Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Chinese Beef with Broccoli (Page 448)


  • Date: Wednesday, January 2, 2013 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Book: Gourmet Today
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B

Truth be told, I made this recipe over a year and a half ago, and the last year and a half haven't been great for my memory! It turns out that the chronic sleep deprivation involved with having two infants is not so good for one's long or short term memory. So, I don't remember this one so well. What I do (vaguely) remember is that the beef and broccoli were both cooked nicely and the sauce had a good flavor, but the sauce was way too thin. I would make this again, but I would certainly thicken up the sauce a bit more. 

This recipe isn't online. 

51 recipes down, 1055 to go!

Wow, it is daunting to post after such a long, long hiatus. I'm still here. The ladies are 14 months old now, and the past 14 months have been a heart-warming, crazy, delightful, exhausting, blur. The truth is, twins are tough. The first year was not easy. But our little ladies are wonderful and they are doing very well. I will post more details of the past few months soon (I hope!), but in the meantime, a brief overview via pictures.

In November the girls were baptized. We had a lovely celebration with family and friends. A picture of me and my special gentleman with the babies at their post-baptism lunch:

Eloise, has always been a VERY curious, adventurous, wide-eyed little girl. This picture captures her infancy perfectly:

Emmy is a very goofy kid. She is quick to smile and laugh, and loves to try to make Eloise laugh as well. 

This picture captures what life is really like for a breast-feeding, working mother of twins! Pump parts and bottles everywhere! I breastfed Emmy until she weaned herself at 11 months. I weaned Eloise when she turned one. I am very, very glad that the days of breastfeeding and pumping are behind me! 

A picture from when the girls were about 6 months old of Emmy wondering why someone is grabbing her butt:

Maybe some day I will write about the babies' first Christmas. It was a disaster. An ice storm took our power (and heat) out for 8 days. My special gentleman's whole family was supposed to spend Christmas at our house, but no one could be at our house (including us!) without heat in the dead of winter in Michigan. We did not have the holiday that we planned, but the ladies didn't care:

Part of the reason that the past year was so crazy is because we moved to Berkeley, CA for 5 months. I was co-organizing a big research program there. My co-organizers and I had been planning this research semester for the last 3+ years, and great researchers from around the world were coming to participate, so I did not want to miss it! But I also certainly could not move to Berkeley alone for five months. So we packed up the family, rented out our house, and moved to Berkeley from January - May. In retrospect, it was an insane thing to do. That said, I'm glad we did it. In both directions the move was a lot of work, and adjusting to life somewhere new is more complicated with two infants, but we had a good semester in Berkeley! A picture of the girls enjoying Valentine's Day in California:

Silly girls, showing off their Notre Dame pride (my special gentleman is an alum):

Happy babies (11 months old) and a happy mama:

Right before we moved back to Michigan, the ladies turned one. Here they are on their birthday: 

I made them a birthday cake, but they wouldn't even try it! Silly babies: 

The ladies, extremely skeptical about the cake: 

These days the ladies are little bundles of energy. They are cuddly, giggly, and love playing together! It's a great stage. Here is my current favorite video of them: 

I am hoping to start posting somewhat regularly again, now that we are back in Michigan and the girls are becoming a little more independent. I would like to document what life is like right now before I forget everything! 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Raspberry-Chocolate Chip Pancakes (Page 660)


  • Date: Wednesday, January 2, 2013 -- 10am
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Book: Gourmet Today
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C-

Occasionally I read the title of a recipe and think, "Well that can't be bad!" This was one of those cases. Raspberries. Chocolate chips. Pancakes. What's not to love?!? It seemed like it couldn't be bad. Yet, it was. In fact, we threw these pancakes away. Threw them away! My special gentleman HATES to waste food. He will eat things he doesn't like just so they don't get wasted. But these were bad enough that we threw them away. Not good. So what went wrong? Well, it is my practice in this project to execute the recipe exactly as written, even if it seems like a bad idea. Otherwise it wouldn't be fair to grade the recipes. So I executed this as it was written. In this case that included stirring chocolate chips into a mixture that was warm (because it contained butter  and milk which had just been heated on the stove). So the chocolate melted, turning these from chocolate chip pancakes to chocolate-splotched pancakes. Although that doesn't sound like it would really matter, it had a bad effect on the texture of the pancakes. Texture was really the issue here. Raspberries are very watery, so putting them in pancakes can already create a textural issue. The batter gets less cooked right around the watery raspberries. Add to it the splotches of chocolate throughout and the pancakes just turned out a soggy mess. There was no delicious cakey texture to them at all. They were just soggy. We took  few bites and then didn't eat them. They were gross. It was very sad, as they sounded so promising!

