Monday, November 29, 2010

Recipe: Easy Cheesy Tilapia

I am a huge fan of tilapia. It is both good for you and doesn't taste too fishy (I don't do salmon or many other fish). Our favorite tilapia recipe is delicious but chock full of calories. I found this recipe on my go-to site,, however, the original recipe called for it to be baked in the oven and mine is on the fritz so I altered it to cook on the stovetop.

There are a few things to love about this dish. #1, it was super easy. From start to finish it took me under 20 minutes to get dinner on the table. #2, it was fairly inexpensive to make. Tilapia filets were $6 and the bag of steamed veggies I served on the side were on sale for $1.66. Everything else I already had on hand (another plus for this recipe). #3, I love that the only bad thing here is the cream cheese and it's only 4 ounces so it's not that tragic. The total calorie count is 210 per filet.

And the best part? James said this is a definite "make again" and gives the dish 4.5 out of 5 stars. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Servings: 4
prep time: 10 minutes
cook time: 4 minutes

4 tilapia filets
lemon pepper seasoning
4 oz cream cheese
1/2 tablespoon dried dill weed
lemon juice to taste
vegetable oil or olive oil
minched or powdered garlic (optional)

In a skillet over medium heat, pour enough vegetable or olive oil in the skillet to coat the bottom. Add a teaspoon of minced garlic (or a dusting of powdered garlic) if desired. Season tilapia filets on each side with a sprinkle of lemon pepper seasoning (old bay seasoning would work too). Place filets in warm skillet and cook 2 minutes on each side or until fish flakes with fork.

While fish cooks, melt cream cheese in microwave. Add dill weed. Add lemon juice until mixture is of desired texture (I wanted mine slightly thick but others might like it thinner). You might want to start with a small amount of lemon and taste test the cheese mixture as you go.

Once filets are cooked place on plate and spread with cheese sauce. Serve immediately.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My Favorite 4 Letter Word

ETSY. If you don't know it, you might want to stop reading. Now. Otherwise I can't be held responsible for how the following post might affect your wallet.

There are a lot of things I said I'd never do with my child. I'd never let her sleep in my room (too late). I'd never sleep on the couch with her (been doing it for months). You can see where I am going with this. My point is that until you have a child you have no idea what you will do. Which brings us to ETSY.

Headbands: They are a personal choice every mommy has to make for herself. And personally? I loathe headbands. Especially on bald babies or babies with little to no hair. I understand you just want the world to know your baby is a girl. That I totally get. But the bows and flowers that are the size of your kid's head or bigger? Just not my style. My kid is not a Giudice. But plenty of people love them and more power to you. I'm not here to judge.

So I once said my child would NEVER wear a headband. And in true Kyle fashion I was rather vocal about it. To a lot of people. But then Emily came out rocking a full head of hair. And before I knew what was happening, I was putting bows in her hair. Little ones. And I'll be damned-she looked cute! My need for cute bows and clips became an obsession. Enter me sitting at home on maternity leave harboring a growing love of this new website I had found. Naptime became dangerous. is a magical website where you can find pretty much anything under the sun that one could make by hand. Sometimes the choices are overwhelming. I dare you to go to their site and search "crochet infant hat". After you pick your jaw up off of the floor at how many people make and sell said hats, check out how much these bad boys are. And there are sellers who offer free shipping!

One of the things I absolutely love about Etsy is that I am supporting small businesses, stay at home mom's, etc...most of whom are located right here in the good old USA. So not only is Emily rocking a totally cute handmade hat, it wasn't made by some poor kid in a Chinese sweatshop working for 25 cents an hour. That's just little old me, doing my part to stimulate our crappy economy. It's a good way to justify why our 4 month old needs at least a dozen Christmas bows and clips, no?

