Happy All Hallow’s Eve from the Bartos

Another successful Halloween with good food, great friends, and way too much (delicious) candy.

Happy Halloween!


Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

These are a little out of season now, but I made them in August & they were too good to forget. I got the recipe from one of my favorite recipe blogs, Annie’s Eats. These would perfect anytime in the spring or summer. They’re very refreshing, especially for cupcakes … if it weren’t for the delicious lemon cream cheese frosting, you could call these muffins. Not that that frosting kept either one of us from eating these for breakfast.

First, music. It makes me feel like I’m in a movie montage & everything gets done fast and perfect.

Then realize that the butter needs to be at room temperature, and you forgot to leave it on the counter the night before. Turn on the toaster oven and put the sticks on top to warm them up a little quicker.

Combine the dry ingredients for the batter. If you’re using a stand mixer, use a bowl other than the stand mixer one.

Grate the heck out of a lemon to get the zest. Then take a cotton swab and get every piece in between the little grater things, because that’s where all the zest decided to go.

Just kidding. I used a rubber spatula to get most of the lemon goodness out of there.

Realize that you left the sticks of butter on the toaster oven a little too long, and they’ve started to melt. Stick them in the freezer for a minute or two.

Put 1 stick, the sugar, and the zest in another bowl (in this case, the stand mixer bowl).

Then, get out this guy if you have one.

Beat the butter, sugar & zest together on medium-high

Creamy lemony goodness.

Then, wash these guys.

… and toss them with 2 tbsp of flour.

Fold them into the cupcake batter (aka sprinkle them in & gently cover them with batter).

Spoon the batter into your cupcake liners.

Bake 20-22 minutes and get this…

After 5 minutes, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. I liked using transparent liners so I could see the blueberry goodness:

While they cool, make the frosting. I used a Wilton 1M tip to frost these… that is my favorite cupcake tip to use. Garnish with blueberries; devour. 🙂

Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

Yield: about 16 cupcakes


For the cupcakes:

¾ cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour, divided

¾ cup cake flour

1½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

Zest of  1 lemon

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tbsp. lemon juice

½ cup plus 2 tbsp. milk, at room temperature

1 cup fresh blueberries

For the frosting:

8 oz. cream cheese

5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Zest of 1 large lemon

Additional fresh blueberries, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the ¾ cup all-purpose flour, the cake flour, baking powder and salt; whisk together and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar and lemon zest.  Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla and lemon juice.  With the mixer on low speed, mix in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Blend in the milk.  Mix in the remaining dry ingredients, beating just until incorporated.

In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour.  Using a spatula gently fold the berries into the cake batter.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners, filling each about ¾ full.  Bake 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pans 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the lemon juice and lemon zest.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.  Garnish with fresh blueberries.

Baby Barto: Week 13 Heartbeat!

We were able to hear Baby Barto’s heartbeat for the first time at the ultrasound at 10 weeks, but at my last appointment (week 13), I recorded the heartbeat when my OB used the doppler.

{ video embedded below}

As soon as my doctor put the doppler on my tummy, it seemed she was able to get a heartbeat. This was astounding to me, as I’m not really showing yet, and she can immediately find a heartbeat of another living human inside me. I’m so glad I recorded it, because I like to listen to the heartbeat all of the time.

Without a very noticable baby bump, nor any movement that I can feel yet, it’s such a great reassurance to hear the heartbeat. I feel much more connected to the growing life inside me.

Baby Barto: Week 13

I was in Poland on business when I took this picture. I forgot to bring my purple tank & grey capris 🙂

me at week 13: I definitely have a baby bump. A stranger actually recognized that I was pregnant, just by looking! (I don’t think I was sucking in, haha.) I was going back to the hotel on the tram, and a girl who was sitting stood up & offered me her seat. … At least I think she did; she spoke Polish.

Thank goodness (especially this week), I’m gaining a little more energy and I’m not completely dead tired by 8:00 at night! I do realize the importance of snacking during the day, however. The first day (my birthday, actually), I went all day, eating a normal sized breakfast and lunch, but then on the way home on the tram, I felt extremely nauseous. I thought I was going to have to get off for an emergency! Luckily I desperately started stuffing a granola bar in my mouth & everything was OK for the time being. That night, nothing sounded appetizing except some hot chocolate from room service.

On the way over to Poland, I became sick with a cold. Unfortunately, you cannot take many of the great cold medications while you’re pregnant (i.e. pseudoephedrine).  Also unfortunately, I did not speak Polish & the pharmacist did not speak English. Thanks to my extremely nice Polish coworker, I survived the week after she brought me some pregnancy-safe cold medications.

Some thoughts on being a pregnant woman in Poland (pardon the tangent):

This week, working with my Polish collegues, I was very busy. Meeting after meeting, no breaks, long days, etc. On top of being sick, I felt like a mess.

All day long, my Polish coworkers tell me,
“You’re working too hard!”
“You need to take care of yourself, for the baby!”
“You need to take a rest.”
“Have a safe trip home… and remember to take care of yourself!”

