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10 Things You May Not Know About Me

apollina baker

1.  My full name is Apollina Justina Casal Spoto (now Baker).  I am the second of 4 girls and all of our names begin and end with A (Aisha, Astiana and Ahdazsa). Which is a big part of why we gave Amara her name. 

2. My Myers Briggs personality type is an ENFP.  After being tested (took an extensive exam with certified practitioners, interviews, analysis and all!), I made a lot more sense to myself. 

3. I had a nose  job.  Two actually.  I used to have a more pronounced, Italian looking nose (which I kind of miss), accentuated by a crooked bone thanks to a sledding incident.  I had surgery to fix my septum and have my nose set straight but it was even more crooked afterwards (the septum is a stubborn thing) and I regretted not having more cosmetic work done.  I had a corrective rhinoplasty and decided while under the knife, to slenderize my schnoz and shave down the bump.  My nose is still crooked but I like it.  I was pretty self conscious before and now, I don't give my nose a second thought.  Brad likes to joke that I gave him the old bait-and-switch:)  Our kids are going to have these huge noses and not know where they came from! 

4.  I am allergic to apples.  I know, Apollina is allergic to apples?!  Apples, plums, pears and soy. 

5.  One of my sisters, Asti, passed away almost 13 years ago.  She was 19, I was 21 (we are the two middle sisters).  We were in a medical malpractice lawsuit for several years following her death and it was an incredibly horrible time in all of our lives.  One of the reasons I wanted to become an attorney is so that my family would never need another one; we had a pretty traumatizing experience.  Asti and all my sisters are a big part of who I am.

6.  I'm not a Democrat or a Republican.  I'm Constitutionalist and registered Independent.  I firmly believe the two-party system serves to cause divisiveness among our citizenry, maintain the status quo (when, regardless of who is in office, has the establishment ever meaningfully changed?), and to perpetuate the grand illusion that there are only two sides to every issue and that there is someone who shares your beliefs and worldview - you just have to vote them into office so they can act on your behalf.  It boggles my mind how we still buy what we're being sold.  Debate, criticize and lambaste over here while the establishment (those domestically and internationally who really run the show) carry out their self-serving agenda over there.  I agree with Judge Napolitano, elections are tools of social control that serve to provide the people with meaningless participation in a process that remains the same, no matter what people want.  The establishment doesn't want and doesn't have the consent of the governed.  We have so lost sight of what the government is supposed to be.  It was created by and for the people and we are supposed to have control over it.  But the opposite is true and additionally, we fear it.  Which is what the Constitution is meant to guard against.  

This is a hot-button issue for me... clearly;)  Brad's plea to friend's/family in social settings:  "Please, don't get her started."

7.  I often fantasize about being on Dancing With the Stars.  The only reason I want to be even a little bit famous is to have the opportunity to be on that show!  It's just the best show in the world.  The Good Wife is a close second.  And The New Girl is hands down the funniest show on t.v. 

8.  I have had a job since I was 13 years old.  When I told my Mom I wanted a certain kind of shampoo instead of what she bought, she told me that I would have to buy it myself.  So, I got a job as a maid and have been buying my own shampoo ever since.  Bought all my own cars, paid for my apartments, my bills, college and law school.  This is the first time since 13 that I have not had a job - although, cumulatively, I'm sure I've logged more working hours staying at home with Amara than in all previous paying jobs.  Once she gets to a certain age, Amara will pay for all of her own things too.  She's definitely going to wait tables!  I did it for 6 years and I think everyone should do it, at least for a little while.

9.  I am truly concerned my daughter is learning how to sing from listening to me sing to her every day and night.  I cannot cary a tune!  As we sing she matches my tone and tries to harmonize with me and I fear I am setting an awful example of what singing is.  Brad said we have to get singing lessons - for me.  Whaa!

10.  I am generally an organized mess.  Okay, I am being a little too generous with characterizing my mess as "organized".  I'm a bit haphazard at times and often go onto the next thing in such a hurry I disregard whatever I was presently doing unconsciously and nonchalantly.  That doesn't mean, however, that I am generally not present.  One of my strong suits, I would say, is being present in the moment and appreciating my surroundings and company.  The possibility of getting dirty, ruining, breaking or losing something doesn't dissuade me from doing anything.  I'm not risk averse.  Except when it comes to the law, I am overly aware and concerned with keeping within its boundaries.  Although, I am a staunch believer in Civil Disobedience as well.  I live by a code that may seem contradictory but it makes a lot of sense to me - I am an ENFP after all. 

xoxo

Amara's New Play Table

apollina baker

Amara's little table makes me so very happy.  The $20 Ikea Latt table just begs for a makeover and it's got hacks for days.  This awesome Latt Hacker had the genius idea of inlaying a lovely design from Paper Source and gave awesome instructions on how to do it.  I also used the great instructions from another cool DIYer for the seat cushions.

