The Friday Five: Spring Favorites

It’s been a looooong time since I have done one of these posts. But, I’ve been doing some shopping lately to get myself ready for Spring and thought I would share some of the things I’m loving lately, in case you are doing the same!

Ankle length pants

Being short poses a whole array of problems. I have to spend a small fortune getting pants hemmed so that they don’t drag along the ground; Capri pants are an awkward length for me and end up making me look even shorter. Thankfully, ankle length pants are a thing this season. My favorite styles right now are the slim cropped variety at the Gap and the Pixie pant from Old Navy (PSA: Both stores have sales going this weekend, if you are in the market for these pants and other Spring wardrobe staples). Both are super comfortable, with just the right amount of stretch, and can be dressed up or down, depending on the occasion. I predict that these will be in regular rotation for me this season, either with a tailored jacket and blouse for work or down with a t-shirt and cardigan for the weekends.

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The Pixie Skinny Ankle Pant, Old Navy

Slim cropped pants - motorcross khaki

Slim Cropped Pants, Gap

Pointed Toe Flats

I love a good four inch heel, but now that I’m frequently carrying fifteen pounds of baby around, they aren’t the most practical shoe choice. These flats pair perfectly with the pants mentioned above and give a more professional look for the office than a standard ballet flat.

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Speakup Flats, Nine West

All Things Nautical

Lately, navy blue is my new black and I can’t get enough stripes and anchors in my life. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

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Blue stripe sateen fit-and-flare dress, Gap

Anchors away earrings

                           Kate Spade Anchors’ Away Studs

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Striped Sunwashed 3/4 Sleeve Tee, Loft

Urban Decay Naked 3 Eye Shadow Palette

naked 3

I know that the Naked Palettes have been incredibly popular for awhile, but I finally decided to treat myself to one when Sephora had their Beauty Insider sale lately. The set includes 12 shadows, in shades of pink and brown. The colors are vibrant and I haven’t noticed any creasing or fading throughout the day.

Sugar Honey Lip Treatment

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My standard lip balms just were not cutting it during the winter-that-would-not end, so I splurged on a tube of this amazing stuff and have been wearing it every single day. It’s super-moisturizing, without being too heavy. It comes in a variety of colors, but I’m sticking with Honey because it’s the most perfect shade of nude.

What are you loving for spring so far?

Little B: Seven Months

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I know I sound like a broken record, but, seriously, how do the months fly by so fast?

Due to the winter that just wouldn’t end, B’s six month doctor’s appointment was pushed back. When we finally went last week, she weighed in at 16 pounds and was 25 inches long (Judging from how much my arms ache from hold her and the rate at which she is filling out her footie pajamas, I think she must be more than that). She was a real gem at the appointment, too. And, by that, I mean, she screamed her head off from the time the doctor entered the room until the time we wheeled her out of the office. I’m pretty sure that the med student who was shadowing our pediatrician immediately went to the registrar’s office at Penn to try to get a different residency assignment.

B is a budding foodie and continues to eat almost everything we put in front of her. She even seems to have had a change of heart about green beans, which she hated just a few weeks ago. New foods this month included carrots, peas, pears and squash. We are still doing purees twice a day, but she is definitely interested in feeding herself. So, we introduced a sippy cup and are going to start giving her some finger food over the next few weeks.

sippy cup

She continues to be very vocal, and is starting to put some sounds together. “Ma-ma” and “ba-ba” are in heavy rotation at the moment. It melts my heart when she says the former, even though I know she doesn’t associate it with me just yet. There’s nothing wrong with pretending, right? I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that her first word will be some variation on Tracy, as the dog continues to be her favorite source of entertainment.

So far, she has yet to crawl in the traditional manner, but prefers to do a funny little backward scoot on her belly or on her backside to get where she needs to go. She is super strong, particularly when she is angry. On occasion, she has been able to pull herself up to a standing position by tugging on our clothes and can stand pretty well on her own if she has something to balance on, like the coffee table. Maybe she’ll skip crawling altogether and go right to walking!

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Caught in mid-scoot

Unfortunately, the more she is able to move around, the less she tolerates being confined. Strapping her into the car seat, stroller or high chair, getting her to stay still for a diaper change or attempting to cuddle her (unless she is really, really tired) can be an epic battle. I’ve learned that there are a few songs that can calm her down when she gets worked up in these situations: The “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” (with hand motions), “Five in the Bed,” and the theme song to the show The New Girl (in which I replace “It’s Jess!” with “It’s B!”).

