01 November 2012

The Birthday Pal-alace DECOR

Dr. Seuss Variety buttons attached to
red/white polka dot ribbon.

The Birthday Boy attire- a Thing 1 t-shirt, a Cat in the Hat
birthday hat, his "Half & Half" big, and a birthday boy button.

Dr. Seuss books, characters, and blocks

More blocks, wall decals, more buttons and ribbon,
and a variety of Dr. Seuss quotes.

More Seuss wall decals and the 12 month growth photos.

From newborn to 12 months.

Signs for photo ops with the guests. Funny thing about this photo?
Both guys are actually named David.

And here's Thing 1, enjoying his new birthday drum.

The Birthday Pal-alace EATS

My son turned 1, and if we're tee-totally honest, I've been planning this party for, oh, the last 12 months. I realized early on that in choosing a theme, for a kid birthday party, this year is possibly the only one that Papa and I get to choose. I say "Papa & I" to be congenial. Everyone knows I chose the theme and he got on board. Party planning is not the hubs' passion. But it is mine!

Dr. Seuss won over all other possible party themes. This will be a series of posts showing you how his  party came together.

The EATS:

I planned the food to be both kid-friendly and to the tune of All Things Seuss.
Starting out is the Green Eggs & Ham spread.

The makings of Green Eggs and Ham:
M&M's (only the yellow ones), pretzel sticks,
and green candy melts

Start by placing the pretzel rods in pairs on an ungreased cookie sheet,
then add 2 of the 'eggs', i.e. green candy melts to each pair.
Place in a 350 degree oven for 1 - 3 minutes, until the melts start to
shine. Remove from oven and place a yellow 'yolk' M-side down
in the center of the 'egg.' Let cool, and voila!
Green Eggs and Ham... er, bacon?

What Dr. Seuss party could be
complete without Green Eggs & Ham?

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish Inspiration included a bowl of fish:
Blue Jell-O, Swedish Fish, and a fish bowl (below) and voila! I
made the jello according to package directions (it took 2
packages to fill my fish bowl), and when it was semi-cold jell-o
texture, I dunked the fishies! In hindsight, I wish the blue
jell-o hadn't been so dark, or that the fishies had been a little
brighter. But hey, it worked!

One Fish, Two Fish, Lots of Gold Fish!
Inspiration from The Lorax:
Truffula Fruits!
Inspiration from Apples Up on Top:
Sliced apples with a little lemon juice squeezed
on them, and voila! Not-brown-apples!
Hop on Pop "Corn":



We also had some other EATS, but since they didn't really fall under the Seuss umbrella I used matchy matchy food labels helped tie it all together.


The makings of empanadas.

The finished empanadas.

Un-iced cupcakes for the kidlets.

Ants on a Log <-- always a hit with kids and adults!



Thing 1 and Thing 2's HAIR inspired the cupcake toppers, which the kids loved. I decided to go with a whole wheat pumpkin bread recipe that made yummy cupcakes. Recipe here.

The birthday boy in all his sweet birthday glory.

The adults also had cake, made by the birthday boy's godmother.
Lucky adults!

Pin It #5

My sunroof baby arrived last August, and subsequent to his birth it seems that a whole slew of our friends have buns in their ovens. This can mean one thing, and one thing only:
It's Baby Shower Season!

As a Mama-to-be, and now as an actual Mama, my creative juices have been a-flowin'! And with the ever-abundant source of modern-day inspiration known at Pinterest, I've been leading somewhat (p)interesting weekends lately.

I'm all for giving new parents gifts that are both neat and functional. Here are some baby shower decorations that will be going home with the Parents-to-be that I'm blessed to celebrate.
"Lollipops" -- 2 rolled up baby washcloths
attached to a baby utensil
Lollipop, close-up



"Peppermint Candies"
-- rolled up receiving blankets --
Peppermint, close-up
For the diaper cake, my favorite source for instruction is this video... in case anyone reading this (one of my sisters or my mom) is inspired to do the same...

My second diaper cake.
My first diaper cake -- by far
my most ambitious
creative expression to-date

13 February 2012

Pin It #4

Martha Stewart, folks.
Accordion Valentine, found here.
 In searching for something *free* and *homemade* and *Valentine-y* to offer up the hubs tomorrow, Pinterest had a lot to consider. I decided on a cute little fold-y Valentine because a) it required materials that, between the home and the office, I had on hand, and b) it required skills in the area of "crafty" that I thought I had a smattering of.

Only in hindsight did I realize my inspiration was Martha Stewart.

