Sunday, October 30, 2011


I can't get enough of these ...

Or these ...

... and the girl that goes with them isn't bad either ...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Get in my Belly!

We decided to see how Anna liked rice cereal on Sunday, figuring if she didn't take to it on the first try we still had time to convert her before her six-month "birthday."  Turns out we had nothing to be concerned about; I kid you not, it was like this little gal had been eating "big girl food" for months.  She opened her mouth when the spoon approached, moved the food back to her throat, and repeated like a champ.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised considering how much her parents enjoy food. 

Hmmmmm, what's this???

I think I like it!!

Maxin' and relaxin' in her high chair ... a gal could get used to this kind of treatment!
(you didn't think we'd make her eat in the Bumbo forever, did you?)

She's even taken to "telling" us how much she loves her dinner, and her chef greatly appreciates the feedback : ) 

Thursday, October 27, 2011


These two are destined to be big pals, if only for the main reason that he knows she's his meal ticket for years to come ...

(enjoying the camera on my new iPhone and playing around with the Instagram app)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tasty Tootsies

Someone has found her toes ...

Both literally ...

... and figuratively

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What's Cookin': Mexican Lasagna

Sometimes the best recipes aren't the fanciest or the flashiest, but in my opinion if it's something that's colorful, healthy, and gets on the table quickly, it's a winner in my book.  I found this recipe through Kraft Foods and honed in immediately because it's one of the few that doesn't include mass amount of cream cheese while also appealing to my palate.  It can be made in advance, (score), provides leftovers, (double score), and is mighty pretty, (triple score). 

A dinner fiesta!!
Mexican Lasagna
Adapted from Kraft

1 lb. extra-lean ground beef (or turkey) or 1 can of black beans (or both if you're looking for extra protein)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 jar (16 oz.) Salsa, I prefer Newman's Own Farmer's Market
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen corn
12 corn tortillas (6 inch)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
Reduced fat Sour Cream to be used as topping

Heat oven to 375°F. 

Brown meat with peppers in large skillet; drain. Return to skillet. Stir in salsa, tomatoes, corn and black beans, if using.

should look something like this ... yumm!
Spread 1 cup meat mixture onto bottom of 13x9-inch baking dish; top with 6 tortillas, overlapping as necessary. Cover with layers with half each of the remaining meat mixture and cheese; top with remaining tortillas, meat mixture, and cheese.

Cover loosely with foil and bake 15 minuntes. Uncover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until heated through and cheese on the top is melted. 

To Make Ahead:  Assemble casserole as directed. Refrigerate up to 24 hours. When ready to serve, bake at 375°F for 30 minutes loosely covered with foil, remove foil and cook another 10-15 minutes or until heated through and cheese on the top is melted. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Party like it's your Birthday

Happy, happy birthday to the absolute best friend, husband, and father a girl could dream of for her family!  Mike turned 33 today (and I think his first Social Security check should be arriving next week, ha).  Because I firmly believe that birthdays are best celebrated over multiple days, I did my best to make his weekend full of fun, surprises, and lots of his favorite things.  Friday's dinner was spent at Red Robin enjoying his "birthday burger," something that's turned into one of the longest traditions in our relationship and that he looks forward to each October.  Saturday started with Eggs in a Basket, included an hour-long massage, and ended with dinner at one of our favorite steakhouses, Carlo & Johnny.  Sunday started with presents and blueberry pancakes, included a trip to the Chocolate Festival and ended with a home-cooked dinner of Chicken Parmesan and Chocolate Cream Pie at the birthday boy's request.  All of this was peppered with a lot of fun, cuddles, smiles, giggles, and dancin' with his favorite girls!

The shirt says it all!

My Dad rocks!!
Fun side note, this weekend last year was when we surprised Mike's family with the news that Baby Kelly was on the way, what a difference a year makes!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mommy Moments: Getting out the door

I'm a week and a half into my return to the working world and I can honestly say, for the most part, so far so good.  I had a bit of a breakdown on Sunday, but I honestly think it was one of those days where a girl just needed to cry.  Sorry Mike. 

