Thursday, July 30, 2015

Extreme Oreo Brownies

We started a diet this week in our house. So naturally, we needed to go out with a bang over the weekend with one last big calorie splurge. Since dessert, especially ones loaded with cookies, frosting, brownies and chocolate syrup, are definitely not permitted in our diet, I thought Extreme Oreo Brownies would be the perfect indulgence.

I originally got this recipe idea after our good friends dropped off dinner and dessert to us earlier last week. Accompanying our tasty dinner were the most amazing Oreo brownies that my friend picked up from the pastry case at Harris Teeter. They were so ridiculously delicious that Matt and I polished them all off after dinner.

A few days later I had a craving for them again so I began a recipe search and found a similar recipe that I tweaked a bit to create Extreme Oreo Brownies...
These brownies really are extreme...extremely tasty! There's a fudgy layer, an oreo layer a fluffy layer and more.
Extreme Oreo Brownies
For the Brownies:

1 box favorite fudgy brownie mix + ingredients on back of box
15 Oreo cookies
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the Fluffy White Frosting:

8 tablespoons vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup marshmallow creme (such as Fluff)
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
2 cups (or more) quartered Oreo Cookies

For the Topping:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons very hot water

Make the brownies: follow the directions on back of brownie box, adding in 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread until even. Place 15 Oreos evenly on top and press down lightly to cover with the batter. Bake according to boxed recipe, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool to room temperature on the counter, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Make the frosting: beat shortening and butter in a mixer. Mix in marshmallow creme and vanilla extract. Slowly mix in powdered sugar. Spread frosting evenly over top of the brownies. Top evenly with quartered Oreos.
Make the topping: melt the butter and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Turn off the heat and stir in the chocolate chips, then stir in the water to thin. Drizzle over the top of the frosting. Chill the frosted brownies for at least 1 hour until the frosting and topping sets. Remove from pan and slice into bars. 

Yield: 24-36 bars


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Top Shows to Binge Watch

Scary Mommy recently published the article The 20 Best Shows for New Moms to Binge Watch and the timing couldn't have been more perfect. These days I spend a lot of time on the couch feeding the little man or letting him nap on me so I've been filling my Netflix queue (what did we ever do before Netflix?!) with recommendations from friends.
During my maternity leave with Caroline I re-watched The Office from start to finish and loved it because I didn't have to think too hard or follow too closely and the episodes were short (and ridiculously funny). This time around I've been binge watching Parenthood and am addicted. It is so, so, so good and although I'm only on season 4 I am already angry that season 6 is not available on Netflix yet. Soooo, once I finish this series I am going to need a new show to replace it!

According to the article, the top 20 shows are listed below:
7. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
8. Weeds
14. *Friends
18. 30 Rock
19. Modern Family
20. *Buffy the Vampire Slayer  

*previously watched

If I had to add my own recommendations to this list I would also include...

1. Lost
2. Bloodline
4. Suits
6. Naked & Afraid
7. Breaking Bad 

So my question for you all is...which series should I binge watch next?! I can't decide! There are so many shows that I haven't seen before but part of me would also love to stroll down memory lane with Gilmore Girls or Buffy! 



Friday, July 24, 2015

8 Favorite Things in my Kitchen

I am always looking for the next kitchen tool, gadget or supply to make cooking a little easier. Over the years I've definitely accumulated a few "must haves" around the kitchen. Today I'll share 8 of my most favorite items (in no particular order)...

1. Rachael Ray Lazy Utensils: My mom gave me this lazy 2 piece set about 5 years ago for Christmas and I cannot even count the amount of times per week I use these clever cooking utensils. The silicone tools are designed with a notch to rest on the edge of your pot or pan to prevent drips and splatters on your countertop. You can also find the Lazy Spatula, Lazy Tongs, Lazy Slotted Spoons and other Lazy products in a variety of colors! 
2. MISTO Olive Oil Sprayer: No matter how careful I am I consistently overpour olive oil. My worst offense is usually when roasting vegetables. I miss some veggies completely and find little puddles of oil in random areas of the pan. The MISTO produces an even, pure mist and I love that I can fill the reusable mister bottle with my favorite oils, vinegars, lemon and limes juices. Not only does this mister make my meals a tad bit healthier, I have seen a significant savings too since I'm use far less olive oil than I used to. You can purchase a MISTO sprayer here or a set of two here. Or, if you're really patient you can usually find one cheaper at Marshalls or Homegoods.
3. BonJour Primo Latte Frother: I absolutely cannot make coffee at home without using this amazing frother gadget. Within just a few seconds I can whip up a delicious cappuccino or latte in the morning (for a lot less than a Starbucks latte)! This is also one of those gadgets that I find myself purchasing as a gift for the coffee lovers in my life!
4. KitchenAid Stand Mixer: We have the classic, basic version of this mixer and it's easily the most used item in our kitchen. The basic version comes with a 4.5 qt bowl which can be a tad bit small for some recipes so I recommend also picking up a 6 qt bowl if you use your mixer a ton.

