My adventures in pregnancy, motherhood and beyond

Please enjoy the musings and updates and leave me a comment if you'd like!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Jordan (Pilgrimage Pt 1)

I want to do justice to the trip, so I think I'll post a few days at a time. If you're interested in more photos, check my facebook page as I'm uploading them (I can't believe I'm uploading photos in a timely fashion!)

After about 24 hours door to door, we arrived in Amman, Jordan on the night of the 12th. I had started my pregnancy journal (which will include the trip journal) on the plane, and James' sniffle had developed into a full blown cold, which he courteously passed onto me. I passed it to my mom and, now that they're home, mom passed it to dad. We should buy stock in kleenex; James was able to medicate with sudafed, theraflu, his codeine cough syrup, but I was left with ricolas and lots and lots of kleenex. We met up with mom and dad in London and when we got to Amman, we were met by a guide/driver with Mark's name on a placard. He breezed us through customs; we felt like important diplomats. It was great: we handed him our passports and he took care of everything while we got our bags. Mark met us at the hotel and we went to Jafra cafe for dinner. James and I had lamb kofta with tahini sauce, which was delicious, but a huge portion. The taxis were a bit terrifying--besides merging into traffic circles without slowing and pedestrians just walking out in front of cars, no one seemed to know where our hotel was. Apparently, it used to be called the Taiki two years ago, and they recognize that name, but not the Ramada. This was a problem we had multiple times. We finally solved it by getting the hotel to write on the back of a business card; giving the address didn't help. 

Jerusalem in the Madaba Map
Dad and I at lunch in Madaba
Sunday was mother's day and James had gotten me a cute card with a little pair of socks in it! It was so sweet. Mom and dad went to church, but we slept in. When they got back, we decided to go to Madaba, which has a mosaic map of the area. The map was amazing: I could identify Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and the Jordan River. The church itself was filled with beautiful icons. We had shawermas for lunch and then our driver took us to Mt. Nebo. Mt. Nebo is the site where Moses first looked into the promised land, and is also considered to be where he died; it's now a memorial. The basilica was closed for renovations, but they had some mosaics out and the valley view (with the Dead Sea) was absolutely gorgeous. We were taken to our guide's "friend's" mosaic factory, where we were shown a demo of the mosaics being made and given the sales pitch of course. James was used to this from his trip, but it was an uncomfortable experience. We had a nap at the hotel and then headed out to dinner, taking the recommendation of the front desk and going to Reem Albawady Restaurant. It was all outdoor dining, under a pavilion tent and they brought out blankets to cover our shoulders. I had lentil soup and meat beraks (?), meat wrapped in triangular pastries. We also got some mixed grills (kebabs) to share. It was so much food, and then they brought our watermelon slices! I also felt the baby move for the first time!!! It felt like an elbow being dragged along inside my stomach; a bizarre and wonderful feeling. Since then, I've been feeling little kicks on and off, getting more and more regular, especially since getting home!

Week 17 at the Citadel in Amman
James and I at the Temple of Hercules
Citadel, Amman
Monday was a long day too. I woke up with James' cold and didn't have my allowed medication list with me, so didn't take anything (the internet is evil and scary). We got the ok from Mark to skip the dinner that night and made reservations for the cooking class (more on that later!). When mom and dad got up, we went to rainbow street and walked around, but it was early and pretty empty. We found a pharmacy and a supermarket and ended up heading to the Citadel afterwards. So neat: Roman temples, a Byzantine church, Umayyad complex and mosque, Bronze Age cave. We wandered around and saw mostly everything. There were the ruins of the Byzantine church, which was beautiful, and the Umayyad complex was huge. We heard the noon call to prayer from multiple mosques while wandering through the complex. There were the remains of a colossal (30 m tall) statue, just the fingers and elbow and the Bronze Age tomb was neat. The temple of Hercules just had some columns left, but it was still beautiful. We headed back to the hotel and took a nap before heading to Beit Sitti, a homemade cooking experience we found in the seatback magazine on our flight from London. I am thrilled that we did that: it was definitely a major highlight of our trip. We had some issues with the taxi: with 5 of us, we had to split up: mom, dad and Susan in one, James and I in another. First the hotel concierge told us we could fit 4 of us in the back of the taxi (yeah right), then it took another 5 minutes to find us a taxi. Then our taxi driver stopped to get coffee and cigarettes on the way there (with the meter running!). When we finally arrived, my parents weren't there! I was worried, and after a while, Maria (our host) called the hotel--they were back there. Apparently their driver didn't know where it was (surprise, surprise) and drove them up and down, all over, until they finally had him take them back to the hotel and they got another taxi. We made a delicious four course meal: tabbouleh, an eggplant dip (moutabbal I think), siniyet kafta (lamb kofta!) and knaffeh for dessert. The hands on experience was so much fun, and we even have recipes now! The tabbouleh was made with the tiniest bit of bulgar, tons of fresh parsley and lemon, garlic and tahini. It was delicious and so fresh tasting. The eggplant dip was divine: the eggplants were roasted in an open flame til black and crispy and mushy inside. We just used the inside and mixed it with spices and deliciousness. It was topped with a spice called sumac (yes, related to poison ivy, but not poisonous) that had a citrus-y taste to it. The lamb was better than the restaurant: mixed ground beef and lamb, topped with fried potato slices and tahini sauce. The dessert was good, but I didn't get to eat more than a bite: it was layered noodles, goat and mozzarella cheese and noodles, topped with simple syrup. The bite I had was great, but goat cheese is unpasteurized and on the "to avoid" list, so I didn't want to risk it. What really made the experience was the people. Southern hospitality has got nothing on these people; they are so kind and welcoming. In Israel, I often felt the hospitality was because they wanted to sell you something, but it Jordan it felt much more genuine. The women who helped us cook were so sweet and kind and wanted us to feel at home and told us we now had family in Jordan. She also helped us catch a cab that knew how to get us to our hotel. We all got certificates, and I was named head chef (Hajjeh) of the night! James also noted that the top of my belly button has started to poke out!
At Beit Sitti with our certificates

