Halfway There – Pregnancy Purchases (or make-dos)

I’ve spent a fair amount of time perseverating over whether to buy certain products (mostly clothes) while pregnant, and which ones. I thought I’d share what I’ve found it worth my dollars to spend money on so far in my pregnancy (and what I’ve somewhat regretted). I’ll probably do another post like this near/after the end of my pregnancy.

I may also do a post on our baby registry, which required way more research and thought.

Hopefully this is helpful to someone! Jumping right in:

Workout bottoms:

  • Lululemon high-waisted full on luon ankle tight (non-maternity)I bought these around 11 weeks pregnant in a size 8. I’m normally a size 6. (Ankle length fits me full-length.) I figured they would work for the first part of my pregnancy and again after birth. They’ve been great, and they’re still working at 22.5 weeks (and a big bump) without slipping down below the belly too much. (I actually originally purchased these in a 10, since I’d seen a recommendation to go two sizes up, but they seemed too large, so I returned them for the 8.)
  • Lululemon high-waisted full on luon crop (non-maternity): I bought these at the same time as the ones above, in a size 10. I decided to keep these in a size 10, thinking I’d probably still need the room to grow. However, at 11 weeks I had to constantly pull these up during a workout. And the same is true now at 22 weeks. They don’t stay up on my bump as well as the 8s. So I guess I should have just gone one size up after all. Still, I’ve been using these regardless (especially now that I’ve started prenatal yoga that allows for more pulling up than CrossFit does), and I’m glad to have the second pair.
  • Ingrid & Isabel ‘Active’ maternity leggings: Around 19 weeks, I finally broke down and bought a maternity pair of workout pants. I got these in a size small, which is my pre-pregnancy size for most leggings. Hopefully these will last me til the end. They’re super comfortable and good for all kinds of workouts, plus lounging (if they’re not already sweaty from the day’s workout…). If my Lulus stop working, I might need to get another pair.

Workout tops:

  • GapFit Maternity Breath short sleeve crew tee: So far, this is the only dedicated maternity workout top I’ve purchased. I got a medium, as I’m often between a small and medium in shirts (pre-pregnancy). A small probably would have worked fine so far, but the medium is fine too and I’m only going to get bigger. I only started wearing this around 18 weeks or so because it really accentuates the belly. But hey – I really have one now.
  • Other than that, I’ve just used longer Ts that I already had on hand for a while, though I think that is coming to an end. I’ve also been able to wear my Sweaty Betty Athlete tank tops (I had one already and then purchased another recently in a sale, both size M), and I also purchased an Athleta Speedlight tank (size small) when I was in Colorado because I forgot a workout top. It’s still working. I have NOT been wearing my Lululemon racerback tanks since about 11-12 weeks because they would ride up and be super stretched out (the SB and Athleta tops have that grippy stuff around the bottom hem that helps keep them down below the bump).

Sports bras:

This has been the area of biggest frustration for me. Many years ago, I decided that investing in good, supportive sports bras is worth it, even though they are expensive. So, I’ve been annoyed that I’ve had to invest in MULTIPLE, and even some of those aren’t really working anymore. Here’s what I’ve been wearing (only the last three were new purchases):

  • Sweaty Betty Victory padded run bra: I bought this in a 34C (my pre-pregnancy size) JUST before I found out I was pregnant (at about 4 weeks). I was able to wear it through… maybe 8-10 weeks? #frustrating
  • Lululemon Enlite bra: I had this pre-pregnancy in a 34C. I was able to wear this until maybe 16 or 17 weeks.
  • Moving Comfort Juno bra: I had this pre-pregnancy in 34C. I was also able to wear this until maybe 16 or 17 weeks.
  • Sweaty Betty Victory padded run bra: When the two bras above started getting tight AND SB was having a holiday sale, I bought this again in a 36D. I bought this at 16.5 weeks, probably started wearing it at 17 weeks… and now at 22 weeks, it’s already too tight. Gaaaaaah. This one is the most frustrating. It was only $32 on sale, but still. 5 weeks of use?! Maybe it’ll be useful post-pregnancy. I don’t know. #veryfrustrating
  • Moving Comfort Juno bra: This bra is a recurring theme. I love it. I also had this one pre-pregnancy in a 36D, saved from several years ago before I’d lost some weight and when I had bigger breasts. Hallelujah! I’m still able to wear this at 22.5 weeks, but it’s getting tight.
  • Juno bra by Brooks: I just purchased this in a 36DD and wore it for the first time this morning (22.5 weeks). This version is slightly different than the Moving Comfort ones I already had, even though I know Moving Comfort is by Brooks. I think this one still has a little room to grow… (thank god).

So let’s take stock of my current sports bra situation. As of today, I can wear the 36DD Juno, the 36D Juno (but it’s tight)… and the 36D Sweaty Betty Victory if I can handle being fairly uncomfortable. The last two aren’t going to last much longer at this rate. SIGH. I think it’s so important to have a good fitting high-impact sports bra, but this is EXPENSIVE.

Casual bottoms:

  • J. Crew signature leggings (non-maternity): I bought these very shortly after I found out I was pregnant, knowing that I would want something that was stretchy as my body started to grow but before I really had a bump. I tried a small and medium. Normally I would have kept the small, but since I was purchasing them to have room to grow, I kept the medium. I haven’t tried these on in a week or two, but so far they’re still working, though they don’t really have much to keep the waist band up on the belly instead of below it. I might start wearing them with my belly band (see below). I think they’ll work for a while. I’ve thought of getting maternity leggings, but I’d prefer to make do with what I have while I can.
  • JUSTBLACK Maternity skinny jean in dark grey from Stitch Fix: When I was about 8 weeks pregnant and realized I needed some maternity clothes but didn’t know where to start, I decided to start with a Stitch Fix box. I ended up keeping all five items in it (a questionable decision, as you’ll see). I got these in a size 28, which I thought was too big, but now is probably about right. I’m usually a 27 or 28. I still wear these with my belly band (see below) to hold them up, but I think they fit right in the hips/thighs. Hopefully these will work all the way through! I wear them a lot.
  • GapMaternity full panel best girlfriend jeans: Got these in a size 28. They’re roomy in the hips and thighs. I guess I’m glad I got these to have another jeans option, but I usually just wear these at home on telework days or weekends. If I’m going out of the house, I’ll usually wear the grey jeans above. I probably could have foregone this purchase.

