Friday, April 30, 2010

Pregnant Woman v. Food: The Pickle Edition

Although I didn’t crave pickles at all during my first pregnancy, this time around I went though a pickle phase. Cliché, I know, but I couldn’t help myself. They seemed to just call my name and they were so salty and delicious. My husband likes pickles too, so I went a little overboard on my pickle purchasing. So since about 33% of women crave salty snacks like pickles during their pregnancy, I figured I would test them out for you.

I was going to do a flip video of this, but then envisioned a video of me eating a bunch of pickles ending up on YouTube with some German voice over making inappropriate commentary. I also would never want my old students to get their hands on such footage.

Pickles 101

Pickles are more than 4,000 years old. While the cucumber dates back to Ancient India, cucumbers were brought from the Indus River Valley in India to Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) around 2030 bc. There they were first preserved and eaten as pickles. Pickles made there way into the bible and the history books as the favorite snack of world leaders ranging from Julius Caesar and Napoleon to Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. “In colonial America, the pickle patch was an important adjunct to good living. Pickles were highly regarded by all of America's pioneering generations because, under frontier conditions, pickles were the only zesty, juicy, green, succulent food available for many months of the year.” (

Why do some pregnant women crave pickles?

There’s no definitive answer. Some experts say it’s the body’s way of indicating low sodium levels in the blood. Some say the vinegar helps the body break down calcium so it’s easier to absorb. Others say it is related to the hormonal changes. Then some say it’s an emotional need/connection to a food that reminds a woman of something comforting.

The Contenders:                       


Boars Head Kosher Dill Deli Pickle

Mild, with a hint of vinegar and garlic, not overwhelming and very crunchy. Dare I say, refreshing. A great pickle to eat on/with a sandwich. Available at Harris Teeter and Giant.

Claussen Kosher Dill Mini

Ok, these definitely had more spice than the others. They’re crunchy, yet they are made with dried red pepper and dry mustard. This gives the pickles more than a little hint of spice. Not hot spicy, just spice rack spicy. If you are a pickle traditionalist--you won’t like them--they definitely have a distinctive flavor.

Del Monte Kosher Dill

Truly the worst pickle I have ever tasted. Sour, soft, and just all around awful. So bad that I returned them. They don’t deserve a picture.

Harris Teeter Hamburger Chips

Sort of sour, pretty salty, more mush than crunch. Pretty much what I expected of store brand pickles. Like the kind you get at a cheap/chain deli.

Market Pantry Classic Dill

MP is the Target brand.  Good enough crunch factor, but otherwise just ok. A bit sour and too salty. I’d eat them if they were the only ones around, but wouldn’t buy them ever again.

Mt. Olive Zesty Garlic Kosher Dill

Crunchy, refreshing and garlicky – probably my favorite of the lot. If you don’t like a lot of garlic then you might not like these, but they’re worth giving a shot. Mt. Olive is one of the oldest pickle companies in the U.S.

Vlasic Snack’mms Kosher Dill

Ok, not mind blowing, but decent. Very crunchy and mild, so it’s pretty easy to toss back more than a few of these.

The Verdict?: Mt Olive Zesty Garlic Kosher Dills were my favorite, followed by the Boars Head Deli pickle.

After eating more than 14 pickles in the past 2 hours I can already feel my ankles and fingers beginning to swell from the sheer amount of salt I have just consumed. By tomorrow my hands and feet will probably resemble mini sausages. I’m going to chug a gallon of water now.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Ain’t Got Nuthin’ On Me

If you have a young child you are probably familiar with the book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” If you have one on the way--get the book--it’s a favorite among young children. As I was reading it to my daughter yesterday something awful dawned on me when I got to what the caterpillar ate on Saturday.

Ready for it?

I am almost positive I consumed more junk than our little caterpillar friend did last Saturday. Making it weirder was the fact that I consumed many of the same things the caterpillar did. Remember what he ate? It was a pretty gross combo. Like the caterpillar, I had a wicked tummy ache Saturday night.

Before judging me know that it was my first beach trip of the year, there was no food at my parent’s house yet, and I attended a kid’s party while I was there.

The VH Caterpillar’s Saturday Menu:

1 piece of chocolate cake
1 ice cream cone
1 pickle
1 slice of cheese
1 slice of salami
1 lollipop
1 piece of cherry pie
1 sausage
1 cupcake
1 piece of watermelon

My Saturday Menu:

2 Dot’s Pastry Shop cream donuts
Part of Sophie’s banana

1 Liverwurst sandwich (I know, I not supposed to eat this)
1 Pickle

Lunch #2 (after friend’s christening)
3 slices of Prep’s pizza
A lot of French Fries
1 Ice cream sundae

2 servings of Sausage, potatoes & onions
1 piece of choc cake
Several strawberries

At least the caterpillar ate “a nice green leaf” on Sunday and felt better. Can’t say the same for myself. After a bagel at the March for Babies, I managed to put down a Sac O Subs hoagie, some Johnson’s popcorn and some Laura’s fudge.

Up until last weekend I had only gained about 8 pounds. Gotta imagine I packed some on this weekend. Thank god I won’t be down there again for another month.

Ok random story over.

Check back tomorrow for Pregnant Woman v Food: The Pickle Edition!

And The Winner Is...

The winner of the free 3d/4d Ultrasound from Bella Baby 4d is:

Emily Anderson

Emily wins a 15 min 3d/4d Ultrasound Package from Bella Baby 4d complete with picture cd and dvd of session ($119 value).

Didn't win, but still interested in a 3d/4d Ultrasound? Bella Baby 4d is offering a discount to EITB fans/followers. Get a 30 min session for the price of a 20 min session (a $30 discount).

