Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pregnancy of One Percent

Doctor's always tell you there's about a small chance of __________ (fill in the blank) happening, or a small margin of error in everything they tell you. We seem to be hitting a big number of these small percentage chances, which is why I call this pregnancy the "Pregnancy of 1%".

Here are just a few of the small percentages we have hit this time around...

  • My appendectomy... The chances of having an appendectomy during pregnancy are about 1/550
  • Pre-term labor... The chances of going in to pre-term labor post appendectomy are around 10-15%
  • Possible placental insufficiency (the pre-term placental aging scare we had that they thankfully disproved yesterday)... chances of actually having this issue were 3-7%
Oh, and don't let me forget the 2-5% chance at 14+ weeks of incorrect fetal gender assignment. Yes, you read that right, INCORRECT FETAL GENDER ASSIGNMENT.

This does not mean our baby is confused about its gender. It means that the first ultrasound technician was confused about its gender. So, our baby boy, is actually a baby girl! We are thrilled about having another girl, but spent the entire evening laughing about the situation. Hopefully now we'll actually be able to name this baby!

We had our weekly check-up yesterday (which will happen every Monday from now until the baby is born). We went in the morning to see my OB who sent us to a 3D ultrasound clinic to have an umbilical cord doppler scan performed.

I'm not big on things like 3D ultrasounds unless they are medically necessary, but since this one was medically necessary it was a fun bonus to see the baby in greater detail.

Our scans came back perfect! The placenta is actually a grade 1-2 and there is nothing to worry about. The blood flow to/from the baby and the blood flow within the baby's veins and arteries is impeccable. She is measuring between 34 and 35 weeks and weighs in at a whopping 2447 grams (about 2.5 kilos or 5.4 pounds) And yes, we identified that the baby is 100% for sure a girl, not a boy. 

1. Top left - The placenta
2. Top right - Blood flow in the baby's brain
3. Bottom left - Blood flow in the umbilical cord
4. Bottom right - Our baby in 3D... you can see her head, nose, mouth, foot, and arm, and her foot is in her eye

I am still on modified bed rest until the baby is born and they will let me go as long as possible in my pregnancy. So, with an actual due date of the end of May, who knows when baby #2 will decide to make her entry. 

I am so happy that all is well and that the baby is healthy and growing well, but I feel frustrated with continued modified bed rest. At least now I am now being allowed to take the elevator downstairs to sit in the cafe in our building or sit in the sun and get fresh air, but I have to continue daily kick counts, contraction counts, and rest as much as possible. My mom heads back to the US next week and I am sad that she, more than likely, will not be here for the baby's birth. In general I am just a huge bag of emotions right now... 

But at least all is well with the baby, and we can't wait to meet our new daughter, Kesha's little sister, within the next month!

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Best Homemade Chicken Broth Ever

Mom and I needed to make chicken broth for a recipe we made this week... well, she made it, I sat in a chair and gave her orders.

So, how do you make the best homemade chicken broth ever?

Boiling chicken feet, of course!
Happy Monday!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Simple Pleasures (recipe)

I truly believe that many times the more simple your food is the better it is!

We cook almost everything from whole, raw ingredients in our home, and I enjoy being able to savor the flavor that comes from each ingredient. Desserts are no exception.

Lately I have become frustrated with the ideas that turn up on Pinterest's food boards. Most recipes called for canned this or 10 jars of different types of pre-made sauce (yes, I realize this is an exaggeration, but you get the point). This just makes my stomach churn. I know part of my nausea in reviewing these recipes is the pregnancy talking, but the other part is my love for simple food in which I can identify and enjoy the essence of the dish's components. 

One of my favorite desserts to make is stewed sugared berries topped with mascarpone cheese and mint. And since it is getting to be berry seasons for those of you up North, I figured it a good time to share the "recipe" for this very simple, yet refreshing, treat! (for those of you in Ecuador, or other parts of the world with a year round growing season, you can enjoy this recipe any time!)

