Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Card Photos



And one that got "honorable mention" status:

And for those of you who haven't seen it, the card:

The blog will be going on hiatus for the remainder of the holiday. Your gift to me would be a quick hello in the comments on this post. I'd love to see who stops by!
We want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Card Photos: The Outtakes, Part 2

Here are some more photos from our day at the tree farm. This is just a variety of pictures that I loved, but didn't make the "cut" for the actual Christmas Card. Those you'll see tomorrow! Yes, I'm being a tease....but hey, at least there's a new blog post every day!!






Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Card Photos: The Outtakes, Part I

We took Oliver to a local Christmas tree farm last month, in the hopes of getting some good photos to use on our Christmas card this year. We did get some great shots, which I'll show you soon, but today I thought I'd share some of the outtakes. We were walking around the tree farm, and came upon a tall row of trees with this table-like rock formation in the middle of the row. Oliver thought it was the perfect platform for dancing. We were either singing the "ABC" song or "C is for Cookie", I can't remember which now, but whatever it was, it made him hilariously silly.




A Successful Haircut!

For Oliver, not for me . . . can someone tell me why I said "Yeah, sure!" when the hairdresser asked me if I wanted bangs while she was doing last minute touch ups at my appointment last week? And they didn't turn out right either....think 1980s and ::shudder:: remember when your hair was "feathered"? Yeah, like that sort of. Time to try a new hairstylist. Have I mentioned how much I miss Janis, my stylist in Cedar Rapids?! Miss you Janis!

But this is about Oliver, finally getting a haircut without a fuss! Hooray! Actually, he did fine for his very first haircut at about 10 months, and then one this summer, but the rest (2-3 others in his short life) have been total freak outs. It was as if he were getting tortured. Yesterday, we found a new place to try, since the previous "kids cuts" type of places we've gone to, while they have all the bells and whistles, didn't seem to have the attitude and patience necessary for dealing with a frightened toddler. The woman at the place we went this time was great. She had a very peaceful demeanor, showed Oliver the clippers "that go vroom like a car" and best of all, gave him 2 combs to play with. Because we must have one for each hand. She put cartoons on the tv, and that was it; he sat quietly and let her do her thing, and even giggled a few times when it tickled. I was thrilled!

So now we are no longer rockin' the old man comb-over, as seen in these photos! It's short, and I think overall it does make him look more like a little boy, and less like a baby...::sniff:: he's growing up!

(Excuse the silliness of the photos...he was not interested in having his picture taken! They aren't the best pictures, I just tried to find a few that showed his hair.)



Friday, December 11, 2009

The Park

I know I've mentioned it on here before, but Oliver and I love going to the park. Parks are the saving grace to the stay-at-home-mom. Why? Because an outing at the park takes time and burns energy. Let me explain. First, if your park is big like ours, you can take a long walk, which gives you the exercise you so desperately need. Your child is in the stroller, looking out at the beautiful scenery and breathing fresh air, and most importantly, not whining at you or climbing all over you or begging you to read that book again for the 87th time that day. You're together, but separate. You can be alone in your thoughts, and dream up blog posts, dinner ideas, or just daydream about sitting with a cool drink by a body of water somewhere. Or if you're lucky enough to have a friend along, you can an actual adult.

When you've had enough exercise, if your child is of walking age as mine is, you can let him loose. This is important, because it meets both requirements: it takes time and burns energy. You will be thankful for this later in the day when they take a nice, long nap. Hey, I'm not entirely selfish. It is also important to their physical and intellectual development. For example, my son. He loves to walk, and lately he's even been running more than walking a lot of the time (must take after daddy!). But he also has a toddler's curiosity. So we walk, and then we stop and look at things. He examines every tree, boulder, and bench along our path, in great detail and from every angle. He picks up all the interesting sticks, rocks, and leaves found along the way. Better yet, combine these: poke the knothole in the bench with a stick and he's happy for hours! Oh, and don't forget the acorns, which are his favorite thing ever. Also, our park has a lot of small memorials with plaques, which he loves to stop to peruse and recite every letter. My advice: Try not to get frustrated with the slow pace of this portion of your walk -- remember, it wastes time, which is good.  And most importantly, he's a toddler doing his job: exploring his world!

