Welcome Back, Tuna … and “Me” Day

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As much as I’m addicted to Subway, I won’t be caught eating any sort of meat products from the hoagie shop. I think those cold cuts are pretty yucky, and its chicken breasts don’t look overly appetizing (I don’t think they’re even real). The tuna salad is the worst. So when I had the intense craving for a tuna sandwich for lunch today, I had no choice but to go to a grocery store to pick up the ingredients to make it at home.

I avoided fish up until now during the pregnancy, but I’m finally feeling a little more comfortable re-introducing them into my regular diet. I’ve always known that a small amount of non-toxic kinds are safe to consume but I just couldn’t remember the good fish versus bad fish (that are high in mercury) so I just omitted them from my diet altogether to be on the safe side. Luckily, I read that canned tuna is one of those safer kinds, if consumed in moderation (about 6 oz a week), so it was nice to finally eat a hearty, mayo-drenched tuna sandwich again! Oh, how I’ve missed you!

It was my first time in good two weeks that I stepped into a grocery store, as well as the kitchen, but it was like riding a bike. I was back in the chopping mood in no time. I even got stuff for dinner for tonight. I’m sure my husband will be surprised to find me in the kitchen when he returns from work, instead of on the couch like a beached up walrus like usual. lol

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On a random note, I got a much-needed haircut this afternoon. The last time I got a cut was back in 2010eek I usually grow my hair out until it reaches ten inches, which is the minimum length required to donate it to Locks of Love, and chop it all off. This time, my hair was long enough that I was able to keep the new do at a shoulder length, even after the big cut. My lovely hair stylist, Claire, suggested that I keep it at this length instead of my usual super short do, after I told her that I want to keep things super low maintenance (since the last thing I want to worry about when I’m changing Pon Pon’s dirty diapers is my hair) and she was right!  I’m totally loving my new hair do!

If you live in the Valley, I highly recommend Clair from Joseph Lamar Salon in Burbank. She’s incredibly sweet and talented.

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I’m totally going to continue the “me” day tonight with home spa, with goodies that I acquired from Lush the other day!  (Sexy Peel Soap, Ayesha face mask, and Tea Tree toner tab.)  Lush is an absolute heaven for an aspiring home chemist like myself!

Sunday Breakfast: Larchmont Bungalow

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Kevin and I had Sunday breakfast at Larchmont Bungalow in the lovely mid-city neighborhood with even lovelier friends Matt, Liz, and Baby E . The last time I saw Liz, she was still pregnant with Baby E. Thirteen short months later, Baby E grew up to be an adorable little boy who walks and eats solid food!biggrin

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It’s amazing how fast babies grow up. In a mere year, an infant who you bring home from the hospital, fresh out of the mommy’s womb, grows into a toddler, and in the blink of the eyes, leaves home to go to college. Veteran parents always advise us newbies to enjoy and savor every minute we spend with our children because they grow up so fast. Watching the little Baby E blossom into a little person made me realize how true that is, and how precious each second is to parents.

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The breakfast was fabulous.  This is the first time in my life that I’m not overly concerned about the amount of calories I consume, especially during this time of the year when the world is attempting to kick-start a healthier lifestyle as part of the New Year’s resolutions. I do try to be careful that I eat a balanced diet for me and the baby, of course, but I don’t beat myself up if I eat something wacky and perhaps unhealthy, like Red and Blue Velvet Pancakes, once in a while, which, by the way, were completely bizarre but surprisingly delicious.

I’m also extremely thankful for the ever-shrinking stomach. Now that Pon Pon is starting to push against my insides, I can’t eat as much as I want to, which helps me control my consumption. It’s like having a natural gastric bypass to shrink my stomach.

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Here’s the Seafood Lover’s Omelet that I ordered, packed with lobster, shrimp, and fresh blue crab, with a side of green salad and pumpernickel toasts. It was pretty pricey at $14.95 but I enjoyed every bite of it.

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Kevin had the Meat Sensation Omelet.

If there’s a place like Larchmont Bungalow in our neighborhood, I’ll be there every day!  It was a perfect Sunday morning spent with wonderful friends and a precious little munchkin, over great good … and it wasn’t even 11:00 a.m. yet!

Old-Fashioned Fun: Parkway Grill

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Kevin and I spent Saturday evening with friends Joe and Deb at Parkway Grill in Pasadena. They are also expecting a little one next year, and Deb and my due dates are coincidentally only a few weeks apart! This is the second baby for the lovely couple, and we received many wonderful advices — some hilarious and some a bit scary lol — from the veteran parents over great good and (virgin for the moms-to-be) drinks.