Grand Tombs
Dad in front of the Treasury

Tuesday was a VERY long day, and our last in Jordan. It was the official start of the pilgrimage--our trip to Petra! Mom wasn't feeling well and decided to stay at the hotel and dad had managed to wrench his knee, so he was having a hard time. We had a 3.5 hour drive there and someone on the bus kept asking for the air to be turned off; I thought I was going to die. Petra was amazing and fulfilled all of my Indiana Jones wanna-be-ness. We entered through the canyon, the Siq, which was gorgeous and nice and cool in the ehat. The colours were breathtaking and even the natural formations were amazing. Our first glimpse was of the Treasury through the canyon (very Indiana Jones!) and when we actually saw the whole of it, it was just astounding. The ornately carved edifices are almost exclusively tombs, but when Petra was rediscovered, the explorers found Bedouins living in the caves and assumed they were the descendants of the Nabateans and asked them what the difference structures were. They responded with their own legends and traditions, giving rise to the djinn blocks, the Treasury, Pharaoh's Daughter's Palace, etc. The Bedouins lived there all the way up to 1989. While we were listening to our guide in front of the Treasury, we saw a proposal! It was so sweet! We walked the entire length of the city, seeing tons of tombs, both royal and common, houses and even the remains of a Byzantine church that had beautiful mosaics. My favourite were what our guide called the Grand Tombs, up on the hill which were beautiful and intricate. I was able to take some amazing panorama shots with mom and dad's camera. Dad had to turn back early because of his knee, so James and I left the church early to catch up with him, which we didn't manage. I was so overheated at this point that we had to stop multiple times for me to rest. I get exhausted so easily nowadays and I keep overestimating what I am capable of doing--it involves a lot of resting. My original plan had been to take a carriage back through the Siq, but after seeing the carriages go over the uneven cobblestones, dad and James refused to let me get on one of them. Even if I weren't pregnant, I probably wouldn't have taken a carriage despite my exhaustion because they weren't treating the horses really badly. We caught up with Dad right outside the Siq and after getting back on the bus, we found out we'd walked 10 kilometers (6.2 mi)!! And we could say we walked the entire thing! I can't remember walking that far in one day before, and a shower never felt so good. One good thing was that I definitely slept well that night, and didn't even wake up during the morning call to prayer at 4:30. It was an exhausting day, but it was so cool to finally see Petra! 

The next day we headed off to Nazareth! Check back for the Galilee adventures tomorrow, and remember to check out facebook for more photos!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fails-Kitchen and DIY

Some fails. Don't worry, the last one has a happy ending.

I love buffalo chicken ANYthing. I think my love affair began with a buffalo chicken dip one of James' relatives brought to a party. I could have eaten nothing but that all night and been perfectly happy. Since then, I've been accumulating buffalo chicken recipes to try. I don't make it often since Hubby isn't a spicy-foods lover, but he relented and let me try a buffalo chicken mac'n'cheese recipe I found. I don't want to link to the recipe since I'm pretty sure the result was due to faulty ingredients.

The first thing you have to understand is that I never had Kraft mac n cheese until I was 13. My mom always made macaroni and cheese that was more like a casserole. She made it the way my grandma made it, and my grandma made it the way Papa's mom had made it. Cook the noodles, mix with some cheddar and bake in a casserole dish. If you're Papa, dad or me, add A1 (or HP) sauce and enjoy. Yum. This is one of my top comfort foods, placing second only to schnitzel. And now I lost my train of thought and want macaroni and cheese....where was I? Oh yeah, James doesn't fancy this dish as much as I do. He prefers a saucier dish, which I usually do too, so we've had to compromised and I've learned to accept (and maybe even like) Kraft mac'n'cheese and hotdog nights.

We halved everything since it was just the two of us, and it still made enough leftovers for at least another meal. There were some things I would have changed: it smelled delicious while cooking, but didn't have much spice or buffalo flavour, so I would probably double the sauce (and kill James, according to him). We also definitely skimped on the chicken, but I hadn't realized we only had one chicken breast left when we started cooking at 8:30, and didn't feel like running to the store. I left out the panko because I really don't understand that topping for mac'n'cheese, and had to leave out the blue cheese for obvious reasons :( It ended up alright, but it was mediocre at best. I also burned the butter when trying to make part of the sauce, so that probably didn't help.

The problem was the reaction we both had. My stomach ache yanked me out of a pleasant dream the next morning. Hubby said he thought he was dying in the shower. I thought it was just my tummy, since my digestive system is finicky at the best of times. I've just learned to accept that and deal with it, but James tends to have a cast iron stomach. I went over the recipe again, trying to see if it was something in it. If it had just been me, I would have assumed that I should have taken a lactaid, but there was nothing in there that should have bugged us; I'm relatively sure something was up with one of our ingredients or we did something incorrectly/undercooked something. It's unfortunate since the dish had some great potential. If you have a recipe for buffalo chicken mac'n'cheese that you've tried, please pass it along, because it still sounds delicious to me...though it might take James a bit longer to warm up to the idea of trying it again.

My DIY fail was spectacular. And no, there are no pictures. I read this blog post on Delighted Momma and was thrilled. Those of you who know me know that I have digestive issues; I've been to many doctors, had every procedure short of invasive surgery, and no one can figure out what is going on with my stomach. My symptoms match Crohn's, but no one can confirm it since no doctor has been able to see visual signs of inflammation. And my body decides to be normal when I'm having tests done. And since going off birth control last July, my skin seems to have reverted to the middle school complexion I never had. I can control it with benzoyl peroxide, but was told it wasn't safe during pregnancy. I figured I'd give this home remedy a whirl. After all, it can't hurt, right?

Wrong. I haven't had the guts to drink it as recommended, so I can't comment on the digestive properties Delighted Momma claims. I did find some organic, unfiltered (but not raw) apple cider vinegar at Trader Joe's and figured it should work as well. I was cleaning up the bathroom, so decided to sponge the vinegar on my face and set the timer for 20 minutes. My face felt a little flushed, but I wasn't concerned since that's par for the course right now. James came home 5 minutes later and I apologized for smelling like vinegar, but he asked what had happened to my face. I checked the mirror, and my face had turned BRIGHT RED. Worse than the worst sunburn I ever had. And it followed the line of where I put the vinegar, so around my eyes was still super pale. I looked like a bad tanning bed experiment. It was terrible. I immediately washed my face with cold water, but it didn't seem to help. My face had felt flushed, but not burning, not anything that would have suggested this level of reaction. I sponged some milk on my face, and that helped cool my face, but I'm not sure it had any reaction on the redness. I would have used yogurt, but I only had peach yogurt, and I didn't really want to experiment further that day. Within 20 minutes, my face was almost back to normal. I reread the post, and followed a link at the bottom about using the vinegar topically, and sure enough the mistake was my own. You're supposed to dilute the vinegar, 1 part to 3 parts water. I also decided I would find the exact brand in her picture (available at Fresh & Easy) just in case the non-raw thing had something to do with it.

