Friday, November 30, 2007

And now for something a bit more grown-up

I know things have gotten a little (okay, more than a little) baby-centric around here. So allow me to fill you in on the cooking class/demonstration we attended earlier this week.

Last year for Christmas, my parents got us a gift certificate to attend one of the classes at a local cooking school. Not to be confused with a culinary academy, a cooking school is quite a bit more informal, with fun one-off classes on a wide variety of topics. Unfortunately, this particular place holds its sessions on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, so we kept finding that school and work got in the way of our attending. Finally though, this past Tuesday we got our chance to go play.

The class was themed around Tuscan cuisine. The instructor took a group of 25 or so people over to Italy earlier this month, where they toured sheep and olive farms, got to cook in local restaurants, and basically just had a grand old time. She had a slide show of photos from their trip running on her laptop as we waited for the class to begin.

Upon our arrival, we were given a packet containing the recipes that would be covered in the class. This particular class was demo-style, rather than hands-on, so we seated ourselves in a nice little viewing area and watched the instructor's assistants do some prep work. One was frying sage leaves; another started boiling pasta water. Soon enough, it was time to get started.

The instructor, Cherie, has one of the more effervescent personalities I've encountered in a while. She excitedly filled us in on the recent Tuscan journey, with animated descriptions of people they met and near-mishaps trying to get foodstuffs back through Customs. She plugged Trader Joe's products at almost every opportunity (who can blame her?) as she set to work preparing the evening's dishes.

First up was a simple puff pastry brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with Tuscan salt, which I understand to be any sort of sea salt/herb mixture. She showed us how to make batter for fried sage leaves and allowed us to sample some pears with chestnut honey and pecarino toscano cheese. She set to work on a pappa al pomodoro ("typical of the region" they were told, as they were served it seven times during their eight-day trip) and reduced some red wine in garlic and olive oil for "pasta of the big fat drunk." She made a tarta de la nonna (grandmother's pie) with ricotta filling and an arugala salad topped with thinly-sliced ribeye steak almost rare enough that "a good veterinarian could bring it back to life." At the end of the 90-ish minute demonstration, the whole feast was plated and we were served in the dining area. Everything was fabulous (I'm looking forward to making the pappa al pomodoro now that it's getting on toward soup weather again), and we learned some nifty new tricks for the kitchen. All in all, a fun evening!

One of the bonuses from the night, we learned about a nearby market called Sunland Produce, which Cherie described as "multi-cultural and multi-fabulous." Sounds like there are all manner of wonders to be found there, from bizarre fruits and vegetables to exotic cheeses and meats you have to work up some courage to try. We'll have to check that out soon, and I'll let you know how it goes. :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Week 20

The gestational halfway point! I can hardly believe it!

So, the little fellow you met yesterday is "between 5.5 and 6.5 inches from crown to rump, and 9 to 10 inches head to toe. He weighs about 9 ounces and is roughly the size of a mango."


No, no, not the Mango...

...though sometimes he does feel like he's doing some kind of dance routine in there. Madre, you'll be interested I'm sure to know that his teeth are starting to develop in his jaws now. Yes, I'm making sure to get plenty of calcium.

So, 20 weeks down, 20(ish) to go. Exciting stuff!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hello World


Ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere, may I present to you, our son.

Finally!

Bambino photo shoot, 2pm PST today.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thankful


My family started a new Thanksgiving tradition in 2003. Before dessert, we lay out a special tablecloth and a handful of permanent markers. Everyone present must write something on the cloth indicating the things for which they're thankful that year. Thanksgiving guests who are not direct family members are not exempt. It's been neat to watch the tablecloth, four years on, slowly become more and more covered with writing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Week 19

Happy Tuesday! Here you go.

This week the bambino is "between 5 and 6 inches long and weighs about seven ounces - about the size of an apple."


Noes! Ringo Starr be eatin mah analogee!

We went to the doctor this morning for our monthly "listen to the heart beat" session. Heart's still beating away in there, somewhere about 150-ish beats per minute, nice and strong, so that's good. There's an old wives' tale that a fetal heart rate above 140 bpm is indicative of a girl, but recent research says there's actually no statistical difference between male and female heart rates in utero. So, there might be a girl in there...or a boy. The doc asked if we'd had the ultrasound yet (what, you too?!), and when I informed her that we had not, she took a look in the computer system to see what the deal was. Apparently the ultrasound has been "ordered, but not scheduled" or something like that, so she added a note requesting that it be scheduled within the next 7 days. So there you go; by next Tuesday I ought to have an answer for you, and a new picture. At long last!

I'm looking forward to the long weekend. Yay for noshing and napping! Yay for sleeping in (or not...but not having to get up and go to work at least)! I failed to meet my self-imposed thesis deadline, so I'm sure a good chunk of those 4 days off will be spent writing, but that is okay. I'll still have the damned thing sent to the printer's well before I have to deal with giving birth (hopefully by the end of the year), and that's all I really care about. Anyhows, have a lovely Thanksgiving! :)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

So much for art house classics

We've had Last Tango in Paris sitting on top of our TV since mid-August. Tom added it to our Netflix queue a while back because it's one of those movies that seems to be referenced with some frequency, and we are people who like to know about things. Tom's considerably more well-read than I am, and much better at coming up with random tidbits of trivia in conversation, but even I can hold my own on a wide range of subjects. Watching a movie of some renown, or reading a book, or listening to a song, that might come up sometime down the road, is rarely a poor use of one's time.