Our wonderful evening became even more fabulous because the food at Parkway Grill was just perfect. This Pasadena landmark reminded me of a fancy restaurant my father used to take the us family on his company holiday party.  We were one of the youngest people in the restaurants, and the place had the real, old-fashioned steakhouse feel that I adore.

We shared an order of Tiger Shrimp Corndog to start, which were very creative in its naming but really no different than a regular tempura shrimp … but Thai-inspired sauce was delicious.

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I really wanted to lick the bowl to get the last bit of the lobster bisque!

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Here’s my main dish – truffle infused chicken with vegetables. This was one of the best chicken dishes I’ve ever had.

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Kevin ordered a New York steak.

I have to admit that I used to hate mommy talks before I became pregnant. Some people are natural baby lovers, even if they weren’t a mom themselves … and I was definitely NOT one of them!  I just didn’t get all the fun behind talking about a state-of-the-art baby stroller, breast feeding, stretch marks, and swollen feet. I think I lost touch with lots of party-girls-turned-moms-to-be over the years because we no longer had anything in common, which, now looking back, was such an unfortunate thing. I wish I stayed more open minded, interested, and supportive, during the most exciting time of their lives.

Now that I’m pregnant, I am incredibly thankful for mothers who listen to my rookie concerns and offer sound advice, and especially for all the non-parents who tolerate my enthusiasm over burp cloths and swaddle blankets!

I am so blessed to have so many wonderful friends in my life.

Time for Happy Dance: La Frite

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What an amazing Saturday it was! Kevin and I got to hang out with not just one but two expecting couples in one day (more on the second outing on a separate post).

We had a lovely lunch with Kerry and Carmela over some good French food at La Frite in Woodland Hills. It was so nice to catch up, since it has been a while since our last outing at the Kings Championship parade in June. Since then, Carmela and I have both became blessed with bundles of joy! Time for a happy dance!

As for food, I was completely jealous over the Champagne brunch that Kevin and Kerry ordered.

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Their brunch came with a selection of salad / appetizer (Kevin selected a generous portion of smoked salmon salad), and a hearty selections of a main dish (this is his mushroom and ham omelet). I would have totally ordered this too, if I can drink Champagne and indulge in Lox!

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Instead, I ordered the La Frite salad – greens, walnut, white asparagus, and grilled chicken (extra), tossed in tangy vinaigrette dressing. It wasn’t a plate full of my favorite smoked salmon but I love this salad! Oh, and of course, I had a side of Fries that I downed in less than 30 seconds!

Three and a half more months for Pon Pon to say hello to the world, and six more months or so for Carmela and Kerry’s little bun. I have a feeling that we’ll be dressing our babies up in hockey sweaters together very soon!  Can’t wait!

Weekend Gluttony for Two

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I can’t count how many times I used the “… but I’m eating for two!” excuse this weekend, starting with the hearty breakfast / lunch at Aloha Factory for some no-frill Hawaiian feast.

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As if the order of the gigantic macadamia nut pancakes drenched in vanilla pudding was not enough, I had to get TWO orders of char shu tacos, all while picking the food from Kevin’s combo plate. Boy, food here is so good.  I’m not even a huge Hawaiian food fan and I adore this mom-and-pop joint!

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Then for dinner, we went to Gatten Sushi in Monterey Park for some revolving sushi goodness. Since I can’t eat raw fish, many of the sushi I ate here were very non-traditional, like fried green bean sushi! I would usually avoid these funky nigiri and rolls, but I can’t be too choosey right now. But to my surprise, some of these creative sushi are pretty good.  Just stay away from fried salmon skin though.  It sounded good at first, but it was tough and kinda yucky.

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Natto is definitely my best friend during pregnancy.

Little Bun in the Oven

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Pregnancy can bring many surprises to expecting mothers, but this one definitely caught me by surprise — I’ve been told on several occasions that I’m tiny! Okay, when people say this, they don’t mean that I’m tiny but that my stomach is smaller than that of an ordinary 20-plus-week pregnant woman. The former would have been a fabulous compliment, but being told that my stomach seems underdeveloped definitely brings a concern, especially when it comes from your own baby doctor!

From the time I discovered that I’m pregnant, at around 14 weeks, to now, I’m down about 12 pounds from my normal weight. Most of the poundage came off during the first trimester but I haven’t been able to add much more, even as my appetite returned to almost normal. This was definitely a source of my worry and insecurity for the last few weeks.

