Connor’s Birth Story

It’s 6:55AM on Mother’s Day. My 3-year-old daughter is sleeping, Matt is downstairs prepping a chorizo breakfast hash, and I’m sitting in the nursery with 7-week-old Connor. He’s laying on his back in his gym, batting at a ball hanging above his head and twisting to the side to see his reflection in a mirror.

Three years ago on Mother’s Day morning I typed out the story of Mackenzie’s birth. This morning seems like the perfect time to document Connor’s arrival.

I was sure Connor would come early. Mackenzie had arrived at 38 weeks, 5 days, so after Kenzie’s 3rd birthday (and 3 birthday celebrations!) passed in early March I woke up every morning ready to have a baby. My ankles had ballooned beyond recognition and even my normally loose, comfy Vuori joggers left deep indents around my swollen calves. I struggled to bend over to pick up the dozens of things Kenzie seemed to drop on the floor every hour (ha), and I even woke up a few times in the middle of the night and prepped her entire breakfast and lunch, certain that that day would be the day we’d need to rush to the hospital to give birth.

But Connor was in no rush to arrive. At my 39-week checkup Dr. Wu and I discussed induction, which I eagerly scheduled for the following week. I still fully expected my baby to arrive before then, but it was comforting to have an definite end date in sight.

I was instructed to call Bryn Mawr Hospital at 6AM the morning of my induction to see what time they wanted us to go in. But, surprise! I woke up at 3:39AM and realized my water had broken. My water hadn’t broken with Kenzie so this was a new experience. I woke Matt up and called my mom to let her know we’d need her on Kenzie duty a few hours earlier than expected.

Matt and I were on our way to the hospital by 5AM. On the way we reminisced about our 5AM journey to Bryn Mawr three years ago. At that time, I was in active labor and urging Matt to drive faster, frustrated every time we got stopped at seemingly unnecessary red lights on the deserted roads. But this time was different. Yes, my water had broken, but beyond that I felt completely normal. I was excited today was the The Day, but I wasn’t having contractions or any pain.

We parked in the same parking garage spot we’d occupied three years ago and soon we were settled into a spacious room on the Labor and Delivery floor. The doctor wanted to wait and see if my labor would progress naturally since my water had broken, so I spent the morning wandering around my room dressed in a hospital gown and boots. (I felt more comfortable and supported in the boots versus just wearing the grippy socks the hospital had provided.)

Here I am, taking care of some work emails in my gown and boots. While we waited, Matt and I also re-watched the finale of Book of Boba Fett to prepare for season 3 of The Mandalorian.

Several hours into our stay Matt’s mom, Rosemary, offered to bring him lunch. I was technically allowed to have one support person so we invited her to join us in the delivery room. Rosemary is a retired Nurse Midwife and, while I hadn’t planned in advance to have her join us in the delivery room, it was very nice to have her company.

At 12:15PM the doctor started me on Pitocin. An hour later I was having contractions strong enough to cause me to pause my conversation with Matt and Rosemary. The contractions intensified quickly and by 2PM I had to focus hard to get through each one. (Although I had given birth three years ago without an epidural, at that time I had labored overnight at home and went through the worst of the contractions in the car. Laboring in the hospital was new to me!)

Rosemary helped give me tips on how I could stand and hug Matt’s shoulders during my contractions. The nurses checked my progress as I went from 5cm to 7cm to 8cm at what felt like an agonizingly slow pace. I was in excruciating pain during each contraction and looking forward to pushing, which Rosemary told me would give me some relief. (Or at least a different type of discomfort!) After a particularly tough set of contractions, I thought maybe I was starting to feel the urge to push. I asked the nurse to check me again and, hallelujah, I was fully dilated.

Dr. Cheston wasted no time getting into the room and the nurses rapidly broke down the bed. Rosemary held my left leg and Matt held my right and I started pushing at around 3PM. As I remembered from Kenzie, pushing was HARD. But I also remembered how amazing that final push was with her and I wanted to get to that moment of relief as quickly as possible. I pushed like my life depended on it and appreciated when Rosemary showed me how to reposition my head and neck to curl towards my lower body and make each push more productive.

My baby was born at 3:11PM. As his head emerged, I heard Dr. Cheston matter-of-factly state something about the cord and his arm being wrapped around his neck and I felt her deftly maneuver him around to free his little body. Moments later he was on my chest, feeling surprisingly heavy and solid. I think one of the first things I said was, “He feels SO much better out than in!!!” I also thanked my team of nurses, Rosemary, Matt and Dr. Cheston for their cheerleading during pushing. They laughed, joking that that was what I was thinking about moments after giving birth.

At 8 lbs. 3.8 oz. and 21 inches long, Connor was heavier and longer than his sister. He started nursing right away. He was perfect, with steely blue eyes and soft light brown or blonde hair.

By 5PM we were on our way to the Maternity floor in a little rolling caravan: me in a wheelchair, Connor in his bassinet and Matt with our overnight bag. We ordered dinner from the cafeteria and settled in for the night.

The next day was Thursday. Matt got us bagels and coffee from Spread Bagelry and my mom visited us before lunch. Connor was circumcised, and he was delivered back to our room for a long nap. Everything was good. Until a tech stopped in around 3PM to take my blood pressure, that is. It was through the roof at 186-over-something. They took it again, 197-over-something. Uh oh.

A nurse and then an IV tech tried and failed to give me new IV line three times before one was finally inserted into a really uncomfortable spot on the inside of my right wrist. I was given a dose of Procardia and the doctor sent our little family back down to the Labor and Delivery floor for more intensive monitoring overnight.

