Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween from Baby Ryder!

Happy Halloween 
from our family to yours!

It's so wild to think that just a year ago today we were announcing my pregnancy to the world.

Now our little pumpkin is here with us, and we're having an absolute blast experiencing all of his "firsts" this holiday season.

We hope everyone has a happy and spooky Halloween!

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Seattle Restaurant Week -- The Georgian

It's been a while since I last posted about food.
I just mentioned that Stew and I aren't usually into fancy expensive restaurants, but that doesn't in any way mean I don't enjoy quality food... I just don't want to spend an entire day's pay on it.
So Seattle Restaurant Week is right up my alley!
This fall, for 10 days, more than 170 local restaurants have been serving up two-course lunches for $15 and three-course dinners for just $30... sign me up for that!!

Last week my co-workers and I took advantage of a long lunch and walked up to The Georgian, just a few blocks from our office, for a Seattle Restaurant Week treat. 

The Georgian, located inside the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, is a AAA 4 Diamond restaurant featuring French-inspired Northwest cuisine prepared by Executive Chef Gavin Stephenson.

We started off with delicious, soft bread infused with sun dried tomatoes.
This stuff was absolutely amazing!

1 // Butter Lettuce - Pickled Radish, Speck Ham Crisp
2 // Arrowhead Spinach Salad - Hummus, Chevre Crouton, Pita Chips
3 // Celeriac Bisque - Crisp Kale, Truffle Crème Fraiche

I had the Butter Lettuce and it was really yummy, I think because of the goat cheese on top. But I wasn't a huge fan of the twisty bread thingy, which I thought tasted kind of stale.

1 // Cascade Mountain Foraged Wild Mushrooms and Syrah Risotto - Pecornio Freco
2 // Ruby Red Clear Springs Idaho Rainbow Trout - Haricot Verts, Chanterelle, Preserved Lemon, Black Salt Whipped Potato
3 // Certified Black Angus Beef Burger - Brioche Bun, Pickled Goat Horn Pepper, Beecher's Cheddar Cheese, Duck Fries 

 I was pretty hungry that day, so I immediately gravitated toward the burger, and was not disappointed. I've come to learn that Beecher's cheese makes everything better, and in case you're wondering what duck fries are (because I was), they are thick, hand cut fries cooked in duck fat. They were delicious. And the burger... oh em gee. It's right up there with some of the best burgers I've ever had in my life, and I would go back any time and pay full price for a repeat.

1 // Hazelnut Pumpkin Ice Cream - Cardamom Pomegranate Molasses
2 // Columbia Chocolate and Caramel Verrine - Churro
Not Pictured // Selection of Housemade Seasonal Sorbets
It was a tough choice, but I went with the chocolate and caramel dessert. Mainly because I'm not really a fan of pumpkin (and I also don't think humans should consume foods meant for cows). I wasn't disappointed! Some people would probably think this dessert is too rich, but I've had quite a sweet tooth these days, and I loved it!
And then I rolled myself back down the street to the office.
Seriously, I was absolutely stuffed! Even though the portions weren't huge, the richness of all the courses totally filled me up and I left fat and happy, with a few dollars left in my pocket.
Seattle Restaurant Week comes around twice a year -- Don't miss it!

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Frugal Fun -- Affordable Seattle Dating

Earlier this year, Seattle was ranked the seventh most expensive city in America. Worldwide, it outranks cities like Shanghai, Milan, Madrid and Dubai for cost of living, making it the 44th most expensive city in the world...

Stew and I don't really consider ourselves to be extravagant people, and we usually have more fun at a parking lot tailgate drinking from red blue Solo cups than we would at a fancy schmancy, trendy, expensive restaurant. We prefer to entertain ourselves without wasting our hard earned dollars, so I was flattered when my darling cousin Brooke reached out to me recently for some ideas about having frugal fun in the city.

Brooke and her boyfriend, Benjamin, wanted to celebrate their anniversary without breaking the bank, so I sent them on a day full of my most favorite affordable Seattle adventures.

Let's head out with them for a day of cheap entertainment in Seattle!

// Breakfast //

They started things off with this delicious breakfast. Brooke found the recipe on Pinterest, and since she already had the eggs and bacon in her fridge, only spent a total of about $3 to make it.