Sleep continues to be pretty awesome (I’m sure I’ve jinxed it now). Strangely, she prefers to sleep with her head in one of the corners of the crib (out of sight of the video camera, of course, so we can’t see her) with her hands behind her back. It’s hilarious to see, but I guess she is comfy because she pretty much sleeps straight through from 7:30/8 p.m. to 5/5:30 a.m. I try to leave her in her crib for as long as possible in the morning, but so far, she isn’t the kind of baby who will babble to herself for awhile and fall back to sleep. So, she hangs out with me because I don’t really enjoy listening to her cry in the crib first thing in the morning. She sits in her Bumbo while I get her bottles ready and eat breakfast in the kitchen and then we move to the exersaucer or the floor in the living room while I put my make-up on. She really isn’t a morning person, though, and mostly just whines and wants to be held which makes things a bit challenging (I’m hoping that it’s not obvious that I’m not entirely skilled at putting eye shadow on with one hand just yet). She has consolidated and become more consistent in her daytime sleep as well. On average, she takes two naps per day of 90 minutes to two hours each. This makes it easier to do things with her during the day, since we no longer have to live our lives around an every two hour nap schedule. More often than not, I join her for one or both naps on the weekend, and enjoy the extra sleep and snuggles.

I mentioned previously that B and I like to read together. We tend to stick to board books because she likes to pull on the pages. Regulars in our rotation lately include That’s Not My Snowman, Guess How Much I Love You?, Love is You and Me, and Bubbles, Bubbles. But, the one she gets most excited for lately is the The Three Little Pigs. We have a rhyming version, which features the wolf fantasizing about all of the pork dishes he could make out of the pigs. For example:

“Three little pigs left home one day. They packed their bags and went on their way. Mother Pig said goodbye, bye, bye. But, a wolf saw them and thought—Mmmm. Pork Pie.”

(It’s amazing that my memory for things that really matter is completely shot, but I can now recite many children’s books in full.)

When B is in a really good mood, we do a bit of audience participation, in which I’ll pause and she will say the “Mmmmm” part. It’s adorable.

In terms of toys, she pretty much likes anything that she can bang together to make noise. She likes to dump all of the blocks out of her shape sorter box and drop them back in again. She loves to topple the stacking rings off the peg and watch them roll around the floor. Sometimes she can even get one or two back on to the peg, with help. Lately, she has really taken a liking to the Poppin’ Park Elephant. She likes when the air from the trunk blows in her face. She can press the red button to start it off and likes to watch us chase the balls around the living room.

Our main challenges over the past several weeks have been stranger and separation anxiety. She really doesn’t like hanging out with people she doesn’t know well. And, she  can’t stand if I’m out of her sight for even a minute or two. I know it’s just a phase, but I can’t help but be embarrassed when she goes all demon-baby on the kindly, grandmother-types who try to say hello to her in Target, and frustrated when I can’t even leave her in her crib for two minutes while I go to the bathroom. Sometimes, it’s not good enough for her even to see that I’m in the same room with her—she wants me to hold her as much as possible. And, I of course, oblige because the sound of her crying is like nails on a chalkboard for me. If anyone has any strategies for dealing with this kind of behavior (in addition to the “wait it out” approach), I’m all ears!

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I left the room. This happened.

We can’t wait for all the fun that springtime will bring! B seems to love the breeze blowing through her hair, so we are looking forward to plenty of time outdoors in the coming weeks. Bring on month number eight!

What I Read: March

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Well, it took me more than a month, but I finally finished The Goldfinch! I haven’t read a book that held my attention the way that this one did in quite awhile (maybe since Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, which I read last year).

The story is told from the point of view of Theo Decker, who at the age of 13, survives a terrorist attack at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Unfortunately, the attack kills his mother. In the chaos and confusion that follows, he impulsively steals The Goldfinch, a small painting by Dutch painter Carel Fabritius, which was his mother’s favorite work of art.

The remainder of the novel traces the next fifteen years of Theo’s life and all of the upheaval that comes with it. He bounces from New York to Las Vegas and back again, struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction, sells fraudulent antiques, while obsessively protecting the painting and the memories of his mother that it evokes.

The characters, which seem to be modeled on the staple actors of a Dickens’ novel, are well-written and human. There’s the angelic, beautiful mother, taken too soon from the son who adores her; the absentee father, who resurfaces when he sees a chance to profit from a tragic situation; the rich, eccentric family who takes in the orphan; the charming, but troubled, teenager (Boris, a Russian immigrant who teaches Theo how to shoplift, drink and do drugs) who befriends said orphan and provides a dose of comic relief; the kind-hearted soul (Hobie, a furniture restorer) who eventually becomes a guardian and lifelong friend.

