Great All-Corn Cornbread

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I am a bit of a cornbread freak.  Not that Mom was exactly known for cornbread — she used a mix and no one thought twice about it — but when she made chili, she made cornbread, and I ate both in spades.

Later in life, I found Crescent Dragonwagon’s recipe and my cornbread love reached new, cornier heights. More importantly, I came to appreciate cornbread that isn’t corncake.  Which is, sadly, what you all too often get when you order cornbread: cloying, unnecessarily moist, and more like dessert.

When I gave up wheat, I despaired a little because while all-cornmeal cornbread is good, it wasn’t great. Then I discovered corn flour — a lighter, finer grind of cornmeal — and suddenly everything got better.

Why does it work?  Well, cornbread is a quick bread, and gluten’s allure — creating that nice protein structure that gives sourdough its holes — isn’t really needed.  Baking soda/powder will raise the quickbread just fine, with or without gluten along for the ride, so long as the batter isn’t too heavy.  Which it isn’t, thanks to the corn flour!  Bonus: your cornbread will taste even “cornier”. Whoo hoo!

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There Will Be Lights

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I’m a sucker for deals.  We could have bought lights this year — we were sorely tempted — but when it comes down to it, we’ll get more joy out of it next year when we have nubbin to show them to.  Ornaments and a tree were much easier to resist.

Until today.  For today, things went on…clearance.

Wandering through the aisles, grabbing boxes of ornaments and yards of lights, I talked to the munchkin poking around in my belly and probably looked a bit like a crazy person.  “No, honey, that’s not the right color scheme.”  “Owl ornaments?  Sure, why not.”

There will be lights for you next year, Zoe.  So many, many lights.  I can’t wait for you to see them.

In Which I Eat

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First pregnancy, I tried to eat Very Healthy Breakfasts by my standards.  Which meant eggs, even though eggs are not exactly my favorite.  And when I say “not exactly my favorite” I mean…I really do not enjoy eggs the way most people enjoy eggs.  The best I can do is hard-boiled eggs, which I can eat quickly and with minimal fuss and gagging.  But I don’t wake up, jump out of bed, and yell, “Eggs!”  Unless there are ninjas on my ceiling throwing eggs at me, in which case yes, I would do that.

I digress.

Second pregnancy went a little different.  I started out eating eggs and bacon from my company’s cafe.  And then at some point, this morphed into cultured dairy and nutbutter.  With the exception of weekends and special days — days when Mike and I eat out, or days when I’m sick and don’t feel like eating — that’s been my breakfast.  Yogurt with nutbutter and two drops of stevia, or Nancy’s cottage cheese and nutbutter (no stevia).  And yes, I specifically eat that cottage cheese, because the one time I thought to just use a regular brand it was so bland and nasty I threw it out and went and bought a carton of Nancy’s that night.  Don’t judge.  I’m pregnant.

A while ago I bought a few Hachiya persimmons and waited patiently for them to ripen.  Four weeks later, they finally did.  So now I’ve been squeezing them into my cultured dairy (along with the nutbutter) and it’s amazeballs.  I’ll miss them when there are no more, but that is the glory of Hachiya persimmons: they exist for a few weeks, so that we cherish them.  “Food mandalas“, as I call them, because they’re beautiful while we have them, but then they’re gone.

And then there’s my no-grains policy, which…well, here’s the thing.  Most of the time, I eat paleo, which is to say: meat and veggies with some cultured dairy, and probably lower carbohydrate than your average pregnant woman.  I’ll bend that for special occasions, and certainly at times it seems like part of November and the entire month of December is a special occasion.  But here’s what I found when I started eating wheat/rice/corn for special occasions: heartburn.  Lots of heartburn.

And I immediately wanted to bang my head on a keyboard because what diet do they recommend to pregnant women when they aren’t feeling right?  Oh, right, this happy bullshit.  Half of which would give me massive heartburn if I ate it, the other half of which would have me crawling the walls with hunger.

I am blessed with an appetite.  Really, I am.  At no point during my pregnancy has protein stopped looking appealing to me.  It’s shifted — I ate a ton of seafood in the first few months, then slid back into my much-loved cow meat — but I’ve never woken up and said, “Dear heavens, I need to eat nothing but potatoes and crackers today.”  I’ve heard some horror stories about women who can’t even be in the same room as a cooked or raw protein, and I feel for them.  This has never been my problem, though.  At some point, the steak looks good.  The steak always looks good.

I do wonder how many pregnant women would find immediate relief from their heartburn if they dropped grains and excess sugar.  I mean this as a completely idle observation, and because I think it’s a valid suggestion.  I am also aware that it scares the crap out of most normal, free-thinking folk.  No pasta?  No bread?  No rice?  Are you deranged?  Probably, but it works for me.  And every time I look at a piece of bread or a mound of rice, I weigh the risk/reward: which would I rather have, a mouthful of noodles or an entire afternoon chewing on TUMS and feeling like crap?  Hm, yes, hard choice.

