Monday, February 28, 2011

The freshest

I love to eat. Always have. And yes, I am aware that an inordinate number of my blog posts are about consumption. And not the Angela's Ashes type. But you know what? I'm not going to apologize. I know, I know . . . it's a baby blog. But with food being 50% of the reason Marge is enlarging, it's also a food blog.

And the food that aided my enlargement during our Mexican holiday was just too amazing. Too fresh.

  • Pre-breakfast: Warm muffins.
  • Breakfast: Fresh fruit and freshly sqeezed orange or grapefruit juice. Followed by a multiple choice test of loveliness. We tried everything on the menu at least once. Crepes with fresh fruit and local honey. Homemade tortillas filled with ricotta cheese, corn and black beans served with a side of freshly made salsa. Wholewheat melon pancakes. Platos benedicto with avacado. (Everything was served with avacado.) Etc. Etc. Etc.
  • Lunch (served oceanside): Started off with the aqua fresca of the day (guava, passion fruit, melon, lime berry) or a ginger mojito and a half-loaf of freshly baked bread and some sort of spread (roasted eggplant, pesto, stewed tomato). Then, we could choose from two starters, two mains and usually two desserts. We always got one of each. Everything was amazing. So fresh and light. Fish (and squid - my favorite) scooped from the ocean. A light brothy soup with baby brussels sprouts, cabbage and mahi mahi. Key lime ice cream pie served in an espresso cup.
  • Dinner: A set menu. First, came a "bar bite" - a variety of chips and salsas, a taco, a bacon wrapped date . . . Then, the starter. Spinach soup, mixed salad, chili relleno . . . Then the main. An entire fish, served with head and tail attached. Lobster. Red snapper. Verde chicken . . . And a delectable dessert.

On our trip to the Marieta Islands, we had a picnic lunch that included grilled Mahi Mahi for me and a just-then-made ceviche for Will. Needless to say, I couldn't resist the ceviche. I mean, we watched the guy catch the fish!

I went. I saw. I ate. I enlarged.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Where (Part 1)

"Verana is rustic yet sophisticated. It's designed for travelers with a sense of adventure and appreciation of tranquility and natural beauty." Like us. There are eight houses - at no time during our stay were they full. The most guests were 12. The fewest, 6.

To get to the resort you first take a taxi about 45 minutes down the coast to the village of Boca de Tomatlan, then jump in a Verana boat that departs twice a day for the 30 minute ride to the resort and village of Yelapa.

We got to Boca about 45 minutes before the departure so had time to have a beer (Will) and water (me) while we watched the hustle beach bustle. Because it serves as a "port" for small boats transporting people and goods to fishing villages along the coast, it was heavy on the bustle. And stray dogs. Not too many gringos though. Unless they were expats.

Admittedly, we were a tad confused on the whole "find the Verana" boat procedure, meaning we whispered between each other a lot ("Is this what we're supposed to do? Just sit here? When do we leave? Do you see the boat? Are they going to find us?") while enjoying the view. Fortunately, the waiter overheard our whispers and pointed out the boat, the driver and informed us that we were waiting for 4 more guests. Whispers abated.

At 4:15 we hopped into a small open air boat with our beastly black rolly bag (SOOOO beach inappropriate) and four other guests and bounced across the Pacific swells to Verana's private dock.

Upon arrival Kent, the hotel host, greeted us and lead us up the first of many stone steps to the spa and lunch restaurant, where freshly mixed/squeezed guava agua fresca was waiting. (Did I mention this poor guy, a true beast of burden, was subject to hoofing it up the mountainous hill with the black rolly bag? See it there on the left? I tipped him with a brow scratch.)

Then we started the first of many treks up to the resort. Half way up there's this super heavy gate, complete with a sign telling people it's the end of the trail - Verena property - and to keep out. Effective, I'm sure.

Here is a small taste of the steps. Lucky for us, the weather was perfect. Between 78-80 degrees during the day, not humid, and with a hint of a breeze. I was huffin' and puffin' by the end but not dripping. We wondered aloud about unfit guests... They explained that during the booking process they try to make clear the physical exertion required (not something I remembered) and if necessary, will keep a burden beast around to haul the fatties (or oldies) up and down. And it's not as though you could avoid the steps. To get lunch, you had to go all the way down - and with lunch being one of the top three meals of the day - down you went.