There were some sections of the book that could have benefitted from more careful editing. In particular, I thought that the last 50 pages, in which Theo waxes philosophical about what the whole ordeal meant to him, were overblown and a bit boring.  For the most part, though, Tartt’s writing was descriptive and packed with all the right emotions.  The passages in which Theo describes the carnage of the attack and his grief at the loss of his mother were heart-wrenching and I was on the edge of my seat during the climax of the book, which finds Theo and Boris in a bit of a dangerous situation in Amsterdam.

The story is moved forward by a series of events that often seem ridiculous, but somehow manage to put everyone in the right place, at the right time. At some points, I had to suspend my disbelief that all these seemingly random twists of fate could happen to one person. But, isn’t that the best kind of book to lose yourself in?

Now that I have finished with The Goldfinch, I want to check out Donna Tarrt’s other two books. I have heard that The Secret History is her best work, so I’ll be adding that to my to-read list for the next time I am in the mood to tackle a 700-pager.

Sponsored Post: UncommonGoods

I love buying gifts for the people in my life. Unfortunately, I’m saddled with people that are really hard to buy for. They either (a) already seem to have everything, (b) have a habit of just going out and buying the things that they want for themselves when Christmas or birthday time rolls around instead of making a list for me or (c) have been in my life for so long that I feel like I have gotten them everything I won’t mention any names. These people know who they are and how much they annoy me.

Fortunately, the Brooklyn-based company UncommonGoods has saved me from resorting to the impersonal gift card more than a few times. With creatively designed housewares, jewelry, art and gift items at affordable prices, there is truly something for everyone. Even better, in my opinion, is the company’s commitment to making a positive impact on the world by providing a platform to tell the stories of talented artists and designers, focusing on products that are environmentally friendly and supporting a variety of non-profit organizations.

Recently, UncommonGoods invited me to review a few items in a post. I basically wanted all of the things, but chose just two.

First up was the Cusipro Mini Ice Cream Sandwich Press. You might remember that I tried to make ice cream sandwiches from scratch a couple of years ago, and it was a hot mess. This handy gadget made the process a heck of a lot easier.

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The kit includes three molds

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Cut out a cookie for the base

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Scoop some ice cream into the mold

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Cut out another cookie for the top

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Pop the finished product out of the mold

It took a few tries for me to get the scooping technique down, but the press was pretty easy to use overall and the mini sandwiches were super cute. I kept it pretty simple, and used store-bought ice cream and Pillsbury cookie dough, but if you have more time, you could definitely be fancy and make your own sandwich fixings. These would be a fun dessert for a summer barbecue or kid’s birthday party.

Next was the Diana Camera, a plastic-bodied camera that uses 120 format film. It was first made in the 1960s at a small firm in Hong Kong, but failed in the market and was discontinued in the 1970s. This, of course boosted its status to collector’s item and it was re-issued several years ago.

diana camera

Because of its construction, light leaks, film advance issues and other problems are sometimes associated with the camera. But, these flaws lend themselves to a variety of artistic effects in photographs. Unlike a digital camera, where you can instantly see your photo on the screen, you don’t know what you are going to get until you get your film developed. This is all part of the fun–and frustration–I suppose.

I was disappointed that I only got one semi-decent photograph from the two rolls of film I shot. Although the guy at the photo lab seemed to think that maybe something was wrong with the camera itself, I’m thinking that there must have been some degree of user error at play, since I had never used this kind of camera before. I want to continue playing around with it, to see if I can improve my skills. Although I don’t think it will replace my digital camera for day-to-day projects, I could see using it for a more artistic project (like some cool food photos for the blog!).

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This is Rittenhouse Square. Seriously.

In spite of the fact that winter seems to be hanging on until the very end, spring, and all of its holidays and special occasions are just around the corner. You are sure to find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list–and maybe even a few things for yourself–at UncommonGoods

Disclosure: I received the two items discussed in this post for free from UncommonGoods in exchange for writing a review. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own.

Little B: Six Months

 6_Months

It’s getting harder and harder to keep her still for these photo shoots!

So, I blinked, and all of a sudden Little B is six months old.

The past month has been one of the best so far. It is so much fun to watch her learn new things and notice different aspects of her personality developing.

Still, there are times when I feel so sad that she is moving full speed ahead to becoming her own little person. I secretly (well, not so secretly anymore, I guess) love that she’s been a bit clingy with me these days, because I know that there will come I time when all she wants to do is get the heck away from me.

I am doing the best I can to take in everything about her and remember all of the details from this time in our lives. But, seriously, can someone come up with a way to bottle this stuff up so that we can save it for later.

