Cake and Babies

CAKE!!!!!!….CAKE!!!!!…..MORE CAKE!!!!!

MacKenzie turned 1 and we had a super fun beach party for her on a very windy yet sunny Saturday afternoon. Chris and I had flown in the night before and it was the first event of the 12 day trip back home to Monterey. I felt the party to be such a momentous occasion since Mac is the first baby in my immediate family and now that we live all the way across the country these kind of family gatherings just mean a lot more in general. When we first drove out to Cannery Row to help set up around noon the wind was making me cranky and I thought Kimberly had lost her mind having a party on the beach for a 1-year-old. Once we got things set up and the wind died down I got a little less judgy and just went with it. I can be a real uptight jerk when I can’t control the elements. So I removed the pole from my butt about an hour or so into it and actually admired all the work and planning my little sister had put into her baby’s first birthday. I was impressed…minus the melted cake and cupcakes…

Fish shaped cupcakes
These were way cuter before they semi melted in the car, ackk! They still tasted awesome though. Kimberly made vanilla and chocolate because you can never go wrong with the classics. She arranged each individual fish cupcake into a school of fish in a giant shape of a fish (does that make sense?)
cake and cupcake casualities
The transportation of meltable goods was not so brilliant for the event. Leaving the icing to melt in the car while setting up tables makes for sad cakes. The octopus is still smiling though, poor guy!
MacKenzie's Octopus Birthday Cake
See what I mean? His tentacles started to melt off…it was the cutest cake ever too before it got all jacked up. The designer is a friend of Kimberly’s named Luz and let me tell you she is exceedingly talented. I so wish I could have photographed the pristine version of this cake.
MacKenzie with her Daddy
No she’s not having any fun at all! Hahaha
Octopus Dip
What a clever idea! Kimberly made hummus and used a bell pepper to make an octopus.
The Beach Party Setting
Not a bad location eh? What my dad is sneakily doing in the background I have no idea, plotting to take of the universe I think!
MacKenzie goes for a walk
MacKenzie just started walking about a month ago. It’s so crazy how much different she is since I last saw her only a couple months before.
She has her eyes on that pigeon.
Big Girl Chair
I feel like she is about to demand a beer or something. Definitely a classy baby. What do you think the caption for the photo should be?
MacKenzie's Great Grandma arrived
This was such a cool moment. My grandmother, who’s 90th birthday we would be celebrating the next day, has arrived and all the kids are running over to greet her! She is a great grandma now 6 times over and they all call her GG Ma. It’s pretty darn cute.
Mac Surrounded by Presents
Spoiled much!? Well, duh!
Ryan and Nancy
My cousin Ryan the Rocket Scientist…yes he really is and that is how I always refer to him now. I told him his status as a rocket scientist has both dwarfed all of our accomplishments and yet elevated the coolness status of all the rest of us in the family just because we are related to him. He will soon be moving to New York so hopefully I will get to see more of the guy and brag to random strangers about my cousin the rocket scientist. My Aunt Nancy (on the right) is exceedingly happy he made it to the party. He took the train up from Santa Monica just for the day. That’s like 8 hours of traveling for Mac’s birthday. He’s pretty cool even if he wasn’t a rocket scientist!
The fam bam
Good times, good conversation. I imagine my brother is telling Ryan right about now about his new truck and his sick new gps system thingy….he was talking about his truck a lot that day. Thanks Cameron, we know you got a new truck, cool, happy for you….
Oh what funny skin you have GG Ma!
Birthday Princess Throne
Mac is set upon her princess throne and commences royal cake devouring
Cake Smash
just getting started, think it tastes good but not sure yet
Are you sure this is allowed?
“Are you sure this allowed mommy?” Hahaha, face full of cake
East some more cake
Yes it does taste good.I think I’ll have some more, please and thank you.
Sugar High
…..and the sugar high commences! “Arggghh, this is the stuff!”
save some for us
Thank God she saved some cake for us. Look at that deliciousness!
Tutu time
After the cake Mac put on her new tutu over her bathing suit. She is real fashionista that one. She had so many gifts she didn’t know what to play with first!

Chris and I gifted her the book Madeleine, which I remember loving when I was a little girl. Mac already loves books, the cardboard kind anyway. I think she’s gonna be a reader! Among many other talented things. It was a fun day! After the party us adults needed a drink and so Chris, my brother, sister , my cousin the rocket scientist and my bestie Ashley all went over to Baja Cantina for dinner and Margaritas. Whew! The next day I woke up with a headache for my grandma’s 90th birthday, oopsie! So that and the following 11 days I will tell you about in future posts! Wishing you all good cake and happy babies!

