Seven thoughts

  1. I made these gingerbread maple muffins. Since muffins are basically cupcakes I topped my muffins with cinnamon buttercream frosting. They were tasty, but nothing amazing.
  2. Christmas tree lights are the worst. Is it just because I have the cheap target brand, or are all Christmas lights annoying? And those guns that test lights are not always effective.
  3. Henry loves all things Christmas. It’s the best.
  4. I’m in season 7 of Gilmore Girls and I really like it! I hate Logan. I love Luke. I hate Christopher. I am tired of Rory’s bad decisions. And Loreli’s bad decisions. But I like it!
  5. I’m a night showerer! I never really understood how people could shower at night, but when I got my elliptical a few months ago I had little choice. It changed my life! I’m fully converted.
  6. My stylist friend who had been coloring my hair moved. Sad. But she convinced me I could do it myself and I DID! I COLORED MY OWN HAIR! I know, crazy. I think the only time I colored my own hair was once in high school with my friend Liz F. I think it was pink or purple or something. So anyway, my friend told me what to buy, I went to Sally’s and spent $30 on supplies and I did it. I’ve done it twice now. The second time only cost me $6! As long as I stick with one color, I will save SO much money!
  7. I started cutting Henry’s hair! I bought clippers and scissors for about $25. Now I cut his hair every 2-3 weeks. It’s so nice not to have to stretch time between haircuts for him, he can look spiffy all the time. I’m not great at it, but luckily his hair is curly and very forgiving when it comes to choppy spots. I can’t believe I spent $23 every 8-12 weeks on his hair for almost two years. I’m an idiot.
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Apple Cider Cream Pie

This is a very good pie. People were raving about it at Pie Night 2014. I thought it was very good, but I was surprised at how many people loved it so much. I’ll make it for Pie Night next year because of all the positive attention it got, but I don’t think I’ll be making it regularly.

Apple Cider Cream Pie (First Prize Pies)

1 pastry crust
1 1/2 cups apple cider
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon salt

Partially bake your crust. Turn the oven down to 350. In a small saucepan over high heat, boil the cider until until it has reduced down to 3/4 cup, 15-20 minutes. Let it cool completely. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, sour cream, and salt until fully blended. Slowly drizzle in the reduced cider and whisk to fully incorporate.

Put the pie crust on a baking sheet. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the filling has just set and is still slightly wobbly in the center. Remove the pie to a wire rack to cool completely, at least 1 hour. Refrigerate before serving.

Top with cinnamon whipped cream and garnish with freshly ground cinnamon.

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Caramel Toffee Crunch Cheesecake

This cheesecake is amazing. Sooooooo good. It was my favorite new recipe from Pie Night 2014. It looks fantastic and tastes even better. There was about 1/4 left after Pie Night and I ate the entire thing over the next two days. So. Good. The cheesecake is really good and creamy, but the crust and topping totally make the whole thing.

There was one giant flaw with this cheesecake. The chocolate layer. It was rock solid when I served the cheesecake and made it impossible to cut and awkward to eat. Next time I make this I’ll melt the chips and mix with a tiny bit of shortening before spreading in on the crust. Not sure if that will go weird when I bake it, but I need to try something to solve the hard chocolate problem. BUT, the hard chocolate might be my fault. I made the cheesecake ahead of time and froze it, so that might have been the problem. I’ll test it next time and update this post.

The recipe tells you to wrap the pan in wet dishtowels instead of a traditional water bath that cheesecakes usually call for. This freaked me out at first, but it was no problem at all. I just drenched three dishtowels, wrung them out, wrapped two of them around the pan and put one underneath. This was a million times easier than a water bath and as far as I can tell it yielded the same results.

