Cooking And An Ode To The Toaster Oven

With the heat being what it is, and our AC still barely limping along, that whole cooking thing? SO.NOT.HAPPENING.

Hubbs wants pasta for dinner? HAHAHA. I am NOT standing in front of a stove and cooking pasta in this heat. Tough luck, pal. You’re getting burgers cooked outside on the grill. But that was last night. Tonight, I’m actually thinking ahead. There IS one tool in the kitchen that you can use to cook things without heating up the entire house: the toaster oven

My favorite aunt introduced me to the toaster oven. It was originally a wedding gift that sat nearly unused for a year. Until I stopped by one day when she was cooking dinner for my uncle and herself. She blew my mind that afternoon. Two chicken breasts were BAKING in the toaster oven. In the same pan, she was roasting cherry tomatoes. She microwaved asparagus right before serving.

People, I had no idea such things were possible. This never occurred to me. But the logic is completely sound: She uses the toaster oven almost every day. It doesn’t heat up the house like the oven, and its FAST.

Since then, I’ve taken her advice to heart. I’ve used the toaster oven to:

  • Roast butternut squash for baby food;
  • Reheat eggrolls so they retain their crispiness;
  • Reheat fried chicken for the same reason;
  • Make chicken cordon bleu;
  • Roast chicken breasts.

And this is where my idea for dinner came from: Chicken Salad Sandwiches. Its easy to make, and excellent in hot weather. Plus — I can make part of it ahead of time and throw it together at the last minute. Did I mention it was easy?

My version is a bastardized version of an Ina Garten recipe. Here is the original recipe, courtesy of http://www.foodnetwork.com:

Ingredients

  • 4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup good mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1 cup small-diced celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 cup green grapes, cut in 1/2

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts, skin side up, on a sheet pan and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside until cool.

When the chicken is cool, remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin and bones. Cut the chicken into a 3/4-inch dice. Place the chicken in a bowl; add the mayonnaise, tarragon leaves, celery, grapes, 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and toss well.

____________________________

A few things: Hubbs HATES celery. So that’s out. And I prefer red seedless grapes, because I like the sweetness (and the pop of color). So those are two changes I’ve made. I’m also positive that I use less salt — although I don’t measure. Here’s how I do it:

1. Put 1 pkg of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts in pan that will fit into the toaster oven (usually 3-4 pieces). Rub with olive oil and top with generous amount of fresh-ground sea salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees in toaster oven for 50 minutes. Let cool, then pull skins off and pull meat from the bones. I cut it into bite-sized pieces and put in a big mixing bowl. (At this point, you can put chicken in fridge to make later, but honestly? This is bomb when its still slightly warm.)

2. Use 1 large stem or 2 small stems of grapes and cut in half. Here’s a hint to make it go faster: Get two tupperware tops. Turn one tupperware top upside down (so grooves are facing ceiling). Fill with grapes. Put second tupperware top on top of grapes (also upside down). Take a sharp knife and cut between the two tupperware tops. SO. MUCH. FASTER. Add to chicken. (I needed to do this 3x to get all the grapes cut.)

3. Pull the leaves from the tarragon stems (like you’re using thyme) and chop coarsely. I eyeball it to taste. Tarragon has a slight licorice flavor. Now I HATE licorice — but I like tarragon. So if you’re on the fence, give it a try. Add to chicken and grapes.

4. Take a big spoon. Add about 1 scoop of mayo to the chicken. Mix well. If you like more mayo, add it. (I added about 1TBSP extra after taking this picture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

And here’s the finished product:

Service:
I’ve served this several ways: In sandwiches with spinach leaves; in lettuce cups (butter lettuce works very well); and served as-is on a plate with whole-wheat crackers.

The best part: Leftovers. The Hubbs and I fight over them. I should really remember to just double the recipe to cut down on the fighting/tupperware hiding.

Here’s to cooking … without really cooking!