For more info click here:

Remember to mention Expecting Inside The Beltway when you book.

**Bella Baby 4d also has military discounts!

Thanks Bella Baby!

Bella Baby 4d
3650 Joseph Siewick Drive
Suite 203
Fairfax, VA

Look out for another giveaway/preggiepon next month!


Sorry for the delay announcing the winner of the 3d/4d ultrasound--need to confirm something before announcing... Hopefully I will be able to post by this afternoon. If not I will re-draw tonight. Cara

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Just a reminder that today is the last day to enter to win a FREE 15 min 3d/4d Ultrasound from Bella Baby 4d!

Here's how to enter:

Fan/Like Expecting Inside The Beltway's Facebook page or become a follower of the blog (click the follow button on the blog). If you follow the blog and fan the page you get 2 chances!

The winner will receive a free 15 min 3d/4d ultrasound package from Bella Baby 4d complete with a photo CD with 12-20 3d pics and a 4d DVD of the session! (a $119 value)

Rules: You must live in the Washington, DC metro area, currently be pregnant, and not past 32 weeks to enter.

***While it looks like there are already 40 people in the contest- only about 1/4 of the fans/followers are eligible to win (read the others aren't pregnant) So there's a good chance of winning!

Drawing will be held on 10:30pm Wednesday April 28th! Winner will be announced on Thursday April 29th.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Second Trimester Necessities: A Few Of My Favorite Things

I am halfway through my second trimester and feeling pretty much like a superhero (well, in comparison to my first trimester anyway!) However, while I feel good and have my energy back, my body is changing much more rapidly now and I am starting to feel (and look) pregnant. I said farewell to my waist a few weeks ago and am wearing almost all maternity clothes now. Funny, most of my maternity clothes are way cooler than my regular clothes, the benefit of hand-me-downs from a friend who works at a fashion magazine! In addition to the maternity clothes, I’ve started to dig into some of my other maternity supplies from pregnancy #1.

Here are some things I consider Second Trimester Necessities:

(Ok a few of these are duplicates from the 1st trimester list since I didn’t start using them till 2nd trimester this time round)

Tums (Smoothies)
Gas X

Heartburn and gas are some of the awesome side effects of pregnancy. If you’ve never had heartburn before you might think you’re having a heart attack the first time it hits you bad. I actually landed in the hospital on my 30th birthday because I had an elevated EKG. Turned out it was acid reflux (causing some major heartburn) and asthma. Mortifying, I know. So I know how awful heartburn can be. In regards to gas…I don’t have to explain what that one feels like, right?

I prefer the Tums Smoothies to the regular Tums, they seem to work better for me and they are a lot less chalky than the regular Tums. You might want to have Mylanta or
Maalox on hand if the Tums don’t cut it. While these are approved by most doctors, please talk to your doctor first before taking anything.

Preparation H

No chance this should be considered a “favorite” thing…but for some of you it’s going to be a necessity, as is a little inflatable ring to sit on (sorry, just being honest). Say it with me ladies, hem-or-rhoids. Many women don’t experience these until pregnancy and might freak out when they first discover they have them. I have one friend who was so freaked out when she discovered these little (or not so little) guys that she called her husband at work crying to tell him something was wrong. Being the not-so–delicate-yet-sweet husband he is, he first laughed at her, then told her what it was and said he’d pick up some Preparation H on the way home. It’s very common and can be very, very painful. However, there is little you can do to prevent them. Good news is they usually go away postpartum.

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter/Mambino Organics/Mama Mio

I included this in the first trimester list but you probably didn’t need it yet. If you want to keep your skin supple and prevent stretch marks, I definitely recommend using one of these. I use Palmer’s Cocoa Butter because I know it works (used it last pregnancy) and because I’m cheap. If you want to splurge a little go for Mama Mio Stretch Mark Cream or Mambino Organics Belly Butter.

Maternity Bras

So by this point the bra extenders might not be cutting it anymore. I am still able to wear a few of my regular bras, but have recently dug out my maternity/nursing bras. This might sound a tad strange, but one thing you might consider when the girls start to get unruly is wearing a maternity bra or tank top to bed at night. I know, it sounds weird, but they are going to start to get in your way and well, they’re only gonna get bigger. Believe me, your back will thank you. I love the Medela Sleep Nursing Bra. It’s really thin and isn’t the most supportive thing, but it is extremely comfortable. I got so used to wearing it that it was difficult to stop wearing it even after Sophie quit nursing at nine month. If I didn’t wear a sleep bra I wore a Gillian & O’Malley nursing tank top.

In terms of other Maternity bras, I’d recommend buying all nursing bras, rather then buying bras for your pregnancy and bras for nursing, but that is a personal preference. Some women get substantially larger when they nurse. I didn’t so I had a few of the highly rated Medela nursing bras (sleeping and seamless soft cup) and a few of the cheap target Gillian & O’Malley nursing bras. Other bras recommended by my friends include: Bravado, Glamourmom, Bella Materna, and Belabumbum. I recommend getting fitted at a maternity store or by a nursing consultant.

The Snoogle

No, not the snuggie -- the Snoogle. And yes, it’s a big ass body pillow. I love my Snoogle. Until recently my daughter was using it as a seat and she loved to play in it. I actually had to get her another chair so I could start using it again. You basically hug the thing and wrap it around yourself based on how you sleep and what is aching any given night. It’s supportive and cozy, sort of like your husband (only it doesn’t make fun of the fact that you’re sleeping with a big ass pillow.) If you can’t get comfortable at night or your belly, back, and/or knees need support, I definitely recommend getting one. Available on-line or at BRU, BBB or most baby stores.