Baby Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit

For the first three months of Emily's life I did something I always swore up and down I'd never do. I slept on the couch with her on my chest. Spare me the lectures because I am 100% aware of how terrible that is. But you try to deal with a baby who refuses to sleep unless held and then come talk to me. Everyone told me swaddle, swaddle, swaddle. Well guess what? Emily does not like to be swaddled. She would either cry the minute you swaddled her or she pull a Houdini and rip her arms out of that blanket in 2.5 seconds flat. So I began to swaddle her from the armpits down and left her little arms free to flail about. Except when she would flail her arms about it would startle her and wake her up. I resigned myself to the fact that I would probably be sleeping on the couch with her until she was 18 and moving away to college. Cody was in all his glory and more than once I found his furry little head up near my pillow. At least one of us was getting to enjoy my side of the bed.

The pediatrician had said Emily's sleep issues might not be resolved until she was 6 months old. I could handle a few weeks of sleeping on the couch but 6 months? No way, Jose. So off to the trusty world wide interweb I went. In the beginning of my pregnancy I began frequenting and desperately hoped the mom's there would have the answer to all of my sleep issues.

I should have known my fellow mommies would have the answers. After a few days of searching buzz began to grow over this new product that promised to change my life-Baby Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit. It is designed for babies who are too big to be swaddled and would keep them from moving their limbs and startling themselves. I sifted through various posts of women attesting to how wonderful this little suit was. When I saw someone mention it was only $39.95 I jumped on and ordered one of those bad boys. Even if it didn't work it wasn't like I was spending hundreds of dollars. I crossed my fingers and hoped this was the answer to all of my problems.

When the suit came in the mail I did a little dance of joy, ripped the package open and immediately stuffed Emily into it. As soon as I saw her staring up at me I started cracking up. She totally looked like Randy from A Christmas Story in it ("I can't put my arms down!"). Even if the thing didn't work I could at least snap a few photos to show her reason #254 why she will eventually need a therapist.

Laugh if you want. Make fun of me for putting my baby something so ridiculous looking. But I will have the last laugh because this sucker actually works! Not only does it keep her snug but it also keeps her warm, eliminating the need for the dreaded blanket in the crib. My girl went from wailing the minute we put her down to sleeping soundly for upwards of 10 hours at night in this thing. $40 well spent!

So if you are looking for the perfect baby shower gift I highly recommend you pick one up for the mommy to be. People might give you the side eye when she opens it but trust me she will be calling you after the baby is born to thank you.


Last night, on the eve of Emily’s 4 month birthday, she and I both had a breakthrough.

It was 11pm and she was wide awake and ready to play. Mommy and daddy have deemed this an unacceptable bedtime for an infant and I promptly whisked her upstairs, put her in her “Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit” (review of this product to come) and rocked her. Within 15 minutes she was asleep. At this point a tiny voice in my head says “put her in her crib”. The other voice says “no! bring her into your room and put her in the pack & play”. I’m guessing it was delirium from sickness and tiredness that drove me to just put her in the crib. I mean that mattress is like 10 times the thickness of the pack & play. I gently laid her down and waited for her eyes to immediately pop open as they usually do, but she just sighed and kept sleeping. I stood there for a minute, not sure of what to do. I tiptoed into the bedroom.

James rolled over and looked at me and said “Where’s the baby?”
I stood there like a deer in headlights.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“She’s in her crib,” I whispered.

“Good! Go get the monitor and go to bed.”

I pulled the blanket I had around my shoulders tighter over me.

“Maybe I should sleep in there,” I said.

“What!? Where would you sleep?”

“On the floor? In the rocker?”

“No! You can’t sleep in the rocker. Get the monitor. She will be fine.”

I went back into her room and stood over the crib watching her little chest rise and fall. Finally I turned off the tv, grabbed the monitor and went to my own bed. Every hour I quietly got up, tiptoed into her room and made sure she was still breathing. From 11:30pm to about 4am she didn’t make a peep. James went in at 4am when she started whimpering and gave her the binky back. She slept another hour and half before waking up at 5:30am to be fed. A solid 6 hours of sleep! Without waking up crying every hour. In her own crib! And we both survived 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

That is NOT banana...

I've come to find that with being a mommy you tend to get excited over some unusual things.