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Valentine’s Day Photo Shoot

Anyway, enough about me.  Let’s talk about the B. Or, Tigger, as I have taken to calling her, since she loves to bounce! We thought about buying her a jumperoo, but she is perfectly content to bounce her bottom around while sitting on laps or to jump up and down when we hold her under her arms and let her stand on the floor. Are you guys familiar with the Geico commercial, where the pig is listening to club music and thinks that the baseline sounds like “boots and pants?” Last week, we discovered that this refrain makes her particularly bouncy (if you watched that video, I wish you the best of luck in getting “boots and pants” out of your head).

We spend a lot of time playing on the floor lately, particularly since Little B is now able to sit upright for extended periods of time. She is rarely happy laying down these days, and she will reach for our hands to pull herself up if we lay her back. Her balance is pretty good, but we have had a few spills. No matter how many blankets or foam mats we put on the floor, she always seems to find that one bit of uncovered hardwood to topple onto (I’ve lost count as to how many times I have consulted Dr. Google about these kinds of incidents).

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Baths are one of her favorite things lately. So is soap.

B has always been pretty nosy, but lately she seems even more curious about what the people around her are doing. We spend a lot of time letting her watch us, while we provide a running commentary about what we are doing. From the mundane tasks, like getting her bottles ready in the morning, to the more fun activities, like learning how to put her stack rings on the peg, she always seems totally engaged. She’s starting to imitate the sounds we make at her and I think she may even be starting understand waving. We wave bye-bye to her when we leave for work every morning and she’ll lift up her hand, open and close her fingers, smile at us. I love to watch her learn new things and make connections about how things work.

As the months go by, more of her personality shines through. Generally, she is very sweet natured, but she definitely wants what she wants, when she wants it (who do you think she takes after?). She laughs easily, particularly at Tracy (the dog doesn’t even have to do anything. Just the sight of her alone is enough.), Chester’s goofy facial expressions and my high pitched voice and silly, made-up songs. She isn’t a fan of strangers at the moment, but continues to be very affectionate with us. It makes my day when I come home from work and stretches out her arms to let me know that she wants me to pick her up.

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Told you that she is a bit of a diva.

During the past month, we continued introducing solid foods. Of course, she is still at the stage where more of it ends up in her hair, on her face and hands, and splattered on the high chair tray, but we are getting a kick out of the crazy facial expressions that she makes when she tries something new. She was indifferent to the oatmeal, loved the bananas, apples and sweet potatoes acted like we were trying to murder her with green beans. So far, she is just eating one solid meal in the evening and we have been making all of the purees ourselves. I hope we can keep up with that when she starts eating more.

On the sleep front, our troubles seem to be lessening. I attribute this turn of events to the fact that I did the one thing that I said I would never do: I let her cry it out.

You might recall that I was trying to go the “no tears” route after we moved her to her crib at the end of December. But, after nearly two months, progress seemed to reach a standstill, mostly because the night-wakings were still pretty frequent and it was taking more and more time each night to get her back to sleep during them. I tried to be patient and kept telling myself she would sleep on her own “when she was ready,” but I could not stop envisioning all kinds of worst case scenarios, involving none of us sleeping through the night until she was a teenager.

I reached my breaking point after one rough night a couple of weeks ago. Chester and I had gone out for dinner, and she was particularly clingy with me when we got home. I had a heck of a time putting her down to sleep in her crib. Whenever I managed to sneak away, she was up again within 30 minutes. I gave up around 2 a.m. and just brought her into our room, thinking that the next night, when we would be back to our regular routine, would set her straight.

Well, the next night was even worse. After several trips upstairs within the space of an hour, I put her down in her crib and let her cry. For the next fifteen minutes, I went to check on her periodically until she fell asleep.

I would not have been comfortable letting her cry it out after we had just moved her to her crib around four months. But, as she approached six months, I knew that she knew how to self-soothe and that my going into her room in the middle of the night was just something we were both relying on out of habit. In spite of these rational thoughts, those 15 minutes felt like an eternity and I felt like the worst mother ever. But, I was encouraged by the fact that she ended up sleeping straight through to 5:30 a.m. The next two nights, she cried for about five minutes each. By the fourth night, she was out in less than five minutes. And, that’s pretty much the way it’s been ever since. There are still times when she wakes up in the middle of the night, but she can fall back to sleep on her own almost immediately. I know that there are probably still some sleep regressions ahead of us, but I think we are on the right track at this point, particularly because all of us have been sleeping a bit better these last few weeks.