Belly Support Band

Ok I didn’t need this but if your back is in bad shape, you might want to consider.

Mama Spanx

I will not confirm nor deny resorting to these during my first pregnancy. All I’m saying is that if you have to dress up for work and need your bum, belly, and muffiny goodness to fit into that suit, dress, etc…get one.

Peppermint Foot Lotion

One of my friends couldn’t live without the stuff. I have it and know I used it, but wasn’t an addict. But nothing beats it for sore, swollen feet. It feels tingly and wonderful and smells delish. I like the Body Shop’s cooling peppermint foot lotion, but Burts’s Bees, Booths, and Bath & Body Works also have good ones.

Body Cream

Most women experience some itching as their belly grows and their skin stretches. Some women (like my one girlfriend) get really, really itchy all over. Here are some creams that I’ve used or have been recommended to me: Eucerin/Aquaphor, Bliss Naked Body Butter, Gold Bond Healing Skin Therapy.

Other things to consider Second trimester

Dentist Appointment

Haven’t had a check up in a while? Probably time to get your teeth cleaned. While dentist’s can/will only fill a prego woman’s cavities in an extreme situation, the cleaning will do wonders and will help prevent gum disease. A leading cause of pre-term labor.

Dermatologist Appointment

Not to scare you, but your skin is changing as rapidly as your body. Do a body scan at home and look for new moles/growths. Skin cancers grow fast on some women during pregnancy. I’ve had basal cell and am covered in little sun freckles and moles. The result of way too many sunburns as a kid. I had more than a dozen removed before my first pregnancy, but have seen more pop up. If you see any changes, you should probably make a dermatologist appointment.

Increase your H2O intake

I don’t care if you think you’re peeing all the time…drink more water. I went into pre-term labor b/c of a UTI caused by lack of water intake.

If you are interested in buying any of these products on-line, I've compiled them all in the EITB's Recommended Products Store!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Greatest Trick The Baby Ever Pulled Was Convincing Her Momma She Was In Her Crib

So my dear five readers, I have to apologize for going silent the past four days. I headed home to PA at the end of last week and then to the shore for the March for Babies. While it was a great weekend, it was also a very chaotic and internet-less weekend. I had hoped to post on Friday, but turns out my 19 month old decided to start climbing out of her crib late last week and continued to perform her new trick at my parent’s house in PA and in NJ. My favorite moment came on Thursday afternoon. After making certain Sophie was in her crib and settled for her nap, I went down to the family room (monitor in hand). I could hear Sophie playing with her little talking frog. Then it went relatively silent.

My mother had decided to take a nap and so I decided to try and “borrow” the neighbor’s internet signal and do a little writing. I could hear some beeping on the monitor, but assumed it was just the noise machine in her room and figured it needed new batteries. I was enjoying peace and quiet that is rare for a visit to my parents, when out of nowhere this little person appears in the family room and walks right by me with a bar of soap in one hand and a cordless phone in the other. She walks to the middle of the room with biggest smirk on her face and just looks at my mom and I and starts laughing.

Soo, awesome, I not only have a climber, but a stealthy one that managed to climb out of her giant crib and make it down steep stairs without making a sound. The beeping I heard should have tipped me off: it was the phone.

In addition to her climbing abilities and stealthiness, her strength is also starting to worry me. She can’t seem to place her sippy cup on the coffee table when she’s done with it, but she managed to carry a swing, a ride on toy, a potty, and a heavy carved cat and place those on the coffee table. I’m currently wishing Xavier’s School from X-men was real so I could enroll her. Alas, it’s not and so I have put up a few extra gates to keep her from getting into trouble and hurting herself. I’ll deal with the bed conversion now that I am home. For the time being I might take my friends advice and scale back on Gymboree since I really don’t need her to be much stronger or get any more ideas!

All that to say..Sorry, check back tomorrow for Second Trimester Necessities! Later this week, Pregnant Woman v Pickles.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Skinny On: 3d/4d Ultrasounds

Every time I’m at my Ob/Gyn for my monthly appointment, I pass the time by trying to figure out how far along different women are and flipping through the latest prego magazines.  Aside from lots of ads for things I never knew I needed, I always see ads for 3d/4d ultrasounds; these ads are often accompanied by vivid 3d pictures of chunky babies in utero. 

When I was pregnant with Sophie, I never considered having an elective 3d/4d ultrasound.  The idea was too foreign to me and I had four regular ultrasounds, (I moved mid-pregnancy so I had two in PA and two in VA) so I saw no need.  Honestly, I thought of it as an unnecessary expense.  But now I was curious and wanted to know more about elective ultrasounds. Why do people choose to have them done? How much do they cost? Who performs them? What is 4d? Are they safe? etc, etc. 

After looking into more than a half dozen 3d/4d ultrasound groups in the area, I decided to contact Bella Baby 4d (, a 3d/4d ultrasound group located in the Fair Oaks hospital complex that shares space with Fairfax Ob/Gyn Associates.  Bella Baby 4d is run by Jeanne Sottile, a registered sonagrapher with nine years experience overall, and two years with the new 4d equipment.  Jeanne was not only kind enough to answer my questions about 3d/4d ultrasounds, but she also invited me in to have one done.

I have to say, I was a bit nervous about the whole thing.  I’d kind of gotten used to the 2d scan.  I mean yeah, you can’t make out a whole lot on it, but it’s always been enough.   The 3d pictures I’d seen sort of weirded me out.   I didn’t know if I wanted to see THAT much.   