I made up a batch and have been using it 1-2 times daily on my face and chest and it has definitely made a difference! My skin is softer, and my breakouts are fading and less red. I don't know if it's the vinegar, but I think it is. (I skipped a few days and noticed a change again--not for the better). All I know is that that one bottle will last me quite a while and I will continue using it. I'd rather use a home remedy like this than medications, pregnant or not. I would definitely recommend this for someone who has mild/moderate breakouts, but I would stress diluting it!! (Of course, my skin tends to be super sensitive, so *shrug*)

See, I told you one of my fails had a happy ending! And remember, if you have any buffalo chicken recipes, please share them with me! Or any recipe, really. I can't wait to cook more!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

16 Weeks

16 weeks! Only 1 month til the halfway mark! Crazy!

We've been busy, busy, busy here. We're cleaning/re-organizing the house. The three big boxes that were sitting unpacked in our bedroom have finally been put away! We only have three boxes left to unpack in the kitchen now! I went through my closet to see what I could and couldn't wear and ended up storing a lot of my clothes, though a few should work for a little longer, if not through the whole pregnancy. My shoes have been unpacked, though a lot of those have been stored too. I also went through all my bags! I packed up a lot of them since there's not a lot of room in the closet, but kept some of the smaller ones out, as well as my small suitcase for shorter trips.

James is going through all the paperwork we've saved and figuring out what we need to keep and what we need to shred. I've been slowly putting things away and gathering a little pile of things that will go to Israel with us. My new purse arrived Thursday afternoon so I've been trying to pack up things in there to see how they fit. Despite warnings about the water bottle pocket being small, it holds a small Nalgene or contoured Nalgene-like bottle fine. My new phones have arrived and neither have worked properly, but since we're leaving in 6 days (eee!) there's no point in getting another since I'll upgrade 4 days after we get back. I still have to go through  my iTunes, since I deleted my previous playlist. I have some new songs (Alan Doyle!!!) and some new audiobooks. I also discovered a nook giftcard I've had since Christmas but hadn't used and finagled two new books plus a short story from it; hopefully that will get me through at least the flights there.

How far along:  16 weeks
Total weight gain:   -1, according to the doctor (my scale says anywhere from -12 to -1 on the same day)
Maternity clothes:   Yep, although some of my stuff will last a while longer
Stretch marks:   No changes
Sleep:   I'm still tossing and turning, and I freak out when I wake up on my back, but I'm feeling much more rested
Best moment this week:   Meeting the new OB
Miss anything:   All those foods you can't eat, especially sushi and blue cheese
Movement:   A feeling that something was pushing out against my stomach and some more of those bubbles. The doctor isn't sure it's movement, but they were weird feelings
Cravings:   Toast with butter, peanut butter and honey. Mmmm
Queasy?:   Nope
Gender:   The ultrasound is schedule for June 1
Symptoms:   Pretty much the same
Belly button in or out?:   In
Wedding ring on or off?:   On
Happy or moody?:   Moody, but happy is a mood too
Looking forward to:   The pilgrimage of course! And the 20 week ultrasound!

James and I met the new OB yesterday afternoon. He was great! I instantly felt more comfortable with him that with Dr. Boyd; he was nice, and funny, and James confirmed that initial feeling; he said he liked him as a doctor too. He did an in-office ultrasound to confirm dates (still due October 16) and when we asked about the insurance part, he basically said he didn't care if he was paid for it or not; he's an OB because he loves doing it, not for the money. He has two offices, and we'll probably keep driving to the farther one because he's there Friday afternoons, which is perfect for us. He sent the authorization for the June 1st ultrasound and I authorized the transfer of records, so hopefully I won't have to see the old OB again.

And my dreams have been crazy lately! I've had four I can remember just this week! I dreamed that you could find butterbeer dresses, named so because of their colours: yellow dresses with a cream/ivory lace overlay. They were really beautiful, and if I could sew, I would definitely make one. Empire waist, not cut too low and really cute, slightly puffy sleeves. (I'm having a real problem finding maternity tops that aren't super low cut). I had another dream that we nicknamed the baby "Wallaby" until s/he was born, for lack of a name other than "Baby." I also dreamed that James came in one morning and asked me to get him a travel-sized toothpaste for the trip. I honestly thought I was awake for this, but when I asked James about it, he said he hadn't asked me anything. This morning, I woke up super early for me (6:30) and couldn't get back to sleep. I was watching the Today show and looking up information about our trip, with one dog curled up on each side of me, and I must have dozed off. The next thing I knew, I was at the airport for our flight, waiting for James to get there. I boarded the plane, and Al Roker was on the same flight! The flight was cancelled due to mechanical problems with the plane, and Al Roker gave me 2 free round-trip flights, plus tickets to my choice of Broadway shows. Then I had to find a different flight to London, and get our checked bags. Then I woke up. I've always had weird dreams, but I rarely remember them. James also said I sat up and said something weird last night, then laid back down; I have no memory of this, but this also isn't a rare occurrence, although usually James wakes me up laughing. I'm going to use the time on the plane to start keeping a journal; I've been meaning to, but something else always seems to come up.

That's it for week 16; I can't wait for what's still in store!
I really like these belly and chalkboard shots James is taking

Is Baby L a BOY or GIRL? Old Wives' Tales;
B: 2, G: 7, ?: 1. Ultrasound in June!
Belly zoom-16 weeks

Saturday, May 5, 2012

DIY-ing (picture heavy)

I've been DIYing quite a bit lately, crafting my little heart out. Especially since crafting exploded and it's all organized again. Then, in Coronado last weekend I found a whole box of supplies! Amazing! Why didn't I take these with me? There was a whole little compartment box of beads! I've had some successes: the fishtail friendship bracelet, the proenza schouler-inspired knockoff and some gifts that I can't post quite yet. I thought I'd share some photos of my recent craftiness, along with tutorials if I had them and some tips I discovered while making them.