The hardest part for me so far has been finding my morning groove.  Since I'm no longer just in charge of myself, even more planning is required.  I'm getting into work consistently earlier than ever so that I can leave in time to pick-up my princess from nursery school and get a good 2-3 hours with her before bedtime.  I do as much as I can the night before, but there are always last minute tasks and I often times can't help my OCD from kicking in to put one last dish away or picking up a few baby toys.

Ironically, my first day back at work I was pleased to see a copy of Real Simple in our Mother's Room as I sat down to pump.  I was even more pleased during my afternoon pumping session when I saw this article:  The 10 Secrets of One Unflappable Working Mother.  (I kid you not, I didn't realize the issue was from March 2010 until 3 days later) 

Number 5 really hit home.  "Getting out the door in the morning (without anyone in tears) is the only thing you have to achieve before 8:30 a.m. Stop trying to organize everything. Your only goals are to leave the house looking good and without your first-grader sobbing because she hates getting dressed in the morning. If that means you put her to bed in her school clothes to avoid a 7 a.m. tantrum, I think you’re a genius." 

Although it doesn't ring totally true to my situation, it helped knowing that it's OK if I come home to a few things out of place or a rogue coffee cup on the kitchen island.  I know I have several working mothers in my reading mix, what are your helpful hints?  I'll take hints from anyone really, working or not, child bearing or not, bring 'em on!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Growin' Like a Weed: Month Five

No doctor visit this month, so no official "stats," but I'm pretty sure she grows with each wiggle and giggle.  And there are a lot of wiggles and giggles lately ... so many that it was tough to get a good shot this month.  At the end of the day there was jumpin' to be done, so we took what we had and I went with one of my faves.  Even though she's not in "perfect form," you can tell she's growing and I'm learning that's just how life is these days, you learn to roll with the punches. 

There was a lot of this ...

... and a whole lot of this too!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Letter to Anna: Month Five

Dear Anna,

This was a month of firsts, lasts, and a lot of changes for our little family; and like usual, you kept your cool and rolled with the punches. Your sleep patterns have remained ones for the books and you wake up each morning and after each nap genuinely happy and full of stretches; it's a sight that everyone should experience in their lives. Your enthusiasm for the world around you is a delight to witness and I wholeheartedly think that's part of why you are so laid back in new situations and environments.

Although you love to take in new sights and sounds, your favorite toys are attached to your body, your hands and feet. We've started to see a lot of drool and although we've offered you plenty of age-appropriate toys, you prefer those hands; apparently I'm not the only one that literally wants to eat you up. You found your feet this month thanks to help from your Gigi and love to roll yourself into a little ball as to inspect them, it's adorable, and I'm waiting for the day that an entire foot goes head-first into your mouth.

We said "goodbye" to our friends at Gymboree where you had a blast interacting with other babies, learning new songs, seeing new sights, and giggling your way into the teacher's heart. You're starting to get very interested in inching along and tummy time is now spent using all of your energy to go mobile. Although we have no desire to rush any of your milestones I have a feeling you'll be scooting in the blink of an eye. You've also started to "tripod" sit and I know that you'll be sitting pretty in a matter of weeks.

You've also become quite the acrobat in your crib and it's hilarious to see the positions you find yourself in when we check on you before bed or in the mornings. We've started to name some of your more regular poses, including "you're SAFE", "power to the people", "walk like an Egyptian", and "I'm a little teapot." I'm pretty sure we could (and may) make a game of charades out of these moves.

You're physically growing by leaps and bounds, although still a petite little lady. With the weather changing into fall you're wearing 3-6 month clothing, but most of it is still a bit big around the middle; I sure hope you stay long and lean on your own accord because it's not in your genetic make-up. You still have a touch of "male-pattern-baldness," but your locks are filling in nicely and it's only a matter of time before I'll be using barrettes to wrangle those bangs. On the flip side, I'm losing my pregnancy strands and noticing more gray strands each day. I guess it's all about give and take.

