Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tasty Breakfast Treat: Blueberry-Lemon Coffee Cake

Ava and I had a playdate on Monday with my friend, Lisa, and her 11-week old adorably happy baby girl, Avery. She's going back to work next week so we were lucky to set up a mid-week playdate with the girls. And YES, we're well aware the "playdate" was for the mommies and not for the babies at this point! Ha!

I made this Blueberry-Lemon Coffee Cake from Cooking Light to bring to her house to share and she loved it so much that I left her a generous amount to have later. It was my first time making this coffee cake, but the recipe was highly rated by online reviewers so I was sure it would be a good choice. I've saved it in my meal planning software since the 2005 issue so it's been one of those recipes that I've been waiting to make for the right occasion to share it.

The cake was super moist and had tons of almond flavoring with the use of the almond paste and sliced almonds in the topping. Fresh lemon was subtle and complimented the blueberries nicely. I used both fresh lemon juice and grated peel in the batter. I used frozen blueberries and folded it in at the end. Frozen blueberries helps keep the berries whole without breaking them apart when you're folding them in.

I liked that the cake was not too sweet, but it allowed the natural flavors to come to life. The entire coffee cake has 3/4 cup of sugar. Instead of milk, I used lowfat buttermilk since I'm such a fan of buttermilk in cake/muffin batters. It's a fantastic recipe and a reliable one to make to share with friends for entertaining or just a special treat at home.

About Almond Paste: I bought my almond paste a few years ago and I never used it. I had to rehydrate it in the microwave by adding a tiny bit of water and cooking in the microwave on 60% power for about 4 minutes total, a minute at a time. I checked it and used a fork to mash and mix it. It was rock hard when I first took it out, but it worked just fine and blended well in the batter.

Make-ahead tip: The night before, I measured the dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl next to the Kitchen Stand Mixer so it was ready to go in the morning. Luckily, baby Ava was really quiet playing in her bouncy seat while I baked the coffee cake and then she feel asleep to the lull of the stand mixer no doubt!

Don't forget to check out my
Kitchen Work Zone Organization blog post for suggestions on making your kitchen as efficient as possible.

I have a couple small pieces left that I'm sure won't be around to long because it's so yummy!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Berkey Family Update: Ava is 6-weeks!

Ava is 6-week old now. We're amazed by how time is really flying. All the parents that I know always say that, but now I really understand what they mean! The picture on the right is from last Sunday. Ava snoozed on the bed next to Aaron and the dog. I lay her in the pillows in the bed and it's like a little baby recliner chair! She loves it because she's close to us. Of course, she doesn't sleep there all night, but maybe to snooze in the morning.

Family Time: We've had a very busy week with family coming to visit us. Ava met her Aunt Megan, Uncle Todd and cousin Colin for the first time. They came last Friday from the Chicago area and stayed through Sunday morning. Our nephew, Colin, is about 6-months old. You'd never know now by looking at him that he was born 5-weeks early and was so teeny when he was born. He's healthy, giggly, and so cute! We put the cousins together on the Baby Einstein, which they both love! Check them out in this picture...It was so cute to see them together. I can't wait until they can play and socialize together!

Megan and Todd made dinner for us for Saturday night. My mom and aunt were visiting from the West Coast and they arrived Saturday in time for dinner. They stayed for the week and just left this afternoon. We had a really nice meal together in our sun room overlooking the backyard and listening to Latin Lounge music.

My mom kept saying how she was surprised how heavy Ava felt when she held her. I got a chuckle about because she's only about 10 lbs! I'm used to carrying her around all the time. I'm telling you...caring for a baby is a workout. My little one soothes by walking around while holding her. All of that has been quite a workout for my upper body in her short 6-weeks so far!

You can see the pictures here of my mom holding the baby during her visit and the picture of Ava in her poppy outfit with my aunt Liberty on the morning before they left. It was a rare visit for my mom who get anxious flying and traveling in general. She came out with the confidence of traveling with my aunt by her side, but we all had such a great time!