 // Kubota Garden //
This 20 acre Japanese garden in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle was started by Fujitaro Kubota, a Japanese emigrant, in 1927. Today it is maintained as a public park and it's a great place to spend a morning wandering around. The garden is open to the public every day during daylight hours all year round. Major features include the Kubota Terrace, the Bamboo Grove, the Necklace of Ponds, the Mountainside, and the Tom Kubota Stroll Garden.
It's FREE and easy to find!
Benjamin called himself "Big Buddha Juddha."
Brooke and Benjamin took turns standing up inside the bell (which, by the way, doesn't ring unless you smack it loudly when someone's head is inside it -- have fun with that!)
Brooke loved exploring around all the crazy-looking trees!
// Ballard Locks //
One of Seattle's most popular tourist attractions, the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks is a complex of locks that sits at the west end of Salmon Bay, part of Seattle's Lake Washington Ship Canal. Completed in 1917, the locks maintain the water levels of Lake Washington and Lake Union, prevent Puget Sound sea water from mixing with the fresh lake water, and move boats from the water level of the lakes to the water level of Puget Sound, and vice versa -- this is the fun part!

Through a system of swinging walkways, visitors can watch the action up close. The grounds also feature a fish ladder, visitors center with interpretive exhibits, gift shop, and botanical garden. Visiting hours for the locks and surrounding garden are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. year round.

Admission is FREE!

It was Benjamin's first time at the Ballard Locks, and he and Brooke were both very excited to watch big boats be lifted up by water that seemed to come from nowhere!

They enjoyed the beautiful scenery and fish ladders. The sculptures dedicated to the fish ladders were especially pretty.
// Red Mill Burgers //

Rated best burgers in Seattle for ten years in a row, Red Mill Burgers has "one of the 20 hamburgers you must eat before you die," according to Oprah Winfrey and GQ Magazine.

The original Red Mill was located in Capitol Hill, and opened in 1937 as a diner and ice creamery with table and counter service. The second location in Interbay opened in 1998, and immediately received honorable mention in the best burger category in the Seattle Weekly's annual Best of Seattle issue. It has subsequently won the best burger award every year since, along with numerous other accolades.

After hitting the locks, Brooke and Benjamin headed over to Red Mill for some giant burgers and delicious shakes.

They only spent about $20 on their entire delicious meal.

// Second Ascent //

Before calling it a day, Brooke and Benjamin decided to stop at Second Ascent, a shop in Ballard that carries new and used name brand outdoor gear like The North Face and Arc'teryx.

Unfortunately, in their excitement to find a free parking spot, they missed the sign that said "back-in, angle parking only."


Luckily, they didn't receive a parking ticket, because that would have put them way over budget for the day!
Congratulations on your anniversary,
Brooke & Benjamin!
And I hope this post is a reminder to everyone that in the Emerald City you really don't have to look too far, or dig too deep into your wallet, for fun and affordable activities that are sure to bring back those first date butterflies.
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

To the Dad with the Screaming Toddler

To the Dad with the screaming toddler on the bus this morning:

You're doing a good job.

I sat next to you on the damp, crowded, stinky city bus while your little boy thrashed and screeched at the top of his lungs. You were juggling a diaper bag, a stroller, and a writhing toddler with disheveled hair, face red from wailing, snot running down his face.

As he howled "Nooooooo Daddy!" you continued to speak to him calmly and lovingly. In between back arches, you cuddled him close to you, brushed back his hair and rocked him.

When he threw himself onto the floor of the bus again and again, you diligently scooped him up, straightened his coat, retrieved his shoe, and expertly snatched the stroller before it went rolling down the aisle.

Other commuters glared at you in annoyance, not even attempting to conceal eye rolls and exasperated sighs. Because god forbid the silence of their morning coffee and daily news be interrupted by a child's tantrum.

A year ago, I might have been one of them...

But today, I smiled in encouragement and said, sincerely, "You're doing a good job."

You looked up in surprise and began trying to explain that your son is usually very calm and well behaved. You trailed off as he once again flopped onto the floor of the bus, sobbing and squirming.

"It's okay. You're doing a good job."

You didn't need to explain. I know enough now to realize that simply getting out of the house and onto the bus with that little boy was probably a small miracle.

