Friday, December 30, 2011

coming to a close

Our visit to Minnesota is coming to a close. It has been an eventful few days, and after nearly 2 weeks away from home, I am a bit eager to get back to "the norm" and into our daily groove again.  I had my typical moody-grump phase yesterday, feeling bummed and forlorn at the thought of leaving our family in Minnesota.  I take comfort in knowing that I've spent almost 5 of the last 10 weeks with family. Saturation, beautiful, cozy, loving, family-centered saturation.  The hard part is being unsure of when we'll be back ... Easter? <sigh> best not to think about that right now. =)

Ryan came down with a sudden case of strep throat ... Poor guy could hardly speak by the time we got him in to the doctor.  He's finally feeling like himself again.  It was pretty scary seeing him sleep and sleep ... with no appetite ... sweats/chills/vomiting/choking/bleary-eyed sickness. Noo thank you!  Following his 24-hours-of-antibiotics-til-no-longer-contagious period I promptly washed all of the bedding he came in contact with, lysol spraying the bed and pillows, and disinfecting all common household surfaces.  The plus to his illness? 2 extra days in Minnesota!

We moved from Mom n Dad's house to the Haws home, making a cozy little pack-n-play nest for Thomas to sleep in, and settling into Ryan's old room.  T slept pretty well last night, waking with gas and then having an adventurous 5 a.m. til 7:45 a.m. with Dad, who graciously let me go back to sleep for an hour before Kathy and I got ready to start our busy morning together.

Kathy, T and I met for coffee this morning at Caribou Coffee.  It was so nice to see my sisters.  Following, Kathy and I went to Treadle and Penzey's on Grand Ave.  There were so many gorgeous fabrics there - if only I had a pattern in mind - I could have blown the bank on fabric! Hahah - I've since been googling some of their licensed kid-prints for quilt ideas ... their Dr. Seuss / Lorax / Goodnight Moon collections were adorable ... as were some of the non-licensed prints - think cute little boy fabric complete with bicycles, folding instructions to make a paper airplane, robots, nature (bears, birds, trees), city prints ... I am going to have to go back with a project in mind next time we are in town!

I'm excited for a few up-coming blog posts with the new year - the first being a post about one of my favorite wintertime recipes - Cardamom bread!  I found white cardamom pods at Penzey's today, which are supposed to be more Scandinavian in flavour than their green (which I've used courtesy of the S. bend farmers' market) or black podded cousins. The second post is hopefully going to be a guest post from Ryan involving beermaking!

Tomorrow Ryan, T and I are going to spend New Years Eve with Ryan J. and Marge in their new little home Mexican Taco style <3 Here are some great NYE/New Years Resolution articles I've come across the last few days that I recommend checking out -

25 Parenting Resolutions for 2012 - There are so many goodies here. Personally I hope to implement many of these in my daily life .. particularly #25 ;-)

30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself - This is an eye opener, and definitely a reminder to 'chill' and live life to it's fullest, instead of going the doom-and-gloom pathway that is so easy (for me) to fall into sometimes.

I'm looking forward to the drive back to Indiana on January 1.  It'll be a great opportunity to reflect on 2011, formulate family resolutions with Ryan, and reflect upon the last two weeks with family. Mm <3  Hopefully it's one of our last trips! Only time will tell.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Busy Days!

Yesterday Ryan and I had a fabulous afternoon with his family - visiting with his aunts, uncles and cousins on the Dalland side of the family.  I always look forward to spending this day with his family, because it is the only time of the year we get to see them .. and they are so very nice.  Little T did very well - taking micro naps throughout the day, visiting with new "friends" and taking in all of the hustle and bustle.  We were showered with gifts from the family, ranging from cookbooks - we both adore cooking - to glass food storage containers, and trinkets and toys for Thomas .. as well as many gift cards ..! Which made today particularly exciting, as we venture to the Mall of America with the Tasker family!!

The mall was extraordinarily busy today ... seriously ... unbelievably busy.  We made it, though, and had a great time.  We enjoyed lunch at the Twin Cities Grill ... and although it was a tough choice, I had the wedge salad and French onion soup ... yumm! We go every year, and so come Christmas day we are already talking about what we are looking forward to the most - vinegar french fries, flat breads, salads, french onion soup, salmon ... Mmm you name it, it is delicious.  I lucked out in my choice, because Ryan chose the chicken salad sandwich and fries ... their fries are my absolute favorite french fries ... and since he wasn't feeling well and has had no appetite ... I got to steal a few! <3

Following our annual family lunch, it came time to peruse the mall.  Everyone likes peaking into Old Navy - which was a hit for me this year, as well ... I found 2 tops for me, jammies for T and a Star Wars t-shirt ... $40 with a $20 off coupon for next time! Score.  We then zipped around to various other places, including Macy's - Ry was in search of a new jacket ... but being very decided on the style he wanted, became a tricky endeavor, finding one in the right style, length and size ... Eventually little T fell asleep in the carrier I had him in (chose not to take the stroller given the crowds and wound up wishing I had) with his arms in the "touch down!!" position ... needless to say his micro nap didn't last long and he woke up fussy ... We took off in search of a nursing nook - finding a cozy spot in the women's restroom - fluffy leather couch, coffee table - It felt so good to kick my shoes off and relax for a few minutes before we were off again.

Each year I tell myself - Oo we should peak into this store, that store, take our time walking through and window shop ... But the day goes so quickly, even more so with a little one in tow, that before we knew it Ry wasn't feeling well, Thomas was so ready for a nap ... and it was time to go home.  We'll have to take some time to go on a week-day next time we're home so we can peak into some of the more unique shops.

We did end up in the Williams of Sonoma store ..! It was so fun to browse and dream ... dream and browse ... Le Crueset, drool ... Ry and I like to pick out our imaginary kitchen items - from bakeware to specialty pans (hello how has it taken me 27 years to know about this beauty? I adore waffles, he adores pancakes ... perfect!) ... Christmas dishes (I can't wait to have a home where I can host a Christmas dinner!!) ... Beaba carrying case and accessories? Wow. Oo la la.  I did splurge on a Zoku Popsicle maker - I am already dreaming of handing Thomas a fresh pureed fruit and veggie Popsicle! So cool!!

Needless to say we've had a relaxing evening after three very busy days in a row.  Tomorrow Thomas and I are hoping to meet up with Gisela and her kiddos for an easy day at the library followed by lunch and (if the weather is anything like today's) some play time outside.  I think I am off to bed, following poor sick-o Ryan ... <yawnstretch>

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

What a long, busy, delightful day!  Dad coaxed me out of bed earrrly this morning ... we ran off to Taste of Scandinavia for breakfast - two eggs over-easy for him, scrambled for me, sausage, toast and hashbrowns! Yumm.  Thomas made new friends with a group of guys sipping coffee and visiting nearby, which was sweet to see.  Dad and I had a great time laughing and talking together ... sharing Christmas memories from his childhood, joking about someone running off with our Yule Log cake ... hahah - tackle 'em dad!!

Our next adventure built a running joke between us .. as we went to Williams of Sonoma in search of the perfect gift for mom - something she's wanted for a long time!  As Dad explained what it was to the salesperson, who looked equally as mystified as I ... Marti came to the rescue - Ohh you're looking for an Ebelskiver!  While she bustled about the store helping dad shop, T and I wandered around drooling over beautiful tablecloths and linens, le creuset pieces, and little boy's cupcake decorations - including robots and .. for football fans .. cheerleaders of all things? C'mon ... Where are the guys in pads?