We did running around a lot with the baby and I'm getting practice with all the logistics of taking a newborn out of the house. Mom and Aunt Liberty treated us to a taco dinner Sunday and a from-scratch enchilada dinner on Thursday night before they left. It's always great to have your mom's cooking! Even though I took a break from my normal cooking schedule, I made Homestyle Buttermilk Waffles with bacon for breakfast one morning, coleslaw with creamy poppy seed dressing, and a slow-cooked pork roast with a locally produced honey chipotle barbecue sauce. I tried to share local Indiana foods during their visit and my mom even placed an order with my favorite meat shop, Yoder's, in Northern Indiana, to enjoy the all-natural meats like pepper bacon, steaks, and ground meats.

This week - Nursing in Public! I've nursed Ava at so many places so far - Aaron's office after lunch one day, the museum, restaurants, my doctor's office, and Le Leche League meetings! I've joined the Indianapolis Le Leche League to meet other nursing moms to get tips and information. One of my goals is to feel confident about nursing in general that it's easy to do it in public. Nursing in public is a challenge because you don't have the home comforts like a back-support or pillows to rest your arms while holding the ever-growing baby! I've learned to be resourceful. My friend, Rachel, sent me this Hooter Hider nursing cover and I love it! It's big and has a big gap on the top for me to see what's happening and maintain eye contact with Ava. It's a bit tricky to find places. This picture is me nursing Ava outside the Indianapolis Museum of Art on the bench. It turns out they have a nursing station in the museum with a chair and a changing table! I'm proud of what I've accomplished so far.

Nursing your baby has logistical things to work out. For example, my mom, aunt, and I went to the symphony one night and Aaron stayed home with Ava. I was gone for 4-hours (the LONGEST time apart from Ava since she was born) and that was my limit without taking my pump or Ava with me! Walking around with very full breasts is not comfortable.

Prepping to Transition Back to Work: Many breastfeeding moms fall off exclusive breastfeeding when they return to work because they may not have a supportive work environment to pump or they get so busy that they don't keep their supply up. When you return to work, you need to replace your baby's feeding with a pumping session, the key to keeping your supply up. Breastfeeding is based on supply on demand. I started reading a book, Working Without Weaning: A Working Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding, and I LOVE it! It's written by a lactation consultant/working mom and she makes very practical tips and suggestions! This book has sample schedules that I found really helpful. There are so many questions in my mind about daycare and breastfeeding. I'm lucky to have a flexible work schedule and I'm going to work from home a lot in the beginning, but I still plan to take Ava for a couple half-days so I can have dedicated work time at home. The author gives practical tips about how much milk to take to daycare and how to train your daycare not to overfeed your baby. There are major differences between formula and breastfed babies because nursing babies are used to being held a lot more because it takes longer to eat. I'm going to nurse Ava as soon as I get to daycare to get bonding time right away and it's one less feeding she'll get from a bottle (that I have to pump, too!). I'm taking Ava to the daycare next week to drop off paperwork, supplies, and instructions for her care.

After reading the daycare's breastfeeding state guidelines. I felt sabotaged when I read that they THROW OUT YOUR MILK after your baby has finished eating from the bottle. Any expressed milk leftover will be tossed out! I learned in the book that it's best to make small 2-oz servings so there is less waste and to ask daycare how much she's eating at each feeding. My daycare takes milk in bags and I've started freezing extra milk. I'm trying not to pump more than a few ounces a day because more would make my already plentiful supply too high. It's a careful balance. If you're a breastfeeding and working mom and have tips for me, PLEASE include a comment!

Ava's Baby Pouch Saves the Day! I believe the experts when they say that newborns in the first 12-weeks are in the "4th trimester." My friend, Stephanie, recommended this baby pouch because her two boys love it. The Wallababy pouch is made by a local Indy woman and she sells them at the hospital gift shop near my house where I go for my breastfeeding support group.

It's been a lifesaver! The pouch is convenient because it folds up in the diaper bag and I can slip it on before Ava goes into "melt-down" mode. I used it at the grocery store this week and it was perfect! Newborns like to feel close and secure so this pouch is ideal because it is like a hammock and she can sleep and nest near my heart beat. Too much time in her stroller, I discovered, makes her only want to be held more. I can have my hands free to eat a meal or walk around with her without making my arms tired. The drawback is that I can't bend to much to do the dishes or housework, so I guess I'll have to take it easy! We've had some nights this week that Ava is especially fussy, but the pouch helps calm her. Aaron and I realized that she wants to be near me when she's worked up so this really works well!