The recipe in The Book is almost the same as this one

50 recipes down, 1056 to go!

I haven't posted many recent pictures of the girls and they are so stinkin' cute. So here's a post with some pictures in it. 

Both girls have started laughing, which is adorable. Eloise is easily startled though, so sometimes Emmy's laughing catches her by surprise: 

The ladies love music and dancing. Emmy, in particular, really gets into the music. My special gentleman plays the piano and the harmonica and every day he has music time with the girls where he plays music for them and they dance along. It's really funny to watch. Sometimes they even dance in synchronization:

Emmy partied a little too hard and fell over. Luckily she thinks falling over is hysterical. 

Eloise really loves to stand. It never gets old for her. She absolutely LOVES it. We took the girls to the Michigan State homecoming parade. Here's a picture of Eloise doing her standing in the street at the parade:

This big-eyed look is also very typical for her. She is extremely wide-eyed. She likes to take it all in. My special gentleman's parents say that she reminds them a lot of him as a baby. He was extremely observant. I guess she gets those wide eyes from her daddy.

One exciting recent development is that Emmy and Eloise have started noticing each other. They do a lot of (accidental?) hitting of one another in the face, and stealing each other's toys. But sometimes they play nicely together, smiling at one another:

And even sharing the toys:

That toy there are chewing on is a never-ending source of drama in our house. We have two of them (thank you Kirks!) and the girls LOVE them, but every day Emmy rediscovers that she can't fit the entire toy in her mouth, and every day it frustrates her tremendously. She loves it so much. Why won't it fit in her mouth?!?!

The ladies are getting more and more fun to hang out with as their personalities are developing. Both girls are quick to smile. Here's a happy Emmy:

Eloise has a really big smile. She had such a rough start in the NICU, followed by a hard time at home because of eating and digestion problems. For a long time we referred to her as our sad baby. The first two months she spent most of her waking time screaming the most sad, pained yell you can imagine. And she rarely slept. We felt so bad for her, and were also so exhausted and frustrated ourselves by our inability to help her. But over time we understood her problems better and were able to seek solutions. And it turns out that when she isn't in pain she is an incredibly delightful, happy baby. Indeed, now many days she is the happier of the two, which is something we never could have imagined a few months ago. She's even the better sleeper. We love to watch both of our children smile of course, but I find myself particularly touched by Eloise's big smiles because it was so hard watching her suffer and I worried about her so much. Here she is, happy as can be:  

We have been incredibly blessed by two sweet, healthy, happy children. Having twin infants is definitely not easy. Indeed, I often think about how much easier life would be if we had more adults than infants in the house. It's hard not to feel outnumbered. But we love and adore our little girls and they get cuter and more delightful by the day! 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Oven-Fried Panko Chicken (Page 397)


  • Date: Tuesday, January 1, 2013 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Book: Gourmet Today
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+

There is a big time gap between this recipe, which I made on January 1st, and the previous one which I made on September 30th. It's true: I did not cook for 3 months. The reason: morning sickness. I was brutally morning sick with the twins and wanted absolutely nothing to do with the kitchen. But eventually I felt better and started doing some cooking again! This was a super simple recipe for chicken, coated in breadcrumbs and baked rather than deep-fried. It was a good way to start out the new year. The chicken was moist, the coating was crunchy and tasty. It wasn't super exciting, but it was tasty! This is one that I would be happy to make again for a simple weeknight dinner. It was less messy than deep-frying but still had that fried chicken feel to it.

The recipe is here.

49 recipes down,  1057 to go!

Oh it's been a long time since I have posted. Things have been busy, but in the best possible way. The girls are four months old now. Eventually I will write more about the first couple months, but for now I will just say that it was pretty rough, and leave it at that. Things are really good now. The girls are happy and fun to play with, and have finally started really noticing each other

Eloise has been feeling better lately, and it turns out that she is super-charming and absolutely delightful when her stomach isn't hurting her. Here she is playing with Emmy and doing her big smiles:

Hopefully I will have more time to blog in the near future and I will write more about life with infant twins. But for now, a story that captures it pretty well:

The girls are wonderful babies, but they still struggle with eating. They went through a brief period where they both breast fed well, and since then at any given time at least one of them is struggling. There were weeks when Emmy would only eat while in a carrier, being marched around the family room. She was even picky about the brand of carrier and how fast I walked while she ate. If she was not satisfied with the set up she would scream at the top of her lungs instead of eating. Ridiculous. Eloise goes through phases where she hates the breast. She knows how to breast feed but she just won't. She screams at the breast instead of eating. There is plenty of milk. She just won't eat it. Lately they have both been having a bad spell, which is super-miserable for me. The screaming at the breast really gets me down, and when you have to feed two badly behaved eaters it is pretty demoralizing. So I turned to the internet for help. One by one I tried every suggestion I could find on the internet. Nothing worked. 

