Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, October 29, 2012

Buddy on board

I can already tell that Anna will be a great big sister by the fact that she shares so well with her stuffed animals : )

Friday, October 26, 2012

What's Cookin': Italian Meatloaf and Mac 'n' Cheese

Given that we all get home from work roughly around 5:00pm and eat dinner at 6:00pm so that we can make Anna's bedtime of 7:00pm-ish, dinner has literally turned into a mad dash to the finish most nights.  I shop on Saturday or Sunday, and I've always chopped/ prep anything I can that day so that it's ready the night of meal preparation, and have a focus now on meals that can be made in advance, using our slow cooker, and "cooking once, eating twice."  That said, if our schedule permits, I try to cook what I call a "big meal" on Sunday.  This past week that entailed meatloaf, mac 'n' cheese, and sauteed zucchini.  But, not just any meatloaf, italian meatloaf ... basically a big meatball ... and not just any mac 'n' cheese, a relatively healthy version of the dish that I make for Anna often.  I didn't realize until we were sitting down to eat that this is one of Mike's favorite meals and now I feel bad for not adding it to the rotation more often. 

I found the meatloaf recipe via Michael Chiarello on the Food Network waaaaay back in 2006 when I had time on Saturday mornings to sit and peruse cooking shows before getting my day started.  I now record PW's show and get excited when I happen to see an episode of Barefoot Contessa, but otherwise there's not a ton of cooking TV in my life right now, unless you count Diners Drive-ins and Dives that we somehow get sucked into almost every Friday night.  The mac 'n' cheese comes from my Betty Crocker Healthy New Choices cookbook that I bought years ago, and it's one I'd recommend over and over.  I think I'm accidentally raising a vegetarian ... Anna just doesn't really like meat ... we use a lot of whole grain pasta and cheese and attempt beans to get her protein, so, mac 'n' cheese is a staple in her diet.  I feel better that this version doesn't pack nearly as much fat as other recipes, I can control the ingredients, I can use the pasta of my choosing, AND, I can load it with veggies so that it's a complete meal.  OK, that's enough on the back stories, here are the recipes:

Italian Meatloaf
Adapted from:  Michael Chiarello on the Food Network

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 red pepper, seeded, small diced
1 onion, small diced
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 pound ground beef
2 eggs
3/4 cup bread crumbs (I use italian breadcrumbs)
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves (optional, I hardly ever have parsley)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup marinara sauce (plus a little more for serving)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat and add the peppers, onions and garlic. Saute until just soft, remove to a plate and cool.  (Don't skip this step, this allows the veggies to sweat out most of thier liquid and keeps your meatloaf from becoming a totally soggy mess.  I did this early in the morning and put the mixture in the fridge until I was ready to mix the remaining ingredients)

When the peppers and onions are cool, combine all of the remaining ingredients together except for the marinara. Pack the meat mixture into an oiled loaf pan, if you don't have a loaf pan, form the meat mixture into a loaf shape on an oiled oven tray or baking dish. Top with the marinara, making sure to spread evenly over the top.  (I mixed the meatloaf in the early afternoon and kept covered in the fridge until ready to cook and spread the marinara on top right before placing in the oven)

Bake for approximately 50 to 60 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees F in the middle of the meatloaf. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice and serve with extra marinara sauce on the side.

Sauteed onions, red pepper and garlic ... is there anything better?!?!

The prime suspects

Excuse the fact that the food is not "perfectly staged" ... it sure tasted perfect!

Easy Mac 'n' Cheese
Slightly adapted from:  Betty Crocker's Healthy New Choices

8 oz pasta (we love Barilla's mini wagon-wheels for Anna)
1 cup skim milk
1 T  butter
2 T all purpose flour
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 c shredded cheese (I use mild cheddar)

Cook and drain pasta according to package directions.

Combine milk, flour, butter, salt and pepper in a saucepan and heat to a low boil, stirring with a whisk constantly.  Boil and stir 1 minute.  Stir in cheese until melted.  Add pasta and stir until hot.  (If making for Anna I load it up with peas or other veggies as well!)