I’m 21 weeks along and have had two regular (doctor ordered) 2d ultrasounds. The most recent was to take measurements, check out the main organs, and attempt to determine gender.  The first two tests checked out fine.  The fun part however, failed miserably, as my little one was hunkered in a little ball, face down, knees tightly closed.  Arrrgh, we couldn’t see a damn thing.  (Sophie did the same thing during her 20 week ultrasound -- I hope my kids always remain this modest!)  So in addition to being nervous about all I would see, I was also going to definitively find out my babies gender during this visit.

I should probably clarify what the difference is between 3d and 4d ultrasounds. In 3d ultrasounds, the sound waves are sent at different angles, instead of straight down (like a 2d). The returning echoes are processed and provide a three dimensional image of fetus's surface or internal organs.  3d ultrasounds allow you to see width, height and depth of images (like a 3d movie but without movement).  The 4d component is basically 3d plus live action movement.  I should also mention that while many hospitals have 3d/4d ultrasound equipment, many do not use it on every pregnant woman.  Although they are safe, many only use it in high risk situations in order to see with more clarity.  

 The 3d/4d ultrasounds I’m discussing in this post are the kind done outside of your doctor’s care and are considered “elective” ultrasounds.  To be clear: these are not diagnostic ultrasounds.  They are sort of more like…vanity ultrasounds…baby-in-utero glamour shots, if you will.

Jeanne sees an average of 45-50 couples per month at her Bella Baby 4d location in Fairfax.  (A good number of her clients are military and come in before dad is deployed or during leave.)  There are basically three reasons why women/couples come in to have a 3d/4d ultrasound done: gender determination, deeper connection with baby, and to have dad see what mom is experiencing/feeling.

While it is possible to determine gender after week 16, the best time to get a 3d/4d ultrasound done is between weeks 27 and 30, since that is when you’ll be able to see the whole face in its chubby baby glory.  Often people will come in for 2 sessions; an early session between weeks 16 and 26 to determine gender and then a later session between weeks 27 and 31 to get the best in utero pics of the baby.  According to Jeanne, after 31 weeks it is very difficult to see or get pictures of the baby’s face or body parts because the baby is so large at this point and there is so little space left in the uterus for the baby to move.  If you are 34+ weeks, she will most likely turn you away since by this point, it’s impossible to get a good picture.  Be leery of any place that will take your money and scan you 34 weeks +!

You must prove that you are under the care of an Ob/gyn and have had a regular 2d diagnostic ultrasound before you can make an appointment at Bella Baby 4d.  Also, if you are a high risk pregnancy (high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, etc) you must disclose that to your sonagrapher because it may impact the results of your scan.  For example, women with gestational diabetes tend to have very large babies and it may be harder to get a good view of the baby.  Finally, if your baby has a known abnormality and you’re considering a 3d/4d ultrasound, only do it if you are sure it isn’t going to upset you.

My Experience

As I mentioned before, I was a little nervous about having the ultrasound done, but it turned out to a pleasant and surprisingly emotional experience.  I typically get my ultrasounds done at the perinatal center at INOVA Alexandria hospital. The room is cold and sterile.  The ultrasound room at Fairfax Ob/Gyn Associates (where Bella Baby is located) in comparison was very warm and welcoming.  Purple walls, low lighting and soothing music make it feel almost spa like.  A large flat screen tv sits on the wall across from the bed so you don’t have to crane your neck to see what’s going on.  The relaxing atmosphere definitely puts you in the right mood to see and connect with your baby. 

When Jeanne started my scan I was just frozen.  It was crazy to see my baby so close up and so clearly.  Since I am only 21 weeks along, the baby’s features were not like the chubby pics you see in the magazine advertisements.  I mean I could make out the face and features and appendages, but the baby is still very small and developing and still looks a little alien like.  But it was beautiful.  When Jeanne turned on the 4d it got really wild.  I could actually see what I was feeling.  I could see the baby rolling back and forth and kicking.  I understand why women want to have these done, it really helps you visualize your child.  It’s a beautiful and personal experience that definitely brings you closer to your child. I have been so busy with Sophie that I haven’t really given much time or thought to baby #2.  I can honestly say that I feel more connected now.  And for those of you wondering, I can’t wait to meet…her.  
If you are interested in having a 3d/4d ultrasound, I would definitely recommend Baby Bella 4d.  There are several packages ranging from $75 to $169, and almost all of these include cd with pics and a dvd of the session.  There is also a military discount.  Jeanne’s prices are very competitive.  I actually think they are the lowest in the area (at least compared to the other local groups I researched listed below).  Regardless of where you choose to go, make sure your scan is being done by a registered sonagrapher. 

So here’s our first EITB Giveaway and Preggiepon:

1- Fan Expecting Inside the Beltway’s Facebook page or become a follower of the blog and be entered to win a free 15 min 3d/4d ultrasound package from Bella Baby 4d complete with a photo CD with 12-20 3d pictures and a 4d DVD of the whole session!  (a $119 value)  (If you follow the blog and fan the page you get 2 chances!)   Drawing will be held on Wednesday April 28 (and only pregnant fans get put into the raffle)th!

2- Mention “Expecting Inside the Beltway” when you schedule your appointment and get a free upgrade from a 20 min to 30 min package (a $30 discount)

Thanks again to Bella Baby 4d for taking the time to meet with me and for offering these great deals to EITB fans/followers!

Bella Baby 4d
3650 Joseph Siewick Dr
Suite 203
Fairfax, VA 22033
703 334-1730

Other 3d/4d Ultrasound Businesses in the Metro DC area:


Motherhood Sonograms (Falls Church)  $

Infant See 4d (Fairfax, Lorton) $$

Apricot Tree (Woodbridge)  $$$


That’s My Baby (Bowie) $

Baby To Be Images(Annapolis) $

Stork Vision (Gaithersburg) $$

Lil Bo Peep (Owings Mills) $$

Sunday, April 18, 2010

For Dana & Kai

For Dana & Kai.