The last suggestion I had left to try was the following: breast feed your baby while in the bathtub. I would have tried it earlier but I thought even if it worked it wouldn't be practical multiple times a day. And it just seemed logistically complicated, there being two babies and all. But, I grew desperate. We do all of our parenting experiments on the weekends, so on Saturday evening I got in the bathtub with the babies (one at a time), and fed them. My special gentleman sat on the side of the tub, entertaining the baby that wasn't in the bath, and pouring warm water over the baby that was in the bath. The whole thing was ridiculous. But the babies LOVED it. For the first time in weeks they both ate without screaming. 

We were on to something! I decided I was happy to do this every night if it meant the bedtime feeding would be without drama. So Sunday night we filled up the tub and Emmy and I got in for a nice, peaceful feeding. All was going well, but then Emmy's eating started slowing down. I thought she needed to burp, but just as I was going to burp her, she had a huge, explosive, liquid poop, right into the tub. Almost instantly, the entire bathtub full of water was yellowish brown with poop. There we were, Emmy and I, naked in a tub of poop. I started yelling. Eloise started screaming bloody murder. Emmy was absolutely delighted with herself. She happily continued eating. Perhaps it is a reflection of just how much trouble we have getting the girls to breast feed peacefully, but my special gentleman looked at the situation and concluded, "You have to just keep feeding her. We have no other option." I tried to lift her slightly out of the poop water and continue feeding her, but it was just too gross. What followed was a long ordeal. Emmy and I took a shower (I couldn't exactly give her a bath, given that the bath was full of poop). She had never been in the shower before so that was an adventure. I got her clean then handed her off to my special gentleman while I attempted to get myself clean. Eloise, who is a sensitive little girl, was hungry and confused by all the ruckus so she screamed bloody murder throughout. At some point Emmy joined in. My special gentleman hurried me out of the shower to feed Eloise because she was so very, very upset.  I did not feel clean. The feeding did not go well. She was worked up and I was sitting naked on a towel on the floor so as not to contaminate anything in the house with poop.  It was a disaster. Eloise was screaming instead of eating, and my special gentleman was trying to put Emmy in bed, but she was screaming instead of sleeping. Meanwhile, I was naked on the floor, and the bathtub was full of poop. Not our best night. 

Eventually the children were fed and went to sleep. 

By the next morning I was pretty much over it. These things happen. 

Early in the day on Monday my wrist started to hurt a bit. I have a ganglion cyst in my left wrist, which usually is painless but sometimes gets a little sore, so I thought nothing of it. But throughout the day my wrist got more and more painful and more and more swollen. By Monday night I couldn't lift the children. By Tuesday morning I couldn't do anything. It was intensely painful and I had zero mobility. I figured I had broken my wrist somehow. But how? How can you break your wrist without noticing? It hurt WAY too much to be a sprain. My special gentleman stayed home from work Tuesday morning to take care of the girls and I went to the doctor. 

It wasn't broken. It wasn't sprained either. It was INFECTED! It turns out that ganglion cysts can get infected. I asked the doctor how exactly that would happen and she said that bacteria can enter your bloodstream through a cut or scrape and then make their way into the cyst. Gee, I wonder how that happened? Yup, that's right, my poop bath gave me a wrist infection. Great. 

It hurt. A lot. I couldn't hold the children, change diapers, burp them... If I tried to do those things one-handed and they accidentally brushed against my other hand I would be screaming in pain. It was bad. My special gentleman was a rockstar throughout, as always, and took great care of the babes. I started antibiotics on Tuesday but they took a little while to do their job. Tuesday night I was in so much pain that I was up half the night, and in tears for much of it. My special gentleman had to take care of the twins, and also me. He was fetching ice packs and pain killers at 3:30 in the morning. In the middle of the night I felt sure that my hand would have to be amputated. 

In the light of day on Wednesday it seemed likely that I would be able to keep my hand :) It gradually started to improve on Wednesday. Here are some pictures from that day, after the wrist swelling started to go down. Here's my (uninfected) right hand:

And my infected left hand:

My wrist had looked much more swollen than that 24 hours earlier. I am sort of glad I didn't think to take a picture of it at that point.

So that's my story. I have a poop infection in my wrist. The antibiotics are working now, and it is much, much better (for instance, I can type!). The swelling is way down. I can take care of my children. All is well.