Had this little fact dawned on me at the time I was considering points a) and b) listed above, I would never have ventured into this one for the simple fact that it would never turn out as cute/nice/lovely/perfect at something Martha Stewart creates << I don't care how much time she spent in the slammer, the woman knows how to do all things cute and crafty >>. Let's analyze the image to our left for just a moment. First, all of her hearts are cut out flawlessly. Second, they're all perfectly aligned and seamless. And let's be real, folks-- who doesn't have hearts floating on their computer monitor?

Here's my version that hubs will find when he goes to leave the house in the wee early hours of the morning. It's no Martha Stewart, to be sure. I like to think of the rough edges... as symbols... of the rough edges of our... er, um, nevermind. That's sappy. Lord knows there'll be enough sappy to go around tomorrow. Happy Valentine's Day, ya'll!
And Happy V Day, Hubs!

06 February 2012

Pin It #3

I found this idea on Pinterest, and it seemed like a really easy DIY for my life (and our house). So I did it. In our hall bathroom. Under the sink << seems funny to type in sound byte (non)sentences like that >>. At first I was pleased. I was proud, and I thought to myself, "Self, nice job. Organization is your strength." But then I felt a sense of 'itch' every time I went to retrieve something from underneath the bathroom counter. It felt like clutter, not like organization. The spray bottles hung down in such a way that pretty much blocked access to anything in the cabinet placed beyond the first 6 or 8 inches in. I don't know about you, but we use every inch of storage available in our house, and it definitely needs to be easily accessible. So I got down on my hands and knees and took inventory. I assessed our workspace and BAM! It was all clear to me.

The tension rod wanted to be placed under the counter behind the sink.

Bingo! So here you go. This is my modified version that has worked like a charm!

29 January 2012

Pin It #2

Found this one on Pinterest. I typed in polenta (which is a fancy word for grits), and chose this one a) because we had all the ingredients, and b) because the hubs was on baby duty and couldn't object to my dinner choice being 1) vegetarian and 2) made with grits... I mean corn meal, er, um, polenta << I learned early on that the hubs 'doesn't like grits,' but I always suspected that he just hadn't tried any that were prepared well >>.

In the end, I did make a few changes. Instead of regular diced tomatoes I used diced tommy's with jalapenos (kick!). Although it doesn't specify red salsa, I used green (it's what we had). In the polenta itself I added a little bit of crushed red pepper. To go with dinner I whipped up some guac, and I sauteed the hubs two chicken sausages to go on top of his << I'm not a fan of the chicken sausage, and I wanted to go vegetarian tonight anyway >>.

This one's a modified keeper, and it would be great for a family where one person is vegetarian and the other is a carnivore-- as in, easy peasy to cook the meat apart and add it at the end. Here's a pic of what ours ended up looking like, right before we devoured it.
Left, with meat. Right, without.
Here's the modified recipe, originally found here.

Polenta and Black Beans

Makes 4 servings
Time Required: 20 minutes

ingredients
  • 3
    cups water
  • 1
    cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1
    cup water
  • 1/2
    teaspoon salt
  • 1
    15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1
    14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained <-- I used diced tomatoes with jalepenos
  • 1
    cup bottled salsa with cilantro or other salsa <-- I used green salsa here
       3/4
       cup shredded Mexican cheese blend (3 oz.)
1 tsp      Crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp  Garlic powder
1 tsp      Pampered Chef's Chipotle rub

directions
1.For Polenta*: In a large saucepan bring the 3 cups water to boiling. In a 
medium bowl combine cornmeal, the 1 cup water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir cornmeal mixture slowly into the boiling water. <-- Here I added 1 tsp of crushed red pepper, 1/2 tsp of garlic powder, and 1 tsp of Pampered Chef's Chipotle rub. Cook and stir until mixture comes to boiling. Reduce heat to low. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until mixture is thick, stirring occasionally. (If mixture is too thick, stir in additional water.) <-- I left mine on the stove more like 20 minutes
2.Meanwhile, in a large skillet combine the beans, undrained tomatoes, and
salsa. Bring mixture to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir 1/2 cup of the cheese into the polenta. Divide polenta among 4 shallow bowls. Top with the bean mixture and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Makes 4 servings.
3.In a small pan I cooked 2 chicken sausage links (for the hubs to add to 
his dish- one for dinner and the other for his leftovers). 

27 January 2012

Pin It #1

There are times when David is on nighttime baby duty << which includes giving him a bottle and/or rocking the little bugger to sleep >> and instead of doing something productive like laundry, I lurk Pinterest.

I always come across something and think, "Wow, I'd like to try that." So I Pin It.

The other day I was looking for a quick, easy, healthy dinner idea. My sister was coming over after work while the hubs went with her fiance for their suit fitting, followed by dinner out with all the groomsmen.