For the makeover I needed...

  • CUSHIONS  
    • 1 inch foam from Joanne Fabrics.  Don't buy green if you're using light fabric!  I made that mistake and the green showed right through the white fabric.  I cut up one of Brad's white tee shirts to layer over the foam before I covered them.  Sorry honey.
    • Fabric of your choice.  I used 1/2 a yard of white, fluffy fabric, also from Joanne's.
    • Staple gun, Joanne's. 
    • Spray adhesive.  Joanne's.
  • TABLE
    • Grey wood stain
    • High gloss protective finish.  If there is a spray version, I would definitely use that instead of painting it on like I did. 
    • Gold spray paint (lightly sprayed the tops of the screws)
    • Acrylic sheet/plexiglass at .08 thickness, 18 x 24 inches.  I think Lowes may cut it to the exact dimensions you will need - 23 3/8" by 17 3/8" - if so, that is absolutely the way to go.  Major pain otherwise.  Home Depot wouldn't cut it so I had to saw it using a plexiglass cutter.  And when I say "I", I mean Brad.  Thanks honey.
    • I bought this beautiful ombre paper from Paper Source.  It's reversible; the other side would work for a boy;)

DIRECTIONS...

  • CUSHIONS:  Cut the foam so that it fits within the inside corners of the seat.  Adhere the foam to the seat.  Cut enough fabric so that you'll have a couple inches hangover.  Pull taunt, fold over, staple gun it.  Cut off excess.  Since I used a fluffy fabric, I cut the fluff off of the area where I would need to slide the seat into the slot of the chair frame.  I assembled the chair around the seat cushion.  Got a nice snug fit.  I was so stinking proud of myself!  I thought making a seat cushion was way out of my DIY league but it was SO EASY.  And fun even.  Did the seat cushions and painted the whole set in one nap time!  (Amara is taking roughly 2 hour naps at the moment).

DIRECTIONS...

  • TABLE:  Paint/stain the UN-assembled set.  I used a grey stain and used only one coat.  I am too impatient to wait to apply a second coat.  Plus, I liked the way it looked.  The next day (during nap) I applied a protective finish, high gloss.  I painted it on but would have used a spray if I knew there was one available.  The directions said to paint it on, buff it off, paint it on, buff it off, paint it on.  I couldn't do all of that.  Because I didn't want to.  So, I used one coat and left it like that.  For the table top, Brad sawed the plexiglass to the proper dimensions (23 3/8 by 17 3/8").  I wasn't a fan of the silver hardware so I punched the screws through some leftover foam and gave the tops of them a light coat of gold spray paint.  After the table was assembled, Brad measured and painfully sawed the plexiglass to fit.  There are notches at each corner than need to be cut out as well.  Then, I placed that cut plexiglass on top of the pretty paper and used an X-acto knife to cut the paper to shape.  You can see me doing that in that picture up there.  Oh wait, that's Brad again.
    • One thing I haven't done yet but will absolutely do, is to seal the edges on the inlayed plexiglass.  If Amara spills water (which she will), it will totally seep into the table top and ruin the paper.  So, until I buy a sealant, no drinking or watercoloring on the table; pretend tea only.

And voila!  I LOVE her little table.  It is so cute and she loves it.  At $20 (plus $10 for shipping), it was easy to spend money to customize it.  It takes a little time but I enjoy (half-assing) a little project now and then;) 

Sorry about my fuzzy phone pics (boo hoo), was one of those atypical rainy days in Austin.  

She's getting too big

apollina baker

She speaks in three word sentences now and tells me that she loves me.  I have a very, very hard time not sleeping on the floor next to her crib while holding her hand through the crib bars.  We are wrapped around each other's finger and attached at the chest.  At least once a day I am overwhelmed by how much I love her.  Tears come so easily now that I'm a Mom.  It's like they're always right there waiting behind my eyes - nothing but JOY.  And tomorrow is another wonderful, long day.  No idea what we are going to do, I gotta come up with something.

Hello 2015

apollina baker

austin post card

And hello to all of you!  Any of you?  Still out there?  I haven't written a blog post since June!  Well, defensively speaking, I've written several posts since then but I haven't completed or posted them.  So... what's been going on for the last 6 months???