Luckily, during my last prenatal appointment, I had my belly measured and learned that Pon Pon is growing right on schedule. She’s at around two pounds and 14 inches, spot on with the average 27-week bun in the oven!razz

A lesson learned here – everyone is different and there is no reason to be worried just because you might think you’re a little different from the mom-to-be next door. Instead of feeling insecure, I’m now considering myself truly, truly lucky that I’m still able to feel comfortable with no back pain, no swelling, and no cramps – symptoms that usually come with an expanding belly. I know that my stomach will expand rapidly as I enter the third trimester, so I’m going to enjoy this “tininess” while it lasts!

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On the topic of food … I made some steamed bread for snack this afternoon. I was craving something sweet but not in the form of cookies or anything buttery, so I went to my go-to recipe for the Japanese mushi (steamed) pan (bread).

This is a wonderful recipe! The bread comes out fluffy and nicely chewy, stay moist even the next day. All the ingredients are things that most of us have sitting around in a pantry, and there’s no milk or eggs so it’s health friendly (if you don’t put in chocolate chips, of course). It’s still high in carbs but it is a much better alternative to a calorie-laden cupcakes. You can add matcha green tea powder and azuki (sweet red beans) for Japanese-inspired flavors!

Steamed Bread (Mushi Pan)
Inspired by a recipe from Cookpad.com.

Ingredients:

150 g flour
40 g sugar (I used brown sugar)
4 g baking powder
150 ml water
Sprinkle of salt
Handful of chocolate chips

Instruction:

Measure and mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add water and mix some more (but not too much). Divide and pour the mixture into 5 cupcake linings (I used my trusted silicon liners) and sprinkle a little bit of chocolate chips on top. Steam for 15-30 minutes.  Enjoy!

It All Starts with Carbs

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I think it’s interesting how body triggers certain things, like food cravings, during pregnancy. I once knew a friend who ate a sub sandwich every day during her nine-month journey. I don’t blame her, as I too crave carbs more than anything these days, mainly in a form of bread (and not pasta or rice). Subway is definitely one of my favorite go-to places when I have the urge for some good old wheat bread.

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In-N-Out Burger is also my favorite place to go when I’m in a mood for a hearty, carb-y (and junky) meal. And during our recent trip to my favorite hamburger joint, I discovered something amazing – a veggie burger! I read that ground meat can be unsafe during pregnancy due to high risk of contamination if not cooked properly, so I’ve been avoiding it like a plaque (unless prepared and cooked at home), so this vegetarian version with onion, tomato, and lettuce sandwiched between two sweet buns is just perfect for my hungry tummy! I’m not joking when I say that this is tastier than the regular, meaty version. It’s not necessarily low in calories since it’s still drenched in the Thousand Island dressing, but I think it’s slightly better healthwise.

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It doesn’t bother me much that I don’t get to eat ground meat, but I do miss eating raw fish regularly. I love sushi, smoked salmon, and pretty much all things fish, so it was quite an adjustment at first to eliminate my protein of choice from my daily diet. But thank goodness for avocados! It has a very similar buttery texture as some raw fish and it definitely serves as a wonderful alternative. I like to pile avocado chunks and thinly sliced cucumbers on top of sushi rice and pretend like I’m eating a tuna bowl. Wasabi and seaweed add a special touch to the bowl.

I’m trying to be as cautious as I possibly can when it comes to what I consume. There are so many food-borne bacteria that we adults can fight off but a fetus cannot. It was overwhelming at first to learn about all the things that I cannot eat (unpasteurized cheeses, deli meats, ground meat, raw fish, other fish high in mercury, etc.) and searched “is it safe to eat _____ during pregnancy?” more times than I’d like to admit, but I’m finally getting the hang of it.

I do wonder sometime, however, if we’re being overly paranoid these days. I always think of all those pregnant women in Japan who continued to eat raw and other fish and ended up delivering a perfectly healthy baby. And there’s got to be mothers-to-be in France who consumed Brie and other cheeses made out of unpasteurized milk throughout her nine months and everything turned out fine.

tummy 2The Internet is a very helpful place for expecting parents but it can also be a pretty dangerous place, if we don’t proceed with caution. While I appreciate all the available resources (there are some fabulous bulletin boards out there that are not only informative but super supportive), it can also embed unnecessary fear in us.

I remember spending hours one night researching something on the Internet that was concerning me, only to walk away more terrified than ever. I literally spent days afterward crying and worrying about “what ifs,” until my husband finally had to peel me off from the computer and tell me to stop. Once I stopped, I felt instantly better, hopeful, and optimistic that everything was going to be okay. I now make a conscious effort to ignore all the negative stuff, and at times excuse myself from the online world altogether.