Being Diagnosed with PCOS: What does it mean for fertility? What, I need to diet?

This coming October will mark 4 years of marriage for Chris and I. We have had a great time together so far and have already experienced a lot of changes/life events. We have already gone through several job changes, purchasing and selling our house and buying our second home and moving across the country. We have had some stellar vacations and we have rescued two wonderful dogs. We are, by all accounts, happy but we have been looking to grow our family as many married couples choose to do.

I’ve been content for the most part, no need to rush things. Everything in due time…it all happens for a reason, all that jazz. I have been off the pill for over 3 years. 2 1/2 years ago I started looking into possible issues with fertility. I’ve never been regular in the period department so I guess in the back of mind I figured that there was a chance things could be “off”. I did bloodwork. I did ovulation predictors, charting my BBT (Basal Body Temperature)… Most recently I did a tortutous HSG, hysterosalpingogram which is a procedure where dye is injected to view if your fallopian tubes are open. (See I am already quite familiar with all the medical terminology and acronyms for things. I’ll try not to be one of those blogs spewing meaningless medical terms without first explaining them.) Then we moved and took a few months to get new doctors and settle in and what not. Two weeks ago, the morning before we flew out to California, we had an appointment at REACH fertility clinic and it is a full speed ahead approach: Full medical histories, more bloodwork, pelvic ultrasound, another HSG being ordered- grrrrreat, 3rd sperm analysis, financial advising, genetic counseling…OH MY GOD…we are really doing this, this is really happening to me, to us. Thank God we left immediately to go out of town, I needed the distraction from all that information.  It’s still not really sinking in. I think this whole thing is like having an out of body experience.

I was diagnosed with PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. My previous doctor had casually mentioned that I had the condition but nothing was suggested in doing anything for it or the severity of it or the implications of how difficult it may be to become pregnant. That doctor pretty much sucked if I do say so. She was extremely unhelpful, unavailable and just twiddling her damn thumbs while the years went by. Oops, there’s my frustration spewing out onto this blog…my apologies. I’ve done my own research in the meantime and talked to my new Reproductive Endocrinologist, Dr. Wing, who seems very competent and actually the founder of this clinic. So far he has prescribed me Metformin and recommends a low sugar/low carb diet since one of the main issues with PCOS is insulin resistance, sigh.

I love carbs. Croissants, fresh baked bread, pasta and everything potato are my great loves. What the hell, I feel cursed! I don’t want to be one of those gluten free band wagon people, one of those crazy cranky Atkins dieters. I am NOT a dieter. Is it terrible that I am more depressed about this than the prospect of having to give myself injections in the stomach? Actually that will seriously suck too. Geeez, I’m being a real downer right now. Of course it’s 3:45 in the morning, my time clock is all messed up from flying across the country and I have the flu!

On the upside the doc says Metformin may cause some weight loss on it’s own, yay. I started taking it this week and since I have the flu it’s hard to tell how I’m reacting. We shall see. I got the results of the bloodwork today and found out that I am a genetic carrier for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. 1 in 50 people are carriers and is the #1 genetic cause for infantile death. Now we have to get Chris tested and see if he is a carrier. I am glad to have the information, being prepared is good but the more I learn the more I realize what a delicate delicate balance life is and what a miracle it is every time a healthy baby is born.

Diets I’m considering for PCOS so far are the South Beach Diet and Low Glycemic Diet. After we get some test results next week we may know more if we need to go straight to IVF treatments with ICSI or if we can try other less invasive and more “natural” methods first….to be continued….

The Larsens Go To The Biltmore: A Trip in Photos

The trip to Asheville and the Biltmore with my nieces was a successful one. We spent nearly 8 hours walking around the mansion, the gardens, the farm and gift shops. As you will see from the photo’s I went a little crazy taking pictures of flowers. The gardens were really spectacular and I probably enjoyed them the most. Unfortunately no photography is allowed inside the Biltmore so for that you will just have to go and see it for yourself. We opted to do the audio tour which was very informative so I’m glad we did it. Even the girls were interested and listened to it!

The ice cream was delicious and even though I asked for a single scoop on my waffle cone, it was enough ice cream for 4 people! The girls each got rainbow sherbert on their sprinkled chocolate waffle cone. That sounds pretty disgusting to me but they absolutely loved it and check out the sugar high pics. Cassie was wired!