On our way home we took the scenic route .. driving along winding roads, through giant neighborhoods of hand-stamped houses - you know, where they all look the same? Crowding the same 1/2 acre lots? And talking about how beautiful Minnesota really is.  We truly had a great time together - many memories were made.  What was that pan called again? A edelkaken?! It's Scandinavian, right? All those words end in -kaken! ;-)

The house soon filled with family - Margaret, Ryan J., Gisela and her amazing children.  There was excitement and energy throughout the house as the children oo-ed and ahh-ed over the mountain of gifts under the tree .. Thomas and Silas enjoying each other's baby-company, and adults mulling from room-to-room.  Thomas mastered his sippy cup in the laying-down position ... he enjoyed chewing the nip of it snacking all-the-while.  It was so sweet seeing the babies together - Thomas loved seeing his older cousins, and they were absolutely delighted to play with their baby cousin!  They were incredibly sweet, offering him toys, cooing over him, and backing off as needed.

We enjoyed an evening around the table - who knew we could fit so many in Mom's kitchen?!  As well as in front of the tree ... After everyone left we joked it was the year of Cotton, since all of the children received 1-2 toys and more clothes, hats and mittens then they'll know what to do with!! Just what everyone needed!

The highlight of my Christmas Eve gift receiving - a Beaba Babycook Baby Food Maker ..! It's 4-in-1 ... steaming, pureeing, thawing and heating baby's food! I'm eager to dig into it - it's going to be hard to wait until we get home to test it out. =)

Mom is preparing an amazing breakfast casserole ... Ryan is gaming on the PC with his new headset courtesy of yours truly ... Thomas is nestled cozy-ly in his crib, with his gifts from Santa under the tree ... Dad's sawing logs in his favorite seat ... and I am off to bed! G'night, Merry Christmas ... has Santa visited your town yet?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thomas Opens a Pressie

Surprise! Thomas got to open a Christmas present early this afternoon!

He sure enjoyed pealing the paper - rip, tear, rip tear ... he used his little muscle-arms to lift and turn, pull and tug ... and with a little help from Mumma he was able to enjoy a new toy!  While Kathy snapped pictures, Ryan made us a little video - It's so fun monkeying around with this flip camera!!  These videos certainly are treasures, and will continue to be treasures to our little family!

We had a busy little day today, busting out of the house at 10 a.m. to visit Gramma Dorothy, where we were also able to visit with some of my cousins and their beautiful children .. even discovering that one little (second) cousin of mine is a birthday twin with little t!  After our visit there, we crossed the street to see Margaret's new home.  It sure is a beautiful little home! I am so excited to spend time in their cozy abode and beautiful back yard ... making many memories!!

After those visits, we went to visit Rick and Kathy for a few hours. T settled into a nap, Ryan and Rick ran some errands, I visited with Kathy while she prepared for Christmas day with family.  T opened up a little pressie, then we zipped back home to finish wrapping gifts (it never ends!) and enjoy some time with mom n dad.  I am excited to spend tomorrow with the family - all together in one space! Our family has grown and grown - it's not often we all end up in the same place at the same time!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Gift Rush

As I am figuring out what exactly to blog about this evening, I'm watching my parents wrap-wrap-wrap their Christmas gifts.  I spent the afternoon figuring out last minute home-made gifts to throw together for family ... which was fun!  I am eager to share links, photos and stories about the gifts that I've made this year - the most ever! And honestly ... I'm very excited to see how they are received - a little more so than when I spend my days perusing the mall / amazon.com / catalogue for the perfect gift! ...in part because I get to share my talent and passion with the people I love!

So, Mom n Dad are wrapping and wrapping ... I did a bit of wrapping and wrapping ... until I ran out of boxes!! So tomorrow will be the last-minute dash to grab some finishing touches as well as spending some time ... wrapping ... up the rest of our packages!  .. which is something I love to do.


I was talking with Mom about how I love to wrap, curious as to who taught me my mad skills behind the roll!  I am such a perfectionist - paper just the right size, perfect, crisp corners, expertly creased edges, just the right amount of tape, and a giant, fluffy, expertly curled bow!!  Mom said I must get my perfection-isms from Dad ... but as I watch I am fairly confident that I fold and turn like she does.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tis the Season ...

... to breast feed in public?  Of course! It's such a busy time of year -

I found this post and thought it was humorous - definitely something to think about if you haven't already -

Breastfeeding in Public is Offensive

It is sort of curious to consider why people confront women about public indecency while breastfeeding - I think it's in part related to women hiding themselves while nursing, or simply because many people haven't been expose to the "free-boobing" that can be breastfeeding - particularly with an easily distractable baby who likes to take a look around mid-meal, swatting of any sort of cover-up you may attempt ;-) hahah "Woops, there's my nip! Sorry guys!"

Several months ago I found a beautifully written account of a woman breastfeeding in a new country - she traveled from Canada to Mongolia - simply reading about her experience is amazing - and I highly recommend the article. I loved it, and it supported my gradually changing perspective on the extended nursing relationship not simply between mom n baby, but within the family and community.  Check it out -

Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan

..................

The first night home was as glorious as every first night home ... random family congregates at Mom n Dad's house to see us - in this case it was sister Marge, to who Thomas was very fond of, as he rolled and rolled and rolled toward her, whapping her personal belongings on his belly ;-)

Thomas was soon ready for bed, and Ryan put together my old crib for him to sleep in - something so sweet about awakening to his little voice calling out from my old crib in my old room ... what an amazing home this is having seen so many beautiful babies grow and play among our loving, kind and caring family.  It truly is a great gift to be among such loving family.  We are giddy at the prospect of seeing the REST of our amazing family this week, too! hahah <3

A minor consequence to sleeping in new places is T's adjustment.  As I'm sure all babies are, he's a bit sensitive to where he sleeps, so he's particularly wakeful at night and a bit more challenging to get back down to his usual slumber.  At this stage in the game it's a pleasure to be up with him .. but the third time in 2 hours?? Not so much .. hahah  Ryan was gracious enough this morning to get up with the little guy and offer him a bottle while I caught another hour of beauty rest and showered, lathering my hair in Aveda's - Smooth shampoo/conditioner/styling cream ... my hair looks and feels fabulous ..! Thanks Mom n Dad for the very zen-mommy-centered birthday gift! Mmm ...

This afternoon we're heading out to Mom n Dad's office. I can't wait to see their new space!  Then we're off to shop with Gisela, Elijah & Silas - baby time!  For now, we're waiting for little T to pop up from his nap ... Marge is closing on her house with her love, Ryan - so hopefully we'll get to swing by their new house this afternoon, and of course, stop in to see Gram, since she and Marge are officially new neighbors!

So yes, given the pick-up in our busy schedule, tis the season ... to breastfeed in public!  I'll be sure to throw some pictures in later tonight =)

Monday, December 19, 2011

27 is the New Thing

last time I received a birthday balloon?
Gisela and the purse and high healed shoe ...
how old were we?!
Happy Birthday to Me ..! And my Twin!  It's been a wonderful birthday ... and only the 2nd I've celebrated separate from my twin sis, Marge.  One for each of us ;-)

The day began with a phone call from my sweet little nephew, "Hannah. I have something to tell you. Happy Birthday. What are you doing right now??" His newest 'thing' is to talk on the phone - he insists on knowing my phone number each time I say, "Hey, call me tomorrow ok??" then he says, "I know it starts with 5 .." and won't pass the phone off to my sis until he knows the remaining 9 digits ... It's pretty cute!

Text Whales - Mine had
little ^ hats on ;-)
We were set on going to breakfast at my favorite spot - Uptown Kitchen - but by the time I was done on the phone and showered (man alive I took my time and it was glooorious!) ... T was ready for a nap ... so The Boys (yes, both of them) napped while I poked around downstairs, prepped for our giant road trip tomorrow, and chatted with my mom ... texting my sister whales, birthday whales, whales wearing birthday hats ... ;-)

By the time the boys awoke from their slumber it was time to head off to lunch because Uptown was closing in an hour ..!! After perusing the menu, Ry ordered the chicken sausage hash (yumm with Rye toast) and I chose the Nicoise Salad - tempted by how delicious it looked after a friend of ours ordered it when we met for lunch back in August .. YUMM - It had artichoke hearts and calmata olives - two of my favorites - baby tomatoes, hard boiled egg, seared ahi tuna ... all over mixed greens ... with a garlic-parsley-vinaigrette ... which was to DIE for ... the perfect lunch.  Ryan and I shared bites <3 hehe  Speaking of yesterday's post where I mentioned mastering the art of one handedness?  T was a gentleman at lunch, fussing only for his own bite to eat.  Had we been farther along on the solid food route, he'd have been munching on some peas .. but I was able to give him a bottle while continuing to eat my lunch.