Which is why I am now going to tell you that today, for lunch, I am treating myself to noodles.  Because…I want noodles.  I have been wanting noodles since October.  Stir-fried noodles, even.  I know.  After all this blahblahblah about how grains leave me feeling bloaty and burping fire, I’m going to go and break my own rules.

Well, that’s why I’m the adult with her own car and bank account.  I get to make these choices, and live with the belchy consequences.

And let me tell you: I will enjoy the hell out of those noodles.

State of the Pregnancy, Week 22

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Zoe pretty much kicks me all the time now.  In the morning as I’m waking, in the car as I’m going to work, sitting around at work, sitting around in meetings, at lunch, at dinner.  Which some scientists think is the signal that her brain is developing.  Which has led to the inevitable joke between me and Mike: “Another kick, another IQ point.”  Baddump ching.

Despite the holidays and a few excesses, I’ve been avoiding wheat and grains because (surprise) they give me heartburn.  If that seems crazy, I don’t know what to tell you, other than that when I eat tortillas or bread or rice, I end up belching fire two hours later.  When I don’t, I don’t. I was pretty primal/paleo prior to pregnancy (ahhhh, alliteration, I am your willing servant) and I go back to it when I start to feel less than optimal because, while it may not fix things, it also doesn’t mess them up any further.

The grains also make my heart race a little, though not as badly as sugar does.  I’m trying to avoid sugar anyway, though again — holidays make that one tough.

My right hand starts to tingle and goes numb if I grip things — handles, steering wheels, toothbrushes — and especially in the mornings.  I bought a wrist brace, and I’m hoping it helps.  It should be here Saturday.

My skin is awesome.  No zits.  Some darker freckles and beauty marks, but nothing devastating.

My hair — my whole life I’ve had greasy hair.  Now, suddenly, I can go a day without washing it.  It’s magical.

My boobs have finally stopped hurting, though I need 24-hour support anymore.

Sometime last week Zoe did some sort of complicated flip and my back hurt all. freaking. night, and most of the day after. Supposedly I did this to my mom, but that was at 30+ weeks and according to her, it hurt a lot.  Like, knocked the air out of her hurt.  So, get it out of your system now, ZMP.  Except, of course, then I think of childbirth and laugh weakly at this request.  Thrilling acrobatics, indeed.

Anyway, that’s the status and so far, I feel fine.  Pretty good, actually.  I am told this is the grace period, and after the general nausea and icky feeling of the first trimester, and the blood test stresses of early second, I’m enjoying my grace, and my little girl’s gentle flips and nudges.  I’m here, she’s saying.  Just give me some more time.

Non-Girly-Girls Having Girls

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I’m not exactly known as a girly-girl.  With respect to my daughter and her future usage of make-up and hair-styling products, I suspect that I’ll be turning to Youtube (or the equivalent thereof in 12+ years) for aid. I literally just this week learned how to curl my hair in an attractive style, and I’ve been out of high school for almost two decades.  I need a manual to apply eyeshadow (I have it tucked in my make-up case for whenever I decide to put some on).  I have been blessed with a career that doesn’t require me to slap on make-up and heels, and I have exploited that ruthlessly.  Ruthlessly.

At one point Mike and I were in a Macy’s, riding the escalator up to housewares, which also contained the kids clothing section.  As we inched upward, a violent display of ruffles, lace, and pink hoved into view. The girls clothing.  The baby girls clothing.

At the time I was only a few weeks pregnant with our first, and both of us exchanged a look, a look that said: this.  This is our inescapable future if we have a girl.  We might not dress her that way, but our collective families will almost certainly descend in a storm of taffeta and satin, laughing maniacally at our feeble cries of, “No — we’re not raising Honey Boo-Boo!  Noooooo!

I’ve been ducking the pink things, though I did buy her some pink diaper covers and there are a few skeins of pink-toned yarn in the blanket I’m knitting for her.  Zoe, of course, won’t care (yet) that her mother dresses her in non-girly colors, that she’ll have just as many green and blue things as she does violet and pink.  Someday she will, and on that day she’ll get to pick what she wears and how she wears it…to a certain degree — I wouldn’t let my child run around in a bathing suit in the middle of a Wisconsin blizzard, if that’s what you’re thinking.

Well, I might. For about ten seconds, so she’d understand why you don’t do that. But I digress.

I don’t hate “girly” things.  I don’t even hate “pretty” things.  I know my kin, when they generously buy my baby girl gifts, will probably get her things in pink, and I am okay with that.  It’s not my preference, but I’m not going to decline a gift on a ridiculous notion such as that, and let’s face it: she’s going to be hella cute in that stuff.  I rejoice that I’m bringing another girl into the world.  I really do.