Last July I was sitting in one of my favorite old bars at the shore having a long overdue girls night out with my best friend, Christina.  Our parents were watching our children, who were (thankfully) fast asleep.  We reminisced over lukewarm Yuengling, oblivious to the goings on around us.  While trying to figure out an app on my phone that we’d been discussing, an e-mail came in.  The subject line read: It’s a girl!  Dana, one of my oldest friends in the world had delivered her little girl, Kai. I gasped aloud and grabbed Christina’s hand.  I know, not the usual response to a new baby.  But you see, I had just seen Dana the previous weekend and had done the ceremonial passing on of maternity and baby gear…Dana was only 29 weeks when I last saw her.  Baby Kai was born 10 weeks early via emergency c-section and weighed in at a mere 2 lbs.  Kai was in the NICU and 24 hours later, Dana had yet to see/hold her sweet baby.  I had a lump in throat.  I was frightened for my friend, for her baby, and for her husband.

It turns out Dana had developed preeclampsia and not just the regular version, but the more severe HELLP syndrome.  She had actually passed out at work when she had a sudden/severe onset.  To be honest, even though I had a baby, I didn’t really know what preeclampsia was, so I looked it up.

According to the Preeclampsia foundation and March of Dimes:

Preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both the mother and the unborn baby. It affects at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, and is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision are important symptoms; however, some women with rapidly advancing disease report few symptoms.

Typically, preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks gestation (in the late 2nd or 3rd trimesters or middle to late pregnancy), though it can occur earlier. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia. Preeclampsia, Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) and toxemia are closely related conditions. HELLP Syndrome and eclampsia are other manifestations of the same syndrome. It is important to note that research shows that more women die from preeclampsia than eclampsia and one is not necessarily more serious than the other. 

Globally, preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death. By conservative estimates, these disorders are responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year.

After reading that I was really scared.  While in some cases doctors can manage the preclampsia, there is no cure for it. In a severe case like Dana’s, the body has such a toxic reaction to the baby the only way to stop it from killing both mother and child is to deliver the baby.

So as to not leave you hanging--there is a happy ending to this story.  Both Dana and Kai are healthy now and I can’t wait to see them next weekend at the shore when a group of us participate in the March for Babies.  But what happened to Dana made me realize how fortunate I had been. (I was going to say blessed, but that would imply that Dana wasn’t, and god knows that Dana (and the Aristone clan) are better Christians than I.)  Up until that point I really didn’t know anyone that had a severe, pregnancy related health problem or a high risk delivery.  In fact, my own delivery went so smoothly and quickly that I sort of thought of the whole thing as a relative cake walk.  Easy peasy, right?  It made me sort of cocky and in retrospect I definitely took my precious Sophia, and the fact that she was healthy, for granted.  Dana’s love for Kai seemed so much more fierce than mine and it made me feel both a little jealous and a bit guilty.  But I understand why she is that way (as much as someone who didn’t go through what she went through can) and instead of making silly comparisons I chose to use Dana as my role model and I began holding Sophia a little tighter and a little longer from then on.

Sophia is 18 months now (Kai is 9 month) and since Dana is in NYC and I’m in DC, she hasn’t met Kai yet.  But when she does this weekend at the March for Babies, Kai’s name will be familiar to her.  To this day we say “and god bless baby Kai” at the end of her prayers every night.  I can’t wait for them to grow up at the shore together.  Turns out Sophie and Kai are the exact age difference that Dana and I are (9 months).  While a big difference now, in a few years the age difference will mean nothing.  

I write all this in advance of next weekend’s March for Babies.  I will be participating in the 5 mile walk with Dana and nearly a dozen other family and friends on the Ocean City, NJ Boardwalk. 

The proceeds of the March for Babies benefits the March of Dimes. The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality through research, education and advocacy.  More than half a million babies born too soon each year.   The March for Babies has been an annual event since 1970 and has raised an incredible $1.8 billion to benefit all babies. (.76 of every dollar goes to March of Dimes programs and research.)

I’d love for you to participate in the event (there are walks all over the country the same day) or make a donation to me/Team Kai. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pregnant Woman v. Food: The Cupcake Edition

[Edited 4/17/10]
I’ve been on a cupcake kick for a few years now, but for obvious reasons it’s been really bad over the past few months.  So I figured I would test out a few of the areas cupcakeries to see how they stack up.  Over the past week I have tested cupcakes from Alexandria Cupcake, Cake Love, Fancy Cakes by Leslie, Georgetown Cupcake and Lavender Moon Cupcakery.  I contemplated trying more, but after consuming way more cupcakes than any one person should eat in a week, I cried uncle.  Lavender Moon was a late entrant.  I originally was going to stick with the first four, but was guilted/shamed into trying Lavender Moon.  As I live in Alexandria, I had to give it a fair shake. 

I am hardly a foodie, but when it comes to cupcakes I know what I like. Basically my dream cupcake has to have a moist, spongy cake and rich, fresh tasting icing.  Pretty simple criteria, right?

Here are the results of my completely unscientific experiment:

Georgetown Cupcake
3301 M St NW, Washington, DC
(202) 333-8448

Bethesda, MD location
4834 Bethesda Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 907-8900

Cost per cupcake: $2.75

Georgetown cupcake opened in 2008 in a small side street shop in Georgetown, they recently moved to the corner of 33rd & M. 