The older Little B gets, the more I fall in love with her. The more she is able to do, the more I get excited for all the experiences that I want to share with her as she grows up. I can’t wait to see what the second half of the year has in store for us!

 

What I Read: February

I mostly use my Nook for reading these days, and I’ll regularly browse the Nook Store and add books that sound interesting to my wish list.  Then, I wait for them to go on sale. I know that one of the perks of an e-reader is the ability to instantly download a book that you just can’t wait to get your hands on, but some of the new releases cost $14.99 and up.  I don’t mind paying this amount—or more—for hard copy books. Maybe it’s because they just seem more permanent when they are taking up space on my bookshelf. I know there are probably licensing agreements and other fees that drive up the cost of e-books, but my personal threshold is $9.99 or below. So, I wait.

The Rosie Project was recommended to me a couple of months ago, so I snapped it up when it went on sale for $2.99 at the end of January.

rosie project

The protagonist of this first novel by Australian author Graeme Simsion is genetics professor Don Tillman. With his carefully scheduled life, dislike of physical contact with other human beings and lack of social skills, he clearly suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, although he seems to be the only one in his life who doesn’t realize it. When he decides that it’s finally time to settle down, he embarks on “The Wife Project” for which he develops a scientific, 16-page questionnaire designed to expedite the process by weeding out unsuitable partners and avoiding the dating disasters that have plagued him for most of his adult life.

Enter Rosie. She is the complete opposite of Don in every way possible (she’s free-spirited, chronically late and a vegetarian, for starters) and he immediately disqualifies her from the Wife Project. But, he does agree to use his professional expertise to help her track down the identity of her biological father and, in the process turns his life completely upside down.

The outcome was totally predictable, as you might guess from this plot summary, which has appeared before in countless books and movies. But, it is a very sweet story, with sharp dialogue and well-developed characters. You should put this one on your beach reads list for this year—if summer ever gets here, that is.

In my January post, I mentioned that I was going to jump on the bandwagon and read The Goldfinch (which, luckily, was also on sale for $7.50). If I had more time to read these days, it would be the kind of book I would devour in a weekend. I’m only around page 250 at this point, so hopefully, I’ll be able to report back next month. If you’ve read it, what did you think?

Restaurant Review: Amis

Amis

Chester and I have been trying to go out, sans Little B, once a month. We were excited that we were able to plan one of our date nights to coincide with a recent visit from Old Original Big Bridget and Bill (Obviously, I’m still working on a new nickname for my BFF. None of these seem to fit).

I sent Bridget a list of restaurants to choose from for our double date and she ranked Amis, as her first choice. I was pretty excited, because I have been dying for more of Marc Vetri’s signature handmade pasta ever since our visit to his namesake restaurant over the summer. Fortunately, Amis provides the opportunity to do so at a considerably more comfortable price point than Vetri.

Amis is Vetri’s take on a Roman trattoria. As such, the menu is relatively simple and the vibe is pretty casual. The interior of the restaurant, however, was more industrial than homey, with modern, wood and metal furnishings, an open kitchen and dim lighting. I loved the pink vases filled with daisies, that provided pops of color on each table.

While sipping our drinks and snacking on olive oil focaccia bread, we perused the menu to select a few small plates to share. Our server recommended one or two per person, but we erred on the smaller side to save room for pasta and dessert.

The arancini, served in a short rib ragu, was the universal favorite. The inside contained creamy aborrio rice and cheese and was fried to a crispy, but not greasy, golden brown.

The next two appetizers were simple, but solid. I would have eaten the avocado bruschetta with pecornio and pancetta with a spoon, but avoided embarrassing myself and my friends by spreading it on the accompanying toast like a normal person. The third dish, creamy buffalo mozzarella, with sweet persimmons and earthy chestnuts was an unexpected, but pleasant combination of flavors.

Our final dish, the sweetbreads, were a real “miss” for me. I know that many people can’t get past what they are (animal pancreas or thymus), but I have had them before and actually liked them. When they are prepared correctly, they have a mild flavor and soft interior. Unfortunately, Amis’ sweetbreads seemed tough and had a greasy aftertaste, as if they had sat in the frying pan for too long.

That’s okay, though, because it gave me more room to overdose on carbs.

My pappardelle pasta, with guanciale and parsnips, was reminiscent of a carbonara. The cured pig cheek has less salt, but more fat than, pancetta, which is traditionally used in the dish. The fat acted as a substitute for egg, in coating the pasta and lending a rich flavor to the dish.

Bridget chose the bucatini with almond pesto and jalapeno. The heat from the peppers, the creamy sauce and the crunchy almonds worked surprisingly well together. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything like it. Bill had one the evening’s specials–rotini with chicken. I didn’t try it, but it looked delicious.