Here's what I landed on, pinned to my "Who's Hungry" board, and it's all courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens:
Farfalle with Mushrooms and Spinach

In the end I used the recipe as a really good base for our dinner. From the original recipe, I doubled the quantity of mushrooms called for, added another half of an onion, 2 tsp of paprika, and for moisture I put in a cup of stock (chicken is what we had). For toppers, in addition to the parmesan cheese we put walnuts and thinly sliced steak that the hubs grilled the night before.

On a rainy winter evening, this was pretty darn comforting. Thanks Pinterest. This one's a modified keeper.

25 January 2012

Oh What's a Girl to Read?

If you've lurked around here the past year, you witnessed me rediscovering my love for writing whilst growing a baby. Pregnancy took me to all sorts of wonderfully frightening and exciting places that required lots of processing, both in my head, out loud, and on paper... or... on screen?!?

I'd like to go ahead an ask forgiveness for the deafening silence over the past few months...

Getting used to being a new mama, subsequently going back to work, all the while trying oh so hard to remember how to be a good wife, sister, daughter, neighbor, co-worker, and friend HAS BEEN REALLY HARD << let's not talk about the cleanliness, well, lack thereof, of my home >>.  And time consuming. My head spins so fast and so frequently that trying to grab hold of a string of coherent thoughts to share has been pushed to the lower portion of my list of priorities.

I'll let you in on a little secret here. Our boy is breastfed. He'll be 5 months old in about a week, and I hang my hat proudly on the Milk Jug Peg of that ubiquitous parenting hat rack. Indulge me to say, for the record, that our breastfeeding journey has been nothing short of the hardest thing I've ever done. There have been moments where I wished I could be having labor contractions instead of the pain I was experiencing with nursing. I'M NOT EXAGGERATING HERE << sorry for shouting, but I needed to be clear >>. Nursing isn't supposed to hurt, ever. We've dealt with a variety of problems, and we're to the point that, more often than not, I'm pumping and boy's getting his leche from the bottle.

Pumping... is... so... boring. Four months in I decided it was high time to invest in a hands-free thingie. It has made a big difference in that I can actually multi-task while pumping. I've done random things while pumping like put photos into frames, chop veggies, and fold laundry. Most often I spend time reading, whether it's on my Kindle or someplace online.

I've discovered a handful of blogs that I'm head over heels for, and I want to share them in case you don't have enough to read in your life.

Momastery This chick radiates love. She's got a colorful story to share; she's witty, she's sharp, and her writings inspire me to be a more loving mother, wife, sister, daughter, and friend. She inspires me in a very big, very bold sort of way. She writes letters to her kids. Here's an excerpt that I especially love.

I think that God puts people in our lives as gifts to us. The children in your class this year, they are some of God’s gifts to you.
So please treat each one like a gift from God. Every single one.
 Baby, if you see a child being left out, or hurt, or teased, a part of your heart will hurt a little. Your daddy and I want you to trust that heart- ache. Your whole life, we want you to notice and trust your heart-ache. That heart ache is called compassion, and it is God’s signal to you to do something. It is God saying, Chase! Wake up! One of my babies is hurting! Do something to help! Whenever you feel compassion – be thrilled! It means God is speaking to you, and that is magic. It means He trusts you and needs you.
 Sometimes the magic of compassion will make you step into the middle of a bad situation right away.

Next we have The Leaky B@@b. Huge fan. I'm a huge fan. Remember how I said that baby J and I have basically been through hell in our BFing journey? Well, enter online support I *never* could have imagined. Jessica, the main chick that runs the site and writes prolifically, has 5 babies of her own (oldest is 13 and youngest is 2'ish), and she's expecting her 6th. She's a major advocate for all things BFing. The Leaky B@@b Facebook page has all sorts of "Leakies" who post comments, questions, advice, and silly pics of their little nurslings. There have been many a late night/ early morning/ mid-afternoon meltdown coupled by a desire to give up breastfeeding, and then I'd make my way onto TLB all teary-eyed and BAM! Another Leaky would have just posted the same issue I was having, and other Leakies who had been there/done that had all sorts of suggestions, ideas, and encouragement to share.

Don't misunderstand me for a second-- the hubs, my family, my boss and co-workers, everyone has been supportive of me choosing to BF our son. The benefit of this particular blog/page is that other BFing mama's are all over it. In my close'ish circle, not a whole huge amount of my girls (did or) are currently nursing. So when I'm dealing with toe-curling pain or a fussy baby with a bad latch, there's not a lot of intimate understanding and recent experience they can share. But the other Leakies, they get it. Not only do they get it, they've survived it.