5. Silver Dollar Pancake Pan: Four years later, this wedding registry item is still my number one favorite gift we received. With two pancake lovers in our house (Caroline and Matt), I use this pan almost every single weekend to cook up perfect silver dollar sized pancakes. Easy to use, easy to clean, easily the best pan in my collection. Our pan is from Crate and Barrel but you can also find it for the same price with free shipping here. There are also all sorts of themed versions (animals, holiday, smiley faces, bugs, monsters, etc.) of this pan here.

6. Parsley Plus All Purpose Cleaner: I have blogged about my love for Parsley Plus before here. I was addicted to the earth friendly product then and my addiction is still going strong years later. Parsley Plus All Purpose Cleaner makes your kitchen smell like a freshly planted an herb garden. I will never go back to toxic smelling cleaners especially with little ones now. You can use this cleaner pretty much on any surface - stone, hardwoods, linoleum, chrome, stainless steel, wood, bathroom, etc. You can purchase a bottle for $4 here, but if you become addicted like me you'll save a lot of money by purchasing 4 gallons at a time here (I split this bulk order with a friend). I know 4 gallons sounds insane, but I've been using this spray multiple times a day for almost 3 years now so bulk ordering is essential!

7. Electric Wine Opener: Not sure this one even needs an explanation. Another wedding gift we love and have gotten so much use out of over the years. With one charge this wine opener can remove up to 80 corks, includes a foil cutter that stores in the charging base and comes with a vacuum sealer.

8.  Silicone Muffin Tin: This full-sized muffin pan is my newest piece of bakeware and I don't know why it took me so long to buy one of these! It's 100% silicone so it doesn't rust, is non-stick and easy to clean. I've used this pan for so many recipes from cupcakes to egg poppers and so much more


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Surviving Double Little Persons

We officially survived the first week as a family of four and Matt returned to work yesterday. By day it's been absolutely wonderful, by night it's been exhausting and terrible. Even though we just did this 14 months ago, I think I blocked out how awful the first few weeks are at night time. However, the moments that all four of us are snuggled up asleep together in our shrinking king sized bed, my mama heart could burst and the hard times are trumped a thousand times over with happiness. My life has never felt more full.
The best part:
Now that Thomas has officially joined our family outside of my uterus we have been in euphoria (combined with delirium) to have the whole family together after a long 9 months. I wasn't sure I could love another baby as much as I love Caroline but the second Thomas was placed in my arms at the hospital we were immediately fused at the heart. It wasn't until that moment that I realized my love is exponential and cannot be contained. In an instant I learned my heart was made to expand over and over and over.

We returned home from the hospital Sunday afternoon, kept Caroline home from daycare on Monday so she could spend time with her new brother and resumed her normal schedule on Tuesday. So most of last week it was just Thomas, Matt and me...and it was amazing. We would take turns letting Thomas nap on our chests and overall he is super easy to care for - eat, sleep, diaper change, repeat. We also took full advantage of having one sleepy babe and patio hopped at our favorite lunch spots (Bad Daddy's, Room 112, Pizza Peel and Tupelo Honey), binge watched Parenthood and enjoyed many uninterrupted conversations. Thomas is a totally different baby than Caroline. Or maybe I'm just less stressed this time around? Regardless, he is a great baby, rarely cries, rides peacefully in his car seat, doesn't mind all of the pink hand-me-downs and is super laid back. He takes head pats, sloppy kisses, eye pokes and aggressive hugs from his big sis like a champ too.
The worst part - night time: 
The absolute worst part. And I am a huge baby when it comes to sleep deprivation. Nights straight up suck right now and I am counting down the days to begin sleep training. Since bringing Thomas home from the hospital, I have learned that his most peaceful 16-18 hours of sleep are during my waking hours of course. By 10 pm he's wide-eyed, staring at me like the cutest little stalker and the second I even consider dozing off he holds my sweet dreams hostage...grunting, squirming and filling his diaper. Oh, and I cannot even begin to describe my SIDS paranoia this time around. Until his umbilical cord falls off we've had a hard time using the Snuza correctly and so we've had several false alarms. If he wasn't up every 1.5 hours to feed we would have already transitioned him to the crib. But we certainly cannot risk that grenade going off in the nursery and having two babies up all night at this point. So in the meantime, with every noise he makes I blast the light on and practically dislodge our mattress from sprinting out of bed to the rock n' play to make sure he's breathing, only to wake him up and start the cycle all over again.
And for the record, yes, we've gone through our extensive collection of swaddles, pacifiers, white noise machines and every other baby sleep aid on the market. We just have to suck it up...or fork over our savings for a night nurse (in my wildest dreams). I keep telling myself over and over again that this is temporary and will eventually pass but damn, it's hard.

