Saturday, October 29, 2011

Chocolate Mint Oreo Cupcakes (and Clara not napping)

We had our ward's trunk-or-treat on Friday night and I had signed up to make 2 dozen cupcakes for the event.  I also made the mistake of buying mint oreos while at the grocery store the day before, momentarily forgetting that Paul doesn't eat them and I have no self-control.  So I decided to use them up by making these cupcakes, which I came up with on my own.  I had a couple of people ask me for the recipe, so I figured I would post it here.

I used a very sharp knife to cut my mint oreos in half.  I put the half of each oreo in the bottom of a cupcake liner (I ate the ones that didn't cut cleanly and broke apart - good plan, huh?).  Then I made a devil's food cake from a cake mix and poured it into the cupcake liners on top of the mint oreo cookie and baked them like normal.  After cooling, I topped them with a mint frosting made with 4 oz. of cream cheese, 1/3 cup of softened butter, 3 1/2 to 4 cups of powdered sugar, 1 tsp of vanilla and maybe 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract (a little goes a long way and I didn't want these to be too minty).  I mixed those ingredients together first then added milk a little at a time until the frosting was a good consistency for frosting the cupcakes.  After frosting, I stuck the remaining mint oreo halves on top.  Tah-dah!  That's it!  And they tasted awesome, if I do say so myself.  Paul didn't even get a chance to taste them because I took them all to the ward trunk-or-treat (except for the one that I tasted to make sure they weren't disgusting) and they were gone before we ever even made it to the dessert table.

I tried to make the cupcakes right after I put Clara down for a nap.  She wasn't very interested in naptime though, as you can tell from this baby monitor image.  Note that the orange light on the left side of the monitor indicates her volume:  loud.

I went in and found her peeking through the bars of her crib at me like this. 

So instead, I pulled her out and we Skyped with Grandma so that Clara could show off how good she is at getting in crawling position.  I found her onesie at Old Navy - isn't it darling?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On being a mom and an impending return to the office

I don't know that I have any eloquent or life-altering thoughts on motherhood as a whole, but I want to remember some of the thoughts and feelings I have been having as a new mom, kind of like how I do a monthly post about Clara's growth and milestones.

I should probably start out by stating the obvious:  I love being Clara's mom.  I am happy and fulfilled and even challenged despite the fact that she is an easy-going babe.  I find myself loving the loose structure that has filled my life, not just for her but for me as well.  I like eating breakfast at the kitchen table instead of in my car.  When Clara wakes up, I love being there to cuddle her and brush her long bangs out of her eyes and clip them back with a barette and see her smile at me while she is touching my face in her "good morning" gesture.  I enjoy going for a run at the gym in the mornings (even if I haven't been in the last few weeks).  If Clara is taking good naps, I like using the time to develop photos, blog, read scriptures, scrapbook or sew, or even catch up on a TV show that Paul doesn't watch like ANTM (which I know I should give up but it is one of those guilty pleasures that I keep recording).  Sometimes I will even clean, and that isn't even the worst thing in the world.  Having a tidy kitchen makes me happy and satisfied.  I don't clean my whole house every day, but I feel good if I get through a couple of loads of laundry, the dishes, and straightening things up so I don't feel like I'm living in clutter.

Often I find that I have forgotten to eat lunch because Clara woke up earlier than I expected and after changing her diaper and giving her a bottle she is just so playful that I don't notice I am hungry until 2:30 and then I just have a PB&J or something to tide me over until dinner.  I love my midday walks with Clara around our neighborhood where I point out flowers and rocks and cars and trees and clouds, naming different objects and their colors and sounds.  I really like reading books to Clara even if all she cares about right now is grabbing at pages so she can chew on them.  (I don't let her chew on books.  Should I?  Will that help her want to read more now and when she gets older?  Is this a ridiculous question?  She has a vaguely disappointed look every time I tug a page out of her little fingers just before it touches her mouth until I turn to the next page and she waves her arms like a maniac and starts grabbing again.)  All of the above just feels so simple and true and right. 

I love that when Paul gets home each day he has kisses for his girls and that he can tell me about what work at his firm is like and I know exactly what he is talking about because I have experienced the same things in my legal practice.  I find joy in getting Clara ready for bed by watching her splash around in a warm tub, rubbing lotion on her arms and legs and chest while she squirms and smiles, and dressing her in warm jammies.  My heart melts into a puddle as I sing bedtime songs to her and Paul and I say prayers then kiss her precious pink cheeks before laying her in her crib and flicking on her nightlight for the night.