Seven weeks later it still stresses me out to write about the next 48 hours. The nurses would politely but urgently ask me if I felt OK and if I had a headache or blurry vision. The automated blood pressure cuff on my arm would tighten and render a verdict (still high!) every 15 minutes or half hour. After spending Thursday night on the L&D floor, we were transferred back to the Maternity floor on Friday, only to be transferred back down to L&D Friday afternoon. I cried in the elevator on the way down.

At 5PM on Friday Dr. Wu ordered I be started on a magnesium IV to reduce the chance of seizure. This seemed Serious. A second nurse had to come in and check the first nurse’s IV setup in what clearly was some sort of two-factor verification procedure. They started the medication through my wrist IV only to realize it was clogged or otherwise not working properly and the liquid was accumulating under my skin. Another IV line was inserted (in a MUCH more comfortable spot!) on my left arm and the magnesium began. I chewed crushed ice while the bolus (larger initial dose) of medication was dispensed.

I was on the magnesium IV for 22 hours. During that time, I wasn’t allowed to walk around because the medication can cause dizziness and other side effects. Fortunately I did not seem to experience any side effects, but I was still confined to my bed. They put massaging sleeves on my calves so I wouldn’t get a blood clot. I had a blood pressure cuff on my right arm, a pulse-oximeter on my left big toe and, of course, the IV on my left arm. I had to use a bedside commode (extra fun at two days postpartum!) and a nurse had to listen to my lungs and check my reflexes every two hours. It was not a fun 22 hours.

Fortunately baby Connor was perfect throughout this entire ordeal. He was healthy, hungry and snuggly. I couldn’t get out of bed to change his diapers or retrieve him from his bassinet, but I was allowed to nurse him and his presence was comforting. I tell people now that Connor was the easiest part of our time at the hospital because he was. What a perfect little baby.

They stopped my magnesium drip at 3PM on Saturday and two hours later we learned we’d be released that night. I was given a prescription for a double dose of Procardia along with instructions to take and record my blood pressure twice a day and by 5:40PM we were in the car, driving home to introduce Connor to his big sister.

Kenzie was very happy to meet her baby brother. She proudly presented a big yellow “Welcome Home Connor James” sign that she had made with my mom, and she carefully held him on the beanbag in her room before bed. She comforted him when he cried, saying “calm down, baby, I’m here, baby” and confidently offered to carry him to his nursery for a diaper change. (After the events of the past four days it was tempting, but, needless to say, we declined!) 🤣

At around 3 weeks postpartum my blood pressure levels settled back down, and at my 6-week checkup Dr. Cheston told me I no longer needed to monitor my blood pressure at home. I’m extremely relieved to put that ordeal behind me.

Seven weeks into life as a family of five (I’m including Piper, of course), we are all doing well. Mackenzie loves helping with Connor and has even shampooed “his little head” in the shower, a task she took very seriously. She rocks Connor in his bouncer seat and is careful not to bounce too hard because of his “very delicate” neck. Piper is super relaxed about the whole second-baby-thing. She snoozes at my feet while I nurse Connor and doesn’t seem to be bothered by his presence at all.

For his part, Connor is starting to sleep for 6-7 hour stretches in the 9PM-4AM timeframe which is amazing. He loves being “worn” on my chest in the Solly wrap and he’s already been to far more public events and places than his sister attended in the first 18 months of her life. (Thanks, Covid.) He’s a perfect addition to our family and I feel so lucky to be a mom-times-two on this beautiful Mother’s Day.

It’s now 8:51AM. Piper is outside listening to the birds sing their morning songs while Matt fires up the Ooni pizza oven to cook our breakfast hash in a cast iron skillet. Mackenzie is still asleep in her big girl room across the hall. Connor is now laying on a pillow across my lap where he’s snoozing with his little cheek pressed against my chest. His head is heavy on my right arm as I type. All is good in the Thorne home. Happy Mother’s Day!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Years ago Matt and I discovered Toll House refrigerated cookie dough. We’d savor it over the course of a week, baking just four pre-made dough discs at a time and enjoying warm cookies fresh from the oven each night.

At some point we realized that we could duplicate (nay, improve upon!) this experience by making and freezing our own homemade cookie dough. No pre-made Toll House discs needed! Now I always keep a stock of frozen dough on hand and we treat ourselves to freshly baked cookies whenever we want.

These homemade cookies are in a totally different league than those old pre-made Toll House cookie dough discs. The bittersweet chocolate chips are melty and rich, the cookie is crisp and flavorful, and the coconut flakes are a pleasant surprise.

Since March I’ve probably made ten batches of these cookies. I struggled with finding some ingredients during the COVID-19 shutdown, so now I’ve accumulated a small stockpile of King Arthur flour, Crisco and Ghirardelli chocolate chips just in case. That may sound a little crazy, but try these cookies and you’ll immediately understand why I’ve become a cookie ingredient hoarder. 😁

•  Use King Arthur Brand All Purpose Flour for the recipe. I used other brands during Quarantine and the texture of the cookies wasn’t quite right… a little too soft and wet.
•  A kitchen scale makes measuring the dry ingredients super easy. I weigh out the sugars directly into my mixing bowl and the flour into its own small bowl. No measuring cups required! I use and recommend this scale.
•  I mix in the flour, chocolate chips and coconut by hand because adding flour to my KitchenAid mixer always seems to result in a mini flour explosion and mixing by hand is not difficult. But by all means, feel free to use your stand mixer for the final mixing steps if you prefer!
•  For more information on why I refrigerate the cookie dough for 48 hours before freezing it, read this Chilling Cookie Dough article from KAF.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from King Arthur Flour; makes approx. 20 cookies

142g (2/3 c) Brown Sugar
131g (2/3 c) Granulated Sugar
1 stick (1/2 c) Unsalted Butter (straight from the fridge is fine)
1/2 stick (1/2 c) Crisco Vegetable Shortening Stick
3/4 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 teaspoons Vanilla
1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Egg
241g (2 c) King Arthur All Purpose Flour
1 bag (10 oz) Ghirardelli Bittersweet Baking Chips (60% Cacao)
Handful of Shredded Coconut Flakes, Optional

Combine Brown Sugar through Cider Vinegar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on medium speed until well combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary. Add the egg and mix for 30 seconds or until well combined.

