Saturday, December 27, 2014

Have A Bite Of...

Twix Cookies

These babies were super easy to make and a hit at Christmas dinner.

You can find the recipe over at chef in training; the modifications I made were to the chocolate topping(s). I used milk chocolate for half of the cookies and semisweet for the remainder. Also, I don't use shortening so I melted each 1/3 c. of chocolate chips with 1 Tbs. of evaporated milk.

Does anyone else feel guilty about not using an entire can of evaporated milk? I don't use it often and the recipes that call for it never require more than a few tablespoons at a time, so I'm always at a loss of what to do with the excess.

The caramel layer was so gorgeous I almost didn't want to cover it with chocolate...

Who am I kidding? Everything is better with a little chocolate!

Our parents and my sister came over for Christmas brunch and a gift exchange. There was a lovely mix of toys and books for Jr, and not a single battery operated toy in the bunch!

There were homemade cinnamon rolls and fruit, smoked sausages and eggs, coffee and spicy tomato juice. We laughed and reminisced, played games and just relaxed. The look of pure joy on Jr's face when he tried out his new rocker, it must have felt like he was flying.

Baby's First Christmas

Baby's First Christmas
We're going to need a bigger toy basket...

Baby's First Christmas
Such a big boy!

"All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt!"
Charles Schulz

Monday, December 22, 2014

Happy Holidays!

Things have been busy around here. Everyone has to pull their weight.

The munchkin has discovered laptops...

We acquired a Christmas tree.

Professional tree pickers.

Professional tree cutter.

The tree people were quite impressed with his level of preparedness (overalls, boots, and coat).


You've got that, right? Good.


There was a very merry half-birthday.

Six months old?!

And we took approximately nine hundred pictures for our Christmas card.

We are quite talented at ensuring one member of the family is never looking at the camera.

"As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be, Christmas is."
Eric Sevareid

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Little Things

Usually it's the little things that make a difference in how my day is going. Two of the small luxuries that I love? Great drinks and good music.

Great Drinks
Something about that little green logo makes my morning brighter, but my wallet lighter. The latter of those results necessitated learning to make my beloved macchiato at home and I have a delicious copycat worked up. Put it in a cup with a straw and it's just about perfect (minus the $4 fee, of course).
Macchiato Knock Off
1 cup ice
2 tsp vanilla syrup
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk 
(or 1/2 cup skim milk)
6 oz cold brewed coffee
(or two shots of espresso)
Caramel sauce
Layer first four ingredients in a 16oz cup (with straw) and drizzle with caramel sauce. Easy peasy. 

Good Music
I utilize spare bits of my time to compile and edit playlists on Grooveshark, A) because music is an essential part of my daily life and B) because I think exposing Jr to music is important. Currently I'm on a Boyce Avenue kick - specifically their covers which are, by and large, absolutely wonderful.

November Snapshots

1) View
Monthly Snapshots
I can't describe how much I enjoy seeing our neighborhood deer every day.

2) Happy
Monthly Snapshots
Stopped for coffee while running errands with my sis, ended up with a free coffee!

3) Balance
Monthly Snapshots
Starting up the business again, discovering it's much more difficult to do with a baby. 

4) Wear
Monthly Snapshots
I'm obsessed with this vest purchased at Old Navy (for cheap!)

5) Love
Monthly Sanpshots
The hair!!

6) Everyday
Monthly Snapshots
My five-minute-face routine.

7) Eat
This was reserved for a picture of my very first Thanksgiving turkey, but I forgot to get a picture before it was devoured. I'm still miffed about this - it really was picture perfect.

8) Project
Monthly Snapshots
Starbucks has a holiday punch card? Challenge accepted!

9) Habit
Monthly Snapshots
I probably shouldn't let it be a habit, but holding Jr for a nap is so precious I can't resist.

10) Favorite
Monthly Snapshots
Jr's first reaction to peekaboo.

"If you don't think every day is a good day, just try missing one."
Cavett Robert

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Falling for Autumn

The rain has started and I couldn't be happier about it! Scarves, sweaters, boots, oh my! Have I mentioned that I love autumn? Don't get me wrong, I adore a balmy spring day, can admire a fresh winter powder, and acknowledge the beauty of a cloudless summer afternoon - but my heart belongs to autumn.

I whipped up a batch of my favorite crock pot chili in honor of the new season and it was as fabulous (and easy!) as I remembered. Part of it's appeal is how quickly it comes together. I can get this into the crock pot in just the time it takes to brown the meat. Bonus: it freezes quite well.