Chester was torn between an entree and a pasta dish, so he asked the server if the cacio e pepe was available as a smaller pasta course. She ended up bringing us a complimentary, full portion of the dish so that we could all share it. It’s such a basic dish–just pasta, black pepper and pecorino cheese–but the key is getting the balance of the ingredients just right. Too much pepper overpowers the dish and too much cheesy makes it kind of gluey. Amis got it just right.

For those looking for something other than pasta, there is a short list of “secondi” or entree dishes, featuring seafood, steak, pork and lamb. Since he ended up with a smaller pasta portion, Chester also ordered the roasted lamb shoulder. Pan searing gave it a crispy exterior, but kept the inside tender. It was simply seasoned and very tasty.

How we had room for dessert after all that food, I’ll never know. But, I’m glad that we didn’t pass it up!

I chose the semifreddo sundae, which was another example of a seemingly random grouping of ingredients complementing each other perfectly. The semifreddo, with its buttery flavor and mousse-like texture, was topped with salted almonds, a sweet orange marmalade and a slightly bitter chocolate sauce, for an interesting combination of flavors and textures.

If I go back again though, I’m definitely copying Bridget and ordering the belgian waffle. The waffle itself was light and airy and topped with a generous helping of nutella, vanilla semifreddo and hazelnuts. I mean, really. You just can’t go wrong with that combination.

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Stolen from Bridget’s Instagram

Although we had an early reservation, the restaurant filled up rather quickly during our visit. I’m not sure if this is because our visit took place over Valentine’s Day weekend or if it’s always that way on a Saturday night. Either way, service was on point throughout our meal. Our server checked in with us frequently, but allowed us to take our time with each course.

Small plates range in price from $8 to $14, pastas from $14 to $16 and entrees from $20 to $26. I think this is in line with most restaurants in the neighborhood, but the nice thing about Amis is that dishes are sized pretty well for sharing, so that might be an option if you are budget conscious. You could easily make a meal out of a couple of small plates or a small plate and one of the pastas, too.

Portions were extremely generous and we all left completely satisfied. And, as always, it was wonderful to spend time with great friends, who don’t mind that we’ve turned into old people and like to eat at 5:15.

Little B: Five Months

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And, just like that, another month has gone by.

Since the weather here in Philly has been brutally cold and very snowy during the past several weeks, we’ve spent most of January indoors. I thought about bundling B up in her snowsuit so she could experience her first snowfall, but it has been so nasty that I can’t even stand being out there. I figure that we’ll save that fun for next year, when she actually knows what is going on. In the meantime, we have still managed to have a pretty eventful month.

At the beginning of the month, B had her four-month doctor’s appointment, where she weighed in at 14.1 pounds and measured 24 inches long. She has more than doubled her weight and grown about five inches since she was born.

I was pretty excited that we got the okay from the doctor to start introducing solid foods. She has seemed interested in food for awhile. If someone is eating something in front of her, she watches intently. And, if we let her smell food, she usually grabs for the spoon, licks her lips and drools.

We decided to start with avocado. I was particularly curious to see how she responded to it, since this was one of the few things that I could not get enough of during my pregnancy. Her reaction was priceless, as her facial expressions alternated between delighted and disgusted. Judging from the way she tried to grab the spoon and feed herself, I think she mostly enjoyed her first experience with real food. I’m hoping that we will have a little foodie on our hands.

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Sitting in her high chair for the first time

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“What are you guys doing to me?”

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“Hey, this is kind of tasty.”

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“On second thought. Maybe not…”

In less fun news, we dealt with her first cold. I learned that there really isn’t a whole lot you can do for a baby when they are a coughing, sneezing, feverish mess, except just keep them hydrated, suck the snot of their nose, and give them extra love. I was on a first name basis with the nurse at our pediatrician’s office by the end of the week, as I called every day with a new question or concern. Luckily, they were super nice about it and B was back to her old self by the end of the week. Although I’m not looking forward to the next time, at least I’ll have a better idea of what to do and what to expect when she gets sick again.

Sleep training continues to be a work in progress. About a week after moving her into her crib, we also decided to ditch the pacifier. She would spit it out throughout the night and cry until one of us put it back. Or, she would try to get it back herself by smashing her face into the mattress, which was not at all effective and just plain nerve-wracking for me. The first two or three nights were rough, but after that, she discovered that she sucking on her hand or her tongue provided the same calming effect as the pacifier. I’m kind of glad we got this over with early on, instead of waiting until later when it might have been more difficult to overcome the pacifier addiction.