Maybe you're going through a divorce and it's your first time dropping him off at daycare. Maybe he has an earache and you're taking him to the doctor. Maybe your car broke down and you don't have another option this morning. Maybe your wife is desperate for a break, so you've left the house for a few hours so she can get some relief.

It's none of my business.

All I know is that you're clearly doing the best you can, and that you love your son. He loves you too (and will show it when he eventually stops screaming). Don't let these assholes on the bus get you down.

You're doing a good job.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Crying Over Spilled Milk

Well, this weekend sucked.

This is what 56 ounces of ruined breast milk looks like, in case you were wondering.

Yes, it's true...

Although I may begin sobbing again as I write this post, I feel it's necessary to admit that Stewart and I managed to spoil 14 bags of frozen breast milk this weekend.

It was an accident.

It wasn't anyone's fault, really.

Worse things have probably happened.

But as I stood there, staring tragically at the destroyed remains of what represented so much time, energy, stress, and guilt, I felt like my heart would literally break. I had turned my son's life-giving nectar into poison.

Whoever said "don't cry over spilled milk" was an asshole (and obviously male).

On Friday night I nursed, rocked, and tucked my sweet little baby boy into bed. Then I decided to do some cleaning and reorganizing. I had a ton of breast milk in the fridge that I needed to store for future use, but my freezer had become jam-packed with frozen breast milk surplus bags, so I decided to move some into the freezer in the garage. After measuring, pouring, sealing, labeling, and rotating, I ended up transferring about a quarter of my milk stash into the garage freezer.

And after such a thorough inventory of the elixir of life that I had stockpiled for my son, I went to bed feeling quite pleased with myself...

Then on Saturday evening I even managed to come home with groceries for the week. (Insert Perfect Wife & Mother award here). I asked Stew to put some of them away, and he obeyed promptly.

His horrified exclamation came early the next morning...

During the night, something in the freezer had shifted, popping the door open a few inches. Just enough to thaw and destroy everything in there, including all of my boobie juice.

Of course there was nothing I could do except crumple to the ground, curled desperately around my little angel baby, and sob.

I still feel shell shocked.

And poor Stew; he felt absolutely terrible.

No, this doesn't mean that Ryder will starve (I pump more than enough milk for him every day and always have extra). And no, I won't have to supplement with formula (I've got at least double the amount of milk that I ruined still stashed safety away in our other freezer).

But the tragedy of all that time and effort having gone to waste... The irreplaceable nature of breast milk... All those hours spent sequestered away in the supply closet at work... Carefully measuring, pouring, sealing, transporting... My mind boggles.

And I'm crying big, fat tears over all that spilled milk.

And let's see what else... 

Due to a series of unfortunate events, it took us two and a half hours to drive 18 miles on Saturday afternoon. #roadrage

I scraped the crap out of one of the wheels on my new car. #moretears

These encouraging blog stats greeted me on Sunday morning. #geethanksguys

Oh, and the Seahawks lost. #profanities


I respectfully ask the universe for the opportunity to repeat last weekend, with better all-around results.


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Monday, October 13, 2014

Ryder's First Seahawks Game

Make way for the littlest 12th Man!
Ryder was with me for every single game last season while I was pregnant, so it seemed only fitting to have him accompany us to at least one home game this year. We chose yesterday for his rookie experience, and the day couldn't have gone better (except if the Hawks had won, but let's not focus on the negative, shall we?)
Is there anything cuter than a Baby Seahawk?! 

First family photo from the Hawkwagon Tailgate!

Initially, when Stew told me that he wanted to take Ryder to a game this year, I was pretty skeptical. However, I subsequently reminded myself of our vow to not let having a family change our lifestyle, so I began getting myself mentally and logistically prepared to take our five-month-old to an NFL game.

We chose October for our trial run because we figured the weather would probably be more cooperative early in the season. We headed out around nine o'clock, which is Ryder's typical morning nap time, and he slept in the car all the way into the city, staying asleep in his stroller for the first part of the tailgate. Once he woke up, I gave him some shots of Fireball nursed him in the car and we hung out until it was time to head to the game around noon. We changed him into a warm fleece Seahawks onesie for the game, popped him into our Baby Bjorn carrier, and he proceeded to take his second nap of the day during the half hour walk to the stadium.

We loved having our baby boy with us for one of our very favorite activities.

