Archives for September 2013

Recipe: Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies

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Fall is my favorite time of the year to bake. The cooler weather means that my tiny house doesn’t immediately feel like a sauna as soon as I turn the oven on. Pumpkin and apple are back in season. And, finally, there are lots of occasions to bake for once the holiday season arrives.

One of my favorite things to do when I was little was bake with my mom and I have always looked forward to spending time in the kitchen with my own children. So, I wasted no time getting Little B into the kitchen to bake her first batch of cookies.

As you can see, she couldn’t quite stay awake for the job, so my mom and I ended up doing most of the work. Fortunately, these Brown Sugar Oatmeal cookies were super easy to make and B stayed asleep until the last batch was out of the oven.

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The brown sugar gives these cookies a rich flavor and chewy texture and the generous portion of oats makes them pretty hearty. I baked mine for 12 minutes, so they retained their softness, but you could leave them in the oven for a bit longer if you prefer your cookies to be crispy.

These cookies are pretty much perfect for any time of the day. Even breakfast. I mean, you have the oats, brown sugar and pecans, so these cookies are basically bowls of oatmeal in cookie form, right? And, everyone knows that oatmeal is healthy. So, starting your day off with a couple of these is totally acceptable.

Plus, they are easy to eat while toting a baby around the house in one arm. I haven’t been a parent for that long, but  trying to manage a bowl of hot cereal and a spoon, plus a baby, just seems like a recipe for disaster. I’m glad that I figured out how to save myself the trouble.

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Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies

Barely Adapted from: The Pioneer Woman

Yield: The recipe states 24, but I got more than 30 out of this recipe, using a medium sized cookie sccop.

What you will need:

  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl after each one.
  3. Mix together the flour, salt, baking soda and nuts (if using) in a medium sized bowl.
  4. Add it into the creamed mixture in 2 to 3 batches, mixing it until just combined. Mix in the oats until just combined.
  5. Use a cookie scoop (or a regular spoon) to drop portions of dough onto a lightly greased cookie sheet, spacing them a couple inches apart. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until dark and chewy.
  6. Let them cool slightly on the pan after removing from the oven and move to wire rack to cool completely.

Restaurant Review: Vetri

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Source

The weekend before Little B made her entrance, Chester and I celebrated our impending parenthood (and last date night for foreseeable future) with dinner at Vetri.

It was pretty amazing.

So, although I can barely remember what day of the week it is lately, let alone what I ate for dinner nearly a month ago, I feel I should at least tell you a little bit about it.

In 1998, Marc Vetri opened his 30-seat namesake restaurant in the townhouse that was once home to Le Bec Fin (yesterday was actually the restaurant’s 15th anniversary, according to an article on Philly.com). The rustic Italian fare, handmade pastas and spectacular service made him a fixture in the Philadelphia restaurant scene and one of the most lauded chefs in the country.

A couple of years ago, Vetri did away with its a la carte menu and now only offers a chef’s tasting menu. Dishes change with the seasons, with the exception of  several signature items. When I have chosen the tasting menu at other restaurants, dishes have usually been served family-style or everyone in the group is served the same dishes. But, Vetri does things a bit differently.

The menu, which is divided into four sections (fish, vegetable/pasta, di terra, meat/poultry and dessert) is presented in advance and diners can make special requests for dishes that they would really like to try, as well as those they would prefer to avoid. In addition, each person is served a different dishes during each course. I liked this approach because personalized the experience a bit more and allowed us to try about half of the items on the menu.

Our meal started off  with stuzzichini (hors d’oeuvres), including olives, cured meats, a rich foie gras pastrami on crostini and raw vegetables with balsamic crema.

After that came 12 other dishes, including:

Lorighittas with Frutti Di Mare: Delicate ring-shaped pasta and a simple white wine sauce allowed fresh scallops and squid to be the stars of this dish.

Conchiglione with Lobster Dumpling: Shell shaped pasta, stuffed with perfectly poached lobster, in a light tomato broth.