This doesn’t mean that sleep has been smooth sailing. The only way she gets more than a half-hour in for naps continues to be if someone is holding her or she is dozing in her car seat. At this point, I don’t care if this is what it takes, as long as she naps. She seems to sleep so much better on the nights were she got a decent amount of rest during the day and she is so unpleasant to deal with when she is overtired.

Nights are still rough. After stories, songs and cuddles, she usually falls asleep pretty easily in her crib, but there are many nights where she wakes up every single hour (mostly because she rolls onto her back and startles herself). She seems to forget that the same techniques that help her fall asleep at the beginning of the night can also work at 3 or 4 a.m. I end up rocking her back to sleep, which can sometimes take 45 minutes to an hour, or just bringing her into our room. I know I’m probably setting up bad habits (for both of us) that will be hard to break down the line. But, sometimes I just need a couple of uninterrupted hours of sleep before I have to get ready to go to work. I’ve always been the type of person who needs a full eight hours of sleep to function properly. While I know that it’s going to get better the older B gets, the lack of consistent, quality sleep is the thing I’ve been struggling with the most lately.

When we aren’t fighting the Epic Sleep Battle, we have so much fun. B is so playful and sweet. Chester is particularly good at making goofy faces at her, which set off an endless stream of giggles. She doesn’t seem to find me as funny, but I can usually elicit a similar effect when I tickle her or blow raspberries on her belly.

I’m not sure if this is the age where it starts, but she seems particularly affectionate lately, too. She gives big, open-mouthed, slobbery kisses and when we hold her, she clings on tightly, like she is giving a hug. My favorite thing is when I lean over her and she grabs my face with her hands and makes one of her happy little coos. I like to think that maybe she’s saying that she loves me.

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We’ve been working on sitting upright. She can do it unsupported for about thirty seconds or so before she topples over. When she’s on her belly, she looks like she’s trying to bring her knees up underneath her so that she can crawl. Chester keeps saying that he can’t wait for her to be more mobile, but I’m not quite ready for all of the chaos that that will bring.

The toys she seems to enjoy the most at the moment are the Poppin’ Park Giraffe, VTech Learning Walker (although she can’t use it as a walker yet. She just likes pushing all of the buttons the Dance and Learn Puppy. The latter two tells the same four songs/stories over and over again, and each time her face lights up like it’s the first time she has heard them.

(Side note: I need to find toys that come with other tapes or something. Tapes? I know, I’m dating myself here. But, you know what I mean. Why aren’t more toys like Teddy Ruxpin? I’ve already memorized every single song and story in all of the toys we have and it’s driving me a wee bit insane. I can even hear that stuff in my head when the toys aren’t on).

Like many babies, she is surprisingly into things that aren’t really toys. The rustling sound of a potato chip bag never fails to fascinate her and she loves seems to love the sound that results when she scratches her nails on the sheet in her crib or the throw pillows on our couch.  Her favorite, non-toy source of entertainment seems to be her feet. She loves grabbing them and just in the last week or so has successfully been able to get her big toes in her mouth. It’s disgusting and adorable at the same time.

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I love baby feet. All other feet are gross.

Next month will be B’s half-birthday, which seems particularly momentous. It will be time to plan her first birthday party before I know it (and, believe me, I’ve been thinking about it. I have a theme picked out already!). She is just growing up way too fast!

What I Read: January

One of my new year’s resolutions was to read more and I set a goal of reading at least one book a month. This month, I actually got through two. I’m on a roll already!

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First up was Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy. I was so looking forward to catching up with Bridget after 15 years. In many ways, she is still the same—obsessing about men, weight and cigarettes and generally behaving in a completely awkward manner.  But, now Mark Darcy has died a tragic death (I don’t think I’m giving anything away when I say this. It’s been mentioned in all of the reviews I’ve read and in interviews I’ve seen with Helen Fielding) and she has two small children in tow as she navigates the dating scene and tries to establish her career as a screenwriter. She meets a much younger man via Twitter, and much of the novel focuses on her relationship with him.

Although there are some bits of humor scattered throughout the book, I was generally disappointed. For me, the best part of the series was the relationship between Bridget and Mark. Bridget by herself gets a bit tiresome.  The lengthy Twitter exchanges between Bridget and the boy were absurd and I found myself getting annoyed that she just could not pull herself together for her kids. The author spent way too much time with pointless plot points in the beginning of the story and then the ending felt completely rushed. I guess even she wanted to get away from Bridget.