Work bottoms:

  • LOFT Maternity skinny ankle pant: I got these in a 6 petite, which is usually my pre-pregnancy size. I started wearing these around 12 weeks, and they’re still working great.

Tops:

I was able to wear my pre-pregnancy tops for maybe the first 12 weeks. Since then, it’s been more limited to certain sweaters (generally longer ones) and some button-down shirts. Most of those are starting to become inappropriate, so I’m down to a few maternity tops. Purchases include:

  • Bowie 3/4 Sleeve Dolman Knit Top from Stitch Fix (non-maternity): This was in that one StitchFix box I got (size small). I think I’ve worn it twice. It is roomy and flowy and was advertised as being good for the in-between period, and it seemed it would be. But I just don’t love it, and the in-between period really only lasted a few weeks. While it’s roomy and flowy, it’s not super long, so (I just tried it on again) it doesn’t completely cover the pants belly panel, especially if I raise my arms. But I should wear this one or two more times before it really becomes impossible. And maybe it’ll be useful post-pregnancy for a bit.
  • Chiana Graphic Open Drape Cardigan (non-maternity): Also in that StitchFix box, size S. I’ve never loved the super-long cardigan look, but I actually LOVE this and wear it all the time. It was great for the in-between time and now the early bump time. I imagine it will take me through to the end and beyond.
  • Loveappella Charlote Ruched side maternity knit top from Stitch Fix: Also in StitchFix box, size S. Since this is clearly a maternity shirt, I didn’t start wearing it until 17-18 weeks. But I love it.
  • H&M MAMA Jersey top (maternity): size medium. In addition to the Loveappella top above, this is one of three maternity tops I own right now. Essential. If you’ve seen me in the past four weeks, I was probably wearing this or the Loveappella top, the chiana cardigan, and my grey maternity jeans.
  • Old Navy maternity classic white popover shirt: Size small. This is bordering on the tent-like-maternity-shirt-necessary-in-the-third-trimester, but given my shortage of shirts, I wore this for the first time to work yesterday. Roomy, so far.

Dresses:

  • Renee C Lior Maternity Cross Front Aline Dress from Stitch Fix: Size M. This was the last item in that StitchFix box. With the 25% discount they give you if you buy all five items, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to return an item. I haven’t worn this yet, but I’m just now probably getting to wear I’m pregnant enough for it to make sense. The print is a little louder than I’d normally choose, but I decided I liked it enough to keep it (especially when the marginal cost is free). It could be nice for a shower dress or for work.
  • GapMaternity 3/4 sleeve wrap dress: Size S. This dress, along with the LOFT pants and couple shirts above, rounds out my work wardrobe for the most part. (Plus Le Tote, see below.) This one should work all the way through, and I don’t think I’ll need to buy more work clothes, though maybe another shirt or two. I only go into the office 3x/week, and one of those (Fridays) I can typically wear jeans. So my LOFT pants one day, my dress another, and my jeans the last. That’ll do for about 6 months, right?
  • Kimi & Kai Lace Maternity Skater Dress: After a) realizing that it costs at minimum about $45 to rent a dress and b) that I have three weddings to go to in the next four months, I decided it would be worth it to spend $90 on a maternity dress that I can (hopefully) wear to all three and that I can guarantee I like (which isn’t always true of rentals). I ordered no less than 8 dresses from Nordstrom to try on, including this one in teal and a medium as well as in black and a small. I kept the small, black one. I’ll wear it to a wedding next month in Houston and hopefully to another in April and a final in mid-May. There’s definitely room for belly growth, some room for boob growth, and generally otherwise forgiving. Fingers crossed.

Hosiery and Undergarments:

  • H&M MAMA tights 100-denier: The denier indicates opacity. These are pretty opaque. Size medium. I needed tights to wear with my dress.
  • H&M MAMA tights 30-denier: Size medium. Again, just generally need tights in the winter. I’ll wear these to those weddings (but don’t want to wear them every day, because they’re pretty thin and therefore colder and more likely to snag).
  • Belevation Maternity Support Belly BandSize medium. Belly bands are advertised as being for women who want to keep wearing their pre-pregnancy pants so that they can wear them unbuttoned and this will keep them up. Well, I only wear this with maternity pants. I’m not sure why, but the panel in maternity pants isn’t enough to hold the pants up… they start to slip down and pull my underwear with them. It’s very uncomfortable. It’s probably for a similar reason that I ALWAYS have to wear a belt with regular jeans. I think I’m just shaped funny (and have proportionally larger thighs than waist, although now I don’t have a waist, so who knows). Anyway, whatever the reason, this has vastly improved the maternity-pant-wearing experience. I’ve also worn it once on a long run with my Lulu Wunder Unders, and I’m going to start wearing it with my non-maternity J. Crew leggings.
  • ThirdLove Classic T-Shirt Bra: Size 36D. This (and by ‘this,’ I mean a bigger bra) became a desire around 10-11 weeks and a must around 11-12. It was a little too big when I got it, but now (22.5 weeks) fits quite well and is starting to approach maybe too small. This is the only real bra I have that fits. I wear it a lot. Like, most days if not every day. I’m getting close to buying a new one, but I would like my next purchase to be a nursing bra, so I want to get closer to estimating what my final bra size is going to be. Like sports bras, I believe in investing in good quality regular bras, but unlike sports bras, I’m comfortable not washing this after every single use. Also, I have two Patagonia Barely Bras that I had pre-pregnancy (size M) that I wear when I’m at home (which is 2x/work week and on the weekends). I wouldn’t wear these out of the house at this point, though.

