Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Creamy Spinach Ricotta Pasta

Here is a recipe I tried the other night. The Rowlands were my guina pigs. Not only was it a hit, but it was uber-easy too. Loooove easy and tasty recipes! Recipe from Family Circle Magazine

Creamy Spinach Ricotta Pasta:

makes 8 servings
prep 20 min.
bake at 425 for 25 min.

1 lb. rigatoni
1 can (15oz.) diced tomatoes

1 to 1 1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
2 to 3 cloves fresh garlic (minced)
1 cup chopped onion
1 box (10oz.) frozen chopped spinach
2 1/2 cups jarred Alfredo sauce
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/4 tsp. pepper

1/3 seasoned dry bread crumbs
*I used plain and added Italian seasoning. It's all about what I have in my cupboards!
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbs. olive oil

*Heat oven to 425. Coat 9x13 pan with nonstick cooking spray.
*Cook pasta. Drain and return to pot. Stir in tomatoes, onion, Italian seasoning, and fresh garlic.
*Cook spinach in microwave according to package directions. Squeeze out moisture. Transfer to a a bowl. Add Alfredo sauce, ricotta, and pepper. Stir.
*Transfer spinach mix to pasta pot; toss to combine. Transfer to baking dish.
*Mix together bread crumbs, Parmesan, and oil. Sprinkle over pasta and bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes. Crumb mix should be golden brown when pasta is done.

For a different variation you could add chopped, barbecued chicken. That would add a little more protein and a smokey flavor.

Maddie's Story

Yesterday while I was floating around the blogoshpere I popped onto Design Mom for a bit. For the duration of her pregnancy she has been posting readers' birthing stories. You can find them all here. I thought, "what the hell, I'll submit Maddie's birthing story." For those of you who don't know, my Maddie was not a planned pregnancy. I'm very open about it and despite the opinions of others, I feel there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Although she was a surprise (to say the least!), she was and is loved and cherished beyond measure. So here is my story:

My pregnancy happened by surprise. I was twenty-five, dating my boyfriend for a little over a year, and getting ready to finish my BA. The last thing I planned on was getting pregnant. But two little lines on a pregnancy test abruptly changed my life FOREVER. When I saw the results my heart sank, and I uttered “Oh my God…” All these thoughts came rushing at once: What do I do? My life is OVER! How do we tell our parents? We are not financially prepared for this! And then there was a thought. The thought. I could get an abortion. And yet, despite my liberal views I knew I couldn't’t do it. I knew abortion would be something I would regret my entire life. And I am so glad I chose her. Not a day goes by that I am not thankful for my daughter.
Unfortunately in the last four weeks of my pregnancy I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. My doctor prescribed total bedrest and a scheduled induction at thirty-nine weeks. At that point I was so swollen, tired, and uncomfortable bed rest seemed like a three week spa vacation!
The night before my delivery her father and I could hardly sleep. All I could think was, “Tomorrow you will meet your baby! Tomorrow you are going to have an actual human come out of your body! Holy crap! Come. out. of. my. body. ACK!”
At 6AM, November 11th, 2002 I was induced. Some parts were good (hearing the gallop of her heart beat.) Some parts were not so good (the attempts to place a catheter between her head and my uterus before I got my epidural. YOWZA!) But then I got the news from my doctor, my baby was showing signs of distress. They would have to attempt the fetal catheter again to monitor her heart rate more closely. And just as they inserted the catheter it happened. Her heart rate dropped, and continued to drop. That heart beat that I found so soothing before was now bringing me to tears. It was so slow. That gallop had turned into trot. Alarms were buzzing, people rushing into my room, my doctor yanking wires out of monitors to transfer me into the operating room for an emergency c-section, and all I could do was sob and think, “I have come too far to lose my baby!” Her father stood there in shock as a nurse shoved a smock into his hands so he could join me in the OR. My mom, a nurse, tried to soothe me words of encouragement. My dad just burst into tears.
My doctor, God bless her, stayed calm through the entire ordeal. And after what seemed like forever my new daughter was pulled out from my stomach at 1:40PM. All I could think was, “Please let me hear her scream. Please let me hear her scream. If she screams it means she’s breathing.” And scream she did! The baby that was so distressed scored a ten on her APGAR. She was healthy; she was perfect. And she was a blessing. She may not have been planned, but my little Madeleine Kay was one of the best “things” to ever happen to me. For that I am thankful. Thankful for her and thankful I didn’t make a different choice.

