Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Turns out, I AM creative!

Every year, I get ridiculously excited for the holidays.  My favorite is Halloween.  Well, at least that's what I say each year until the day after Thanksgiving, when Christmas officially becomes my favorite. 

As a devout reader of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, I look forward to their daily e-mail segment entitled "100 Days of Holidays" which starts on September 24th.  Each day is a little like Christmas as I eagerly open my e-mail to see what wonderful, creative and clever holiday inspiration awaits me. 

Today's e-mail was titled "Inspiring Ideas from Readers."  I love the reader-inspired photos.  I always marvel at how clever and creative people are in the vignettes they put together for the holidays.  I always sigh and wish that somehow I could put something that creative and clever together.  Whatever is in their water, I want some!

I clicked the link, and shuffled through a few good ideas before finding one that looked vaugely familiar.  (See page 11!)

Perhaps, because it is this photo:

Halloween 2008
 My photo!

Better Homes and Gardens published MY photo!!!!!!  I didn't even know my pics were in the running!  I thought I was just posting on a blog to share and get feedback, mostly so I can improve, since I don't consider myself either clever or creative.

I have to say, I feel rather pleased.  It was a very unexpected and pleasant surprise to be a part of the publication I idolize.  And it makes me that much more excited for this, my favorite!, time of year. 


Ahh, Wednesday.  Monday and Tuesday over, that much closer to the weekend...

Must be time for something with a little kick.

Chicken Fajitas
This is actually my mom's recipe, which I tried when Leah and I visited her over the summer.  They are fantastic, and surprisingly easy to prepare.

2 chicken breasts
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper (I used a yellow instead, since we had one from the farmers' market last weekend)
1/2 yellow onion thinly sliced
1 package McCormick Mesquite marinade prepared according to package directions
3-4 Tortillas
Cheese, sour cream, avocado as desired

1. Chop vegetables and chicken, keeping the two separate.  Add 2/3 marinade divided equally between vegetables and chicken.  Refrigerate for approx. 1/2-1 hour.
2. Cook chicken to near done, then add vegetables.  Cook a few additional minutes until vegetables are soft and chicken is cooked through.  Add remaining 1/3 marinade as mixture finishes cooking.
3. Meanwhile, heat tortillas between wet paper towels 45 seconds in the microwave.  Dish up!  Add cheese, sour cream, and avocado to fajita as desired.

Serve with Cheater Weeknight Mexican Rice - add 1/4 c. salsa, 2 tspn cayanne pepper, and 1 tspn cumin to prepared brown rice. 

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Tuesday brings...

Brown-Butter Tortellini

(It tastes better than it sounds!)  I've done the brown butter sauce before, but never with this particular combination.  It was very tasty... particularly the mushrooms!  I wanted the little mini-mushrooms (which probably have a name, but I don't know it).  I settled for large chopped mushrooms instead, because they were much less expensive. 

1 stick butter
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
8 oz cheese tortellini
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
2 c. chopped mushrooms
1 tspn crushed red pepper
1/2 tspn Italian seasoning
1/2 c. shredded parmesean cheese

1.  Cook tortellini to al dente (about 5 min).  In wok or large pan, heat butter over medium until it bubbles and burns, becoming slightly brown.  Remove from heat and add balsamic vinegar.
2.  Add pasta and vegetables to sauce.  Toss well to coat and cover. 
3. Allow pasta and sit over low heat approximately 10 minutes or until zucchini is soft.  Stir occasionally.  Add desired parmesean cheese while hot.

Served with: caesar salad and garlic bread.  Cut the mushrooms, and Casey had 3 servings!

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Week of Meals

First, I was pregnant, and handling food wasn't my favorite pass time.

Then, I was a brand new mother with a brand new baby and practically no sleep.

Whatever the cause, the bottom line is that I haven't exactly been much for cooking in recent... er... months. 

It's true: I've been in a rut.  Which is sad, seeing as I usually really like to cook.  As I've come back into preparing meals since Leah was born, I've been stuck in a Groundhog's Day of recipes that just get used again and again. 

So, I've decided to venture out of my cooking comfort zone and try a few things. 

Every night this week, I'm going to try a new (or newish) recipe.  YUM!

Out of character for me, I found this recipe on the Better Homes and Gardens website.  Typically, I tend to invent my own recipes and work them over until they're perfect - for my tastes, anyway.  But I made this tonight without modifying (much) and it turned out quite well!

2 chicken breasts, chopped and cooked
8 oz rotini pasta, cooked and drained
1 1/4 C. milk
2 eggs
6 oz can artichoke hearts
2 C. frozen spinach
2 C. cheese (I used Mexican blend because that's what I had on hand, even though the recipe calls for Monterey Jack)
1 TBSP melted butter
1 1/2 C. panko breadcrumbs
1/2 C. parmesean cheese
Garlic salt, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, paprika

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook pasta and add spinach; cook chicken using desired spices.
2. In large bowl, whisk together milk and eggs.  Drain pasta and add.  Add chicken, artichoke hearts and cheese.  Season as desired.  Pour into greased 13x9 baking dish.  Cover, bake 20 minutes.
3. In small bowl, combine melted butter, breadcrumbs, paprika and parmesean cheese.  Top chicken mix with breadcrumbs and bake uncovered additional 10 minutes.