For example, Emily got constipated while we were in Disney. At 10pm one night she was screaming and in obvious pain. James called down to the front desk and was going to take a cab to Walgreens to get her medication. We found out there was a pharmacy that delivered so when Emily finally fell asleep I convinced him to just wait until the morning. In the meantime I called the pediatrician, who suggested three things: prune juice (tried it), "stimulating her anus with a thermometer" (didn't have one...bad parents) and if all else failed, give her a baby suppository (WHAT!?). I prayed and prayed that the prune juice would work as I did not want to be sticking anything up my little girl's bottom.

Morning came and there was still no poop. We finally admitted defeat and called the delivery service-one thermometer and one suppository please. We waited anxiously for the front desk to call to say our package had arrived. When it did, James practically ran to the main building of the resort to get it.

When he got back we hovered over Emily, who was laying on the bed and grinning at us. She didn't appear to be in pain but we hadn't seen poop in a good three days. We weren't going to chance a repeat screaming session like the night before.

"Forget the thermometer," I said. "We're skipping to the suppository. You distract her and I'll slip it in."

James nodded and handed me the little canister. I opened it up and my jaw dropped. There were no little wax balls in there. They were like little mini torpedoes! Sadly there was no other alternative. I held the torpedo in my fingers, took a deep breath and quickly pushed it inside her little bum. I closed my eyes, waiting for the tears. There were none! Success! Within the hour she pooped. I think the entire pool heard me cheer when my sister said, "Emily pooped!" It was like my kid had learned her ABCs. Who knew poop could be so exciting?

Last week I was back to work so James took her to her 4 month checkup. The appointment was at 10am and by 11:30am I was on the edge of my seat waiting for him to call. At 11:45am I couldn't take it anymore. I became one of *those* moms.

"Well?" I whispered into the phone when he answered. "How'd she do?"

"Fine. 3 more shots. She's 13 pounds 2 ounces and 25 inches long-tall and skinny. The doctor says we can start giving her rice cereal and mashed banana."

Awesome! This is when the fun stuff starts. I couldn't wait to put her in her little seat and feed her from a spoon.

It started out pretty easy. She liked the rice cereal, but only mixed with juice. Mix it with formula and she acted like I was poisoning her. It took a little while for her to warm up to banana. For some reason she was down with me mixing banana with the cereal. Easy enough.

I had just finished feeding her and ran to get her tub since naturally she had food all over her chubby little face (and hands). When I came back to her in her seat I noticed some banana on her seat by her inner thigh.

"Oh baby girl!" I giggled. "How did you manage to get banana down there?"

All I can say is thank GOD I didn't touch what I thought was banana. POOP! POOP EVERYWHERE! I did the only thing that seemed logical-I whisked her out of the seat and put her in the sink. I didn't even bother to remove the onesie or the dirty diaper before I started hosing her down.

Now let me tell you-my girl is an explosive pooper. Happens all the time. So I don't know why this one was paralyzing but it was like I had never seen poop before. I had my poor girl slung over my arm like a frickin bag of potatoes as I sprayed her down. She didn't seem to mind-ain't no shame in her game. She wasn't the one who had to clean it so what did she care?

In the end I managed to make it out alive. Gave Bean a nice little soak and got her in her jammies. We cuddled on the couch and waited for daddy to get he could take care of the poop on the bouncy chair :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Reason for the Season

I love the holidays. Who doesn't? The lights, the food, the mood, the food, being with family...did I mention the food? I also love my annual trek into the city with James, Jen and James to see Santa and take pictures at the Rockefeller Center tree. I am so excited to bring Em in on that tradition and you best believe I already have her outfit picked, right down to the hair bow. That's just how I roll.

But the thing I love most about the season is giving back. For the last few years my work has been involved in adopting families from a group called Lunch Break in Red Bank. We get the kids' wish lists and collect money to give them a Christmas their parents can't afford to give them. And let me tell you how much my coworkers rock. They throw me an overwhelming amount of money to help make these kids' Christmas dreams come true. I am truly lucky to work amongst people who rock so hard.