Melting

So … our 1-year-old AC is only sort-of working. A tech came out yesterday to do a band-aid fix so we wouldn’t die in the heat.

Did I mention its 98 degrees out here today?

I spent at least 2 hours on the phone — spaced out during the course of the day — with the repair people trying to sort out: 1. How freaking long it will take them to get here; 2. What it will cost me, if anything because its only ONE FREAKING YEAR OLD; and 3. Who am I freaking supposed to be talking to?

In a word, I am HOSED.

So far, they’ve suggested that it will cost $1k to fix the issue of a new coil and a broken drain pan. (That’s part costs and $95/hour labor.) I’ve suggested that my butt mysteriously hurts now. And my wallet is missing. WTF. I just gave these highway robbers $5k a year ago to install the dang thing.

So they’ve got some “comfort adviser” coming over here tomorrow — sans charge — to check things out. NOT TO FIX ANYTHING, mind you. I wonder if he’ll have advice for my sore backside.

I was so pissed off after getting off the phone, I wrote them a letter on their Web site. I gave them people’s names. I gave them dates. I used words like: shocking, unacceptable, disappointed, robbery, and said I was VERY disappointed in my experience. I’ll see if my theory holds water: Complaints in writing get you farther than blowing hot air into the phone. People on the phone give you the runaround (such as my all-day experience today). I’ll see what the next few days yield.

In the meantime, I’m stuck telecommuting the next few days. I’ve got the AC running in a vain attempt to get the house below 80 degrees, and all the fans pointed directly at me while I cuss and curse the AC people.

But at least I’m nice to them on the phone. I let them know I’m not happy and annoyed, but I’m nice.

For today at least.

I Am A Biter.

I’ve been inspired by my friend over at Musings Of A Madwoman (http://www.zeromusings.com): LISTS. Oh man, this is so much easier than an entire post on one topic!

So here’s my random thoughts for the week:

  1. It’s Friday morning and I’m EXHAUSTED. Why is that? The Monkey is finally sleeping through the night!
  2. Oh, maybe its that pregnant thing.
  3. You know, cause its getting impossible to get comfortable at night.
  4. I have bug bites all over my legs.
  5. I’m allergic to bug bites. If I itch them, they swell up into these giant, uncomfortable blister-things.
  6. The Hubbs has ZERO bug bites on him.
  7. Why don’t the bugs like him too?
  8. I telecommuted for two days this week.
  9. Nothing beats working in your PJs.
  10. Except not working.
  11. We’re going to a housewarming party this weekend.
  12. We’re bringing gin, tonic water, and limes.
  13. And I can’t have any.
  14. The party starts at noon.
  15. We’re not sure when it ends.
  16. Which means I need to pack enough food for the Monkey to have both lunch and dinner.
  17. And his portable high chair.
  18. And enough milk for 2 naps.
  19. And the pack-and-play.
  20. Not that he’ll sleep.
  21. Because the Hubbs and his friends will be drinking and living it up.
  22. While I’m dead sober.
  23. And tired.
  24. But hope springs eternal, right?
  25. Maybe I’ll bring the stroller too — in case the kid gets antsy and we need to go outdoors.
  26. Which means I’ll need a hat and sunscreen for the both of us.
  27. Yes, I am THAT mother — the one that overpacks for everything.
  28. However, if you’re ever stranded in the middle of nowhere? You want to be with me. Cause I have rope, flares, a multi-tool, duct tape, thermal blankets, a bombastic first-aid kit, and water purification tablets (among many other things) in my emergency car kit.
  29. No joke.
  30. I also have a “baby” emergency car kit. It has diapers, formula, wipes, a binky, and a spare set of clothes.
  31. Which reminds me — the Monkey is too big for the clothes in his emergency kit. Time to replace them.
  32. Or leave them as a spare set for The Deuce.
  33. We got our double stroller in the mail this week.
  34. Well, its a single stroller that converts to a double stroller.
  35. The Monkey demanded we take it on a test drive to the park when he saw it in the living room.
  36. It handled off-roading quite well.
  37. It also folds easily.
  38. And is red.
  39. Because having two noisy kids won’t draw ENOUGH attention to us.
  40. I finally watched the Masterpiece Theater “Emma” movie that I DVR-ed back in January.
  41. And pretty much cried 2x during each of the three segments.
  42. Then I turned it on again when vegging on the couch with the Hubbs.
  43. Not as romantic/sad when he’s watching it with me.
  44. His commentary + asking where the sex scenes are = mood killer.
  45. But I love him anyway.
  46. And he didn’t complain about watching it.
  47. Unless you count rolling your eyes.
  48. And drinking copious amounts of gin and tonics.
  49. While rubbing my back.
  50. That was pretty much the best part of the day.