Tested a peanut butter fudge cupcake and a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese icing.  The peanut butter fudge cupcake was yummy. Chocolate cupcake with fudgy center and peanut butter icing.  Moist and delicious -- but I didn’t love it love it.  I think that’s because I then had the red velvet cupcake.  The cupcake itself was utterly moist and spongy.  Oh and the vanilla cream cheese icing…utterly delectable.  It was creamy and rich and truly some of the best cream cheese icing I’ve ever had.  I mean damn, usually the cupcake is ok and the icing is the big hit but this was the whole package. 

Alexandria Cupcake
1022 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 299-9099

Alexandria Cupcake opened its doors in Old Town Alexandria in January of this year.  It sits in a townhouse right on King Street. 

Cost per cupcake: $3.00

Ok so I also tried two cupcakes here.  A red velvet cupcake and a dark chocolate cupcake.  The red velvet cupcake was…ok, it hardly knocked my socks off.  It wasn’t as moist as I’d like and it was sort of dense as well.  The cream cheese icing was good, not great.  On the other hand, the dark chocolate cupcake with vanilla bean icing was pretty fantastic.  The  dark chocolate cupcake was not as spongy as I usually like but it was moist and really delicious.  The vanilla bean icing was a perfect complement to the strong cake, it wasn’t overpowering—it just worked perfectly. It tasted fresh and creamy.

Cake Love
1506 U Street, NW
Washington, DC 

Other Cake Love locations:
Shirlington, Fair Oaks, National Harbor, Tysons Corner & Silver Spring

Cost per cupcake: $3.00

Cake Love has been around since 2002.  When I worked in the city we would always get cakes from Cake Love’s U Street bakery for any office event.  However, I didn’t have a Cake Love cupcake until 2008.   Cake Love has six or seven locations but as I live in Alexandria, I went to the Shirlington location.  I ordered a red velvet cupcake and a strawberry buttercream cupcake.  I followed their directions and let the cupcake warm to room temperature and then dug in.  To be completely honest I have had Cake Love cupcakes before, but not since 2008, so I was hoping this go around would be better…but it wasn’t.  The cupcakes were very very dense, muffin like, and I didn’t get good flavor out of either.  The icings were hard and tasted lardy to me like I was just eating plain butter.  I don’t mean to be so negative, but I’m just not a fan.  To be totally corny---I’m just not feeling the (cake) love.

Fancy Cakes by Leslie
4939 Elm Street
Bethesda, MD 20814-2905
(301) 652-9390

Cost per cupcake: $3.25

Ok, so I sort of cheated on this one.  I didn’t actually go to the Fancy Cakes Bakery in Bethesda to try a cupcake. I sampled the cupcake at the Bump it Up Pregnancy Pampering Event at the W last weekend.  Their big thing is, well, fancy, and I mean really fancy (and pricy) cakes.  Ok so at the event I had a…what else? A red velvet cupcake.  Pretty damn good!  Not as amazing as Georgetown cupcake’s rv, but moist and rich.  I probably should have tried another but didn’t want to stuff my face during the preggo fashion show.

Lavender Moon Cupcakery
116 South Royal Street 
Alexandria, VA 22314-3328 
(703) 683-0588

Cost per cupcake: $2.75

Ok so my daughter and I swung by Lavender Moon yesterday after receiving some peer pressure for not including it in the original post.  Let me just say flat out: I am so glad I went.  I can't believe I haven't  been here before!  Lavender Moon sits on Royal Street, a block south of King Street.  It is the only "organic" cupcakery in the area that I tested.  The decor feels cupcakery; sort of Alice in Wonderland like, but it definitely put me in the mood for a cupcake (or 4, I was really hungry yesterday).  The cupcakes weren't labeled which wasn't a problem since the owner went over each with me, but I can see how on a busy day the lack of labels could be confusing to people (especially since the flavors change daily).  

I couldn't test my usual red velvet here, since they don't make a red velvet cupcake(organic= no red food coloring).  So, instead I tried: a S'mores,  a devils food with peanut butter mousse, a blood orange dreamsicle, and a vanilla bean lemon curd.  So let me just say that I had to be talked into some of these because I really shy away from fancy/odd named cupcakes.  So here it goes:  I'll start with the S'mores because it was my least favorite.  Shocking, since I love S'mores and even have my own little S'mores kit and burner at home. But it was just a bit too strong.  The cake was moist but tasted burnt (probably by design) and the marshmallow icing didn't do it for me.  The second one I tasted was devils food with peanut butter mousse.  Yum.  The cake was moist but a bit dense, probably to complement the peanut butter mousse...which was decadent.  OMG, I loved the icing, it was truly glorious.  However, you really must be a peanut butter fan to enjoy this cupcake.  Even I couldn't imagine finishing it in one sitting. The third one I tried was blood orange dreamsicle.  I had to be talked into this one because, well, because blood was in the name and that threw me.  I'm glad I got it, it was a pleasant surprise.  The cake definitely tasted more muffin-like to me and had specks of orange peel, but it in conjunction with the icing it was a refreshing treat...and it tasted like a orangesicle.   The final one I tested was by far my favorite: the vanilla bean lemon curd cupcake.  It was like a little lemon lovers dream.  The cake was moist and the center was filled with lemon curd (the filling in lemon meringue pie) The icing was a mix of vanilla and lemon and it was creamy and rich.  Again, if you aren't a lemon lover, this might not be for you.  As for me, I am hoping to get it in cake size for my birthday!  It was extremely delicious and along with Georgetown Cupcake's red velvet, my other favorite cupcake.    

