Friday, March 29, 2013

Cincinnati Visit

All last week, Steve had some more training in Cincinnati.  We spent the week staying at Steve's sister/brother-in-law's house.  We headed up a day early so that we could spend some time with Scott & Ashley since Ashley would be gone in Lima all week.  We packed a lot in while we were visiting and enjoyed all our favorite Cincinnati spots.

On Sunday, we headed to Findlay Market with Scott & Ashley.  The Market is a big building with lots of booths to buy all sorts of things from jewelry & candles to pigs feet.  There are other little shops and restaurants all around, too.  The area is a lot livelier in warmer weather.  But the day we went it was cold and even started snowing!  After a lunch at a sandwich shop, we headed across the river into Kentucky to do a driving tour of Covington.  The tour wasn't well organized and we found ourselves driving back and forth a lot.  Steve was driver, Ashley was navigator, I was the fact giver/reader, and Scott slept.  It just so happened to also be St. Patrick's day which led to a lot of pedestrians and tents around the area.  After an agonizing 1.5 hours of driving all over (agonizing because some turns came up quick, we went back and forth alot, and lots of information was lacking), we headed to the Newport Aquarium to finish up our outing.  The Aquarium was pretty neat and well laid out (although the big crocodile Mighty Mike wasn't there and Steve was bummed).  We enjoyed looking at all the sharks, eels, fish, otters, and penguins.  Afterwards, we headed back to their house for the rest of the evening.

(At the Aquarium in the Frog themed Kids Zone area.  Scott and Steve entertained themselves playing Frogger!  They both got pretty into it and did a pretty good job.  It was a nice break between all the fish -- haha!)

The rest of the week kind of blurs together.  I spent my days hanging out with their dog Tyson, watching enough television to rot my mind, and worked on crocheting a baby blanket.  Steve was home anywhere between 5:00-6:30.  One day, his training took him up to Lima for a tour of the plant. He got to be a student for some of his fellow coworkers - ha!  Scott was busy a lot in the evenings so we went out a lot in the evenings to hit all our favorite spots & try out some new ones.  While in Cincinnati, we visited Ikea (and ate our favorite$2.50 hot dog meal), Dewey's, and even went and visited my uncle one evening (my aunt was sick that night).  We tried out some new places -- an ice cream shop Aglamesis Brothers & a sandwich place -- Izzy's.  We'd recommend the ice cream shop, but the sandwich place was a little over our heads (it had been featured on Man v. Food).

We always enjoy our little jaunts down to Cincinnati to both see family and soak in all that Cincinnati has to offer.  Steve loves to remind me that some day we may call Cincinnati home and get to enjoy our favorite places on a regular basis.  I on the other hand recognize that'll take away the special-ness of those spots; plus, I really don't want to think about Cincinnati driving just yet!  I enjoy my boring old Lima :-).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

All About Baby

Be prepared, now that Baby is shared with the public, the blog will probably be baby crazy for awhile.  I'm debating on making the blog private (meaning you'd have to ask for the password from me and sign in to read the blog) but for now I'll keep it open.

Before going to Disney, I had suspicions that I was pregnant.  Before we left for the trip, I took a test but it was negative.  I was pretty bummed and decided to just not think about it and enjoy the week at Disney without thinking about it.  However, when we got there, it's all I could think about!  My suspicions grew by the day and I didn't bring another test with me.  So I tried to enjoy the week as much as I could (I didn't tell anyone other than Steve and nearly wanted to explode every day).  I rode all the rides (even the roller coasters!) and had a good time.  On the last night, I couldn't contain it anymore.  I wanted to be able to tell my parents in person about the possible pregnancy and knew this was my last opportunity.  So Steve and I shadily pulled them into our room and shared our suspicion.  I could tell they were both containing their excitement and they said to wait for a confirmation until I go crazy.  As soon as we got home the next day, I took a test and found out I was pregnant!

I never really felt nauseous or sick those first few weeks and had to constantly remind myself that I really was pregnant.  I went to my doctor to have it confirmed and set up baby appointments.  Originally, I was supposed to be able to do all the gynecological visits in office and not have to get another doctor: however, the practice I go to had a change in it and I had to be referred to an OB/GYN.  After my doctor confirmed my pregnancy (at home pregnancy test -- $2, exact same test at doctor's office -- $28 - not counting the appointment cost!), she set up some referrals.  I was supposed to be referred to an endocrinologist after the miscarriage in November, but that never happened.  They fast tracked my referral and got into the thyroid doctor the next day!