As my friend Brian put it: "New life rule: don't bathe in poop. No wait. That one's not new."

UPDATE: As it turned out, Emmy's poop bath was the gift that just kept on giving. Apparently I was allergic to the antibiotics they gave me for my poop infection. So my entire body was covered with this for days on end:


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Baked Butter-Pecan French Toast with Blueberry Syrup (Page 662)


  • Date: Sunday, September 30, 2012 -- 9am
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen Our House:
  • Book: Gourmet Today
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Dave, and Karen H
  • Recipe Rating: B

I like baked French toast because it is so convenient. You can start soaking the bread the night before and then just throw it in the oven in the morning. That's what I did with this recipe, which I made when my in-laws were visiting last fall. This was a simple French toast, made with baguette slices, and topped with a sugary, buttery pecan mixture before baking. The recipe also included a simple blueberry maple syrup. I liked this dish. The French toast was rich and flavorful and had a nice texture. The blueberry maple syrup was fine but not great. Whenever we have berries that are about to go bad I make berry syrup with them by cooking the berries with some sugar and then straining it. I think I prefer that to this recipe, where the blueberries were cooked in maple syrup and the syrup was unstrained. The French toast was pretty good though, and an easy way to prepare a nice breakfast for company. I didn't like it as much as the baked French toast from the original Gourmet Cookbook though.

The recipe in The Book is almost the same as this one.

48 recipes down, 1058 to go!

When I was pregnant people often asked me if I was going to breast feed the twins. I was very noncommittal in my response: "I am going to try!" Doctors have always been a little bit unsure about whether or not it would be a good idea for me to breast feed. For one thing, I can't take my medication for my brain tumor while I breast feed. Also, the type of tumor that I have doesn't always play nice with breast feeding. But I got the go ahead to give it a try, as long as I watch for symptoms of tumor growth (headaches, loss of vision) and get checked out if anything seems off.

I got the very wise advice to set a short term goal for myself. Breast feeding twins would be tough, I was told, and people who set a goal of breast feeding for a year often quit in the first few weeks. People tend to have more success if they start with a more achievable goal. For me, that first goal was 6 weeks.  I figured I would power through for 6 weeks and then reevaluate.

Here's the honest truth: breast feeding premature twins is horrible. Absolutely, completely horrible. There was nothing pleasant or enjoyable about it those first 6 weeks. Teaching the girls to breast feed was totally, completely miserable. I think it's important to be honest about that. It was horrible. BUT, it got better. I want to record my experience before I forget in case it is ever useful to a mother of multiples down the road. If you aren't interested in this sort of thing, just stop reading now!

With twins, supply can be a big issue, so I started pumping 8 times a day from the time the girls were born to establish my supply. Neither of them was well enough to be held right away, let alone breast fed, so I pumped milk and brought it to the NICU. Pumping 8 times a day worked for me, although one lactation consultant told me that really I should be pumping 12 times a day. Oy.

Emmy and I started working on breast feeding when she was still in the NICU. I would weigh her before breast feeding her, then weigh her afterwards to see how many milliliters she had consumed from the breast. She had a certain amount she was required to eat at every feeding. She couldn't do a whole feeding from the breast, so I would give her a bottle of pumped milk with the remainder of her required milliliters in it. It was a slow process teaching her to eat. Several times she "breast fed" for 20 minutes, but consumed only 5 milliliters. She had trouble latching, so I worked with a lactation consultant in the NICU and used a nipple shield. She made slow but steady progress.

Eloise never really breast fed in the NICU. We practiced a few times, but she had a hard enough time eating from the bottle. She didn't have the strength or persistence to eat from the breast.

Two and a half weeks after they were born we had both girls at home with us. The doctors had them on a 3 hour eating schedule which meant that they ate at 6am, 9am, noon, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm, midnight, and 3am every day. Each feeding took almost an hour and a half, then we started it all again an hour and a half later. It was brutal. Here's how a typical feeding went:

- I practiced breast feeding for 20-30 minutes with one of the girls or both of the girls at the same time.
- Since neither of them could do a full feeding from the breast, both girls then got a bottle.
- I then pumped for 20-30 minutes so there would be milk for the next feedings.