However.

Last Tango sat on top of our TV for three months because, while we knew it was something we ought to watch for the sake of expanding our frames of reference or whatever, it didn't sound like a particularly appealing story.

Hollywood heavyweight Marlon Brando delivers a tour-de-force performance as an American expatriate in Paris who's spinning from his estranged wife's suicide. While searching for an apartment, the grief-stricken widower encounters an equally despondent young Frenchwoman (Maria Schneider), and the couple embarks on an anonymous, no-strings-attached sexual liaison that gradually exposes their mutual agony.

Somehow we were never in the mood to watch it (shocking, I know). But today we decided that enough was enough. Netflix had been making a pretty penny off our monthly dues while we watched maybe one movie every few weeks or so. We were going to watch Tango this weekend or send it back unviewed, and we couldn't very well let the damned movie defeat us. So we watched.

Lordy, that was an exceedingly bizarre movie. I mean, really. The characters were all insane, albeit in different ways. The dialogue was so random at times that it wasn't at all clear what the hell the point was. I guess the acting was pretty good, but I wouldn't call it anyone's tour-de-force.

But whatever. It's done with, now. I believe we've got Multiplicity coming in the mail next. That ought to cleanse the mental palate some. 'Cause I like pizza, Steve. I like it!

Friday, November 16, 2007

On Potlucks

You know you've eaten too much when you have to un-do the top button on your stretchy, maternity pants. I mean, honestly...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Belle once More

I've been getting a fair number of hits lately from people in search of Bell's Palsy info. Since it wasn't so long ago that I was searching the internets for as many details as possible, I can sympathize, and will do my best to provide a concise but complete account of my own BP experience.

Here is the first post I wrote about the whole thing. What my first symptoms were, how I felt, yada yada. Three days later, I was fully paralyzed on the right side of my face, evidenced by the photo below. I had feeling in my face, but no movement whatsoever.


Taken 10/18/07, three days after initial onset of symptoms

Loverly.

So, a day after being diagnosed, my doctor prescribed a short course of acyclovir (an anti-viral) and prednisone (a corticosteroid). Yes, I am in my second trimester of pregnancy. Yes, my obstetrician said that these were safe to take. I was fortunate not to have any of the bad reactions to these drugs that I'd read about other people having. The prednisone made me thirsty, so I drank a ton of water and was getting up to go to the bathroom about seventeen times a night. That was about it, though. I was done with the acyclovir in 5 days and the pred in 8. I haven't been back to the OB yet since I finished the meds, but I know things are still trucking along just fine in the gestational realm.

Whether or not the drugs were responsible, the duration of my symptoms was pretty short. Two weeks after onset, I was starting to get some movement back on the affected side. Not bad! Now, another two and a half weeks later, I'm pretty much back to normal. See?


Taken 11/14/07, one month after onset

So, the palsy was annoying. The area behind my right ear hurt like a bitch at first. I was glad when that went away after about a week. I had to get used to eating carefully so as not to bite my cheek and lips. Drinking with a straw was easier (and resulted in less dribbling) than trying to drink straight from a glass. Laughing and talking too much hurt a bit, as the muscles on the left side of my face had to do all the work and pulled my mouth and nose to the side. My right eye wouldn't close all the way, so I had to remember to hold it shut in the shower when rinsing shampoo out of my hair, and it kind of rolled up creepily when I blinked, which I'm sure looked ever so charming to anyone talking to me. I had to put drops in my eye every so often during the day, especially when I was at the computer, or it would dry out. All the doctors were most emphatic on this point; apparently one of the biggest risks is lasting damage to the eye due to overdrying. It was never so bad that I had to tape it shut at night, which is good because I tried a couple of times, and ended up just ripping the tape/patch/whatever off in my sleep.

The thing that surprised me the most, and which I don't recall reading about anywhere, was how very sore the affected side of my face got once it started to heal. I felt like I'd been badly bruised, even though I certainly didn't look like it. That lasted a couple of weeks or so and was pretty unpleasant. It slowly started to hurt less and less though, and of course now it's just fine. Yay!

A month later, I'm not quite back to 100%, but I'm pretty darned close. Call it 97.3%. If you're reading this because you've just been diagnosed with Bell's Palsy, or think you might have it, just know that it's not a ton of fun, and it'll get worse before it gets better, but it will get better. Go to a doctor right quick, if you can, and since I had no issues with the medication, I can speak favorably of taking it. Obviously I can't say whether I would have started improving as rapidly as I did if I hadn't taken the drugs, and it's entirely possible that I would have, but they certainly didn't seem to hurt me any. It should go without saying that everyone is a unique snowflake and my experiences may well not be your experiences, but I'm living proof that it's definitely possible to get through a bout with Bell's relatively unscathed.