Thyroid appointment -- apparently there is a short window to test the thyroid levels at the beginning of a pregnancy before you get false information (I don't know if I believe that).  So I had that appointment and had to have several blood tests done bi-weekly to make sure the levels are looking correct.  I have a follow-up with that doctor this week!

Steve's family came to visit the weekend of his birthday (I was 6 weeks pregnant).  We kept our secret from all the rest of our family until we had the chance to let them know they would be first time grandparents this year!  I found a onesie at the store that said "Destination Grandparents" on it.  So I wrapped it up and put it in a little bag.  When Steve got off work (his parents came Friday after lunch and Steve got home in the late afternoon), he gave them the "gift" to open up.  As soon as they opened it, they got it right away and were really excited with our news! Steve's mom got to share the news with his sister later in the evening (by using the same onesie scheme).   After their visit, we called up the rest of our families to let them know of our secret!

An appointment was set up with the OB/GYN during the 9th week of the pregnancy; but at 7 weeks, I had a scare and called the doctor.  I had some bleeding that had me concerned and fearing a miscarriage again (only there was no pain).  They got me an appointment for the next day to see what was going on.  We had an ultrasound and got to actually see the baby's heart beating!  What  a relief!  The discovered I had a small implantation bleed and they said it should heal up on its own, but warned there could be more bleeding from it.  Whew!  I didn't get to meet my doctor on this visit, so they kept my "first appointment" till scheduled for 2 weeks later.

 (Baby looking like a turtle at the first ultrasound.  Heartbeat was 155)

At the "first appointment", I had another ultrasound.  It's crazy how much baby changed in 2 weeks!  It went from looking like a turtle blog to an actual human.  Seeing it's little heart beat and hearing it really made it more real.  Up until this point, I still hadn't dealt with any nausea or morning sickness.  I had just been feeling really tired and lacked energy to get anything done.  We got to meet my new doctor and he went through a bunch of information with us.  He was quite comical and eased a bunch of my fears of a potential miscarriage or things going awry.

(Starting to look human!  Pretty sure it is upside down, but I honestly don't know - ha ha.  Heartbeat was a strong 171!)

Now speed up to this past week -- I've hit the 12 week mark and closing up the last week of my first trimester!  I still can't believe there's a baby inside me - ha ha!  That's a daily discussion in our household.  Even though things are supposed to get better into the 2nd trimester (like nausea going away), it seems that mine is finally picking up!  Every pregnancy is different and there's really no scale to measure from, some people are sick the whole time, others never.  My mornings start off fine and by the end of the day is when I'm feeling sick.  So I guess you'd say I have evening sickness??  It still hasn't been anything to complain about (although, I have gotten lots of attention from Steve over it, so I do complain a little bit I guess).  The main issues that I have are heartburn, nausea before & after eating, and being hungry a lot (refer back to the nausea around eating - ha!).  But like I said, it's nothing to complain about, just sharing what's going on!

Another weird thing is that I've been having issues with my hips hurting.  I've always had issues with my hips and used to see a chiropractor a lot growing up.  It looks like I may have to resume that if things don't shape up soon!  I can't imagine how they'll feel when I'm carrying around extra weight!  I got a crazy pillow to help sleep at night and it seems to be helping with the hip issue.

So I think that pretty much sums up everything baby related that I've been dying to blog about.  I'm sure there's stuff I've forgotten.  I've been trying to keep records of the pregnancy thus far (and been taking pictures, but none impressive to share yet).

Monday, March 25, 2013

Explanation of a Project

I realize my blog posts have been few and far between.  Today I went through a bunch of pictures on my phone and hopefully will have some more updates coming soon! For now, I'll start with the status of the last project I've been working on.

Back in December, remember all of my wallpaper removal?  Well that room is almost complete!  After all of the help we got from Steve's family, Steve and I were left the task of sanding some of the baseboards, and priming the walls.  About a month ago, we did just that!

(Steve did all the rolling, while I painted the the edges with the paint brush.  I didn't tape any of the trim off because we'll repaint all the trim later on.)

(So for now, the room is going sit as is with white barren walls.)

(It's amazing how much this room has changed and how bigger it looks now that it's all uniform with its white walls.  I'm excited to finally see the finished project, but for now it's finished for awhile.)

When I first started this project, I knew what this room would potentially be used for, but I didn't know the time frame of when it would be used.  But now I know!  Steve and I are thrilled to announce that our new Nursery will be used sometime around October 6th!  This has been a crazy hard secret to keep, but we're finally comfortable sharing that we're expecting a little one this fall!  Once we know whether baby is a boy or a girl, we'll make the decision on what color to paint the nursery.  