Two years ago James and I adopted two children from the giving tree at the Pathmark where his mother worked. Sadly that Pathmark is now closed due to the economy.

But this year Jen hit the mother load when she found the JcPenney Salvation Army Angel Adoption Program. If you do nothing else this holiday season to help someone else, please go to this link and adopt a needy child or senior. And if you don't cry while going through the wish lists of these people then you have something wrong with one. I adopted a little girl who just wants Barbies, a boy who wants Transformers and a 99 year old woman who simply wants a blanket. Then I adopted a 3 month old who needs clothes. I sat and thought about my Emily and how it would break my heart if I couldn't even provide clothes for her. I wish I could help all of these people and if one day my dreams of being a published writer come true I will.

Yes, times are tough. But as tough as they may or may not be for me, there is always someone else out there who has it much worse.

If you can't afford to adopt an angel there are so many other ways you can give back. Donate to a clothing drive. Bring a few boxes of food down to the local food pantry. Offer to help an elderly neighbor grocery shop. I promise it will bring a fullness to your heart that I cannot begin to describe.

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Latest Project

Some of you know that I am an aspiring writer. This is a dream of mine that goes all the way back to the 2nd grade when I attended a Young Authors' Conference and wrote a story about a girl and her magical dragon. And now that I think about it I am pretty sure the girl's name was Emily. My mom probably still has a copy of the story so I will have to have her confirm or deny.

Anyway, in May/June 2009 I wrote my first full length novel. I even went so far as to query a whole slew of agents with no luck. But no matter. I actually wrote an entire novel. And now that I know I can do it I am motivated more than ever to make my dreams come true.

I am working on my next project, a young adult novel that I am toying with titling either "Wit Pro" or "Witness Protection". I had an issue with a title for the first novel so I am very proud that I already have a title for this one. I am making creative progress!

The story centers around Krista, a privileged 17 year old girl about to enter her senior year of high school who is in the wrong place at the wrong time and witnesses a horrific murder. When the police discover the killing is mafia related Krista and her family are quickly moved to the middle of nowhere and entered into the Witness Protection program. Now she is the new girl in a town where no one has ever even seen a Gucci bag or pair of Manolo heels in person. Just when she starts to make friends and for the first time ever feel comfortable in her own skin a stranger comes to town who threatens to destroy everything she has struggled to leave behind.

Thoughts? Suggestions? As soon as I get a free minute I am going to post the first chapter to share with you all.

Do I look like Betsy Ross?

Well...I did it! I survived my first day back to work after four months of laying on the couch watching HGTV and spending time with my little best friend. And I did it with minimal tears and without having to re-apply my makeup. Success!

Around 5am Emily started to fuss so I scooped her out of the pack and play and brought her downstairs for our early morning snuggle. When the alarm went off at 6:30am I reluctantly deposited a still sleeping Bean into her swing and jumped in the shower. James eventually mosied downstairs to take over baby duty while I got ready. I can't really put my finger on where the morning went awry but at one point James said "Babe? Are you almost ready to go? It's 7:50." Crap! I did so much rushing around in that 10 minutes that I had no time to process what was about to happen. I threw on my coat, grabbed my coffee and the tears started to form behind my eyes as I kissed my husband and little girl. I ran for the door, hoping James wouldn't see me crack. I would've made it too if I hadn't left the cookies I'd baked for my coworkers sitting on the breakfast bar.

"Are you ok?" James asked as I hesitated with my hand on the doorknob. I nodded and debated leaving the cookies and just making a run for it. Instead I turned around and let James see the tears streaming down my face. I wordlessly grabbed the cookies, gave them each an extra kiss and got the hell out of there. As I pulled down the driveway I watched James and Emily in the doorway, James moving Emily's little hand to wave goodbye to me as I pulled away.

I pulled myself together in the 30 minutes it takes me to get to work and figured I could handle this. I had to make a second trip to my car just to drag in all the stuff I had armed myself with to resume my life as a working woman-breakfast, lunch, snacks...all the things a fat girl needs to get her through the day.