The third phase of a good day at the park begins when you finally arrive at the play area. If you are lucky, you'll have a playground with lots of swings and low slides, that are perfect for toddlers. I love our park, but my one big complaint is that the playground area is geared for older kids. Aren't they in school??? No swings, and there's even a sign that says you have to be over 5 to play on it. Oliver wants to play on it anyway. This entails me climbing around after him to keep him from jumping off 15 foot high platforms. He's too young for it, and I'm too old for it . . . so that's fun.

If you've had a good day at the park, you've burned a good amount of energy, as well as several hours of the morning. If you time it right, you head home just in time for lunch, which is followed soon after by a nap. Just like that, half your day taken care of!

Since we've just had our first big snowfall and the weather is turning colder, I'm afraid that our park visits will be less frequent and this makes me sad, and yes, a little panicked. I hope we can bundle up and try to enjoy it once winter really hits, but I know the reality is that we'll be stuck inside and I'll be forced to haul myself over to the gym and get on the treadmill. I know I shouldn't complain, because I know winters in Connecticut are far superior to those in Iowa. Still, I'm starting to think like Marty (scary!) and wish they had sent him to Florida for a project!

So in honor of all of our happy days at the park, here are some park photos from the past few months:

 On the boardwalk overlooking the creek

Giving Annabelle (our neighbor) a leaf

 Examining a tree

Dad joins us on the weekends sometimes

Quack! Quack! Quack!

Climbing on the bench

Examining the bench

Still examining the bench

Walking (with stick)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Photo Friday

Remember the cuteness that was yesterday's post? Well, what I didn't show you were the photos taken a few minutes after those. That's right, full on tantrum!



Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cuteness Update

I've been told by well-meaning grandmothers that it's been a while since I've bragged on what Oliver is up to these days, so I thought I better get right on that. And post some really cute photos too!
  • This is the biggest one recently: the boy can whistle!! I'm not kidding. Should almost 20 month olds be able to whistle? Is this normal or yet another sign of his genius? We've seen the Sesame Street episode where Telly is trying to teach Baby Bear to whistle twice recently (because the PBS Sprout Channel seems to repeat the same 12 episodes over and over), once on a Saturday when Marty was here. So Marty started whistling and I started whistling, and Oliver tried, but was just blowing. Marty does whistle sometimes, so maybe it's something he's started to notice. Then the other day, we were going up the stairs and Oliver just started whistling! And has done it 3 times since! It's a deliberate, though pretty soft, whistle...with a few different notes in it. I was just amazed. I'll have to try to get it on video!
  • I've mentioned before that he was starting to notice letters, like when we went to Boston and he stopped at every manhole cover to point at each letter. Well, he still does that, and more! We got him this Fridge Phonics toy to encourage this interest, and between that and Sesame Street, he now recognizes and names a bunch of letters! His favorite letter is 'M', followed closely by 'B' and 'O', and he can also name 'V' and 'E', and sometimes 'G', 'P', and 'X'!
  • He is also starting to count, well, sort of. He's been able to recognize and name '1' since his 1st birthday when Grandee taught him to say how old he was (and put up 1 finger!). Now he also knows 9 and 4, and sometimes 3 and 6. Although, most of the time when we count things, he still goes "1, 1, 1, 1, 1,..." in a very rhythmic way that mimics the cadence of counting. But now when we get to 9, he says 9! 
  • Words....I can't even begin to list how many words he knows. It seems like he's saying new ones every day. If you saw the video I posted the other day, you saw him say "happy," which is my favorite new word of his, especially because I think he understands what it means. Even his jibberish is starting to sound a lot more like lanugage than just consonant and vowel sounds. And even if he can't say the words, he understands so much of what we say to him. He also repeats a lot more words now, so Marty & I are really going to have to start watching what we say around him!!
I know they say this about every age, but this is such a fun age! It's just so awesome watching him learn. Yet he's still my sweet cuddly baby sometimes too. Here's some photos of my half naked toddler-baby having fun with the diaper changing basket. Don't you just love half naked babies? And that face!

(uh-oh, you caught me!)





Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas on Thanksgiving

You may remember that when my mom came to visit, we went to Ikea, and Oliver loved their toddler sized pots and pans and kitchen utensils. I thought they might be just the thing to keep him busy while I cook. As it is, every time I'm doing anything in the kitchen, he likes to crawl between me and the cabinet and sit or stand there. Or get in the refrigerator or the pantry, which we've already learned, is not good. He has his own cabinet, that we fill with extra tupperware, empty boxes, egg cartons, anything I can think of, but it doesn't thrill him. I decided to give him this one Christmas gift early, selfishly, so I could get a little peace. So I thought Thanksgiving day would be the perfect time. We weren't doing anything elaborate, but I was cooking a few things, and figured it was worth a shot. So while he was napping, I put everything in his cabinet all nicely organized. Soon after he woke up, I went into the kitchen to start the turkey, and sure enough he followed me in there and went right to his cabinet. You can see what happened next in this video...enjoy!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Apple Coffee Cake x 2

I have this incredibly delicious Apple Coffee Cake recipe that my extended family requests for every gathering. I take no credit for it; the recipe comes via Emeril and the Food Network. But I've been making it for years now and it is the yummiest, moist, buttery, brown sugary delight that is awesome with coffee and great with ice cream...completely decadent. I highly recommend it for those special holidays, Christmas breakfast, that kind of thing. Here's a photo (sorry it's so small, it's borrowed from the Food Network website):


I don't care that it's so decadent, since I only make it for special occassions. However, I was looking through a recent Cooking Light the other day, and came across a different, healthier Apple Coffee Cake recipe. Well actually, it's for Amaretto Apple Streusel Cupcakes, and since I'm a huge amaretto fan, it caught my attention. Since our corporate apartment came with no cupcake pan, I made it in an 8 x 11 inch baking dish. As a result, it came out very similar to the previous coffee cake, and actually, almost just as yummy! And bonus: it's relatively healthy! Made with a fraction of the butter and sugar that's in the other one, but with the addition of light cream cheese, very moist and delicious! I may even surprise my relatives one of these days and make this one instead and see what they think. Here's a pic of the cupcakes (from the Cooking Light website):

So my recommedation? Make them both. You won't be disappointed!


That's what my husband told me last night during our Thanksgiving Dinner! Isn't he sweet? And I'm going to totally brag and agree with him. It was.The turkey was super moist and full of flavor. I thought we were crazy for making a whole turkey for just the three of us, but I am very glad we did. It was very nice, even if Oliver was in a mood and wouldn't eat a bite of it. We made just a few of our favorite sides (stuffing, corn pudding, green beans), and made room in the fridge for leftovers.

So I thought I'd share the recipe so you all can have yummy turkey next year too!

I've actually made this recipe before, and we've enjoyed it enough that it is my go-to Thanksgiving recipe. The original recipe is from Cooking Light, but over the years I've made a few adjustments here and there. I first brined it a few years ago, but this year did an apple cider brine, and that is what we think pushed this year's turkey over the edge to fabulousness. One other change from the original is that I do not make their gravy. Neither Marty nor I are gravy fans, so I just leave that step off. But if you are a gravy fan, that part is included in the original link above. So here's my version of the recipe, including the brining instructions. Enjoy!

Parmesan-Sage Roast Turkey

1 gallon apple cider
1 cup kosher salt (yes, it must be kosher salt)
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh sage
1 gallon cold water (or less)

Heat 2 cups of the apple cider with kosher salt until salt is dissolved. Cool completely.
Put a brining bag in roasting pan. Place turkey (giblets, etc. removed) in bag. Pour the cider/salt mixture, the rest of the cider, and all the seasonings over the turkey in the bag. Add up to 1 gallon water to ensure the turkey is completely submerged. Put in refrigerator for 8-18 hours (overnight).

2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped apple
10 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup apple cider
1 (13 pound) turkey
1/3 cup grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
5 tablespoons butter, softened (divided)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 lemon, halved
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 cups fat-free, low sodium chicken broth

Preheat oven to 425°.