Corn and Tomato Tortino: A tiny pie, filled with a creamy corn custard and topped with roasted tomatoes. Both vegetables were perfectly sweet, just as they should be in the summertime.

Sweet Onion Crepe with Truffle Fondue: This dish had the best parts of French onion soup–caramelized onions and melted cheese–without the broth. It’s no wonder this is one of the signature dishes that always remains on the menu.

Spinach Gnocchi with Brown Butter: Another signature dish, these dumplings have a more intense flavor than the traditional potato variety. But, they had the melt-in-your-mouth quality that is essential to good gnocchi.

Almond Tortellini with Truffle Sauce: This dish was one of my special requests and is another signature menu item. The earthy truffle sauce provided a savory balance for the sweet ricotta and toasted almond combination (although if the sauce were omitted or something with a sweeter flavor profile was used instead, this could be an amazing dessert pasta!).

Agnolotto with Pistachio Vellutate: Agnolotto is basically a rectangular ravioli. All of the elements of this dish–the toasted pistachio filling, the sweet, julienned zucchini that was perched on top of the dumpling like a salad and the creamy sauce worked very well together.

Piedmontese Carpaccio with Figs: This was the only dish that I didn’t try because raw meat and pregnancy don’t go together. Sad face. Chester enjoyed it though!

Duck Stuffed with Chorizo: I’ve mentioned before that Chester has bad luck when it comes to ordering duck in restaurants, as it always seems to be overcooked. Not so in this case. Vetri’s duck was cooked to a perfect medium rare, with a pink center, and got just a little kick of spiciness from the chorizo.

Roasted Lamb: This was Chester’s special request. Like the duck, the lamb was cooked to a perfect medium rare. The cut was so thick that it looked more like beef. The use of Nebrodini (a type of oyster mushroom) and tuma persa (a sheep’s milk cheese) made this a very earthy dish.

Capretto with Stone Milled Polenta: I was a little apprehensive about this dish when the server set it in front of me. The only time that I’ve ever tried goat was at an Indian restaurant and I thought it was terrible. Fortunately, Vetri’s version had none of the gamey taste and tough texture that I remembered from that experience. It wasn’t my favorite dish, but at least I ventured out of my comfort zone and gave it a second chance.

Dessert: The sweet portion of the evening started with a plate of miniature pastries and cookies and a small scoop of mango sorbet. I could have easily been satisfied with that, but of course couldn’t pass up the chocolate polenta soufflé. It had a rich, pudding-like texture, that I’m sure I would never be able to recreate at home. Chester had the Paris-Brest, a puff pastry filled with a light, hazelnut cream. It was a little too sweet for him, so I ended up finishing most of it (I’m not sorry).

All of the dishes we tried were outstanding, but a month later I still find myself thinking about the pastas at Vetri. They were all incredibly light and the accompanying sauces were so delicate. In addition, the other ingredients in each dish (seafood, vegetables, cheeses, etc.) were thoughtfully chosen, so that all the elements in each dish complemented, rather than competed with, each other.

As you might expect at a fine dining establishment, portion sizes for each dish weren’t huge. But, they were just the right size for the two of us to share. In addition, many of the dishes, particularly the pastas and the meats, were on the heavier side. So, we definitely left feeling full and satisfied.

Service was impeccable throughout our meal. The servers explained all of the elements of each dish as it was presented and were very knowledgeable about how everything was made. They checked in with us regularly throughout the meal, without being overbearing or rushing us through the courses. At the end of the night, we were given ricotta cookies and a copy of the menu to take home as souvenirs. I tucked the latter item away so that we will be able to remember how we celebrated Little B before she was born.

At $155 per person, Vetri probably isn’t going to be in your regular restaurant rotation (if you have even deeper pockets, you can opt for one of the wine pairings, which start at $90). But, the combination of delicious food, exceptional service and intimate atmosphere makes it worth experiencing at least once, particularly if you have a special occasion to celebrate.

 

Little B’s Travel Themed Nursery

Chester and I put the finishing touches on Little B’s nursery just one week prior to her arrival. We stuck with our original vision for travel-themed room with a girly, vintage feel, and incorporated a few special items and DIY touches. We are pretty thrilled with how everything came together!