Optional breadcrumb topping:  Place pasta in a casserole dish.  Combine 1/2 c italian breadcrumbs and 1 T melted butter, stir with a fork until combined.  Heat at 350 degrees until lightly browned. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sugar and spice and everything nice

We took the plunge and found out the gender of our sweet baby #2 ... it's a GIRL!
Although I'd said the decision would be Mike's given that the ultrasound appointment fell on his birthday, he's a wise man and made sure it was we were both on board : )  We went back and forth countless times, but ultimately decided we'd see how the other half live this time around.  Buuuuut, what I didn't want was  this special moment to be shared with my pants pulled down to my hips in a doctor's office, with basically a stranger in the room.  So we asked the ultrasound tech if she's write the gender on a piece of paper and seal it in an envelope and luckily she was happy to oblige.  The appointment was at 11am and we both had to finish-up our workdays before going back home and picking Anna up from school.  I love to hate surprises, I love them, but am always trying to figure it out, so I thought I'd be resisting the temptation to peak all afternoon.  Luckily I had work to get done, birthday presents to wrap, and a birthday meal to partially prepare before Mike arrived home, not to mention the guilt factor. 

All we wanted to hear was that the baby was healthy and growing on schedule; and that's exactly what the doctor confirmed.  The icing on the cake was finding out the gender.  Neither of us had any premonition as to if we'd be seeing more pink or maybe blue this time around, but I was leaning toward another girl given that I'd head headaches (not migraines, though) with Anna and otherwise the pregnancies were very similar to date.  As we opened the envelope we both confirmed we'd be happy either way, but needless to say, we're thrilled!  The tech had even included a picture with "proof."  Given that our two girls will be less than two years apart, we're even more excited.  Anna is such a sweet, caring, and gentle-natured soul I know she'll be a great big sister regardless. 

So, bring on the estrogen, I'm stocking the wine cellar for the teenage years and we're increasing the monthly transfers to savings seeing as how we now have two wedding to pay for one of these days ... or therapy for Mike after living most of a lifetime with three women : )

The envelope, two possible signs and the ultrasound pictures that didn't reveal the gender.

I thought I'd be able to get an adorable picture with Anna holding up the sign ... I forgot I was dealing with a 17-month old ... I glued the print out to a piece of card stock and it was peeling a little, so she thought it was a sticker and spent 10 minutes trying to pull it apart : )

It's a GIRL!!!

So, sorry, Danielle, my loyal reader and commenter (and only reader to take a guess at the gender), you were wrong ... again ... maybe the third time will be the charm if we get crazy and sign up for this rodeo again : )

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Not impressed

School pictures were a couple of weeks ago for Miss Anna.  I never have high hopes during these shoots, but we actually got a few cute shots from the Spring pictures, and she's older, so I thought I'd see what we got back (plus, there's no sitting fee).  Clearly Anna was not impressed.  Her note that day said "Anna was such a ham during pictures, she would only smile when they weren't shooting."  Unlike some toddlers who seem to run with joy into all new situations and have no fear of strangers, she's very hesitant, likes to observe, take it all in, figure out what's what, and she doesn't give it away for free.  Clearly. 

"Yeah ... this seems like a load of crap, I was pulled from playtime for *this*?!?!?"

"OK, I'll give this a shot, here's a partial smile for ya, buddy ... "

"Nope, definitely not impressed here.  I'm ready to blow this popsicle stand!"

I saw the pictures at school and her teacher tried to spin how cute the second pose is and then pointed out all the "cool things" you can order outside of pictures, mouse pads, stickers. mugs.  Yeah.  Not gonna happen.  When I got home I was holding Anna and showing Mike the proofs and we started to laugh.  Well, wouldn't you know that Anna joined right in, just giggling away like she'd planned this entire scenario knowing we'd need a mid-week pick-me-up.  We've shown these to a few people, including our babysitter over the weekend, and everyone loves the 'tude she shows and have gotten a good laugh.  Amber called it during her visit when Anna was merely three weeks old, there's definitely going to be a "That's so Anna" show out there one day. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What's Cookin': PW's Cinnamon Rolls

It's officially fall, I'm pregnant and wearing maternity pants, the next logical step here is to make cinnamon rolls.  Might I suggest The Pioneer Woman's recipe?  I'd seen her recipe referenced all over the internet, but Amber's post gave me the confidence to finally try it for myself.  I made a half a batch a month or so ago and we walked away with four pans, one of which is still waiting to be enjoyed in the freezer ... sadly, I've never managed to get a picture with the iced and final product ... they're just too good : )  And, speaking of the icing, I usually don't follow PW's recipe, I prefer good old powered sugar and a little whole milk mixed together, warmed and drizzled over the top ... yummmmm!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Can you hear me now?