Ultimately though, the physical exertion, though forced, meant for a more enjoyable holiday. We had more energy, slept better and laughed more. Add heat to the mix and this mama bird might be singin' a different tune, but while there, it was perf.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, each morning coffee, tea and warm muffins were deposited outside our door. We alternated between enjoying these on our patio, looking over the ocean, or in our bedroom, overlooking the jungle.

Three of the five mornings we joined either Semara or Gabrielle in the pool palapa for yoga. Will loved it (today he checked a yoga book out of the library) and I found it a great way to start the day - I was so relaxed I was only mildly annoyed by Semara's tendency to call me Mama Bear.

Breakfast followed yoga.

Pool (or an excursion) followed breakfast.

Lunch at the ocean-side cafe followed our pool/excursion time.

Reading and napping followed lunch. Our vacation reads (minus First Time Parents and Happiest Baby on the Block) - all of which I would highly recommend - included Cutting for Stone, The True Meaning of Smeck Day, Unbroken and Room.

Speaking of rooms, besides the amazing natural environs, the two-bedroom Jungle Suite wasn't too shabby either. (And yes - these are photos I took. Not fancy ones from the website.)

From the resort website: "Verana was conceived, designed and is solely owned by Heinz Legler and Veronique Lievre, a former movie set builder and set decorator respectively. Verana can safely lay claim to the adjective handmade. “Everything had to be brought up hill either by hand or mule,” says Lievre who tricked out the rooms with an eclectic mix of found objects, artisan-made furniture, Mexican handicrafts, and simply lined modernist pieces and used a color palette inspired from the surroundings. “I wanted to create an environment that was harmonious with the natural setting, yet also functional and comfortable,’ says Lievre"

This was clearly evident in our house and around the property.

Our pool "go-to" spot.

And of course, the staff was amazing. Gabby (lunch server and yoga instructor), Mookai (resident Boxer), Lalu (lunch chef), Semara (yoga instructor and masseusse), Lauren (desk host) and Kent (all-around host), Dylan (bartender and activity guide) and Carlos (activity guide and evening server).

Thanks for everything, guys.
(And for those of us looking for an adventure - Verana is always hiring.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

16 Weeks

Week 16 belly shot for Grandma Betty. . .

As you can see, it's on the out and out.

 At our Feb. 25 appointment, Midwife Kathleen reported that everything looked (and sounded) smashing. Results from the First Trimester Screen, which checks for chromosomal abnormalities, were good. My blood pressure is great. Weight gain is on target. (Bring on the bon bons!)

Next big appointment is March 16, when we hope to learn the he/she-ness of this little monster. I'll be posting a poll next week. Be sure to log in and vote.

Baby got back

Yes. We're home. Back from a fabulously relaxing Mexico holiday. It was everything we were looking for and more. A luxurious, private resort nestled in the craggy Pacific hills, 15 minutes by foot from a small fishing village popular with expats. Lulled to sleep by the ocean's rhythmic breaths and woken by a cacophony of jungle creatures. Coffee, tea and warm zucchini muffins deposited outside our door - a prequel to morning yoga. Afternoons spent by the ocean or pool, next to a waterfall or on a deserted beach. Each meal from sea to plate. Oh how I could go on . . .

And I will. But instead of dropping all the details into one post, I decided to stretch them out. Check back this week for more. Did I mention I highly recommend this place?

 Taking some time to take in the jungle (and tea) and reflect on my good fortune post-yoga.

Will and I spent each evening before dinner at the bar, playing Scrabble or Quiddler or talking about our upcoming life altering experience. Each night Verana staff places 100-150 tea candles around the property - that is what is glowing in the background.

Friday, February 18, 2011

And we're off

World, meet my beach ball belly. . . Just kidding. Tomorrow we embark on our much anticipated babymoon, and though I was unable to find a one-piece that flattered and fit and am therefore packing only bikinis (which would totally be what this blogger recommends), I will NOT look like the belly-brave incubating mama to the left. Stay tuned for vacation pics and humorous travel tales. I'll have a virgin piƱa colada for all of you.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Destination maternity

With our vacation looming and my belly expanding I ran into some trouble when pre-packing. Namely, nothing fits. Well, nothing in the light, comfortable pant category. What's a girl to do?

Now a word a
bout my fear of maternity stores. Not fear necessarily - more anxiety. Do I look pregnant enough? Will the workers be the pushy Art Van type or the somebody help me now Forever 21 type? Will everything look humongo on me? But, when I popped the button on my North Face cargos I knew it was time to push aside the anxiety. With a Somerset gift card c/o Grandma Katie, off I went to Destination Maternity. (But the name? Really?)

