Thursday, December 29, 2011

traditions (part 2)

Yesterday I shared some of our favorite Christmas traditions with you all and I wanted to finish up with the last couple ones here. I would love to hear about your family traditions as well. What makes your Christmas Eve or morning special? Is there something you look forward to year after year? Other than the tins of baked goods and the subsequent overindulgent guilt, obviously...

Stockings filled with goodies
Brian's stocking was given to him by me on our first Christmas...which makes this our eighth Christmas together...holy moly! Mine is from my parents when I was just a little baby. So when we chose Lila's stocking last year, we wanted something fun for her to use for years to come. Love me some Pottery Barn kids! Our stockings had lots of fun candy, gum, bandaids, socks, activity coloring books and lots of other little fun items. 

Yummy Christmas morning breakfast
Since we were at our house for Christmas morning with my family joining us after they all woke up, I wanted to make something yummy for us all munch on while opening presents. I made this Overnight Blueberry French Toast, which was delicious and easy to make the day before and refrigerate. I would highly recommend it for an easy, pop in the over and still look impressive morning!

Opening gifts one by one
This tradition grew up in both Brian and I's house and it is very important to us. We spend a lot of time choosing gifts that mean something for each other and we want to be sure to see the excitement on the person's face when they open the gift. So we go around in a circle and let each person open a gift at a time. Does it mean that present opening takes most of the day? Yeah, but I am okay with that :-)

Ornament for the year
Brian and I started this tradition the first year we were married. We choose an ornament for each other every year that means something to us or that we thought was cute to give to each other on Christmas morning. This has helped us grow our collection for the tree and is a fun way to commemorate each year. Now I am NOT a crafty person (I get overwhelmed just walking into a Michaels) but this year Pinterest got the better of me and inspired me to make an ornament with Lila's thumbprints disguised as an adorable reindeer to give to Brian. I broke out in a sweat the second we got that red paint out, but it turned out pretty good if I do say so myself!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

traditions (part 1)

Christmas was beautiful. It was our first Christmas morning in our house, meaning we got to do Christmas our way and start some new traditions. We loved having Lila wake up and talking about how Santa had come to visit her (even though that thought is a little too complex for the 21 month old mind). I love reading about special things you all do with your families so I thought I would share some of our old and new traditions over the next few days:

Christmas Eve Service
Our church holds a Christmas Eve service that is all about wonder and carols and remembering the day that Jesus was born into a lowly manager. We all dress up (even though it is fairly casual on a normal Sunday), light candles and sing songs about stars in the sky and Jesus in our hearts. Lila did manage to sneak in a picture with her BFF Daisy (part of the famous Four Pack whose mommy Casey took some other adorable photos of them last week). 

Milk and Cookies for Santa
We spent Christmas Eve painting our nails (hilarious video of Lila getting her nails done by Auntie KK later this week), wrapping last minute gifts and of course, making home made chocolate chip cookies for Santa. We think this is a super fun tradition that Lila (and of course us *Santas* eating the cookies) will continue year after year. Since we were at Mimi and G's third floor condo when Lila was ready for bed on Christmas Eve, we had to put the treats out on their porch so Santa could find them. 

 Santa's Favorite Story
I don't quite remember when my Dad started reading this book to us every Christmas but it has been one of my favorite parts of the holiday for a long time. The second year Brian and I were married, we left town on Christmas Eve to drive to his parents 3 hours away only to realize half way there that we had left the book at home. Even though I convinced him it was fine, he veered off the highway, found a Barnes & Nobles and bought us a new copy just for the trip. I love that man. This year we both sat on the floor of Lila's nursery as she snoozed in her crib and read the story out loud for her to hear in her dreams. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

dinner shortcut

We all know how busy this time of year is. Some of the busyness is good: Christmas concerts and choir at church, hilarious White Elephant parties with our bible study group, fun work Christmas parties. Some of the busyness is just white noise: wrapping gifts, shopping, baking cookies to take to work. I just know that I end every night exhausted with no need for Ambien to carry me off to sleep for a few precious hours before I do it all over again.

So we have been spending a lot of extra time together, my Crockpot and I. Or maybe I should say we have been spending a lot of extra minutes together because I only deal with recipes that I can put together in 10 minutes. If I don't even have enough time for breakfast in the morning, I am sure not getting up early to chop and peel. I found this gem in my favorite Crockpot cookbook, "Make It Fast, Cook It Slow" by Stephanie O'Dea of the fabulous blog A Year of Slow Cooking (who has not given me anything for free and has no idea that I exist). It was so stinking easy and it was DELICIOUS. In this busy time of year, we all need a shortcut for dinner.