There will always be little hiccups along the way, but this is the happiest time of my life and I’m determined to enjoy every second of it, stress free. And it all starts with positive thoughts, and, of course, lots of yummy carbs.

(Here’s a picture of my tummy, at the start of my 27th week … It feels like Pon Pon grew overnight!) biggrin

Dim Sum and Then Some

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It feels a bit narcissistic to post a picture of myself posing with my belly bump, but here it is, at 26 weeks. This is my first picture of my growing belly!

Speaking of pregnancy, I found out recently that seven of my friends / family are expecting a little bundle of joy in 2013 – SEVEN! That’s a lot of mommies-to-be, and I’m so happy about it. I’m looking forward to sharing the journey with them, and partake in play dates when the little ones arrive next year.

Anyone else out there with a little bun in the oven?

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Since we’re on the topic of buns, we had a great breakfast / lunch on Sunday. It was my mother-in-law’s birthday so we went out to a nearby Chinese joint for some dim sum fun! I’m trying to reduce the seafood and sodium consumptions so some dumplings tasted slightly bland (without the hot sauce), but they definitely hit the spot.

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My favorites were the garlic chive dumplings (right) and steamed cake (not pictured).

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend, and ready to take on another great week!

Baby Receiving Blanket Tutorial

I’ve been nursing a sore left arm for the last several days. I’ve read that many pregnant women suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome typically during their second and third trimesters, and I’m afraid that I might have fallen victim to this dull aches in my hand and entire arm myself. I can tell you that this is definitely not a pleasant feeling.cry

Thanks to my husband massaging my shoulders, back, and arms yesterday, I feel much better today, but he is still watching me like a hawk to make sure that I don’t make my way to the sewing machine, pick up knitting needles, or partake in activities that can possibly re-aggravate the pain. So, the only thing I can do right now is to quietly talk about my latest craft project here!

I made three matching receiving blankets this week, using Aloha Flannel Floral Surf fabrics in blue, green, and yellow. I personally don’t like designs that are too baby-like (like those overly cutesy animal prints, etc.) so this subtle and quite design definitely  struck a chord with me.

These receiving blankets are very easy to make and it probably doesn’t require a tutorial, but I’m posting a very rough instruction here, just so that I have a record of it. I’m honored if any of you out there find this to be helpful.

Handmade Receiving Blanket

Materials:

1 yard flannel with your favorite design (front panel)
1 yard solid flannel with matching color (back panel)
Sewing machine
Saucer or small plate to draw the round corners
Fabric pen or chalk
Rotary cutter or a pair of scissors
Ruler
Fabric cutting board

Instruction:

Cut the Front and Back Panels to measure 36 inches by 36 inches (you can make it larger or smaller).  I used a rotary cutter to cut the fabrics.

Put Front Panel and Back Panel together, right sides together. Pin all sides to avoid any unwanted creases and to ensure that fabrics stay together. Use a saucer or a small plate to trace the rounded corners on all four corners.

Sew around all edges (1/4 inch seam allowance), but leave a small opening at the bottom. Make sure to back stitch the openings to ensure there are no loose threads. Trim all access fabrics. Iron the fabrics open and turn the panels inside out.  Hand-stitch the lining opening (you can skip this step if you like, since we’ll top stitch the entire blanket).

Iron the fabrics. Top stitch around the blanket (about 1/2 inches from the edges).  That is all!

Mrs. Penguin seems to like the blanket.  Thank you for coming out of your hibernation to pose for the photo. razz

Handmade Burp Cloths

I was so excited to receive my package from Fabric.com last night so I can get started on making burp cloths.

I got several flannel and terry cloth fabrics for a really good deal. A yard of this polka dot Michael Miller flannel was on sale for about $7 and the terry cloth for $8, so for a grand total of $15, I was able to make six burp cloths! I know that many places sell these at good prices, but you just can’t beat handmade.

I made one side with flannel for the super soft feel, and the other side with terry cloth for absorbency. I followed this online tutorial for the project. The instruction is clear and I love that there’s no pattern to this!  I am now ready for those projectile vomits!

On Pregnancy:

Thanks to my decreased appetite during the first trimester, I was able to lose about 15 pounds and have been able to maintain it for a while. I actually didn’t start wearing maternity clothes until just recently (maybe started at around the 18th week).

Well, that was until last week.

Now, coupled with my raging appetite and a growing baby inside, I feel like I’m getting larger by the minute! I read in many places that the baby will be doubling in size in the next several weeks but they weren’t kidding! I’m going to look like Bary-San in no time!

But I must admit that, despite the weight gain, I’m loving every minute of the pregnancy. What an experience this has been. I feel blessed every day that I’m able to experience this miracle.