Ry was great about choosing a slice of cake for us - after watching Iron Chef last night and drooling over Chef Faulkner's peppermint chocolate cake ... that is exactly what he chose after I told him to "surprise me"!  Thinking of Marge, 500 miles away, we made the following video at lunch .. err .. should i say .. dessert!

In addition to the best chocolate cake ... with peppermint bark between the layers ... I received the best birthday present, too - Little T took his evening nap - albeit brief - in my lap.  It was so sweet to watch him doze off. I just love when his little lips make that "w" shape ... he is too sweet for words.  I can't wait for our family to see how grown he's become since we were last home at the end of October.  He awoke because Ry and I were continuing to send goofy text message to Marge while she was at dinner with her Ryan and my jiggling belly laugh jiggled T right awake!
zonk ... out he went!
look ... at those lips ...
I love when his tiny bottom lip
curls under and makes a little 'w' shape
lord isn't he cute?

Considering it's only our second birthday apart from one another in 27 years .... it's been a fulfilling and relaxing day all around.  We are totally packed and ready to hit the road for Minnesota tomorrow ... All we have to do is load the car!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

6 Months is a (long/short) time!

Our first family photo <3
Today little T is 6 months old! I can't believe it!  The last 6 months truly have flown by ... as I'm sure many mommies can relate ... it's almost as if having a baby jams the 'fast-forward' button into place.

At this time (6:20 p.m.) 6 months ago ... my parents were just arriving at the hospital! I was so glad to have Margaret in town when I went into labour, and it was equally as refreshing and empowering to have my parents there, as well. (of course in addition to DH who was my steadfast boulder to care for me while in the hospital)

Here's a tiny glimpse into what we've accomplished as a new little family over the last 6 months -

  • At about 10:30 p.m. we found out we would be having a c-section ... my first major surgery.
  • T was born at 11:07 p.m.!! Welcome to the world, little baby!
  • I began breastfeeding
  • I enjoyed an extended stay at the hospital .. lol luxury? Maybe not.
  • We slept for the first time as a family in our little home ... on the futon downstairs because I was way too scared to venture upstairs (and back down?) after my surgery!
  • DH and I figured out (and adapted many times ... lol) the best way to change diapers ... and eventually began cloth diapering our little one!
  • We had the most company in the shortest period of time ever - spending the 5-6 of T's first 8 weekends with family.
  • We have perfected the process of bringing our little one to the South Bend Farmers' Market and have gone almost every Saturday we are in town - T has a fan club among the famers' and vendors ;-)
  • We know the ins and outs of breastmilk pumping, storage, freezing, reheating ... 
  • We've struggled through and been successful in meeting our *FIRST* Breastfeeding Goal of nursing for 6 months! On to the next goal! 9 Months!
  • We've tag teamed sleepless nights quite effectively
  • We've become an amazing 3-person team and family ... loving one another more than we knew we could.
  • Thomas has learned how to - grab, pinch, roll, drink from a bottle, suck a nuk (independently .. lol) and get it into his mouth, stand, pull-to-sitting with a steady strong head, sit with minimal support, and many other milestones ... I've only cried for two of them ... hahah
  • We have learned to do a number of things one handed with a baby in the other arm ...
  • We've traveled to and from Minnesota twice - 3 trips by car, 1 by plane - another baby first.
  • We've taken more pictures than ever before ... even surpassing our wedding day pictures, and there were TWO photographers snapping then!!
  • We've mastered tag-team eating .. you eat while I juggle the baby .. ok switch!
  • I've made my own baby food <3
  • We've talked about when the next little one will come along ;-) 
Ohh man I could go on forever ... It truly is amazing how having a little one changes EVERYTHING. Our little gift =)  He is incredible.

..........

Another feat I've accomplished for the first time is how on earth to do a mail merge .. I printed a heap of addresses onto envelopes today to mail or Christmas cards.  It occurred to me that we are PACKING tomorrow to LEAVE TOWN for 10 days in just TWO DAYS! Eek! I can't wait..!  So to minimize craziness it dawned on me that I should probably mail out these gorgeous Christmas cards we purchased courtesy of JCPenny and Groupon ... We should also figure out what we're going to do with all of these pictures ;-) Oh wait, we already have some ideas!

Little T is up from his nap .. I love listening to Ryan chat with him over the baby monitor - that thing is almost always on!  Lately T has been just catching a glimpse of Ry and doing his little "Ahh heeee" laugh, grinning ear to ear. We can't figure out what it is that invokes these little laughs ... maybe it's Ryan's goofy face? ;-) hahah
c'mon mom .. i just woke up!

Happy 6 Months, Baby T!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

food galore!

C'mon mom, I'm ready!
This morning I was granted with a rare and glorious thing ... Ryan offered to take the baby so I could sleep in!! The angels smiled down on me from heaven as I listened to him change T's diaper and put together a bottle .. all from my cozy spot in bed .. mm .. but the longer I laid in bed the more excited I became .. to offer T his first meal ... and to capture said moment on the best birthday/Christmas gift yet - my Flip video camera! So following my reading, I nursed him, as usual, before prepping a small dish of rice cereal + breast milk for him and plopping him in the Bumbo seat on the kitchen table (yes, I know he shouldn't be in the Bumbo on the table ... we were nearby the entire time, and I promise this won't become a habit ...)!  The entire time I was gathering supplies - rice cereal, breast milk, spoon, Bumbo seat ... Thomas eagerly chewed on and gripped his rice cereal box ... I think he was just as excited as I was!  This was the best part of our post-six-month-vaccines day. And ...

Lucky for you - Ryan was able to use my gift to capture this monumental occasion <3


As you can see in our video, Thomas absolutely loved the rice cereal and sipping/slurping it off of the spoon.  It is so amazing watching this video just twelve hours later, because it captures the moment so thoroughly compared to pictures!  It's so nice to see knowing his little baby-first has been captured in video for ever, for us to revisit as we like, or to share with family and friends - you really get a feel for his little personality!  I can't wait to give him another taste tomorrow ;-)

.........


The remainder of the day was spent preparing for company.  It was a long, busy afternoon, in which Ryan manned the fort (and the little t) while I bustled about the house cleaning, cooking, and the like.  I can't stop thinking about how amazing our tamales were - seriously some of the best I've had!  That either speaks to where I've been eating my tamales or to the quality we've made in the past ... hahah  Perhaps it was the LARD?? Yes ... it was my first time cooking with lard ... and our double-batch of batter contained a half pound of the mystery fat ... however, I'd prefer to credit both my fabulous cooking, as well as the great group of women gathered around my tiny table working assembly-line-style to spread, fill and wrap these amazing little morsels ...

Together we crafted tamales filled with spicy poblano mushroom, mole + chicken and that crispy pork ... they were all fabulous, although I think the mushroom was my favorite .. he he he .. we have a mountain of the filling left in the fridge - it'll be great taco filler!

Phew. It's been a busy two days getting ready for a fabulous night with friends.  It was so nice to come together and enjoy preparing a meal together.  From glitter hands to tamales ... first foods and razzle dazzles!  hahah what a night ;-)  Time to go load the dishwasher ... again!