I’m so glad we decided to spend the night in Asheville after such a long day at the Biltmore, we were exhausted. The next day the girls wanted to go paint some pottery at a place called Fired Up and then also go “gem mining”. If I can figure out how to upload video onto this site then I will have to post the video of the girls gem mining. It’s quite the experience.

I was very excited about this trip not only to see the Biltmore but also because I had just gotten my camera and it was the PERFECT place to really experiment with it and see what kind of results I could get with it. All of the photos in the gallery below are unedited.

Southern Food Saturday: Biscuits, Grits, Green Tomatoes and Okra

Those of you who live in the South I am about to state the obvious: it is REALLY Freakin HOT here in Charlotte! I said that yesterday I know. Many people warned it would be and it shouldn’t be a surprise but a warning makes no difference when your body is simply not ready for this kind of drastic change. I ventured out of the house for a few hours this morning when it was tolerable and even quite pleasant in the 80’s around 9AM. Chris and I went to The Flying Biscuit for breakfast which is a pretty famous chain ’round these parts. Well known, of course, for their biscuits but their creamy grits are also off the charts! I ordered a goat cheese and mushroom omelet with tomato coulis (Chris jokingly always pronounces things phonetically to irritate me when he reads off the menu- so he says “cooliz”) The omelet came with a biscuit and grits. Honestly the omelet with goat cheese was not very good and way too heavy with the buttery full fat cream grits. About 15 minutes after I was done eating I felt super tired like I could go right back to bed. I had two cups of coffee with breakfast, I figured it just needed a while longer to kick in. I bought The Flying Biscuit Cookbook partially because I just wanted the biscuit recipe and partially because I have a compulsive cookbook obsession.

My grandmother Lillian was a cookbook lover, I inherited that gene. I accompanied her to garage sales whenever we were there on a weekend and she bought them up in scores. She never learned how to drive so my grandpa Lee would sit in the car and smoke and wait for us. “How much shit you got this time, Lil?” I didn’t care about the cookbooks then but I always made out with something cool like a pencil or an etch n sketch or another cabbage patch doll! Garage sales were gold mines.
Several of these belonged to my grandma Lil. I have them on a fairly high shelf in my pantry. She passed away when I was 8 and my mom kept most of them. Since she no longer EVER cooks I finagled a few for myself. SOMEONE has to keep the passion alive, it might as well be me 🙂

After breakfast we took a short drive over the line to South Carolina (5 minutes down the street) for cheap gas and hitting up a local produce stand/gift shop called Young’s. The gas station we found astonished us @ $2.89/gallon!!!! This was the cash price. The credit card price would have been $2.95 but still amazing. Coming from a place where I have consistently paid well over $4/gallon it just makes me want to do a little happy dance. As a matter of fact I am breaking for dance time…..

Okay, moving on. We went to check out “historic” downtown Fort Mill to see what was there and it pretty much seemed like a whole lot of nothing. The interesting thing was noting that even though we were only 5 minutes from the Charlotte city limits it was suddenly very rural, very country. City to backwoods in 5 minutes, hmmm actually it’s kind of like that in Salinas, CA when I think about it…one minute you are in lovely historic old town with cute little shops and the Steinbeck center then you drive a few blocks east and BAM: gun shots and prostitutes. The invisible lines that separates people’s lives and environments. I don’t mean to compare Fort Mill to gang-infested Salinas, that is not my point. It’s just starkly different from that of a short distance away.

Again, moving on…Chris gets irritated with me when we go shopping. So cliche right? I want to pour over every aisle, see all the gifts and think of all the people back home for whom the cute local stuff would be good for. Sometimes, I admit, I am a sucker for good packaging. There was the most darling printed fabric sack of Fried Green Tomater flour mix, a perfect charming little southern present. I held onto it for a few minutes before convincing myself that I could make my own mix better and without all the preservative garbage contained in it and make a cute little sack for it too. ( Will that actually ever happen? Most likely not!) I did buy several green tomatoes though from the market and will be making some fried green tomato BLT’s tomorrow!  I also acquired a few enormous zucchini, a gorgeous eggplant and a pile of Okra on sale for a buck a bag! So for those I plan on making a ratatouille dish and some kind of stewed okra concoction.

