Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ho Ho

Like the parents of most small children, we took Anna to meet Santa Claus this year ... and like most small children, Anna hated him.  I figured this would be the case, so I decided early on that we'd skip the mall and search out a more casual setting.  A local "breakfast with Santa" seemed to fit the bill and at $5 a person for all-you-eat pancakes, including a free picture with the jolly man himself, we were sold ... especially knowing we'd spend that much on just a picture at the mall.  It was pretty packed when we arrived and Anna determined right then that she wasn't a fan of this outing by literally crawling up Mike's body to her version of safety.  We got our breakfast first and she LOVED the pancake, eating one at least twice the size of her head.  We stopped over to meet Santa afterwards and she was a trooper, but still had no desire to have any part of sitting on his lap, or anywhere close to him for that matter.  Thanks to Mike for taking one for the team and posing, no chance I was going to manage that situation 6+ months pregnant and already feeling swollen and fat. 

A random turn of events had Anna calling any Santa figurine (or snowman) "Ho Ho" as of last weekend; and of course in the sweetest voice imaginable.  I'm not sure where she learned that, but she had a ball at my Mom's house point to and waving at the many "Ho Hos" ... so, maybe he's growing on her?  Doubtful, but I guess we'll see next year. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Letter to Anna: Month Nineteen

Dear Anna,

You are literally growing by leaps and bounds as we move into 2013. At your 18-month check-up you checked in at 23 pounds (25th percentile) and 33 inches (80th percentile), our long and lean girl. After reviewing your growth chart, your paediatrician even looked at me and asked what height your Dad and I are and made a note in your file since you seem to be shooting up dramatically. Regardless of what your percentiles say, we know you’re healthy because you’re one of the happiest girls around, not to mention that we’d love you at any size. What this does mean is that you are very quickly growing out of the wardrobe I thought would last through the winter and until spring. Your pant legs are rising up and your shirts are flirting with your belly button, so we’ll be moving into 2T gear pretty soon.

You’re learning and growing so much each day, it’s simply amazing to watch. You are more interactive by the day and your vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds. You understand pretty much all of what we say, can communicate mostly what you want (clearly to us, maybe not as much to others), and are great at now recognizing when you want something or not with a clear “yes” and “no.” Of course you will also use “yes” or “no” to persuade us to do what you want in any given situation. My favorite instance was over Thanksgiving when your Uncle Sean took you and your larger-than-life puppy that lives at Grandma’s house on an impromptu ride in the family room. Little did he know you’d love it as much as you did and would insist the rides continue until his back was probably about to give out. The next day you mounted your puppy and looked at Uncle Sean with a huge smile and said “yeeeesss, yesssss, yesssss” before he could counter with “no, not right now” as had happened the day before.

You started in a new room at school this past month and we saw some stranger anxiety for a few weeks, but overall you adjusted well. All of your close buddies have now moved up as well and that seemed to help. A little diversion with a snack / leftover breakfast with your friends did the trick eventually and now you hardly bat an eye when Dad leaves. You are taking one nap a day and do great at school sleeping from 12:45pm – 3:00pm on your cot and will sleep for just about that long at home. You’re learning a lot with your new teachers; I as blown away when I picked you up last week and pulled out your daily paper that showed a large-print letter A and you ran over and said “A, A, A, ...” over and over, and then a few days later it was the letter of the day on Sesame Street and you identified it before they said a thing. You love to sing along to the ABC song and we’re working our way through the entire song, it’s only a matter of time before you can sing it on your own.

You love to sing and dance and it’s are just a happy girl in general. You’re fairly vocal about which songs you want to sing and are loving the Christmas music on the radio ... but also not afraid to tell us when we need to stop singing along. You love to twirl around the family room when a favorite song comes on, or just when the mood strikes and love to also dance with us. On the flip side, as much as you love to be interactive, you also love to sit with a good book and read. Your paediatrician was very impressed when he heard that you will sit and “read” by yourself for almost as long as you’ll cycle books to us to be read to you. I love it when you come over with a book and instinctively turn around to sit in my lap or have me pull you onto my lap; although space is getting short, we’ll continue to find a way to make it work.