Friday, December 16, 2011

... the end of a long day


 Phew, what a day.  Thomas had his 6 month vaccines today - as usual, Ryan was the support-daddy and I was the weeny looking away ... I could hardly handle thinking of him getting his vaccines all week - it caused such tightness in my chest for some reason!  One day I'll tough it out and be there for him ... I sort of feel like a cop-out because I have such a hard time dealing with it ... it's about time I put his feelings about getting the shots ahead of my anxiety ... eh?

Once we got back to the comfort of our little home T took his first nap of the day ... and I baked up some of those delicious Chocolate Crinkle cookies from the other day.

Here's the recipe:
Combine:  3 eggs, beaten, 1 1/2 c. sugar, 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted, (I used 1/4 c. dark chocolate powder, 1/4 c. oil substitution - darn that dark chocolate), 1/2 c. oil, 2 t. baking powder, 2 t. baking soda ... gradually add 2 c. flour ... add an extra 1/4 c. if you want your cookies to be a bit taller & fluffier ... Cool the dough in the fridge til easy to handle (1-2 hours) then toss lumps of dough into powdered sugar before baking 8-10 minutes at 375* F.

simmering pork <3
Dad n Thomas 
Eventually Thomas perked up from his nap ... but he was still fussy and exhausted ... no doubt from his vaccines ... so we had a very brief happy-play-time before he conked out again.  I sent Ryan off to the store  - JCPenny's for pictures, Martin's for groceries.  Once he returned home I started to prep for our Tamale Birthday Party tomorrow ..!  We had talked about making tamales months ago and bam all of a sudden it's Dec. 16 and Christmas is almost here and our dear friend Annette is almost off destined to new things ... so it was time ... and since Saturday is so near and dear to my birthday, I decided to throw myself a little Tamale Birthday Party ..!

I prepped some pork butt courtesy of Smitten Kitchen ... ps. this is the best way to prep pork for tacos, bbq pork sandwiches, you name it ... I thought it made sense for our tamales, too.  I did ease up on the lime/orange flavoring since those tastes didn't really "go" with my next adventure - Rick Bayless's Simple Mole Sauce!!  This recipe stems from a cookbook I received as a birth-ma-Christmas gift from an ECDC teacher friend of mine - Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen.  Having made his Brick Red mole in the past, I thought simple = excellent.  While it wound up being very simple (not much easier than the brick red ...), it was still time consuming, as all good moles are.  I was spoiled by Ryan's adventure through town, because he stumbled across the Mexican grocery next to Puerta Vallarta restaurant in town ... while there he picked up some dried ancho chili peppers for our sauce. Go Ryan!!


spice collection - courtesy of
the Farmers' Market
I set about to put this sauce together ... it begins with the ancho chili pepper paste - garlic, chilies, spices (pepper, cumin, Mexican oregano...) ... I probably didn't blacken my chilies enough ... but I blame that on my last experience blackening dried chilies ... it ended in a much needed walk because the house was full of spicy-chili-pepper-air and the in-laws, Ryan and I couldn't stop coughing!! lol ... so I went easy this time ... before re-hydrating the peppers in a bowl of boiling water ... This pureed and strained sauce gets added to a pot of hot oil and thickened dramatically ... before adding another pureed concoction to the pot - sauteed almonds, carmelized onion, roasted tomato, Mexican chocolate, a pinch of cinnamon a bit of broth ... and bread ..!! "Hearty white bread" - which I didn't have .. so I used this day-old bagel. As you can tell in the picture, I munched a couple of chunks while cooking =) yumm - then the sauce is set back to simmer with 4 c. of broth for about an hour while it thickens up.  We yielded almost 2 quarts of sauce - omg it's going to make amazing enchiladas ... and it freezes well!

Eventually I left the kitchen ... and tag teamed little T with Ryan who jumped in to make dinner - heaping greens, perfectly cooked steak, sauteed mushrooms ... and finally, after dinner, T was ready for his bath and bedtime routine.  It's barely 9 p.m. and I am ready for bed ...

Tomorrow we clean house and get ready for company! I hope T is in better spirits =)  We'll be making tamales and visiting with friends ... I'm excited to try a spicy mushroom filling for our tamales, too! Mm.  If you're interested in Bayless's mole recipe, post and I'll add it to this entry - It's a long one, and I am far too exhausted to type it in now ... =)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Comes Early in Our House ...

I have a confession.  And my family already knows this ... but I must admit, I am terrible at keeping gifts I'm giving a secret ..!!! I always end up telling SOMEONE (usually the receiver or another family member...) exactly what I got them for Christmas, a birthday, housewarming .. you name it!  So Ryan and I have gotten in the habit of giving gifts early!  We claim it's so we don't have to tote gifts from Indiana to Minnesota and back to Indiana ... but secretly I think it's because we just can't wait! We are like children ..! Hahah

This year my Christmas gift from Ryan arrived and I guessed exactly what it was ... a new winter jacket!  I didn't open the package for a few days .. and every time I guessed about it Ryan kept a straight face and didn't let on to my accuracy in guessing .. but soon enough a cold day came through South Bend and Ryan said, "Psst ... open it already!"  He was pretty excited to see how much I loooooved my gift - a new coat is a surefire gift I am bound to love ... coats are to me as shoes are to most other women ... =)

My birthday gift arrived today ... and I'm particularly excited about sharing it with my little blogging community ... I'll see if you can guess what it is!  Here are some clues:

1. It's palm sized and plugs into my pc
2. It's going to be very fun to use to share info / moments / life on my blog ..!!
3. Family will be tickled to know I have one now, especially if we end up living farther from home before we live closer ...

Ryan really hit the nail on the head with this one!

Since I've opened all of my gifts, I let Ryan choose one of 2 gifts I have for him under our baby Christmas tree ... I recommended the boxed gift that was for both Thomas and Ryan ... call me a cheese ball, but I bought them matching t-shirts ;-) courtesy of Westmama Design on Etsy (thanks for the sale price on Dad's shirt)!  They are brown - both boys look handsome in brown - with a picture of a cuttlefish - and the text: Wanna Cuttle?  Ryan giggled ... which is a good sign. Usually I buy him a gift he isn't too hot on (like the watch I bought him a few years ago? It's become a paper weight .. he's hard to shop for!).  So we'll see if he wears it or not. =)

Here's another guessing game ..

1. The other gift I bought for him is a bit "lame" for the next 16 days, but come January it's going to be so cool
2. He already has one, but it won't be as unique or useful for the month of January
3. It's slightly cylindrical in shape ..

Yarr!  I'm excited about it because I now he will love it. And when February comes .. if he isn't too hot on it .. I know I will use it! Hahah

Sort of ironic that this post comes just a week after I mention how Christmas isn't about the gifts?  I guess I don't think this post is about the gifts .. it's about our little tradition of excitement to give and love on each other ... to admit that it's O.k. to slightly indulge each other in our wishes and wants this season even though we are a bit tight on money ... and be thankful for my successes in my E-Garage Sale, as Gisela named it ... hahah

The reason I post about our little "Christmas Comes Early" tradition is because this year (and maaaaybe next year) is the last year we'll get to indulge in this little escapade ... because we've got a little one in the house who will also want to open presents when Mom and Dad do!  .. and that will not be tolerated ;-)  How will I ever contain myself?? Hahah I'm excited already .. and it's already 366 days away! (is it a leap year?)

As I packed up some of Thomas' 0-3 month clothes today I thumbed through and gathered a few things up to donate to moms in need this season.  I am hoping to make a donation to the Women's Care Center before we leave town, and potentially to South Bend's Milk Bank.  Not only are we swimming in clothes that are too small for my little T, but my tiny freezer is beginning to overflow with both newly pureed baby food and breast milk.  We'll see if I qualify!  It's a pretty extensive testing process, so my initial donation may have to wait until the new year.  I am so thankful for our good health and the generosity we were shown this year as we prepared for our little bundle to arrive and as we have enjoyed his company these last 6 months .. and I am now eager to be able to pass on some of that good health and generosity to women in need.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Breastfeeding + Work

I did a bit of research today (after preparing some more baby food for t - carrots and pears, anyone?) ... on breastfeeding and work, following yesterday's post.  After contacting my La Leche League (LLL) Leader / BF Support Group Leader / Lactation Consultant, I've decided to do some reading and research regarding breastfeeding at work ... she even offered to put me in touch with some Moms who attend the monthly LLL meeting to talk about their experiences, which I am eager to sort of figure out what I want to know as well as what information would be valuable to an audience ...