Modern Sentiment. A good friend of mine, Sara Martin, started writing a blog about creativity. She's sharp. Insightful. Thoughtful. And thought provoking.

We also have The Feminist Breeder. Boy howdy this chick is raw. She's opinionated. Sometimes she's snarky. And I find her writings to be refreshing, even when I can't always relate on a personal level to what she writes. She's got 2 boys and a baby girl, and her baby girl is a screamer. In one post entitled, "African Babies Don't Cry? I Call Bull...", she talks about how no amount of attachment parenting can console her.

I’m tired of people telling moms,
“If you only coslept, your baby would be happy.”
“If you only nursed her more, your baby would be happy.”
“If you only cut out dairy, your baby would be happy.”
“If you only wore her more, your baby would be happy.”
“If you only blahblahblah, your baby would be happy.”
I’m sure African babies teeth. I’m sure some African moms have an overactive supply or overactive letdown that upsets their African baby’s tummy. I’m sure some African babies are born with high needs. I’m sure, right at this very minute, there are thousands of African babies crying for no particular reason, and their African mothers can’t do anything to fix it. I’m sure they walk the floors with them at night, just as I walk the floors with my American, breastfed-on-demand, rides-on-my-hip, sleeps-on-my-chest baby.
Feed your baby on demand. Love your baby on demand. But don’t feel like an attachment parenting failure if your baby is still a screamer. Just come commiserate with me until we all survive this. I’m on facebook at 3 am if you want to chat.
Finally, I'll end with Emerging Mummy. This chick has a deep, tender faith in the same God that I do. She writes authenticity on any variety of topics. Here's an excerpt from a post I came across most recently:
The other day, I did an exercise video at home. You were with me, Annie, while the two littles slept and we leaped and kicked our way through jumping-jacks together. "Oh, Mum!" you glowed, "Even your tummy is having fun! Look at it jumping around!" and for a moment, oh, it stung. I just gave birth to Evelynn two months ago and so yes, my tummy is "jumping around" when I jump around and part of me wanted to sit down and cry for the sudden cacophony of worthlessness and shame that rose up but then you were there. You were there, looking up at me, having fun exercising and I thought, no. No, I will not cry about how I look in front of you. Instead I told you that this was fantastic and yes, my tummy was having a marvellous time. When you asked me why we were exercising, I had to lock my lips tight against the "to lose weight because I'm fat because I just had a baby" that threatened to spill out and instead spoke of having fun exercising for energy and playing together to be healthy and strong and hey, later, did you want to go bike riding?

02 January 2012

Just a Normal New Mama

It's been quiet around the blog lately, and it's entirely attributable to the fact that I'm a new parent. While pregnant, I fully expected my head to spin for the first few weeks of motherhood... little dude is 4 months old, and after a 2 week vacation over the holidays, I think my head *might* have just now stopped spinning quite so fast. It still spins, but the speed has decreased << at least that's what I'm telling myself in hopes that the whole 'self-fulfilling prophecy' will come to a head >>.

He's honing his inner love
child with the peace sign.
So... where to take you all today. You might have noticed in the progression of my posts during pregnancy that the process of growing a baby simultaneously provoked me to talk about the growth of my inner hippie. I'm happy to report that, as a new mom, my crunchy granola is overflowing the proverbial cereal bowl.

After that all-star analogy, allow me, if you will, to change the vocabulary I'm using here. As opposed to referring to myself as a tree-hugging hippie type of new mom, I'd like to simply state that becoming a mother has caused me to << desire to >> be more mindful of being a better steward of all the gifts, resources, and blessings that have come into our lives.

Me and my nursling on Thanksgiving morning watching
the Macy's parade after a pancake breakfast.
Breastfeeding For example, it's strange << sad and a little bizarre too >> that in some circles, breastfeeding a baby can seem like a "hippie" thing to do. It's NOT. It's a normal, natural, biological way of nurturing your little creature. Moms for millennia have nursed their babies, and if they couldn't do so themselves, there were wetnurses that would step in. I've nursed my son for over 4 months now. We've had a hellacious journey << I'll share in a later post what I mean by this >>. When I talk about the gifts and blessings of being a new mother, here's an example: when my baby arrived, so did my milk. I'm putting it to good use by feeding my nursling. I think it's unfortunate that boobs have been pigeonholed as sex objects so much so that some people get their panties in a wad when they see a mom feeding her fussy baby in public. Sure, boobs are sexy, in a certain context. They're also functional and the source of perfectly concocted nutrients in another context. Not to mention that sometimes the jugs are the quickest and easiest way to quiet an upset baby. I ran across a cartoon recently that gets at what I'm saying. It's not a weird, gross, inappropriate, hippie-thing to nurse your child. It's a normal thing. It would be great if our society were desensitized to seeing a baby nurse at the b@@b.