Remove the mixing bowl from the stand mixer. Using a spatula, mix in the Flour by hand until well combined. Stir in the Chocolate Chips and Coconut, if using. Transfer the dough to a sealed storage container and refrigerate for 48 hours.

To make cookies immediately or straight from the fridge, form cookies into golf-ball-sized balls and bake in a preheated 350° oven for 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 8 minutes before serving.

To freeze the cookie dough, leave the dough in the refrigerator for 48 hours, then form the dough into approximately 20 golf-ball-sized cookie balls. Freeze dough balls.

To make cookies directly from the freezer, bake frozen dough in a preheated 350° oven for 18 1/2 minutes. Allow to cool for 8 minutes before serving.

Southwestern Veggie Wraps

Matt and I eat lunch together every day. We enjoy the mid-day break to recap our mornings and recharge for the afternoon. In pre-COVID (and pre-Baby!) days we used to splurge and go out to lunch one or two times a week, but since March we have made our own lunches every day. They’re not always healthy – Annie’s Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese makes an appearance at least a few times a month! – but sometimes we’re really good and prepare healthy lunches in advance that will last us through the work week.

Take, for example, these southwestern veggie wraps. They require a little up front work to peel and roast sweet potatoes and simmer beans with seasonings, but once that prep is done we get to enjoy several days’ worth of delicious lunches that come together in minutes.

I roasted four sweet potatoes and simmered my beans yesterday afternoon so we’ll be having these wraps for lunch TODAY. My stomach is growling. Lunch time can’t come soon enough!!!

Southwestern Veggie Wraps

Makes 6-8 wraps; recipe adapted from Oh My Veggies

You will need…

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
3-4 Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Cumin
Salt and Pepper

Smoky Black Beans
2 15 oz. cans Black Beans, not drained
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 cup Water
1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
1 teaspoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoons Smoked Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Large “Burrito-Sized” Tortillas
Baby Spinach
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Smoky Black Beans


Preheat oven to 425°F.  Place the sweet potato chunks on a large rimmed baking sheet. Toss with cumin and a few grinds of salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil and continue to toss (I use my hands) until the potatoes are evenly coated. Spread the potatoes in an even layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 25 minutes, stirring partway through, until potatoes are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  Allow to cool, then transfer to a container and refrigerate until ready to eat.

To make the smoky black beans, combine the beans and their liquid with the oil, garlic, water and seasonings in a small saucepan. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain (but do not rinse!) the beans, then transfer to a container. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

To assemble the wraps, start by portioning out the sweet potatoes and beans you’ll be using into a microwave-safe bowl. Reheat for 2-3 minutes in the microwave until warm. Next, place a tortilla on a large plate, cover with a damp paper towel, and microwave for 30 seconds to soften tortilla. Remove paper towel, then spread a generous spoonful (or two, or three!) of guacamole on the tortilla. Top with a handful of spinach leaves and the sweet potato-bean mixture. Wrap up the tortilla and enjoy!

Tamale Pie (One-Pan Chili & Cornbread)

A few years ago my mom gave us a massive Le Creuset cast iron skillet for Christmas. This 9 1/2 pound behemoth is over 13 inches in diameter and takes up an entire kitchen cabinet shelf all by itself.

This pic actually makes the skillet look small, but believe, me, it’s big.

In addition to being the largest pan we own, our enameled cast iron skillet is also incredibly versatile. Some of our favorite foods to make in it are a melt-in-your mouth bacon and cheddar breakfast strata and a creamy chicken pot pie with flaky crust. Those are good, but our absolute favorite cast iron skillet dish is Tamale Pie, a hearty, cheesy, bean-y baked chili with scallion-studded cornbread on top.

Tamale Pie in our massive skillet yields one dinner for two plus three hearty leftover lunches (for two). This could easily serve eight adults for dinner if paired with a salad.  That being said, note that the volume of ingredients below is scaled for a giant skillet. If you have a more reasonably sized 10” cast iron skillet I recommend halving everything except the 1 lb. of ground pork.

Lastly, in the past we’ve used Trader Joe’s cornbread mix for this recipe which has been absolutely delicious. We haven’t gone to TJ’s in months thanks to the pandemic so lately I’ve been making my cornbread from scratch using the below recipe. That being said, if you have a favorite cornbread mix feel free to use that in place of the scratch version here!

Tamale Pie

Serves 6-8. Adapted from Cook It In Cast Iron.