A simple google search turned up a heap of information from random .com-ers to more obvious resources such as Dr. Sears, LLL and websites like Babycenter.com and Whattoexpect.com.  Here are some favorites that I'm eager to dig into:

La Leche League - Working it Out - tips on how to convince your boss that it is best to continue breastfeeding your baby ... as well as references and links to helpful legislation to back up your requests.

U.S. Breastfeeding Committee - Workplace Support - many links to legislation and resources to support the importance of breastfeeding, as well as information on the Breastfeeding Support Act and the Business Case for Breastfeeding

National Conference of State Legislatures - This website offers resources on a state-by-state level with respect to breastfeeding ... it was last updated in May 2011.

Work and Pump - a website run by a working mom who offers resources gathered throughout the e-world, as well as a message board for support.

... so many of these websites have a very serious connotation to them, with resources being linked to legislation and minimum requirements to support breastfeeding mothers.  It would be great to find a resource that approaches the needs of a breastfeeding mom and a conversation to be had, or resources to be provided to an employer that is very humanistic in nature.  I haven't yet come across information online that is related to a woman approaching her employer to say, "I am a breastfeeding mom and I need to pump at work x-number of times to support my child and I would like this type of space to do so ..."  Most of these resources pertain to a woman bringing in resources that say, "It is my right to pump at work, and you are required to provide me with the space to do so," which is a little aggressive ... but I'm sure with some organizations that is what it takes ... or these resources wouldn't be out there.

... onward and upward with my learning and advocacy for women who need better conditions, resources, and opportunities to support their breastfeeding relationship at work!

In other news. I've had two dreams about repairing Ryan's beloved T-Shirt quilt ... so I think this might become my next sewing project ... T and I just have to go pick up binding at JoAnn and get to work!  I also have a few bundles of fabric to work with, although I'm not sure they will be large enough for our bed.  I told Ryan we may have to retire his quilt from being our "Main Quilt" on our bed - man alive it is perfectly cozy - to which he responded, "Great. Make us a new one!"  Oi. Queen sized would be the biggest quilt I've made yet.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

my curiosity, my (newest) passion, my life!

Breastfeeding. Really. What do you know about it?  If you haven't been closely knit to someone who has breastfed a baby, you may have been like me before I had baby T.  In fact, breastfeeding is the one aspect of child birth and child rearing that I walked into without instruction, guidance, coaching or experience.  Ok, I'll admit, I did check out 2 books from the library, and was shocked to find them under nursing in the non-fiction section after finding nothing on my search of  breast feeding.  I remember reading one of those books at the pool while catching some sun with my sister the morning before Thomas was born!  I'm not sure that it prepared me for what I was birthing into ... but it was reassuring to know that it was waiting for me at home once baby arrived.

Nursing my little baby T has been quite the journey that has evoked amazing feelings from within me ... spanning all extremes, both positive and negative.  As time has gone on, I have begun to understand that breastfeeding is one of those things that you learn about as you go, because every baby, every mom, even every boob ... is different!  If it weren't for my amazing support groups - La Leche League of South Bend, and the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center's Breast Feeding Support Group - and my desire for knowledge, I don't know if I would have made it five .. almost six months .. nursing my baby, unsure of where the end of our nursing relationship will be.  We are just five days away from reaching our second goal - six months of breast feeding!  Our next goal is twelve months.  With the introduction of solids, it will for sure be an adventure worth blogging about. ;-)

The fuel for my fire this evening comes from two e-mails I received today.  Both were from the USBC ... heard of them?   United States Breastfeeding Committee.  The first was titled "Thanks to You, Breastfeeding is Getting Easier," and it outlined the progress of the USBC throughout 2011.  I had clicked a button to send a letter to my congress person to promote opportunities for women who return to work to have the time and space to pump during the work day.  This e-mail was even more meaningful after Thomas and I attended our monthly La Leche League meeting and heard about some of the struggles women experience when trying to pump at work.  Are you ready for this?

Some women have to pump in the bathroom stall at work.  Would you want to eat a meal prepared in a bathroom stall?  Would you want to feed it to your baby?

Some women have a hard time pumping because of distractions that occur outside of the room they are aloud to pump in ... yes, stress and distraction impact let down and the overall ability to effectively express milk.

Some women experience a drastic decrease in milk supply once returning to work, resulting in an inability over time to meet baby's needs ...

I'm sure it goes on ... but having never balanced this working-and-breastfeeding experience, I can only empathize with moms who do return to work.  I can't imagine struggling through the experience, let alone giving up on what I hold so dear to my heart and my relationship with my baby.  The USBC is pushing to improve upon the conditions in which breastfeeding moms return to following their maternity leave ... and given what little I know about pumping at work - pumping in someone else's office outside of the main entrance to the school I worked at? holy distracting - I know it can be great or pretty bad ... but it shouldn't be a stumbling block along a woman's pathway to nurturing her baby.

So yes, breastfeeding has, at times, been a struggle for me ... but no, I can't imagine weaning my child from the breast.  It is such a huge part of our relationship that is working well for both of us (See, something I learned from my support groups - breastfeeding is a two-part relationship)  despite it's ups and downs, but what relationship doesn't experience ups and downs?

I'll have to post about the 2nd e-mail I received from the USBC this evening ... it may develop into a professional opportunity, or it may not ... so I leave you with that suspense!

Monday, December 12, 2011

First Foods


I started reading The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley, this afternoon, after struggling with our bedtime/naptime routine ...  it is curious and interesting ... reading about sleep patterns biological rhythms of sleep/wake cycles and such ... about half way through the first 50 pages I began to think critically of the next 20 days for my little baby ... they'll include so many wild experiences ... 6 month shots, first foods, two 10-hour car trips, meeting countless NEW people and becoming reacquainted with friends and family he last saw in October and November ... we might have to "struggle through" the rest of December before establishing Thomas' biological sleep rhythms ... and make our sleep-routine-adjustment a new years resolution! ;-)

Among all of those "wild experiences," Ryan and I are excited to begin introducing new foods to our little T..!  Lingering in my upstairs linen closet is a fabulous gift I received from a good teacher friend of mine including a JCPenny Cooks blender (think magic bullet!) and the Cooking Light First Foods Cookbook!!  I've been insanely curious about using both items since I received them over six months ago, so it was a relief to finally pull them out and start reading about introducing first foods to baby!  Thomas and I picked out a great butternut squash to experiment with at the market on Saturday, so we dug into the process of making baby food.

I reviewed the cookbook, that is excellent, by the way.  It introduces you to the hows and whys of making your own baby food, the ins and outs of organics, and TONS Of recipes organized into age groups (4-8 months, 8-12, etc. I think all the way up to 3 years?).  Amazon really says it best in the summary:

"Chapters follow the natural development of baby - from weaning to exploring new textures, to trying new foods and creating healthy food habits."

As tempting as it was to begin to puree every fruit and vegetable in the house ... I decided to stick with my butternut squash, and thankfully, it was on the page "first foods," so I could do so with out feeling like it'd take up space in my freezer for the next month or more!  I baked up my squash and began to clean my blender parts.  Feeling adventurous, I glanced at the "first foods" list and considered what else I had in my house that was on "The List" ... bananas (eew overripe) ... and frozen peas! Yes!  ... I set up a makeshift steamer and steamed my peas while my squash finished baking.  I don't have a legitimate steamer basket, so I used my fine mesh strainer over a pot of boiling water. It worked very well!