And I think that’s quite enough. Have a good weekend, all!

An Unmotivated Blob & Random Happenings

That would be me. Unmotivated. The only things that get me motivated these days are: playing with the Monkey, sleeping, and … that’s about it.

Case in point: When I was pregnant with the Monkey, we religiously took monthly belly photos. Well, I’m four months in with The Deuce and we have taken 0 belly photos. Zip. Zilch. I usually think about it around 11 p.m., when I’m even more haggard looking than usual with bags under my eyes and zit creme dotted on my face. Because during this pregnancy, my skin has decided that it hates me. Thus I have skin that is worse now than when I was going through puberty. It isn’t pretty people.

Another reason to stay under the radar recently: The Monkey caught a stomach bug two weeks ago — complete with vomit — and the Hubbs had to take him to the doctor and care for him all day. I’m not sure who was more exhausted that night, him or the Monkey.

Also, I’m notoriously bad about blogging when I’m at home. And that’s where I was all last week. I essentially hide out. Its like my safe place. I unplug and barely check e-mail. Unfortunately I wasn’t on vacation — I was telecommuting all week. Because our day care providers were in Maui (the nerve!).

So I put Plan B into effect: I called my 23-year-old brother. Yes. You read that correctly. My brother is my back-up babysitter. And you know what? He’s flipping fabulous at it. Also, the Monkey WORSHIPS him. In fact, if me, Hubbs, and the Bro were standing next to each other? I’m honestly not sure who the Monkey would go to. (Unless he was tired, then it’s all me, baby.) But seriously, its a toss-up. He LOVES his uncle — always has. As an infant, he would get this goofy grin with my Bro walked in. But now? There are squeals of delight. He practically falls into the Bro’s arms so he can be gently tossed into the air before being enveloped in a bear hug. He wraps his arms around the Bro’s knees for random hugs. He’ll lean against his shoulder in a chair, or use him as a back-rest during Sesame Street.

Bottom line: They are buds.

Each day last week, the Monkey would demand to go see his uncle before letting me give him a clean diaper. It was THAT exciting for him. Then he’s get all excited and stomp his feet (cause that’s how he shows excitement.) To wake the Bro up? He’d pick up one of the MANY bouncy balls in the house and throw it at the Bro’s face/body. No black eyes were given, but I’d imagine it isn’t the best way to wake up. But after the Bro opened his eyes? He’d see a 14-month old running toward him with open arms, then receive a gentle forehead-touch and hugs.

So last week, my role was diminished to dresser/diaper changer/food giver. While I toiled at work from the couch, the two of them chased each other around the house, went to the park, raced around the house in toy cars, threw balls all over the place, and generally had a great time.

Each day, the Bro napped when the Monkey napped. Each night, after I put the Monkey to bed around 7:30, the Bro would collapse onto the couch. Internet? I think that week was the BEST form of birth control that you’ve ever seen. To my parents: You’re welcome.