Cream Cheese Chicken
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (frozen out of the bag works fine)
2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning (I used thyme)
1/2 teaspoon celery seed (who even owns that? not necessary...)
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon black powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 10oz can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 8oz block of cream cheese
Put the chicken (frozen or thawed) into the slow cooker. Combine the spices, sugar and garlic in a small dish and then pour on top of the chicken. Add the mushroom soup and cook on low for 6 hours (if chicken is thawed) or high for 6 hours (if chicken is frozen). Shred the chicken and add the block of cream cheese, cooking on low for 30 more minutes until the cream cheese has melted. Serve over pasta or rice (we used rotini pasta). Delish!

Monday, December 19, 2011

it's the fam

Something about the holidays makes you take more photos, which I love. I love documenting moments in time for Lila that she can look back on later. One of the wonderful gifts we got from Brian's family when we did Christmas #1 this Saturday was a collection of old home movies that Brian's grandfather took of his kids (Brian's dad and aunts) when they were children all the way up through the first several grandkids being born. It was so much fun to watch these old movies of the kids in with their cute pageboy haircuts and bermuda shorts riding Schwinn's around their front yard in the early 60's. It reminds me to take more videos and photos of Lila in the everyday moments of life, as those will be the memories she will treasure one day. 

We took some great family photos these past few weeks with my family on Thanksgiving. It is so fun to have us all together, racing out with the turkey in the oven to take pictures and then everyone standing around the kitchen chomping on bites since we were starving. I think I ate more in the kitchen than I did at the table this Thanksgiving. 

When Brian's family and his Nanny were in town this weekend, we took some adorable family photos at the Washington Duke Inn, a beautiful old hotel in Durham. Thanks very much to them for putting up such a beautiful tree so we could speak in the lobby and take some family shots in front of it :-) I can't wait to see Lila grow and more grandkids to join her one day in all of these holiday pictures!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

miss independent

Today I was putting a bow in Lila's hair that match her cute yellow dress. She took it out of her hair, looked at it and handed it back to me. "Ummm, nooo?" in her Minnesota accent that she says it with. I picked out another bow that matched and put it in her hair. Take out, hand back, "Ummm, nooo?" So I take the bow holder off the wall for her to look at and asked her if she wanted to pick out a bow herself. She looked at each one individually, finally picking out a small one with little red cherries on it. She handed it to me, nodding her head and saying "Yeah, yeah, yeah" over and over. 
And so it starts. I will never be in charge of her outfits again.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

santa fail

Last year, Lila LOVED Santa. Nevermind the two hour line we stood in to see him and his big fake beard. After he took his hour dinner break. Hello, Santa? There is no "dinner break" 3 days before Christmas. You should be working round the clock. And its not like skipping a meal would starve you.
I wasn't sure how Lila would do this year since she now realizes that when we put her down and walk away, there is a scary stranger holding her. This made-for-photo-frames moment was not one I really wanted to spend $30 on again this year since I was pretty sure it would have a tragic ending. So we sniffed out the only free Santa in town. Basically Santa be expensive. A local outdoor shopping center was advertising its grand re-opening and Santa was showing up for 2 hours for free photos. You better believe we were in line 30 minutes early with Mimi and G in tow to watch the cuteness that was about to happen.
I was astounded Lila kept her hat on all night. Apparently she knew how adorable she looked because normally she rips that thing off the moment I put it on her head. And just as I expected, the second we sat her on Santa's lap, she flipped out. Santa though was not as good of a camper as one might expect from the jolly old guy. The second she started squirming, he set her down on the ground and proclaimed, "Oh, she's upset." Clearly she is upset but I still plan on taking a photo of you holding the crying child since I just waited an hour in the freezing cold! So Plan B, Mom saves Lila from scary Santa. At least I did not pay $30 for this shot. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

stripping down

Brian found an old gift card I had forgot about last week. For a massage. How does one forget about a massage? As that is basically the best 55 minutes one can have. I booked it ASAP and prepared for the "good hurt" of the deep tissue rubbing. After showing up and meeting Diane, we exchanged two sentences before I went into the wonderfully warm, lavender smelling, fake fireplace crackling, crazy chime music playing room. And then I spent an hour letting her dig her elbows and hands into my back and hips. 

