Archive | April, 2011

You’ve come a long way, baby

30 Apr

Today marks a major milestone for me — I’m sharing my 100th post.

100 posts.

100 times that I’ve bared my pain, vented my woes, shared my secrets, bragged about z-baby, opened my soul… and hoped to nourish yours in the process.

100 times that I’ve wondered what to divulge and how much to share.

100 times that I’ve hit “publish” and felt a little of the weight lifted.

I browsed through my old posts last night, and as I read through them, it was like reading some other woman’s diary. I couldn’t even remember writing some of them. I laughed at some (at least I can make myself laugh, heh?) and flinched from the pain of others. And I was thankful for this woman. Thankful that 1 1/2 years ago, this woman decided, on a whim, to start a secret blog and document her struggle with postpartum depression. I remember that woman… lying on her bedroom floor in the dark, afraid to move a muscle for fear that it would wake up her baby and she’d never get him back to sleep… wondering what other women with this illness actually thought and felt… wondering if she would ever be able to move forward… wondering how to fight the dark thoughts that kept pushing their way into her head.

I can only hope that something I’ve written in these 100 posts has resonated with someone battling postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and/or postpartum OCD, and helped them to know that they’re not alone and that things can get better.

This is a small, humble blog, and I want to say thank you to anyone who has ever read it and for those who have ever left a comment.

And for those of you who are new to The Vaca Loca, I still write a little about postpartum depression, but it has evolved into thoughts and stories about my real life, rather than just my illness. So for nostalgia’s sake, and as a celebration of how far I’ve come in 100 posts, I thought I’d share some of my earlier posts with you all…

  1. How did I get here? — the path to my PPD/PPA/PPOCD
  2. A minute inside my head — the painful record that played in my head 24/7
  3. What tipped the scales — the evolution of thoughts that made me get help
  4. Down with rubber duckies — my meltdown over a rubber duckie
  5. The spa episode — the one where I very nearly killed sig-o before I got help
  6. I do good guilt — really… but what mom doesn’t?
  7. Birth Story — reflections on how z-baby came into this world
  8. Taking care of mom — what happened after the birth story
  9. It’s a love-hate thing — watching sig-o parent through the lens of PPD
  10. And yet — still in the midst of PPD, but know it’s getting better

Foodie Friday: Superman Bread

29 Apr

Toddlers, by nature, are picky eaters, but I think I have the world’s pickiest one. It’s baffling to me, really, how my husband and I — arguably some of the world’s least picky eaters — wound up with this choosy this guy… but I suppose it’s yet another of life’s lessons in patience for us.

At just over 2 years old, z-baby will eat: some breakfast cereals with milk, yogurt, pasta with parmesan, tortillas (corn and flour), rice, bread, animal crackers, corn on the cob, dried cranberries, and smoothies. On rare (sometimes very rare) occasions he will eat apples, sopa aguada (a Mexican pasta soup), and peanut butter. And he never refuses a sweet treat offered to him by his grandmas… it’s as if he can smell the sugar and accepts the treat before he’s even seen it. Nutritionally speaking, my only comfort is that he still nurses.

So in an attempt to sneak some more veggies into his diet (in addition to smoothies), I’ve been trying out some breads. I found a recipe that looked great on paper but bombed big time. So I’ve turned to my grandmother’s basic zucchini bread recipe and adapted it a bit. There’s a lot of extras and variations I plan on trying, but for today I wanted to stick to the basic recipe and just change a couple of things to see how it works. I call this Superman Bread, because you can really pack in the veggies and good stuff… which hopefully balances out the bit of sugar in it!

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Superman Bread

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups grated zucchini (instead of zucchini I used 2 shredded carrots and 2+ cups very finely chopped raw kale)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. flax meal (also my addition)

Beat eggs. Add sugar, vanilla, oil, and vegetables and mix well.

Stirring eggs and sugar

Wet ingredients before adding the veggies

In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.