Late at night and early in the morning I cut out the practice breast feeding and just gave them bottles to make the whole process a little shorter. And for a brief period my special gentleman bottle fed both girls at 3am by himself so I could sleep a little bit. I still have no idea how he did this, but I do recall that it involved a lot of screaming! My mother-in-law got up every morning to help me with the 6am feeding so my special gentleman could sleep through that one. The schedule was rough, but we survived it. We did that for weeks, during which time my nipples were pretty much constantly cracked and bleeding, the counters were covered with bottles (since we used 16 a day), I could never find my nipple shields (damn things are transparent!), and the pump parts were chronically needing to be washed. I was forever trying to keep track of which bottle needed which vitamin supplements or supplemental calories added (for Eloise). I developed a bottle labeling system. I rarely slept. It was rough. During that period I was flipping through a parenting magazine that was discussing the benefits of breast feeding. They listed "convenience" as a reason to breast feed. I almost threw the magazine across the room. Convenience my ass.

Then one day, right around their due date (so 4+ weeks into it), Emmy finally got it! One day, she just understood how to breast feed. I dropped her bottle feedings one by one and within days she ate entirely from the breast! No bottles! I started pumping only 4 times a day instead of the 7-8 I had been doing! It was amazing. That was my first moment of sheer delight and amazement at the skills of one of my children. She could breast feed! Eloise, sadly, could not.

I met with a lactation consultant to discuss Eloise. She watched Eloise do her "breast feeding" and declared that she just needed more time to get stronger before she would really be able to do it. The girls were down to about 7 feedings a day, and we were no longer required to wake them to eat if they were sleeping. So I was getting a little more rest. It was hard to be patient with Eloise though. She has had eating problems from the start, and reflux that got worse over time. So she was prone to screaming through each feeding and then spitting up many times after eating. We were working so hard to get her to eat and then she would spit up 5+ times during one feeding. It wasn't pleasant. And it felt to me like she wasn't making any progress. But eventually, she started to catch on. I slowly weaned her off the bottle, one feeding at a time. Right around 7 weeks, she decided she actually preferred the breast. One night, she refused to drink from the bottle. And that was that! She was breast feeding. Because of issues with oversupply and overactive let down I had to stop pumping. I was delighted!

Unfortunately Eloise's breast feeding victory was poorly timed to coincide with a dramatic increase in her reflux, so her other eating/digestion issues (a topic for a different post) prevented me from appropriately celebrating her breast feeding triumph. But now I can truly appreciate what an achievement this was for the both of us. Go Eloise!

Now the girls are almost 10 weeks old and I have to agree with the magazine: breast feeding is pretty convenient. I still feed the girls one at a time rather than tandem feeding them (which I practiced and practiced, but hated so much that I decided it just wasn't for me). But feeding times have gone way down. Now instead of it taking an hour and a half to feed them, I can feed them both in 30-40 minutes. It still helps to have a second person around as it is hard to take care of one while the other is eating, especially in this period when they are pretty fussy.

My one piece of advice for anyone who ever considers breast feeding twins is this: if you want to try to breast feed, don't quit before it gets good. With premature twins, the first part will be horrible. But, it truly does get better! If I could do it all again, I would do the same thing I did, but perhaps with more faith that someday they would figure it out and it would get easier. I am well past my original goal of 6 weeks. My new goal is 4 months, although I wouldn't be surprised if I continue much longer. I hesitate to say this, but at this point I actually enjoy feeding them (except, of course, in the middle of the night!).

Because it's funny, here's a video of the girls from when they were about a month old. It demonstrates how their different attitudes about eating resulted in two very different size babies:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Grilled Indian-Spiced Chicken (Page 526)

  • Date: Saturday, September 29, 2012 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Book: Gourmet Today
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Dave and Karen H
  • Recipe Rating: B+

We made this chicken as part of our Indian feast when my in-laws came to visit last fall. I quartered a chicken, then marinated it overnight in a mixture of onion, garlic, ginger, serrano chile, salt, white vinegar, Greek yogurt, coriander, vegetable oil, turmeric, and cayenne. Then my special gentleman made some Indian clarified butter (ghee) by boiling butter and separating out the milk solids and discarding them. My special gentleman drizzled the chicken with ghee and then grilled it until it was cooked through. This chicken was pretty good. The marinade had a nice flavor to it but the flavor wasn't very strong, so the dish came out a little blander than you might hope for with in Indian-spiced chicken. The marinade certainly could have been significantly spicier, for instance, without being too spicy. If I made this again I would tweak the marinade a bit to give it a more intense flavor.

The recipe is here.

47 down, 1059 to go!

After 8 days in the NICU, we were able to bring Emmy home! Here she is the day she came home, looking pretty tiny in her car seat:

As I mentioned in an earlier post, it was heart-breaking bringing Emmy home and leaving Eloise in the NICU. But by then Eloise was doing so well that I was confident she would be home in 2 or 3 more days. It turned out that it would be quite a bit longer than that, but I didn't know it at the time. 