Served with: broccoli and garlic bread.
Not bad for a Monday evening.  Enjoy!

Don't be judgin'

I am not a "teen" literature fan.

Okay, so I may have dabbled in it from time to time, but I read Michael Crichton when I was in 5th grade.  I read The Tempest at 12 and The Illiad at 15 (or I tried, anyway.  That counts). 

Yes, I may have read the Twilight series like 10 times

Sure, I've read Harry Potter so often that I can recite much of books 1-4, as we discovered when Casey began reading them outloud to our daughter.

Oh, and yes, I chose Harry Potter to read to my unborn/newborn child. 

That doesn't prove anything.  I still don't like teen fiction. 

But I love the latest book I'm reading:

It's awesome!  Where was this book when I was nursing and up all night?  Where was this book when I couldn't sleep the first three, four, five months of Leah's life?!  I had all those hours in the middle of the night, and I wasted them worrying, when I could have been reading! 

Now, Leah is FINALLY sleeping through the night, and I can't go to bed because I'm too enthralled by what is happening in this stupid book!!!

Oh, and of course, it's teen fiction.  I mentioned that I love teen fiction, right?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ain't no stoppin' her now

Guess who can CRAWL?!

Yes, I recognize that this is not a photo of a baby crawling. 

But it was one of those things... she was up, took a few wobbly, tentative "steps" on her hands and knees and was down again before Daddy and I could get the camera. 

Mostly, what she can do is get on her knees with her butt up in the air.  She realized a few weeks ago that she can also push herself up onto her arms, but so far, she has just looked perplexed about how she wound up in such an odd position.

Today, we had actual crawling.  Daddy and I both yelled and cheered and encouraged her to do it again, but evidently once was enough... at least for now! 

I've been both longing for and dreading the day that she begins crawling.  The germaphobe in me dreads it, as does that protective mommy side I'm so in touch with. 

At the same time... crawling.  WOW!!!  What a wonderful, big girl we have!  Watch out, world!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The noise a lion makes

Recently, my lovely husband pulled a muscle in his back.  He was reaching over the crib to get Leah from a nap, and he couldn't straighten himself out of that position.

Which is why, on that particular night, I was changing Leah's diaper.

She is usually extremely chipper on the changing table.  At 3 am, I was mostly just hoping I wouldn't wake her up too much to prevent her from going back to sleep.

I was thinking about this when I heard a rather terrifying noise issuing from my baby. 

Leah was growling at me.  Not just growling... the noise that was coming from her was something from a horror movie.  At 3 am, I had a Rosemary's baby on the changing table!

In the days since then, Casey and I have had a ton of laughs about our growling baby.  We keep telling her that she is very smart... that IS the noise a lion makes!  (Lion sounds much better than "possessed baby," so we just go with it!)  I have no idea where she picked this up, or perhaps this is just the natural progression of vocal noises every baby must go through - considering she's the only baby I've ever had, I have no idea which way it goes. 

Here is a bit of video Casey took on his phone of our sweet daughter... growling. 

Frankly, I would have been happy with just some cooing or gurgling.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

At 6 months

Leah Madeline - 6 months old
September 10, 2010

Half a year has officially passed, and we are still in awe!  Where has the time gone?!

At six months, Leah...

...sits unsupported, although for some reason has a weakness on her left side.  If she wobbles to the left, it's a good bet she's going over.

...Still loves tummy time.  She can play for the longest time like this!

...Has been working on crawling.  Although I think we're safe for at least another month or (hopefully, maybe) two, that girl is going after it!

...Has tried 4 foods: watermelon (her favorite!), carrots, apples and whatever frosting happened to get in her mouth on Friday.  Her parents absolutely adore meal time!  We have more high chair pictures than any two people should have!

...Would also desperately like to stand.  She can't stand unsupported, but she can pull herself up from a laying to a standing position if you give her two fingers.  She can also "walk" from one person to another with assistance.  She loves it!

...still loves her paci.  I don't foresee us giving this thing up any time soon.  My little girl who, at 12 weeks in utero was already sucking her thumb... not much has changed!

...has a range of vocal noises from low, throaty growling to high-pitched squealing.  Her favorite noise is more of a gargle of spit in the back of her throat while she says "geeeee."  We think it's hillarious!

...her eyes are beginning to change color.  Who knows whether it will stick, but randomly she'll wake up with green eyes (like mine), and the next time we look, they're back to blue (which they were at birth).  Casey's eyes are also blue, so the jury is still out on which she'll end up with. 