Decoding Baby Cries: Aunt Liberty told me about an author/researcher featured on Oprah that discovered universal baby sounds. It's called the Dunstan Baby Language method. Liberty downloaded the info for me so I can read it, but already just the few sounds like "neh" for hunger and "eh" for burp me, really works! It helps parents know what the baby wants before the crying starts. I'm looking forward to learning more about it.

Two More Weeks of Maternity Leave: When I go back to work, I'm planning to cook meals on Sundays like when I had to work 6-days a week like when Aaron and I were first married. I predict there will be nights that we scarf down a quick sandwich, but my goal is to get rest and spend family bonding time at night with our little Ava. I've heard that babies like to nurse all night when mom's go back to work. Ava already does "cluster feedings" at night around our dinner time until she falls asleep for the night. She's consistently waking up at 2:30am and 6am to eat, but goes back to sleep easily. I'm starting to prep my new schedule in my mind and thinking of what I'll need.

It breaks my heart that we'll be apart, but I have to get back in the working world again. I'm treasuring every moment with Ava now, soaking in her smell, her smile, and the sweet way that she looks into my eyes. My love for her has already grown to a never-ending sea. Now, I understand motherly love.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Delicious Spring Meal: Ham-Asparagus Pancake with Cheese

This week, I experimented with a new recipe in my Simply in Season cookbook in the Spring season section. I love this cookbook because, they focus on eating local, seasonal whole foods and provide suggestions for altering the basic recipe.

Every other Tuesday, we get our organic produce box delivery and I was expecting asparagus. Luckily, the Simply in Season cookbook has many suggestions for that springtime veggie. I chose the Asparagus Pancake (p. 62) and added my own flair, including leftover Easter ham (thank you to my in-laws for making a great meal and leaving us the leftovers!). I added the ham to make the entree more substantial and ham compliments asparagus so it was a win! Aaron was skeptical, but in the end, he said he liked it.

Pancake for dinner? The word "Pancake" might be confusing. This is a savory pancake, similar to a German Apple Pancake, so it is more like a souffle. I added seasoning and my favorite cheese on top - Amish Butter Cheese. You can substitute that cheese for a high quality herb goat cheese, Fontina, or sharp white cheddar. This spring entree is really easy (maybe 35 minutes start-to-finish) and I made it while the baby was happy and fresh from nursing.

Ham-Asparagus Pancake with Cheese (serves 3)
I served this entree with a green salad, toasted pita wedges (super easy, see below), and a glass of red wine. I felt very French for some reason! Ha!

  • 3/4 lb asparagus, ends snapped off
  • 1 cup chunks of ham (or cooked smoked turkey would be good, too)
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk (or milk)
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Mural of Flavor salt-free seasoning (or substitute for herbs such as thyme, parsley, and garlic)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used a mild Amish Butter Cheese) - see above for suggestions
  • Blanch asparagus - see my post for instructions. DO NOT OVERCOOK! It should be bright green.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add 1 tbs butter to a pie plate and put in the oven for 3-4 minutes as the oven is preheating. This step really saves time!
  • While asparagus cooks, cut ham into chucks. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk buttermilk, flour, eggs, salt, and herb seasoning.
  • Drain asparagus and slice into 1-inch pieces.
  • Pull out the pie plate from the oven. Using an oven mitt, carefully swirl the pie plate with the melted butter to coat the bottom and the sides of the plate. Place ham chunks and blanched asparagus spears. Pour pancake batter evenly over the ham and asparagus.
  • Cook pancake mixture in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. If you have a convection setting, you can use that to cook the pancake evenly.
  • While it is baking, shred cheese and prepare salad.
  • When the pancake is done cooking, it will be puffed up. Make sure the pancake is set and cooked through. Cover evenly with shredded cheese, cut into 3 pieces and serve immediately.
Toasted Pita Wedges: When I finished making the salads, I prepped the pita wedges. Slice the pitas in wedges and place on a cookie sheet. Coat evenly with cooking spray and sprinkle with sea salt and the same seasonings you used for the pancake. Love that Mural of Flavor for that! When you pull the pancake out of the oven, change the setting to broil and place the pita wedges in the oven for 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ava is 1 month old!