Combine first 6 ingredients in bottom of a shallow roasting pan. Remove turkey from brining bag, pat dry, and place on top of vegetables. Starting at neck cavity, loosen skin from breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers, gently pushing between skin and meat. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under turkey.

In small bowl, combine cheese, sage, butter, garlic, salt, and pepper; rub mixture under the loosened skin and over breast and drumsticks. Squeeze lemon juice over the whole turkey. Place lemon halves in turkey cavity. Place fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs in cavity. Tie legs together with kitchen string.

Bake at 425° for 30 minutes, watching to make sure top doesn’t get too dark. Pour broth over turkey. Tent turkey breast loosely with foil, if needed to prevent burnt skin. Bake an additional 30 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 325° (do not remove turkey from oven). Bake at 325° for 1 1/2 hours or until a thermometer inserted into meaty part of thigh registers 165°. Remove turkey from pan. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Carve. Remove whole breasts from the turkey, then slice across the grain. This makes a juicier slice of turkey!

I think I'll post some more of my favorite holiday recipes...keep watching for them!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What's in a name?

Ever since the grandmas came for their visits, Oliver has been very interested in naming everyone. However, just like when we look at picture books, he sort of puts his own spin on things. For example, he points at the picture of a sheep in a book, grunts "uh?", so that I'll respond "sheep," then he says "baaa baaa." Well, yes, that's not quite what I said, but it is correct. As I've mentioned before, he calls my mom "O", though she goes by Grandee. When Marty's mom was here, he'd kind of whisper something when we'd say "Grandma," but it wasn't until after she left and we were looking at photos together that he started pointing at her and saying, "Maa-maw." Which goes right along with "Paa-paw," aka "Grandpa" in other photos (Marty's dad). Is that how you spell those? It's the southern pronuciation, which I heard a lot growing up in Florida, but I know he's never heard them. Must be in the genes, like the true southern boy that he isn't.

When it comes to his name, however, it's been a bit more difficult. Only recently has he tried to say his own name, at first it came out something like "owl." But with all the pointing and naming that's been going on, he's starting to perfect it...and loves saying it. I know you'd love to see it on video! For some reason I'm having trouble posting a video to my blog, but you can go Here to see it! Enjoy! (Yes, I'm "Ommy." For some reason he's been dropping the first 'm' lately, who knows why. Probably just another example of wanting to do things his own way!)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Christmas Wish Lists

If you go by the displays at Target as any indication (which I do, because I love Target, and visit several times a week!)....the Christmas season is upon us! As a result, we've had requests for Wish Lists for the three of us, so I thought I'd make one master reference here on the blog. Please don't misinterpret this as a greedy request for presents! Love is all we really need (isn't that a song?). This is purely for convenience. I'll also list the Christmas gifts we've gotten for Oliver, in order to avoid duplication. In general, please keep in mind that we are living in a tiny apartment for the next year and a half. So as much as you want to get that full drum kit for Oliver, I'm afraid we just don't have room for it!!

In addition to what is listed below, Marty & I both have Wish Lists on Amazon, just search for our names in the Wish List box. I don't want to put the direct link on here because I'm not putting any personal info (like last names) on this blog. But if you are having problems finding it, email me directly and I'll send you back the direct link. There are some ideas for Oliver on my Amazon Wish List (I didn't make him his own), so just assume if the recommended age group for the product is 18 months-3 years, it's probably for Oliver and not me! This doesn't mean you have to buy it from Amazon. If you find a better deal elsewhere, just email me and I'll remove it (for Oliver's or Marty's), or email Marty for mine. I won't peek! I'll keep adding to the list as I think of things.

  • Clothing sizes: he's in 24 months (or 2T) for tops and 18 months for pants.
  • Toys: Anything age appropriate. He likes typical boy things: blocks, trucks, airplanes, animals. He's currently very into the alphabet and counting! There are a few things I thought he'd like on my Amazon Wish list, but you pretty much can't go wrong with him....what 20 month old doesn't love any toy!?
  • He love books! Marty's mom saved all his old books, so we're all set for the oldies but goodies like Dr. Seuss. But any contemporary books are great!
    • Clothing sizes: If you've seen Marty's closet back home, you know he doesn't need any clothes!
    • He says he can't think of anything that isn't on his Amazon Wish List!