Measuring flour

Measuring and sifting flour

Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir together.

Stirring in the flour

Stirring is hard work!

Pour into greased loaf pans and bake at 350°F for approximately 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Before baking

Superman bread, before baking

After baking

Superman bread, after baking

Slice of superman bread

You can see, but not taste, the veggies!

Additional changes I’ll be trying in the future to up both the nutrition and appeal:

  • maybe pureeing the veggies instead of shredding
  • whole wheat flour
  • wheat germ
  • mashed bananas
  • raisins and cranberries
  • Spinach, zucchini, sweet potatoes
  • substitute sugar for agave nectar
  • chocolate chips for a special treat!

That’s so Gringa

28 Apr

The other day I was preparing pasta for little z-baby. One of my favorite kitchen shortcuts is to use my kitchen shears to cut his spaghetti. Just snip, snip, snip and you’re done! I was happily snipping away when sig-o walked by and chuckled, “Ok. That is so Gringa!”

I was stopped cold in my snipping tracks… So Gringa? Me? Well, yeah. I had to laugh… sig-o and I have been together for so long that we sometimes forget that he’s Mexican and I’m American, that we’re different both as individuals and because of our cultural backgrounds.

Like once when I asked him what he wanted to get to eat and he replied, “How about Mexican?” for like the millionth time. With exasperation in my voice I asked, “Don’t you EVER get tired of Mexican food?” To which he replied, “Uh, noooo. It’s just food to me.” Oh.

So here are a few other things (not sure that I agree) that sig-o says also make me “so Gringa.” 

  1. Mis calzones (underwear) — They’re cheap. And I know it. But I can’t help it ya’ll. It’s a habit I picked up in college. When you don’t do laundry as frequently as you should… you solve the problem by just going and buying some cheap Hanes Her Way. While I do do laundry regularly now, I still have over 20 pairs of the cheapies. Though not the same ones from college… geesh!
  2. My obsessive planning — I plan everything. I even plan when I’m going to plan. Visitors coming? Trip to take? Picnic in the park? Lists make me happy. And there’s no way I would be able to not plan at least meals when I know my suegra is on her way for a visit. Of course, she always brings enough food for an army and takes over my kitchen anyways… but it’s the thought of not being prepared that would drive me to insanity. Sig-o tells me not to worry about it. I tell him I’ll add that to my list.
  3. The way I worry about everything — A close relative of #2. I worry too much about things. Like seat belts and firecrackers and not waking the neighbors. I’m not as bad as I used to be (except for when the postpartum depression was in full-swing… then it was BAD). And it all seems to be relative to place. In Mexico, I’m still a worrier, but I let a lot more slide.
  4. My immersion blender — Since sig-o and I have been together, we have been through countless blenders (lots of salsas, lots of aguas frescas…). And I got tired of them always breaking down. Or just breaking. We had a collection of mismatched bases and jars that did us no good. So one day I tossed them all and got a sleek little hand blender for a change. So what? It’s worked well so far, and I’m sure we’ll go back to the other kind as soon as it gives out, too.
  5. The way I watch TV — When I sit down to watch TV, I could also be reading blogs, playing Words with Friends, perusing recipes, making lists. And I may or may not have the volume on. But when sig-o (and everyone in his family) sits down to watch TV it’s like zombies sucked his brains out… he sits and stares open-mouthed at the blaring screen and can hear no other sound around him. Commercials are even worse. They’re not something to be muted, but rather something to lean into, the main attraction. I could strip off my cheap calzones and he’d never even flinch.

No cable? ¡No importa!

27 Apr

I recently read a post over at Bicultural Mom that has a nice list of bilingual/Spanish-language TV shows for kids. This got me to thinking… As far as tools and resources go to help z-baby learn Spanish, this is an area where we haven’t explored much.