But aside from being my live-in nanny for a week, the Bro would help me cook dinner (when he wasn’t running around after a small child), and then would help do the dishes. He’d run the vacuum around the carpet to pick up all the stray bits of cracker and cookies left behind. If I’d asked, he probably would have attempted to do the laundry.

It was HEAVEN. I had tons of help, the Monkey was happy and worn out each night, and I was getting to spend a ton of time with my Bro. I just felt sorry for Hubbs sometimes, because I think he would feel left out when we’d get on “remember when” kicks. Or played zombie games. Cause we’re geeks.

In the end, I offered him the highly coveted (ahem) position of live-in nanny. Then I asked how he felt about taking care of an 18-month old and a newborn at the same time.

I think his eye twitched.

But he said he’d still be my backup. As long as I was home, backing him up. I can do that.

Wherein I Start A Therapy Savings Account

In 15 years, when the Monkey demands to go to therapy, he will show this post as his reason for needing it. And I won’t blame him.

Disclaimer: This post is about POOP. You’ve been warned.

So … now that I’ve got the savings account set up, I can tell you about poop. And how traumatizing it can be. Seriously.

Now that the Monkey is on 100% solid food, and is drinking cow’s milk, he’s been having some … problems … with what we call “gick-see” or hard poops. And they’re sneaky like ninjas, these gick-sees. The Monkey will be minding his own business, walking around and playing with a ball when all of a sudden, the ball falls to the floor and you can see EVERY.SINGLE.MUSCLE in the Monkey’s little body clench. His face turns bright red. He starts to sweat. His toes curl. And then he screams.

When I come running into the room (this weekend, he was playing with Hubbs each time it happened), He turns his little tear-streaked face to me and puts his arms up. “Mama … mama … mama …. NAAAAUUUGGGHHHH!”

In case you didn’t know, NOTHING is worse than hearing your kid scream in pain. I’ll take him into his room, and try to get him to squat — but his little legs just push him straight up. So I’ll lay him down, and pump his little knees to his chest to try to help. When he finally worked it out, his little butt was bleeding.

And that’s after more than a week of modifying his diet to have less milk/dairy, more fibrous foods. (I had looked up — in one of my many books — on how to treat this sort of thing, and the No.1 suggestion was dietary change. So instead of heading to the doctor only to be told to modify his diet and to come back if he had issues, I tried to be proactive.) Didn’t work so well.

For the record: The Monkey doesn’t care for juice. I’ve tried apple juice, prune juice, and orange mango and pineapple juice. I’ve cut them in half with water. I’ve made it 75% water, 25% juice. And no deal. The Monkey prefers his water straight and chilled, thankyouverymuch. If you mess with it, you’re likely to see a sippy cup thrown across the room, dropped off a high chair, or left hidden behind a toy.

I’ve also tried to feed him prunes and fresh plums. He’ll only eat the plums when they’re pureed with oatmeal. Prunes are a serious no-go, complete with scrunched nose and a turning of the head.

I’ve also tried bran muffins and whole wheat toast. (Have you ever had to dodge a bran muffin at 7 a.m.? No? Well then you’ve never lived!)
Here’s what the doctor had to say this morning:

1. This is actually quite common in toddlers, so don’t panic.
2. The Monkey should now drink 2% milk, not whole milk, since his weight gain has been fine.
3. Instead of being allowed 24 oz of milk a day, he can only have 18 oz a day. (He only gets milk when he goes down for naps.)
4. We are to mix in 1 heaping tablespoon of MINERAL OIL into either his water or milk 2x a day, which should help coat things and soften them up.
5. For the next two weeks, we need to coat his little bottom with neosporin 3x a day.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Oh, and I’ll gladly accept donations for his future therapy bills.