Sidebar: I should note that it was 84 degrees yesterday and this could have slightly impacted my taste test.  I like more fruity flavors on hot days.  Oh and I should also clarify that I didn't eat all 4 (at least all in one sitting).  I tested half of each cupcake and then left the rest for future picking. I am pleased to report that at 9;30 am the following morning there is 1/2  (or 1/4) left of each of the cupcakes. And, yes, I am going to have a cupcake for breakfast, thank you.

I contemplated trying more bakeries (see below for bakeries I didn’t get to sample…this time) but felt pretty gross after eating 7 cupcakes in less than a week.  Trekking around to the bakeries is also a wee bit time consuming!  So in this edition food wins and I’d have to say Georgetown Cupcake/Lavender Moon get the blue ribbon this time around.  But who am I but a random pregnant woman eating mini dill pickles at 10:30 at night?  Go try them for yourself and let me know which you think is the best!

Others not tested:

Hello Cupcake
1361 Connecticut Ave (Dupont Cir)
Washington, DC 20036

Nostalgia Cupcakes
188 Main Street
Annapolis, MD 21401-2008
(410) 280-0660

Sprinkles (Opening summer 2010)
3015 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20007

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pregnant Woman v. Food

Ok, hopefully this will be a recurring segment--unless I make myself ungodly sick or gain too much weight.  However, before I dive into my first food challenge I need to explain a few things.
First, the name is a play on the Travel Channel’s show “Man v. Food” with Adam Richman.  Now, for more than a half dozen years I was a Samantha Brown loyalist.  She was my gal and we were tight (although she didn’t know it). No matter where I traveled, Samantha was there with me.  Whether on the TV in my hotel room in Dubai, my stateroom in the Mediterranean or on my flight to Thailand (in flight entertainment), Samantha was there by my side.  My husband and I would even sit on our couch and veg out to Samantha Brown on weekends and dream about where we’d go next.  [Insert screeching tire noise here] But…now we have an 18 month old so our travels have been limited recently to Pennsylvania, Colorado, and the Jersey Shore (no, not anywhere near THAT jersey shore town)...basically to where the grandparents live.

Since my wings have been clipped, Samantha and I have grown apart and I’ve had to find new friends…enter Adam Richman.  Adam, is the host of “Man v. Food” and currently my new bff on the Travel Channel.  Adam travels around the country and takes on all sorts of outrageous food challenges; some of my favorites include a donut the diameter of a basketball, a 12lb cheeseburger, and a giant stuffed pizza.    

Second thing you should know is that I’m Italian and as such food is very important to my family. For example: when my mother goes to a party and I ask her how it was, she doesn’t tell me about funny conversations or what people were wearing, no no, she tells me the menu in painstaking detail and then how everything tasted.  My mother is awesome, but the way she eats certain foods (like wings and donuts) is, well, creepy, a wee bit orgasmic even.

The menu at my wedding was completely based on appeasing the voracious appetite of my relatives.  So in addition to the main dinner, there was a large cocktail hour spread with copious amounts of cheese and things wrapped in bacon, as well as a massive dessert room. At one point, I returned to the ballroom from the bathroom and found the room ¾ empty because just about everyone had smashed themselves into the dessert room down the hall. And, rather then returning to the ballroom to eat dessert, most guests ate outside the dessert room, put their empty plate on the sidebar and went back in for seconds, thirds, etc.

So my genetic/cultural predisposition to food combined with the fact that I am pregnant and craving just about everything, gave me the Pregnant Woman v. Food idea.  Since this is my last pregnancy, I plan on succumbing to my cravings and eating myself simple—all the while providing my readers (hahaha..readers=me) with the best local places to satisfy their cravings.*

Check back in a few days for my first pw v. food post
Challenge #1: Cupcakes

* However, if you have what is called a pica craving, you’re sol, because I have no desire to taste test sand, clay, dirt or ice.  Should those things become irresistible to you…call your doctor!!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Online Kids Consignment! 529 Kids Consign

Done having kids, but still have tupperware crates full of baby clothes? Having trouble parting with it, but want to be free of the clutter? Consign them!

Having a baby girl and your other two are boys (Christina)? Why make another huge investment in clothing? Check out 529 Kids Consign for gently used baby clothes! is an ONLINE kids consignment store based locally in Alexandria, VA. So whether you live locally or across the country you can shop or consign with 529.  529 Kids Consign makes consigning easy and stress free and you receive 40% of the sale price.

Check it out!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

There's An App For That?!

Pregnancy applications. No, you don’t need to apply in order to have a child…although in some cases that probably wouldn’t be a bad idea—these are applications for your mobile phone!

When I was pregnant with Sophie I read a bunch of books, consulted a few websites like and took a childbirth class to prepare for her arrival.  I thought I did my due diligence.  As I was researching books and web resources for my last two posts, I realized how woefully low tech my preparation had been.  This isn’t much of a surprise really, since technology and I aren’t tight and I am hardly an early adopter.  Making matters worse is the fact that my husband calls me the technology killer as most high tech things I touch seem to die.  (He’s convinced I have a magnet somewhere in my body…I kid you not, I am banned from using our home desktop computer.  I write these on my laptop)

So a few weeks ago (some two years after the iPhone came out), I finally got an “Android” smart phone (Motorola devour).  Once I figured out how to make a call on the touchpad (and stopped hanging up on everyone with my chin), I started checking out the phones other features, including the Android market (think iTunes store, but for Android phones.)  I found more than a dozen baby applications!  I checked out the iTunes store too, where there are probably two dozen baby applications!  I downloaded and read up on a bunch of the apps. 

Here’s the low down on some of the best baby apps I found so you can be a high tech mama. 

Android Pregnancy Apps

Free Apps

Pregnancy Calendar
Personal pregnancy calendar, allows you to follow your baby’s development week by week, as well as changes in your body during your pregnancy.  Well rated but many seem to prefer the paid app that is similar to this (Baby Bump).  No on screen widget.