Other Clothing ‘Purchases’:

Not wanting to buy a lot more clothes but knowing I’d want some more variety over the last five months of pregnancy, I decided to try LeTote’s subscription service. They have a maternity option. I selected the one where you pay a flat fee per month and get three clothing items and two accessories per box. Why pregnancy necessitates new accessories, I still can’t explain. You can wear the items as many times as you like and then return them, at which point LeTote will send you another box. Boxes are unlimited and you get to select the items you’re going to get in your box. In my first box, I only wore one clothing item (a size M Seraphine black pencil skirt) and the two accessories. The other two clothing items (a VERY low-cut dress – why are so many maternity dresses V-neck??? – and a tent-like maternity top) were no good. I just got my second box last night, and I will wear the shirt for sure, the sweater most likely, the accessories definitely, and not the dress. So. I cancelled the subscription. I’ve only paid for one month and got several days’ outfits out of it (while avoiding making unnecessary purchases), so I’m okay with having made this purchase, but also think it’s right that I cancelled.

Other purchases:

  • Honest Organic Belly BalmI started using this around 20 weeks. I haven’t noticed any new stretch marks so far and there’s no real evidence that using something like this prevents them, but why the hell not try? It supposedly also helps prevent itchy skin which commonly occurs as the belly skin stretches. So far so good.
  • Thorne D3/K2 dropsMy early pregnancy bloodwork indicated that I’m ‘deficient’ in Vitamin D. I’ve paid enough attention to people like Chris Masterjohn and Chris Kresser to know that that statement is more complicated than people suggest, so I put off doing anything about it for a while. I did try to make a more concerted effort to get sunshine during the day, but then temps were in the single digits for a few weeks and work was super busy and that just didn’t happen. So I decided it wouldn’t hurt to try these. I use 2-4 drops (which is only 1,000-2,000 IU of Vitamin D3) per day.
  • PaleoValley GrassFed Organ Complex: Because I’m not even pretending to try to eat organ meats right now. And, assuming this is as potent and real-food-like as it claims it is, this is so much easier.
  • Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver OilBecause I haven’t been making salmon a priority, and I want baby to have all the DHA he needs to grow a fully functional brain and nervous system and I trust Liz Wolfe.

Those supplements, along with the prenatal vitamin and probiotic I was taking well before I got pregnant, make me feel like I’ve turned away from my real-food roots and am succumbing to the supplement hoo ha. Maybe I am. But just for pregnancy. I expect to go back to assuming my diet fulfills all my needs as soon as I’ve given birth. Or as soon as I’m done breast feeding. You know. Eventually.

Assessment:

So there you have it. Those are all the things I’ve spent hard-earned money on (or in some cases already had) as a result of being pregnant. Not a short list. That’s depressing. But I really feel like most of it has been worth it, with the possible exceptions of the second Sweaty Betty sports bra, the Bowie knit top from Stitch Fix, and maybe the Gap jeans and Stitch Fix dress.

I also have my eye on this cozy sweatshirt. I’ll probably break down and buy it. But unlike the other items I’ve bought, which I intended to buy as living essentials (to work out, go to work, have clothes that fit, etc.), this one would be pure luxury. I want it just because I want it. We’re going to Telluride for almost a week in February, and I want this to go with me. We’ll see.

 

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Paleo Quiche

I’m kind of sort of back in the groove of weekly meal planning and prepping. I really lost it during my first trimester, and it just wasn’t happening with holidays, travel, etc. I’ve been mostly feeling a lot better since entering the second trimester, although I have felt a little more tired these past few weeks. And I’ve had a head cold for a WEEK at this point. I’ve never had a cold this long. I’m starting to feel like I’m never going to get better.

Anyway, I saw this recipe for paleo quiche from Paleo Running Momma recently, and I was excited to have every single ingredient on hand except for the breakfast sausage. So I bought some the next time I went to the store, as well as an extra butternut squash just so I’d still have one on hand. Which was a good call because it turned out that the one I already had had gone bad and squishy :-(. I hate wasting food.

I wouldn’t say this was a quick dish to throw together, but it wasn’t terrible. Like any real food meal, it had a fair amount of chopping and steps. But the end result is super tasty, and the butternut squash crust seemed to work out pretty well.

I only needed about 1/2 to 2/3 of my butternut squash to make the crust, so I chopped up the rest into chunks and roasted it with some beets and leftover red onion I had lying around, so I have that in the fridge. Also, the recipe called for 3/4 lb. of sausage, but I used the whole 1 lb. package. I had about 1-2 cups more filling leftover than would fit in the dish, so I saved that and ate it separately the next day (yum!). Also, as you can see from the photo, I used frozen Trader Joe’s brussels sprouts instead of fresh. I first microwaved them for several minutes (5?), then cut them in half, then roasted them per the recipe. They were still a little soggier than fresh ones would have been after roasting, but in the end, I don’t think you can tell the texture in the final dish.

I cut it into 6 slices instead of 8 (the recipe said it’s 8 servings), and I’ll eat this as a pre-made breakfast on days I don’t telework for the next couple weeks. (I didn’t go into work yesterday because GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN… so one more day of pre-made breakfast still in the freezer!)

For this week, I also have made (or planned to make):

  • Sizzing pork Greek salad from Melissa Hartwig’s new Fast and Easy Whole30 cookbook. I subbed ground beef instead of pork because I didn’t have any ground pork, and I added artichokes and tomatoes. This made more meat than necessary, so I have that leftover in the fridge for this week.
  • Mustard- and almond-flour- glazed flounder (the recipe called for salmon, which I though I had frozen, but it turned out I only had two tiny flounder filets in the freezer instead) and roasted potatoes and broccoli. The fish and roasted potatoes recipes were from RealPlans (which I signed up for again for three months).
  • Spinach Artichoke Chicken Bake, also from RealPlans (plan to make Thursday)
  • Deviled eggs and breakfast sausage (plan to make Saturday)

I continued to work out last week despite being sick, but this really has just dragged on and gotten worse. I didn’t work out yesterday, and today I won’t go to CrossFit, though I will go to my super relaxing prenatal yoga class that I started a few weeks ago. Hopefully I can get back to it tomorrow. I’m not feeling any better today, but I’m feeling… different. Less constantly runny nose, more coughing and pressure in my head and ears. So maybe that means things are progressing? We’ll see how I feel in the morning! In the meantime, I’ll keep drinking lots of fluids (including orange juice mixed with seltzer that has been a new craving of mine that I’m indulging… a lot).