If I hate anything, it’s stuff that labels my daughter as a “princess” of any stripe. Because it’s so…passive.  Boys get to be athletes and firemen.  Girls get to be married off.  “Princess” isn’t a career choice, it’s something that happens to about one in a zillion girls and it’s not a job one acquires because one is talented or works hard.  I’d rather my daughter wear shirts that say things like “Daddy’s Future Astronaut” or “Mommy’s Future Blues Guitar Virtuoso”.

My daughter may decide she does want to be a princess. Or president.  Or Batwoman.  She may enter a pink phase that will cause my own mother to cackle maniacally.  I just hope that if I convey anything to her, it’s this: she defines herself.  Not a color, not a phrase, not her prom date, not her dad, and not me.

And more specifically, I hope she knows this, and takes it to heart: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  This is the heart of all my bad decisions in the past — that I let someone make me feel less-than.  I hope the girl I raise knows she doesn’t need to do anything she doesn’t want to.  And if she feels someone is pressuring her in the wrong direction, I hope she knows her parents will be there to back her up.  Possibly with baseball bats.

In Which I Turn Into a Pumpkin

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Yesterday was Mike’s holiday party, which was lots of fun and there was food (which I like) and also a DJ and really neat San Diego architecture.

I had spent about three hours previous wandering Solana Beach and getting my toenails done because that’s what you do when you’ve got three hours and don’t want to buy $50 light bulbs (Solana Beach, ladies and gentlemen).  And so we got to the party and I put ham in my face and then something not-so-magical happened.

I literally could not keep my eyes open.

Around 8 PM, in fact.  It was like someone found the plug on my go-juice and pulled it.  I sat down in chairs.  I leaned against Mike.  I tried eating cookies to give myself some pep, but this only succeeded in putting cookies in me.  I ended up stretched out in a cabana-like thing, ignoring my lack of dignity and trying not to be That Person Who Makes Her Significant Other Leave Early but oh man I just barely made it to 9 PM when we finally left.

On the bright side: I slept great.

And now here I am, full of vigor and eyeing my next party, which is tonight, which starts at 8 PM and ha ha ha ha ha how the hell am I going to make it?

We’ll need naps.  Lots of naps.

Zoe. What are you doing? Zoe. STAHP.

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Dearest unborn progeny, please do not huddle up against your gestation pod’s intestines and/or spine.  The pod is, in fact, a human being, and she finds that position to be the opposite of comfortable.

Please also note that my uterus is not a Chuck E. Cheese ball pit.  I know you don’t know what those are yet.  I promise I will introduce you to them in all their be-germed glory just as soon as you exit and are able to navigate the universe on foot.

…er, the ball pit.  After re-reading this paragraph, it occurs to me that you don’t know what a uterus is, either, but I meant the ball pit.  It wouldn’t make sense for me to introduce you to another uterus.

Much love, your future mother.

Our Lack of Tree…and Everything, Really

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We have never put up a Christmas tree.

Part of this is practical.  Truth is: there’s two of us, we don’t get a lot of guests, and though we’re sure the cats will admire our handiwork, we’re also laying bets on which will be the first to pull the tree down.

This is also our first year owning a house together, and with my parents nearby, there just wasn’t much reason to actually expend the effort to decorate.  Why spend money on lights and ornaments when you can just slack off and go to Mom’s house?

But Zoe will change that.  If not in 2013, then almost certainly in 2014.  And that means…shopping the day after Christmas.

My plan is to stock up on all the crap we don’t already have.  Ornaments.  Tree blanket.  Tree stand.  All the stuff that, right now, we would pay full price for.

Oh, and outdoor lights. Our glorious lightshow, let me tell you about it.  Are you ready? Ready to have your mind blown?  We have two pitiful strands of ultrabright LEDs wrapped around the railing of our upper balcony…

…and that’s it.  IMPRESSIVE, I KNOW.  Our neighbors, meanwhile, all have electric menageries of snowmen, reindeer, and elves. LED snowflakes sparkle from their rooftops. When I asked Mike how many lights he’ll need for next year, he glanced up and down the street, turned to me, and said: “Many.”

We do have a tiny fake plastic tree.  It’s black.  It has little star ornaments.  It is very…modern. Definitely bought on sale at a Borders. I’m guessing it probably won’t work with a two year old. Or maybe it will — she could always be a little Goth girl. I guess we’ll find out, in the coming years, just how lazy we are. Or just how into the Cure she is.

One thing we do have?  A holiday wreath.  A non-denominational holiday wreath.  Blue and silver ribbons and decorations over a fake pine backdrop. A former coworker made it, and I’m happy to say I still love it, all these years later. Basically, from Halloween until New Year, my door wreath needs are covered.  I may not have electric Santa or a giant whirring snowglobe on the lawn, but I’ve got my non-denominational holiday wreath and that’s good enough by me.