I am a No Talking massage person. I don't care where you went to school. Or about that wonderful enlightening trip you took to India with your college boyfriend. I am sure your new puppy is adorable and your mom will just love that custom picture calendar you ordered her for Christmas. But more rubbing, less chatting. I cannot properly fall into a pseudo sleep where I order myself to relax if I am trying to think up responses to your ramblings. 

Sure it is probably rude and kind of weird to only exchange names and a "Hello" with a complete stranger before stripping down to my VS panties and laying half naked under a sheet. When I think about it, I speak more to the store employee I bought my VS panties from and they didn't even see me in them like Diane the masseuse. But part of me just doesn't care how strange the whole arrangement is. Because it was the best 55 minutes of my week.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

pot pie time

Thanksgiving was wonderful with our first year cooking a giant turkey in the oven. Which means there was a week full of turkey and cranberry sandwiches and turkey quesadillas. By Tuesday, I was done with the same old turkey. So I decided to try my first hand at a home made turkey pot pie. And it did turn out delicious, if I say so myself. Hope you enjoy some pie yourself this week!
 Turkey Pot Pie
1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 c chopped celery
1/3 c butter
1/3 c chopped onions
1/3 c flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground pepper
1/4 t onion powder
3/4 c chicken broth
2/3 c milk
2 c shredded cooked turkey meat
2 nine inch pie crusts (I used Pillsbury)

-Preheat over to 425 degrees
-Cook the frozen vegetables by boiling them or steaming them in the microwave. 
-Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion and celery until both onions are translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper and onion powder. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk, letting simmer until it thickens and becomes creamy. Remove from heat and stir in turkey and vegetables into the mixture. 
-Fit one of the pie crusts into the bottom of a 9 inch pie dish. Spoon the mixture into the pie crust until full. Add other pie crust onto the top, smushing together the edges to seal. Cut slits into the top of the pie crust to let steam out. Cover the edges of the pie crust with foil so they don't cook too quickly. 
-Bake for 30 minutes until the center of the pie crust is brown. Enjoy the pie yummyness.

Monday, November 28, 2011

sweater legs

Boots are so in this year. I can say that with confidence since I have a sister who works in fashion. Because if I was taking advice from my own closet I would have to say that Birkinstock clogs are SO in this year. Which is clearly not even close to true.

But now there is this trend I keep seeing all over Pinterest of people creating boot socks so they stick out the top of your boots over your jeans. Or sometimes they actually go over your boots, like boot cover ups. But here is the thing...people keep posting pictures that were supposedly cut from old sweaters in their closet. 
Source: via Melissa on Pinterest

Maybe I am just a crafting/sewing novice but I am pretty sure if I tried to cut the arms off an old sweater and wear them under/on top of boots, I would like look a crazy homeless person who was trying to stay warm. People would probably think I had plastic grocery bags underneath my sweater for insulation from the cold. It would not look trendy or intentional. 
I appreciate the creativity but I would like to call BS on this one. The only person who I have seen do this for real and look adorable is Mandy from Harper's Happenings and she could make a potato sack look chic. I challenge anyone else to show me a real picture of their homemade sweater socks that do not make their legs look like stuffed sausage. In the mean time, my Birkenstocks and I will just keep fashion real in the 1999 kinda way.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

turkey comas for all

Can you believe this little baby with her turkey bib eating strained pees at the table and sitting quietly on the grass last Thanksgiving...

Is the same girl as our walking, talking, cell phone wielding, email corresponding, bucket wearing toddler?
Today we will be eating lots of turkey, trying a new stuffing recipe, throwing apple peels at my sister, making inappropriate "that's what she said" jokes with my brother, enjoying a whole day off with my hubby, and letting Lila lick the mixer beaters. Salmonella, be damned.

We are thankful for the life God has given us and his grace that is new every morning. Hope you and yours have a Happy Turkey Coma Day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

shades of gray

I felt like a loser for asking my mom to be there. Seriously how hard could it be? The directions are written for the education level of a preschooler. But I needed her to reassure me that it was not that bad. That even though this was the start of many years of evenings locked into the bathroom to come, I would be just fine. 

Luckily it doesn't look any difference, minus the crown of grays that sparkled in the sun. I cannot believe I am this old. Botox and tummy tucks, here I come.