You’re a fairly good eater for a toddler, but aren’t going to win any contests for variety. You love fruit, pretty much any fruit, but especially raisins and bananas as of late. You love cheese and pasta and are still mostly rejecting most meat, so we get our protein elsewhere. You’re hit or miss on veggies, but do love frozen peas and those often serve as your dinnertime appetizer while I’m finishing up preparation ... I’ll take your veggies where I can get them these days. I’ve started giving you a gummy vitamin each day and you love it, always asking for “more,” so at least you’re getting some stream of regular vitamins. We still give you whole milk at home, but you get a small amount of fruit juice at school with your afternoon snack each day. You love your milk and immediately want your cup and a snack when we get home from school each day, I joke routinely that your hollow leg must have a leak because it never fills up.

The special bond you have with your Dad continues and I love to see it growing each day. I know that when your sister arrives you and Dad will spend a lot of time together and it warms my heart to think that you’re already so close. Almost nightly you guys are running around the house in a game of chase, Dad’s taken over primary bathtime duty, and you guys have special games you play on the way to school. You love to help both of us out with any given task and have taken to throwing your own diapers away and putting your wipes back in the basket after a change. You had a blast helping your Dad with the leaves a few weeks ago and loved helping with the Christmas tree and decorations.

This past month we taught you “ring-around-the-rosie” one evening right before bed. You were so excited as we went through the motions together that that you could hardly move your feet fast enough to keep up. In fact, I’m pretty sure we should have timed it so that learning this “dance” was your Christmas present. It’s a combo of your favorite things: dancing, singing, and Mom and/or Dad; anytime the three of us are together you’ll grab our hands to form a circle and off we go. The 15 minutes we spent doing ring-around-the-rosie that first evening will go down as one of my top moments in life. Ever.

I can’t tell you how amazing it’s been this past year and a half to see the world through the eyes of a child. You make every day brighter and even when you’re testing our patience; you’re still the sweetest and most loving child around. You’ve taught me what unconditional love really means and I’m learning as much as you are on a daily basis. Thank you for putting the big and little things in life into perspective, I never thought I’d learn so much from someone so little.


Friday, December 7, 2012

What's Cookin': Old fashioned sugar cookies

I recently found a new food blog that I'm loving and love the idea of the Clara Project and trying out old recipes.  One of the first recipes I read on the site was for the the old-fashioned sugar cookies and I immediately thought they'd be great for holiday exchanges, or any time of year with the right cookie cutter, but wanted to give them a try before making them for mass consumption.  Luckily my good friend Amber was a willing participant in the trial run.  The first batch turned out OK, but needed to be baked a minute or two less, and I wasn't in love with the idea of using shortening.  Round two included butter and less bake time, and bingo, just what I was looking for, a simple, easy-to-decorate, classic cookie.  Almost every recipe posted to this site spikes my interest and I'm excited to try out this recipe, this recipe, and this recipe next. 

Best crispy old-fashioned sugar cookies
From writes4food

1/4 cup shortening or butter (I prefer butter)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. pure almond extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg white whisked with 1 tsp. water for finishing
granulated or decorative sugar for finishing

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a bowl and using a hand mixer), cream together shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the beaten egg and mix to combined; add milk and extracts and stir to combine thoroughly. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the mixing bowl; stir to combine well. Transfer the cookie dough to a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap, cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; spray a cookie sheet lightly with cooking spray, or line with parchment paper. Divide dough in half and roll out one half to about 1/8-inch thick (keep the other refrigerated until ready to use). Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter dipped in flour; transfer cookies to the baking sheet about 1/2 inches apart. Brush the cookies lightly with egg white and sprinkle generously with granulated or decorative sugars. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until edges are very lightly brown. Remove baking sheet from the oven and let it sit for 1 minute before transferring cookies to a baking rack to cool.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Anatomy of an afternoon with a long lost friend

It starts out with this on the stove at 10am ...