Time is flying! Ava turned a month old on Monday the 12th. I have 4 more weeks of maternity leave. I'm thankful to have a flexible work schedule so that I can work from home 4 days a week since Ava will only be 8-weeks old when I'm back from leave and she'll need a lot of care at night still.

Here's a look at what Ava is up to:
  • Family Pictures: We took the pictures in this post when Ava was 2 1/2 weeks old. Our friend Shawn took her photos when she was 10 days old and then the maternity photos when I was 8-months pregnant. These photos were taken in our front yard only now, the trees have more leaves and buds. The yard is very colorful now. We are lucky to have a talented friend that is willing to take our pictures for home cooked meals at the house!
  • Lots of Growing! At her 1-month check-up on yesterday, she weighed in at 9 lb 14 oz. She was born at 8lb 2 oz, then lost 1 lb in the hospital. That means she's gained almost 3 lbs in the last 3 1/2 weeks. Ava has grown 1 1/2 inches since birth and she has the appetite to prove it! Her pediatrician told me that she gets another "A+" for being so healthy! That makes me happy that she's getting what she needs and is growing well.
  • Early entertainment and fascinations: Ava is very alert when she's awake and likes to look all around. She holds her head really well and we're starting to put her on her tummy for a few minutes so she can get used to that. And, she loves to look at the ceiling fans and even strains her head in order to watch them rotate! When she goes outside in the yard, she likes to look around at the trees. She loves her bouncy seat with the toys that hang. Ava looks at the toys and sometimes swats at them! Ava is kicking her feet and moving her arms all around. She is really active now!
  • Breastfeeding is easier for both of us: I'm thankful to have lots of support for breastfeeding and I went to my first Le Leche League meeting last week. I've being going to a weekly support group with lactation specialists at the hospital near my house. This week, I learned a better position for nursing since I have an abundance of milk and Ava was getting too much air when she was pulling herself away to catch her breath or sometimes choking. Now, I'm trying to nurse her from a reclined position and it's already proving to make it easier for her to nurse and I'm noticing she's less gassy. Breastfeeding mothers finally self-regulate their supply by 6-8 weeks so hopefully, I can go back to nursing her in a more comfortable position by that time. Breastfeeding takes lots of practice and with her eating 8-12 times per day, we're getting plenty of it!
  • Sleep: Ava has been sleeping well at night with the exception only a few nights. She usually sleeps for a 3-4 hour stretch and wakes up to eat and then goes back to sleep pretty easily. I take a nap in the morning and another in the afternoon to get my rest since I'm up a couple times a night with Ava so she can eat. Aaron is a deep sleeper and he can sleep through all of it! We have a co-sleeper next to our bed, which is perfect so I can look at her in the middle of the night to see if she's really awake. Newborns spend most of their sleep in REM state so they make lots of noises and even cry when they're not awake! We love having her closeby.
  • Calming and Soothing: Aaron is really good at calming Ava when she's fussy. He holds her like a football around the house and takes her outside a lot. She really likes to lay against our chests to hear our heart beats. And I got a pouch/sling that I've been using to hold her hands-free! It's great because she really likes it.
  • Tickle spots: Aaron was first to discover her tickle spots on the sides of her waist. I found some spots by her thighs and, of course, her feet are ticklish too!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Healthier Indulgence: Red Velvet Cupcakes

I've had lots of requests for sweets and desserts to post on the blog so I thought it was finally time to serve it up!

On Saturday night, we went to a cookout at our friend, Sarah's house. She invited us last Thursday and I offered to bring a dessert. I decided to make Red Velvet Cupcakes to share with the group. Red Velvet is such a popular cake flavor now so I thought it would be fun. At the grocery store, I debated taking the short cut of buying premade frosting, until I looked at the ingredients! Every single manufacturer uses hydrogenate oil and/or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)! I decided to skip the shortcut and make my frosting from scratch so I bought ingredients for frosting: lowfat cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and lowfat buttermilk.

I asked my Twitter friends for recipe suggestions for their favorite "light" Red Velvet Cupcakes. I saw this recipe for it in my December 2009 Cooking Light magazine. That's the recipe that I used, but I got great suggestions for cupcakes that weren't lightened. I took them to our friend's house and they all LOVED it! I told my friend Jill, that they were "light" and she was happily surprised!