Caramel Toffee Crunch Cheesecake (from Yammie’s Noshery)

Crust:
3 cups graham cracker crumbs
Heaping 1/2 cup toffee bits (the kind with chocolate)
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, melted
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 300º. Combine everything except the chocolate chips. Press into a springform pan lined with parchment paper. Push all the way up the sides and press in firmly. Sprinkle with the chocolate chips. Set the springform pan on a baking sheet. Bake for about five minutes or until the chocolate chips are melty. Smooth them out with an offset spatula. Throw it in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

Filling:
3 packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup caramel topping (recipe below)
4 eggs, lightly beaten

Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and sour cream for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Add the vanilla and caramel and beat well. Add the eggs and beat just until combined. Pour into chilled crust. Wrap the springform pan with a couple of wet dishtowels (this helps the cheesecake to cook more slowly and evenly). Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. The center will still be jiggly, but never fear, it shall set in the end. Turn the oven off and open the door about 4 inches, but leave the cheesecake in for about 30 more minutes (this helps the cheesecake to cool more slowly and evenly and prevents cracking). Remove from the oven and cool for about 30 more minutes. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.

Topping:
1 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
About 1/2 cup caramel
Heaping 1/2 cup toffee bits, plus more for garnish (again, I used the chocolatey kind)

Beat the whipping cream and sugar in a chilled bowl until stiff peaks form.
Combine the caramel and 1/2 cup of toffee. Place small chunks all over the top of the chilled cheesecake and carefully them spread them together (it will be pretty thick, so don’t just plop it all on thinking you’ll be able to spread it out). Pipe some whipped cream along the edge and garnish with more toffee bits. Slice with a large wet knife for cleaner slices.

Homemade Caramel Sauce:
1 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
6 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoon vanilla

In a medium sauce pan, combine the sugar and syrup. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula. Once it is caramel colored, add the butter and stir until the butter is melted. Add the cream and stir until it’s all combined. Stir in vanilla. Store in the refrigerator if not using right away.

Tips for freezing cheesecake: Make sure it’s totally cool. After it’s completely cool, let it chill in the fridge for at about an hour. You are supposed to remove the outer ring of your springform, but I chose not to with this cheesecake (the crust was a little higher than the cheesecake, and removing the pan would have crushed it). But it worked just fine to freeze in the springform, so I’ll always do that going forward since it was much less fragile that way.

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Chocolate Ginger Pecan Pie

This is from First Prize Pies. It’s actually a bourbon pecan pie, but I substituted vanilla. The original recipe had too much ginger, so I reduced it slightly below.

Chocolate Ginger Pecan Pie

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup real maple syrup (grade B)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons finely grated, peeled, fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 1/2 cups pecan pieces
3 tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, syrup, eggs, vanilla, fresh ginger, ground ginger and salt. Stir in melted chocolate.

Put the crust on a baking sheet. Add the pecans and crystallized ginger to the pie shell. Pour the liquid filling into the pie shell and bake it for 25-30 minutes, until the filling has just set and is still slightly wobbly in the center. Remove the pie to a wire rack to cool completely, at least an hour.

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Lemon Sour Cream Pie

This pie is suuuuuuper good. I made it for Pie Night 2014 for the first time and it’s for sure the best lemon pie I’ve ever had. A number of people commented on how delicious it was.

I doubled it to fill a deep pie dish and still had a bit left over for a mini pie. If you’re putting it in a shallow dish there is no need to double it, but for a deep dish it will need to be doubled. I think the flavor was actually a bit better the second day, so it can be made ahead if necessary. I made one in a gingersnap crust and one in a pastry crust and they were both delicious.

Lemon Sour Cream Pie (slightly adapted from Tastes Better From Scratch)

1 pie shell, baked and cooled
 (pastry or gingersnap)
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup milk
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2-3 lemons)
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/4 cup butter, softened
Zest of one lemon
1/2 cup sour cream

Crack eggs in a small bowl, beat slightly with a fork and set aside. 
In a large saucepan combine sugar and cornstarch. Whisk in milk and fresh lemon juice and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick and bubbling.

Reduce heat to low and cook for two more minutes. Add a spoonful of the hot mixture into the egg yolks and stir well. Repeat this process with two or three more spoonfuls of the hot mixture added to the egg yolks. Poor egg mixture into the saucepan and stir well. Bring mixture to a gentle boil and cook for two more minutes. Remove from heat.