Then you visit for a bit and enjoy this ... (minestrone soup and honey beer bread)

Then you make these to pass the time while your toddler naps, and to work out any kinks before the official cookie exchange ...

Then you go outside on a gorgeous afternoon to play, laugh, run, walk, laugh, play, and run some more ...

And after it's all said and done, you're worn out, but SO glad you have a friend that can make your child giggle with pure joy, understands your crazy life as a working Mother (even though she's not one), makes your cookie recipe a success when you were ready to throw it down the drain, can sit and catch-up over lunch and a Fresca like no time has passed, and whom you know will ALWAYS be a text or phone call away when you really need her.  I'm lucky to have such wonderful friends in my life!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Daddy's helper

We don't have a ton of trees in our yard, but enough to make raking once or twice in the fall a necessity, so last weekend Mike went out to load up a few yard bags.  I needed to make our (big) weekly trip to the grocery store and said I'd take Anna with me so that he'd be uninterrupted.  He looked at me a little sad, saying, "I thought she'd want to help me and play in the leaves."  I'm sure I looked at him like he had four heads and said "yeah right, you'll get nothing done," and off we went to the store. 

We got home less than an hour later and Mike grabbed Anna from the car and kept her outside while I unloaded the groceries.  Not 10 minutes later I went outside to see how much (or little) help she was offering and was shocked to see she *was actually* helping load the bags with leaves!  It's just like me to underestimate our little girl, and just like Mike to suggest an idea so crazy (to me) that it actually works.  In no time at all, Anna was bringing hand fuls of leaves over to the bags and even saying "thank you" as Mike said it to her : )  Although I'm sure her enthusiam for raking leaves will wain over the years, but we'll enjoy our big helper while we have her!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Splish Splash (part 2 in a series)

If I could get her to hold still for long enough, I'd be able to check to see if this little girl has fins ... her love affair with baths continues.  On nights when one of us is home alone at bath time, it's a serious struggle to get the water started while keeping this little fish from literally diving in fully clothed.  We've gotten to the point that we have to spell that word until the minute we're physically ready to go upstairs to start the process, otherwise Anna's dreams are crushed.  We get her undressed in our room and let her run into the bathroom by herself, and as you can see it's pure joy ... if you listen closely, you can hear her yelling "baff/ batchf" as she nears the tub : )

Daddy is the best at baths (especially these days) and Anna loves it when he squirts her with water toys : )!

Time to rinse!

Friday, November 30, 2012

What's Cookin': Thanksgiving favorites

We alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas between my family in Lexington and Mike's family in Pittsburgh.  Although we're blessed with wonderful and welcoming families, it's always hard to be away from your own family and traditions on any given holiday, so this year I hosted "Pre-Thanksgiving" for my side of the family in Cincinnati the weekend before we left for Pittsburgh.  We hosted seven adults and two children and the menu included a roasted turkey breast, green bean casserole, corn pudding, sweet potato casserole, stuffing / dressing, gravy, and cranberry sauce (out of a can due to popular demand), rolls, Paula Deen's pumpkin pie, and chocolate cream pie.  My Mom provided guidance (and baby-sitting!) during most of the prep as this was my first big solo meal, and everything went off without a hitch.  Of course it didn't hurt that I was using tried-and-true recipes from years of practice.  If full bellies were any indication, I'd say the meal was a success and I hope this becomes a tradition with both sides of our family.

Perhaps one of the best parts of the day and the icing on the cake was Anna having a chance to play with her cousin, Aiden.  It took a bit for Aiden to warm up to Anna's "in your face" welcoming nature, but when he did, they literally ran circles around the house for an hour and had a blast playing with one another all afternoon and into the evening.  I love holiday food, but I love the fact that holidays gather family even more!