Saturday was busy for us because we hosted our friend, Mathew, and his six-year old daughter, Samantha, for lunch. I made turkey tostadas (check out my recipe for taco filling) with all the fixings. After lunch I made the cupcakes so they had time to cool before I frosted them with the icing. Then, later in the afternoon, our friend, Samantha, came to visit us from Chicago. She offered to make the icing so I could sleep! What a good friend. I was trying to do too much, I think so I'm thankful for the help.

Here's a couple tips for this recipe:
  • Doesn't Yield 30: The recipe makes less than 30 cupcakes if you fill your cupcakes 2/3 of the way. I like my cupcakes a bit taller. I got about 18 full size cupcakes and 2 larger cupcakes that I cooked in ramekins.
  • Less Sugar in the Frosting: Samantha used about 2 cups of powdered sugar instead of the 3 1/2 cups the recipe called for and it was sweet enough. She suggested that if you use less sugar, you might want to pull back the buttermilk as well.
  • Use a Whisk to Whip the Frosting: Samantha struggled with some lumps in the frosting and she used my stand mixer and the paddle attachment. When I woke up from my nap, she asked me about it and I suggested the whisk attachment. This cleared up the lumps and whipped the consistency of the frosting.
  • Serving/Storage: Check out the picture in this post or on Amazon. I have a useful Tupperware brand cupcake carrier that I used to bring the cupcakes to the cookout. The container has a handle to make it easy to carry and it has rings on the bottom to hold cupcakes in place while carrying and traveling. The blue bottom is reversable and you can use the flat side for carrying a sheet cake.

Aaron gave Ava a bath on Saturday afternoon before we left for the party and he dressed her in this onesie with a cupcake on the front! I asked him if he did that on purpose since we had cupcakes to bring to the cookout and he said no, he just picked it out. It must have been subconscious!

Today is Ava's 1-month birthday and tonight, Aaron and I will celebrate with the leftover red velvet cupcakes that I baked in the ramekins! When she turns 1-year old, I'll have a fun cake that she can enjoy!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring Flower Power Walk

Spring rain is a renewal to the lifeless, still landscapes that we see in the winter. I enjoy a brisk walk in the spring to enjoy the budding trees and blooming wild flowers. It's a great way to get outside after a long winter to enjoy a workout in the fresh air! When I lived in California, the spring rain brings out gorgeous flowers and the hills are bright green. Then summer comes and the rain stops and the hills turns golden because of the mustard grass (brought by the Spaniards). Needless to say, I was always distracted seeing the green hills! In my old house in San Jose, where I grew up, we had a cherry orchard at the end of my street. The mustard blooms are a beautiful sign of springtime in California (great photo here). My friend, Romeo, took photos of me back in high school in that mustard grass in the orchard for his photography class when we were in high school. I wish I had those photos! This picture on the left is the closest thing I have in Indiana to the mustard blooms.

This afternoon I took Ava for a 2-mile hill walk on our street and I saw some gorgeous spring wild flowers. My power walk took me about 1-hour and it put the baby right to sleep! It was 45 degrees outside so I bundled her up in her stroller and she was so cozy (you can see in the photo). I saw daffodils, violets, and these pretty yellow and purple flowers on the bushes and trees outside.

I had a cesarean birth and it took longer to recover than a natural birth, but since I was in shape and healthy prior to the surgery, it helped me recover more quickly. Today, was the first day that I really felt strong to exercise like normal again. The stroller, car seat, and baby weigh about 40 lbs total. Going up and down hills I was working my gluts, abs, and getting a great cardio workout!