You can keep your black and your red heads
You can keep your brunettes too
I wanna girl that's semi intelligent
Gimme a blonde that's six feet two boy
and that ain't all
~"Blondes Have More Fun" by Rod Stewart

Monday, November 21, 2011

hot mess

You know how some days you think you look cute and you put all this effort into actually wearing concealer and putting on a cute outfit and blow drying your hair? But you still end up looking like a hot mess?
I call it Working Mom Curse...
Oh hey there. Check out my cute new shirt that apparently turns even the smallest hint of sweat into giant color changing armpit stains. And check out my rocking wrist brace from my tendonitis from typing and/or carrying a 25 pound toddler on my hip all day. Oh and my sexy glasses since I used the last of my contacts and am too busy to be bothered with trivial things like vision appointments.

At least it's not as bad as that time I went to the bathroom at work at 3pm, looked in the mirror and thought, "GOOD GOD who is that exhausted looking old lady staring at me??" And then I realized I forgot to put makeup on that morning and had been walking around all day with splotchy skin and under eye circles. Classic.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

cowgirls and blogger guilt

I think I have had a breakthrough about this blog. When I first created it, it was a private blog for our family and friends to document our journey through IVF. And then it became a sort of baby book for Lila during the pregnancy from hell. Then as my readers were growing I started to think about what people wanted to read, whether my blog was funny or witty or engaging. But the more I try, the further apart my blog posts have become. 

So I will stop trying. Stop trying to meet a blog post length in my head. Stop trying to come up with interesting topics that I am not invested in and hope people like reading it. I will stop trying to make my blog something it is not. I love writing and sharing and connecting with other women around the world. And that is what my heart needs right now. So I will share my heart and if you like it, stick around. If not, I am sure your Google Reader is still full of other witty women and I hope you enjoy their blogs as well. 

That is what I will not be ashamed about writing about Halloween on November 20. Because that is about how my life is rolling right now. Here is Lila the cowgirl in all her glory. 
Her daycare had a Halloween parade, but of course it was raining and 40 degrees on Halloween in North Carolina. So they paraded around the hallways of the daycare while all the momma/daddy-razzis took a million pictures of them. 

 Another picture Mom?? Fo real??

Oh thank God, snack time makes it all better
Brian, Auntie KK and I felt obligated to take her trick-or-treating even though she clearly didn't care, nor would we let her eat the candy. Score one for the parents! Basically Halloween was a major let down for Lila, but luckily she did not have high expectations. A lesson for life from the toddler ya'll.  

Many precede and many will follow, a young girl's dream no longer hollow
It takes the shape of a place out west but what it holds for her, she hasn't yet guessed 
She needs wide open spaces, room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces, she knows the high stakes 
~"Wide Open Spaces" by Dixie Chicks

Monday, November 14, 2011

not very smooth criminal

Showers when you are a mom are as close as you get to relaxing. Yes it is sad because in essence, we are cleaning filth from our body and usually rushing to get out the door. But we are blissfully alone and there is hot water. I might as well be at a spa as far as I am concerned. Usually I try to let Brian keep Lila downstairs when I am taking a shower so I can enjoy the relaxation for an extra five minutes. 

Saturday morning I pumped up the Glee Pandora station and jumped in the shower for some sing along time while I went about the arduous task of shaving...bleh, I hate being bothered to be a lady. I was jamming to some Journey when all of a sudden the next song switched on. My moment of relaxation was quickly altered when the loud orchestra strings version of "Smooth Criminal" (not the original delightfully 80's version by Michael Jackson) came blasting into the shower. 

I had a dilemma...did I get out of the shower dripping wet with soap all over my legs just to change the song? Or do I suck it up and listen to the super annoying music? I contemplated for several minutes, now wasting the hot water and relaxation. I tried to hurry up and finish shaving with the very fast paced string music now making my heart race and feel like I was in a race against the evil song. 

And wouldn't you know it, the moment I finished and jumped out of the shower, "Walking on Sunshine" came on. I do not link to the David Garrett version of "Smooth Criminal" so you can enjoy it's musical delight, only so that you too can now have a MJ song ruined forever. Hey, at least it didn't ruin your shower.

Annie are you okay
So, Annie are you okay
Are you okay Annie
You've been hit by, you've been struck by
A smooth criminal
~"Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson

Friday, November 11, 2011

wait your turn Santa

I would love to give this cartoon credit, but I cannot find the original source. Basically it sums up how I feel about Christmas music in the stores, eggnog flavored everything, and commercials that remind me there are only 44 shopping days left. What happened to enjoying the holidays in order? Why can children not prance around in Halloween costumes without eating red and green M&M's? Why are there Christmas wreaths on trees that still have brilliant fall leaves on them?