Embroidered watermelon coasters (also in pink)
Tutorial adapted from a Joann's flyer

I found these coasters on one of those "Crafting with Joann's" flyers and decided to try it out. I had some pink, white and black yarn at home, and picked up some green and red on sale. Make sure you use the plastic embroidery circles that have 4 holes in the center, otherwise the yarn/needle doesn't go through. Then, glue some felt onto the back, and presto, you've got watermelon coasters. Lazy daisy stitch for the seeds. I imagine you could do this with almost any fruit, even cutting the circle into different shapes


Knitted headphones to keep them from tangling. And they're fun!
Tutorial here. This is a good yarn stashbuster

I found these knitted headphones on Pinterest a while ago (see the tutorial for hers) and decided to give it a try. I had this yarn leftover from an impulse buy. I loved the colours, but never found anything to use it for. Since the stitch is basically an icord made around the headphones, I needed some practice and used the yarn and an old set to practice. Since then, I bought some sock-weight yarn on Knitpicks, but I think it's too rainbow-y for me. Besides, looking at my two test-runs next to each other, I actually prefer the thicker weight yarn (and the colours). I'm horrible at icords, but I think the heavier weight hides mistakes a bit better. You do need double pointed needles for this project in an appropriate size (I think I used a bit smaller than the yarn recommended)

Fishtail friendship bracelet: I used this tutorial
I've always loved how fishtail braids looked, but never learned how to do them. Those of us with fine hair don't usually bother learning all those neat little hair tricks and updos other girls learn; we rarely have the bulk for them. I wish I did, but they just don't look the same on me. Anyways, I saw a fishtail braid on Pinterest and got to thinking, "I wonder if you could make a friendship bracelet with a fishtail pattern?" Since I wasn't sure if it was like french braiding, I didn't know if it was possible. Google to the rescue! I found this lovely tutorial and used that. It's pretty simple, and she even adds a trick for keeping the loop at the top from tangling, which can be used in other projects too. Since then, they've posted a quicker version, using only 6 strands, but I really like the look of the other better. Just remember what order your colours are in, since mine got tangled up pretty quickly. I'm loving the peaches and dusty pinks and purples I used in this; I've really been into peaches, oranges, and dusty pinks lately as well as creams and ivories. I might just have to make another...

As a lot of you know, my mom and dad are taking James and I on a pilgrimage to Israel with their cathedral in just a few days (we leave this Friday! EEE!). I got to thinking about money and such. I hate those money belts that you wear under your clothes, but there are certain places that aren't the safest for a traveller's wallet. I decided it would be pretty cool to make a little secret safe out of a chapstick tube and went through quite a few trying to figure out how to make it work. What I was planning on doing, after some google searching, was to pop off the bottom, take out the tube, pop the bottom back on, and glue in the actual balm part, with only about 1/2" left, so it still looked like a usable chapstick should someone open it up. Well, that didn't work...the bottom kept falling off and wouldn't stay on. So instead, I just left out the balm and glued the bottom on, trusting that no one would actually try to open it. It's pretty easy to make: just get some pliers under the the bottom and pry off, then cut the stick that's attached to the balm. Push it up through the tube, and clean out the tube by running a paper towel through it (not kleenex!). Glue the bottom back on and voila!

Chanel-inspired bobby pins: tutorial here
Honestly WTF is my favourite DIY site ever. Not only do they have picture tutorials (so important for a person who learns by doing), but they also include links showing you where to buy the materials they used. They're generally knockoffs of designer stuff since they're a fashion blog too, and a lot cheaper than the actual thing. I saw these and knew I had to make some! I had all the supplies I needed since I have a bit of an obsession with pearls; they are my birthstone after all. I also love hair decorations: clips, pins, combs, etc. But I hardly ever use them. So I've made these and I'm waiting for the perfect occasion to wear them now! This one's a bit tricky when you start wrapping, but they end up looking really nice. The only thing I needed to buy was some wire. I think I used 20 gauge wire, and my pearls are a bit smaller than the ones they used, but I'm saving my chunky pearls for a different project.

Tutorial here
This is one I would never actually wear, but I felt like trying. I have so much embroidery thread that it fills a giant freezer ziploc bag, and I can't even zip it anymore. Actually, I should probably go through it and divide it so I can actually close it. Anyways, I got some wire and I'm not a huge fan of hot pink, so I used a gray-purple that I like. In retrospect, I don't think I like the colour; it's too gray for my taste, but it does kinda make it look like metal, I guess. Anyways, here's my take on a knock off of an Anthropologie necklace ($48 there!) Since I had the thread, I ended up spending about 3 dollars for the 16 gauge wire I used, which could make 6 or more.

Tutorial here
Remember those wish bracelets people used to make with hemp? I had such a cute choker a friend made, with seed beads in all the colours of the rainbow and held together with a safety pin. I have no idea what happened to it. I found a tutorial for one and decided to try it. I never had figured out how to braid the beads in, and I had some silver beads left over from a different Honestly WTF project I wanted to try. I used  crimps and a clasp on the end, and as you can see, my sides aren't quite even since you have to guess where the middle would be. I also like using cord (cotton or leather) much better than hemp, and prefer the braiding to the macrame (I have nothing against macrame, just against hemp).

Tutorial here
I found Chic Steals through a DIY fashion blog week at another site I check out. She had made these adorable Dolce and Gabbana inspired sunglasses, which I plan to make. But I also found this cardigan clip she made. I loved the idea, especially since with a burgeoning belly it's not advisable to wear button up cardigans anymore. Since I can move the clip, I can move it up the cardigan as needed, but it'll also keep it closed when I want it closed. My mom gave me a ton of lace hem tape in all colours, so I picked up some stiff felt and some cute pearl buttons and clip on earring backs. I couldn't find shoe clips anywhere. I did my lace a bit different, but I like how it turned out. I'll have to make another soon!

Kate Spade for $1.40! Tutorial here
I scour craft sites that pull from all over the web and saw these Kate Spade knock off earrings. I loved the idea of the wood and paint juxtaposed together. Again, hers aren't the colour pink I like, but I have a large collection of nailpolishes. After a quick trip to Michael's revealed that they did not have wood furniture buttons, I found them at Joann's (I wish we had a Hobby Lobby here!). I messed up the first batch: do NOT use tape when painting, even with nailpolish, invest in painter's tape. I was pretty happy with how they turned out, but when you put them on, the little back of the button makes them stick out. The real ones lie flat. I tried to figure out a way to saw off the back, but other than using a sanding block, I couldn't figure it out, so I have some work to do to figure it out, but I will get it...eventually. I do however, love how they turned out, especially the second from the right in front. Oooo sparkly!