Power walking in the spring lets you enjoy the flowers and gets you moving! Here's a couple tips on planning a perfect spring walk:
  • Trails and hills: Seek out trails in local parks or a secluded country area. When I lived in Illinois, I walked on the prairie path and in Indiana, many people run/walk/bike on the Monon Trail. Even driving a short distance to an open area and then walking from there gets you to a more into nature. The farther you can get from car traffic, the nicer the walk you can look at the spring landscape and not be distracted by looking for cars all the time.
  • Use Google Maps to calculate distance: I mapped my street that I live on, which has a dead end at the top of the hill. It's a 1/2 mile each way so I do 4 legs to equal 2 miles. Some trails have mile markers to make it easy to keep track.
  • Be social: I've done lots of walking with friends and it makes the time pass faster because you're distracted by the conversation. It turns out that I've walked farther because I'm having a good time. My mother-in-law walks with her best friends and it helps keep them motivated.
  • Take your heart monitor to track calories and heart rate: I forgot my heart monitor this time, but I'm planning to use it for the next walk. I know I worked hard on the hill walk today, but it would be better if knew my calories burned. Here's a post from the summer on using heart monitors.
It feels good to be back in it again! Spin class was my favorite pre-pregnancy workout, but being home with the baby walking the hills outside is a good workout that I don't have to drive to the gym or get a sitter. It's convenient that she falls asleep in the stroller and I can fit in the workout between feeding and caring for Ava.

Please share your tips for spring power walks!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What was Cooking this Easter Weekend...

Friday is our traditional Family Pizza Night, a new thing we started in January. This week's pizza was a little different. Aaron is picky with his pizza toppings, while I'm more adventurous and like variety. He loves pepperoni and olives. This Friday, I decided to add a layer of fresh spinach and torn fresh basil to boost the nutrients a bit more. Aaron was skeptical, but in the end he really liked it. I usually serve pizza with a green salad, but this week I just served it with sliced apples.

I've perfected the method for baking our homemade pizza. Here are my tips:
  • Baking instructions: I start out with Trader Joe's fresh pizza dough in a bag or my own from-scratch dough. I roll it out and use a fork to prevent air holes. I par-bake the dough in the oven for 6 minutes on 350 degrees on my oven's convention oven setting. Then, I add all my toppings. I bake it for another 10 minutes until I see the pizza is bubbly and the cheese is golden.
  • Favorite pizza sauce: We really like Roasted Garlic Marinara from Trader Joe's. I've seen pizza sauce in store, but we prefer using jar marinara. I use about 1/3 of a jar for each pizza.
  • Multiple cheeses: We like the blend of mozzarella and a tiny bit of sharp cheddar cheeses. Other good blends are feta and parmesan cheeses because they are very strong in flavor so you don't need as much of it on the pizza.
  • Experiment with toppings: I like to mix it up. Sometimes I use slices of cooked Italian chicken sausage. Aaron loves pepperoni, but I like to add spinach (fresh or defrosted frozen) to boost the nutrients.

I baked Ginger-Carrot Muffins on Saturday morning. I love baking muffins. I don't like the muffin mixes in a box because they are packed with additives and just too processed. Instead, I love to make homemade muffins because they make a quick snack that you can grab-and go. Aaron's parents came to visit us this weekend so I wanted to bake muffins for their visit and keep the leftovers for snacks to serve with yogurt or fresh fruit like this picture. I pack them in our lunches.

This recipe from Cooking Light for Ginger-Carrot Muffins were fantastic! My in-laws loved them, too! They only have 1/2 cup of sugar, but the shredded carrots and raisins add sweetness naturally. My only modifications were that I used half whole wheat flour and 1/2 white flour and used walnuts and not pecans. I used my food processor to shred the carrots quickly. You need 3 cups of shredded carrots so it's easy to do it with the food processor. I made these muffins while the baby was sleeping in her swing! It was funny when I ran the food processor, she squealed and moved her hands by ears like she was covering them. What a personality already!

Storage: The muffins are great for grab-and-go snacks. I wrap the muffins in plastic wrap individually like in this picture to easily drop it in the lunch bag during the work week. I find that they stay fresh for up to a week if they are double packed in a plastic bag.

OR...freeze the individually wrapped muffins and defrost them on the counter overnight. Warm them for a few seconds in the microwave to soften.

Another favorite muffin recipe to try is the Raisin Bran Maple Muffins.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Baby Ava is 21 days old!