Z-baby only recently started watching some videos. And as I mentioned in a recent post, we don’t watch much TV and don’t have cable. But when he does watch TV, I’d like to limit his screen time to as much Spanish-language programming as possible. So while Disney, Nick Jr., and PBS Kids do offer clips and some full episodes of their shows online (when they’re not crashing my mac), where else can you turn if you don’t have cable? Below is a brief list of sites we have found so far.

Netflix — Ok, so you do have to pay for this, but I thought I would include it, too. Some of the items below are available on DVD only, but a few are available instantly (always nice with an impatient toddler!).

  • Cantarima DVDs — I can’t say enough about these DVDs. Cantos y Rimas and Canciones de Cuna are in Spanish and English, whereas Números y Figuras is in Spanish only. These are the first videos z-baby would watch and he L-O-V-E-S them. And while it’s hard to get the songs out of your head, they also help mom and dad learn some songs in Spanish, too.
  • Various videos of Handy Manny, Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go, Maya and Miguel, Sesame Street, and Plaza Sésamo (2 are forthcoming).
  • Famosos Dibujos Animados En Español (others forthcoming) — These are basically old school cartoons (Woody Woodpecker, Porky the Pig, etc…) in Spanish. We haven’t watched these yet, but I’m keeping them on my radar for the future.
  • Cri Cri: Las Número 1 — So the songs are not actually performed by Francisco Gabilondo Soler… but they are a favorite of sig-o and he wanted z-baby to grow up with them, too.

¡Sorpresa! — Promoted as a Spanish-language cable channel for Hispanic youth and families, their website also offers shows for free. For preschoolers, there are four shows with anywhere from 4 to 28 full episodes each: Bali, Wumblers, Cubeez, and Tiny Planets.

Mis Cositas — A great resource in general, but they also have a You Tube channel with videos. I don’t know about yours, but my kid loves just watching other kids do mundane things, and he likes watching the videos starring Niko — ¡tan chulo!

You Tube —  I have a love-hate relationship with You Tube when it comes to z-baby watching anything on it. Love it because you can find virtually anything on it. Hate it because you have to be vigilant about what you click and what might pop up next on the screen if you’re not paying attention. But always good in a pinch and when looking for hard to find things (like when sig-o remembers shows and songs from his childhood that we can’t find anywhere else online. Topo Gigio anyone? Ah… nostalgia 🙂 ).

Your local public library — Yep. Even where we live, which is a far cry from a multicultural mecca, the library carries many books, a few DVD’s, and some audio recordings in Spanish. And you can always request something you’d like them to acquire. Never hurts to ask!

Where else do you turn for on-screen resources? I’d love to hear what you’ve found!

Happy Monday

25 Apr

Back to Happy Monday after a nice holiday weekend. These are some of the things that have been making me happy…

  1. When z-baby asks me to dance with him (to Bach)
  2. Finding the perfect shoe in the right color and size (Did my feet grow while I was pregnant?!)
  3. Z-baby’s first PB & J sandwich
  4. Easter egg hunts
  5. Warm, breezy, Spring afternoons
  6. The anticipation of the pool opening in just one week!
  7. Z-baby losing a new pool toy within the first hour (brought to him by the Easter Bunny). Where do these things go?!?
  8. Mine and z-baby’s new harmonica band
  9. Watching z-baby try to make the dog play the harmonica (she puts up with a lot)
  10. Hearing a perfectly conjugated verb spontaneously pop out of z-baby’s mouth… en español  🙂

Foodie Friday: Chicharron en Salsa Verde

22 Apr

Chicharron

Chicharron en salsa verde is a common Mexican guisado, and one that is simple to make. Sig-o requested it for the menu this week so I thought I would share it with you. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy finding fresh chicharron where we live, so I use the packaged stuff in a pinch. This particular kind turned out particularly well — it holds it’s body well in the sauce.