Unofficial Pregnancy Etiquette

Things you can do to prevent a pregnant woman from fantasizing about killing you — or from snapping your head off in a raging preggy fury:

  1. Do not wear perfume/cologne. I know you think you smell nice, but it literally chokes me. If you absolutely must wear perfume, for the love of all that is holy — don’t pick something floral. Stick to fruit-based scents. (And if you’re on BART with me, I will totally get out of my seat and move somewhere else to get away from the smell.)
  2. Do not touch the belly without first asking (and receiving) permission. Only my grandmother, husband, and son are allowed to run up and rub the pooch without losing a hand.
  3. Please, at least attempt to look at my face while we’re talking.
  4. If you see me drinking a soda or a cup of coffee, don’t tell me that I’m putting my baby at risk and that I’ll have a miscarriage because of the caffeine. Have you been with me to my doctor’s appointments? Are you an OBGYN? No? Well then, shut the eff up!
  5. If I happen to be sipping a wee bit of red wine? Same answer as above. Mind your own business. (For the record, one glass of wine will not hurt the baby. In fact, if momma is very stressed out, sometimes the doctors actually recommend it. Just don’t be drinking a bottle of it.)
  6. If a preggy woman is dumb enough to share her chosen name(s) for the baby with you, the ONLY correct answer is: “That is lovely. I’m so happy for you.” (Even if the name is hideous.)
  7. Also, if you ask what the name is and said preggy woman says “We aren’t going to decide until we see the baby and we’re keeping the list under wraps.” Guess what? She’s not going to tell you! If you keep asking (ahem, Mom), she’ll tell you fake names. Here are a few I used on her last time (apologies to anyone who knows someone with these names): Cletus, BillyBob, Rudolph, Starshine-Rainbow, Magenta, Purple, Barney, Moonbeam, RoyRoy McMann, and Monkey. (No really, I told her once that we were actually going to name our son Monkey, and that we were torn between “Man” and “Moo” for middle names.)
  8. Bringing smelly, fried food in a container with you in an enclosed space may just get you thrown off the train.
  9. If you eat lunch in your office, close the door (if you have one). Nothing is worse than the mingling of smells at lunch time.
  10. If you’re not sure if someone is pregnant? Don’t ask. Really. If she’s not, then you’ve just told someone she looks fat. (Or if she really is pregnant, she may just be screwing with you.)
  11. Don’t ask how much weight a woman has gained during her pregnancy. The one caveat: Another preggy worried about her own weight gain can ask another preggy about it for advice.
  12. After hearing when the baby’s due date is, refrain from the following comments: “Really? You’re so huge I never would have guessed!” Or “Wow! You’re so big, you must be having twins!” In fact, just strike the word “huge” from your vocabulary.
  13. Note to old, skeezy men on BART: I know you’re staring at my boobs. Yes, they are bigger than they were the last time you leered at me. You can stop looking now. Or I’ll raise my eyebrow at you while making a disgusted sound/face and stare back until you look away.
  14. Note No. 2 to old, skeezy men on BART: Why are you hitting on me? Really? I’m freaking knocked up. I’m the size of a small planet, and my balance is crap. I can’t lay on my back at night. I sleep with a pillow between my knees. I’ve got gas that could empty a frat house during the drunken revelry that is Greek Week. Go away. So help me, if you even think about touching me, I’m going to be mailing that hand back to you in little pieces.
  15. Note to the young kid on BART sitting in the disabled spot: If I can stand up (at 8 months pregnant) for an elderly person with a walker during rush-hour traffic, so can you. Get off your ass.
  16. After finding out someone is pregnant, do not call her every day to ask what is happening with the baby (ahem, MOTHER). Because you’ll get the same answer: “Same as yesterday, I’m fat, my back hurts, and no — I haven’t felt the baby move yet. (pause) Why? Because its still too small. You went through this twice, didn’t you?” Also note, the tone of that answer will get more annoyed as time goes on, until we either have to have one of our throw-down, come to Jesus talks or I call in the big guns — Dad — and tell him you’re driving me insane, while threatening to change all my phone numbers and move to Nebraska. (Why Nebraska? Because its far away and its unlikely that you’ll get a nonstop flight. THAT’S WHY.)