Once the peas were done, I set about pureeing them in the blender.  The recipe said I could add a few tablespoons (one at a time) of the steaming liquid (more rich with vitamins than plain water from the tap) to thin it out and make it easier to blend the peas ... so I added about 3 T.  After dumping the bright green, sweet smelling muck into a bowl, I realized they needed some straining ... so, as described in my cook book, I used a spatula to press them through my mesh strainer into a bowl ... PERFECT ..! Any remaining husks and skins remained on the strainer, and smooth green baby food fell through to my bowl! Just as Mom described - glad I called her so she could help me work through how to remove the "ruffage" as she put it =)  She told me about a food mill she and dad used at the table after a meal to turn left over foods into baby food for Margaret and me.  It feels good to be carrying on a bit of my infant-hood and parents' parenting to my daily practices with T!

I repeated this process for the butternut squash ... the squash recipe recommended only adding 1T of water to the squash to thin ... which made it a very, very thick paste.  I'm sure I will be adding breast milk to it to thin it out come eating time.  You can see in the photo that it was a bit of a mess getting it into the ice cube tray compared to the peas, that I could easily spoon into each section.  Once they are frozen I'll crack them into freezer bags and we can take them out one at a time, as needed, like Mom would do for Marge and me when we were babes!  I had some leftover peas in the bowl ... so we gave T a little taste ... he was super smiley, and wiggly ... go figures he's stone-facing us in this shot, but man alive his eyes are SUPER blue! hahah - they go well with the green glob on his lips ... Ryan reminded me, "Aren't you going to model how to eat 'em for him to see??"  Now I know ... ;-)

All in all it was a great experience!  I have three pears on the table that are about the perfect ripeness ... and I am eager to make some more of those "first foods" .. what were they? butternut squash, peas, bananas, avocado ...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Day of Rest

Phew .. after some very busy days, today was a much needed day of rest.  All three of us took it easy around the house .. even I took a nap ..!!  There were no expectations, everything was easy .. with the exception of naptimes for Thomas .. hahah .. but even he slept in until 10 a.m. this morning!  I'm sure our new neighbors think we're torturing little T because of all of the random crying that's been happening around naptimes .. every time he really starts wailing I think of their 2 children on the other side of the bedroom wall and hope it doesn't upset the kids.  It might be time to start rethinking and re-working our bedtime routine, especially given my new sciatic nerve pain that's been popping up while doing the Mommy Sway.

The sunshine was so beautiful today ... and knowing that it'd be one of the last warm-ish days of winter, Thomas and I took a stroll out through the woodsy-brushy-undeveloped property behind our little townhome.  Bundled warmly, "we" hiked down the street to the dirt/gravel road-bed where all sorts of construction has been happening over the 4 1/2 years we've lived here.  I like to hike back there because it's almost as if are walking up Mom and Dad's driveway ... but very different in the same moment.  To the east is 5-acres of undeveloped property, woods, low brush, hawks, deer ... to the west, office buildings of some sort ... to the north, overpriced tiny townhomes with brick and fancy shutters, all lined up on streets named after Notre Dame ... think Corby Street ...   On our hikes down the gravel roadbed, Otto loves to sniff sniff sniff while T and I search for prints in the mud ... deer, geese, ducks, turkeys ... there are of course plenty of other dog and people prints, showing evidence of other nature-seekers venturing off the concrete paths throughout our little apartment community.  Mud puddles covered in ice brought back memories of walking to the bus on crisp mornings, deciding whether or not to smash the ice or if the puddle were too deep, with the water underneath flooding our shoes ... (sometimes when I'm explaining a childhood memory it's impossible to speak of the memory being solely my own, since I had a best friend by my side for almost all of childhood! (= ).

Ryan and I put together an old favorite for dinner - being back on dairy and beef has been so exciting, so we celebrated by cooking our first cream-of-mushroom-soup-casserole: hamburger & potato casserole.  It's super easy and simple, and equally as comforting:

Hamburger and Potato Casserole -
Peel and slice approximately 6 potatoes into thin discs, as thin as you can unless you've got a mandolin to make it easy.  I sliced our potatoes into a bowl of cold water, drying them on paper towels once we were ready to build our casserole.  Chop up as much celery and onion as you'd like - I used 1 small onion and 2 ribs of celery ... saute onion and hamburger until hamburger reaches it's desired doneness ... add celery and cook a few minutes more.   Drain off any extra fat ... salt and pepper ... mix in 1 can of cream of mushroom soup.

In the bottom of a large-ish casserole, layer half of your potatoes.  Salt and pepper the tops.  Throw in that creamy-gooey hamburger mixture and top with the other half of your potatoes.  Salt and pepper the top of your casserole.  Drizzle 2 T. of milk on top.  Cover and bake at 350* F. for about 1 hour.

We found that some of our potatoes were still a bit crisp, so if that bothers you, perhaps add an extra 15 minutes to your cook-time.

I love that Ryan knows that this casserole is his Dad's favorite .. there's something about knowing your parents' favorites - colors, meals, drinks ... hahah  Knowing my nephews growing up, it was important for them to know, even as 3 and 4 year-old children, everyone's favorites!

The photos I've posted today are of some visitors we had this evening ... The debate is on as to if there were six deer .. that I saw from my photo-taking perspective .. or eight .. that Ryan said he saw from our upstairs bedroom winter.  You can see the woods to the east, the houses to the north .. Aren't they beautiful?  I secretly thought of one of the few huntsmen I know .. Ryan J..! Have you gotten a deer yet?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Free Formin'

Thomas and I braved the cold today ... it was a mere 18* Fahrenheit when we took off to the Farmers' Market!  I dressed Thomas in his coziest (and cutest) sweatsuit before stuffing him into his Polar Bear fleecey bunting-esque zip up, and off we went!  I've been trying to get used to that "Jellybean" baby carrier that we received as a gift from friends as a quick, easy alternative to the Mei Tai that I looooove ... and so far, so good.  It can be a lot to deal with trying to get him into it with all of our wintery layers, but it did it's job today.  We cruised the market, buying a butternut squash for baby T, a birthday gift for Aunty Margaret and a hot coffee for me when all of a sudden we were face-to-face with SANTA!  He was walking the market, ringing a bell, and hauling a satchel full of toys for the children, and yes ... he even had a toy for Thomas!  Hahah - Thomas received his first gift from Santa .. a small stuffed orca .. =)  It was very festive, and very sweet.  Thomas wasn't so sure what to think of the big guy ...

After our market run we zipped up to Target to pick up wrapping paper, ribbons, labels ... all the works to start wrapping Christmas presents for family ... and hoop dang, low and behold, Target was carrying the game I was searching for at Barnes & Noble last night as a gift for Gisela's children ... Qwirkle!  I swear it's going to be the perfect "all ages" game for them to play as a family on the floor of their new living room, cozy in front of the fire ;-) the highlight of our purchase being the $5 off!  While shopping I was so distracted by zipping in and out as quickly as possible I forgot to pick up a few ingredients for the artichoke dip I was going to make for my "Mom's Night In (MNI): Ornament Exchange"  ... which left me hangin' and put me in the perfect position to free form an oldie but a goodie ... it's so simple to make, yet there are so many variations ... why not make up my own?

So I started with a batch of fresh french bread ... hoping to make toasties, but clearly an hour late as it was barely out of the oven when it was time to go ... here's my recipe:

French Bread -
Combine 2 packets of yeast (4 1/2 t.), 2 c. flour and 1 1/2 - 2 t. salt ... mix til combined ... at 2 c. warm water and mix on medium/high speed for about 3 minutes ... stir in as much of the remaining 5 - 6 c. flour as you can, kneading remaining flour in until a smooth yet elastic dough forms ... knead for approximately 8 minutes ... flip into an oil bowl and let rise in a warm place til doubled - about 1 hour.  Punch down and form 2 loaves by rolling dough into a rectangle and rolling up like a Swiss cake roll .. let rise 45 minuets, slash the top of your dough 1/4" deep-ish, then bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until golden .. egg / oil / butter wash as you choose!