What you'll need...

  • A bunch of berries - the quantity will depend on how many people are eating (you can use blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries, strawberries, or a mixture... I used mora, a variety of mulberry, and strawberries because blackberries and raspberries are not native to this part of the world)
  • Raw sugar or panela to taste (I don't like my berries too sweet, but some may prefer their berries a bit sweeter)
  • Mascarpone cheese (enough for 1 Tbs per plate)
  • Powdered sugar
  • Sprigs of fresh mint (one small spring per plate)

What to do...

Step 1
Wash your berries and stick them in an appropriate-sized pot with a bit of water. Berries have a lot of juice of their own, which will come out when they start cooking, so be careful not to add too much water or you will overcook the berries in an attempt to reduce the amount of liquid in the pot. If you put in enough water to cover the bottom of the pot you should be fine.

My mora berries with water (I love the color of this fruit!) 

Step 2
Cook your berries until soft. Add sugar as you cook.

My mora and my raw sugar

My cooked mora and strawberries

Step 3
Let your berries cool. I didn't put mine in the refrigerator, but if you like cold berries you can chill them. I prefer mine room temperature as the mascarpone cheese will be cold. 

Step 4
Serve your berries in to bowls, dust with powdered sugar, top with a tablespoon of mascarpone, and finish off with a sprig of mint. Eat and enjoy!

The finished product!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Week 33

And it was back to the hospital for us as week 32 came to a close and we began week 33.

Severe contractions on Sunday afternoon plus a strong sensation of the baby pushing down sent us running to the hospital. On the 15 minute ride to the hospital I could have sworn up and down that my water was going to break or that the baby was going to be born in the car.

We go to the hospital and my OB/GYN was waiting outside for us with a wheelchair and thankfully Arturo could tell him what was going on, because I was not doing well at this point.

My doctor did a pelvic exam and told me that I was effaced, but no dilated. So as long as they could control the contractions and keep me from dilating they wouldn't have to deliver the baby.

They got me in to a hospital room and hooked up to IV meds to help stop the contractions and gave me my calcium channel blockers via "oral injection" (meaning they poked a hole in the capsule, squeezed the liquid in my mouth under my tongue, and had me hold it there for about 2 minutes so that it would be absorbed directly and act more quickly). Within a couple of hours the contractions had diminished from what felt like every second to every 10 or 15 minutes and I was able to actually interact with the world around me.

The combination of medication they gave me eventually dropped my contractions to one per hour, which was enough for them to let me know that I could go home the following morning.

My mom spent the night with me in the hospital and Arturo went home for the night with Kesha.

At around 10:30 the next morning they took me down for an ultrasound to double check the baby's growth, size, and to check the placenta. It was so fun to see him so big. His hands and feet moving around, his spine, his head and face (to the extent that you can see it on a traditional ultrasound). However, the minute the ultrasound technician saw my placenta he went running to find my doctor (without telling me why, which was slightly alarming). My doctor hadn't arrived to his office yet, so we had to wait to find out what all of the commotion was about.

My doctor finally came up to my room to talk and sign my discharge papers at around 12:30.
Again, strict instructions.

  • Mostly bed and sitting down, anywhere in the house is fine. I can walk around the house, but on a limited basis. No cooking, no cleaning, no lifting Kesha, no playing rough games, etc.
  • Two medications simultaneously to stop contractions - progesterone once per day and calcium channel blockers every 6 hours
  • Call if anything is out of the "norm"
  • That I will be having weekly appointments until the baby is born
  • Next Monday I will be having an advanced scan of some sort (I believe it is some sort of arterial doppler scan, but am not sure of the name) to take another look at the placenta
  • I have to count baby movements every day for 1 hour (so from 10-11am every day I have to lay on my left side and do nothing but write down how many times the baby moves)
The placenta
A quick lesson... 