I’m sure all of you would never do any of the above. But I swear, people lose their filters when looking/talking to pregnant women. You wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve heard.

Nesting For Two

Luckily, I’m not so far removed from having a baby that I don’t remember certain things — like what crib brands I consider acceptable and what brands I wouldn’t let my cat use as a litter box. Seriously. So having that initial body of knowledge has been extra helpful this time around. So has having gone through this before, so I still have things like a breast pump, swaddlers, and maternity clothes (hallelujah!). Being that this isn’t our first rodeo, we’ve also taken a hard look at our finances and have been doing thing differently.

Very differently.

The Monkey will still be using his crib when the Peanut comes — whether in crib or toddler bed form remains to be seen. So we had to buy a new crib. We found an amazing deal on Craigslist for a Pazzi brand crib — which is very high up on my “good” brand list. Its barely used, and has never had a recall. Its also in fabulous shape. We got it for 1/4 the amount we spent on the Monkey’s Ragazzi convertible crib. We also purchased the Peanut’s dresser on Craigslist, which will also serve as the changing table, and the Hubbs drove an hour and a half each way to get it. Why? Because I’m persnickety about the condition/brand of nursery furniture. And he OFFERED to do it. I didn’t ask him to — I thought that would be too much. Especially after what happened with the first one.

Yes, I said it: There was another dresser. The dresser that we do not speak of. The Hubbs bought another dresser/changing table off Craigslist for $70. It was in a not-so-well lit room when he looked at it. The owner sent us a picture, that I looked at on the Hubbs’ Touch and OK’d it. (It was taken in said dark room, and the Touch has a small viewing screen.) He actually looked guilty when he brought it home. Because in the light of day, its hideous. The people obviously had a dog that had gnawed on the sides of it. It was scratched to high heaven. The drawers wobbled. And to top it off: It was an ugly, poop shade of oak.

I couldn’t stop looking at it. And I was TRYING to be nice. But I guess I couldn’t hide the look on my face: the look of absolute horror and disgust. Our conversation went something like this:

Hubbs: “You hate it.”
Me: “I didn’t say anything.”
Hubbs: “You hate it.”
Me: “I … I just need some time to … adjust to it.”
Hubbs: “You HATE it.”
Me. “Did they have a dog? What’s this all over the side?”
Hubbs: “Yes, they have a dog. Do you hate it or what?”
Me: “I’m sorry … Its just … I mean … Well … YES. I hate it. And that’s putting it nicely.”

The fate of the first, ugly dresser will be to live in the garage as a storage area for the Hubbs’ tools.

I’ve also compromised on the Peanut’s closet. The Monkey got an Elfa storage system, which can be infinitely changed and modified to fit his needs. On the left side of his closet is two shelves and double bars. On the right side is a row of six pull-out drawers. When he’s older, those drawers can be used to store clothes, shoes, dirty magazines, whatever. Right now, they hold toys, blankets, and things he needs to grow into. Seriously, this closet is a DREAM. For the Peanut, we’re putting in stacking shelves on the left side of the closet, and an adjustable rod to make the right side a double-hang closet. If the Peanut is a boy, I’m sure he’ll be just fine and won’t care. If the Peanut is a girl, she can beg Daddy to buy her a tricked-out Elfa closet when she’s a teenager. (And then ask Mommy to install it, cause I’m the official installer/builder in the relationship.)

In terms of research, I’ve invested countless hours into double strollers. It has been quite frustrating: At first, I thought we’d want a side-by-side. But that makes navigating places like shopping malls and stores difficult. So we decided we definitely wanted an in-line double stroller. But the “normal” ones by brands such as Graco, have the handling of a 1979 station wagon and I practically needed a running start and a bicep training program just to get them going. But the kicker was that the Monkey at 12 months only had about an inch of headroom left. No way was he going to fit at 18 months — and he’s only in the 25th percentile for height at his age. (Meaning he’s taller than 25% of kids his age — and conversely, that 75% of kids his age are taller.)