I love, love, love how the turkey turned out, it was quite possibly the best turkey I've had, ever (if I do say so myself), and I was pretty proud that I carved it myself.  I've copied the full recipe below, but I took a few shortcuts using dried herbs, and also chickened-out (or would it be turkeyed-out?) in regard to putting any of the mixture under the skin; I think I'll try that when I'm not cooking for a crowd.  The corn pudding recipe is a family tradition that my Mom has been making since I was born.  It's so, so, so, so good.  And super easy.  I hesitate to even post it here, but it deserves to be shared with the world, aka my 12 readers : )

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast
Courtsey of Ina Garten
1 whole bone-in turkey breast, 6 1/2 to 7 pounds
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the turkey breast, skin side up, on a rack in a roasting pan.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, mustard, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice to make a paste. Loosen the skin from the meat gently with your fingers and smear half of the paste directly on the meat. Spread the remaining paste evenly on the skin. Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.

Roast the turkey for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest and meatiest areas of the breast. (I test in several places.) If the skin is over-browning, cover the breast loosely with aluminum foil. When the turkey is done, cover with foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Slice and serve with the pan juices spooned over the turkey.

Corn Pudding
Courtesy of Patricia Miller's kitchen

1 can cream corn
2 cans whole kernel corn, drained
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 stick of butter, melted
3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream or half and half
2 eggs, separated

Mix the corn, sugar, flour, butter and two egg yolks in a greased casserole dish. Beat the egg whiles until they form stiff peaks. Fold in egg whites to corn mixture, very gently. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower oven to 300 degrees for 1 hour, alternatively, bake at 350 degrees for a little over an hour, or until set.  Let rest for at least 10-15 minutes before serving. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thankful Thursday: My partner in crime

I'm probably most thankful for my husband, Mike, and so I've saved the best of my Thankful Thursday, November 2012 edition, for last : ) 

Mike and I met through a mutual friend in the fall of 2005, right after I moved back to Cincinnati, but we didn't get to know each other until the following January when we sat next to each other at a group dinner and ended the evening with a competitive game of flip cup.  He asked me out over the phone a few days later and our first day followed at a venue that's changed ownership no fewer than four times in almost seven years, but still makes for a great date night full of memories.  Sometimes I even make him reenact how he called to me across the parking lot as we were both leaving and asked if I'd want to go out again ; )

So, thank you, Mike, for being my best friend and my partner in crime, I truly can't imagine a world where you're not by my side.  Thank you for being the best father imaginable to our daughter; I knew you'd have a special bond with our children, but I couldn't have imagined how amazing it would be to see it form.  Thank you for letting me come up with crazy ideas, not squashing my dreams immediately, and letting me realize on my own they were a little far-fetched.  Thank you for cleaning up the dishes on the nights I cook and taking charge of at least one meal a week so that I have a bit of a break; nothing tastes better than a meal you don't have to prepare.  Thank you for doing pretty much all of the heavy lifting around the house, including the garbage/recycling every single week.  Thank you for understanding my need to make the bed daily and appeasing me by doing so most days.  Thank you for being one of the neater husbands I know and keeping your towels and clothing off the floor.  Related to that, thank you for taking turns doing the laundry.  Thank you for being a gentleman and opening doors for me, letting me go first, and generally watching out for me.  Thank you for understanding when I'm emotional and letting me cool down so that I realize on my own I'm a little loco.  Thank for so many times being the voice of reason and always keeping a level head.  Thank you for always being able to make me laugh, for being a great travel companion on so many fun and fantastic adventures, and for just being you, I can't wait to continue exploring our world with the best person I know! 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksful Thursday: Perspective

I'm thankful for perspective. 

The perspective that comes from my Mom when I'm rushing around to clean the house and prepare the perfect meal for my family; and she reminds me "they're not coming to see a spotless house or eat at a 5-star restaurant." 