The placenta is important! It gives the baby everything it needs, and takes away everything it doesn't need. So if it doesn't do its job properly it can cause severe problems for the baby.

The placenta also grows with the baby. There are 4 stages to placental growth stage 0, stage 1, stage 2, stage 3.
A placenta is at stage 0 up until around week 30
Stage 1 through weeks 30-35
Stage 2 thought week 35-39
Stage 3 weeks 39 and on
(I found my information here on the placental stages breakdown)

I am 33 weeks pregnant, which means at the most I should have a stage 1 placenta. However, my placenta is far too mature for this point in my pregnancy. The entire placenta is a full 2 with many parts already being a 3 and a number of areas of calcification. The calcified areas can die and lead to a placenta that does not function as it should, diminishing the level of nutrients the baby receives and reducing the level of toxins removed from the uterus (also known as placental insufficiency). 

My doctor "aged" my placenta at 38-40 weeks and are concerned about the level of calcification they saw on the ultrasound. This combined with the preterm labor, constant contractions, and need for high levels of medication have them concerned and monitoring us carefully.

We will be happy to make it to 35 weeks gestation, and are keeping our fingers crossed that we can keep him cozy for another two weeks.

In the clinic after the drugs kicked in.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

What will $15 buy YOU?

We have a housekeeper. Her name is Blanquita.

She used to come and clean our house once per week from 8:00-12:00, however, with the issues I've had with my pregnancy we have asked her to come Monday through Thursday from 8:00-12:00 to help us out with daily household chores and extras here and there.

The cost of having Blanquita help us out? $10 per half day.

This week Blanquita did my grocery shopping... a strange experience for me.

I asked Blanquita to visit our our local public market (known as la Feria Libre or Mercado el Arenal) to get the fruits and veggies I needed for this week. So, off she went with $15 and a list of items I was hoping she could find for me (availability depends on what is in season, which is why I love the public market! You can also buy meat, rice, grains, pasta, coffee, honey, etc. at the feria)

This is what part of the fruit section of the market looks like (this market is quite large, so it truly is just one part of it).

Fruits and veggies here in Ecuador are much cheaper than they are in the U.S. For example, here $1.00 buys you about 6 good sized beef tomatoes, 14 oranges for juicing (you can get as few as 6 for a dollar, or as many as 30 depending on the season), or 2 very large zucchini. Meat tends to cost about the same that it costs in the U.S. (so for here, meat is extremely expensive). 

Items at the Feria Libre tend to be sold by the pound or in dollar packs (See the backs in the picture above? Those tend to be $1 each). 

My list consisted of a handful of fruits and veggies and how many dollars worth I wanted (mostly $1 of each since we are small family and would prefer to shop more frequently and waste less). Blanquita was able to get everything on my list and a couple of extra items for my $15. She fought high quality, fresh produce at very good prices.

Here are some pictures of what Blanquita got for us...

Apples  (2 types), organs, tomatoes, red peppers, and pears

Grapes and strawberries

(a type of berry that is sort of a mix between a blackberry, raspberry, and boysenberry)

Basil and a pineapple

Carrots, zucchini, and garlic

Locally made, preservative free, whole grain bread

Sending Blanquita to do shopping for me  felt strange since this is not something I am used to, as the U.S. society doesn't do the housekeeper thing very often. Here, however, it's quite normal. 

I am SO SO thankful for Blanquita! I do love doing my own shopping because I can get what I want (my friend Bonnie teases me about being way too "type A" in this area), but Blanquita picked out amazingly fresh produce, saved me money, and on top of that she brought me freshly cut watermelon and brought it to me in bed.

So, what does $15 buy me here in Cuenca? It will buy me all of the produce that Blanquita brought from the market, or a day of her help, or pay our water and electricity for a month... 

What will $15 buy YOU?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Storage Room Remodel

Back in December we moved from a fairly large house to an apartment. This allowed us to separate our business space from our personal space as well as cut back on some of our monthly expenses. I love our new apartment, however, it was lacking in one area... storage!