And honestly, it was fine. My belly was just the right size. The workers were an Art Van/Forever 21 hybrid. And I looked no more humongo than I look every day. I tried on a dozen pair of pants and left with two. One for working out. One for hanging out. Granted, the belly band is a bit much on the hanging outs.

And I did feel lik
e a total corndog armed with my GIANT Destination Maternity bag for the rest of the night.

But the gift bag, filled with pamphlets and coupons for Huggies, a breast pump, JC Penny Portraits, Train at Home to be a Medical Specialist course, March of Dimes, ViaCord cordblood bank, Braun thermometer, Graco carseats and . . . wait for it . . . two single-serving prune samples . . . made it all worth it.

And for the peanut gallery... Yes, I still shop at Forever 21 (+11).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


With Betty Roo (
a.k.a. Breclaw Emergency Broadcast System) on the street with baby news, I knew it wouldn't be long before word got 'round about me gettin' rounder.

As the number of
discreet facebook messages began increasing exponentially, I decided to circumvent the errant Wall Post and make this pregnancy facebookficial. Today, with some apprehension, I changed my profile pic to one of those hideous "Baby on Board" suction signs.

Let the games begin.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dog whispering at work

Though Kip and Owen have endured countless lectures on the virtues of sharing, we obviously have a ways to go. (Of course, "dad" using one as a pillow doesn't really say tough love.)

After this was taken, Owen assured me he was just warming up my side of the bed as a Valentine's Day gift.
Thanks, Owen.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine Duo

Unfortunately for Will, I am pregnant. And at times do ask him to pick up ice cream (interchangeable with pizza, gummy bears or mojo potatoes from Holden's Party Store). And, now, at times, when he forgets, I do threaten to divorce him. (In all truthfulness though, that man would NEVER forget ice cream. The rest of it, yes. Ice cream, NEVER.) But not today - our last Valentine's Day as a duo. I know that I am one lucky lady, ice cream or no ice cream, to have such a kind, intelligent, supportive and silly partner. Our greatest adventure lies ahead (and around my increasing girth) and I cannot wait to embark on it with Will.

Hug each other, people!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Symptom #872: I weep

One of the many symptoms of this pregnancy is my new tendency to weep. To well up and spill over. Not really blubber, just tears down the cheeks weep. I couldn't control it Monday while watching the laundromat scene toward the beginning of The Blind Side. And this Nissan Leaf commercial had me weeping at Red Dog Saloon. Pass the tissues, please.

Friday, February 11, 2011

100 Days

Baby Spurgeon is 100 days old today. I'm 14 weeks and 2 days pregnant. The first photo doesn't do justice to how big my stomach feels. Vanity reigns - must have been sucking it in - and I think I look better so I made it the primary shot. ;) But check out the smaller shot. Same day. Same time.

I think my Chicago eating extravaganza forced it out. The whole drive home I felt twinges in my lower abdomen. Quite uncomfortable! My Super Bowl Packer cheering took place flat on my back - alleviating the discomfort. Monday morning, I had to go to Target and buy a belly band - so I could unbutton my pants and still keep them up.

Learning our ABC(s)

On Wednesday evening Will and I attended the Providence Hospital's
Alternative Birth Center
orientation. From 7-9 p.m. Nurse Heather took us through the history of the ABC, provided some facts and figures about the facility, gave childbirth class recommendations, reviewed admission procedures and led us on a tour.

The ABC opened about 35 years ago and until 2002 was a free-standing building across from St. John's Providence Hospital. After a safety audit by Dr. Eric Knox, a controversial OB consultant and a proponent of C-sections, the ABC was temporarily closed. No quantifiable reason was given, leading most to believe it was simply the opinion of the highly-compensated consultant. Over 1000 ABC supporters - doctors, midwives, nurses and families - led a community protest and Providence re-opened a relocated ABC within the hospital, at the end of the postpartum unit hallway. (An interesting bit of info - the C-section rate at the free-standing ABC was 3%. Now that it's housed within the hospital, it's 6%. The national average is 34%.)

There are three birthing rooms, all a little different. Each has a large tub (two rooms tubs are jetted, one is just a soaking tub), queen sized bed, private bathroom with shower, television, fridge and plenty of seating. What happens when laboring lady #4 shows up? Apparently, that rarely happens. Usually one of the rooms is occupied by a mom who already gave birth and can either be discharged early or go a few rooms down to the postpartum hospital unit.