Sometime over the past couple of months Mike taught Anna about how she could heAr her echo and/or herself amplified by talking (or in her case, yelling) into a bucket or funnel.  Let me be clear that she doesn't usually need to be amplified.  Because of that fact, it's turned into the best game ever.  I'm now certain that most hearing loss is not due to old age as suspected, but rather living with a toddler.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Letter to Anna: Month Seventeen

Dear Anna,

There’s a chill in the air, you’re wearing a coat to school most days, and we’ve changed out most of your clothing to Fall/Winter gear ... and so passes another month and I’m still not sure where the time goes. You’re growing so much each day, physically, mentally, and emotionally. You are still one of the sweetest children I’ve met. Your first instinct is to give a hug or a kiss. This month one of your notes from school read, “Anna made friends with our new little girl today. She gave her toys to play with when she first game in. How sweet!” My heart just smiled when I read those words, I know that most of it has to do with your larger-than-life heart of gold, but I can’t but thing maybe we’re doing something right.

I feel like you’re really coming into your own, finding your voice and developing an even more amazing personality. You’ve pretty much moved from two naps a day to one and will move up to a new room at school next month; no more cribs, a more set schedule, and lots more learning. You’re a fairly good eater, but have your days. You love fruit and I fear you may turn into a mandarin orange one day soon. The hardest part about being a parent for me is the lack of consistency and constant change, and boy, do you like to keep us on our feet. For a week straight you’ll gobble up a certain food and then all of the sudden it repulses you to the point that you throw it off your plate. The good news is, that means you eat a decent variety; the bad news is that we sometimes go through three dinners before we find one that sticks.

You have a healthy curiosity, but are equally as cautious in new situations and around new people. That doesn’t mean that you still don’t try to run into the street after glancing back at us when we’re outside. You’ve turned into a little bit of a daredevil and we’re working on teaching you everyday safety. Like not blindly walking toward a flight of steps, that diving head first off the couch isn’t the smartest thing to do, and that you shouldn’t run with eyes closed, even if it is because you’re having the time of your life being chased by your Grandpap or Dad. It doesn’t help that you inherited your Father’s lack of depth perception and in y’all’s world walls and tables that have been in place for years all of the sudden jump out and block your path. You’ll get there and one day you’ll be a dainty princess, but for right now you’re lovin’ life and are a girl on the R.U.N.!

You love to read and one of your favorite places to take in a story is my lap. You’ll also retreat here when in need of comfort or if you’re trying to “hide” from someone chasing you. It makes me sad that in a few months there won’t be nearly as much room on my lap and sitting Indian-style may no longer be an option for me; that’ll be yet another bittersweet milestone.

Speaking of that lack of lap space, we “announced” this month to all of our friends and family that you will be a big sister in March. I often stop to think about how the heck I will manage two amazing kids at one time. But, those thoughts only last for a split-second and are overshadowed by the pure excitement I feel when I think of you being a big sister. You love other kids, your first instinct is to hug your friends and strangers alike, and you’re great at sharing; you’re going to rock this new role. Lots of people are wondering if you “understand” that you’re going to be a big sister, and I don’t think you will until the day arrives and a new bundle arrives at home with Mommy.  I’m sure there will be some confusion, some jealousy, some lap battles, but I know at the end of the day you’ll rise to the occasion and your little brother or sister will be the luckiest kid on earth to have you as their protector in life.

You’ve become a big hugger and kisser this month. It’s not uncommon that we’ll spend a good 15-20 minutes of our evening routine where you are running back and forth between your Dad and I, giggling the entire time, planting kisses on our cheeks and giving us awesome bear hugs. Sometimes you’ll stop to pet or hug one of the cats or a stuffed animal. Sometimes we hold you in our arms just a little too long and you remind us that you have places to go and people to see and you wriggle out. I love that I can (for the most part) say “give me a hug” or “give me a kiss” and you’ll do it, and boy, do you give the best hugs and kisses in the entire world!

You’re SO smart and have a steel trap for a memory. I’d say you understand about 95% of what we say and are slowly learning new words or ways to tell us what you want. You get frustrated at times, but I would too if I knew what I wanted to say, understood what was being spoken to me, but couldn’t get the words out so that those crazy adults would understand. You’re adding a soundtrack to your life and I just love it. You love to say “weeeeeeee” when sliding or swinging (or when doing the same for your stuffed animal friends or Little People school bus), understand and say “uh oh” all the time, and love to say “ooooooohhhhhh” when something intrigues or excites you. Last week your Grandparents came into town and watched you on Friday while your Dad and I went to work. At some point you had your hands washed and a bubble stayed on your teeny tiny hand for a few minutes. Well, let me tell you, that bubble was something amazing in your world. It’s all we’ve heard about since and we’re going on over a week. Even this morning and breakfast you looked at that spot on your hand, pointed to it, looked at me, and said “bubble?” ... everything that is a circle is now a bubble to you.