You started nursery school and I went back to work this month. The weeks leading up to this transition were the hardest in my life and my heart literally broke the Monday we dropped you off for the first time. I knew it would be difficult, I knew it would be an adjustment, but I didn't know just how hard it would hit me those first few days. I've always been overly-emotional and dramatic, but this sent me over the edge. Luckily your school has an amazing staff, you have a wonderfully supportive father, and the slow transition worked for us. Your Gigi has reminded me time and time again that my job as your Mother is to build you into an independent adult and this is part of that process, whether it's nursery school now or pre-school in a few years. And while I've learned there's never a totally right answer in regard to the work-life balance, I've also learned that you're one of the most resilient children out there and you're already learning more and experiencing so much more than I ever imagined.

This quote may seem a little over-the-top, but these words ring true now and for the rest of your life. In the wisdom of Christopher Robin (Winnie the Pooh), "If ever there is a tomorrow when we're not together ... There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart ... I'll always be with you."


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Down on the Farm

Although you wouldn't be able to tell it's October by the weather we had this past weekend, we made our first official family trek to the pumpkin patch so that Miss Anna could experience all of the fall fun for herself.  We can't wait to take her back next year!

Our little pumpkin!

Nora doesn't understand why Anna is being such a sour-puss ...
Nora's brother, Aidan, had a blast. 
I was tired just watching him run around!
A cow says "Mooooooo"  ... or "aaagooo" per Anna : )

Our friends started a tradition their first year by taking a picture at the "outhouse",
and, well, I'm from KY, so how could we resist?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What's Cookin': Peanut Butter Cup Blondies

Hello my name is Jen and if polygamy was legal, I'd take a Reese Cup as my second husband.  I'm the first to admit that I have an unhealthy relationship with peanut butter ... throw chocolate into the mix and I'm a goner.  So, imagine my utter excitement when I saw this recipe as I was thinking through a dessert option to share during the season premiere of Glee with my friend Carrie, a fellow food lover. 

What can I say other than that these DID NOT disappoint?!  I knew I'd done something good when both Carrie and my Mom asked for a second brownie and when Mike gave two thumbs and big toes up upon taste-testing for himself.  As a plus, they were from Cooking Light and if you follow Weight Watchers, they are only 5 points-plus each if you portion into 16 servings!

Why, hello Lover!
Peanut Butter Cup Blondies
From Cooking Light

5 3/5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tablespoons 2% reduced-fat milk  (I used skim milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Cooking spray
4 (0.75-ounce) peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped. 
Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt), stirring well with a whisk. Combine peanut butter and next 4 ingredients (through eggs), stirring well. Add peanut butter mixture to flour mixture; stir until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Scrape the batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan lightly coated with cooking spray (I only had an 8x8 square metal baking pan), and arrange the peanut butter cups over batter. Bake at 350° for 19 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Gift of Gab

Anna found her voice over vacation and our extended stay in Pittsburgh and loved chatting it up with her Grandma and Grand-pap.  Here she is discussing some of the finer points of life one afternoon with Grand-pap.  I'm pretty sure she has him securely wrapped around her little finger just like everyone else she's come into contact with ... such a little charmer!

If you're happy and you know it, clap your feet : )

Really bringing her point home ...

"So, in conclusion ... "

Friday, October 7, 2011

Going (Almost) Mobile

We had an early roller and I have a feeling that Anna isn't going to stop there with her bag of tricks.  Over the past week she's been more and more interested in putting all of her tummy time energy into going mobile.  It's just an inch or two forward and a full circle now, but in a few months, when she's able to get the front and back in sync, I have a feeling she'll literally be giving us a run for her money. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Elephant Ear

Growing up we always went to the Millersport Corn Festival each Labor Day weekend and as part of the fair-food-eating-extravaganza we all enjoyed "elephant ears," basically deep fried dough covered in sugar and cinnamon.  My Dad had me convinced the left ears were the best, so that's what I always requested ... he also had me hooked on hot water soup for a time ... I sure hope Anna doesn't inherit my gullible nature.  Since we're not moving onto solids for another month-ish, and she missed the Corn Festival this year because of our beach vacation, Anna has decided to take matters into her own hands and finds chewing on the ear of her elephant-blankie to be almost as tasty ... Bon Apetit!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Kid is All Right

We survived our first two (half) days at nursery school and Anna is no worse for the wear ... Mom, on the other hand, went through a tube of mascara, a box of tissues, and likely all of my text and cell minutes for the month.  Tuesday's drop-off and pick-up were a complete 180 from Monday and I should have known that she'd be fine and I'd be the one with adjustment issues. I can't thank my friends and family enough for talking me off the ledge when I seriously thought my entire world was crumbling down and my broken heart was beyond repair.  Luckily, I'm anchored by an extremely supportive husband and a Mother that gives the best phone hugs;  I have no idea what I'd do without either of them.