The day went surprisingly fast as I reset various passwords that I had forgotten and re-learned how to do various tasks that had been second nature mere months ago. I even had to ask poor Tricia how to dial out on my work phone. Insert me hanging my head in shame here. I had two pictures of Emily with me that I gladly showed people-one from Disney of her, Logan and Belle and one of her and me that we took in a photo booth at the boardwalk.

I teared up only three times, including when I got the edible arrangement my mother sent me but signed from Emily. Is my mom the greatest or what? So far I was holding it together better than I thought.

Then at lunch I made a tragic discovery. The brand stinkin new cardigan I was wearing had not one but two holes in the right arm! Eff you Old Navy! Thanks to you I showed up to my first day back at work looking like motherhood left me so frazzled and/or penniless that I couldn't manage to put together an outfit sans rips or holes. Awesome. And of course I purchased this cardigan a good month ago which means that even if I had the receipt (I don't) they certainly don't have these sweaters in stock anymore to replace it. Not like they'd take it back worn anyway. So this leaves me two options: throw it away and cut my losses or sew the two holes so I can wear it again. Great. Like I have time for that. Or like I even know how to sew.

But I won't let a few small holes take away from the fact that I made it through the day unscathed. Emily and I can survive a few hours apart from one another and despite my fears it did not feel like I was missing a limb. She even went to her 4 month checkup with James-13.2 pounds and 25.5 inches. My girl is tall and skinny! Now she is bathed, we are both fed and we are cuddling on the couch watching Dancing with the Stars. Life is good.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Obsessed with my Crockpot: Lasagna

One thing you must know about me is that I am all about convenience, especially after working all day and then coming home to cook. I think it is fair to say I do 95% of the cooking which I don't mind because I have grown to love it. Now that Emily is here and I'd like to spend as much time with her as possible, my crockpot and I are a match made in culinary heaven. I love the idea of taking a bunch of ingredients, dumping them in the crockpot, setting the time and temperature and coming home to a cooked meal. However, I am also the ultimate worry wart and the thought of leaving a household appliance going all day with no one home except the dog terrifies me for one reason: Cody does not have opposable thumbs! (Insert me holding up my hands and waggling my thumbs for effect here).

But that will all change now that Emily's daycare will be done in our home by my mother-in-law. So with this in mind I have started branching out into the world of cooking with my crockpot and I am very excited for the first installment of my "Obsessed with my Crockpot" series with this recipe.

Quick sidenote: I know full well the crockpot can be a bitch to clean, which is another reason I used to avoid using it. That is until I discovered Reynolds Crockpot Liners. It was like the skies opened up and the angels sang. You simply line your crockpot with one of these little bad boys and when you are done cooking you lift the bag out and throw it away. I mean really, does it get any easier than that? These things will change your life, I promise.

So first recipe comes courtesy of Jessica Seinfeld, wife of Jerry, and her appearance on the Oprah show to promote her new cookbook. I'm not even sure what possessed me to have Oprah on that day as I am not typically a big follower. I was about to change the channel when she said two little words: Crockpot Lasagna. Lasagna has always scared me and I've never mustered up the courage to try it. When Jessica said the noodles didn't need to be pre-cooked I was sold.

As a rule I look for recipes with as few ingredients as possible and I always take shortcuts if I can. For example, I bought the cans of tomatoes that were already seasoned with oregano (and basil, because you can't have too many yummy spices in an Italian dish). I also used a tablespoon of minced garlic instead of messing around with chopping cloves of garlic-Emily will only sit patiently in her bouncy seat for so long! Other than that I followed the directions as stated and found the noodles to be tender right around 3.5 hours.

I am fortunate enough that James does appreciate all of the cooking I do and I honestly appreciate when he is honest with me about whether he likes something or not. Usually he rates things as either "make again" or "do not make again". Simple enough. But for the sake of my blog I've asked him to rate the dishes I make on a 5 star scale.

