, you'll find that both oils have many similarities but a few key points will help you choose which is best for you.  
    Big, Scary Disclaimer:  I am not a health professional! Please run any of your questions by your doctor!  
    Happy Disclaimer: Barlean's provided products for me to sample so that I could post my review to you, however all opinions expressed are my own. I promise you that I only give stellar reviews to products or services that I really love and think my readers will love too. 
     
    Bottom line:
    I love the Barlean's brand because while Penelope is still relying on me for her nutrition, it's of the utmost importance that I can incorporate organic, GMO-free, and simply healthy ingredients into my diet. Barlean's goes through a lot of trouble to get ingredients of the highest quality and my family deserves no less. Another (albeit small) point is that Barlean's is based out of little old Ferndale, WA - a stone's throw from my college town. I love supporting local whenever I can.  Now for the fun part! Barlean's sent me a bottle of the Omega Swirl and Flax Oil to try out - now you get a chance to try it out too! One lucky winner will have a choice of either the Omega Swirl or Flax Oil.  Check out the giveaway details and enter via the Rafflecopter window below! You can also sign up for a free sample and check out their store for more of their great products. Fine Print: This giveaway is open to US residents only. One winner will be notified within 48 hours of the end of the contest and will have one week to respond with their mailing address. Good luck!
    This giveaway is over - thanks to all for entering! 
    Keep an eye out for more Pierogie Mama Giveaways.

    Thursday, November 1, 2012

    Halloweenie

    Happy (late) Halloween everyone!-

    Here's Lil' P in her very first Halloween costume - an octopus. Her costume was super easy.. stuffed Baby Legs (another Seattle owned company!) and socks, a long sleeved onesie and a felt hat that I sewed for the occasion.  I originally was planning on making her a pierogie costume, but I eventually decided that no one would get it..so many another year ;) I already have next year's costume in the memory bank though.

    Halloween was pretty uneventful.. as in, really uneventful. We didn't have a single trick or treater..so Penny didn't even get to show off her costume to anyone! Thank goodness for picture texting and digital cameras because otherwise this entire event would have gone undocumented.


    Penny's costume is a simple long sleeved onesie, an octopus head felt hat with eyes glued on and a skirt of Babylegs. I attached the legs to a ribbon waistband and tied it around her cute tubby tummy.



    After all that playing around and dressing up,
    our princess was close to turning into a pumpkin
    so we called it a night.











    We also did a pumpkin photo shoot a few weeks ago.. My husband is beginning to wonder why I love taking pictures of our daughter naked.. and my response is that this is the very short period of time in her life where it is appropriate and cute :) I just love her chubby rolls!




    Tuesday, October 30, 2012

    A year ago (October 2011)

    Thinking back to what we were up to a year ago is sort of my way of always keeping life in perspective. And October of 2011 was a serious pivot point in our lives.

    For the first part of the month we took an 11 day "babymoon."  We hadn't really planned it in advance, but took advantage of our stockpile of airmiles and found a great deal on a Mediterranean cruise. We had enough airmiles to fly first class - to say it was amazing would be an understatement. I was in the beginning of my second trimester and sitting was becoming a little uncomfortable sometimes.  On Trans-Atlantic flights, the seats are set up to recline far enough to be a bed. Bliss for this then-pregnant mama. We flew to Barcelona, hung out for a few days and then took a week long cruise along the Mediterranean down Italy's west coast. Our ports included Florence, Rome, Naples and Palma de Majorca. Our favorite by far was Naples, because we visited the archaeological site of Pompeii and took a drive down the absolutely gorgeous Amalfi coast to the town of Sorrento. I was 17 weeks pregnant and just crossed the bridge to where food tasted good again.. Just in time! You can read more about our trip here. Oh, and my favorite facebook status from the entire trip: "While waiting for the first leg of our flight, which is from Seattle to LA, I asked Adam if he thinks we'll get food in first class on such a short flight. He says "I don't know but I certainly expect an ice sculpture." Ahhh, the life.

    During our trip I felt Pierogie's kicks for the first time! They felt like soft little waves, similar to what you feel underwater at the pool.