Then I find out that, in many cases where they work, they get 9 months off, paid … during their pregnancy.

No WONDER they think I’m absolute nutso. They are probably thinking I’m endangering my child, as compared to what’s normal in their culture. Don’t even get me started on their amazing maternity leave policies.

It definitely makes me question / resent our attitude toward childbearing & child rearing in the US. No one ever tells me I’m working too hard in the US; they’re too busy telling me they need this thing, on their desk by tomorrow morning (nevermind that it’s 5:30 at night).

Observation / rant over.

Baby Barto at week 13: He is the size of a peach this week, almost 3 inches long. Fingerprints have formed on her tiny fingertips, her veins and organs are clearly visible through her still-thin skin, and her body is starting to catch up with the size of her head. And — this is absolutely amazing to me– if she’s a girl, she now has more than 2 million eggs in her ovaries. When she reaches puberty, she will only have 400,000.

Baby Barto: Week 12

me at week 12: Nearing the end of 1st trimester! Becoming hopeful that the nausea & exhaustion will go away! Not much else to report. We stay busy, and when I get tired, I put on my game face as best I can.  At home, no game face. Also, I think this is the first week that I’m beginning to notice the real start of a belly bump.

Baby Barto at week 12: She’s the size of a lime this week! He’s just over 2 inches long and weighs half an ounce.The most dramatic development this week are his reflexes. His fingers will begin to open and close, his toes will curl, his eye muscles will clench, and his mouth will make sucking movements. I’ve read that if I prod my abdomen, she will squirm in response, although I won’t be able to feel it. His intestines, which have grown so fast that they protrude into the umbilical cord, will start to move into her abdominal cavity.

Baby Barto: Weeks 7 – 11

… so first, let’s talk about this previous post. I know you guys go out of your way to read my blog for my (obvious) wit and humor, not to mention stunning good looks. So, from the bottom of my heart, I apologize, for that that… hiccup… in blog authors/rulers.

But seriously, it was the best birthday gift I could have gotten. I woke up for my first day of work in Poland (Poland?! .. we’ll get to that later), saw the post, and was so full of love & happiness. My Polish coworkers surrounding me were probably wondering why this American came halfway across the globe to stare wistfully at her computer with tears in eyes, but I don’t care. I told you he was good. Really good.

OK, let’s get on with this show.

First, I have a statement to make about the chosen outfits in my weekly bump pictures. No, I don’t have a closet full of grey workout capris & purple tanks. I’m trying to take the different outfit element out of it for the pictures & just focus on the important part: the belly.

7 weeks

me at week 7: This is when the exhaustion hit. I have energy all day, at work. Then after my 1-hr commute home, I walk in the door & have just enough energy to make it to the couch and fall over onto it. The nightly routine for me that week was coming home from work, falling asleep on the couch while Michael made dinner, waking up to eat dinner, and then going to bed while he cleaned up. Also, I tried going without Zofran (my anti-nausea med) 1 day this week and it didn’t go so well. I got an aura migraine during the day & had nausea into to the night. Back to Zofran! Starting that week, I also couldn’t get enough water (and still can’t). I always have a water bottle with me, and a fill it up several times a day.  I read this is because my blood volume is working on doubling by 7 months into the pregnancy, and the amniotic fluid replenishes itself by about a cup every hour.

Baby Barto at week 7: She’s the size of a blueberry! Hands & feet (that look like paddles are beginning to emerge.  In the next few weeks, the little tail (an extension of the tailbone) will disappear. He has doubled in size since last week and now measures half an inch long. She also has eyelid folds partially covering her eyes, which already have some color. Both hemispheres of his brain are growing, and her liver is currently making red blood cells (until her bone marrow forms and takes this over).

8 weeks

me at week 8: There’s not too much to report here. I’m still really tired in the evenings, nauseous in the evenings at times (probably because I tried to limit my Zofran dose to 4 mg/day), and very thirsty. I don’t have any cravings, but since I’m nauseous at night, only one or two things will sound good for dinner.

Baby Barto at week 8: He’s the size of a kidney bean this week. The little paddle hands & feet that started forming last week are now growing into webbed fingers and toes. Breathing tubes extend from her throat to the branches of his developing lungs, and in his brain, nerve cells are branching out to connect with one another, forming initial neural pathways. His or her external genitals still haven’t developed enough to reveal whether you’re having a boy or a girl. She’s also constantly moving and shifting, though I can’t feel it — which is so amazing to me. I can’t wait to feel our little baby.

9 weeks

me at week 9: Yep, same story. Tired. Hungry, but nauseous in the evenings. Thirsty. I’m extremely productive at work, but worthless at home. Go figure.

One night this week, I actually had energy to do something productive, and so I decided to make a new recipe: homemade Hostess cupcakes. Awesome, right? I thought, why not – I have a free night & tomorrow I’m leaving for Wisconsin for a wedding & to visit Michael’s family. It would be perfect to bring these. So, the first batch only made 12 cupcakes.  This was not written anywhere on the recipe. I went to the store to buy more ingredients; made a double batch to total 36 cupcakes. On to the filling.  Realized the 7-min frosting required a hand mixer, which we didn’t have because our 50-yr old trusty GE one finally died a few months ago. Late night trip to Target. Made 7-min frosting but it would not perk up. Threw it out. Looked up another 7-min frosting recipe and remade it. It was okay. (We’re rounding midnight here.) Filled a few cupcakes with the frosting, tasted a cupcake.