Stacks of freshly laundered, stuffed cloth diapers make me
and the hubs really happy. It's awkward how happy they make us.
Cloth Diapering Using cloth diapers might seem like a hippie, tree-hugging thing to do. I propose that it's not. It's simply one of many ways that were developed to catch the urine and feces little creatures expel multiple-- and I mean multiple-- times per day. We choose to use cloth on our creature for a variety of reasons. Here are a few.

  1. To keep the thousands of pounds of diapers out of the landfills for the next hundred+ years. 
  2. To prevent diaper rash on our boy's bum.
  3. To save money in the long run (we'll use them on multiple babies and the diapers grow like he does).
  4. We like them. A lot.

The truth is, our grandparents << and every generation before them >> used cloth diapers. 'Sposies weren't an option. My in-laws had the hubs in cloth in the South American village where he grew up. My parents had my sister in cloth because she had a sensitive heinie. Per reason #4 listed above, when we first researched cloth diapers, I thought it was weird how parents would type product reviews professing a deep love of the cloth. The affection with which cloth-diapering mama's offered their testimonials made me squirm.  Awkward, right? .. crickets chirping... Well, I'm one of those mama's now. We wash and re-use, and we feel really good about it. We enjoy stuffing the diapers, and we love how our little dude has a chubby bum in cloth. When he's at daycare, he's in 'sposies (that we provide). We send him in cloth, and they change him into a sposie once it's time. I'm not kidding even a little when I say that the first time he pooped in a cloth diaper, he grinned from start to finish.

Co-Sleeping We co-sleep with our son, and sometimes we bed-share. When I say co-sleep, I mean that the little guy is in our room in his own bed, a modern-day bassinet. My parents had us in a bassinet, although Mom tells me I was in the hallway just outside their door. When I have to get up and go to work all day (and be excruciatingly APART from my son), for me, it's more restful to pull the munchkin into the bed and nurse him when we're lying down during the 2 times at night when he wakes up to nurse. It's a comfort to me to know he's snuggled in close. It gives us more time together, even if we're both sleeping. Before I ever considered bed-sharing, I read a lot about how to do so safely. I read the pro's and con's, I weighed them in the context of our family and what works for us, and it's a better gig for all of us when the munchkin's within arm's reach, for now. That could change as he gets older, but for now, it's important to both of us that he be oh, so close. Again, this whole "co-sleeping" gig seems to be something many Americans might classify as hippie, but I'm just not willing to refer to pretty much every other culture in the world as "hippies culture" for their bed-sharing habits. This video is of the munchkin waking up in his co-sleeper.


Can it get any sweeter?
Baby Wearing My favorite way to run errands involves wearing my sweet boy. We have a total of 3 carriers: a sling, a strappy/clip kind, and a flexible, fabric one that ties on. I love them all for different reasons, and I absolutely hate lugging around a car seat with a baby in it. I always slam the seat into things like walls, human calfs, chair legs, etc. The car seat in the stroller is tolerable when there's plenty of room to navigate it, but sometimes it's just easier to strap on the baby and go. If it's a few groceries from the store, baby goes in the Bjorn. If it's a walk outside, baby goes in the Moby. If he's sleepy but fighting it, he's in the sling wrapped around my torso. All this baby-wearing has a few consequences. First, the hubs and I both have strong arms and backs. Second, baby and I get skin-to-skin contact while I get to be hands free. In these cooler temperatures, we keep each other warm. When he's a little fussy or not feeling well, he settles down fast when he's being worn. And perhaps one of the best reasons: in public, strangers are less likely to invade my personal space to touch my baby << sorry, but I am, in fact, one of those moms... if I don't know you, don't touch my baby >>. I no longer think it's all that crunchy to wear my munchkin. In many many cultures, babies get slung over the shoulder of working mama's and life goes on. My mom used to wear me-- she said I used to sleep through Sunday school and most of church too.

All in all, I no longer think of myself as a tree-hugging, granola crunching hippie new mama. I'm just a normal new mama married to a normal new papa, and we're doing the best we can to figure out our new normal. We do ourselves a disservice to claim that some of our techniques are outside of the realm of normal. The more we talk with other parents, the more we realize there are plenty of breastfeeding mama's, cloth diapering papa's, baby-wearing auntie's, and co-sleeping babies. We're all just trying to figure out what works best for us and our baby. I'm sure that whatever works with this munchkin might not come close to working with our next one. And that's cool. Just don't call me hippie.