Lately – December 2017

There’s been a lot going on lately, which partially explains the lack of posts. The main things are:

  • It’s budget season again. I talked about this briefly in this post. Budget season typically starts in September when we (OMB) receive budget submissions from agencies. And it ends in February with the release of the President’s Budget. Last year the timeline was different because the Administration changed in January, so budget season shifted to the spring. Anyway, all of budget season is crazy, but October and January are the craziest. So that’s happening. I’ve been working more than usual.
  • We’re buying a new house! New to us and new new. It’s a few miles away from our current house (which we rent and where we’ve lived for almost five years). It’s new construction and will likely be complete in March or April. I’m expecting we’ll move in April. It’s been a lot of fun to pick stuff out (first floor floorplan, cabinets, tile, hardwood, carpet, countertops, sinks, etc.), but it’s also taken up a lot of time. And there have been a lot of meetings, both during work and outside of work hours. Plus all the general house-buying and mortgage paperwork.
  • I’m pregnant! 16.5 weeks. It’s going great, but I was more exhausted than I could ever imagine feeling in the first trimester, so sleeping cut into my free time more than even normal. My 9pm bedtime became 7:30 sometimes. With two naps every Saturday and Sunday. It was the worst weeks 5-10 (so, late September through the beginning of November). Plus, there’s been prenatal appointments and ultrasounds and lots and lots of reading, so it’s been keeping me busy.

Needless to say, I’ve been a little lazy in the kitchen. I went through a period of relying heavily on Sweetgreen and Taylor Gourmet salads for lunch, but I’ve mostly resolved that. Then I started picking up the pumpkin spice yogurt pots from Pret in the mornings as I made my way from the Metro to my office in DC. I’ve also been voting for pizza delivery somewhat frequently – not quite once a week, but not too far from that either. Often on Sunday nights when we’ve had a busy weekend or been out of town.

My diet in general in my first trimester kind of went downhill. Not terribly. I still ate mostly really well. But I was definitely more lenient with the Halloween candy that was around the office and the frequent pastries people brought in. I also was testing out my recently-resurrected sourdough starter and making/eating much more bread than normal. I got it together for several weeks before Thanksgiving though, and since Thanksgiving it’s been so so. Better than before, but not awesome. Starting to sort of slide downhill again. This week has been a week of holiday parties and socializing (and treats – so many treats!). I’m thinking of doing a Whole30 again in January, as I’ve done the last two years, but maybe including grass-fed (usually Greek) yogurt which I just can’t get enough of. We’ll see.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been up to lately:

Things I’ve been reading:

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This was for bookclub (I hosted this month!). I really enjoyed it, but it took me a long time to read.
  • Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. This was our last book club book – my recommendation. I loved A Visit from the Goon Squad, and Jennifer Egan happens to be Dan’s best friend’s cousin, so we’ve anticipating this one for a while. LOVED it.
  • Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by James Clapp and Catherine Cram. Made me feel better (and optimistic) about continuing to CrossFit through pregnancy.
  • Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn by Penny Simkin and others. It took me a while to get into this because it launches pretty quickly into making decisions about birth itself, and I was still in a what-should-I-expect and whats-okay during pregnancy stage. But I’ve started to transition, and now find this really useful. It has a clear but fairly subtle bias toward unmedicated childbirth (which I am interested in), but I feel it presents other options objectively and fairly without speaking negatively/judgmentally about them. Mostly, it just explains the processes of labor and giving birth and post-birth in detail, which is really helpful. Because I’ve never done it before!
  • The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer. I’m not really into this one yet. It’s much more biased about preferring midwifery (which I’m using) and unmedicated childbirth (which I’m interested in), but at this point, I’d prefer the information being presented to me without judgement and with facts about all options. I can’t even remember where I got the recommendation for this. We’ll see if I get through it.

Things I’ve been watching:

  • Fine, I admit it. I’ve been watching the entire series of Gilmore Girls. Again. Really, for like the millionth time (more honestly probably the tenth or so). I start it every Fall and watch the whole series. I don’t actually watch most of it, it’s just on in the background as I cook, fold laundry, etc.
  • Stranger Things Season 2. Dan and I are trying to watch this together. I think we’ve made it to episode… 4? Maybe 5?

Fitness I’ve been doing:

  • CrossFit 3x/week. So far so good. I maybe missed one or two workouts during the first trimester to prioritize sleeping, but as usual, my energy is highest in the morning and it’s later in the day that I start to flag. So workouts were mostly fine. My gym offers three sets of suggested weights/programming for each WOD – ‘fitness,’ Rx, and Open. I worked up to being very comfortable with the fitness weights through my first year of CrossFit, and before becoming pregnant had started to work towards Rx. But since becoming pregnant, I’ve mostly stuck to fitness. I was still doing strength maxes, though. Starting around week 10 or 11, I started to scale back on those as well (opting to do more like 70% of my 1 or 2RM), and also to pay closer attention to whether I would be able to converse during WODs. Now that I’m in the second trimester, I’ve decided to stop kipping pull-ups and any sit up things and will instead do things like strict pull-ups, ring rows, and planks.
  • Baltimore Running Festival Half Marathon. This was when I was about 9 weeks pregnant. My pace was 8:50 (total time: 1:55:51), which is slower than my half marathons from the past 3 or so years, but still respectable. Training runs were tough leading up to it due to how tired I was. I’m also just less into running lately, and don’t think I’ll keep doing half marathons twice a year. But, got ‘er done and was pleased with it. The weather was amazing (high 60s, low 70s, sunny – actually felt hot at points).
  • Thanksgiving Turkey Trot 5K in Grand Rapids, MI. My sister, her boyfriend, Dan, and I all ran this. This was my 6th or 7th year doing a 5K on Thanksgiving Day. Pace: 8:34, Time: 26:35.
  • Upcoming – I’ll be running the Celtic Solstice 5-mile run in Druid Hill Park this Saturday. It’ll be my third year in a row.

Hikes I’ve Been On:

  • A friend couple came up from Houston for a weekend in early November. We went camping in Catoctin Mountain Park at Owens Creek Campground. Before heading to the campsite, we did the 8-Mile Loop Trail. Dan and I had done this once before with his mom (or maybe just a part of it.) The leaves were beautiful, and there were a couple of nice overlooks. The weather was slightly on the chilly side, but it was really nice to hike in. As we drove from the end of the hike to the campground, it started raining. And it continued to pour through the next morning. We attempted a fire for a while, but finally gave in and gathered together in one tent to eat trail mix and play cards.