To summarize the ending, her father and I split two years later. We weren't right for each other. Todd and I reunited a while later (we dated in high school. Makes for a great story when people ask how we met!.) Five years, one wedding, another baby, and two dogs later here we are. Maddie's father has also remarried. They are expecting their baby this fall. He and I share 50/50 custody. For me, I am blessed that Maddie was so young when Todd and I started dating. When it came time to introduce and integrate her into our relationship we took it slooooow. But all of her memories include him. In her eyes, Toddy has always been there. I love that. There was no awkward adjustment, no fears of losing Mama to a new man. We were fortunate.
I am open with this story because I want to show people unplanned pregnancies can and do have happy endings. With my pregnancy came unimaginable responsibility, but it also came with a love and a passion for another human being that I never knew existed.

And for the record, I am still a die-hard pro-choice advocate. Just because I didn't choose abortion doesn't mean I don't approve of a woman's right to choose. I feel fortunate that I had that choice available to me. It is not only a personal decision, it is also a choice based on timing and life circumstances. I had a job, I had medical insurance, I had the support of both of our families and our friends. Not everyone is so fortunate. My choice would have been dramatically different had I been an eighteen year old, unemployed college student.
Thanks for letting me share my story and my thoughts!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Insanity of It All

This year it feels as though my life is like a runaway train of activity. We have so much going on that it is mind-boggling. I am taking four classes and my fifth begins tonight. Ugh! Seriously, what was I thinking?!?! Granted these are digital media and photography classes. Therefore they carry less academic weight. But that just means I have to take more classes to officially qualify as a part time student. It feels as if I am constantly juggling a variety of tasks. Schoolwork, housework, childcare, dog care, and, oh yeah...I think I have a husband in the mix of all that! Suffice to say, between my education and Maddie's I am eagerly anticipating summer vacation.
Speaking of the kids, they are doing great. Maddie just got her report card and scored some awesome grades. Such good news!! As a mom, few things make you feel as good as knowing your child is doing well in school, both academically and socially. She struggled for a while there, completing her classwork on time. But after a few changes in her diet and with our home routine, she is now working hard in class. This year Maddie told us she wanted to participate in the science fair. After some deliberation she chose volcanoes as the focus of her project. Together we built a volcano (lots of great links out there on the web!) and then studied the three different types of volcanoes. Last semester's Geology class came in very handy for this project. Nice to put my education to good use. It was a lot more work than I anticipated! I now know why people groan when they hear the words "science project"!
Lucas turned one a couple on months ago. He is such a charmer! Everywhere we go people just ooh and aah over him. He then seals the deal by flashing a smile and those darling dimples, and then they just melt. We like to say "it's a good thing he is so cute"; it compensates (somewhat) for how much trouble he gets into. He is into EVERYTHING! Constantly! The kid has a plethora of toys, but why play with them when there are so many forbidden objects around the house (ie. frames, books, magazines, the cable box, cabinets, remote controls). His walking is slowly progressing into running and his vocabulary is growing. Not surprising he has learned the word "no" already. And the temper... Hell hath no fury like Lucas when he can't have his way. The flailing. The arching. The screaming. Oh my! I shudder to think of what year two brings! Todd and I have an adults only vacation planned this fall with our good friends Ryan and Jamie. I think that may just be our saving grace this year :)! A little escape to Maui should do us some good. A week of drinking, relaxing, and drinking some more will be a welcome respite. I can't wait! Aaahhh....Hawaii....
We bought a new tent trailer last month. Todd really wanted it for our trip to Yellowstone. The thought of sleeping on the ground (on an air mattress, I can't rough it that much!) did not appeal to him. Therefore the tent trailer seemed to be a good option. Still rustic, yet we are off of the ground. Plus it will make future camping trips a lot easier. Now all we have to do is pack food and clothes. I can't wait to try it out!!!