Each room in the apartment has a closet, but no drawers. We have an extra room in the kitchen, but it also just has a closet (here in older homes there is a "maid's quarters" where live-in maids used to sleep and this is what our extra room is). This is the room we decided would be our storage room.

Have I mentioned what a stud my husband is for taking this on by himself? Remember, I'm on bed rest and this project is way out of the realm of anything I'm allowed to do. So keep in mind, as you look at the pictures, that my husband coordinated this all while doing literally everything else that doesn't involve sitting in bed or at a table (which is all I have been doing for the past week and a half).


Before... Looking in to the room from the door

Before... Standing in the doorway looking at the closet

Before... Facing the door

Before... Looking out of the door in to the laundry room

Before... the laundry room (and our front door)

Step 1 - Let's get the bars on the walls!

As a note here, everything in Ecuador is made out of brick, cement or adobe (but most people do not live in adobe homes). This makes hanging things on walls very different to hanging things on walls in the U.S. (think a drill, cement dust, and really loud noises!).

This space needs to hold our jackets, shoes, sports equipment (including Arturo's diving gear!), sheets, towels, 2 car seats, some kitchen items, and anything else that doesn't have a home. So, lots of bars were hung to put in adjustable shelving to make the space as flexible as possible.

Step 1... And the bars were hung - one set of shelves by the door

Step 1... And the bars were hung - one set of shelves on the far wall

Step 1... And the bars were hung -
A set of shelves next to the closet, and a final set inside of the closet (not pictured)

Step 2... Shelving!

Here in Ecuador we like a good deal (and negotiating!). Redoing our storage area is no exception! So, Arturo purchased the metal pieces from one shop, but their quote for the wooden shelving was more than we wanted to pay. So, Arturo shopped around. 

It took him 2 days of hunting to find someone who came in with a price he was happy with. He ended up contracting a company who sold the shelving in sheets and we had each shelf custom cut to fit our space.  

He still needs to buy the siding for the boards so they have that "finished" look, which he will do in the next couple of days. 

Step 2... The shelving on the wall next to the door

Step 2... The shelving on the wall next to the door and the clothing bars on the far wall

Step 2... The shelving next to the closet and the clothing bars on the far wall

Step 2... The shelving inside of the closet (this will be for storing cooking supplies)

Step 2... The shelving in the laundry area

We are still organizing everything and figuring out where we would like our "stuff" to go, but I am elated with our new storage area and can't wait to be able to use it (right now I enjoy looking at it and take pictures... so helpful!).

Since we are trying to get as much done as possible before baby makes his appearance, Arturo also took on Kesha's play area at the same time.

This is what it looked like before - everything on the floor and we used our only dresser as storage for this area...

The dresser is to their right... there's not much space for play...

This is what it looks like now! (remember, I'm sitting in bed for all of this...)

Putting in the shelves for Kesh's new desk and toy area

The shelving from the side

Starting to get it all organized! She will be able to do her artwork at her desk (on the far left)
and we will keep her paints and other art items on the lowest shelf.

We put the things she's not currently as "in to" up higher, and
her toys "of the moment" down lower, then we can rotate.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

31 Weeks

My mom and I have a joke about things always being about us... but when have children nothing is every really about you anymore (right, mom?). It is always about those small people first and then it is about you.

Starting from way before I knew I was expecting, this pregnancy has been complicated. We passed through week after week of tandem vomiting and colds with my toddler for all of September, October, and most of November. The issues became more complex for me in week 26 with my emergency appendectomy, and came to a head last week during week 31...

I was have difficulties making my typical 1 mile trek from my apartment to my mother-in-law's house for lunch and back due to contractions. Braxton Hicks, I convinced myself. However, by Sunday it was evident that I needed to slow down my pace a bit, and by Monday it became clear that what was going on was not normal.