Our thoughts:
-A for being fairly easy and having few ingredients
-prep time: 10-15 minutes to throw together the sauce and cheese mix
-total time: just under 4 hours
-servings: I think this would be enough for 4 people. We ate just the lasagna but you could easily also serve a nice salad. A big plus for us was having enough for leftovers for both of us for lunch the next day.
-James has requested I cut back on the spinach and perhaps make a meat sauce next time
-James rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars, "make again"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Not Ready For Mom Jeans

Not now. Not ever. If my own 50 year old mother can rock jeans from the likes of Express then so can I darn it!

The other day I went "back to work" shopping with my mom and Kait. Things were going great. I found some new sweaters and a cute new shirt. I picked up two pairs of pants from The Gap that are a size 10. Before Emily I was an 8 but honestly I have no desire or motivation to go to the gym so I will happily take a 10. Maybe once I am back to work I will use my lunch hour to drag my sorry ass back to the gym. But I digress.

I flew through the piles of clothes I hauled into the dressing room, most things landing in the "purchase" pile. Then I started trying on jeans. And clearly my butt and waist are not in communication with my thighs and legs. Anything that fit in the waist looked ridiculous in the legs. And anything that looked good through the hips wouldn't button. Suddenly it felt like a hundred degrees in that dressing room. I quickly put my own clothes back on and got the hell out of there. We paid for our purchases (thanks mom!) and I parted ways with mom and Kait.

Figuring I had never had luck with jeans from The Gap, I stopped at NY & Co. Emily, worn from our trip to the outlets, slept innocently in her stroller. Or maybe she just didn't want to face her mother's humility in the NY & Co dressing room. Either way it was another horrific scene. I left the store empty handed, scolded myself for contemplating a trip to Maggie Moo's to drown my sorrows in a Peanut Butter Galaxy ice cream and went home. For now I will just have to make due with the jeans I have until I muster the courage to go out shopping again.

Speaking of not being ready for mom jeans, there is a great book out there by Maureen Lipinski with the title "Not Ready for Mom Jeans". It is the sequel to "A Bump in the Road". If you are expecting a baby, just had your first or are looking for something good to read, I highly suggest both books. "A Bump in the Road" is about 28 year old Clare and her husband Jake and their unexpected pregnancy. "Not Ready for Mom Jeans" is Clare's struggle with leaving her baby and going back to work. I can't begin to tell you how many times I thought "this is totally me!". Read them both, I know you will like them.

A New Kind of Secret Society

I went to a small college that offered very little in the way of a social scene-unless you joined a fraternity or sorority. Looking back on it, I'm not really sure what compelled me to actually attend rush and pledge a sorority but I'm pretty sure it shaped my entire future. Being a sister led me to meeting my wonderful husband, James, which led me to becoming a mommy almost four months ago to my beautiful daughter, Emily.

A popular slogan from my sorority days popped into my head last week as I was looking at Emily. I don't remember it verbatim but it went something along the lines of "from the outside looking in you couldn't understand it and from the inside looking out you could never explain it". How funny that something from a time in my life I hold so very dearly in my heart also applies now to motherhood.

I feel like when you give birth you are inducted into a new kind of secret society. I can't tell you how many times I have said "no one prepared me for that!". It's like there are secrets to being pregnant, giving birth and being a mom that other moms aren't allowed to tell you.

There are also things you could never understand until you are a parent. Before Emily, a crying child used to drive me up the wall. But guess what? My child isn't crying on the airplane, in the restaurant or in the store to solely drive you crazy and piss you off. At 4 months old my child is crying because she needs something and trust me, I am doing the best I can to find out what that something is.

Initially I wanted this blog to chronicle my going back to work in a few short days. But instead I think it will be a little bit of everything about me-being a new mom, a working mom. And being a wife, daughter, sister, friend.

I love to read, write, cook, and shop. I also love football. And I watch way too much tv. So why not include all of those things as well? Because really, life is not just about being Emily's mommy.