Crock Pot Chili
adapted from MyRecipes

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 Tbs garlic paste
2 cans (16 oz each) chili beans
2 cans (16 oz each) kidney beans
2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes
8 oz broth (chicken or beef)
2 tsp cumin

Brown the beef, onion, cumin, and garlic together in large skillet. While the meat is browning, place the beans, tomatoes, and broth in the crock pot. The kidney beans can be drained/rinsed first, but I normally use low-sodium beans and don't bother. Add the meat mixture to the crock pot once the beef is browned, and give everything a quick stir. Cook on low for five to six hours or on high for three to four hours. Serve with cheese and cornbread, if desired.

I'm challenging myself to do a monthly photo diary - ten photos of life throughout the month. Here is October:

1) View
On the river.

2) Happy
It's not every day that breakfast smiles at you!

3) Balance
Nap or walk, nap or walk... Both!

4) Wear
My favorite accessory!

5) Love
Sunshine baby.

6) Everyday
Our living room view - ordinary and yet extraordinary.

7) Eat
The EASIEST blueberry muffins from scratch, perfect for early morning company.

8) Project
Just a hint - the first couple tries have been dismal failures.

9) Habit
I have to make it with almond or soy milk for now, but I need my iced coffee(s).

10) Favorite
Something to sip and a little GA; a perfect evening.

"Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place. But there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around."
E.L. Konigsburg

Monday, September 22, 2014

Expectation vs. Reality

Well, here we are three months into life with a baby. It's been wonderful, challenging, confusing, terrifying, and amazing - and that was just today. Life is nowhere near what I anticipated it would be, and getting up close and personal with the unpredictability has illustrated a few chasms between my expectations and reality. Some good differences, some not so good, but all providing an opportunity to practice flexibility, which I've been told will come in handy later on.

The short version of our birth story is that my water broke without starting labor and I had to be induced. 32-ish hours later I was ready to start pushing and did so for three hours, making exactly zero progress. From there we went into an unplanned c-section and finally got to meet our son. We went home from the hospital after three days, and on day nine I was readmitted with an infection that had caused an abscess at the incision site. Following that was eight weeks of "wound care" visits multiple times per week, one UTI, six bouts of mastitis, and nine rounds of antibiotics. Thankfully, my wonderful mother was willing and able to stay with us for the first month and helped us figure out how to function among the challenges that were thrown our way.

Expectation: They hurt and you breathe through them; painful, but doable.
Reality: Mother of Troy, those suckers are brutal. While I wasn't shouting obscenities the entire time or screaming for drugs, I have no idea how women do natural birth, especially with back labor. In hindsight though, I would take contractions over the first month of wound care appointments any day.

Expectation: They take the edge off, but you can still function.
Reality: The epidural took away a lot more sensation than I anticipated, but considering the alternative (and that I actively pushed for three long hours) it was still a good choice. Complications with Jr kept me exclusively on my back and right side, which meant that I had no feeling on the right and quite a bit of feeling on the left as epidurals apparently follow gravity.

Expectation: None, as neither my doctor or I had anticipated the need for one.
Reality: They really suck. For me, it was a rough experience. I ended up incredibly groggy when Jr was born and don't remember a whole lot, which is frustrating. The only vivid recollections I have are being cold and feeling uneasy holding him afterwards as I couldn't control my hands.

Labor in General
Expectation: An exhausting but "normal" birth experience without surgical intervention and where any complications would be minor.
Reality: The labor and birth processes were vastly different than I anticipated. While many aspects still hold some disappointment, all that matters in the end is that we have a beautiful, healthy baby boy.

Expectation: It feels strange to admit, but I didn't expect to have an instant bond with Jr. I figured it would take time to get to know this new little person, but that the bond would grow relatively quickly once we brought him home.
Reality: I was completely in love with him as soon as I was capable of coherent thought after surgery. And with that came the intense fear that something might happen to him, along with a how-can-I-protect-him-from-everything panic.

Expectation: We would seamlessly transition to cloth diapers as soon as we arrived home from the hospital, keeping Jr's tender skin irritation-free while simultaneously saving money and the environment.
Reality: HA! Thanks to being on antibiotics for the first two months of Jr's life, we were constantly fighting yeast-based diaper rash. Cloth diapers were put on hold due to the fact that yeast will grow in the diaper inserts, heavy duty diaper cream (zinc oxide based) will ruin cloth diapers, and I have no interest in taking on optional challenges until things settle down.

Expectation: The beginning would be challenging, but after sticking it out for a few weeks, things would progressively become easier.
Reality: The beginning was rough and we had to supplement with formula - not what I wanted at all, but necessary for a while. There was a period of about three weeks where we were the poster-child for success. And then it all went to crap (thank you, mastitis and baby reflux) and we are still trying to recover.