Ah, my beloved prescription sunglasses. I bought these almost four years ago (no significant vision changes) and wear them ALL THE TIME since contacts really bug my eyes. I did not choose them for the rhinestones, but the shape of the glasses...unfortunately they were ridiculously expensive. I had a lovely sales associate at Lens Crafters who offered me his last family and friends 50% discount, which made them slightly more affordable, but they remain my most expensive wardrobe anything. (my wedding dress cost more, but that's about it). After 3-4 years of rough wearing, including puppy bites (oh yes, you can see her tooth marks), a lot of the rhinestones have fallen out. It wasn't pretty. But Michael's has Swarovski crystals that are pretty much a perfect match! The largest and smallest in their variety pack matched the small and medium holes on my glasses. I can't find the teensy tiny rhinestones, but they're much less noticeable than the others. You can barely tell where I glued them in! Almost like new!

Adapted from this tutorial
This Honestly WTF has been on my list forever, but between the wood mouldings and the spray paint I'd need to buy, it's been on the back burner. Plus, I just don't wear jewelry that big; I prefer understated pieces. But I loved the scroll-y, swirly look. I was at Michael's, wandering through the scrapbook section, looking to decorate my phone case and saw these 3D stickers that were perfect! They were also half priced! Perfect! I bought them, scraped off the sticky part and spent some quality time with Dad's dremmel tool (which is on a long-term loan to me) and ended up with this necklace. Much smaller, colour-blocked (kinda), but with the same feel as the other (no danglies, I know). Plus, I had enough stickers left over to make matching earrings. I still have some left over, so I'll have to find something to do with them. I personally LOVE how it turned out, and will definitely wear it more than I would the original.

Tutorial here and here
The neon trend. It's like the worst of the 80's have come back to haunt us. I never liked day-glo, even though I love pretty much everything else from the 80's. Anyways, I've been wanting to make another woven chain bracelet for a while (I still can't believe they retail at ~$380!). And I wanted to try it with a thicker set of thread. I still love the one I made for me, with the peachy-pinks. This time, I used 24 strands total, and still wrapped twice in each link. I like how it turned out; the bracelet has more structure this way and the colour combination isn't that bad. This is probably the closest I'll get. Honestly WTF is where I first saw the idea, but for some reason, I could NOT get it from their tutorial, so I used the one at Studs and Pearls instead, though I do use bobby pins to help thread through the links. Because of how thick my strands were, I had to work with them a bit more to get them tight and looking nice, but I think it was worth it in the end. We'll see if I ever wear this bracelet, but I have a shirt I think it would be perfect with...

Well that's my crafting for now. I have a lot more in store, including a yarn-wrapped bowl, a Shamballa-inspired bracelet, a collage bracelet I've been working on for over a year, this amazing pearl haircomb and of course, the sunglasses I mentioned. That's just a few of the bookmarks I'm working through. I love having something to work on at night like this. Now, my closet is in shambles since I had to pack up most of my clothes that I can't wear anymore, and I haven't actually put up the ones I can wear. Then I have to shower, take some baby bump pictures and get to cleaning up the house for our house and dog sitter. Plus begin packing up some stuff! Busy, busy weekend. Hope you all have a relaxing Saturday!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Week 15

Mmmm cotton candy
It kept licking the rock. Moose's zoo twin!
Behind on my blogs again! Sheesh. I need to get better at this. Especially since we're leaving in EIGHT DAYS for Israel! Omigosh I'm so excited, you have no idea. I'm writing this without having posted week 14, but I will tonight because I finally have pictures! Yay! :) And now I need to do the next one lol. Aside from my doctors experience, nothing much new to report this week. I've had some killer headaches, but I think that might be more stress-related than anything else, so I'm trying to nap when I get home from work and do relaxing things and not think about doctors. We had a great weekend in Coronado, going to the zoo, getting cotton candy, crafting and playing with the pups. We got their nails trimmed and their teeth brushed, though they gave up on Pippin's teeth and gave us a refund. It made a big difference in Moose's breath though, which is nice. Pippin still follows me around, even into the bathroom. She sits on the bed in the morning watching me and curls up with me every time I nap.
The best part: The tiger was visible!!! :)

How far along:  15 weeks
Total weight gain:   I'm still at -5, but I don't trust my scale. The doctor said I've gained one pound since March
Maternity clothes:   And loving them! I get to look pregnant, not snack-happy!
Stretch marks:   I might just skip this question from now on
Sleep:   Passing the kidney stone has made a huge difference
Best moment this week:   Passing the stone and feeling an immediate difference!
Miss anything:   I'm still missing things I can't eat, but I gave in and had a Hebrew National hot dog, after making sure it was heated up thoroughly
Movement:   Nothing since that weird was-it-wasn't-it? bubbling
Cravings:   Steak. I needed steak.
Queasy?:   Nope
Gender:   It's a mystery
Symptoms:   Same as last week, but I've found some tricks to cope
Belly button in or out?:   In
Wedding ring on or off?:   On
Happy or moody?:   Easily pissed. At doctors.
Looking forward to:   The pilgrimage trip! And meeting the possible new OB

On the way home from Coronado, we took a not-so-slight detour to Menifee, CA. (Yeah, I didn't know where it was either). It was about 70 miles from Coro, and 70 from Orange. We decided to go because Menifee has Texas Roadhouse, one of the most delicious steak places we've ever been to. The last time we went was when we drove cross-country and stopped in New Mexico. There aren't any that are any closer than this one, and there's only about 6 in California total. Their filet medallions with peppercorn sauce are so good and their bread is always hot and the butter is whipped with cinnamon sugar in it. YUM. It was more food than I could eat, but I tried anyways. James discovered this place when he lived in Waco, and we both fell in love with the food. So good. Anyways, James likes the idea of having the chalkboard in different places all the time, so we took a picture in front of Texas Roadhouse. It's not a great picture, and it's at night, without the right shirt, but here's week 15's picture. Oh and apparently, I misread and week 23 is a pomegranate and week 15 is a navel orange, but they're almost the same size. A small pomegranate and a large orange. Besides, a pomegranate is not the size of an eggplant, which is what another book says week 23 is (I've been planning ahead,) so I'm gonna go with pomegranate. Besides, I took time blending the red and purple together for the pomegranate and I didn't have my chalk with me.
15 weeks: Baby L is the size of a pomegranate (YUM)
At Texas Roadhouse (also YUM)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Week 14

We're getting closer and closer to the halfway mark! Yay! I can't wait.