Let’s go on a little tour, shall we?

The first order of business was repainting the boring, putty colored walls of our former guest room. We amassed quite the collection of paint chips from Lowes before settling on Valspar’s “Hello Dolly.” This cotton candy pink shade is the perfect complement for the white furniture and soft pastel colors that comprise the rest of the room’s color scheme.

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When we started looking for decor ideas for the nursery, the whimsical illustrations from Loxly Hollow were among our first finds. We created a gallery wall along the left side of the room using six of them and a map letter that I made.

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I’m hoping that Little B will take after me and will love to read, so I like that this part of room is almost like a little reading nook. I chose a bookshelf that is just the right height for a small child, so that she’ll be able to reach for her books on her own in the not-to-distant future. Chester spent most of the summer refinishing and repainting a rocking chair that my grandfather gave us and it fits perfectly in the corner. Nursery_4

There is a shortage of closet space in our house, so we chose a dresser with plenty of drawers to store all of her little clothes. I jazzed up the plain, white wooden drawer pulls that came with it with postmark stickers from Cavallini & Co. and a bit of Mod Podge.

Nursery Dresser Collage

The city plaques to the side of the dresser were also a DIY project. Chester spray painted wooden plaques from AC Moore and I covered them with scrapbook paper and cut-outs from the Rifle Paper Company’s 2014 “Around the World” calendar.

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The hot-air balloon mobile is one of my favorite items in the room. It was a bit of a splurge, but since it’s a little bit more sophisticated than a traditional crib mobile, I figured that we could use it as room decor for at least the next few years. I also love the little Paris chair that Chester found at Home Goods. I think it will be the perfect spot to take her monthly photos.

Nursery mobile collage

Working on the nursery was one of the most enjoyable parts of preparing for Little B’s arrival. For the first few months, she’ll be sleeping in our room, but we can’t wait for her to start spending more time in the space that we decorated just for her. Hopefully, it will inspire her to see the world!

If you feel so inclined, you can wander over to Project Nursery, where I’ve posted some additional images and information about Little B’s nursery.

Project Details

Paint: Valspar’s “Hello Dolly,” purchased at Lowes

Crib: Delta S Series Convertible Crib, Target

Dresser: Delta 6 Drawer Children’s Dresser, Sears; Drawer pulls: Semi-DIY using knobs that came with dresser and Cavallini & Co. Ephemra Stickers, purchased from Paper Source

Bookcase: Sauder Pogo Bookcase, Wayfair

Rug: Cotton Dhurrie Border Mat, Pottery Barn Kids

Crib skirt, sheets, quilt, changing pad cover, Bird Bath lamp, Bon Voyage suitcase set, bird finals, Chantilly wall shelves: Land of Nod

(Note: The linens are from the “With a Flourish” Collection. It looks like the pink is no longer available, but there is a lovely shade of green.)

Curtains: Simply Shabby Chic, Target

(Note: These are a sheer cotton, so I also purchased blackout curtains from Target to go with them.)

Illustrations: Loxly Hollow, via Etsy; Frames: Sondrum, Ikea

Map letter: DIY, using craft paper letter from Land of Nod and Cavallini & Co. world map wrapping paper purchased from Pomp and Posey, via Etsy

City plaques: DIY, using wooden plaques and scrapbook paper from AC Moore and the Rifle Paper Company 2014 “Around the World” calendar, purchased at Paper Source

“Little By Little, One Travels Far” Print: Made by a friend

Mobile: Flying the Skies Mobile, Hanging Mobile Gallery

(Note: Primary color palette is also available).

Rocking chair: Gift from a family member; refinished and repainted by Chester

Rocking chair pad: Heavenly Soft Rocking Chair Cushion, aBaby

Paris chair: Home Goods

 

Introducing Little B

After 38 weeks and 5 days of missing all the fun in the outside world, E.T. decided that she was ready to make her debut. And, to have a real name.