Pregnancy Due Date Calendar
OB/Pregnancy Wheel
Pregnancy Wheel
Kind of lame in my opinion, but if you haven’t seen your doctor yet, any of these will help you estimate your due date.

Pregnancy Widget
This was the first app I downloaded.  It’s simple, but helpful and the widget is on your main screen.  Basically you fill in your last period and it calculates your due date and then the widget on your screen shows you how far along you are (ex: 19 weeks, 1 day) along with how big the baby is now and how much weight you’ve probably gained.  I know this is going to sound awful, but on most days I couldn’t tell you how far along I am! I feel a little bit bad about this, since with Sophie I could tell you exactly how many weeks I was.

Labor and Contraction Timer
Pregnancy Contraction Counter
Exactly what they say they are. Helps you or your significant other keep track of contractions, also has a time to go to the hospital alarm.

Pregnancy Health Guide
Basically a dictionary of terms associated with pregnancy.  Not all that exciting, but it’s free and might come in handy.

Genetics and Birth Defects
Basically a dictionary of genetic disorders and birth defects.  This seems like it would just stress women out. 

White Noise Light
In short—it’s a free sound machine. This saved me when we were visiting my in-laws in Colorado last week.  Sophie is used to a sound machine in her room to drown out noise.  We didn’t have one in CO and my in-laws heating system makes this awful popping noise.  So I checked out the apps on my phone and found this.  It worked like a charm.  You can choose from 10 different sounds including fan, rainfall, wind, white noise, clock, train and ocean.

Developmental Milestones
You won’t need this until after the baby is born but it’s an app that tracks your child’s developmental milestones from 3 months to 5 years. 

Paid Apps

Baby Bump ($2.99)
Sort of like the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book, but on your phone.  App provides weekly info on your pregnancy including embryo size and development.  Provides journal, calendar, waist graphs, kick counter, home screen count down widget, as well as FB and Twitter sharing. Very well rated.  Just downloaded it myself.

Baby ESP ($2.99)
No, not that ESP.  This one stands for Eat, Sleep, Poop.  Welcome to parenthood, isn't it glam!  During your baby’s first few months of life you need to track their inputs and outputs, as well as their sleep.  With Sophie, I tracked this in a notebook, until I wisened up and started putting it into a printed up excel spreadsheet.  This app will allow you to keep track of your baby’s naps, wet diapers, poopy diapers, medicine and meals (whether bottle or breastfed). If you breastfeed there is a timer that allows you to track how long your child nurses on each side.  Very cool and very well rated. I’m looking forward to using this one.

Daddy 511 ($1.99)
A countdown time and pregnancy calendar for dad! Also provides contraction timer and directions to your hospital so dad has all the info in one place. App even looks masculine! Very well rated.

iTunes Pregnancy Apps

Free Apps

BabyBump (Tulsa)
iPregnancy Tracker
These free apps are like the Pregnancy Widget on the Android phone. They’re simply countdown clocks that appear on your main screen.  Good for keeping track of how far along you are, but they don’t provide any detailed info. 

Pregnancy Tracker from What to Expect When You’re Expecting
App is based on the book and provides due date calculator, week by week details on baby’s growth and development, baby illustrations, info on your changes in your body, count down to your due date, among other things. Well rated on iTunes.

Hello Baby-Pregnancy Calendar
This app, sponsored by Pampers, is for the Ipad.  It is similar to the What to Expect app but provides some different and cool features.  Evidently once you put in all your info you can put the iPad up to your belly and it will show you a simulation of what’s going on inside of you that day or week.  Woah, freaky.

Pregnancy Countdown with Facebook Connect
People seem to be really split on this one. It does a lot of what the others do and has a countdown timer, but half love it and half hate it.  Thus far only 400 people have downloaded it (some 3000 have downloaded the “What to Expect App”)

Paid Apps

iPregnancy ($3.99)
Calls itself the “premier application for keeping track of your pregnancy.”  Has a due date calculator, info on baby’s weekly development, lots of 3d Ultrasound pictures, Ob appointment tracker, weight gain tracker, etc.  It pretty much has everything the others have and has the highest rating of all the apps (4.5 stars/6,500 reviews)

Baby Bump ($4.99)
Same as the Android version. Sort of like the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book, but on your phone.  App provides weekly info on your pregnancy including embryo size and development.  Provides journal, calendar, waist graphs, kick counter, home screen count down widget, as well as FB and Twitter sharing. Very well rated but ipregnancy is more popular.

Foods to Avoid (.99)
A list of foods to avoid during your pregnancy.  I wish I had this when I was at a restaurant last month trying to figure out how much lobster I could eat in one sitting.

Baby Checklist ($1.99)
Helpful list of all the crap you need to buy for your new bundle of joy J  Wish I had this first time around as well.

Total Baby ($4.99)
Like the Baby ESP app. Helps keep track of baby’s inputs and outputs and has a nursing/bottle timer among other things.  Very well rated.  Also has a place to log milestones, vaccines, doctor’s appointments, weight gain and allergies

***Don’t have a smart phone?  You can still get baby info and updates sent to your phone via text (yes, really)

Text 4 Baby Program
Text “Baby” to 511411

Text4baby is a free mobile information service designed to promote maternal and child health. Women who sign up for the service by texting BABY (or BEBE for Spanish) to 511411 will receive free SMS text messages each week, timed to their due date or baby’s date of birth.

More than you probably ever wanted to know about pregnancy apps, eh?  Hope someone finds this helpful.  Have an app you love or hate?  Let me know!