The perspective that comes from my time volunteering for various charities; nothing reminds you of how lucky and blessed you are to live the life you live, than helping those with so much less.

The perspective that comes from being a Mother to a young child; when an hour on Sunday evening is spent singing ring-around-the-rosie in the living room over and over and over again until we're all dizzy, but can't stop laughing, and then having your child come over to give you a big bear hug.

The perspective that comes from being a working Mother, when you want to have that spotless house, a healthy and home cooked meal on the table each night, and to spend quality time with your child(ren) each day, all while climbing the corporate ladder.  Something's got to give and I'm glad I have the perspective of other working Mothers to help me find a balance.

The perspective that comes from a weekend with friends where you can ask the questions you might not ask without having the luxury of time mulling around a hotel room getting ready for the day, like "how much organic do you guys actually buy?", "how often do you wash your bras?", "how much are you putting away for college for your kids?"  Honest answers from friends can do wonders for your psyche and can make you feel "normal," just the perspective you need. 

The perspective that comes from growing a baby inside you and realizing that every life is precious, every life is a blessing and we're all meant to be here for a reason grander than we may ever know. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanksful Thursday: Lifelong friends

"A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words."

My first best friend and I literally grew-up together, our parents met in Lamaze class while pregnant and we've remained friends to this day.   We taught each other how to be good friends and from those early days I've cultivated friendships that I will always cherish.  From friends I met in high school to college/sorority to a little toy store that brought a big group of 20-somethings together, to friends I've met in Cincinnati, Chicago, Charlotte, and now as a Mom.  Some I may not talk to once a month, or even once a year, but you can bet that when we're finally able to get together, we'll carry-on like no time has lapsed at all.  I cherish my friends, work hard to keep in touch, and you can be your bottom dollar that I wouldn't trade any of them for a million bucks.  For that, I am very, very thankful.

"If you're alone, I'll be your shadow. If you want to cry, I'll be your shoulder. If you want a hug, I'll be your pillow. If you need to be happy, I'll be your smile... But anytime you need a friend, I'll just be me."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Letter to Anna: Month Eighteen

Dear Anna,

You’re a year and a half old, how did that happen?!?! I am amazed each day by how much you are learning and growing and am so proud of the little girl you are growing into.

I could say this over and over, and I probably do, but you’re so smart and have such a sense of humor and personality. You’re vocabulary is growing quickly and you literally come home with new words almost each day. You love books with letters and related pictures because you can somewhat say most of the words and “read along.” Your favorite ABC word is “apple” and you still love to call everything that’s a circle a “bubble.” You’re also really good at scolding the cats with that finger shake and “bad” or “bad cats” line, it’s adorable. Perhaps the most welcome addition to your vocabulary this month has been calling your Dad and me by “Mommy” and “Daddy.” It melts my heart every time I hear you say either of those words. I went away this past weekend and I can’t begin to tell you what a joy it was to hear you say “Hi Mommy!” over the phone when Dad put you on speaker. You love to tell us “Bye Bye Mommy (or Daddy)” when we drop you off at school. And, I can’t forget to mention that every time we walk by the photo display in the hallway with our many family pictures, you *have* to stop to point out “Mommy, Daddy, and Baby Anna.”

Speaking of being away, you and Dad spent a weekend together while I went out of town with my girlfriends. Although we talked about our kids most of the weekend and compared tricks and tips, it was nice have a change of scenery and you and your Father had a great time. You went to the zoo, out to dinner and the park together; you played games, read books, colored pictures, and generally wore each other out. I’m not sure who was more tired when I got home, but it sure was great to see you both. You and your Dad have a special bond and I wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s the rough-and-tumble parent and just when I think he’s gone too far with a game of a chase, you giggle with ultimate joy and I realize that you’re a much tougher cookie that I give you credit for. I can’t wait to see your relationship continue to blossom!