They were the dryest, grossest cupcakes I’ve ever had. It was past midnight at this point & I had been planning on leaving for Wisconsin at 7:00 that morning. Went to bed without cleaning anything up, slept until 8:00, left at 10:00, planning to make it there for the wedding reception. I was supposed to bring Michael’s suit to him (side story, but Michael was flying from a business trip straight to Wisconsin) for the wedding, but he said he would scramble some items together from his dad, brother & brother-in-law, to wear for the ceremony. As I’m driving through Indiana, about 2 1/2 hours from home, and I realize I’ve hit another pregnancy milestone: preggo brain. I totally forgot his suit. It was obviously too late to turn around, but I felt like an idiot. Well, he looked dashing anyways, of course, so I didn’t feel too bad once I saw him.

Baby Barto at week 9: She’s the size of a grape this week – nearly an inch long – and starting to look more and more human. His essential body parts are accounted for; they will just be fine-tuned throughout the rest of the pregnancy. This week, her heart finishes dividing into four chambers, and the valves start to form.  And get this – her tiny teeth begin to form! His or her external sex organs are there, but won’t be visible via ultrasound for a few more weeks. His eyes are fully formed, but her eyelids are fused shut and won’t open until 27 weeks. From here on out, the main goal for the her is rapid weight gain.

10 weeks

me at week 10: We had our first ultrasound this week! We also heard the heartbeat: strong at 164 beats/min. It was so amazing to see this little human inside me, wiggling all over the place (yes, it was moving!), and not be able to really feel it yet. This was definitely the moment where this pregnancy truly became “real” to us – we got to see the first pictures of our first child.

{ our little teddy bear }

{ you can see the spine clearly here & this also shows the heartbeat }

{ beautiful baby. }

{ cute little toosh! and little legs }

{ 3D image: you can see the head, arms, legs & cord here }

Here are some notes from this week:

10w5d: Had a dream. Little girl was born & was extremely cute and tiny. However, I would just forget to breastfeed. She didn’t seem to mind, but my supply tanked pretty quickly. I felt so bad. I was happy to know I was still pregnant when I woke up. [I pretty confident that I will not forget to breastfeed in reality; I believe nature has a way of preventing this one..]
10w6d: I didn’t get exhausted until 7:15pm!! [This was huge. I think I did a couple loads of laundry. It was a momentous occasion.]

Baby Barto at week 10: He’s the size of a kumquat this week, a little over an inch long.  She has now completed the most critical portion of his development; this is the beginning of the fetal period, where the tissues and organs in his body rapidly grow and mature. She’s swallowing fluid and kicking up a storm. Vital organs, including his kidneys, intestines, brain, and liver, are in place and starting to function.  The hands and feet have no more webbing and tiny fingernails & toenails are forming!! Her limbs can bend now & his hands are flexed at the wrist and meet over his heart. The outline of her spine is clearly visible through translucent skin (visible in the ultrasound pictures), and spinal nerves are beginning to stretch out from her spinal cord. His forehead temporarily bulges with his developing brain and sits very high on his head, which measures half the length of his body. (The body will grow to become more proportional to the head during the pregnancy.)

11 weeks

me at week 11:  Still tired tired, hungry, nauseous at times. Still continuing to stay active. Since I’m so tired at night, I try to wake up before work & go jog or do 30 Day Shred. I’m listening very closely to my body when I work out, to make sure I’m not pushing it too hard. Outside of work, we’re keeping pretty busy. At 9 weeks, we had a wedding in Chicago. At 10 weeks, we had the wedding in Wisconsin. At 11 weeks, we made the drive up I-65 again because we wanted to meet Owen Patrick, our new nephew, born the Tuesday before.

Baby Barto at week 11: She’s the size of a fig this week & is just over 1 1/2 inches long. His hands will soon open and close into fists & he’s already kicking and stretching. Her diaphragm is forming, and she may be hiccupping as well… I can’t wait to feel those hiccups!

(Guest Author) 28 years ago today…

…the love of my life entered this world.  I didn’t know her at the time, but I’m told she was focused from the start 🙂

Don't mess...she's coloring

She quickly grew from an adorable baby to a precocious little girl…

…to a loving big sister.

She was brought up by wonderful parents.  They taught her the importance of family and raised her to be selfless, caring, dedicated, passionate (just a few of the things I love about her).

I’m so blessed to be part of her family.

I love you, Ashley.  I’m so lucky to have you (I could never deserve you), and I’m so excited for what’s to come as our family grows.  Can you believe our tiny Barto will be here to wish you happy birthday next year?  I may have to do the talking for him, but she’ll be thinking it 🙂

Happy Birthday!



My paradise is being with you.