Things I’ve Been Listening To:

  • Holiday music!
  • The Modern Mamas Podcast. Trying to binge-listen to get up to current, but they keep just putting more out! I’m only up to number… 13 I think. I’ve most enjoyed hearing about Laura’s birth story and being introduced to Aware Parenting concepts.
  • Occasional Girls Gone WOD podcasts, but I’ve definitely fallen behind.

 

Baby Food

This is not what you might think, from the title.

First, let me just acknowledge and move on from the fact that I haven’t posted since August. Clearly, other things have been my priority. That’s okay.

Moving on. In October, a colleague of my husband’s and close friend gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. This friend and her husband also have a dog that we often temporarily adopt when they are out of town, and they do the same for us and our dog. Their dog, Stark, has made an appearance in at least one previous post. I’ve never done this for friends before, but I decided to make several freezable meals for them so they would have easy food after the birth of their child. (So, not baby food – but food-for-parents-that-just-had-a-baby doesn’t roll off the tongue as well.)

I selected four recipes that I thought would freeze well and that would provide some variety. For them, I made four servings each, so 16 individually packaged meals in total. The recipes usually made more, so this was also my meal prep for the week! They were all recipes I’d made before, except one. I chose most from the Fed&Fit cookbook, because most of those package and freeze well, and I like them!

  • Lemony Kale and Sausage soup from Fed&Fit. I believe I added some potatoes and used both sausage and ground turkey (because I had it on hand).
  • Lagered Turkey Chili from Ali Larter’s Kitchen Revelry. I’d made this recently for myself (see photos below), and it was delicious.
  • BBQ Chicken Casserole from Fed&Fit. This was the one I’d never made before, but I thought it turned out great! Dan and I had 4 servings of our own from the recipe to enjoy, so it was great.
  • Tomato and Sausage Frittata from Fed&Fit. Easy and good. I made with chorizo.

Now, I don’t eat frequently with these friends. My husband spends more time with them (as I mentioned, the wife is a colleague of my husband’s). I’ve been to their house for a meal of grilled fish and another for a barbecue with hot dogs and hamburgers. I wasn’t aware of any major food preferences. However, after I was most of the way through making the meals, my husband informed me that he wasn’t “sure they ate much meat.” Hm. Well.

So, I wrote a note that I sent along with the meals when I gave them to them explaining what the meals were and that I mostly eat paleo-ish (lots of vegetables and meat) so that’s the way I cook, and that all of the meat was as high quality as we’re able to get. They did indeed eat them, but the wife told me later that she’d become vegetarian several months before. I’m not sure if she ate any or just let her husband, even though I think he’s eating mostly vegetarian also. Alas. I respect their decisions but also don’t feel bad about providing them super nutrient-dense meals (made more-so by the presence of high quality animal products). Lesson learned for next time though.

I didn’t take photos while cooking, but have some images of other times I’ve made a few of these meals.

Lagered Turkey Chili

 

Tomato & Sausage Frittata

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Eating In Japan (Japan: Part 3 of 3)

I’ve been thinking about how to structure this post. A day by day accounting of each meal? I sort of already did that in my Japan itinerary post, though without pictures of the food. Just highlighting my favorite meals? But even the not-so-favorite meals are still interesting and memorable. So you’ll get a mix.

First, a few thoughts on my personal approach to eating in Japan.

  1. Eat whatever is put in front of me. Why not? I’m probably not going to be able to ask what it is or ask for something different, so just go for it. This led me to eat a few things that I had never eaten before (raw horse meat, sea urchin), things I typically detest (shrimp), and things I don’t necessarily detest but just don’t… choose to eat because I like almost everything else better (squid, octopus).

2. Don’t be too precious or indecisive. By this I mean, I wasn’t concerned about finding the most authentic Japanese meal/experience or the best sushi or ramen. From everything I’d heard about Japan, it was all going to be good. Quality and service are very important and food is respected. I didn’t want to spend time perseverating over this option or that option. Plus, I don’t speak Japanese, and I wasn’t prepared to get uncomfortable enough to put myself in situations that might have been required in order to find the most authentic experience. So did we end up at a lot of safe, guidebook-recommended, English- and tourist-friendly places? Yes. Was it delicious? Yes. Was it the most authentic experience and the best food I could have had there? Probably not, but I was 100% okay with that.

3. Must haves. These included very fresh sushi (Daiwa sushi, check); conveyor belt sushi (place in Ueno, Tokyo, check); wagyu beef (Otsuko Steak in Kyoto, check); and ramen (multiple checks).

4. Try new things. I ate a lot of things I’d never had before, including the items listed above and most of the street food in Osaka. It also included:

  • Takoyaki: fried dough balls with octopus in them
  • Okonomayaki: savory pancakes containing almost anything – noodles, eggs, meat, sauce, green onion, cabbage, etc.
  • Japanese yam… paste? I don’t know what this stuff is called. We had it the first night in Tokyo at the Shinsuke izakaya with raw tuna. It was at the breakfast buffets in the Matsumoto and Yakushima hotels. And it was in this cold soba noodle dish at the cold soba and tempura restaurant in Matsumoto. It’s white (under the egg here) and had a sticky, pasty consistency and not a ton of flavor. I enjoyed it.fullsizeoutput_ae2d

So, we ate well. We didn’t fuss about it too much. My most memorable food experiences include (in chronological order):