You LOVE to read. You would be happier with nothing more than a stack of 20 books and a parent to turn the pages most evenings after school, so that’s what we do. You are at a point where you will sit and pay attention and not try to grab the pages to prove your independence, which means we can read books with “real” pages and aren’t stuck in the land of board books. Your favorite books are ones where you can provide sound effects or say some of the words. You also love to color, but it’s not a completely independent exercise yet as you’ve been known to snack on a crayon or two. It does buy me a few minutes if I’m making a meal or cleaning up a mess and I can’t wait to display the many works of art you will create over the years ahead.

You also enjoy independent play and reading. At times you’ll sit and read to yourself or play with toys and stuffed animals, and you impress me every day when I look over and see what you’re doing by yourself. The other day you grabbed a stuffed bunny and started making him “hop” around the room, complete with the words “hop, hop, hop” at the right times. You remember what we show you when we play together and I swear you have an elephant’s memory. It’s been at least 6 weeks and you STILL remember where that bubble was on your hand when Grandma was visiting; you even point it out to her when you Skype.

You’re literally growing each day, but are still long and lean. I don’t need your 18-month appointment that’s scheduled for next week to confirm, I’ve got a drawer full of button-waist-pants that slide off, but are on the verge of being too short, to confirm. This means you live in comfy, cotton, elastic waist pants, which isn’t a horrible alternative. Your shoe preferences have started early in that you have a pair of “sparkle” shoes I found on sale a while back that you insist on wearing around the house in the evenings and occasionally to school. And then there was the Saturday that I came home with a pair of snow boots I found at a consignment sale that you wore around the house all day. You’re also a huge fan of your hat and mittens, which is a relief given that it’s getting chilly in the mornings.

Although you still approach new situations and children with caution, you’re a social butterfly. We met two other families at a Fall Festival last month and then hosted dinner for everyone back at our house. You loved playing with the other kids in the hay maze and really took a liking to the oldest of the children who is five. Back at our house, you loved sharing your toys and thought the other kids were hilarious. With your personality I know that it’s only a matter of time before you have too many friends to count. You move to a new room at school next week and I know I’ll be sentimental and hesitant to make the change, but I know you’ll be more challenged and will do wonderfully with new teachers and friends. I see how much you’re learning and growing each day and worry sometimes that we’re not doing enough at home to stimulate you, but then I see how much you absorb just being around us and I figure we’re doing OK.

My favorite part of this month as been hearing you call me Mommy so many times. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve called my Mom for guidance, support, to cry, or to just hear her voice. Nothing replaces your Mom. Ever. I know that down the road you won’t always be calling my name to talk or to tell me how amazing I am, or to ask for advice, sometimes you’ll be upset at a decision I’ve made about your life or how un-cool I’m being, and that’s part of being a good parent and doing what’s right for your children. But, I hope you know that no matter what, you’re never too old to call your Mom, I’m never too busy to listen, and you’ll always be my little girl who not so many years ago melted my heart with one simple 5-letter word.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fitting room

Mommy bought all of this last weekend ...

... so naturally someone had to try out her new boots ... all morning ... oh, you don't see them in the pile of loot? That's because they lastest there about 3 seconds before someone snatched them away : )  Don't you wear your new snow boots around with your PJs and a new hair bow on your Saturday mornings?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Walking in Daddy's shoes

Friday, November 9, 2012

No one puts Anna in a corner ...