For the cornbread topping…
213g* All Purpose Flour
156g* Cornmeal (I’ve been using P.A.N. White Cornmeal during quarantine)
50g* Sugar
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
¼ teaspoon Baking Soda
½ teaspoon Salt
6-10 Scallions, green tops thinly sliced (reserve the white parts for the chili)
2 – 2 ½ cups milk
1 stick (½ cup) butter, melted then cooled
1 egg

For the chili…
Vegetable Oil
1 pound Ground Pork
Whites from 6-10 Scallions, sliced thin (reserved from cornbread)
4 tablespoons Chili Powder
2 teaspoons Dried Mexican Oregano or 2 tablespoons minced fresh
Salt and Pepper
2 – 15 oz. cans Black Beans, drained
1 – 15 oz. can Kidney Beans, drained
2 cups Frozen Corn
1 – 28 oz. can Diced Tomatoes and their juice
1 cup Chicken Broth
8 oz. Pepper Jack Cheese, shredded

*I use a kitchen scale to measure out my dry ingredients. For an approximate conversion to cups, use 1 ¾ cup flour, 1 cup cornmeal and ¼ cup sugar.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry cornbread ingredients (flour through salt). Stir in the scallion greens.  In a small bowl, whisk together the butter, 1 cup of the milk and the egg.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry. Add more milk until batter reaches a smooth, spreadable consistency. (Later you will be spreading this cornbread batter on top of the chili before baking the complete dish.)

Preheat oven to 400°F. On the stove, heat a large (13.5″) cast iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add 1-2 tablespoons oil and heat until just smoking. Add ground pork and cook until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the scallion whites, chili powder, oregano and ½ teaspoon salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in the beans, corn, tomatoes and broth.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 7-10 minutes until the mixture has thickened slightly.  Remove pan from heat and stir in the shredded cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Using a spatula, spread the cornbread batter on top of the chili mixture until the chili is completely covered. Transfer the skillet to the hot oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cornbread is starting to brown on top.  Remove skillet from oven, allow to cool for 10 minutes, then serve.

Rosemary’s Banana Bread

I saw a meme on Facebook joking about how everyone is baking banana bread during Quarantine.  But you know what? It’s no joking matter… banana bread is a DELICIOUS way to start the day and a VERY practical way to use up those three sad-looking bananas that have been sitting on the counter all week!

(I really thought I was going to eat a banana as a snack but it turns out I prefer oreos.)

This recipe comes from my mother-in-law, Rosemary, who gave us a cute little box filled with copies of her favorite recipes several years ago. This box is also the source of Aunt Eileen’s Curry and many other delicious breads, sides and desserts that haven’t made their way onto the blog yet.

Rosemary’s Banana Bread comes together in about 10 minutes.  I’ll stop typing this intro now before it takes more time to read the recipe than it does to make it!

Rosemary’s Banana Bread

You will need…
3 overripe Bananas
2 Eggs
2 cups (240g) All-Purpose Flour
¾ cup (149g) Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoons Baking Soda

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Add the eggs and beat. Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine until a thick batter forms. Transfer batter to a greased loaf pan and bake for 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of loaf comes out clean.

Cool the bread in the pan on a rack until cool enough to handle, then remove from pan and allow the bread to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Enjoy banana bread for breakfast or in place of an oreo when you’re looking for a mid-afternoon snack.  😊

Crusty Baked Shells and Cauliflower

Matt first made Ina Garten’s Crusty Baked Shells and Cauliflower in February and we knew immediately that this would become one of our go-to dinners. Now, during Quarantine, we’ve made this at least six times and, guess what? It’s what’s for dinner TONIGHT!! Yum.

This dish is SO different from the average “baked pasta.” The panko-encrusted shells are flavored with lemon, garlic and Fontina cheese. The insides of the shells harbor pockets of creamy ricotta and the occasional salty zing of a caper. Tender cauliflower florets melt into the space between shells and make this meal feel lighter and healthier (or at least less unhealthy!). The entire dish is completed with a topping of panko, parsley and pecorino and baked in the oven until golden brown.

For the past 12 weeks Matt and I have been dependent on online grocery availability and we’ve had to get creative with some ingredient substitutions. Can’t find Fontina? Try Gruyère, Emmental or Gouda.  No shells available in the pasta aisle? Cavatappi and Pipe Rigate work well, too. And that time our online shopper delivered PURPLE cauliflower instead of the normal white stuff? No problem… the dish was just a little more colorful that time around!

We typically get one dinner plus three servings of lunch out of each recipe. This is great as a leftover and, according to Ina’s note in the original recipe, can also be made ahead by assembling the dish, refrigerating, and baking just before serving.

Ina Garten’s Crusty Baked Shells and Cauliflower

From Cooking for Jeffrey, adapted slightly

You will need…
Salt and Pepper
1 lb. Pasta Shells
Olive Oil
1 head Cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
3 tablespoons Sage, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons Capers, drained
3 cloves Garlic, minced
½ teaspoon Lemon Zest
¼ teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
10 oz. Fontina Val d’Aosta Cheese, grated
1 cup Ricotta
½ cup Panko bread crumbs
6 tablespoons Pecorino Cheese, grated
2 tablespoons minced Parsley

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente.  Drain the pasta and transfer it to a very large mixing bowl.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan, then add half the cauliflower in a single layer. Sauté for 5-6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender and starting to brown. Place the cooked cauliflower in the bowl with the pasta before sautéing the remaining cauliflower and adding to the pasta.

Add the sage, capers, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper to the bowl with the pasta and cauliflower. Stir gently, then add the grated Fontina cheese and stir again.

Transfer half the pasta mixture to a large casserole dish. Drop spoonfuls of ricotta over top of the pasta, then cover with the remaining pasta mixture.

Combine the panko, parsley, grated Pecorino and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle topping evenly over the pasta. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the topping is browned and the edges of the pasta are beginning to get crusty. Serve immediately and enjoy!


Iron Hill Brewery has been one of my favorite restaurants ever since Matt and I moved within walking distance to the micro-brewery’s Media location twelve years ago.  I have happy memories of sitting in Iron Hill’s outdoor dining area in June 2008 and sipping fresh beer (a wheat beer at that time, I’m sure) while watching hundreds of runners pass by on State Street in the Media 5 Mile race.