Upon arriving back home I read some tips on Okra: You should buy them no bigger than the length of your little finger and blemish free. Mine was significantly longer than my pinky and had quite a few spots on them. Oh no! All is doomed and wasted a dollar, sad face! I made it for lunch anyway with things I had on hand, just making it up as I went along…

I soaked about 1lb of whole okra in 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar about 25 minutes. The acid helps reduce the gummy texture of okra when stewed. Next I sliced the okra, discarding the stems. I roughly chopped 1 medium onion and used 1 can of whole peeled tomatoes (I’m reserving the fresh ones for ratatouille)
I heated 1TBS coconut oil in the pan over medium high heat and put in the okra by itself first to let it brown a little.
The chopped onion went in next and let them brown and mingle for 3-5 minutes. Turning the heat down a smidge and tossing to prevent burning.
Then the canned tomatoes went into the mix. I seasoned with red pepper flakes, garlic powder, ground cardamom, touch of cinnamon, sea salt and pepper to taste. When I season things I add as I go, taste it and add more. If it needs “something more” then I scour through my spices and see what comes to me. Sorry I don’t have measurements for you. Let your creativity guide you and your own palette. What you come up with may surprise you and it will be all yours to claim!

I adore Lebanese food and when this started to come together I was reminded of one of my favorite little hole in the wall places in Monterey called Maha’s. I made quick friends with Maha and her husband Suhail, an Arabic instructor at the Defense Language Institute a short distance from downtown. Maha was a fantastic cook and Suhail would come over and bring me different things to sample and explain various preparations of the food. He even gave me some history lessons on Lebanon and cultural tidbits. Maha often had a stewed Okra and Tomato dish on her lunch offerings and thus my creation has a bit of a Lebanese twist to it. It’s funny now thinking of how my worlds are melding together…Okra is such a southern classic and yet to me it reminds me so much of Monterey.

The texture came out great, not “slimy” at all. The cardamom flavor and red pepper made it pop 🙂
I served the stewed okra over a bed of quinoa to make a nice healthy lunch after our really heavy biscuit breakfast. Make sure you season your quinoa well also or it will dull the flavors of the okra.

There we have it y’all: A Carolina Californian Lebanese Okra Stew. It’s a keeper for me, let me know if you give a version of it a go!

My Beautiful Baby Niece: MacKenzie is Almost 1-year-old!

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Macaroni takes a bath

I’d like to take a moment and introduce you to the first baby on my side of the family: MacKenzie Marie. She is my little sister Kimberly’s baby and she is going to be 1-year-old very soon: August 9th to be exact! Almost a year since I was in the room helping to deliver her into the world. Almost a year since her big head scared my sister half to death, haha! Almost a year since I held her for the first time with great trepidation as she stared into my eyes in awe.

It’s still very strange to me that my sister has a baby, like woah. When did any of us become adults ready to have children? I still remember making mud pies and pine needle forts like it was yesterday. I still get a kick out of the memory making Kimberly sick twirling her around on the tire swing. Now here she is pushing a stroller and dressing her little girl up in her baby doll outfits. I guess it’s like being kids all over again in a lot of ways.

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Baby Bunny Mackers in the Woods
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Maczie really likes bunnies!
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Mischievous MacKenzie
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Frilly Foo Foo Mac-A-Doo
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Smiley Mac Smilerson
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The High Flyin MacDoodle and Papa Geoff
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Mackabee and Mommabee
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Mac Blue Eyes
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Mackers Goes On a Photoshoot
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MacKenzie Marie, how lovely can you be?
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Macdizzle’s duck face
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Miss Mac Goes to the Monterey Aquarium
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Goofy Auntie Kendra and Princess Prima MacKerina Ballerina on Halloween
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Mac Attack, you’ve been baby dialed

This one makes me smile so much. She loves to hold the phone when I FaceTime with her. She often hangs up on me or has her thumb over the camera but everything she does is pretty funny and cute!

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Her momma teaches her “Why stop and smell the flowers when you can eat them?!”
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Moppy Mackeroo
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Surprised or hypnotized?

Is she seriously not the most expressive baby you have ever seen? Those eye brows kill me.

My sister is a photographer in the Monterey Bay/Northern California area. You can visit her website to see more of her work at www.cypressphotogallery.com

She specializes in Fashion Editorial since we also own a women’s boutique selling mainly special occasion dresses. Kimberly has a natural talent for style and fashion and she does the majority of the photography for the store.

Since she’s a mommy she has developed a beautiful portfolio with other babies as well and shot family portraits, pin-up portraits as well as bridal and wedding events.