... unless it's that one corner by the bookshelf and she puts herself there so that she can play the same song, over and over and over again with her talking puppy ...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Technology

This may seen trivial, but I'm thankful for technology this week.  I'm thankful that this blog allows me to keep our out-of-town family and friends updated on our lives and also  allows me to keep a living scrapbook.  I'm thankful that I have a camera phone I can use to send Anna's grandmothers a text picture almost daily.  I'm thankful that we can quickly share good news (or bad news) over e-mail.  I'm thankful I can quickly order the ever-needed new wardrobe for my child without leaving the comfort of my own home.  I'm thankful that DVR exists and kept me from going insane during this political season and also allows us to provide Anna with educational shows of our choosing when she just needs those 15 minutes to unwind.  That said, there's nothing that can replace a phone call, sitting next to someone and talking, or a big bear hug.  As much as I'm thankful for technology, I guess I'm probably more thankful for the people on the other end : )

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Confessions of a cookie monster

Anna's had limited exposure to sweet treats in her short almost-18 months, but we did let her indulge in an iced cookie among friends when we hosted two other families at our house the weekend before last.  They insisted we take an extra cookie, so we saved it for Halloween.  To say she enjoyed it is an understatement.  I love these shots!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Craft Corner: Halloween

I took a page from Anna's teachers and got crafty this past Halloween season and created one-of-a-kind spook-tacular cards to send to close family.  I've already got my thinking cap on for future holidays : ) 

Spooky feet about to turn into ghosts -- OOOOOOO -- !

The finished product, so spook-tacular : )
(of course I didn't take a picture of a ghost that didn't smudge before sending them out)

The prototype from last year ... can you believe how much her tooties have grown? 
(red lines added for effect)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What's Cookin': Loaded Baked Potato Soup (Slow Cooker)

I knew on Halloween night it would be nice to have an easy, hot dinner ready to go before our neighborhood Halloween parade started at 5:30 and considering it was going to be a COLD night, I thought this hearty soup would fit the bill perfectly.  It doesn't get easier than this, folks. My only warning is that the recipe makes A LOT, which makes me feel better about the butter and cream.  I'll probably cut the recipe in half the next time I make it for just our family, unless the leftovers I freeze thaw well.  I like that you can add toppings you please and just love the creamy texture.  I even mixed peas and carrots into Anna's bowl, a sneaky way to get more veggies into to diet ; )  I have a feeling this will lead to many a winter root vegetable soup in our house, up next squash and sweet potatoes : )

Loaded (Slow Cooker) Baked Potato Soup
From The Crockin' Girls

6 Large Potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 Large Onion, diced
1 Quart Chicken Broth
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/4 Cup Butter (just throw half a stick-ish in the crock)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Cup Cream (I used half and half)
1 Cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese (I used mild cheddar)

Combine all ingredients except for cream/ half and half, and cheese in your slow cooker.
Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours (potatoes should be tender).
Mash potatoes until coarsely chopped and soup is slightly thickened (I used my immersion blender).
Stir in cream and cheese and keep warm until ready to serve. Garnish with toppings (bacon, chives, sour cream, cheese).

Friday, November 2, 2012

All treats, no tricks

We weren't sure how Anna would do with her costume this year given the fact that she absolutely hated it when she tried it on for her grandparents a few weeks prior to Halloween.  Come Halloween night, though, she had a blast and loved being a duck, quack quack.  I was relieved that we didn't have to be "that family" with a child dressed up as her toddler self : )  I think the trick was Mike showing her how cool she looked in the mirror after she was dressed, mental note to all you mothers of toddlers out there. 

Big cheese in her duck costume ... this is her new favorite smile

The best full-body shot I could manage.  She LOVED that pumpkin and still plays with it daily.  I can't get over the tights, hopefully we can find a reason to wear them again this fall.

These are blurry, but I love the shots.  Mike had gone to get his shoes, came back and opened the front door to see the parade participants starting to assemble.  This shows you how excited she was from the time the door opened to when Mike asked "do you want to go outside and join the parade?"

Waiting to head out and then excitement during the parade. It was the first year our neighborhood did a parade and even though it was cold, dreary and raining, there was great attendance. It was a big hit!

We took our duck to three houses (close neighbors) and then Anna helped pass out candy until her bedtime.  She was SO excited each time the doorbell rang.  Of course she had to test out a few pieces to make sure they were fit to hand out : )

Cutest duck I've ever seen!