  • Our first meal in Japan at Shinsuke Izakaya, obviously. It was our first meal! We each got a beer and we shared a sake. I don’t remember everything we got, but it included sashimi, the Japanese yam stuff I mentioned above, some pickled things. All in small dishes.
  • Daiwa Sushi. We didn’t have a super fancy sushi dinner in Tokyo, which we debated. But this was damn good sushi, worth the wait.
  • The izakaya, Soan Zama, in Matsumoto. As I mentioned in my first Japan post, we were the only customers, and the woman working did not know any English. There must have been at least one other employee cooking, but we never saw that person. We again each had a beer and shared a sake. We asked for something local. Dan ordered cold soba noodles and something else (I don’t remember). I ordered a set chicken dish, which I believe also came with rice, miso soup, and pickled vegetables. The woman watched us eat the whole time, essentially. Occasionally she would busy herself with something else, but mostly just watched us. We tried to just talk to each other normally, but it was tough. Still, the woman was adorable and the service and food so wonderful.
  • Dinner and breakfast at our ryokan, Shirouma-so, in Hakuba. Both were set course meals like I’ll show below for kawa doko. Both included whole fried fish, only one of which I ate the whole thing (head and all). Dinner also included a pot thing for cooking meat. It was clay maybe, and the meat cooked in liquid in a tray over a candle. When the candle was done burning, the meat was ready. We were told, if we wanted, to crack an egg into a bowl we had and dunk the meat in the raw egg before eating it. It was delicious. The meals also had miso soup, rice, and various pickled vegetables. Dinner had tempura vegetables and shrimp also. Breakfast had yogurt and melon and a crepe with a cooked but egg in it.
  • Eating in Osaka. I’ve already talked about takoyaki and okonomayaki, both of which we ate in restaurants in between strolling along the Dotombori canal and Dotombori street at night. The next morning, we went to Kuromon market and saw and ate a ton. There was so much food. The first thing I ate was a sort of meat and egg on a stick (pictured below). Then we got this cucumber salad with octopus in it (I mostly at the cucumber, Dan ate the octopus, but I did have a bite). Dan got this enormous scallop, which was cooked for him in butter over charcoal in its own shell. We ate eel, we ate eel over egg, we ate takoyaki, we ate a peach smoothie. And I’m pretty sure there were a few more things on sticks in there.
  • Kawa doko, eating on platforms above the flowing river, in Kibune. This was a set course meal. Dan and I were starving and both ordered the option with the most things. And beer. The meal included fish, sashimi, pickled vegetables, rice, miso soup, tempura, noodles, and probably other things I am forgetting. So many of our meals were like this in that they involve so many little, beautiful dishes – for the soup, for the rice, for the pickled vegetables, etc. It’s a lovely way to eat.
  • Lunch at the Kagoshima Toppy Hydrofoil port restaurant. Like a few other places we’d eaten (breakfast in the Shinjuku train station in Kyoto, lunch at Subaru Fifth Station on Mt. Fuji before hiking), we ordered via a machine that spits out a ticket, which you then hand to the hostess. In this case, the machine had no English nor pictures. But a poster next to it had pictures and prices, so we were able to figure out which button to push by finding the only one with the specific price of what we wanted. This place is memorable to me because it felt truly diner-like. Not run down, but sort of divey feeling. I loved it. Our ramen was sort of greasy and wonderful. Some of the other patrons were clearly also on their way to Yakushima (where we were departing on the hydrofoil from Kagoshima to) and were sort of hippy hiker-seeming. It just sticks out.

Finally, just a few other food/drink experiences worth mentioning, because I have the pictures:

  • Drink vending machines are everywhere. They have a lot of sugary sodas and coffee. And pocari sweat, a Gatorade-type drink that was really refreshing when we were walking around Kyoto!
  • Our first breakfast in Japan was at a fast food French cafe breakfast place. We got pastries with ham and cheese maybe, in rice flour dough. They were actually kind of delicious. (See above where I talk about not insisting on the most authentic experience.)
  • I did a tiny bit of research to find good coffee in Tokyo and found Nozy Coffee Roastery. I think these lattes were like $7 or $8 each. They were good, though, and much needed after walking a ton (this was the day of 33,000+ steps).
  • We shopped at 7-Eleven a few times (including for fruit and salad when I was really struggling! which they had! they have everything in Japan!), and they must have been running some sort of promotion. Twice, they motioned for Dan to stick his hand in this box and pull out a piece of paper. I forget what he ‘won’ the second time, but the first time was a bag of shrimp-flavored puffed starchy things. Dan ate the bag for breakfast the morning we left Tokyo.
  • Dan got green tea ice cream before we started on the Path of Philosophy in Kyoto when his blood sugar was dipping dangerously low and he was feeling hungry.
  • The food sold by vendors at the Gion festival celebrations in Kyoto was similar to the street food in Osaka. Lots of fried things on sticks. The lines were crazy.
  • Our lunch in Hiroshima. I need to go look up that name and I’ll update this. I had a nice meal of pork, rice, miso soup. The place was really cute and cozy.
  • For breakfast or lunch (timing was weird) in the Kagoshima airport on our way from Yakushima back to Tokyo back to Baltimore, I ordered something without having really ANY IDEA what I was getting. Turns out, it was this ground beef with egg ribbons. That looks like cheddar cheese, but it’s egg. And miso and rice and pickled vegetables of course. And, of course, our on-mountain ‘dinner’ at the Mt. Fuji hut at 3,400 meters. Not the tastiest meal ever, but it was food. Japanese curry (which was a thing), a sausage? patty, sausage links, rice, and pickled vegetables.

Hooray!

Five Hikes in Japan (aka Japan: Part 2)

While in Japan, we hiked the following:

  1. Mt. Fuji
  2. Shin-Hotaka Ropeway to Kamikochi (Japan Alps)
  3. From the top of the Happo One ski resort chair lifts to Happo Ike pond (Hakuba, Japan Alps)
  4. Kurama to Kibune (outside Kyoto)
  5. Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine (Yakushima)

A few general observations on hiking in Japan:

  • I underestimated the first few. My experience of hiking in Japan now is that it is almost invariably steep and usually involves a lot of stairs or rock scrambling. It was like doing hours of stair stepper. But prettier.

(Okay, to be honest, three of those photos are from the same hike. But seriously – all the hikes had either built stairs like this, rocks-as-stairs or rock scrambling like the last photo, or steps made out of the landscape.)

  • Japan is a small country with a lot of people. The hikes are not very remote and are generally fairly developed/built. And crowded.
  • MontBell seems to be the hiking gear brand of choice for Japanese, though I’m not sure if that’s because they offer rental equipment. Speaking of, it seemed like many people hiking Fuji rented their equipment – from packs to shoes. A good option if you don’t want to carry a pair of hiking shoes and warm clothes all over Japan in the middle of summer for the rest of your trip.
  • While some people were outfitted head to toe in serious hiking gear on each of these hikes… there were also pretty ladies in kimonos and sandals on at least one of them. And everything in between.
  • Japan’s got some pretty cool stuff to see on hikes.