How far along: 14 weeks 
Total weight gain:   Still at -5
Maternity clothes:   Definitely! There's a bump there and I'm thrilled!
Stretch marks:   Can I just not answer? None on my tummy.
Sleep:   A little bit better. I sleep through the nights now, or only get up once
Best moment this week:   Picking up a few extra hours at work. I actually like getting out of the house and going to work now
Miss anything:   Sushi!
Movement:   I'm not sure, but I felt a weird little bubbling really low in my abdomen that I've never felt before. Maybe I'm just making things up, but it was weird.
Cravings:   Not so much. I want whatever picture of food I'm currently looking at
Queasy?:   No! Yay!
Gender:   Unknown
Symptoms:   Sore breasts, constipation, the usual. (Sorry if it's TMI, but hey)
Belly button in or out?:   In
Wedding ring on or off?:   On
Happy or moody?:   While my mood swings, I'm generally happy
Looking forward to:   The 20 week ultrasound when we get back and Rick Riordan's new book!

My boss asked me recently if I knew what it was. I guess some women have a sort of mother's intuition about it, but I have no idea, at least not yet. We have decided to find out if we can (I was stubborn and had my back turned during every ultrasound--and my mom had one at each prenatal appointment!) and we'll have an appointment set for when we get back from Israel (so soon!!!!) So for fun, I started looking up old wives' tales about how to know which sex your baby is and thought I'd share my results:

1) Carrying high or low? If you carry high, you're having a girl, low and expect a boy.
I feel like I look like I'm just getting chubby, but it all seems high up, so girl

2) If you prefer to sleep on your left, you'll have a boy, your right and you'll have a girl.
I move around too much to know.

3) Extreme nausea? You're probably carrying a girl.
I didn't throw up much, but from week 6 through 11, I lived off of Preggie Pop Drops: girl

4) Are your cravings for sweets of savouries? Sweet: girl, Savoury: boy.
Boy. I've never been much for sweets, and pregnancy is no exception.

5) If you're breaking out like a teenager, expect a girl. (This coming from the belief that girls "steal" their mothers' beauty [ridiculous, I know])
Girl. Like I said, it's like being in middle school again--although it's slowing down a little bit.

6) Is your mood swinging or attacking? If you have extreme mood swings, look for a girl.
Girl. I won't even go into my iTunes breakdown this morning.

7) Are you gliding through the day or tripping over your feet? Graceful: girl, clumsy: boy.
Boy. Not that this is news for anyone who knows me, the "dancer who trips on the sidewalk"

8) According to the Mayans, if your age at conception and the year of conception are both even or odd, expect a girl. If one is even and one is odd, look for a boy.
Girl. 24, 2012.

9) If your little one's heartbeat is at 150 or above, break out the pink. Below 150, buy blue.
Girl. At least, everytime we've heard/seen it.

10) Take your engagement ring and hang it on a string. Hold the ring over your belly; if it moves in a circle, it's a girl. If it swings back and forth, it's a boy.
Weird, I know but I did it haha. Girl.

Girl: 7
Boy: 2
Unsure: 1

There you have it. The old wives have spoken and I'm having a girl. I can't wait to find out if they're right!

And here are some photos, of weeks 13 and 14:

13 weeks: Baby Lawrence is the size of a shrimp!

14 weeks: Second Trimester. One down, two to go!
14 weeks; James got creative  
14 week belly

The Serpent's Shadow (spoilers!)

Image from Riordan's blog
The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan is the third installment in his Kane Chronicles series. The series began with The Red Pyramid, in which Carter and Sadie Kane discover their father (and late mother) were actually Egyptian magicians and they are descended from a long line of Pharaohs and have magical abilities themselves. When their father is locked into a golden coffin Osiris-style a la the god of evil, Set, they're thrown into an entirely new magical world in which their family is pitted against the official Egyptian magical community, the House of Life. The tension arises from the fact that for thousands of years, calling on and using the gods' powers has been banned, but before she died, Sadie and Carter's mother had a vision that this kind of magic, called the Path of the Gods, would be necessary to save the world from destruction. The magic that ended up causing her death and subsequently imprisoning their father releases gods that have been bound for millennia. While trying to conjure Osiris, their father inadvertently releases five of some of the most powerful gods: Osiris, Isis, Horus, Set and Nephthys. Isis and Horus take up residence inside Sadie and Carter, respectively. And so begins their journey, to Egypt and through the Duat (the magical realm that contains many layers like a vast ocean beneath our reality), eventually learning that the forces of Ma'at (order) and Chaos are no longer in balance, and the Lord of Chaos, the serpent Apophis, is rising and beginning to break out of his age-old prison.

The story is continued in The Throne of Fire, in which Sadie and Carter must find the god Ra, who withdrew from the world eons ago. Their quest is perilous, even considered impossible, but they do end up managing it in the end. Unfortunately, Ra is senile and can barely remember who he is, let alone his role in the fight against Chaos. The major events in the book are that Carter rescues Zia Rashid, who had hosted Nephthys in the last book. He fell in love with her, only to discover that she was actually a shabti, a clay figurine, and the real Zia was safely concealed somewhere, but was running out of time to survive. We also learn that not only have Sadie and Carter continued studying the Path of the Gods, but they have begun instructing other initiates who have come from all over the world. Their uncle Amos has gone to Egypt, to the First Nome to seek healing for his possession by Set in the last book, leaving them in the care of the cat goddess Bast. The Kanes basically have a death sentence on their heads because of the Path of the Gods thing, but Amos never willingly hosted a god and he is given immunity while seeking healing. Carter and Sadie have to travel down the River of Night, the path that Ra's sun barge takes each night, finding each aspect of Ra along the way. They reach Apophis' prison, where Ra's last aspect, Khepri, the scarab was sacrificed to create the prison. By freeing this last aspect of Ra, they release the bonds on Apophis, who is now being hosted by the Chief Lector's advisor, Menshikov, who followed them down the River of Night. The Chief Lector also followed them and casts an execration spell on Apophis, which traps him for a little bit longer, but also uses up his life force in the process. Menshikov had assembled an elite squad of hit magicians (some banished for murder and other crimes) to attack Brooklyn House. Carter and Sadie arrive out of the Duat on the sun barge in time to help their initiates quash the attack, but the rebels escape and start spreading the rumor that Amos, who is now Chief Lector, had a hand in the previous Lector's death. While Amos lifts the ban on the Path of the Gods, many Nomes and magicians defect from the House of Life. Isis and Horus are ticked off because bringing Ra back lost Horus his throne, but also seems in vain since Ra is senile and unable to help against Apophis. Oh and this becomes important in the next book: one of their initiates, Walt, is also suffering from a curse that will kill him within the year if he keeps studying magic, and Menshikov was the only one who knew the cure (a curse passed along the line of King Tut). Apophis is going to rise again and all they've got is a senile god and a band of half-trained teenage magicians.