    We found out that our little Pierogie is... a girl! I was so ecstatic! Our chinese gender chart pointed towards us having a boy, and of course I was going to be happy either way, but I wanted a little girl deep down in my heart. Our family was going through a bit of a baby boom and out of about 10 kids born, Penny was one of two girls.

    On Halloween Adam started his new job and moved 3 hours away from home. Our plan was for me to continue working at my job until I took maternity leave. It just didn't make sense to quit a good job half way through my pregnancy and try to find a new job in the Seattle area when ultimately I planned on being a stay at home mom. Adam alternated his weeks staying with different family members and drove home on weekends to be with the dogs and I, so that we could finish working on our house. It wasn't easy, but we both saw the long term benefits of going this route so we stuck it out.




    Friday, October 26, 2012

    Amber

    I've decided that Penelope is one of those chronic teethers. She had her first episodes of teething pain back in July (at four months old), but we knew that she was nowhere near pushing those chompers out.  At almost 8 months old, she has finally sprouted her first pearlies (post to come soon!). A few months ago, my parents visited our family in Poland and the main item I asked for them to bring back was a teething amber necklace for Penny.

    Although I have personally grown up with amber all around me, when I became a part of the Natural Parenting community I read about many parents using amber during a baby's teething phase to help ease the pain naturally. I began to wonder how does a stone help with that?

    Well for starters, amber is petrified resin, not a stone. It warms to the touch fairly quickly and is comfortable to wear for babies, which might be a part of the reason why they don't mind wearing it so much. Amber has been used as a medicinal property for as long as history has been recorded. Peoples from around the world have used amber in various ways, all to cure ailments of the body.

    I personally have grown up around amber because of my Polish heritage. Baltic amber is lauded to be the best in the world and the Poles use a lot of amber in their jewelry and art. My mother's house has several gorgeous vases which present Polish amber wrapped in curvaceous silver. Her jewelry chest also features amber of varying colors and designs, from the common knotted rope to large stones in broaches (yes, she has broaches) and rings.


    Amber presents itself in different colors based on several factors, including what kind of resin it is made from, degree of oxidation, inclusions inside and how it has weathered over the few million years. Different shades of amber depict their healing power and therefore quality. If you're not looking to use amber medicinally, then you've got a broad range of amber colors to choose from - ranging from yellow to sage green, to even black. Most commonly it is light or dark brown in color, clear to fully opaque. It can have flecks of organic material (read: fossils!) inside.

    Part of the amber color range -  source
    One of my favorite birthday gifts from Adam is a little necklace with a droplet of honey amber, which looks like milky honey. It has a little honey bee and flower charm. My niece, Pammy, who is five, once asked me "Auntie B, why is there a bee on your necklace?" She's so damn cute.

    Although there are several hundred different variations of amber cataloged in the world, Baltic amber is considered to be the most valuable.  Baltic amber is sought after the most for medicinal use due to its high concentration of succinic acid. Our bodies naturally produce succinic acid in the Krebs Cycle (I'm not even going to pretend to completely understand how the Krebs Cycle works, or attempt to explain it - read about it here.) which is a part of our metabolism. However, the little bit of succinic acid that we produce is automatically used for daily function. Adding a little bit of extra succinic acid into our systems has been linked to many health benefits, such as pain relief. The FDA has approved succinic acid in foods as an additive or supplement, preservatives, cosmetics, you name it. However, second to producing succinic acid ourselves, absorbing it via amber is the most natural way to get additional succinic acid.

    Like I mentioned before, Penny had a few unhappy episodes prior to wearing the necklace full time.  Overall she is a happy and very easy going baby, so when she cries or fusses I know that there is something really bothering her. With the amber necklace, she has shown almost no signs of discomfort related to teething.  Adam and I were sort of reserved about it, figured "hey, if it works it works!" But lately, now that Penny is in full teething mode - I am a 100% believer.  There have been two times where at the end of the day, I look back and think "wow, she was really fussy today.." and realize that her amber necklace wasn't put on after bath time the night before. I really can't say that it's coincidence.

    What do you think, does wearing amber really make teething better? 
    Does/did your baby wear amber?

    ShareThis

    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...