Side note - hubby shout out: I am so very lucky that Matt is a huge help and shares the load very evenly so I can get short bursts of precious, partially restorative sleep. He rocks. Seriously. I don't know what I'd do without him. After his night shift he rolls out of bed, washes bottles, gets Caroline dressed, fed and drops her off at daycare. And just like last maternity leave, on his way in to the office he stops by the house to drop off a cup of piping hot coffee to me. I know, I won the husband lottery.
The second worst part - feeding: 
Like last time, I'm not excelling in the milk factory department of motherhood. From day one our feeding schedule looks a little like this -  every 1.5 to 2 hours around the clock, breastfeed each side 20-25 minutes each, then pump (with a hospital grade rental pump) for 20 minutes, feed back the .25 - 1 ounce of pumped milk, top off with formula if Thomas is still not full. Did you do that math? That's about an HOUR worth of feeding work only to do it all over again about 30 minutes later. So yes, I hate feeding. Absolutely hate it. Dread it actually. I keep saying I'm going to throw in the towel and know that this part of motherhood will become so much more enjoyable once I actually do, but instead I find myself at reoccurring lactation consultations every other day out of mom guilt...
Navigating life with two babies is a huge adjustment. Our hands are now twice as full and we are in 100% survival mode at this point. Hats off to SAHM's with two minis. Seriously. How do you do it, super mamas? How do you chase a toddler, tackle the pile of dirty dishes, grocery shop, fold baskets of laundry, change diapers (x2), prep toddler meals, wash bottles and spend time with your new baby? We've only had a handful of days with both kids at home together and Thomas spent most of that time either in swing or in the sling while we tended to our sassy toddler. Whoever cries the loudest gets priority.
That being said, we decided to resume Caroline's normal daycare routine pretty quickly. She loves her friends, teachers and routine at school and I really want to give Thomas the same one-on-one time and undivided attention that she got to have during those first 12 weeks of life. However, the second she comes barreling through the front door she is on a mission to find her baby brother, waving and screaming "hiiiiiiii baaabyyyyyy!" over and over again until they are reunited. I love watching her give him a hug and kiss. There really is nothing more heartwarming than watching Caroline fall in love with Thomas and, though she's still in diapers herself, take on the role of big sister and protector.
The second Thomas starts crying Caroline freaks out and comes running for us.
Who? Kidding. Kind of. He's hanging in there. Still hating life although he's getting better about letting Caroline wrestle him with hugs and pats. Soon enough we'll get into a routine for daily walks again and hopefully he'll perk back up. 
Time to go pump...


Monday, July 20, 2015

A Maxed Out DVR in the Marcellino House

Big news in the Marcellino house! Last week Matt's law firm, Marcellino & Tyson, began airing commercials on the local Fox station in Charlotte. Perfect timing because we just so happened to be parked on the couch a lot last week watching terrible daytime television so we got to see these quite a bit. The first time the commercial aired I was brushing my teeth when I heard Matt's voice on the TV and froze. WHAT? I ran out of the bathroom and immediately started jumping up and down in excitement. Of course we then maxed out the DVR recording the Fox channel to capture all of the versions running throughout the day. Then, like a really obnoxious, proud wife, I also had to take a grainy video on my cell phone to blast out to my entire phone book...and Instagram...and email. So for the 2% of the population that has not seen these yet, below is the first round of Marcellino & Tyson commercials for your viewing pleasure...