Expectation: Up at all hours, a decent night of sleep will become a pipe dream.
Reality: I do miss sleeping past 7am, but it hasn't been that bad. The first two weeks were tiring since we were up every two or three hours, but things settled into somewhat of a routine fairly quickly. Currently we are working a two hour schedule during the day with one nighttime feeding between 3am and 5am.

Expectation: Resign yourself to cold food as you will never have an uninterrupted meal.
Reality: This one is true. Most of my meals are punctuated by feeding, diapering, or soothing and I eventually return to lukewarm food. It's a bit depressing, but I've switched to salads since they taste better cold.

Expectation: You'll rarely shower or brush your teeth. Spit up will be a normal addition to your clothes and you'll be too tired to change.
Reality: Showers and tooth brushing don't always happen on time, but most of the time showers happen before noon and I still brush three times a day. Spit up is sneaky, but it's not usually too hard to notice and clothes are changed right away. Milk stains, on the other hand, are a routine part of my wardrobe. Not ideal, but I don't have enough clothes to accommodate eight outfits per day.

Personal Time
Expectation: Little to none without hiring a babysitter.
Reality: Chris and I have been making it a priority to ensure that we each have some time off from baby duty a few times a week. Additionally, the grandparents have been incredibly helpful in watching him when I have appointments - I'm fairly certain they like it though.

Expectation: Most of the baby weight would come off in the first six months, but the last few pounds would be a battle royal.
Reality: The one fight I expected is the only one that didn't happen. The baby weight (and some friends) left without effort. My shape, however, is completely different than what it was.


"Mom, I do not find your buffoonery amusing."

Ready to ride.

We get SO excited in the monkey seat.

Nap Central. If only I could sleep as well...

There you have it - the good, the bad, and the impossibly cute.

"Life ain't always beautiful, but it's a beautiful ride."
Gary Allan

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Life is Uncertain

Three cheers for regaining Internet access!!

We have been in our new house a grand total of two weeks and it is wonderful! I will work on getting pictures up once we get everything settled and decorated.

Since we are near family and in our own space again, I decided that a small shindig for my sister's birthday was necessary. Being the colorful personality that she is, I realized that the only fitting cake would be a six layer rainbow cake with funfetti sprinkles. After a few anxious days looking for my cake pans, which were eventually discovered in the office, I settled in to create the cake. Knowing that one can always rely on Pinterest for the answer, I hopped online in search of a recipe that would guide me to success.


Pinterest had failed me and my feeble mind could barely comprehend the enormity of the disaster. While there were plenty of cake photos and vague references to making a rainbow cake, there was not a suitable recipe to be found. I was on my own, forging into unfamiliar territory despite the fact that I hadn't baked a cake in at least three years. I decided the cake itself was complicated enough to warrant leaving the heavy lifting to a professional - 
Betty Crocker has so much more experience than I do.

Without further ado:
A Rainbow Cake in 20 Easy Steps

1) Gather your armies. And handsies.

2) Retrieve funfetti frosting that your husband has absconded with.

3) Consult six-layer cake recipe found on Pinterest that calls for extra cake mixes and FIVE TUBS of frosting.

4) Disregard recipe and decide to wing it, Martha Stewart style.

5) Weigh your mixing bowl empty.

6) Prepare cake mix according to directions. 
(Or from scratch if you're cool like that.)

7) Weigh bowl with batter and divide accordingly into six smaller bowls.

8) Begin mixing food dye for a rainbow effect, consulting color wheel as needed.

9) Become alarmed by pasty results and reconsider Martha Stewart abilities. 
Cue sweaty palms as you realize that you don't have a back up plan.

10) Add more dye.

11) A lot more dye.

12) Breathe first sigh of relief that your colored cake batter appears to be suitably rainbow-esque.

13) Pour the three easiest colors (green, blue, and yellow) in pans for baking.

14) Place in oven and begin to pray.

15) Breathe second sigh of relief that your tiny cake layers cooked properly.

16) Become distracted by cute baby.

17) Bake remaining layers and allow to cool completely.

18) Assemble layers Roy G. Biv style.

19) Crumb coat and place in refrigerator for one hour.

20) Frost, sprinkle with funfetti, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

And that's it! I think the cake turned out fairly well overall, but I'm especially pleased with the vibrancy of the colors. I only used one cake mix, which made for extremely thin layers but a very manageable height, and two tubs of frosting. As for the coloring, purple was definitely the most challenging with red coming in as a close second. It ends up that purple needs more red than blue dye, and the key to a deep red lies in adding just a pinch of unsweetened cocoa powder. 

Jr is working on his hand coordination,
thus the intense concentration as he tries to knock over Gigi's soda.
"Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first."
Ernestine Ulmer