Last week I went by my firm for a little while before Paul's firm's annual Fall Festival.  My secretary loves it when I bring Clara in, and I enjoy taking her around and saying hi to my co-workers.  At one point, a friend (who happens to be a partner with kids of her own) asked "Aren't you excited to come back?" in a tone so enthusiastic that I knew she wasn't joking. 

I didn't know how to really answer her, and I feel a lot of conflict on that issue right now.  I have about a month of maternity leave left and it feels like the sand grains are slipping through the neck of the hour glass faster and faster these days.  "No," was the answer that immediately jumped into my head, but not out of my mouth.  I tried to give a non-committal half-smile but I am certain that she saw right through me as she explained that she actually looked forward to returning to work from leave because it is "so hard" to be at home with the kids every day.  In no way do I feel like that is a bad thing to feel, and in fact, I am pretty sure that more women have that feeling more often than they might admit to it.  I could go into theory and personal perspective about this issu, but all I really care to say right now is that I don't feel that way.  It is not hard for me to be at home with Clara all day, every day.  I don't feel lonely, I don't feel unstimulated, I don't feel that my *considerable talents are being underutilized.  (*I believe in humility but not in downplaying the fact that I have a JD and am a pretty bright cookie who has and can accomplish quite a lot.  Sorry for the conceit but this was also an attempt at interjecting humor at a time when I feel some distress about the future.)

I don't feel ready to go back yet.  I'm busy doing the stay-at-home-mom thing right now.  I am happy doing what I am doing.  And my stomach clenches and my throat tightens each time I think about dropping Clara off at daycare and heading into the office.  I worry about how much I will miss her.  I worry that she will miss me (although I know that she won't ever remember it and I also know that she probably will take the separation much better than I will).  I worry about gaining weight.  I worry about the inevitable cold sores.  I worry about what we are going to eat for dinner every night and not having a single minute to call my own and being a stressed-out fruit basket.

So why am I going back to work?  There are a myriad of reasons, and not all of them need to be shared on this blog.  But as I interacted with my co-workers and talked about what their caseloads are currently like, I remembered that I actually truly enjoy a LOT about my job.  Despite its drawbacks, my job at the law firm, in a lot of ways, is fun.  Not always, and there are certainly things that I, and most young associate, really dislike about working at a big law firm, but by and large, I felt happy while I was there.  The people I work with are great, the work itself is usually interesting, there are those great paninis at the cafe...  I feel valued there.  Not that I don't feel valued doing what I am doing now, but in a different and important way that I also enjoy.

In all seriousness, I want to have it all.  There just isn't a way of doing it.  Not really.  Not without letting something slide somewhere.  I don't want to give up one second of my time with Clara.  But the idea of giving up on a career that I enjoy and that has provided so well for our little family is also appalling.  Every woman in my position faces these decisions and so I don't feel particularly unique for sharing these thoughts, but in case anybody who reads this blog wonders, it should be known that I am conflicted and I have come to the conclusion that it is okay to feel that way.  It is not comfortable or fun feeling conflicted, but it is O.K.  Going back to work is the right thing for me, and so that is what I am planning on doing.

In the meantime, I have another month of maternity leave and I am thanking my lucky stars for it.  That is one more month for Clara to figure out how awesome it is to sleep through the night, for me to log some miles on the treadmill, for us to enjoy walks in the fall weather, and to finish all of the Christmas shopping so I don't have that to worry about when I go back to work. 

Anyway, I'm such a dorky mom already.   I try to coordinate Clara's outfits with mine (and vice versa) as much as possible, but especially on Sundays.  I only have so long before she figures that one out and puts her wee foot down so I have to make these days count.  I have matching Halloween costumes planned out for all of us for the next two years already.  I sing Oldies and dance around the backyard with Clara and I don't care if the neighbors can hear.  I am trying to do sign language with a baby who hasn't even mastered matching her forefinger and opposable thumb to pick up a cheerio and stick it in her mouth yet.  I would rather go to Gymboree than to Banana Republic these days.

Well, this has been very therapeutic for me.  And Clara is down for the night and Paul is working late, so I guess I should post this and go wash bottles now.  I'm glad I'm a mom.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween Party 2011

Last year we threw a Halloween/Birthday party at our house.  It was our first time hosting a party like that and we had so much fun that we decided to do it again this year.  We had much better weather this year and we started earlier in the day, which seemed to work out better.  We also took note of our overestimates on food last year and did lots better planning this time around.

Paul mowed the lawn in the morning so that the backyard would be ready.  Clara was fascinated watching her dad work in the yard.