You can also view the website and/or follow the blog for our cute little sassy store, Girl-Lee Boutique, which my sister also maintains: www.girl-lee.com

Our First Official Visitors to the Buggy Horse Rd Homestead

Yes, you heard that right. We live on a street named Buggy Horse. I think it’s pretty awesome! Other streets in our neighborhood are called Gin House, Meadow Bottom,  Cotton Press and various old timey sounding names. All the houses are in the Charleston style with big covered front porches and REALLY colorful paint. On Buggy Horse we even have horse and buggy rides over the holidays from the clubhouse around the block and once you get back from your ride you go into the club house to meet Santa. My neighbor just told me this yesterday and I can’t wait to witness it for myself. I also can’t wait for the holidays simply because it won’t be summer anymore! Today it was 103 and tomorrow it is supposed to be even hotter!!!! I’m front central coast California people, I never even wore shorts before I moved here let alone feel like jumping in a bath of ice every few hours.

Our first official visitors came to stay with Chris and I last week: My mother-in-law, Linda, and two nieces Lexi who is 7 and Cassie who is 5. They live in Cincinnati along with the majority of my husband’s family. We were very excited to have them come stay at our new house and show them around for 6 fun-filled days. The first day we spent exploring our neighborhood since it’s a very family friendly place with several kids parks, bocci ball courts, a dog park, Olympic size pool and club house and walking trails. I had really hyped up the dog park experience for the girls before they had even arrived so it was a priority on the agenda. I don’t think they were disappointed. I’m not sure who got more exercise, them or my dogs.

The shade is everybody’s happy place! Running+ Humidity= Lots of Panting (I’m not just referring to the dogs)
Race you to the tree!

The dog park is a block from my house and is a nice daily activity to get out and mingle with the neighbors and all the other cute doggies. The girls favorite was Colby, an English Bulldog who sounds like my grandpa when he’s snoring except Colby sounds like that ALL the time. He’s disgustingly adorable.

Slider tables in the park

Lexi and Cassie loved the glider tables. I’m sure there is an actual name for these and if you know please tell me 🙂 They are like slider swings but an entire table! Everybody went and had an early evening picnic here complete with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and go-gurt? I missed out on the picnic and stayed home to rest with a migraine, uuugghh. Unfortunately, I missed out on a few activities this trip due to the nasty little spells I am so blessed to frequent (note sarcasm). I’m glad they all had fun though of course.

Adjacent to the glider bench/picnic tables is the bocci ball court! None of us have any idea how to play so the girls just bowled some sticks and rocks for a bit before moving on the playground a few yards away…

Cassie looks like an Olympic thrower in this shot…uh oh better keep my new camera out of the line of fire! These girls may look skinny but they can throw! It runs in the family I think, everyone in my husbands’ side of the family have very athletic genes. Lexi and Cassie are taking gymnastic classes, they are very good swimmers, take ballet and dance and know how to play tennis.

The pole never gets old when you are 5!

Once everybody put on their jam jam’s then it was time for dessert and so we made s’mores indoors. Don’t worry no one got any eyebrows singed off.

Yes they are eating marshmallows and chocolate before bed. Hey, they are on vacation and we are cool. Only fun time at the Larsen house!

I did not partake in the S’more devouring. I had just started a low-carb “diet” and trying to eliminate as much processed sugar out of my diet as possible. Why the hell I chose to do that right before little girls came to visit who love pizza and ice cream is a story I will save for a future post. However, I did not miss eating the gooey deliciousness because I had a much more important job of documenting their methodical making and inhaling of my ole girl scout favorite.

Blow Cassie BLOW!!

Fire extinguishers were at the ready, haha. Inevitably of course sugar highs ensued and thus the dance party which continued late into the evening, followed by aching tummies. They are not yet conscious of the 15 minute rule after eating.

I have no idea how to capture moving things without them being blurry. If anyone wants to throw out any advice it is certainly welcome!

Swing your partner do-si-do….wait that really doesn’t work well when a Justin Bieber song is playing…

On one of the last days of the trips we ventured over to Asheville, NC which is about a 2 hour drive from our house. We drove straight over to see the Biltmore and arrive around a little before noon. I think I will save all those pictures for the next post. There was lots of “bad” food there and beautiful beautiful gardens not to mention the most enormous home I have ever layed my eyes on! To be continued…

Our first look at the grandiosity that is The Biltmore, truly spectacular!