The Serpent's Shadow is the story of Apophis' rise and defeat, which they manage with the help of an evil magician's ghost. They save Walt, bring back Ra and Carter takes the throne of the Pharaohs. (See full, detailed summary below if you're interested). I really enjoyed reading this book, even though I felt more pressured than usual (I still have 1/4 of Two Towers, Return of the King and the Hobbit to get through in 6 days!) As always, Riordan did a good job of mixing education and entertainment and narrated an engrossing story. The whole book took me probably ~4 hours to read in total. I did have some problems with the book however. Riordan does not seem to be able to nicely tie up a series. Instead of wrapping up all the loose ends, he manages to leave quite a few open, and while I realize this is probably to give him a way to write more Kane stories if he ever wants to, I believed his imagination would allow him to come up with other adventures without leaving unanswered questions. One that has been bugging me a lot since I finished it last night is why Anubis didn't have to withdraw like the rest of the gods. Ra, Isis, Horus and even Set withdrew from the world, leaving their hosts intact. I understand that without Anubis, Walt would die, but I don't understand why Anubis was exempt from this godly exodus. When Sadie asked a similar question, the answer he gave was "I'm mortal now" which also doesn't make sense since Walt seems to be simply a host. Another problem is that I am ticked off that he left Setne free, with the Book of Thoth, able to create mayhem. He should have wrapped up that plot line, though Setne would make an excellent villain in future installments. In the underworld, Sadie's mom mentions something about other magics and other gods, which seems to be another reference to Riordan's other series (They're peppered throughout: pegasii, magic in Long Island, etc) and it seems like Riordan would be opening it up to a crossover, like what the Heroes of Olympus has become. There was also a comment made by Setne about the Greeks stealing all the Egyptians' ideas, even their gods, which also seems to foreshadow something in the future coming up. I don't mind this so much, except that it seemed foreboding instead of throwing a little "easter egg" in every now and then. We'll see; since the Heroes crew are going to Greece in the next book, I wonder if they'll run into anyone from the other side of the Mediterranean. Another part that interested me is that Sadie ends the book by saying she'll send Khufu with the recording, but the transcriber mentions at the very beginning that the recording arrived in a ravaged box that seemed to have been torn up by unknown/unrecognizable animals, another sign of adventures to come? I don't know, call me old fashioned, but I like a neat, tidy ending, especially if it's a happy, peaceful one. No, not everything would be perfect obviously, but still, an ending at that moment in time, with all the strings tied up is always nice and Riordan didn't provide that. He did the same thing with the Percy Jackson series: creating a new Great Prophecy of doom and gloom at the very end, so you can't relax. Admittedly, that allowed the Heroes series to begin, but I thought that since the Kane Chronicles was pretty much stand-alone, the ending would be a bit more tied up. I guess we'll have to wait and see how he wraps up the Heroes series in the next two books; then maybe it'll be more obvious if he just left it open because it was going to cross over, or because he's not very good at endings (like Douglas Adams). All in all, the book was worth the money, in my opinion, and definitely worth the read. It's fun, fast and educational, all at once. It's basically an awesome read, like all the other Riordan books.