The menu included Hot Spinach & Artichoke Dip with french bread, Lasagna, Baked Macaroni & Cheese, Chips & Salsa, Roasted Red Pepper Hummus & Pita Chips, Vegetables with Ranch Dip, and Teriyaki Meatballs. 

For dessert we served Andes Mint Cookies, Funfetti Cupcakes, Candy, Pirouettes, and Black Forest Cake (my traditional birthday cake). 

We had a number of wonderful friends come over to party with us.  We loved seeing all of their great costumes.  We had a princess.

A witch and a guy with a chip on his shoulder.

Batman & Robin with some bad guy cat burglars.

Is Boy Wonder the cutest thing ever or what?

Princess Leia was there with Darth Vader.

This little ladybug is Clara's friend Claire. 

She showed up with her parents who came up with a darling family theme.

Our dentist and his wife were going to do a Toy Story theme but one of their boys had an accident that required some stitches so Little Bo Beep wasn't able to make it in her costume.  We were just glad they still came!

And we totally didn't even recognize these friends at first when they showed up.  They seriously freaked me out.  I visit teach Hailey who is normally blonde so the black/pink mohawk was a total shocker.  I love it when people go all out on costumes like this.

The big bad wolf didn't wear his furry hood most of the time because the weather was so warm.  Boo.

Those furry spats are quite the fashion statement sweetie.

It was so fun just hanging out and having fun with friends.  Paul and I had come up with all sorts of "activities" that we thought sounded like fun, such as trying to eat donuts hung up by string without using hands, or bobbing for apples, etc. but the conversation seemed to flow really well so we never brought it up.  Although I have always wanted to bob for an apple.

Poor Little Red Riding Hood was completely tuckered out at the end of the night and fell asleep in the Big Bad Wolf's arms.

I'm already looking forward to next year's party!

Yosemite 2011 - A Nash Family Tradition

I was looking through our blog archives before writing this post and it turns out I have never posted photos of our annual October Yosemite trip in years past even though we have gone the past few years with Paul's relatives.  Paul's family did this trip with his cousins every year when he was growing up (and Paul's dad did the trip every year with his family when he was growing up I think) and I absolutely love the tradition.  It is my most favorite Nash tradition and Paul and I plan to pass it on to Clara.  The weather is perfect, the fall scents and colors make the park even more beautiful than usual, and the crowds are way down after the peak summer season.  Plus, I am just a big, big fan of the National Parks and grateful that they have been preserved for us to enjoy.  Thanks President Roosevelt!

We always stay in the Yosemite Lodge, which isn't fancy but it has a wonderful charm that is always makes me feel like I've gone back to a simpler time.  This year there was a storm the week before we went, so the waterfalls were running higher than they normally do during October.  Paul and I took Clara on her inaugural hike up the Mist Trail to see Vernal Falls, with Bob and Donna.  Here is a group photo just before we headed out.  The backlighting and the fact that I pinned my bangs back in a pouf make me look super weird in this pic but it is cute of everybody else.

This was a good one too, except Clara wasn't looking at the camera.  Bob looks pretty excited about the hike.  What a spry grandpa he is.  :)

This photo is taken at the bridge where you get the first view of the falls.

I have been noticing lately that Paul often holds my elbow in photos.  I am not sure why, but he does it all the time and I sort of secretly love that whenever we take pictures together he has his arm around me in some form or other.

This was the longest hike we have done with Clara but she did great.  She was sleepy from the start so I held her facing me and within just a few minutes she was snoozing heavily against my chest.

We made a number of stops to catch our breath.  Notice Clara's closed eyes.

Eventually Clara woke up and she was a VERY happy girl.

Me and Clara with Vernal Falls behind us.  A couple of people got too close to the water at the top of the falls were swept over earlier this year (it has been a dangerous year for Yosemite) and the bodies still haven't been recovered.  There were photos of their faces at the trailhead instructing hikers to watch out for them.  The current theory is that the bodies are stuck under some of the huge boulders in the river still.  ~shudder~

Bob and I are in the bottom left-hand corner of this photo coming down the stairs that go past Vernal Falls.  Paul was not exactly super enthusiastic about me taking Clara up these stairs, but really it wasn't even dangerous.  They weren't nearly as wet and slippery as they have been in the past and I stayed on the inside of the trail, away from the drop-off to the left, which you can't really get an idea of from this picture.

Clara's Grandma Donna had fun holding Baby-Girl when we stopped for snacks, a diaper change, and to feed Clara a bottle.