He's learning young that anything in a Solo cup tastes delicious.

Baby-wearing while checking Fantasy Football scores.

When you bring your baby to a tailgate, he's like a mini mascot and everyone wants to borrow him.

Diaper bags are not allowed in CenturyLink stadium, but bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12” x 6” x 12” are permitted, so I ordered an official Seahawks NFL clear plastic tote bag online a couple weeks before the game. It was plenty big enough for all of Ryder's essential items (changing pad, diapers, wipes, extra clothes, bottle, etc), and getting through security was a breeze. A Family Restroom with a baby changing station is located conveniently right outside our section, so we stopped there shortly before kickoff to change and nurse Ryder, which worked out great.

Ryder's very first NFL experience!

Prior to the game, I did research on baby headphones and ordered Ryder some hearing protection earmuffs to keep his little eardrums safe from the 12th Man's roar. He didn't seem to mind wearing them one bit, and having all the noise reduced to almost nothing helped keep him super calm and happy, even allowing him to sleep for several hours during the second half!

 We alternated between holding or wearing Ryder throughout the game. He was such an angel, and never cried the entire time we were there, just fussed a bit when he was hungry or tired and then ate and went right to sleep. At halftime we visited the Family Bathroom again and gave him a bottle in the stands before the third quarter, after which he passed out for the remainder of the game.

Ryder Steven, the Seattle Seahawks newest fan!

I know there are probable those out there who think that an NFL game is no place for children, but I have to respectfully disagree. I think being a football fan starts early in life, and it's something really special that you can do as a family. Sure, Ryder won't remember watching the Cowboys beat the Hawks (and maybe that's a good thing), but Sew and I have memories that will last a lifetime of this super fun day that we shared with our baby boy.

Hawk Yeah!

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Pumping and Working -- My Secrets

You've heard it, you get it.


No chemical composition can ever replicate what we lucky women can make ourselves, for free.
It's nature's perfect elixir, and it comes in a conveniently portable milk delivery system.

But let's face it -- As much as we working moms who choose to breastfeed love to provide our hungry little nurslings with nourishing milk, PUMPING AT WORK SUCKS -- literally.

I've made a commitment to provide my son with breast milk for his first year, which means milking myself like Bessie the dairy cow has become a part of my daily work routine. Unfortunately, some people seem bothered by the fact that breasts produce milk to nourish human life, and co-workers can be put off by accidentally using breast milk as coffee creamer (no matter how thoroughly you explain the nutritional value and immunity boosting properties). Plus, accidentally catching a glimpse of exposed lady bits being suckled by the equivalent of a mechanical infant tends to make them slightly uncomfortable.

So when I returned to work I was on a mission to become a stealth pumper, and I'm here today to share my best tips and tricks.

// privacy //

First and foremost, make sure you have a private place to pump. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers are required to provide "a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk." They are also required to provide "reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child's birth at each time such employee has need to express the milk."

I don't know about you, but there are few times when I feel more vulnerable than when my nipples are being sucked in and out of transparent plastic cones. Fortunately, my extremely supportive workplace makes this abandoned supply closet in a vacant office space available for working moms, but since the door doesn't lock I made myself a sign, just in case.

// preparation //

Organization is key, so get yourself prepared! My day starts at home, where I have already spent the evening before cleaning, sterilizing, drying, and packing up everything needed for the next day.

Most of the supplies will be left at home, or go with my son to the babysitter.

Four of the bottles and lids go into a little cooler pack, which I pack up and take with me to work.

// supplies //

Every three hours, I attach suction devices to my nipples while milk spurts into bottles attached to my engorged breasts to the tune of Wee-WAH... Wee-WAH... Wee-WAH. In the beginning, this caused me a fair amount of anxiety. But once I got used to the routine of it all, I've actually begun to enjoy these little breaks, and make the most of the time while I'm milking myself like a dairy cow.

Make sure you are provided with a comfortable location in which to pump. You'll need a comfy chair and access to an electrical outlet. I suggest getting a double pump so you can do both breasts at once to save time. I have the Medela Pump In Style Advanced Backpack. It comes with a little cooler bag and contoured ice pack that is perfect for holding five ounce bottles.