On Monday I made a last minute emergency appointment with my OB/GYN who took one look at me and uttered two words that will change the rest of my pregnancy... "preterm labor" (albeit he said them in Spanish, not English).

The cause? More than likely my surgery (although this will never be completely verified).

He spoke directly with my mother-in-law (who accompanied me to this appointment) to make sure there were no misunderstandings. This was serious and not a single word could slip through the cracks. Every instruction must be followed to the letter...

I was in preterm labor with risk of progressing in to active labor and a preterm birth.
This is very serious.
I was to receive a steroid shot that very hour to help boost the baby's lungs in case of a preterm birth.
I was to buy a second round of steroid injections to be put in the following day to finish helping the baby's lungs mature.
I was prescribed 3 days worth of tocolytics (nifedipine, a calcium channel blocker) to see if they could stop my contractions and told not to move from my bed for 3 days (except to go to the bathroom).

The next 3 days were filled with very little sleep and lots of worry... with hours where I had contractions every 10 minutes and times where my body decided it wanted to do what it was supposed to be doing (which is not having contractions!).

By Wednesday I was losing it and we had to go back to the doctor. He was still very concerned about my contractions, but felt that a preterm birth was no imminent. He prescribed one more day of tocolytics plus several extras in case of very strong contractions and switched me to a progesterone pill. Lastly, he put me on what I call house arrest and as much rest as possible until the baby is born...

Wait, what?! I can't take my toddler to the park, cook for my family, do laundry, go for a walk, or leave my house until this baby is born?!

I lost it right there in the doctor's office (thank goodness we had left Kesh with my mother-in-law). Tears, inability to speak in Spanish, the works... In fact, I was so stressed by this all that my heart rate was at 140 (a normal range is from 60-100bpm), and the baby presented with an elevated heart rate as well...

My OB/GYN insisted that I be taken out in a wheelchair, and that was that.

So, here I am, at the end of my first complete week of not leaving my house (other than my doctor's appointment) writing this entry. I am still alive (obviously), and the baby has yet to make his appearance (thank goodness!).

My mom is taking extra time off work to come and help us out. With a very active toddler who needs lots of attention (and lots of up and down and running around) we need all of the help we can get. I am so fortunate that I have a mom who will drop everything to come and help out! She arrives in less than a week and will stay through the beginning of May. (I am SO grateful for you mom1)

I am thankful that I have not given birth yet, but have to be frank that the next 5-7 weeks (hopefully it's that long) are going to be some of the hardest of my life. I miss being outside. I miss walking. I miss taking Bugs to the park. I miss cooking. I miss going to the store. I miss being a part of everyday normal life. But in the end I know this will all be worth it!

Here's to making it to 32 weeks! Let's keep cookin' little man!

Left: 32 weeks with this baby
Right: 32 weeks with Kesha

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

2 Ingredient Cookies (recipe)

As a follow-up to my fruit leather snack post, I thought I would share another Pinterest find for a fun snack that we are now regularly making in our home... 2 Ingredient Cookies!

Well, the truth is that they can have as many ingredients as you would like them to have, but they really only need 2 ingredients to work (and be delicious!). No oil, no eggs, no flour, and they taste like banana bread!

2 Ingredient Cookies

These are the two main ingredients you have to have...

  • 2 very ripe bananas (like you would use to make banana bread)
  • 1 cup of oats (we don't have quick oats here like they recommend so I used the ones that are slightly copped up... if you only have steel cut oats put them in the blender and break them up a bit!)
I added the following to spice them up a bit!
  • Walnuts (you can toast them or put them in raw)
  • Dark chocolate
Some other ideas on what to add...
  • Raisins
  • Pecans or other types of nuts
  • Cinnamon

Step 1:
Preheat your oven to 350F/175C

Step 2:
Mash your bananas and mix in the oats. Make sure these two ingredients are well mixed.

Step 3:
Mix in the additional ingredients you would like to add in and stir well.