The trick with this recipe is not adding too much flour while kneading ... you want your dough to be somewhat moist, and if you can, use as little (if any) flour when rolling it out, or when you make your Swiss cake roll the roll won't seal into a full loaf of bread and it'll be tough as opposed to light and airy.

Here's how my free formed Artichoke dip came out ...  It was sort of a trick, because I didn't have parmesian cheese ... and I wanted a little more going on than artichoke, mayo, salt, pepper and mozzarella (what we DID have in the house for cheese ...) so I added some smokey delicious bacon (from the Farmers' Market - natural apple wood smoked, a close second to Nueske's bacon) ... and sauteed some onion in a bit of the bacon fat til tender ... As my husband says, "Bacon makes everything better!"

I was a little nervous that it'd be too salty, not salty enough, too mayo-esque, not artichokey enough ... and to top it off I didn't have any bread crumbs to put on top ... so I just added some cubed bread from our Thanksgiving stuffing package ... <sigh>

Here's my recipe:

Artichoke Dip -
Using a cooking shears, cut 3 slices of bacon (you could easily do 2 slices for a less-bacony dish) into 1/2" pieces and fry til golden brown ... toss out onto a paper towel to drain.  Drain all but 1 T-ish of bacon fat and fry about 1/4 c. onion until tender.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Coarsely chop up 2 cans of artichoke hearts.  Combine all of these ingredients in a bowl:  bacon, onion, artichoke hearts, approximately 1c. mozzarella (or parmesian) cheese, dash of salt and pepper, and enough mayonnaise to coat your ingredients as you choose.  I think the recipe said something crazy like 1-2 cups ..!!  I went with my theory on tuna salad ... too much mayonnaise is gross ... so start with significantly less than you think and gradually add more!

Turn your dip out into a casserole dish.  Top with bread crumbs or cubes, your choice ... before baking at 375 for 30 minutes, or until bubbly and gooey looking.  Remove lid if you're using one ... and bake 10 minutes more or until your cubes look delish.

In hind sight, I maybe would have tossed my bread cubes in some olive oil so they were a little softer ... but I didn't do this at first because I didn't want to ADD FAT to this mayo/cheese heavy dish.  It got rave reviews at the MNI! and I think DH liked it, too.  "It was O.K. Not traditional. It had a lot of mayo-tangy to it, ya know?"  His exact words.  I think that's where some lemon juice would've done the trick ... or parmesian cheese v. mozzarella.

I came home to a quiet house long after Thomas' bed time.  I love when DH puts T to bed ... but I miss our little nightly ritual. =)

I got a lot done today .. and it felt great.  You can see our tiny little tree with a few gifts wrapped up beside it ... among them are the books I bought for Thomas at Barnes & Noble yesterday, a little package that arrived today for Ryan and Thomas, and the game I picked up for Gisela's kiddos.  Tomorrow I'll be wrapping up some of the gifts I've been sewing!  The other day I posted a picture of a red tie beside a spider man project I was working on ... and I should have included a picture of Otto, because the red tie belongs to him ;-)  A project my mom worked through a few years ago at Christmas (l2009).  Doesn't he look handsome?  His mustache is a little whiter these days.  I almost snapped a picture of my sewing space so you could see where I work ... but man alive our house is such a treacherous mess.  Ryan and I tackled the laundry today, thank goodness ... and reorganized some of the loot out of the car.  It's wild to think that Christmas is just 2 weeks away ... man I can't wait to get home to see family. <3

Friday, December 9, 2011

Story Time at B&N

It was a fabulously snow morning in Indiana this morning ..!  Just the day I've been dreaming of ... snow on the ground and more floating down from the heavens, and me, peacefully sipping hot coffee, no hurry to go brush the car off, warm it up, chip ice off the windshield, digging out boots, hat gloves ... just peacefully enjoying the snowy morning ... made better only by the dark chocolate crinkle cookie I swiped from the "Cookies for St. Monica's Cookie Walk Do Not Touch!!" bag ... hahah ... appropriately labeled to keep the Cookie Monster away (secretly I pretend that is Ryan, knowing in fact I am the beast that cannot stop eating cookies in this house ... MMmmMmM!!).

... so it was pajama day at our house, until Thomas & I got ready for our first "Christmas Tradition" as a little family!  We invited some of our Mom's group friends to join us for story time at Barnes & Noble!  I heard about it via e-mail on Monday ... cookies, cocoa and The Polar Express.  When we arrived there were local middle school students reading various Christmas/winter themed stories in the children's section.  At 7 p.m. they began to read The Polar Express, followed by a drawing/writing engagement - letters to Santa, of course ;-)  It sounded like a fine Christmas Tradition to start with my tiny infant on a snowy day like today, so we met with 2 of our mom friends and enjoyed visiting more than listening to the story this time around, before picking out some books as gifts and our very own copy of The Polar Express.  This book will be the corner stone of this "Christmas Tradition" of ours, even if we share the story at home as a family or with friends, sipping hot cocoa and munching cookies together =)

A facebook group I am a member of - WTE: Real Women Have Bumps June 2011 - has been a great resource to me throughout my pregnancy and Mommy-hood.  It's wild to think we've all been in touch via the internet for over a year, sharing in our pregnancy trials and tribulations, and celebrating the births and now milestones of our babies.  We met courtesy of the What to Expect website, all coordinated together by their message boards divided by month baby is due.  I only bring up this group because I feel like I talk about it a lot in my daily conversation, and we had an interesting post a few weeks back about when we stopped believing in Santa and how it happened ... which correlates well with the story of the Polar Express.  I think I captured my feelings about believing in Santa best when I responded:

"I still believe ;-)  It's about spirit, excitement, sharing and tradition for me ... if you can wrap it up in a jolly fat man wearing a red suit with a great beard, terrific! hahah I love Christmas. Call me a nut if you want!"

It's not about who can buy the BEST gift ... or how much money you can spend ... it's really about tradition, spirit, excitement ... and all of those things come from within ... intentionality (i think i just made up a word?) to set up a tradition, to build the excitement, to carry the spirit along inside of you ... doing nice things for one another, for people who need their spirit lifted ... and I can't wait to build holiday traditions with my son and husband, and to introduce him to some of the traditions that we grew up with as children ... because let's face it, nothing beats seeing the excitement on a child's face when they truly believe in Santa ... ;-)

Cheesey line incoming:  Do you hear the silver bell ringing at Christmas?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

So I started this project today ...

Today is the day of started-but-not-finished projects!

During Thomas' a.m. nap I started to mix the dough for those chocolate crinkle cookies that are tossed in powdered sugar before baking? Yeah .. yumm .. but the only chocolate I had in the house was "hershey's special dark" .. oh darn .. you mean they are going to have to be EXTRA chocolatey?  Drat ... I got the dough all mixed together and put in the fridge to set up before moving on to project number 2 ..!  A very special Christmas gift for a little Elf of a nephew who happens to looooove Spider Man ;-)

All you get regarding that project are pictures! hahah  Some time after Christmas I'll be sure to post about the gifts I've been working on ...