So we started looking at “luxury” strollers. Which obviously command a LUXURY price, damn them.

We eventually narrowed it down to three choices: The UppaBaby Vista, the iCandy Pear, and the Baby Jogger City Select. As for our selection, testing things personally was our No. 1 factor in deciding which stroller to get. But the blog, Rated By Mom, which has VIDEO reviews/demos was insanely helpful in targeting which stroller would be good before going to the store to kick the tires.

So here’s my fast review of the strollers

  1. UppaBaby Vista: It’s actually a single stroller that you add a “Rumble seat” to. The seat attaches to the frame of the stroller. You can also add a standing board to the back (between stroller and mom) for older children, meaning you can actually have 3 kids in this stroller at one time (egads!). The pros: the stroller remains light. The cons: The kid in the rumble seat can only face toward mom, the seat is only good up to 35 pounds, and the lower kid’s feet rest in the basket. It looks like having to ride b!tch in the car. Except you get no view. As the Monkey loves to look around, this one was toast, despite having the option of the stand/sit board later on.
  2. iCandy Pear: A new British import, this stroller can handle grass, gravel, and dirt — which means we could take it to our local park. The pros: Handles like a dream, all terrain, freaking gorgeous, lots of positions for the kids to sit, adjustable handle bar, seats support 45 and 55 pounds. The cons: Price — it is the most expensive of all three strollers — its a bit heavy (but what double stroller isn’t) and you have to remove BOTH stroller seats before folding. Imagine doing that in the rain. Yeah. That little tidbit killed it for me.
  3. Baby Jogger City Select: This is also a single stroller. But it has the capacity to add another full-size seat to it and has 16 different configurations you can use. The pros: Did I mention the 16 different configurations available on this stroller? It also handles REALLY well, its all terrain, it looks fab, it can fold with both seats still attached, has an adjustable handle bar, ginormous under-seat storage, each seat supports 45 pounds, the Monkey has PLENTY of head room thanks to the adjustable shade canopy, and when the Monkey is too big for a stroller, it can convert back to a single. The cons: We already have 2 single strollers, so that nifty trick is moot. Also, its heavy with both seats, but then again, what double stroller isn’t?

(The above picture is the baby jogger city select, by the way.) For all those preggy mommies out there and potential mommies, here’s my advice: Buy a stroller that has OPTIONS to become double strollers. Bigger up-front cost, but it’ll save you hundreds (HUNDREDS) in the long-run. 

In terms of decorating the nursery, the Hubbs has put his dainty foot down and declared that we will NOT be painting. Absolutely not, woman. NO FREAKING PAINTING. So the current wall color is a light shade of gray with a hint of purple to it. It works for both a boy and a girl. If its a girl, I’d love to paint one wall violet, but being that we’ve got a no-painting order, I’ve hatched a brilliant plan: stickers. Excuse me, wall decals. They range in price — from the affordable to the ridiculous — but they’ll give the room a little something without me having to paint the walls.

Here are some examples of designs I’m coveting: (images from Dali decals and blik Web sites)

I like the versatility of the circles/bubbles. If I chose this one, I’d cascade them up and out with a flourish, like someone was actually blowing bubbles from behind the crib or changing table. You can also customize the color — so for a boy, I’d do white, dark gray, and a shade of blue; for a girl: white, lavender, and a dark purple.

I love the whimsy behind this one: Who HASN’T done this? Although I would only use this one for a girl. And it would need to be a color aside from white, so it pops against the paint.

Another girl-only design. I love the pops of color. The artist says they’re mums, but they look like exploding firecrackers to me. And I like the colors shown here.

I admit it — this one is kind of my favorite. Its so whimsical, and the idea of a monkey catching a flying elephant on a trapeze is just hilarious. Especially when they’re doing their high-flying act above the crib.