...Enjoys getting her toes, which also means she makes short work of any socks we put on her. very ticklish under her chin, arms, and along her back.  Especially in the morning!

...has the sweetest little baby smiles each time she wakes up.  It's too adorable!

...I'm convinced she knows the following words: "let go" (useful for those times that Mommy's hair is the most interesting thing to play with), "gimme five," "hungry," and "kiss."  We've especially been working on gimme five, and she will put her hand up and "slap" when asked. happier, smilier and more content than ever.  It is such a joy to be her mommy!!!!

It is amazing how the time seems to have at once flown by, and at the same time, it is difficult to imagine life before Leah.  We love that sweet little pumpkin, and continue to feel blessed by each and every day.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Very Merry Un-Birthday

How did we get...


Well, it all started as a small idea.  A little something to celebrate Leah's half birthday.  How could I resist that chance to celebrate? 

As so many of my ideas do, it grew...

And grew...

And grew...

We had a wonderful time watching that baby explore her presents.  She loved her books, enjoyed [chewing] the bows, and played with the cool little musical snail I've been eyeing for two months. 

And Mommy learned a very important lesson: if you don't want it to go in Leah's mouth, don't put it in front of her.  Even for the length of time it takes to take a picture.  I hadn't really intended on her eating the cupcakes - fortunately, she had more fun squishing them between her fingers than eating them!

Happy 6 month birthday to our sweet baby girl!  We love you pumpkin!

Our Darling Daughter

To my darling baby on her six month birthday,

On this day six months ago, I awoke knowing that the day I had in store would be the most life-changing, blessed, and wonderous day... possibly of my entire life. 

And I wasn't wrong.  I will never forget how it felt to hear your sweet cry for the first time, or to see your beautiful, bright pink face.  Or the look on your daddy's face when he locked eyes with you as you came out.  I will never forget the way I laid in that hospital bed with sunshine streaming in the windows and a view of the mountains that I never really saw because my eyes were too busy tracing your face and counting your tiny fingers again and again. 

Six months later, though, I have to admit that I am even more smitten with you than I was that very first day.  It has been the most amazing journey, this thing called motherhood.  You have altered me to the very core of my being, and I am infinitely better as a result.

I can't believe how fast these past six months have flown by!  Nor can I believe how much you have changed in six short months.  From that tiny, helpless baby we met just yesterday - or so it seems - you have grown into the most incredible little girl.  A little girl whose sense of humor delights us, whose strength amazes us, whose tenacity humbles us, and whose very presence brings us to our knees with gratitude. 

I cherish every day, and I love you, love you, love you, my sweet little girl.

P.S. - I know you don't remember it, but we made a deal that you would stay little forever.  So far, you're not holding up your end of the bargain very well.  Work on that, okay?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Things I miss

It's not that I don't enjoy my job, nor that I want to complain about something that's in all reality soooo good, and such a blessing to me personally and my family.

But, being home on a random Monday does make me appreciate what I miss at home while I'm at work.  It could be a long list, because I so enjoy being home... but a sample would be these things:

- Watching The Wiggles -

- My snuggley, pajama-clad baby -

- Her beautiful, sleepy grin when she wakes up in the morning -

- Watching her play on her belly while I make coffee -

- Getting to hear the wide array of noises she makes, which are increasing by the day -

- Changing table fun -

- Watching her learn new things practically by the minute -

- Going for walks with Leah in the stroller or Moby -

- Baby hugs and kisses -

I get a great many things in trade.  I get security for my family and a future that allows us to focus on our priorities.  And, I do love my coworkers, my students, my school and my job.  I'd be lying if I said it wasn't in some ways easier - and even more (or at least different) fun in certain ways - than staying home.   

But leaving all this behind... there's the rub!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

If at first you don't succeed

Let me tell you: Carrots for breakfast?  Totally different story than carrots for dinner!

Although they were still a little foreign...

and many a revolted face was made...

Leah seemed to really enjoy her carrots!

Saturday, September 4, 2010


I had intended to spend most of the day today preparing baby food.  I kinda forgot to factor in my husband's job.  Add to that the fact that he was originally supposed to be gone about 6-8 hours today, and so far he's been gone 13 and it's fair to say I didn't get as much done as I had intended.

Nonetheless, I have to admit that I'm pretty pleased with my progress. 

I used this book:
So far, the recipes are about as uncomplicated as they come...

Step 1: Boil carrots about 20 minutes to soften

Step 2: Blend carrots using a little of the boiling water

Step 3:  There is no step three!

Doesn't that look appetizing?!
My next endeavor was apples, and it was as easy as 1, 2. 

I found the idea for freezing baby food in small portions ingenious, and so obviously simple I can't believe I didn't think of it.

Voila!  Perfectly portioned baby food. 

Here's what Leah thought of her Mommy's work:

I changed my font at