Mt. Fuji

We hiked up Mt. Fuji from the Subaru Fifth Station on the Yoshida Trail. There are four main trails up Mt. Fuji. Yoshida is the most popular. You can begin Yoshida, and I believe the others, further down the mountain. I think most people begin at this or another fifth station, and the Subaru Fifth Station is where most of the tour busses and other public transportation go.

I wrote about getting to the Subaru Fifth Station in my main Japan post. We each packed a day pack (Dan used the top of his Osprey backpack and I used this awesome Sea to Summit sack) and then stuffed our packs (i.e., our luggage) in a somewhat random-seeming pay locker (1000 yen) in one of the buildings. Then we paid 1,000 yen donation to the folks asking for a donation and set off.

It started okay. The trail was relatively flat (even downhill – which ended up seeming unfortunate the following day when we hiked back) and wide for a while. There were a lot of people, but there was a lot of space. Before long, though, we started switchbacks up the mountain along a trail that soon had ropes on either side. It turned out that this would be what the rest of the trail was like.

I estimated it would take us 4-5 hours (max 6) to get to the hut where we would sleep that night. It took us 2.5. We were definitely moving, and more quickly than most people, but it was manageable. We were also willing to be jerks a little bit. Not too long after we started switchbacking, a few things happened to cause some backlogs: the trail narrowed a bit, the trail became very rocky and required some scrambling, and we began passing huts along the trail. At the first backlog, leaving a hut area, I was a bit flummoxed. I was sure it was an anomaly. But no, they got worse. Luckily, Dan and I were able to rock scramble around the crowds (still within the ropes of the trail, but to the sides where no one else was scrambling). We made it to the hut around 4ish, were asked to eat dinner right away, and enjoyed a beer at 3,400 meters looking down at the hikers continuing their way up the trail. This particular hut holds 300 people and was sold out, I believe. After a bit of a fiasco with our sleeping area (one sleeping setup was missing), Dan and I went to bed at 7pm and got a little bit of sleep. At 2am, we got up with the rest of the hikers that intended to make it to the summit by dawn. Using the previous day as my guide, I assumed it would take us less time to get to the summit than I’d originally estimated (1-2 hours), and I was worried about getting to the summit too early and being cold. I was already cold. So we set out around 2:30/2:40, and DAMN, we should have left earlier.

We almost missed sunrise. The trail up the mountain was SO crowded that we were literally in a traffic jam the whole way up. Sunrise was at 4:40, and we literally got there at 4:35 and raced to a spot where we could see. It was infuriating. The trail was narrower, so we couldn’t be jerks and go around anymore (though we did a bit early on – then we started getting chastised). Sometimes it narrowed to single-file from two, causing further backups. It was like step forward. Wait two minutes. Step forward. Wait two minutes. The sky started lightening around 3:15 or 3:30. It was pretty. But.

Thank goodness we made it for sunrise. It was really beautiful. I’m pretty sure that makes the whole experience worth it. And our hike around the rim of Mt Fuji was also really nice. We got to walk through a snow field and see the shadow of Mt. Fuji projected on the valley below it.

Then we were ready to go down. It was about 6am. We were among a crowd of hundreds of people trying to enter the trail (while some others were still coming UP the trail). By 7am, we had gone two switchbacks (maybe 100 yards). It was like that until we got back almost to our hut where the trail finally split off and there was a separate down trail that was even less pretty than the up trail, but was at least wide. Still steep, though, and mostly gravelly.

We made it all the way down by 9:30, and we were ready to be finished. I’m very glad for the experience, but I don’t think I’d ever do it again. At least not on a Saturday in July. (For the record, we were warned that it would be crowded; I just never imagined.)

 

Shin-Hotaka Ropeway to Kamikochi

This hike started from the top of the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway. I’d read in our Lonely Planet guidebook that you could hike this either direction, but that Kamikochi to the Shin Hotaka was very steep. We’d just hiked Mt. Fuji and just the timing and bus schedules made this direction more manageable. There was no information in the main Shin Hotaka observation deck building about hiking, nor were there clear signs upon exiting the building onto trails. We saw a couple going one direction, which seemed to be the only direction to go, and tried to ask if it was the way to Kamikochi. They told us that no, hiking to Kamikochi was ‘very hard mountain’ and that they thought it was ‘impossible from here.’ It was hard to know whether they actually meant impossible (like, that was the wrong direction), or it was just known to be a difficult hike. So we returned to the building to ask and got a sorta map written on the back of a receipt by the store clerk. We  determined that had been the right trail and set out. But all the signs were in Japanese until we got to a mountain hut.

So, the Japan Alps do have a good network of huts that allow for multi-day hiking trips. We were strongly advised to fill out a form in a small cabin before setting out regarding our intended itinerary or face a 50,000 yen fine, which we did. But we were only going for the day, of course. The trail was pretty steep uphill until we got to the only hut on our route, where we stopped to eat snacks. Then we continued on, and the rest of the trail was pretty steep downhill (many of it actual steps) into the Kamikochi valley. I think it took us about 3 hours total? This was the least developed of the hikes that we did, but it was still fairly developed. We passed a few people along the trail, but not many, so it was also the least crowded. We were trailing a trio of American guys that we then later saw in the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima – see, small country.

Kamikochi was beautiful. It’s not really a town (at least what we could see). There’s a bridge on the south end, where we arrived, and then another bridge about half a mile north on the north end that crosses the river. On the side of the river we arrived on, that half mile is dotted with several ryokans (one of which had a public onsen that closed at 3pm and we arrived at 2:45, sadly, so we didn’t go). We walked to the north end and crossed over. That side had a couple restaurants/stores and the bus terminal. I think that’s all there is.

Hike to Happo Ike

I believe ike means pond. This hike is from the top of the Happo One ski resort chair lifts (a gondola and two chair lifts) to a pond. The trail continues further to the summit (dake) of Mt. Karamatsudake, but we didn’t have the energy or time for that – we wanted to get back to our Hakuba ryokan and relax! Also, the clouds were rolling in and we didn’t want to get caught in a storm. I was less worried about hiking in the rain and more worried that the lifts would stop operating in a thunderstorm and we wouldn’t be able to get back down in a timely fashion.