Will checking out the baby's first bed.

Two things (besides the queen
bed and hydro tub) you don't find in every labor and delivery unit... A birth stool (squat and push) and towel warmer ("to warm and stretch the perineum so episiotomies are infrequent" - imagine Will's face when I explained "perineum.")

Laboring mothers (and coaching fathers) are encouraged to eat and drink while at the ABC - no ice chips only policy here - so there is a small kitchen to prepare food. Will is already planning his spread. And checking on pizza delivery. (I personally like the dual purpose baby scale. Weigh your cheese. Weigh your infant. Or do both at once.)

Last stop - Family Lounge. We had to be sure Bill, Katie, Bob, Betty, Paul, Colleen and Pete would be comfortable while I pushed this baby out.

One thing I was relieved to discover - our loved ones would have plenty of award-winning reading material to keep themselves occupied while we labored down the hall.

And comfortable furniture, plenty of powdered-cheese-coated snacks and vending machine cafe au lait. Now, fingers crossed I remain low-risk and am able to give birth here!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Baby booty

No, not booty as in bottom. Booty as in loot. Gifts. Pressies. Always generously looked after by family and friends, I am embarrassed (and a little giddy) to report that the trend extends to my belly and its occupant. In addition to countless cards and well-wishing emails, here's a rundown of the great gifts I've received thus far.

An infamous Aunt Robin home-made baby blanket and heart-melting (up for debate pineapple or lemon) hat, frog toy and onesie were waiting for me in the mailbox after work on Tuesday night.

I returned from Chicago with adorable gender-neutral leather booties from Auntie Sue, a pregnancy journal, body oil and belly butter from Auntie Karyn and a feel-good foods for pregnancy book from Auntie Jen.

And not to worry - Will tested both the Tummy to Toes and Tummy Honey lotions that we received from Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Greg. That hairy man belly has never been so smooth...

Girl talk

Though snowy (this is a street near Sue's house), I had a great weekend. We didn't play "Girl Talk" (Zit stickers?), but we engaged in a lot of it. I arrived Friday night, caught up with Sue and headed to bed.

After Saturday brunch (which included bacon wrapped dates, a steak quesadilla, chorizo burrito and virgin bloody mary) at Karyn and Ed's place, Moe's, a nap and pedicures at Lincoln Square's Spa O, the girls and I met up for a pre-dinner meal at Maude's Liquor Bar.

hese are shots of our light apps. (wink) My favorite - the french onion fondue and at Sue's suggestion, pomme frites dipped in escargot butter.

Also a necessary inclusion - a shot of our wind-bag waiter, Dean. After schooling us on the food of the French countryside, sweet meats, West Coast oysters and mocktails, he asked Karyn what she thought of the wine. Dissatisfied with her less than enthusiastic response, he wanted to know what, exactly, she didn't like. When she responded, "the smell," he reacted by leaning over her shoulder, sniffing the glass in front of her, then whirlpooling the syrah out of the goblet and down the front of her shirt. Yeah, he acted sorta sorry and provided her with a soda-water-soaked bar towel, but really, he was still a total asshole.

Next stop - Girl and the Goat - conveniently located across from Maude's. Being a Top Chef devotee, I was as excited as Will was jealous to try out concoctions from the kitchen of Season Four winner, Stephanie Izard. We had a perfectly professional, kind waiter that managed to keep my companions' wine IN their glasses, and a fabulous parade of plates (indicated on the photo of the autographed menu K, J and S gifted the baby). Included in the repertoire - Pig Face. Though all I could picture was 1997's The Butcher Boy film poster, it was surprisingly tame. It's the fried egg plate. Tasted like breakfast. Did I mention the face was rolled around the tongue? (The restaurant is named such because Drunken Goat was taken and Izard is also a kind of Pyrenean goat.

On my way out of town I stopped at Karyn's abode for chocolate croissants and quiche (as if I needed brunch after the previous night's dinner, which, by the way, ended around 1:30 a.m.). Besides practicing my parenting skills with best baby Charlie, we talked bouncy seats vs. swings, Baby Bjorn vs. Ergo Baby, City Minis vs. Orbits and the necessary Bumbo Baby Sitter. It was hard getting a word in with all Ed had to share! (See couch.)