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Next up was Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. I liked Mindy as Kelly Kapoor on The Office, but ever since starting to watch The Mindy Project I’ve really wanted to be her BFF. I like her brand of self-deprecating humor and could hear her voice in my head as she talked about her lack of athletic prowess as a child, how she got her start in comedy, what it was like to write for The Office, and her observations about the rights and responsibilities of a best friend. She is totally relatable (she goes on for a bit about how Mark Darcy makes her cry. Obviously, she would feel the same way as I do about the aforementioned Bridget Jones book). and the book is a quick, light and funny read. And, the chapters were short enough that I could at least make it through a couple in between baby naps.

I just downloaded The Goldfinch onto my Nook, and I’m hoping to start it over the weekend. I’ve never read any of Donna Tartt’s books before, but I have heard so many good things about this one and am looking forward to checking it out. This one might take me awhile, though, as it’s more than 700 pages!

What have you been reading lately?

Restaurant Review: Rosa Blanca

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Earlier this year, Jose Garces closed Chifa, and reopened it as Rosa Blanca, a Cuban diner. Although I was a fan of Chifa, I know that others thought that the Peruvian-Chinese concept was a bit off the wall. Rosa Blanca will appeal to those who prefer the more traditional Latin flavors and dishes that are characteristic of Garces’ other restaurants throughout the city.

Chester and I were eager to try the new spot, so we snagged a Friday night reservation during Restaurant Week. The place was already packed when we arrived, which made us feel a bit less lame about going out to dinner at 6 p.m.

The decor of the restaurant is quite eclectic. The front of the space has been redecorated in shades of bright pink, aqua, orange and silver, in the style of a 1950s diner. All of the classic accents are there–the lunch counter overlooking the grill, a take-out pastry case and a chalkboard menu. The rest of the restaurant has a more romantic feel, with the lower lighting and the dark wood that I remembered from the Chifa days. The booths on the first floor are large enough to fit groups of 6 to 8 people, but the downstairs dining room, where we were seated, was a bit more intimate. It had its own bar and a half-dozen tables for two.

With extensive menu of Cuban comfort foods, Rosa Blanca is nearly a 24 hour operation, as it opens for breakfast at 8 a.m. and doesn’t close until midnight. I was glad to see that the Restaurant Week menu featured so many of the dishes that are on the regular dinner menu. There is an lengthy beverage list, with more than 70 wines, rums, cocktails and soft drinks. My first mojito in a very long time did not disappoint.

Due to a food runner’s mistake, we actually got extra appetizers with our meal. He dropped off a bowl of guacamole and an empanada that we didn’t order and when we checked with our server and it turned out that the dishes were intended for the table next to us, but he let us keep them anyway. I’ve never met a guacamole that I didn’t like, and Rosa Blanca’s version with smoked pineapple and thin slices of plantain and yucca for dipping was quite unique. The empanada was tasty–you can’t go wrong with ricotta and mozzarella filling–but basic. The wrapper was not at all greasy, but it could have benefited from some seasoning or a dipping sauce of some sort.

The appetizers that we actually ordered arrived next. The creamy coconut and conch chowder, packed full of vegetables and sweet chunks of conch, was the perfect dish for a chilly evening. Chester had the tuna ceviche, which lacked strong acidic flavor that is traditionally associated with that dish. The texture and flavor reminded me more of a tuna tartare, which I happen to love. But, those who would prefer a true ceviche flavor might be disappointed.

Both of our entree selections were excellent. The ropa vieja was made with braised short rib instead of flank steak, which made it incredibly tender. Both the meat and the accompanying beans and rice were perfectly seasoned with a variety of spices, including smoky paprika, garlic and cilantro. Chester chose the masitas de puerco, which featured chunks of tender, fried pork served with cornmeal and sweet sautéed onions. Once again, the seasonings in the dish were well balanced.

Both of the offerings on the menu were fruit based. I preferred the creamy coconut custard with tangy mango sorbet to the pineapple upside down cake, the flavor of which was overpowered by the accompanying guava sauce. On the whole though, both desserts were just so-so. It would have been nice to have something chocolatey to end the meal.

The only drawback to the experience was that the meal went by way too fast–we were in and out in 47 minutes! This is to be expected during Restaurant Week, as kitchens typically prepare some of the dishes in advance, in order to expedite the service and turn over the tables quickly. Still, now that we are only getting out for date nights about once a month, we would have preferred a more leisurely pace.

In spite of this, I am definitely looking forward to another visit to Rosa Blanca in the near future. The breakfast and milkshake menus sound particularly amazing. With the range of items on the menu and the nearly all-day service that the restaurant offers, it would be perfect for a variety of occasions, from a date night to a family-friendly lunch.