Full Summary with lots of spoilers below:
Apophis has broken free of his prison, and is attacking different Nomes, all of which possessed a scroll that had a spell for Apophis' execration. They've tracked down the last scroll and arrive in time for Apophis' attack. They lose the scroll, but save a golden cabinet, on advice Sadie got from a face in the wall. Apophis also kills all the magicians in the Dallas nome, leaving no survivors. When they get home and examine the cabinet, they find it apparently empty, but Bast can see King Tut's shadow inside the box. The shadow, or sheut, is one fifth of a person's soul (along with their ren, their secret name). The sheut is like a back up disc for the soul, in case Ammit's devouring of the soul needs to be reversed or some such thing. A plan begins to formulate. The plan B if Ra couldn't be revived was for Sadie and Carter to cast a traditional execration on Apophis, which was unlikely to work, but would surely kill them. But, if they could trap Apophis' soul inside the figurine used in the execration, it would increase the power and stop him from ever coming back. Sadie also wonders if she could find Bes' sheut and thus restore him as well (he lost his ren, and thus his personality, helping them retrieve Ra in the last book). They realize that they need to find the magician who authored the scroll, Setne, who is about to be tried in the underworld. Meanwhile, Walt finds out that he only has about two days left to live, and the day after that, Apophis will rise and attack the First Nome, with the help of the rogue magicians, who have revealed to be working with Apophis. Sadie and Carter's mom's spirit is also missing, and more and more spirits are being sucked into Apophis' sheut ever day, strengthening it. Sadie and Carter leave on their quest with Walt, telling Bast to gather all the initiates and head to the First Nome to help defend it when Apophis attacks. They head to the underworld and petition their father to let Setne go. Imagine an even more psychotic, evil Jack Sparrow. He's charming and can use the Words of Power to manipulate pretty much anyone. He manages to hook every one in, promising to help Sadie and Carter find the shadow, execrate Apophis and even save their mom. He suggests splitting up, sending Sadie and Walt to find Bes' shadow so Sadie can learn how to capture the shadow (since Walt will die before the final showdown) and himself going with Zia and Carter to retrieve the Book of Thoth, which holds many of the gods' secrets, including a map to the serpent's shadow (ah, the title!). Zia and Carter manage to help Setne retrieve the Book of Thoth from the Temple of the Apis bull, almost dying in the process. It's revealed that Ra has chosen Zia as a host and she's learning about the Path of the Gods the hard way; Ra's power is almost literally burning her up. She manages to survive, but then Setne manages to order their boat's demon captain to try to kill Carter, at the same time bringing him to the Land of Demons, where the shadow is. Zia uses Ra's power to destroy the demon, Carter binds Setne and Ra's crook and flail presented themselves to Carter in place of his usual khopesh, which he lost earlier. Zia and Carter share their first kiss on the banks of the Land of Demons and have a picnic while they decide how to procede. Meanwhile, Sadie and Walt were challenged by Neith to a hunt, with them as the prey. If they can last until sunset, she will help them find Bes' shadow, hidden in her temple, and fight against Apophis. Walt and Sadie manage to outsmart her using their amulets, running in opposite directions and then teleporting the other when they're trapped. Unfortunately, they get distracted when they see Bes' shadow, but Sadie manages to keep Neith distracted until sunset, holding her to her promise. Walt is literally dying, with Anubis by his side, as he shows Sadie how to trap the shadow in the figurine. She manages to do a reverse execration and send the shadow back to Bes (though she's not sure it worked), but by this time Walt has died. Five seconds later, he opens his eyes again; he is now hosting Anubis, who has never had a mortal host, allowing him to extend his lifespan and allowing Anubis to have a mortal life like many other gods have had, and seemingly solving Sadie's love triangle dilemma. But she kinda freaks out a bit. She has to go rescue Carter and Zia, who've walked into a trap (another one) and Walt agrees to meet her at the First Nome since he's still too weak to move at the present time. Carter and Zia have been busy. They can't interpret the map and have to let Setne go so he can lead them to the shadow. They allow him to cast a glamour on them, so they blend in and look like demons and follow him to the Sea of Chaos, a churning mass that sucks everything in, splitting up the atoms and annihilating anything. There is a single pillar of Ma'at (like the Washington monument) and a small jetty that survive the sea's effect and to capture the shadow, they must be on the very edge of the jetty, while preventing themselves from getting sucked in. Their glamours start to fade and flicker, but there are no demons or spirits near the sea to see them; Setne is constantly surprised that they are still alive as they approach closer and closer, but Ra's power through Zia is protecting them. They manage to summon the serpent's shadow, but Setne betrays them, changing the glamour to a binding curse. He explains that he will bind the shadow within a figurine and blackmail Apophis with execration unless he does as he orders; he wants to destroy Egypt and all mention of his father (Ramses the Great) as well as most magicians, but not the entire world. Unfortunately, there are some spells he can't cast since he's a ghost, so he needed Carter and Zia's help. This is when Sadie drops in, right on top of Setne. She manages to bind him and unbind Carter and Zia. Despite her emotional distress, she manages to capture the shadow and they turn back to Setne, but he's disappeared, bindings and all. However, they have bigger problems: the shadow called for reinforcements and an army of 3-400 demons are marching toward them as they try to leave. Suddenly, the demons start scattering. All the gods from Sunny Acres (the rest home where forgotten gods go, and where Bes had been staying) have appeared to fight for them. The fight gave them a purpose, and Bes has returned to his old ugly self, just in time to get them to Ra's sun barge, which is just passing by. When they get on board, Ra is still old and senile, but he and Zia face each other, and he dissolves, being reborn into Zia as a host. This freaks Carter out a bit since he sees both his girlfriend and a 5,000 year old, bald, muscle-bound god, but Sadie calms him down and he even guesses about Walt/Anubis. They arrive in Giza to find Bast distracting Apophis as best she can. Bes and Ra/Zia go to help her, while Sadie and Carter help to defend the First Nome. The rebel magicians are already there, guarding the door to the Hall of Ages, where Amos is trapped with the hit squad. The initiates manage to fight their way through, with Walt/Anubis helping immensely with his death magic. When they enter, Amos is managing to hold his own against the magicians because he is now hosting Set, and actually managing to control him. Some initiates freak out and think he's being possessed again, but he is managing to restrain Set's urge to kill. Sadie and Carter channel Isis and Horus and join the fight, but they're all subdued. The lead rebel makes the mistake of almost killing Sadie and Walt/Anubis bring forth the spirits of the dead to pull her down into the Duat somewhere. Her lieutenant is channeling Apophis, and is killed, but manages to cast one last spell "bring down" to destroy the Nome. Sadie channels Isis' power and manages to speak the most difficult Word of Power of all: "Ma'at" and restores the Nome, passing out in the process. They've won the battle for the Hall of Ages, but the battle with Apophis still lies before them. In order to do the execration, they must be face to face with the serpent. Carter/Horus call on the gods and with their help, the small army marches out to meet Apophis, but he's fracturing reality and they're all separated on different levels of the Duat, fighting differents parts of Apophis. Sadie and Carter manage to find where the serpent is strongest and though he manages to swallow Ra/Zia, they still cast the execration spell and banish him forever. Zia escapes, blowing up Apophis' head in the process but the gods have to withdraw. Chaos and Ma'at are so intertwined that by pushing away and banishing Chaos, the forces of Ma'at must also be pushed away. They haven't been destroyed, but they'll have much less interaction (read: pretty much none) with humans from now on. Though Ra has returned, he offers Horus the throne, and Carter takes the throne of the Pharaoh in the First Nome as well. Walt has gone missing, and Bast and Bes have also withdrawn. Carter leaves the running of the House of Life to Amos, who is now fully supported all over the world, and he and Sadie are called back to the underworld to chat with their parents. Their mother is back, and offers some advice to Sadie about Walt: to follow her heart. Carter's dad tells Carter how proud he is of him and that he knew Setne would try to escape, as he'd done for eons. They return to Brooklyn House, where Walt/Anubis is waiting for him. Because Anubis is somehow mortal (never satisfactorily explained), he doesn't have to withdraw from the world and can stay with Sadie, studying the Path of Anubis, which has never been explored before. Zia ends up moving to Brooklyn House and helping teach, as well as dating Carter. Amos sends real chaperones since Bast has to withdraw with the other gods; they do get to say goodbye to her and to Bes, who has decided to build a house by Sunny Acres with his new girlfriend Tawaret, who works as a nurse there. Setne is still on the loose with the Book of Thoth and Brooklyn House has had an influx of initiates, as have most of the Nomes in the world. They explain that they'll be so busy that there probably won't be any more recordings (all of these books are transcribed recordings) and thus ends the series.