And with that I'm off to bed. Though if I don't feed these cats first they may very well devour me in my sleep. Which would be unfortunate. So to the cat bowls, and thence to Nod. G'night all.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Week 18

Another week, another update. And this week's one is a doozy.

As of today, the spawn is about 5 to 5 1/2 inches long from crown to rump and weighs a little more than 5 ounces, about the size of...a lobster tail?

Great Expectations, you're killing me here. A lobster tail? Really? I mean, I know I have said of lobster tails, in the past, "Gee, that looks delicious; I wish I had it in my belly," but this is not what I had in mind. You could have done much better with this week's comparison. Much better. Because you know what is also about the same size as a lobster tail?


You're damned right. A soft, fuzzy, cuddly llama's ear. Which is what I would much prefer to imagine I am harboring inside of me, rather than a crusty, pokey, sharp-edged, lobster tail.

Open Letter

To the guy walking down Colorado Blvd and El Molino Ave at 11:45pm and operating a leaf blower:

Dude, what are you doing running a leaf blower at almost midnight? Don't do stuff like that, it's creepy.

Regards,
Susan

Friday, November 09, 2007

Folk Magic

"Do you know whether you're having a boy or a girl?!"
"When do you find out what the kid is?"
"Do you want to know what you're having, or do you want to be surprised?"
"Have you had the next ultrasound yet?!"


These are the questions I am most often asked these days. I don't mind that much, and certainly when I've been on the other side of things, I've asked the same. But the fact is that I have to keep saying the same things over and over again.

"No, I don't know yet."
"I'll find out soon, hopefully within the next couple of weeks."
"I'm usually pretty good about surprises, but this is one I don't want to wait on."
"I think they're going to do the next ultrasound at 20 weeks, just after Thanksgiving. I don't know for sure; it hasn't been scheduled yet."

Of course, when you don't have an answer to give people, they start making predictions. My friend M says that girls make you look extra radiant and beautiful, and boys make your face break out and your butt get big. To which I reply that, no, it's in fact PREGNANCY and its attendant hormone surge that're responsible for the face breakoutedness and the posterioral expansion. But whatever. Today, while taking our morning snack break, the ladies in my group decided to employ some "traditional" approaches to prenatal gender determination.

"Let me see your wedding ring!"

Ah, the pendulum test. I'd read about this. I handed T my ring, which she threaded on to a string. She asked me to hold out my hand, palm up, and then she suspended the ring above it. It swung around in circles, which supposedly indicates a girl is on the way. Two repeat tests gave the same result.

"No, no, no, you use the hand if they're not pregnant yet. Once they're pregnant, you hold it over the belly."

This time the ring swung back and forth, in standard pendulum fashion. This means boy. Repeat...same result. We decided that either I'm having a boy now and a girl next time, or I'm having twins, or I'm having a hermaphrodite.

"Have you tried the Chinese chart? It was dead-on for all 3 of my kids."

Okay, so you take the mother's age at conception and the month of conception, and find the corresponding square on the chart. I'm 26 and the conception month was July so...



...huh. So there apparently isn't just one definitive Chinese Chart. And according to the two versions I found, I'm having....twins? Hermaphrodite?

So much for folk magic. Gonna have to rely on science.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Week 17: Gestational update and other tidbits

Another week, another Great Expectations growth tidbit. At the end of the 17th week, the offspring is now "about as wide as [my] palm, about six inches long, and weighs about four ounces - as much as a bar of soap...and [heavier] than the placenta." I'm assuming the six inches is full body (head-to-toe) length, rather than just crown-to-rump, since next week the book says that the CRL (crown-rump length) is only 5 1/2 inches. Anyway. Getting closer every day to the magical, big-enough-to-semi-reliably-determine-gender stage of development. ;)

My face is almost back to normal. My mouth still pulls a little to the left when I talk, since the muscles on that side are still quite a bit stronger, but otherwise you can hardly tell there's anything funky going on. So that's pretty excellent! It's now just a little over three weeks since I noticed the first symptoms, so it really was a speedy sort of thing, all things considered.

I've been really buckling down to get my thesis done and out of the way before too much longer. If all goes according to plan, I'll have a completed draft turned in by Thanksgiving, which will be pretty fantastic. I've been working on the darned project for over a year now, so there will be much jubilation when all's said and done (not least because I'll finally be able to dispose of the big boxes of dirt and organic extracts that have taken up residence in our living room). Just have to keep my nose to the grindstone for a few more weeks.

All right, I've bored y'all enough for one day. Go donate some more rice and have a lovely rest of the morning/afternoon/evening. :)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Go Here Now

Free Rice dot Com

Play a vocabulary game. For every word you get right, the site's proprietors will donate 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program. When the site launched on October 7th, players earned 830 grains for the day. The total for yesterday was almost 60 million grains. It's a good cause, they seem legit, and who among us doesn't love improving their vocabulary?