    • Clothing sizes: Let's not go there. How about a nice book instead?
    • A gift card to Shutterfly. I have thousands of photos of Oliver that I'd love to make photo books with!

    Gifts already purchased for Oliver (by us and others):
    ABC Block Cart
    FP Little People Animal Sounds Farm
    VTech Explore and Learn Helicopter
    Ikea kitchen stuff (see former blog post)
    Ikea Lounge Chair (see former blog post) 
    Mickey Mouse Helicopter
    FP Little People Airplane
    FP Little People Airport

    If you'd like to add an item to this list to avoid duplication, just email me and I'll put it on there. I promise I won't let Oliver read the blog! This list will be continually updated. I'll put a link to it on the sidebar so you can always find it. If you'd like to keep things a surprise, that's fine too!

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Grandee, a.k.a. 'O'

    "Grandee" is my mom, who came for a visit this past week, just a few days after Grandma (my mother in law) left from her visit! Yes, it was a bit crazy, but we love having visitors, and you never have to clean as much for your own mom! First, let me explain the name. My mom's name is Donna, and before Oliver was born decided that she would be called Grandee, as in Gran D, for Donna, but pronounced like 'candy.' Cute, huh? Well, we're not sure if it's going to take or not. Most of the time she was here, Oliver called her 'O' instead. No, she's not Oprah. Ready for the complex explanation of why? Well, somewhere in the past few months he has learned how to say "hello" like we do when we answer the phone. So he'll often pick up his toy cell phone or a remote control, a block, a sippy cup, or anything lying around, put it up to his ear, and say "Oh!" as his shortened version of "Hello". (I don't know why, but this reminds me of my grandfather who always answered the phone with something that sounded like, "Yellow!") Anyway, I talk to my mom on the phone often, and she always wants to speak to him and if he's in the mood he sits and listens intently and babbles back. As a result, anytime we see a picture of my mom, he points to her and says "Oh!," as in "that's the lady we talk to on the phone!" We talk to other family members on the phone too, so I don't know why he makes this specific association with her, but he does. So last week he'd point to each of us and say "ommy" (for me...he's dropped the first M), "dada" for Marty, and when he got to my mom, we'd say "Grandee" for him. But by the end of the visit, when he got to her, he'd point and say "O." I wonder which she'll end up being in the long run?

    One of the highlights of her visit was a trip to Ikea! I've been wanting to go to look at a child's table and chair set that I adore there and in general to get other inexpensive Christmas ideas for Oliver. It was really hard not to look at all the cool home decor stuff, accessories, kitchen gadgets, etc that I have no room for in this tiny apartment. Maybe we'll have to make a trip back right before we move back to Iowa for those kinds of things! Oliver loved the children's section. We couldn't pull him away:

    He adored those miniature pots and pans and baking things so much! He sat in that chair and just played and played. As a result, I bought him a set for Christmas. I'm going to set them up in "his" cabinet in the kitchen one day to surprise him. I'm hoping it brings him lots of hours of fun play and me lots of hours of peaceful cooking time!! By the way, the table and chair set that I wanted is the red one in the background (but I would have bought it in blue and green). Unfortunately, we just don't have room in our apartment, and while it was on sale, it was only available in red, and I hate red.

    Oliver's second favorite part of Ikea:

    Have I mentioned how much he loves ceiling fans? In the warehouse section where you find your boxes of unassembled furniture, they had the biggest fans I've ever seen. Oliver was quite impressed, if the "Ohwhoaaaaa!" he yelled out repeatedly was any indication.

    I also got him some stocking stuffers and Grandee/O got him this chair. Look familiar?
    Yup, it's the one he was sitting in on display at Ikea! My little modernist! He loves it and sits in it every evening. Yes, it's his Christmas gift, but she gave it to him now since we won't see her this Christmas.

    Other than that, we spent time in the park, going out to eat, getting ice cream at the nearby farm creamery, and just hanging out. Oliver and I are getting very spoiled. We need a grandma here every week!! Who's next?? Here's some more pics from the weekend.

    Running in the leaves at the park

    Playing hide and seek with Grandee/O

    Just hanging out