When we lived in my husband’s hometown in Mexico, I spent most of my free time in the kitchens of any of the Doñas who would take me in. I learned a lot from them, including the fact that there is no one way to make even the most typical of Mexican dishes — everyone has their own special touch or secret. I was recently talking recipes with my suegra and she told me how she makes picadillo. When I told her that her closest comadre makes it fundamentally different, she was in shock (maybe because she didn’t know… or maybe because I did!). And so it is with salsas. Salsas vary by dish, of course, by region, and by individual. So here is one that I picked up along the way, served with chicharron.

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Chicharron en Salsa Verde

Tomatillos (~25)

Jalapeños (~3, or to taste)

Dried chile (1-optional; I used a chipotle this time)

Onion (1/2 large)

Garlic (2 cloves)

Peppercorns (~6)

Clove (~1)

Chicken broth or bouillon (Knorr Suiza)

Oil

Tomatillos and chiles

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not the best at measurements. You can play around with this until you get the taste that best suites you — we like things pretty spicy around here.

Remove all the husks from the tomatillos. In case you’ve never seen one naked, here’s what they look like once you removed the papery husk.

Tomatillo husks

Rinse well and then place in pot with chiles and just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and remove from heat once they begin to soften. You’ll notice in the picture below that I threw a dried chile in the mix, as well. Not a must, but I think it gives it a little extra kick and another layer to the texture of the taste. But note that it will also turn your “green” salsa a little more to the orange side.

Boil tomatillos

Toast the garlic, cloves, and peppercorns. I usually also toast some whole cumin seeds, but I realized I’m out today, so I just left it out. Once toasted I also usually grind the spices (not the garlic) in my molcajete (mortar and pestle), but z-baby woke up from his nap just as I was at this step so I threw it all in the blender instead.

Tostando ajo

Puree the tomatillos, chiles, garlic, and spices using the same water everything was boiled in. Don’t throw out that extra water yet — it’s the golden rule! Heat oil in pot and add onion. Allow it to brown and soften slightly, then add it to the blender and puree it in with the salsa.

Cebolla

In the same oil the onion was cooked in, add the pureed salsa. Add some of the additional water the tomatillos were boiled in if the sauce seems too thick. Bring to a boil. Add the Knorr Suiza. How much? I say start with just a pinch and work your way up. Remember, the chicharron will also add salt. I err on the side of “less is more.” My suegra, on the other hand, about gives me a heart attack every time I see her add in her querida Knorr Suiza… but then again, she’s the one who has had multiple successful restaurants in Mexico (no pressure, nuera!). So try a little, then add some more!

Salsa

Once the salsa is up to a boil, add the chicharron. Cook on low until the chicharron has softened. This usually doesn’t take longer than around 15 minutes (it’s still not quite to that point in the photo below).

Chicharron en salsa verde

Serve with fresh corn tortillas, or spoon it into hot gorditas… the possibilities go on and on. ¡Provecho!

Unicorn

21 Apr

Z-baby is an early riser. Not too early, but since I’m not a morning person, anything feels early. He wakes up, nurses a bit, and then hops out of bed and plays with toys in our room. Unless I forget to shut the door at night. Then he has free reign of the house while I struggle to heave myself out of bed. We do have a baby gate up in the hallway to reign him in… but that only lasted a few months before he figured out how to work it.

One morning this week he hopped out of bed and promptly headed out of the room. Sig-o and I lay in bed talking and then we heard the crash. From the sound of it, I can only surmise that he was standing up in his big, wooden Mexican truck while cooking at his play kitchen when he fell out and hit the entertainment center? I jumped out of bed and he met me at the door crying. He asked me for a bebo (beso = kiss) for his boo-boo and stopped crying and ran out of the room to play again. I tried not to freak too much and shrugged it off.

By the time we sat down to breakfast, he had a big, honkin’ coco (bump) on his head… and he was so proud of it. It looked like he was sprouting a unicorn horn. Here are some really, really bad pics of the little sprout.