When my pre-programmed Outlook reminder pops up on my computer screen, I head across the hall and get settled. After I hook myself up to my medieval torture device breast pump, I enjoy a cup of coffee, a book, and often browse social media to pass the time. With a little practice, I've perfected the ability to hold both pump apparatuses with one arm while checking Facebook or reading the latest and greatest parenting book.

Hydration is a key aspect to breast milk production, so as soon as I'm done pumping I always make sure to quickly drink an entire glass of water so I don't forget.

// storage //

Of course, you will need a place to keep the milk that you pump. According to La Leche League International, fresh human milk can be stored at room temperature for up to six hours. Here is my strategy for storing my milk throughout the day:

The first time I pump, I simply place the bottles into the insulated part of my backpack and zip it back up, so that the bottles are covered and kept as cool as possible. I just leave the breast shields on the bottles so that they are ready three hours later when I come back for my second session. At that point, I just re-attach the tubing and pump into those same bottles.

After the second session, the bottles are full, so I transfer them into my little cooler and carry them back across the hall, where I pop the whole thing into a mini fridge located conveniently around the corner from my desk.

For some reason, actually seeing my hard earned boobie juice seems to bother most people, so disguising the bottles in a cooler that is placed in a rarely-used mini fridge is what works for me.

// cleaning //

You'll need a place to wash and sterilize your pump parts. After I complete each pumping session, I rinse out the breast shields, valves and membranes under hot water in a sink that's located right outside my pumping room. I don't feel the need to wash and sterilize my parts every single time I pump -- that would be far too time consuming.

When I'm done with my third and final pumping session of the day, I take all of my supplies back over to my office. In our main break room / kitchen, I use a paper towel and dish soap to wash out my pump parts and sterilize them using a Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steaming bag. These things are the BEST! I use them every single day both at home and at work.

It takes a minute and thirty anxiety-ridden seconds in the microwave, during which I pray that no one enters the kitchen and inquires as to why I'm cooking a plastic bag (because then I have to explain that I'm cleaning parts that were recently attached to my naked bosom, and we both awkwardly wish for a time machine to go back to the moment before we began talking about my breasts).

After everything is cleaned and sterilized, I place all the parts on clean paper towels in the top part of my pump's backpack, and along with the steamer bag I put everything underneath my desk to dry overnight.

Another day of pumping in the books.

// transport //

Each day I collect anywhere between 16 and 20 ounces of breast milk. When five o'clock rolls around, I just grab my little cooler of liquid gold out of the mini fridge, pop it into my bag, and head home to my hungry little boy. And I definitely experience a smug feeling of satisfaction, knowing that I've been able to work a full day away from home while still providing my son with breast milk that will help turn him into the healthiest version of himself.

When I get home, I still have some work to do. I divide the bottles evenly into four ounce portions, label each one, and put them in the refrigerator. I always pump more than enough milk in one day to cover my son's meals for the next day while I'm at work (usually more).

// schedule //

After a week or two of trial and error, here is the schedule that ended up working for me:

  • 7:00 — Nurse baby and leave for work
  • 8:00 — Arrive at work, get settled in, drink water/coffee and eat breakfast
  • 9:00 — First pumping session, followed by water and a snack
  • 12:00 — Second pumping session, followed by water and lunch
  • 3:00 — Third pumping session, followed by water and a snack
  • 3:30 — Clean and sterilize pump parts for the next day
  • 5:00 — Grab cooler of milk and head home
  • 6:00 — Arrive home and nurse baby
  • 7:30 — Nurse baby and put him down for bed

At this point (five months) my son is still waking up every two to three hours throughout the night to nurse. This could be attributed to growth spurts, or adjusting to eating bottles during the day instead of nursing; we're not sure. He typically eats three 4-ounce bottles while I'm at work, and since I make more than he can consume I've also acquired a pretty impressive freezer stash of frozen breast milk, which is available for emergencies.

Pumping at work is a real pain in the nipples.

I'm not denying it. But realistically, it's just a mildly uncomfortable thing that I'm happy to endure for the good of my child. It's a transitory part of life, and eventually mys son will outgrow his need for breast milk. At which point I will probably curse the day I ever complained, because the pain of knowing that my sweet baby can actually survive without me will cause my soul to ache.

But for now, the look on his angelic little face as he gulps down what only I can provide him reassures me that I'm doing the best I can as a working Momma. 

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