Pretty awesome. I couldn't be more proud of Matt (and Bryan) for working so hard to grow the business! It's been so amazing and rewarding to see how far they've come so quickly! Congratulations, guys!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Thomas's Birth Story

I am so happy I penned Caroline's birth story last year. I must've referenced it a million times leading up to the days and hours of my labor this time around. So as soon as I got home from the hospital I knew I wanted to write Thomas's birth story in one long post before all the details got blurry! I tend to over share so feel free to skim or skip this post if "birth stories" aren't your thing...
On Wednesday, July 8 we had a routine check up with my doctor. He informed us we were 3 cm dilated and 50% effaced. With a little less than 10 days to go I was happy with that progress and had a sneaky suspicion Thomas would come about a week early all along because I swear he felt at least 9 pounds by 38 weeks. We are pretty much obsessed with our doctor, so when he told us that he'd be the one on call all weekend long we crafted an early delivery game plan which meant he would see us back on Friday morning to have my membranes stripped. Matt was on the fence about having Thomas arrive early but I emphatically agreed to the plan before he could say anything.

So Friday I worked from home before my 11 am membrane stripping. We excitedly got to the doctor's office and I was so hopeful this would work (again)! With Caroline I went into labor the night my membranes got stripped and I suspected it would all happen much faster this time around with baby #2. Everyone thought I was crazy to have elected to have my membranes stripped but I was so ready for labor that I completely forgot how incredibly painful the process is. In fact, it was the most painful part of my entire labor experience. However, once he finished the sweep the pain immediately went away. We said "see ya later" to our doctor and Matt went to court for a hearing while I went to the Ritz for a spa pedicure, ate a few (doctor approved) spicy tuna rolls, took a long shower and blow dried my hair. Around 2 pm I started having mild to moderate contractions so Matt's parents jumped in the car and headed our way to pick up Caroline and stay with us in case we were going to the hospital.

As the afternoon progressed my contractions were picking up in frequency (every 10 minutes or so), duration (~20 seconds long) and intensity (4/10 on the pain scale) so I downloaded the Full Term contraction counter app on my phone and began monitoring things in hopes we would really be having a baby that night. Everyone told me that #2 comes really fast, so while the pain was tolerable I wanted to make sure we didn't miss our epidural window. However, I didn't want to head to the hospital until after Caroline came home from daycare and I got to eat the Panera dinner that Matt's parents brought us. So around 6:30 pm I told Matt we should probably hustle so we loaded the car, said goodbye to our first baby and waddled into the hospital about 6 minutes later. At check-in the nurse asked how she could help us and I calmly told her I was in labor. She gave me a doubtful look and I immediately felt kind of dumb for not being keeled over in pain or breathing heavy. Thankfully she agreed to send me to triage...right before the 7 pm shift change at the hospital. So we waited a long time in the most uncomfortable bed ever before a nurse actually came to check on us, gave me a fancy hospital gown, hooked us up to the monitors and asked us a million questions. Still only 3 cm dilated, I hoped things would progress quickly because I was not going back home. In between contractions I was starting to doubt that this would be "it" but then 10 minutes later a ginormous contraction would hit and the false alarm concerns would disappear. After a few hours the nurse still seemed on the fence as to whether or not we should be admitted and said she'd leave it to my doctor's discretion. Fine by me because I knew he'd come to the rescue. Within a few minutes our doctor arrived to our triage room and declared we were being admitted. Hallelujah - our little membrane stripping plan had worked and we were well on our way to welcoming our second annual baby! We finally left triage at 9:17 pm and 5 cm dilated.Cue a major sigh of relief!
As soon as we got to our labor and delivery room I asked for my pre-epidural fluids because I remembered that it took forever to actually get the epidural once I asked for it with Caroline. The contractions had picked up but I was still tolerating the pain. Simultaneously they had to administer a bag of penicillin (through the biggest needle ever) since I had a UTI during my first trimester. That medication burned so badly as it went through the IV and my arm looked like a war zone with a collapsed vein and lots of blood! Anyway, at 10:15 pm I received an extremely painful epidural. I remembered it being awful with Caroline and it was even worse with Thomas. However, this time my epidural didn't make me completely numb and paralyzed so I could still move my legs, feet, toes, etc. which was perfect! At 11 pm I got checked again - 7 cm dilated. It was at this time I asked Matt for my pillow so I could get a little more comfortable. He looked terrified as he realized he had left them on the kitchen counter and immediately booked it back home to get them. He made the round trip in less than 15 minutes and arrived just as the doctor was breaking my water. 