Sixteen teeth, a ton of new words, a few colds, a couple sleepless nights, nine trips by plane, lots of new friends, probably a million tacos, eight visitors, some boo-boos, a bunch of crazy adventures, about five thousand giggles and as many kisses as I could fit in.  2014 was our first full year in Austin and, gotta say, we love it.  We traveled a bunch but we always enjoyed coming home.  We have made such great friends here and there is always something super cool to do.  We're still renting a house for the moment but are on the hunt for a place of our own.  Texas Hill Country is looking pretty nice.

One big thing that happened last summer (July) was Amara straight up quitting nursing.  We were nursing heavily and consistently 4 times a day - wake up/nap time/snack time/bed time.  It was the day after she turned 15 months old; I went to nurse her before nap and she turned her head away with a totally disgusted look on her face.  I offered again and she was adamantly opposed to the whole thing.  It was actually making her upset when I offered.  I tried again that night and again the next day.  She never nursed again.  I was heartbroken.  It was so weird!  She loved nursing, I loved nursing.  I was actually thinking of weaning at the time because 1)  I was nursing her to sleep and that's supposed to be a no-no (but who cares!  I wouldn't change a thing) and 2)  I was going on my first trip away from her in two weeks and didn't want to leave her high and dry.  But I couldn't do it, I couldn't start the weaning process.  So, she did it for me -  cold turkey.  It was a hard couple of weeks for both of us.  More for me than her though.  She was definitely confused by the whole thing and without nursing, there were a lot of gaps in our days; she also had to learn how to fall asleep without it.  I basically just cried.  For two weeks.  It really took me by surprise,  I mean, this was ultimately a really good thing.  She made the decision herself, I didn't have to wean her and my trip was now going to be so much easier for both of us.  But I was really sad and didn't know why, until I started researching a little bit.  I learned that the hormone change when you stop breastfeeding is actually more intense than when you deliver your baby - which can have a serious effect on women, i.e., postpartum depression.  The hormone change was especially intense because nursing ended so abruptly and so finally.  We both adjusted after a couple of weeks and found a new routine - I still miss nursing her sometimes though.  Then, it was time for me to go on my girl's weekend trip!  Which was another HUGE (and much more awesome) thing that happened this summer... 

meandoscar.jpg

I had the amazing opportunity to meet Mr. Oscar de la Renta and attend one of his incredibly beautiful runway shows in Lake Tahoe.  It was his Resort 2015 Collection and it was stunning.  This was my first fashion show and I was actually moved to tears by how ridiculously beautiful the show was.  What an honor to meet Mr. de la Renta and a privilege to witness his genuine, gleaming smile and his truly gorgeous gowns in person.

As for 2015, Brad and I are looking forward to another year of watching our little girl grow into the incredible, admirable and completely fascinating person she already is.  We want a million more kids!  For this year though, we're working on one.  Cheers & happy, happy new year!

amara eating ice cream.jpg
eating her ice cream.jpg

Pineapple Up On Top Cake

apollina baker

A little twist on the pineapple upside down cake - just throw the whole thing on top!  

Well, half of the whole thing... 

Pineapple Up on Top Cake:

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cups whole buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup pineapple puree 
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • a whole pineapple, smallest one you can find 

Pineapple Buttercream Frosting:

  • 1/2 pound butter, softened
  • a couple tablespoons pineapple puree
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • Some lemon zest, to taste

Directions for Frosting:  Beat butter for a few minutes on medium speed, so it’s really fluffy and creamy. Add other ingredients to desired taste and consistency.

Directions for Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and then butter and flour a 10-inch cake pan.  Throw the butter in the mixer and beat it at medium speed until creamy; gradually add the sugar.  Once fluffy, add eggs 1 at a time and beat well after each.   Mix in vanilla.

In another bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mix into the egg/butter mix alternating with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour mix.

Pour the batter into the buttered and floured pan and bake until a wooden pick (I often use a chopstick b/c I can never find the toothpicks but toothpicks are definitely recommended) inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes then flip it onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Frost the cake and put it in the fridge to firm up a bit so the pineapple will sit on top and not sink into the icing. 

For the pineapple topper:  Get a small sized, good looking pineapple with a pretty stem (is that what the tops are called?) – often organic markets or whole food type stores will have smaller ones.  Hold it up to the cake to determine how much of the stem you'll need to cut out/off with a pair of kitchen scissors (or a sharp knife – be careful!).  Then you are going to cut the pineapple in half.  Make sure you are cutting so that the prettiest and most symmetrical side of the pineapple will be face up. After you half it you have to gut it - scrape out all of the “meat” and then soak up all the juice with a paper towel so juice doesn’t drip on the cake, you want a dry shell, as much as possible. Once the icing is solid, place the pineapple half on top of the cake and voilà! It's not the easiest to cut into but it looks pretty cool;)

Love this fun artwork and this sunny little girl...  Keep enjoying that summer of yours!