Step 4:
Place cookie drops (normal sized, about 1 tablespoon worth of mix) on to a lightly greased cookie sheet or silpat.
Bake for around 15 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned.

Step 5: 
Let cool and eat up!

My finished 2 Ingredient Cookies!
(they didn't stay on this plate for very long)

Homemade Fruit Leathers (recipe)

Ecuador is not a snacking culture. People here tend to end either 3 square meals per day or 2 square meals (with lunch being quite the affair) and have a light snack around 5:00pm which is referred to as "cafe".

However,  we have struggled so much with Kesha's weight gain (she was almost 1 kilo underweight last summer and would rather run around than eat) we have been looking for nutritious snacks that would do well for us on the go.

Our local grocery store did not offer too many wonderful options past whole fruit (which we do provide her with and she scarfs down). However, Pinterest (of course) is quite the source for ideas for such homemade delicacies.

When we visited my parents in the US back in December Kesh fell in love with these natural fruit leathers (the only ingredients were fruit pulp). I was able to find a recipe via Pinterest for something similar and decided to give making my own, homemade fruit leathers a whirl.

Here is the link to the original recipe (and yes, her fruit leathers are much prettier than mine!).

Well, let me tell you...
When you don't have a cookie sheet or a silpat (I have very basic cooking equipment people) , these do NOT turn out well. My first batch I burnt to a crisp by forgetting to leave my oven open (LEAVE YOUR OVEN OPEN PEOPLE!). The second batch I tried to make using wax paper instead of parchment paper... yes, the wax melted right to the fruit puree.

I almost gave up. Instead, I gave in and purchased a cookie sheet and a silicone baking mat. And guess what... IT WORKED!

Kesh has loved some of my combinations, and others I have had to finish off myself. But what I love about this snack is that you can use of leftover fruit and not have to throw as much away, and you can come up with your own combinations depending on what you and your little ones like!

So, here is the recipe and a few photos from my successful attempt at making my leathers. Please share your favorite combinations (or recipes if you have a different one) and enjoy!

Strawberry Orange Fruit Leathers

1-1.5 cups of strawberries cut in to quarters (the quantity will depend on the size of your strawberries)
The juice from 1 medium-sized orange
Honey to taste (this will depend on how sweet your orange and strawberries are)

Step 1:
Preheat your oven to the lowest possible temperature (as you will see my oven has no numbers on the temperature gauge, so I just made sure the gas flame was as low as possible without going out)
Leave the oven slightly open (as pictured)

Step 2:
Cut up all of your strawberries and place them in a small pot (I would recommend one slightly larger than the one I used).

Step 3:
Juice one orange (removing the seeds if it has them)
Add juice to the pot with the strawberries

Step 4:
Boil the juice and strawberries until they are soft enough to puree in a blender (best to do with a top on the pot so you don't lose all of your liquid)

Step 5:
Put in blender with your honey and puree
Your puree should come out fairly thick, but it should be spreadable and free of chunks (yeah yeah I know, in the photo below mine has a chunk in it...)

Step 6:
LIGHLY OIL YOUR SILICONE BAKING MAT (do not forget to do this or your leathers will stick)
Evenly spread your puree on the mat

Step 7: 
Bake for a ridiculous amount of time WITH THE OVEN DOOR OPEN!
I think mine took around 3 hours.
You can check it every hour and you will know when it is ready because it will no longer be sticky and will easily peel away from the silpat and will have no "wet" looking spots.


My finished strawberry orange leather fresh out of the oven

How a finished leather should peel away from the silpat
(this was my nectarine peach orange mixture... it was very good!)

Step 8:
Let cool, rip (or cut) in to pieces and store however you would like! (I obviously opted for the every classy ziplock baggie storage method)

Step 9:
Enjoy! (ours were gone within about 24 hours)

I would love to hear your favorite fruit leather recipes, be it the fruits you combined to make leathers using this recipe or another recipe you have!