Back then I felt sorry for the runners (why run when you can sit outside drinking at Iron Hill??), but in recent years I’ve become one of those runners! Now I always make a point of looking at the happy spectators in Iron Hill’s outdoor dining area when I race by and Matt and I always have dinner at Iron Hill when the race is over.

One of my go-to entrees is the OMG BLT sandwich, a flavorful, drippy, wonderful combination of bacon, pepperoni, balsamic-dressed arugula, tomato, mozzarella and pesto mayo on a warm and crusty ciabatta.  After I became pregnant last summer I was no longer able to partake in the OMG BLT (though I did consider ordering it without pepperoni on more than one occasion!) and it was one of the dinners I was most looking forward to after the baby was born.

It’s even on Iron Hill’s temporary takeout menu during the COVID-19 shutdown. But we’re super cautious and haven’t ordered any takeout. Good thing we can make our own!

Matt, baby K and I have still not visited Iron Hill since her birth in early March, but that hasn’t stopped me from craving an OMG BLT.  I contemplated trying to make a copycat version of the sandwich at home, but we’ve only been doing online grocery shopping and good ciabatta is hard to come by.  (With my luck our Whole Foods shopper would helpfully substitute in a rock-hard gluten free, vegan, fair trade dinner roll!) Matt and I make our own pizza all the time so I happily agreed when Matt suggested that we turn my craving into a pizza.

I bet Kenzie wishes she could eat this.


Our pizza version of Iron Hill Brewery’s OMG BLT sandwich.

You will need…
6-8 oz. bacon, cut into small pieces
2.5 oz. pepperoni, quartered if it’s the big 3-4 in. diameter slices from Whole Foods
2 Roma Tomatoes
8 oz. Mozzarella cheese
2-3 spoonfuls Basil Pesto
1-2 tablespoon Mayonnaise
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
3-4 handfuls Arugula
1 lb. Pizza Dough

Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 550°F. Cook the bacon bits over medium heat until brown and crispy, then transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Thinly slice the tomatoes and place them on a paper towel to remove the excess liquid. Shred the mozzarella cheese.

Make the pesto mayo by combining the pesto and mayo in a small bowl.  If you want to get fancy and use a squeeze bottle, add a little olive oil to the pesto mayo until it is thin enough to funnel into a squeeze bottle. (If you’re using the squeeze bottle, make sure your pesto is very well blended otherwise chunks of nuts and garlic will jam up the nozzle!)

Whisk together 1 teaspoon each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a medium-sized bowl. Add the arugula and toss well to coat.

Stretch the pizza dough into a 14-16” disc (whatever size fits your stone). Remove the stone from the oven and place the dough on the hot stone. Working quickly, cover the dough with the mozzarella, then the bacon, pepperoni and tomato slices. Bake the pizza until the crust is starting to brown on the edges, approximately 8-12 minutes.

Remove the cooked pizza from the oven and transfer from the stone to a peel. (We do this outside the oven rather than trying to peel it off the stone IN the oven.)  Spoon or squeeze the pesto mayo over top of the pizza, then top with the dressed arugula.  Slice and serve!

How I Became a Mom

It’s my first Mother’s Day. I’ve been wanting to type out the story of how I became a mother but (surprise!) with a 9 week old baby I just haven’t found the time until now.

This morning baby Kenzie woke up at 5:56AM, a full 8 hours after going to sleep in her bassinet next to our bed last night. Kenzie, Piper and I snuck out of the bedroom without waking Matt. I nursed the baby, let Piper out and fed her, made coffee, drank said coffee, pumped more milk for a practice bottle later, and now, at 7:30, I’m happily settled in my recliner in the nursery typing away as Kenzie gurgles and goos at her new crib mobile.

A few minutes ago Matt emerged from the bedroom to say good morning. He thought he was waking up before me and he had quietly slipped out of bed, only to turn around and realize that Kenzie and I weren’t there. Ha! He’s making breakfast strata downstairs so I have a strata’s worth of time to get some of Kenzie’s birth story down before my Mother’s Day breakfast feast. 😀 Onto the story!!

My due date was Friday, March 13th. I felt great for most of my pregnancy but by early March I was starting to feel really uncomfortable. Thinking I still had another 2 weeks to go, I continued to push through my runs, walks, and Pelotons, but bending over to put on my bike shoes was becoming increasingly difficult and my normally boney ankles were puffing up. I remember doing a quad stretch after a short run and being slightly alarmed when the imprints of my fingers were still visible on my ankle afterwards!

On Sunday March 1st I ran a mile and a half. On Monday I did a 30 minute Peloton and on Tuesday I walked and ran while watching the final action scenes from Captain America. On Wednesday morning at work I felt my first contraction. But I wasn’t sure it was a “real” contraction.

In early March we were all just realizing that Coronavirus might be a serious threat, so on that Wednesday I had printed out several signs from the CDC for our workplace about Proper Handwashing and Staying Home When Sick. Every time I had a contraction I got up from my desk and walked to a different area in the office to tape up a flyer. That helped get my mind off of the cramping pain.

By lunchtime I’d posted two or three flyers. Matt and I would usually go home for lunch with Piper, but on that Wednesday I requested lunch at our favorite new Mexican restaurant, Rey Azteca. I figured this might be my last lunch out for a while. (Little did I know… it’s now May 9th and that’s still the last restaurant we went to!!!) I ordered my favorite pork burrito with refried beans and rice and it was delicious.