An hour later, at 12:33 pm the nurse came to check on me and declared the baby was already on his way out so she grabbed our doctor quickly, wheeled in a cart with a ton of scary looking tools and readied the room for the baby's arrival. Within a few minutes we were ready to push and again, I asked for the mirror to watch because I'm a weirdo. I started my first push and immediately my doctor told me to stop and exclaimed I would not be pushing this baby out because he was already sliding out! So I guess I did a half push this time around. Everyone told me to look down and slowly my doctor pulled Thomas right out of me, right before my eyes. It was as if time stood still. Matt and I literally watched him quietly enter the world together and immediately he was placed on my chest after Matt proudly cut the cord. Those moments are still indescribable and were totally different than with Caroline. The connection was immediate and all I could say over and over again was "I cannot believe he is mine!" and "HE HAS HAIR!"
To all of the mamas who warned me about the connection between a mother and son, I was skeptical. I didn't think I could possibly love another baby as much as I love Caroline. But you were all so right. I haven't been able to put Thomas down since he was placed in my arms at 12:39 am on July 11. I am addicted to him in a completely different way than I was with Caroline at birth. This was truly love at first sight and doubles in intensity with each passing moment.
Thomas Dean Marcellino
6 pounds, 5 ounces
20.75 inches long 
Back to the story, as the doctor did some repair work I continued to stare at my little man in amazement...for the next two hours. The nurse wouldn't bathe him until his body temperature reached 98 degrees so I continued to snuggle, and snuggle and snuggle my gooey new baby. During this time I also fed Thomas and he latched right on like a champ. Once he was nice and warmed up, Thomas was weighed, measured, stamped, etc. I was shocked to find out he was 6 pounds, 5 ounces - a teeny little thing and 6 ounces less than Caroline. We were even more surprised to find out he was 20.75 inches long! Oh, and he looks nothing like me, Matt or Caroline. And the hair. I can't get over the hair. So yes, lots of surprises.
Before we were cleared to move to our post-partum room the nurse wanted me to get up and pee. Matt was so terrified I was going to collapse on the floor again this time but I hopped right out of bed without assistance and made my way to the potty. I couldn't believe how great I felt. Thank goodness for medicated, quick births!
Around 2:30 am (in case you were still wondering about the timing), we were moved to our post-partum room. After a long day I was beyond ready to get some sleep...but of course, for the next several hours we were interrupted for some reason or another. All I wanted to do was sleep and finally around 4:30 am we all passed out...for an hour. Then the slew of doctors, nurses, pediatrician, lactation consultants, nutrition staff and everyone else started their rounds again and we gave up on the hope we'd be well rested for the next marathon of a day.
Saturday morning I was exhausted but the pain was minimal (so different from last time) so we inquired about an early discharge and although I thought they'd make me stay until Monday, I was pleasantly surprised to find out the doctors approved it. Another sigh of relief. We were so ready to get home to Caroline, take hot showers and jump into our own bed. That afternoon Matt's parents arrived to the hospital with Caroline. My heart melted into a million pieces as she was introduced to Thomas. She was so interested in her baby brother and kept petting and hugging him. We passed Thomas off to the grandparents and took Caroline for a walk around the hospital cafeteria to spend some time with her.
We spent the rest of Saturday trying to get the hang of changing boy diapers, which requires 15 additional steps than girl diapers. We also tried to rest, consumed 5,000 calories of food, breastfed a lot, walked around a bit, watched Netflix and cuddled the little man. It was so nice to have that time with him before we got home to our circus life. However, no one warned me about the horrendous post partum uterus contraction pain during breastfeeding the second time around. Tramadol please. Lots of it. These contractions are far worse than any labor contractions I've ever had.

By 10 pm on Saturday night we finally received an exceptional nurse - Jen. I will never forget her because she offered to take Thomas to the nursery (which the hospital strongly discourages) so we could get some much needed sleep. Going on 30 hours of sleep deprivation, we both knew this was the best decision and hopped into bed for 3 hour stretches of sleep at a time. Jen brought Thomas in for feedings and then took him back to the nursery.

Early Sunday afternoon we were finally discharged and sped home to begin our life as a family of four. My recovery has been super speedy this time which I am thankful for as we adjust to two under two. We are so grateful to the Lord for our healthy, happy (and handsome) baby boy!
And in case you were wondering how these two were getting acquainted... lots of hugs in between aggressive head pats.

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