Add softened butter and lemon zest and stir until butter melts completely. Run the entire mixture through a sieve. This will strain out all your zest, so if you want your zest in the pie, skip this. Allow mixture to cool and then stir in sour cream. Add filling to your pie shell. Chill in the fridge 2-3 hours. Top with fresh whipped cream.

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My brain tumor

I have a brain tumor. It is what kept me from getting pregnant those five years before Henry was born.

When Peter and I moved from Salt Lake to New Jersey in 2009 we sought out one of the best fertility clinics in the area. When I went to the new doctor for my initial consultation (which cost us $500), the doctor concluded that I was a good candidate for IVF. We scheduled initial blood work for the next morning, and, assuming everything checked out, I would start the IVF process. Peter and I went home from the appointment feeling hopeful about the clinic and the doctor’s fresh perspective and positive attitude about our particular situation.

As the evening went on, we decided it would be best to hold off on pursing IVF. It was mostly a financial decision. It could cost us about $15,000 when it was all said and done (prices vary based on how much medication you need, how many office appointments you need, etc and those things can’t be determined until mid-cycle). That is $15,000 for the POSSIBILITY of getting pregnant. (Most clinics also offer a “buy two get one free” option, so you have to gamble up front if you should pay $15k for one try or $30k for three tries.) Also, at that point I was working as a contractor for PwC, so leaving work all the time for doctor appointments meant leaving money on the table.

Despite all the positive statistics for young, healthy women in my situation, we were very aware of the negative statistics, mostly because that is all we had experienced for the past three years. We knew Peter would be going to graduate school in the next two or three years, and we wanted to have enough money saved to pay for it (or most of it, depending on how expensive of a school he would end up at), avoiding student loans. We decided it would be best to save our money for our future rather than gamble it away for the possibility of a baby. It sounds selfish to choose to hoard your money rather than put it towards building a family (is there a more worthy use of money?), but we were still young and had plenty of time to get back to IVF in the future.

I cancelled my blood work appointment for the next morning and we decided to give it some more thought. We didn’t really ever decide not to go forward, we just decided to take some more time. That turned into about two years.

As the weeks and months went by, I gained a little perspective on my situation. I owe that perspective change to moving away from Utah and all the changes that came with that, and a new friend, M.

All of the sudden having a baby didn’t seem like the next step in my life that I had to figure out right away. It seemed important, and I would have loved it, but it wasn’t my main focus anymore. Some of my reasons were:

  1. Doing fertility and working full time is a huge hassle. Appointments are unpredictable. Some weeks you have to go into the clinic every day or every other day. Yes, my office was always kind and accommodating, but it’s still unpleasant to always be running back and forth to the doctor when you have work to do, meetings to attend, etc.
  2. Side effects can be brutal, which is an unpleasant disruption to life.
  3. Putting money in the bank was a lot more fun then throwing it out the window for pills, shots, ultrasounds, etc.
  4. We were having so much fun in New Jersey! It was the first time in our marriage that we were both working full-time, so our schedules lined up perfectly. We spent every evening together, we ate meals together, we spent our weekends together, took tons of trips and really enjoyed life. I have nothing but love for New Jersey because of that awesome year.
  5. Once I had a break from fertility treatments and started feeling like myself again, going back to that awful place seemed daunting and basically unmanageable. When you’re doing fertility, you’re all in. You can’t do it casually.

After a few months we went and met with an adoption agency in NYC. At some point you have to decide if it’s best to keep throwing time and money at the possibility of a biological child, or spend that same time and money on adoption, keeping in mind that neither time nor money grow on trees. We didn’t get far in the adoption process before deciding it wasn’t time for that either.

After a year in New Jersey we moved to Portland, Oregon. I thought maybe I’d look up a doctor there and get going again, but never did. Life was good! Why disrupt that? Another year passed.