I posted several more flyers throughout the afternoon at work but didn’t tell anyone except Matt that I was having contractions. A few days before I had downloaded a contraction timer app but all that told me at this point was that my contractions were not coming at regular intervals and were not close enough together to get excited about. After work Matt and I walked up the giant hill in our neighborhood, then I finished off the evening with another walk on the treadmill.

By the time we were watching Jeopardy! my contractions were becoming slightly more regular. I think I timed them at 40-ish minutes apart at that point. This was still a far cry from the “5-1-1” pattern that we had learned about in our birthing class a few weeks before. I needed to wait until my contractions were 5 minutes apart and lasting 1 full minute for 1 whole hour before calling my doctor and going to the hospital. So wait I did.

We went to bed. I got a little sleep until around 11:30 when a contraction woke me up. At first I tried to stay on my side in bed as I timed the contraction (1 minute!) and breathe through it, but that was really painful. Taking a cue from my flyer-posting walks at the office earlier that day, I began to pace around our house during my next contraction at midnight which made the painful minute go by much faster.

By 12:30 I had my pacing routine down. I figured out that it took me almost a full minute to walk a lap from our bedroom down the hallway around the perimeter of our second floor great room and back. I kept up this routine through the next several contractions. By 2AM they were 15-20 minutes apart. Although each contraction was painful I was really hoping the intervals would speed up so I could get this over with!!

Finally at 3:15AM I had a contraction just 5 ½ minutes after the last one. Hurrah! Now to hold out for another hour of this pattern. I did NOT want to go to the hospital too early only to be turned away!!

Shortly after 4AM I woke Matt up to tell him that I was nearing the 5-1-1 pattern. At 4:15 I called my doctor’s office to say things were getting serious. The call center said they’d give the hospital a heads up.

Our plan was for my mom to pick up Piper and watch her for a few days. As Matt got our go-bag into the car I specifically remember thinking to myself “Piper needs a bed for mom’s house!!” so I carried her dog bed down the stairs. That was HARD. Putting on my sneakers was also hard. I asked Matt to tie them. He says I moaned they were “too tight!!!!” even though he’d made them very loose for me.

By 4:47AM we were in the car, making our way towards Bryn Mawr Hospital at what felt like 10 miles per hour. Usually I am a huge stickler for not speeding on the narrow country roads around our house, but on this particular Thursday morning I kept urging Matt to go faster. We saw multiple deer lurking in the shadows next to the road and he wisely pointed out that if we hit a deer it would take a lot longer to get to the hospital. Good point, but that didn’t make the drive any better.

The contractions in the car were the worst yet. I obviously couldn’t walk around to take my mind off of them, so I sat in agony as we got stopped at what felt like every single red light between Newtown Square and Bryn Mawr. Why on earth would a shopping center get the green light at 4:55AM??? Matt was on the verge of going through a red light for a construction zone on Bryn Mawr Avenue when it happened to turn green. Longest drive ever.

We had toured the hospital’s maternity wing two weeks before so we knew right where to park. Matt offered to drop me off but I said I’d rather walk. After all, walking had been the only thing getting me through this long night so far. We parked in the garage and I made sure Matt grabbed my computer bag (who knew how much time we’d need to spend in the delivery room??!). The walk seemed to last forever but thankfully the L&D department knew we were coming and had already opened the big security doors for us. They whisked us to a room and gave me a gown and a stretchy sleeve to put over my abdomen that would hold the various monitors.

By 5:30 I was on the hospital bed and I was REALLY uncomfortable. No one had checked me yet, but I explained that I had hit 5-1-1 around 4AM. From our birth class I understood that it would probably still be HOURS before I delivered my baby. Considering how much pain I was already in at that point I was not looking forward to the next several hours. I had originally thought I would hold off on an epidural and “play it by ear” before making a decision. But when the nurse asked me if I wanted an epidural I figured I’d already played it by ear all night and I readily agreed to one. She said she’d let the Anesthesiologist know so they could start getting it ready for me.

I still hadn’t actually been examined by anyone at this point to see how far along I was. When the nurse finally checked she made sort of a funny face and went to get another nurse. The second nurse checked and they conferred between themselves, saying something along the lines of “Where’s her cervix? Is she complete?” They explained to me that they couldn’t feel my cervix at all. The meaning of this wasn’t especially clear to me and I was vaguely worried, but the contractions were so painful at this point that I didn’t have time to think through what they were saying. They said they were going to call the doctor in for him to have a look.

It felt like it took forever for the doctor to arrive. I think he came in around 6:10AM. He checked and confirmed what the nurses suspected… no cervix. But what did this mean?? Apparently that I was already fully dilated. The doctor casually asked if I wanted to start pushing. I understood THAT!! No more hours of contractions, waiting for incremental dilation centimeter by centimeter. It was go time!! WOOHOO!

I hadn’t had any medication of any kind at this point. A nurse asked me again if I wanted the epidural. She said something like “Are you sure you still want the epidural? You’re fully dilated so the hard work is already done.” With that hopeful thought in mind I declined the epidural and got ready to push.

The doctor broke my water at around 6:30AM. And then the real work began. In the birth class it seemed like all of the focus was on how difficult contractions and active labor and “transition” were. We had learned that you would spend hours laboring to get to full dilation, then POOF! you push and Ta Dah! here’s your baby! Maybe that was just my emphasis, but I had no idea how hard the pushing stage was going to be.

Luckily a team of supportive nurses made the process easier. Like birthing cheerleaders, they enthusiastically chanted 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10!! during each push. They showed Matt how to hold my left leg and a young female nursing student held my right leg. I watched Matt’s face as I pushed. At one point his eyes got really wide. “I can see her head! She has hair!!” he exclaimed. This spurred me on and I kept up the relentless pattern of two sets of pushes during contractions with what felt like a very (very!) brief rest between.