So, we brought Emmy home and tried to settle into a routine. The babies ate on a three hour schedule in the NICU (6am, 9am, noon, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm, midnight, 3am, repeat), and the doctors recommended that we keep Emmy on her 3 hour schedule for a while until she was a bit bigger. It was sad to have to wake her up every 3 hours to eat, especially in the middle of the night, but we did it. The feedings themselves took about an hour. I would breastfeed her, followed by a bottle of breast milk (because she wasn't strong enough to breast feed for a full feeding), followed by pumping milk for both Emmy's bottles and to bring to Eloise in the NICU. By the time I finished feeding Emmy it was only about 2 hours (or less) until it started again. Needless to say, we weren't getting much sleep. In those days my special gentleman did the 3am feeding by himself though, so I could sleep from about 1:30am until 6am, which was quite a luxury. 

The feeding schedule made it hard to spend as much time at the NICU with Eloise as we would have liked. My special gentleman would do some of the daytime feedings using a bottle of pumped breast milk so that I could spend some time with Eloise. Then he would go visit Eloise later in the day while I stayed with Emmy. The situation was further complicated by the fact that I was still recovering from surgery, so physically getting myself to the NICU was no easy task. It was a long walk once inside the hospital, and I wasn't supposed to drive, so someone needed to go with me. Luckily my in-laws were in town to help and my mother-in-law transported me to the NICU every day. 

Eloise's health was steadily improving and we could hold her as much as we wanted by that point. Here's my special gentleman with her: 

Eloise was off all breathing support by then, and even moved out of an isolette into an open crib, where she had to regulate her own body temperature. She was doing great! Except... she wouldn't eat. I was pumping breast milk 8 times a day from the time the girls were born, and shortly after birth Emmy started taking breast milk from a bottle in the NICU. It took her a while before she could actually breast feed, but she was always pretty good with the bottle. Eloise was so sick when she was born that they didn't give her food at all. She was too sick to have the energy to drink from a bottle, but they also couldn't give her breast milk through a feeding tube. Apparently when a baby is really sick like that, their body doesn't have the energy to digest food. So if you put breast milk into their stomach using a feeding tube, the milk can go rancid before it is digested. Crazy. So she was on IV nutrition only for many days. 

Eventually she was well enough that she could digest food, but not strong enough to take a bottle. So they put a feeding tube in and pumped my breast milk directly into her stomach. That went well and she continued to get stronger. So they started giving her bottles. But, as it turned out, she didn't want them. She still had her feeding tube in, and when she didn't finish her bottle the nurses would put the rest of it down her feeding tube. I think my smart little girl figured out that it was way easier to have food put down your feeding tube than it was to go to all the energy to eat it yourself. Sometimes she would eat from the bottle and sometimes she refused. Eating is a required skill before being discharged from the NICU. She needed to be able to finish at least 40-50 ml at every feeding for at least 48 hours before she could go home. And she didn't want to do it. 

She often ate better for us than she would for the nurses, so my special gentleman and I tried to be there for as many feedings as possible while also caring for a newborn at home. Some days we would alternate. I would feed Eloise at noon, he'd feed her at 3pm, I would feed her at 6pm, he would feed her at 9pm. It was a lot of back and forth to the hospital. We didn't go in for the late night feedings. We were just too exhausted at that point. 

They moved Eloise into a little isolation room so that we could bring Emmy in with us (in general, other children aren't allowed in the NICU). We did that for a couple days, but it was hard to care for Emmy in the NICU, which isn't really set up for baby visitors. Plus, I didn't like carting my tiny premature baby through the hospital -- I didn't want her to catch something and end up back in the NICU herself. So mostly we divided up and one of us stayed home with Emmy while one of us was in the NICU. Here's a picture though of a day when we brought Emmy in to visit her sister:

Eventually Eloise figured out how to eat from the bottle well enough that they took out her feeding tube, and for the first time since the operating room, we got to see her face without anything attached to it:

And once she did her 48 hours of eating from the bottle, she was ready to come home! Eloise spent a total of 16 days in the NICU, which at the time felt like an eternity, but at this point I remember so little of it (sleep deprivation!) that it seems like it flew by. It was absolutely wonderful to bring her home and have the whole family under one roof. Here are the girls shortly after they came home, hanging out:

And me (still very swollen at that point), holding them both:

I would like to say that Eloise came home perfectly healthy and caught right up to her sister, but that hasn't really been the case. Her eating problems in the NICU were foreshadowing of continued challenges with eating. And although she was an ounce and a half bigger than Emmy at birth, Emmy is now about a pound and a half bigger than her sister. Eloise has had a rougher time from the start, and she has certainly been a challenge for us. But that's a topic for another post.