After making very little progress there, I ran upstairs to grab little T for some play time ... he always manages to wake up at the perfect point in time ;-) Of course the mail carrier had come already to deliver the mail .. and we LOVE getting the mail - including our first Christmas Cards of the season courtesy of our friends the Eggers & the Hundts ..! Thomas loves to get the mail, too ... mostly those adds that come every week that drive Mum & Dad bonkers! hahah

We had a delightful 40 minutes together before he started to turn into a pumpkin ... so we nursed, did some walking, singing and talking around the house ... and went upstairs for nap time.  This whole "prepare for nap time"  routine lasted about 2 hours.  I've started to nurse him to sleep .. and if he wakes after I put him down, I let him fuss for 5-10 minutes before I go back up stairs ... and I don't nurse him again .. I try to get him to settle back into sleep with the help of the nuk, walking, bouncing, swaying .. but the hard part is the fact that I can't just sit down and rock him in the glider with out him having a fit .. so eventually my arms get tired, the nerve in my back is all agitated and sore .. either way .. Somewhere in that window Project #3, which happened to be DINNER was started ... and never finished ... hahah ... and 2 hours later, I decided I had had enough, and obviously so did Thomas .. so we came down stairs and played for a bit before he started to turn back into a pumpkin ... to which we began to walk and talk, feel the cold glass door and windows, sing songs ... it just wasn't right, and he wasn't himself =( so I e-mailed Ryan and asked him to bring home a baby thermometer (we had lost ours) on his way home.

Little T didn't have a fever ... just the fussies ... and some odd stuff going on in his diaper area that isn't blog-worthy ... and he had been spitting up A LOT but hours after eating (here you can see him in the cutest Notre Dame onesie EVER ... that also happens to be cursed ... he either spits up all over it, like today, or happens to have a leaky diaper while wearing it ...) ... also uncommon for him ... and so I called the pediatrician who wanted to see him tonight.  Thinking it was something serious like a UTI or bladder infection we went in ... and low and behold ... he's FINE. Hahah - not even signs of a TOOTH coming in to his loud, fussy little mouth!  The pediatrician corrected some things in his diaper area and sent us on our way home, and my little pumpkin passed out, fast asleep after a record breaking bath time, by about 8:45 p.m.

So all of the little projects I started today wound up on hold - cookies, Christmas presents and dinner - and as I said to little t in the car ... tomorrow is a new day!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Picture Day

What a busy day! Thank goodness, however, we all went to bed early last night, so we were prepared to be out and about!  Our morning began with pictures at JCPenny, as I mentioned last night ... good thing we were all "spit shined and ready," as my mom put it!  As predicted, Thomas was basically ready for a nap once the camera started snapping, but he held his composure beautifully until we were all done.  As a part of our Groupon offer we received one picture on a disc to share electronically ... I haven't figured out how to "hack" our online album to share others individually yet.  The one thing I missed was the direction from the photographer to stand up straight, put your feet this way, tilt your chin down, etc.  I think I've developed horrible posture from hunching around with a baby under one arm all day... hahah =) We are our own best critics, though.

After picture day, Ryan treated me to lunch at Falafel Express located in the same little strip mall as Studebagels and Between the Buns ... across from J.W. Chens.  The food was great, and the service was pretty nice, too ... Ryan ordered the beef shawarma, and I order the falafel sandwich.  Once we were seated - with Thomas in the big boy seat!! ... a man brought out a complementary order of amazing flat bread and humus. It was SO DELISH. Yumm ... I'm dreaming of it slathered on red bell pepper slices, cucumber, and more of that awesome flat bread ... I'm also eager to try their tabbouleh salad ... The sandwiches came out and they were HUGE ... it's a little pricey - think $6.50 for a sandwich and another $2 for a soda and fries - but man alive was it deliciously perfect.

Following lunch, Thomas and I dropped Ryan off at school .. er .. work .. and visited our friends at ECDC..!! I was so thrilled and a little bit nervous!! Haha - not sure why? I wish we had had more time to see ALL of our friends, but we'll save that big visit for next time.  We are going to be in the neighborhood until 12/21-ish, so hopefully we can take advantage of some of that time off to see our working friends.  It was so sweet to be back in the K classroom - man those kids were cute.  I definitely miss working with children and seeing my teacher friends ... but the trade off of being home with Thomas is unbelievably wonderful.

After our regular visit to the St Joseph Regional Medical Center for our Breast Feeding Support Group meeting, Thomas & I zipped off to pick Ryan up .. coaxing him out of his office a little earlier than planned with a hot coffee (man, Starbucks twice in 1 week? I am such a coffee diva...).

Thomas is all snuggled in for a nap at home (finally! I can only imagine how exhausted he is!) ... and Ryan and I are enjoying some down time in our quiet little abode... My cheeks are aching from all of the smiling and visiting of the day.  As pleasant as it is to be home, I need days like today thrown into the mix to keep myself sane and socially stimulated ... sometimes I feel like a person from The Sims ... my "social meter" gets a little low from time to time and needs these days to renew my social self.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Crabby Day Contest

Oh what a few nights we've had this week ... Thomas' fussiness has prompted all sorts of jokes ... "somebody woke up on the wrong side of the crib this morning ..." being my favorite ... and of course the theme dressing that occurred today ... featuring a big old crab on his little booty.  Aunty Marge got a kick out of our photo today =)

I was a crab, he was a grump ... most likely from our sleepless nights ... I'm not sure if he's teething or just waking and fussing.  He doesn't have any mountain ranges in his mouth, just some sensitive spots near his eye teeth.  Counter pressure on his gums really does the trick for him, though ... and his blue UFO (soothie teething nuk .. looks like a UFO landed on his lips).  In the end, our pick me ups came from a shared nap time this afternoon and Mommy Baking Time (with a nice glass of wine...) during his evening nap.  There is nothing quite like making Christmas cookies to get in the spirit, and this year I lucked out because our church is collecting cookies on Friday for a cookie walk.  When asked if I could donate 3 dozen cookies, the only questions I had were, "when?" "where" and "can I please donate more??"

The easiest cookie to mass produce just happens to be my favorite ... I try to make them every year, and pressing them out here in Indiana fills me with memories of watching Dad carefully turning his old Swedish hand press! Lucky me, I have a more modern version of a cookie press, although it does make it a little more difficult to get those perfect poinsettias and darling wreathes.

Here's the recipe for Spritz Cookies:

1c. sugar and 1 1/2 c. butter - cream together til smooth
1 egg, 2 T milk, 1/2 t. almond extract, 1 t. vanilla extract - just combine in a bowl while your butter and sugar are creaming ... dump in and blend very well.
3 1/2 c. flour mixed with 1 t. baking powder - mix together then slowly combine with wet ingredients

Do not chill your dough ... mix in food coloring as you choose.  The packaging that my cookie press came in has all "nude" colored cookies decorated beautifully with different colored sugars ... but in my family we colored the dough and embellished with silver candy balls, red hots and sprinkles =)

I recommend mixing your dough in small amounts in a separate bowl using a spatula until the color is well combined with the dough, and then fine tuning your mixing with your hands ... this saves you from multi-colored rainbow hands later.

Then there is the old family secret that I was able to share with the woman I spoke with at church ... the secret to convincing your cookies to stick perfectly to the cookie sheet rather than stay stuck to your press ... keep your cookie sheets cold by storing them outside until you're ready to use them!  Another problem I ran in to was the heat in my galley of a kitchen ... with the oven on and 3 burners running on the stove top it got hot in there, and fast!  I think as my dough began to warm it was resisting separating from the press resulting in spritz cookies on steroids ... but that's O.k.  We are indiscriminate cookie eaters in our house.

 Here are the shapes I made today - clockwise from the Christmas tree - heart - wreathe - heart - ornament - poinsettia!  The hearts were made with a mixture of the remaining red, blue and green dough .. giving them a rawkin' tie-dyed look.  They're pretty fun ... and very tasty!

We are ending our day early today ... we start our morning with "Family Pictures" at JCPenny's tomorrow, thanks to a rawkin' offer through Groupon.  We've never been ... so it'll be interesting to see how it goes.  I'm not sure what to expect, and since everyone is heading to bed early tonight, I hope we all awake bright eyed and bushy tailed!  Even Ryan is in bed already.  Both he and Thomas had a very cozy evening of playtime, ending in both 'boys' relaxing together on the couch.  It was so sweet to look over at them, so peaceful.