The time simultaneously dragged on and went by in a blur. There was a shift change at 7AM and a new doctor came in. Two of my original intake nurses said they’d stick around for a while longer even though their shift was over. The TV in the room was tuned to channel 6ABC (my favorite!) and at one point I looked up and there was a picture of a cruise ship and the words Italy and Coronavirus on the screen. I felt sick during a particularly rough contraction and threw up into a baggie that someone shoved into my right hand. And I kept on pushing.

Matt became increasingly excited which really helped motive me. He explained again how they could all see the baby’s head and made a small circle with his index finger and thumb to show “how big” the visible portion of her head was. His circle was about an inch in diameter. “That’s all!???!?!” I asked. I had been picturing much, much more head visible after all of that pushing. “Well yeah, but it was only this much before,” Matt replied, shrinking his finger circle down to the size of a blueberry. Fair enough.

After the hardest physical exertion of my life I gave my final pushes and at 8:07AM my baby girl was born. Everything happened at once. I pushed, her head emerged, her body slipped out behind it, and suddenly my tiny daughter was laying on my chest as everyone in the room cheered. I kept repeating something like “Hello Baby, I’m your momma” over and over again as she started to nurse. She held her lovely, goop-covered little right hand over her face, tiny fingers curling into her eyes as she adjusted to her new surroundings.

Our moms both visited us in the delivery room and then helped carry our gear (including my computer bag!) up to the recovery room. We spent the day getting to know our tiny baby and settled on her name, Mackenzie Grace, at around 5PM. For dinner Matt walked to Wawa and brought me back a meatball hoagie and we had chocolate-covered coconut Easter eggs that we’d brought from home for dessert.

The rest of our time in the hospital was a blur. I had blueberry pancakes from the cafeteria for breakfast, my step-father made a surprise visit, our moms visited again, I figured out how to nurse (which took 45 minutes every 3 hours!), we met Kenzie’s pediatrician, my brother brought us dinner from La Cabra Brewing Bodega restaurant, and before we knew it, it was Saturday morning and we were being discharged with our teeny tiny baby girl.

And I’ll stop there… Piper has come into the nursery and is happily squeaking her fox toy at Kenzie like she wants to play. Time to get our day started for real.

Happy Mother’s Day!!

Day 6: Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

OK, we didn’t actually see lions or tigers, but we DID see wolves, pronghorn, elk, bison and TWO grizzly bears, so our sixth and final day in Yellowstone was pretty epic. After five days of mountains, geysers, springs, canyons and rivers Matt and I woke up early on Monday, October 14th, excited to drive through the Lamar Valley in hopes of spotting some of the park’s more elusive wildlife.

The wildlife sightings started very early. After a quick and delicious breakfast at Wonderland Cafe in Gardiner we stopped back at our tiny cabin to pick up our suitcases. After a few minutes inside we were ready to “check out” (which simply meant locking the door behind us). I stepped outside and BAM! There was an ELK, RIGHT THERE, nonchalantly munching the grass growing around the cabin’s front steps. (Where did this elk come from?? We had just gone into the cabin moments before!!!) I leapt back inside and Matt and I happily watched the elk and her friends enjoy their breakfast for a few minutes before they meandered far enough away from our door for us to make a safe getaway. Wildlife day was starting out well so far.

We entered Yellowstone NP through the North Entrance and immediately saw several antelope-like pronghorns grazing along the side of the road. Then, as we wound our way through the village of Mammoth, we saw dozens of elk, including one massive buck lounging on the lawn in front of the post office. We took several photos of this guy from the safety of our car (I wouldn’t want to meet those antlers outside my cabin door!) before turning east towards the Lamar Valley.

Although Lamar is known for its wildlife watching we knew that it was fairly unlikely that we’d actually see a wolf or a grizzly bear on our last day in Yellowstone. These predators are much rarer and harder to spot than the bison and elk we had become accustomed to seeing several times a day. Nevertheless, we were determined to make the most of whatever wildlife we did get to see, so we satisfied ourselves by watching the numerous herds of bison roaming through the Lamar Valley.  By mid-morning we had pulled over and I was taking a video of a large herd moving serenely alongside the Lamar River.  Then a white SUV slowed down on the road behind us and the driver yelled out “Hey! There are WOLVES a mile down the road!!”  Bison video immediately forgotten, we leapt into our car and headed east towards the wolves.

Sure enough, a mile down the road there were several cars parked along a gravel road and a cluster of people gathered atop a high, snowy hilltop with tripods and spotting scopes. We parked our car, grabbed our jackets (it was “warm” for that week but still in the 20s), and excitedly climbed the hill, eager to see what was going on.

A couple with a scope greeted us almost immediately and pointed to a (very) distant hillside, explaining that members of the Junction Butte wolf pack had just finished eating some kind of animal carcass and were settling down for a post-meal nap in the sun. The couple generously let us look through their massive spotting scope and we could see the dark spots of the wolves against the snow. Cool!

We soon discovered that the wolves were not the only point of interest visible from our snowy hillside. There was also a grizzly bear who was (barely) visible as he lumbered down a steep hillside about a mile to the south. Again the couple generously let us watch him through their scope (all I could really see was his shadow, honestly) before he disappeared into a copse of trees. We were thrilled to have spotted both wolves and bears so quickly (from the same hillside, no less!) and we stayed and chatted with the couple for a while longer before heading back to our car to see what else the Lamar Valley had in store for us.