When I found out I was having twins I prepared myself for the likely event that they would end up spending some time in the NICU. In part because I had thought a lot about it in advance, when it actually happened I felt at peace with them being there. I was confident that they were in good hands, and getting the help that they needed. But it was a difficult few weeks. I remember one night in particular that I sat down at the dinner table and just started sobbing into my food. I was exhausted, and worried, and disappointed. It was hard. But I told myself then the same thing I tell myself now when I get overwhelmed by the challenge of infant twins: we are so, so blessed that the girls weren't born even earlier, or with more serious health challenges. Their entry into the world was a little rough, but they are doing great, and every day getting bigger and stronger. We are very lucky.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Curried Lentil Stew with Vegetables (Page 288)

  • Date: Saturday, September 29, 2012 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Dave, and Karen H
  • Recipe Rating: B-

This recipe was part of the Indian feast we prepared when my in-laws came to visit last fall. I started by cooking some onion in oil, then adding pureed ginger and garlic. I then added various spices (cumin, curry powder, turmeric), lentils and water. At various stages through the cooking process I added vegetables (carrots, spinach, peas), and finally cilantro and seasoning. The stew was topped with cumin seeds and red pepper flakes, cooked in vegetable oil. This stew was OK. Of our big Indian feast that day, this was one of the dishes I liked less. The flavor was fine, but not great, and I didn't like the texture of the spinach in it. I also found that the flavored oil on top made the dish seem greasy. It certainly wasn't bad, but it isn't a dish that I would make again. 

The recipe is here.

46 recipes down,  1060 to go!

I have a rare moment right now when the girls are both asleep and I am not. I talked about the birth of our twins in the last post. They went straight from the operating room up to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for some assistance breathing. I went to recovery, where I had to be on magnesium for 15 hours, due to the preeclampsia. This meant that I could not go see the girls in the NICU on Friday night. But my special gentleman went up there several times and took lots of pictures so that I could see them. Here I am, recovering and missing my babies:

Here's a picture of Emmy that first night, screaming. She has been feisty from the start! I would probably be screaming too. That bandage around her IV connection is almost as big as her arm! 

Here's Eloise that first night. She was struggling a bit more than Emmy. So while Emmy was just getting a little oxygen through a cannula, Eloise was on CPAP. It was hard to be away from them that first night, but at the time I believed that they were basically both fine, which I found very comforting. I didn't realize then what a hard time Eloise would have. 

The next afternoon I got to make my first trip up to the NICU. Here I am meeting Emmy for the first time since the operating room!

And meeting Eloise:

Late Saturday night they decided that Emmy was stable enough for me to hold her! Emmy was doing well from the start. As you can see, by Saturday night, less than 24 hours after she was born, she was already off all breathing support. She was what they call a feeder/grower, meaning that they kept her there to get bigger and stronger before discharging her. 

Here's my special gentleman holding Emmy:

In no time she had even graduated to wearing clothes!

While we were celebrating Emmy's good health and rapid improvement, we were meanwhile extremely worried about Eloise. Instead of improving, she was getting worse. She was having a horrible time trying to breath, and the CPAP was not enough support. So they had to intubate her to give her more breathing support, and to give her doses of a drug directly into her lungs. They first diagnosed her with Respiratory Distress Syndrome. Late one night when I was still in the hospital myself recovering from the surgery I googled respiratory distress syndrome. Big mistake. Wikipedia informed me that it is the leading cause of death in preterm infants. Great. That made me so worried that I woke up my special gentleman at 3am to wheel me up to the NICU to visit the babies. I sobbed next to Eloise's isolette for a while and a very nice NICU nurse gave me a lot of encouragement (thanks Michelle!). 

There were a couple very scary days during which Eloise felt so bad that she barely moved or opened her eyes at all. Here she is, not feeling well:

Eventually they figured out that she had an infection: either pneumonia or meningitis. The next day it was confirmed: pneumonia. Of the two choices, pneumonia was a much better outcome, so we cheered when we found out. Never would I have thought I could be so excited to hear that my baby has pneumonia. 

Eventually I was released from the hospital, with both babies still in the NICU. It was hard going home without them, but I came back to the hospital and spent all day every day in the NICU with them. And I pumped milk for them 8 times a day. That was about all I could do for them at that point. 