And for all of those doing the math and realizing I helped prime when I was pregnant, have no fear.  I did research on getting the best paint and also wore a heavy duty respirator.  I plan on doing some more painting in the next few months and will take the same precautions, so I don't want to hear it :-P.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Finishing Up a Rookie Sap Season

Last weekend, we decided to call it on the sap season and turn our liquid gold into syrup!  We probably could have extended our sap season by another week or two (sap season isn't a set time, it occurs when it gets below freezing at night and above freezing during the day.  If there's too many days of it not getting cold enough at night, the sap loses its sugar content.)  With a couple of warm days on the horizon, we knew our current sap holding system would be in jeopardy.  We keep our sap in our cold sun room, but with the warm weather over the weekend, we feared our almost 8 gallons of sap losing its sugar content.  (With the 40-1 sap to syrup ration, this means we should get around 4-5 cups of syrup, Ha!)  Instead of taking that risk, we decided it was time to turn it into its dark sweet version.  We could have still kept collecting sap, but knew the whole sap to syrup process is long and daunting and didn't want to do it again this season. So we (well Steve) pulled out the taps in the trees and we celebrated with tons of sap boiling!

We probably should have started our sap to syrup process early in the morning; however, we had things to do before it was sap time!  Like walk through a home show and sign up at Sam's for a membership we bought through an AWESOME deal through LivingSocial.  ($45 for 1 year membership, + $20 giftcard, + $20 worth of food vouchers -- 1 free frozen pizza, 1 free rotisserie chicken, & 2 boxes of free cookies).  Any way, I digressed, back to the topic at hand.  So upon returning home, Steve started to boil sap at 3 o'clock and I headed to the craft store to buy some cute little jars.

Even though we didn't think through the amount of time it was going to take, we had at least gotten the idea to have 4 pots going at the same time.  Finally, around 10 pm (which was actually like 11 since we chose the day we "Spring Forward" to convert 8 gallons of sap to cups of syrup) I called it quits, leaving Steve to figure out what to do.  He decided to just put the sap/syrup which was now in 2 pots, in the sunroom over night (it was equivalent to the fridge temperature) and we'd finish it up the next day.

After church on Sunday, Steve continued the sap to syrup process and I ran to the craft store again for cheese cloth.  We read that cheese cloth is the best way to strain the syrup before consuming it.  The final stages of boiling the sap gets a little scary.  There's a fine line from having watery syrup to having burnt syrup.  We let it go as long as we both felt comfortable and finally called it quits (by this time, we had weeded down our 4 pots, to just 1!).  We let the syrup cool off a little as we prepared the jars for canning (put them in a hot water bath to both sanitize and warm up the glass).  We strained the syrup and heated it back up to 180 degrees (needed for proper canning).

Syrup is super simple to can.  All you have to do is pour the hot syrup into prepared jars, place on the lids, tighten the rings, and wait for the cool down process!  As the syrup cools, it creates a vacuum and seals the jars.  We listened for the pops and felt confident they canned properly (only time will tell as we open the jars when we need them).  We left 1 jar uncanned and just store it in our fridge.

(Action shot of the 4 pans boiling at once.  There was so much humidity accumulating that we had to keep the kitchen windows open and finally moved our dehumidifier from downstairs to the kitchen.  While boiling sap, you have to stir it once in awhile and also skim off the scum that forms on the top when you add fresh sap to the pot.)

(Our wonderful bounty of syrup.  All in all, just over 3 pints!  We got a little more than we expected, but we may have started out with more sap than we realized.  The jar in the back right is the "uncanned" jar that we store in our fridge for our current syrup use!)

(One of the few casualties of Syrup production.  I begged and pleaded Steve to invest in different pots for the syrup process.  After our first attempt at syrup making, the pots came out fine.  However, this time, we weren't so lucky.  I'm guessing it has something to do with the amount of sap and length of time the sap boiled this time.  Last time was only 4-5 hours; this time, nearly double at around 10 hours!  I've decided to bite my tongue and continue to use the pots and pans until other problems persist.  Then Steve has lovingly agreed to purchase me new pots.  Note - these aren't just any pots, but Rachel Ray Hard Adonized pots which are pretty pricey :-/.  The other casuaity in the process -- the finish on one of the cabinets near the stove is a little messed up and flaking -- oops!)

So people have asked us -- Will we continue sapping next season??  Our answer -- YES!!  We've learned a lot of things in our rookie year and will try it again next year.  We just know we'll do things differently, like storing the syrup differently (Hopefully, I'll have my deep freezer by then.  You can always just freeze the sap until it's boiling time), tapping more trees to make the sap collection worth it, and blocking out an entire weekend at the end of the season devoted to 100% syrup production.  Also maybe an investment in a large stainless steel stockpot??