Anna did wonderfully and the only comment I've received has been the same from everyone that works in her classroom and goes to the tune of "I've never seen a happier baby."  We'll receive a daily "activity report" outlining the weekly theme and how it correlates to the different pockets of her day, including language arts (story time, yesterday was Little Miss Muffet), motor skills (kicking and tummy time), cognitive development (playtime), self-help / life skills (eventually things like holding her own bottle), creative art (today they made a spider web out of a cotton ball), sensory stimulation (tactile stimulation with a cotton ball), and music / movement (singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider") as well as notes on her eating, output, napping, etc.  There's an area for additional comments and I smiled from ear to ear yesterday as I read that Miss Patty wrote "Well, what can I say except you were right!  What a delightful little girl you have!  She was pleasant, happy and did not cry or fuss one time.  We're going to have a lot of fun together." 

And, if you don't believe me, take it from this little bundle of joy who couldn't wait to tell her Exersaucer friends all about her first day of school! 

If you haven't noticed, arms open, mouth open is Anna's way of letting us know she's one happy gal : )

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

(Wo)Man in the Mirror

We love Mr. Snail almost as much as we love the pretty baby in the mirror : )

Monday, October 3, 2011

What's Cookin': Fish Tacos

As much as I love to plan our weekly meals out down to the ability to have leftovers for lunches or dinner, I was thrilled last month when I was able to get totally cooky and change things up a bit.  I'd planned to have salmon for dinner one night during the week, but when I saw that tilapia was on sale and salmon was priced sky-high, I deviated a bit.  I was already proud of myself for being flexible until later in the week when I saw that a fellow blogger (who has impeccable taste, pun intended) had posted a fish taco recipe.  We went totally off-road and it was a wonderful suprise; those tacos were amazing and I was tickled pink that my flexibility had paid off.  With summer coming to a close I made sure to add them to last week's menu plan and they are now in the "official" rotation when fresh ingredients are available. 

Click here to see the full version of the recipe including garnishes and toppings, but I'll note that both times I took some shortcuts.  I used fresh mango & peach salsa readily available at our local grocery, pre-chopped cabbage (the rest was used for coleslaw later in the week) and pretty much made regular guacamole as our garnish.  Hello my name is Jen and I have an unhealthy addiction to guacamole.  I wouldn't change a single thing about the spice mixture, it's fabulous!  Both times I served a quick "pull what you have from the pantry" corn and black bean salad as a side dish, recipe below.

Corn & Black Bean Salad

2 ears fresh corn
1 can reduced sodium black beans
1/2 small red onion, diced
2 roma tomatoes, diced
juice of 1/2 a lime
dash of cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Remove the corn from the cob.  Pre-heat a skillet with a bit of EVOO or butter, roast the corn for 5 - 8 minutes.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and adjust seasonings to your taste. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Here we go Steelers, here we go!

Anna had the pleasure of experiencing her first Steelers game in Pittsburgh after returning from vacation ...and what better crowd to cheer with than her Grandparents!  Unfortunately her attire didn't bring a win to the team, but she made up for that by looking extra-cute and putting on quite a show for family friends visiting that day.  In the meantime, she's doing her best to perfect her somersault skills so that she can carry on the tradition her Dad started in his youth.

Clearly she's still shocked she's wearing colors other than pink, purple or yellow : )

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Knuckle Sandwich

Miss Anna has found her hands and apparently they are DE-LI-CIOUS!  We've offered her many a toy appropriate for chewing, but she's a simple gal and prefers her hands and fingers.  She'd be the happiest baby alive if she could just get an entire fist into her mouth ...