After about 3 or 4 days, Eloise started to improve, and eventually we were able to hold her! Here's my special gentleman holding Eloise: 

And the first time the girls were reunited since the operating room:

After 8 days in the NICU, Emmy was able to come home! It was bittersweet taking her home. I was so, so happy to have her coming home with us, but it was devastating leaving Eloise behind. In fact, I was much more upset the day we left with Emmy but without Eloise than I was the day I was discharged from the hospital without either of them. I took great comfort in knowing they were together, and I worried a lot about Eloise being in the NICU all alone. But Emmy was definitely well enough to come home and we were anxious to have her home with us. Here she is, ready to leave the hospital:

This post is getting long so I will write more about our second NICU week in my next post. Right now, I should go get some sleep!


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Spiced Milk Tea (Page 32)

  • Date: Saturday, September 29, 2012 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Dave and Karen H
  • Recipe Rating: A-

We made this beverage as part of our Indian feast when my in-laws came to visit last fall. I made a spice mixture by grinding together cardamom, cinnamon stick, white peppercorns, and fennel seeds. These spices were added to simmering whole milk, along with brown sugar, salt, and ground ginger. I cooked some orange pekoe tea in water, then strained it into the milk mixture and served. I enjoyed this spiced milk tea quite a lot. The spice blend was lovely, and the sugar gave it just the right amount of sweetness. I also found the balance of milk to tea to be spot on. This was a lovely warm beverage that I would certainly serve again!

The recipe is here.

45 recipes down, 1061 to go!

My apologies for the long blog silence. A lot has happened around here lately. When I lasted posted, on Wednesday, May 22nd, we had found out that there was a lot of protein in my urine, which is a sign of preeclampsia. A 24 hour urine test result above 300 is one of the two diagnostic criteria for preeclampsia. My result was 533. The other diagnostic criterion for preeclampsia is blood pressure over 140/90. My blood pressure was reading quite high for me, but hadn't reached the 140/90 level, so the doctors told me to keep watching my blood pressure at home, and call in if it started to rise. The night of the 22nd, my head starting hurting, which is not a good sign, but I hoped that it was just stress related and tried to ignore it. The headache persisted throughout the next day, and by Thursday evening my blood pressure was reading over 140/90 on our home machine. By Friday morning my head was really hurting badly and my blood pressure was still high, so around noon I called to make an appointment at the OBGYN. I figured that they would see me, check that the babies looked ok, and send me home. As it turned out, that wasn't what happened...

My appointment was at 4:15pm that Friday. We brought all of our hospital stuff with us, on the off chance that they decided I needed to be admitted to the hospital for observation. At the appointment they took my blood pressure, did a non-stress test on the babies, and then announced that this pregnancy should now be over. I had clearly developed preeclampsia, and the presence of a persistent headache which didn't respond to pain medication was a very bad sign for my own safety and for the safety of the babies. So the babies needed to be delivered. Immediately.

Unfortunately, my body was so not ready to have the babies that inducing me for a vaginal delivery would have taken several days. Given my condition, waiting several days was not a safe option, so I needed a c-section. This conversation took place in the doctor's office around 5:30pm. By 8pm I was in surgery at the hospital.

I had certainly not been expecting to have the babies that day, so I was surprised and frightened and generally upset about the whole thing. Luckily my doctor, who is amazing and was not on call that night, agreed to come in and do my c-section anyway. It was a huge relief as I trust him completely, and having him do the surgery made me feel so much better about what was happening.

The girls were born at 8:45 and 8:47pm, Emmy Terese weighing 5 pounds 7 ounces, and Eloise Karen weighing 5 pounds 8.5 ounces. Because the girls were about a month early (I was 35 weeks 3 days), there were two NICU teams in the operating room to greet them. The girls were quickly evaluated, then we got to see them for a brief moment before they were whisked up to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to be treated for respiratory issues. Here's a picture of the four of us together during surgery, before the girls were taken away:

The surgery went smoothly, but unfortunately I couldn't go see my girls afterward because I had to be on magnesium to prevent seizures from the preeclampsia. The nurses and doctors had warned me in advance about the extremely unpleasant side effects of magnesium. I was very fortunate to have a relatively mild reaction to it, but the 15 or so hours I spent on magnesium were still unpleasant. And I wasn't allowed to get out of bed until the magnesium had cleared my system, which meant that I didn't get to see my girls until Saturday afternoon. Luckily my special gentleman was able to go up to the NICU and visit them Friday night and he took pictures for me so I could see them. 

I'll post more pictures and more about the girls' stay in the NICU soon, but I will say that now, almost three weeks after their birth, both girls have been discharged from the hospital and are home with us! After a long struggle with infertility and a challenging twin pregnancy, we are beyond delighted to have our sweet, healthy, beautiful girls at home! Their entrance into the world didn't go exactly as I had hoped it would, but I said from the start that all that was really important to me was that everyone ended up safe and healthy, and that is indeed what happened.