At this point friends and family were starting to get pretty uneasy about our childless state despite our efforts, right as we were getting really used to the idea. I was finally and truthfully able to enjoy the perks of not having kids, but that was hard for others to accept. People tried to convince us that any amount of blood, sweat, tears and money would be worth it when we were holding our future baby. This is true, but not helpful since throwing money at a fertility problem often isn’t a solution that will actually end with a baby. People tried to convince us it was a matter of faith. This is also not helpful, because it’s untrue on every level. People tried to convince us of lots of things. People had opinions, and that was hard. Infertility is not as black and white as it seems from the outside looking in. I heard countless, “Just do IVF! It worked for my sister!” or “God will bless you with a baby when you’re ready.” It’s not that simple, people. I wish it were.

Five years had gone by since my first infertility appointment in Salt Lake City.

In 2011 we moved to Boston. We happened to live down the street from an amazing hospital, MGH (always among the top ranked in the nation), so we decided to go see a fertility doctor there after the nudge from my new friend L. She was seeing the same doctor at the time and convinced me to give him a shot. We just went to get his opinion. We had little intention of taking any action, but we figured we ought to take advantage of being so close to MGH. After our appointment our doctor agreed that I was probably a good candidate for IVF and they did the standard initial blood work that they would do for any new fertility patient.

The next day a nurse called to tell me that my prolactin levels (a hormone that tells your body to produce breastmilk) were high and that I needed to come back in to be retested. The nurse sounded very urgent on the phone and I asked her what the concern was about. She said if my prolactin levels were indeed as high as they thought they were, I might have a brain tumor.

This information was not at all concerning or upsetting. It seemed too weird to take seriously. The next morning I went back into the office for more blood work. Sure enough, my levels were high again and they scheduled me for an MRI right away.

I had my MRI on December 20, 2011 at 11pm. It was late, cold and snowy. It was a weird experience. Not awful, but not pleasant.

My friend is a radiologist at MGH and called me the next morning with my results. It was cold and snowing. Peter and I were driving down McGrath Highway headed to do some last minute Christmas shopping before we left for Utah for the holiday. When the phone rang we pulled over into the Somerville Target parking lot to hear the details.

I have a very small tumor on my pituitary gland called a prolactinoma. It’s no big deal. Basically the prolactinoma messes with my prolactin levels, which messes with ovulation. From what I understand it sort of tells my body not to ovulate because I’m lactating, even though I’m not actually lactating. Typically this problem manifests itself because a woman who is not lactating and all of the sudden starts lactating is alerted of a problem. I never lactated so there was no sign of this.

Side note: Had I followed through with the initial blood work in New Jersey, we probably would have found the problem then. Also, checking prolactin levels should have been routine for my Salt Lake doctor, which he never did in THREE years of banging my head against a wall. Jerk. I want my money back.

After my diagnosis, the fertility doctor sent me to a neuroendocrinoligist. She prescribed me Bromocriptine, which is one tiny pill a day that regulates my prolactin levels. Easy!

I was pregnant two weeks later.

Henry came home from the hospital on October 27, 2012, our seventh wedding anniversary. Exactly six years TO THE DAY after I stopped using birth control and officially started “trying”.

I hope to never take one single day with Henry for granted. Not one. So far so good.

(Read about my pregnancy announcement, the day I found out I was pregnant, and Peter’s reaction to my pregnancy)

Posted in Baby, Henry, My Opinions, Our Life | 4 Comments

Four thoughts

  1. What is all this #alexfromtarget stuff? I don’t get it.
  2. I’m so, so in love with younique fiber lashes. Love it.
  3. I wanted to make a fig pie for Pie Night. I found a fantastic looking recipe and was really excited about it. I bought a few figs just to experiment a bit, and they were disgusting. I love fig flavored things, but I don’t think I’d ever had a fresh fig. Gross.
  4. I’m beyond frustrated with the entire photography industry. We’ve had family pictures taken twice by two different photographers and I have about five mediocre photographs to show for it. FIVE. MAYBE. Hundreds of dollars and hours of time wasted. I’m so mad.
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