Again, this trail was super rocky and pretty steep. Partly, this was the route we took up. On the way down, we took a slightly different route that had more built boardwalks and steps that made it easier. The views of Hakuba and the valley and the surrounding mountains were beautiful. And we saw (and walked through!) snow fields! For the top half of the hike we were primarily in clouds, including at the pond, which made it look very misty and dreamy.

I think we got to the top of the lifts around 1 and were back to the lifts by… 2:30? So this wasn’t a super-long hike. But it was really pretty. And made us sorta feel like we earned our onsen :-).

Kibune to Kurama

I don’t have a lot to say about this one. Read this for more information, better pictures, and a generally more positive perspective. (Note: we did this in the opposite direction of that description, as we wanted to eat above the river before starting.) As I mentioned in a previous post, the heat and humidity while we were in Kyoto killed my soul a little bit, and getting out of the city in the mountains a little bit didn’t help. At all. Plus, it was a Saturday, and this is a common excursion from Kyoto for tourists and Kyoto residents alike. It wasn’t crowded like Mt. Fuji by any means, but it wasn’t remote at all and we were hiking with many other people. This is the hike that many women in kimonos were hiking! With slow, short steps, as their strides were limited by their outfits. They looked wonderful with their perfect makeup and nicely done hair, while I was sweating like crazy and a little grumpy. It’s almost not even right to call this a hike. It was more like a stair climb to a summit and then a stair climb down, via a temple. We only took one picture.

However. On a day that is not 95+ degrees F with 95% humidity, I can see where this would be a really lovely outing, with or without the crowds.

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Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine

This is one of several popular hikes on Yakushima. The other we strongly considered was a full-day hike to Jomon Sugi, the oldest and largest cedar on the island, estimated to be 3,000-7,000 years old (!!). However, this was the last full day of our trip, and we were staying in a fancy hotel, and we wanted some time to relax, unwind, and enjoy ourselves. So we opted for Shiratani Unsuikyo, which offers three different loops of varying lengths. We essentially did all three, except for portion of the shortest one that didn’t overlap with the other two. I estimate that it was about five miles total??

To get there, you drive up a very windy, often one-lane road with very beautiful views of the valley and the town of Miyanoura on the coast below. We passed a family of monkeys on the side of the road! (We’d also seen monkeys in Kamikochi walking along the bank of the river.) The parking lot was full when we got there, but there they let us park on the side because we had an itty-bitty rental car. Others had to park further down the mountain road and walk up. It cost 500 yen (or maybe 300?) per person to enter.

The path started with boardwalk and steps, but once we veered off onto the longer loops, we found ourselves in what felt like very deep, very misty forest. We passed several very old cedars, all of which had signs marking them and observation platforms (usually with a bench) for sitting and admiring. There are also several large ‘second generation’ cedars in which a seed germinates in the stump of an older cedar. In a few places, there were signs describing how the forest has been cleared and replanted to some extent, and that all of the cedars in a particular area are from a ‘mother cedar’ in the area.

It poured on us at one point and was generally just wet and misty, so a lot of my photos have the film of mist over them. Apologies. We were able to hike to a rock summit with a really nice view of the valley. It was cloudy so pictures don’t do it justice, but it was a nice panoramic view. We had planned to eat lunch up there, but no food was allowed (understandable since it’s a popular hike and it would probably get too crowded having people hang out up there too long), so we ended up having to eat our hotel-boxed lunches (rice, fish, and orange slices) off the side of the trail soon after.

So that’s my experience of hiking in Japan. I would love to do more, especially multi-day hikes, in the Alps. We saw such cool stuff everywhere though, despite my grumbling about crowds and heat. Super awesome experience!

 

 

 

Chicken Salad Salad

Guys. I am so excited about the jar salads I made this week. They were so good.

We got home from Japan late Friday, so I had all weekend to meal plan and prepare food for the week. (Side fact: I’m doing another Whole30! My third. I started Monday, so this is only day 3. The last I did was a year ago. I’d pretty much decided to do it post-Japan even before I left for the trip. I’d been eating crap just because it’s there and not feeling great and not being mindful and just wanted to take time to be more intentional about my food choices. Actually, it’s about habits. I like to reset and reform good habits. Then eventually they wear away, and I come back to reset them. Anyway, and then, when I was in Japan, I was craving vegetables. I usually eat so many vegetables and could not find enough vegetables. I loved the food there, but I was very excited to come home and do a Whole30. We’ll see how long that enthusiasm lasts. :-). Anyway.) Instead of falling back on my default salads, I googled for some inspiration. I found this Chicken, Apple, and Pecan Salad from Damn Delicious, and it is damn delicious.

Chicken salad is still sort of a new thing for me. I had never liked mayo until I started eating frites several years ago (they were sort of a thing for a while, right?) and realized that aioli is mayo. So I started making my own. Store-bought mayo still just seemed unappetizing, but homemade was yummy. I used to make it with canola or vegetable oil, you know, before I knew better. Now that I limit those oils, I haven’t found a good way to make it anymore. I tried avocado oil once and really didn’t like it. However, I do like the Primal Kitchen mayo from Thrive Market made with avocado oil. I still don’t use it a lot, so it’s been sitting in my fridge for a while, and it was nice to find an excuse to use it.

To Whole30-ify the recipe, I did not use dried cranberries nor Greek yogurt. Instead, I used a little bit more mayonnaise and a lot more freshly squeezed lemon. Also, my experience with kale in jar salads is that it smells terrible after even a day in a jar (tastes okay, but coworkers give you funny faces), so I used spinach instead.

Ohmygod, so good. I took the picture below after my first bite while sitting at my desk at work because I was so excited.

For better or worse, it takes a while to eat. Not sure why – so many chopped up parts maybe. I was trying to eat really quickly at my desk in between two meetings yesterday. My coworkers were waiting for me to walk with them to the second meeting in another building. I finally had to give up and put some of it back in the jar to eat later. Probably better to not force eating so quickly anyway.

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