Grandpa Bob had fun holding her too and was cracking up when Clara was showing off her flexibility by trying to stick her foot into her mouth.


We also went over to the Ahwahnee and spent some time enjoying the beautiful lobbies.  This building was built in 1926 to attract wealthy investors to the young park (something I just learned about on this most recent trip). 

Paul and I had never seen the room below before but we loved the mural painted on the wall.  I should have taken a better photo with more of the mural, but there were all sorts of animals throughout it.  It felt like an old english smoking lounge from a gentleman's club or something (whatever that is).

We stopped at one of the lovely golden meadows and Paul's dad took some photos of us while we were all on a walk.

Clara finally gave us a huge gummy smile when Donna came over to stand beside Bob and made noises for her.  Clara loves Grandma & Grandpa Nash, who came to our house a few days before the Yosemite trip, along with Great-Grandma Madge, and were able to spend time with their newest grandchild.  We loved having all of them here with us (especially since Grandma Nash watched Clara for me while I spent almost an entire day scrapbooking the Little Red Riding Hood story to be mailed out as presents.)

On one walk with Bob and Donna, we crossed a bridge over this river.  Bob challenged Paul to walk out on the log that stretches out over the river, which Paul immediately declined to do while I was simultaneously accepting the challenge and yelling over my shoulder for Paul to pull out the camera.  See me on the log?

It doesn't look as impressive in this photo.  Does it help if I explain that the water is super clear so even though you can see the rocks on the bottom in this photo it is actually deeper than it looks and was probably ridiculously cold?

I made it to the end and posed for a picture.

The scariest part was turning around and standing back up.

We enjoyed lunch at Degnan's Deli.

I seriously told my in-laws that we all had to pose mid-bite.  I totally wasn't eating here, just posing.  Why am I so weird?

I am seriously going to have a zillion photos of Clara like this where she is sleeping.  I just can't help myself whenever I see how serene she is.  The rosy cheeks, the button nose, the fine brown hair wisping out of her miniature pigtails - I die.

Paul loves to channel his inner Ansel Adams and take scenic photos of the park in attempt to capture even a fraction of its grandeur.  The task is impossible, but I still love how this year's photos turned out.  Especially these two shots with Yosemite Falls in the background.  Another thing I learned on this trip is that back in the 1950's Yosemite Falls was considered the 3rd highest falls on earth but new falls have since been discovered to be higher so now it is only the 7th highest on earth. 

Half Dome.  I have a traumatic past with this monolith that is a story for another time, but for some reason I find myself wanting to try climbing it again now.  But not with Clara.  She is NEVER allowed to climb it.  WAY too scary.

See the mountain in the middle background of this photo?  It is called Cloud's Rest and it is the highest point that can be seen from the valley floor.  I spent one cold, windy, and restless night at its summit once about 4 days after having run a marathon worrying that I was either going to be attacked by a bear or be blown off in my tent.  I'm grateful for the experience but I prefer the view from down here I think. 

Upper Yosemite Falls.  You can see Lower Yosemite Falls at the bottom of the frame in the shadows too.  We have better photos of Lower Yosemite Falls later on from when we walked there.

One of the many picturesque bridges in the park.

Paul enjoys going on "night hikes" with his dad and cousin.  Night hikes freak me out because I almost always see bears in Yosemite (in fact, this was the first trip when I have NOT seen a bear) and walking around in the pitch black darkness when there are bear signs EVERYWHERE is not exactly my idea of fun.  I consider myself daring, but I'm not insane.  Anyway, Paul was experimenting with camera settings and nighttime photography and captured this amazing image just as the moon was rising.  It was around 10:30 at night and mist had just started rising off the valley floor.

We went back the next day and took a comparison photo in the daylight.

On our last morning in Yosemite, Paul, Clara and I walked to Lower Yosemite Falls.  You can see the falls in this picture just to the left of Paul's head.  Clara was in a great mood being able to face forward in her stroller.  This may be my new all-time favorite photo of Paul.  Swoon.

Here is a picture from close to the base of the falls. 

We also celebrated my birthday with a dinner at the Mountain Room (a very nice restaurant by the Yosemite Lodge) where I had delicious trout and razzleberry cobbler, but I don't have any photos from that night. 

There are so many other things to do and see in Yosemite that this post doesn't even touch the surface.  Some of my favorites that we have done in the past include Mirror Lake, Mariposa Grove, riding bikes past the Indian Caves and the Panorama Trail hike from Glacier Point.  Can't wait to go again next year!