I am on a Christmas list boycott. I will take advantage of Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping like everyone else. But in the meantime, I will make turkey cutouts from Lila's hands, practice apple pie recipes and think about how thankful I am for the people in my life. And then I will become an over-consuming American capitalist.

Turkey for the girls and turkey for the boys
My favorite kind of pants are corduroys
Gobble gobble goo and gobble gobble gickel
I wish turkey only cost a nickel
Oh I love turkey on Thanksgiving
~"The Thanksgiving Song" by Adam Sandler

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

a few of my favorite things

As I was drinking my favorite new coffee this morning, I decided to put together a monthly "favorite things" blog post, inspired by the fabulous Katie from Cleared For Takeoff. No, I was not paid to review any of these items, nor did I receive them for free. I paid for them with cold hard cash (and maybe a double stacking coupon scam I am not authorized to discuss). Hope you enjoy some of my favorites and if you now spend the whole day singing about brown paper packages tied up with string or whiskers on kittens, you can thank me later.  
 This is what happens when you are aimlessly wandering through the aisles of Walmart enjoying the peace and quiet of a toddler asleep in bed at home. You buy cheap wine with a shrug. At $3.48, even if it sucks I won't feel too bad pouring it down the drain. But it doesn't suck! Score for me!

I saw this awesome kids tupperware in Pottery Barn one day and then spent multiple weeks dreaming about it and looking in every other store that wouldn't cost $12. But alas, its beauty was only to be found in the PB world of $500 cribs and $99 pillowcases. But is was so worth every dollar for Lila's lunches. It is divided straight down the middle and is the perfect size to hold several different kinds of foods or a half sandwich and has a frozen gel pack that pops into the lid. 

I saw this beauty on Alison's blog and totally scored a Plum District coupon code for half off. I am IN LOVE with my new planner. It is so adorable and stylish. And it lays out every week with lots of room for notes, full month calendar pages, a zipped and folder compartment in the back and lots of labeled stickers. It takes this planner, the one on my phone and my Outlook to keep me in place. And I am still inevitably 15 minutes late to everything. 

My mom was staying with us last week and I kept using her coffee in the morning. Which means it was better than mine. So we took a trip to Trader Joe's and I bought my own new coffee. See what a grown up I am?? It is darker than our old coffee, which means I do not use as much and therefore it lasts longer. Double score! 

I am so an angsty fifteen year old girl at heart. Let me take out my retainer, click over to call waiting on my curly cord phone and turn off my mix tape on my tape player. I am in love with this new show on Wednesday nights. I loved Emily VanCamp on "Brothers & Sisters" and I love her even more now that she is fabulous and ruthless...two things that go together so well. I would highly recommend you start from the beginning of the season and work your way up to now to not miss any of the backstabbing drama.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

meet me at the fair

One of my favorite things about living in North Carolina is the fall. All of the beautiful colors of the leaves. The swing back and forth between chilly mornings and warm afternoons in the sun. Pumpkin patches on every corner and without question the best thing, the NC State Fair. Growing up in California, we did not have ferris wheel rides and local craft displays, fresh grilled corn and blue ribbon pies. 

Brian and I have been to the fair every year that we have dated (eight years this weekend!) except for the year I was on bedrest all fall when our big night out was a walk down the driveway. Last year, Lila slept through the entire fair while we pushed her in the stroller. 

So this year was super exciting to show her all of our favorite things at the fair. We also got to introduce Brian's family to the state fair, as they have lived in NC their whole life and never been to see the giant butter sculpture. If that's not art, I don't know what is. 

Highlights: fried pickles and fried oreos (clearly not consumed at the same time), the NC Farmers display where Lila got to help pick vegetables, local honey sticks. 

Lila's "Fair Hit List": rude people who tried to walk over her stroller, giant pumpkin that was looking at her the wrong way, old saggy men in tank tops, and the adorable newly hatched chicks that were clearly about to attack her with their fuzzy bodies and dangerous beaks.

Meet me in St. Louis, Louis
Meet me at the fair
Don't tell me the lights are shining any place but there
We will dance the Hoochee Koochee
I will be your tootsie wootsie
If you will meet in St. Louis, Louis
Meet me at the fair
~"Meet Me In St. Louis, Louis"