We soon came upon a small traffic jam of cars pulled over on the shoulder of the main road. This is usually a VERY good sign for anyone hoping to spot wildlife… but what kind of animal was stopping traffic at this particular moment? We scanned the scrub ahead of us and saw a GRIZZLY BEAR!!! Not a bear’s shadow on a far-off hillside through a scope. No, this was an actual bear, easily visible from our car (safety first!), making his way towards the road in the snowy grass. We watched, transfixed by his lumbering gait, and reveled in our good fortune as he moved diagonally past our car before crossing the road right between the stopped cars ahead of us. Before we knew it he was out of sight and the magical moment was over.

Satisfied that we had checked every animal off of our wildlife wishlist, Matt and I headed south to see the last landmark of the trip, Tower Fall. After the massive Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone I have to admit that the 132-foot Tower Fall was a little underwhelming. But the drive there was easy and we were able to stop at several gorgeous overlooks on our way.

After Tower Fall it was time to say goodbye to Yellowstone National Park and head up to Bozeman, Montana for our flight home. On our way out of the park we stopped in Gardiner for our fourth and final meal at Wonderland Cafe, then followed the beautiful Yellowstone River north to Livingston before turning west towards Bozeman. We spent the night in Bozeman, took an 8:22 flight to Denver the next morning, and we were back home with Piper by dinnertime on Tuesday.

Planning your own trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks? There are TONS of resources out there (not to mention guided tours!), but I found the following to be most helpful when planning our trip:

Day 5: Norris, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Real Food!!

Sunday morning in Yellowstone started off much like the previous 3 days: with sub-freezing temperatures and a frosty windshield, brr! It was October 13th: Canyon Village’s last day of the 2019 season. Remembering how uninspiring the previous morning’s rubbery eggs and french toast had been, I decided in advance that I would simply have a banana and yogurt from the dining hall’s “grab and go” station for breakfast. But alas, Canyon Village was all out of bananas, yogurt, AND milk for cereal! I settled for lukewarm oatmeal with a side of hot cocoa because the coffee machine started spewing out coffee grounds midway through filling up my mug. I promise that I’m not trying to make this post about how bad the food was, but man was I ready to eat some hot, fresh, flavorful food after three straight days in the park!! Luckily my wish would come true soon.

Matt and I said goodbye to Canyon Village and headed west to Norris Geyser Basin. We strapped on our Yaktrax and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the basin’s geysers, springs and bubbling thermal features. The icy boardwalks threaded in and out of eerie fog and, even though we shared the more popular “Porcelain Basin” area with a gaggle of young German tourists, we still felt like we had most of the basin to ourselves.

Towards the end of our walk we came upon an older couple camped out in front of Steamboat Geyser, the world’s tallest active geyser. They explained that while the unpredictable geyser has sometimes gone for years without an eruption, Steamboat happens to be in an unusually active period right now with eruptions as frequent as every 5-6 days. Steamboat had last erupted 6 days before, so this couple was planning to spend their Sunday watching the geyser in hopes that it might put on one of its rare shows. (Keep in mind that it was below freezing out… these were very hardcore geyser watchers!!) 🙂  We hung around and chatted with them for a while as Steamboat puffed and spit hot water (the norm between eruptions) before eventually heading back to the car.  Later I found a web site that tracks Steamboat’s eruptions… looks like it didn’t go off until 3 days later so I’m glad we didn’t stick around to wait for it!!

Next up on our itinerary was Mammoth Hot Springs. On the road north from Norris we got stopped in one of the park’s ongoing road construction projects and had to park our car in a line of traffic for 20-30 minutes. (Which is really not so bad; drivers have been delayed for MUCH longer in bison jams!) I read about Mammoth in our guidebook while we waited and Matt gazed around at the rocky hillsides surrounding us. A young girl wandered by on the shoulder of the road and Matt said “That looks like the climate girl.” I didn’t think much of it at the time but later learned that Greta Thunberg had been visiting Yellowstone on that exact same day and was wearing the same blue jacket we saw this girl wearing. So yeah… oddly we can add Greta Thunberg to our list of notable sightings on our Yellowstone trip!

It was nearing lunchtime by the time traffic got moving so we drove straight through Mammoth (where my iPhone found one bar of service… civilization!!) and continued up to Gardiner, Montana to find somewhere to eat. We stumbled upon a small cafe called Wonderland and proceeded to have THE BEST LUNCH I’VE EVER EATEN. I wolfed down a decadent grilled caprese panini with a side of homemade butternut squash bisque while Matt enjoyed a pastrami sandwich with ridiculously delicious caramelized horseradish onions and a crisp Montana IPA. We had already decided we’d be returning to Wonderland for dinner before lunch was over.

After lunch we headed back into the park to see Mammoth Hot Springs. The lower elevation and bright sunshine made Sunday afternoon in Mammoth our warmest weather yet. We happily peeled off layer after layer of clothes (I think I had started the day wearing four shirts!) as we explored the otherworldy travertine terraces.  The hot springs are constantly changing and in some of the more active areas the acidic water and sulfury clouds of steam were nearly taking over the boardwalks.

We explored the historic Mammoth Hot Springs hotel and visitor center before heading back north to Gardiner for the night. On our way to Wonderland for dinner we passed an elk taking a casual stroll on the sidewalk. Welcome to Montana!

And, speaking of elk… for dinner at Wonderland Matt had Baked Elk Chili Mac and Cheese. It was insanely good. If anyone reading this is planning a trip to the northern section of Yellowstone National Park you MUST eat at least one meal at Wonderland. We ended up eating there four times! More on that coming soon in the recap of our sixth and final day.