So, without further adieu, I’m pleased to introduce:

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Bridget Rose 

Born: August 30, 2013 at 6:14 p.m.

6 pounds, 8 ounces 

19.5 inches long

So many people had told me that as a first baby, she would probably come late. By 35 weeks, I was so over being pregnant, but I had also mentally prepared myself for the fact that if she really wanted to take her time, I could be pregnant for another seven weeks before my doctor would induce labor.

I was so well prepared for the long haul that I was pretty much in denial when I started to feel the first contractions early last Thursday morning. I told myself that the uncomfortable feeling throughout the bottom half of my body was just because I slept in a more awkward position than usual.

I went to work and as the day went on, I started to have quite a bit of back pain. I reasoned that this was just from sitting in a metal folding chair all day greeting new students and parents at orientation. Later that afternoon, I noticed a weird tightening in my stomach. This seemed to be happening on a fairly inconsistent basis, so I decided that I was finally starting to feel Braxton-Hicks contractions.

By the end of the day, the weird tightening had become pretty painful, but I attributed that to that fact that I had been standing for two hours at a reception. Still, when Chester picked me up that night, I told him we should think about packing our hospital bags, “just in case.”

At some point after midnight, the pain became more intense and seemed to be happening more frequently. I decided that this was probably the real thing and demanded that we pack our bags. I spent the rest of the night pacing around the second floor of the house, closely followed around by the dog. I tracked the contractions using an app on my iPhone and to pass the time, I straightened my hair in anticipation of pictures after the baby’s arrival. By 5 a.m., the contractions were 5 minutes apart and it was time to head to the hospital.

The sole component of my birth plan was to have all of the drugs available to me, so I didn’t hesitate when the nurse asked if I wanted an epidural. Having that put into place was the most terrifying and painful part of the whole process. I couldn’t see what was happening and was shaking so badly that the  anesthesiologist needed to try multiple times to place it correctly. But, once it was in, I didn’t feel anything at all.

I don’t know how I would have made it through without that and amazing coaching from Chester and my mom. Little B came out screaming at the top of her lungs and the minute they placed her on my chest, I sobbed. I had never felt so many emotions all at once–relief that she had arrived safely, disbelief over the way my life had changed in an instant, fear about embarking on the journey of being a parent, and, most of all, love. It was overwhelming and amazing at the same time, and I have replayed that moment in my head everyday since so that I never forget it.

And, now, we are home and settling into the chaos that a baby brings. We did a lot of planning and organization for the baby’s arrival, but our lives have still been turned completely upside down, of course. General wisdom tells you that caring for a newborn is difficult, but it is a million times more difficult than I ever anticipated.

The first few couple of days at home were the worst. She felt so tiny and fragile that I was afraid to handle her. I had no idea what all of her different cries meant. On her first night home, I didn’t sleep at all because I couldn’t stop looking into her bassinet to make sure she was still breathing. I was also dealing with crazy post-pregnancy hormones and physical discomforts from the delivery process. I cried frequently for no good reason and questioned why I ever thought I would be cut out for motherhood.

Once again, Chester has been absolutely amazing. It seemed  like he knew what to do from the moment she was born. My heart just melts when I see him holding her and I’m reminded that I couldn’t have picked a better person to spend my life with. I’ve looked at him many times this week and said “can we do this?” and he tells me what a good team we’ve always been.

And, he has been right. As this first week comes to an end, I feel a bit better and we have  some stuff figured out. We know the difference between her cries for food and her cries for a diaper change.  For the past two nights, she’s slept for three-hour stretches, which has also helped us feel less sleep deprived. That could all change in an instant, but at least for now, I feel like we are doing a pretty good job of giving her what she needs.

As for Little B, she looks exactly like her daddy (although a few people have said her hands, feet and nails look like mine. I think it’s just to make me feel better for all of my efforts in getting her here). I love cuddling her and inhaling that intoxicating new baby smell (seriously, they have the sweetest smell at the top of their heads). She sleeps most of the time, of course, but when she does open her eyes, she’s totally alert and I know she’s busy taking in about the world around her.

In short, she’s a keeper.