You’re also turning into quite the dancer and will bust a move whenever a song that strikes your fancy starts to play. We went to the pumpkin patch this month with Gigi and you were on the dance floor shaking your groove thing to country tunes like nobody’s business. It was hysterical. You’re Dad is still recovering from the fact that you love country music.

I can’t tell you how much I love the little person you are becoming. You grow so much each day and the most consistent comments we hear from family and strangers alike are how funny and sweet you are at such a young age. I hope you always keep those characteristics. To be able to laugh at yourself is invaluable and you’ll need that skill in life given the gene pool you’ve inherited. And, I hope you’ll always remember that even when it’s tempting to join in the crowd and be mean to or make fun of someone, that the really kind person is the one that’s never forgotten. You’re going to grow up to be memorable for SO many reasons, but the one I hope that sticks with you throughout all of your years is the fact that you were kind. You’re one of a kind to me and I will never stop loving you, even during those teenage years when you maybe aren’t so kind to me all of the time : )


Friday, October 12, 2012

A cat and his girl (Part II)

It's all fun and games until the game ends, you've got a shoestring on your head, and Mom sitll has the camera out : )

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Baby Bump: 18 weeks

Fun fact:  this post about week 16 of my pregnancy with Anna is by far and away the most read post on my blog, by a LONG shot.  I even took it down for a couple of months because it creeped me out knowing that so many people were viewing what I'd (poorly) written so long ago.  I've put it back up now that I'm starting pregnancy posts again and it'll be interesting to see if any of these garner as much attention.  With Anna I posted every four weeks, starting with week 16, so I decided to do the same, starting with week 18 this time around.

So, here we are, week 18, a mere week and a half from the halfway mark ... holy cow, how did this happen?  I remember seeing the words "pregnant" staring up at me, followed by what felt like the longest five weeks of my life until our first OB visit and ultrasound.  And then *BAM* we're here; to say this pregnancy is flying by is an understatement. 

So far I've had a fairly uneventful pregnancy, which is exactly what I'm looking for.  I had killer allergies this summer that really kicked up once I found out I was pregnant, but those seem to have subsided for the most part.  I had very little nausea, same with Anna, and felt well through the first trimester.  Then came the second trimester, and it brought migraines; bad, textbook migraines (the bright lights, the complete aura, numbness in my hands, and a killer headache that follows for 3-4 hours), eight migraines in three weeks to be exact.  It's uncommon for migraines to start in a patient during pregnancy, it's generally more common to see them subside in patients that regularly dealt with migraines prior to pregnancy.  But, I like to be different.  So, I'm seeing a neurologist in a few weeks, but I doubt they will be able to do or prescribe anything that will stop the headaches completely.  In the meantime, work has slowed down a bit, I'm working to manage my stress better, am slowing down and being more realistic with my goals, and am making a point to exercise regularly.  I've only had one headache in the past week, which is a major improvement, and gives me hope that the worst has passed. 

The gender reveal date is October 23, but we're not sure if we'll find out of keep it a surprise.  I'm really, really, really tempted this time, but also loved the surprise factor with Anna.  The date of our appointment is also Mike's 34th birthday, so I'm inclined to let it be his choice as part of his birthday present.  Regardless of what we do or don't find out, the nursery will remain the stay the same and Anna will move into a larger guest bedroom, which I can't wait to outfit in pink.  Since there's a chance we'll find out the gender in less than two weeks, if you'd like to guess / predict whether we're having a boy or a girl, feel free to leave a comment to this post. The winners gets bragging rights for life!

So, now onto the real fun ... bump pictures!  I definitely feel as though I "popped" sooner this time around, and the picture below is proof.

18 weeks - 5 1/2 inches and rougly the size of a bell pepper
(photo courtesy of BabyCenter)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The many moods of Anna in the morning

I love my morning time with Anna, nothing gets your day off on a better foot than breakfast with one of the happiest girls around!  I get up well before the rest of the house and am ready except for my attire, have logged a few minutes of work, and am almost fully caffienated by the time Anna starts to stir.  We enjoy breakfast together (usually the same meal), get dressed, and then she plays with Daddy for a few minutes before heading off to school.  I hope you enjoy a glimpse into our special time, and please excuse the oatmeal facial she's working on in these shots : )

Oh, so we're doing pictures today?  I'll be extra cute!

Eating like the dainty lady that she is ...

I'll have what you're having, Mom ... no, literally, hand it over.

Whatttt?  I have to eat what's on my tray first?  Not cool!

Eenie, meenie, minie, moe ...

Practicing her Indian call (is that PC? I don't know how else to explain it, ha)

Where's Anna?

Where's Anna?

There she is!

So many Cheerios, so little time ...

And all the while she's got these cute little piggies tempting me!