We knew Ava was coming the morning after I moved to Indy. It was a giant sign that our lives were changing and validation that we are on track. Aaron moved down here the week before because his job started sooner and I had a little more time to finish my job up in Chicago. I did the typical freak out that women do when they get the positive pregnancy test. I bought another box! Sure enough, our little Ava was destined to arrive when she did. We moved to Indy to "simplify" our lives and get ready to start a family because Chicago would have been outrageously expensive for raising a family. And now, our "plan" is in motion. Our daughter is 3-weeks old today and we're enjoying our new home. There's enough land and room in the house to live here for decades and watch her go from preschool to college if we want to stay in this neighborhood. Ava's arrival was so much better than we could have imagined.

Outgrowing already! We noticed this week that Ava has grown longer. We can't use the newborn size swaddle sack for night time anymore. Good thing we have the next size up. She's finally out of the "new baby" size diapers and into the 8lb+ sizes that we had stocked before she came home from the hospital. And she officially regained all of her birth weight by Tues of this past week (see my post for the back story on losing her birth weight).

Awake time and our new routine: Ava is becoming more active in her awake times. She likes to kick out her legs and stretch out her arms and she moves around like crazy in her bouncy seat. We've seen her grab at the toys in the mobile, but we're not sure if she really means to do that or if it's by chance. Either way, she's developing her motor skills. The awake time during the day is helping at night get into our routine. I mentioned last week that I'm trying to go to sleep around 9:30pm and Aaron will stay up with her for a couple hours so I can get some sleep. I noticed this week that we're doing regular feedings around 9pm, 11:30pm, 3am, and then 6:30am. I get to sleep in those times between because she has been going back to sleep. I'm hoping it will continue!

Breastfeeding is getting easier - thankfully! I went to a breastfeeding support group on Tues morning at a hospital by our house. It was jammed packed with other moms with young babies and I realized that I'm not alone! I loved the meeting because it's completely FREE, only 5 minutes from my house, and you have access to lactation consultants and other moms for tips and tricks. When you arrive, you weigh your baby and then at the end of the feeding so you can gauge how much they are eating. Her initial check-in weight confirmed that she weighed 8lb and 2.9 oz, which means she more than regained her birth weight! What a relief!

Breastfeeding is completely natural, but that doesn't mean it comes to the mom and baby so easily. It takes practice. At 21 days old, an average of 10 feedings per day, we've done this dance together about 210 times. Each time is different, but overall the feeding is getting easier. I've heard something "magical" happens at around 4-6 weeks when it really becomes easy. I have been reading a lot about the benefits of breastfeeding since I was pregnant, but this week I learned that baby formula has on average 29 nutrients present and breast milk has over 200 nutrients present! Wow! We're not giving up and I'm not robbing her of any of that comfort, nutrition, or mommy time. I'm committed to breastfeeding Ava until she's a year old.

More family photos...The pictures in this post are a sampling of the photos we took with Ava when she was 10-days old in our house. Our friend, Shawn, came over again on Wednesday night and took more family photos in our yard. I will share them on the blog next week, I hope! Shawn is so talented. He's the photographer that took our maternity photos and he's for hire in Indy! :)

Ava's first Trader Joe's visit. On Thursday morning, I took Ava to Trader Joe's for the first time. I decided that I needed to try taking her on my own somewhere and flex my muscles doing baby-on-the-go. I put her carseat in the shopping cart and she was awake in the store and didn't fuss much because she liked to look at everything. At the register, the cashier offered to get us some help out to the car. An employee came out to the car with me and when we got there, I couldn't find the car key. Then he asks me if it's the car key that is SITTING OUT ON THE TRUNK! In all my efforts to get Ava settled safely in the shopping cart, I left the car key sitting out on top of the car the ENTIRE time that I was in the store! I felt like a complete IDIOT and just said it was due to lack of sleep. The truth is your brain is so focused on the baby that it's hard to think of anything else! I thanked my angels for keeping us and the car safe! I don't know what I would have done if someone took the car!

Grandma and Grandpa Berkey visiting this weekend. Aaron's parents are coming to visit us this Saturday and will stay through Monday morning to spend quality time with Ava. And it will be Ava's first Easter. I'm excited for next year when we can take her on an Easter Egg Hunt! I had so many fond memories of Egg Hunts when I was a kid. My grandparents hid plastic Easter Eggs in their backyard and they either had candy or quarters in them! I loved it!

Now, I'm off to feed Ava and take her for a morning walk in her super awesome stroller. She looks really cozy in it. Have a great Easter weekend!!