Saturday, December 22, 2012

Silent Night

His new habit is to reach up and stroke our faces while we feed him. Sweetness.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The End of the World as We Know It

This face says it all. We're so over hearing about these apocalyptic predictions. Honestly, did anyone really believe the world was going to end? I mean, how would the Mayans even know?

Now if we could just get everyone to shut up about this fiscal cliff nonsense too, I'd be a lot happier. Just make the deal already, people.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The National Christmas Tree

I really don't understand how Christmas has snuck up on me this year. Thanksgiving was so early, it seems like I should have had all the time in the world to get ready for it. I think it probably has something to do with Chuk's crazy end of semester school schedule and a teething baby and each of us getting sick. Things have finally settled into a more normal pace and I'm determined to squeeze as much holiday spirit and quality family time into the remaining days of 2012 as I can.
Now that we've grown to a family of three, it's really important to me that we begin to establish some family traditions. I want our holidays (all holidays, not just the December ones) to be based on creating memories together rather than material acquisition. We've only bought the baby three presents for Christmas; they were $1 each and came from the Target dollar spot.* I'm making him some things too, but I'm trying to be realistic in recognizing that he really doesn't need anything, can't appreciate things yet, and has limited storage space in his room.
Instead of gifts, we have lots of activities planned from looking at Christmas lights in our neighborhood to baking to singing carols. One night, after work this week, we were able to check another fun activity off our list. We went to see the new National Christmas tree (the old one fell down this summer in the durecho) and all the small state and territory trees. We also posed for another free picture with Santa. (Baby was happier than he looks in this picture, but the shutter got snapped between smiles.)

It was so nice to be out doing festive things with my guys. The evening left me feeling quite merry and bright.

*For the curious, we got him a wood and metal tambourine, a metal slinky, and a small sensory ball that is similar to these

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Meals for a Family with a New Baby

Our longtime friends had a baby! We got to visit when he was just a week old. It was crazy holding him and thinking my baby was this small seven months ago. Where does the tininess go? Sigh. I really, REALLY miss it. Anyway, we're all hoping these two little boys will be the best of friends someday.
Since the mom was recovering from a Cesarean and they now have two kids under two (Remember when we met big sister?) we brought food, lots of food. For families with a new baby, I think it's more helpful to bring a whole day's worth of food rather than just dinner, if you can possibly manage it. The family's routine is off, they're sleep deprived, and I think it's sometimes harder to figure out what to eat for breakfast or lunch than what to eat for dinner. After all, you can always order a pizza for dinner, but you can't get breakfast delivered.
This particular family is kind of hard to make food for because the mom doesn't eat red meat, pork, or shellfish and toddlers are notoriously picky too. Plus, I think you have to be thoughtful about foods that might upset the baby's tummy if the mom is nursing. Broccoli, cabbage, onions, and excessive garlic can cause gas pain in newborns. Personally, I like to go easy on the dairy too, since many babies are lactose sensitive.
I did a lot of brainstorming to come up with a menu for them.
Breakfast: Cranberry scones (Joy of Cooking recipe, but I use craisins instead of currants)
Lunch: Veggie wraps (hummus, lettuce, cucumber, bell pepper, tomato, carrot)
Dinner: BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches, carrot slaw
Dessert/Snack: Chocolate chocolate chip muffins

I wish I had done a spinach and mushroom quiche instead of the scones for added protein and nutrition and I also wish I had time to add another side dish for dinner (I would have made green beans sauteed with almonds) but I have a baby too and can't do everything. I have to keep telling myself, something is better than nothing.
If you're looking for meal ideas for your own meal deliveries, some other meal ideas I came up with but didn't use are:
Breakfast: pumpkin bread, banana bread, bagels and cream cheese, waffles, fritata, egg sandwiches
Lunch: chicken salad, tuna salad, chicken Cesar salad, quiche
Dinner: vegetarian taco bar with beans and Spanish rice, salmon pasta alfredo with garlic bread and veggies, pesto pasta, chili and cornbread, lasagne
Snacks: celery with peanut butter, veggies with onion dip, chips and salsa, oatmeal cookies, fruit salad

For more inspiration about delivering meals, you should check out the hospitality archives of the defunct blog Like Merchant Ships. Meredith has delivering beautiful, nutritious, affordable meals down to a science. Start here, here, here, or here.

Linking to Works for Me Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Are You Freaking Kidding Me: Stamps

Photo Credit
Today, yet again, I tried to get stamps for our holiday cards, and once again, I failed. As soon as the baby woke up from his nap, I changed his diaper, put him in the carrier and walked straight down to the post office. The postal worker closed the door in my face and locked it. (It was the grumpy guy that I hate anyway, so I'm not too surprised by his behavior.)

At this point, I was still determined to get the stamps. I just turned right around and headed back home. I didn't even go into my apartment, I just loaded us into the car and drove to the main post office. The parking lot was packed, but I got the last space left. Score!

I went in and the line was all the way to the door. No problem, I thought, I planned on using the automated postal machine anyway since I only needed stamps. There was only one lady in front of me. She was printing labels for packages, many, many packages. Whatever, I thought, it's still faster than the line for actual humans.

Fifteen minutes later, when my arm was about to fall off from holding my giant baby I'm staring daggers into the back of this lady's skull. Dude, don't you know I only need to buy stamps? Why is this taking you so long? A line has formed behind me and I'm long past regretting not bringing the baby carrier in with me.
Photo Credit
Finally, after a kabillion more years, she finishes printing all her shipping labels. Her tag is sticking out of her shirt and I think this is her karma for not being efficient with the machine. I step up and select the buy stamps option and hit the continue button. It gives me an option to buy one little printout sticker label for a first class letter. I think I must have selected the wrong option and go back. I want normal books of stamps, not weird bar code thingies. But no, somehow there is no option for a book of stamps. Really?! Really?!

Between the two post offices, I've been trying to buy stamps for almost an hour. With a heavy heart, I step away from the machine and get in line, which is now out the door, for a cashier. Another customer swings the door hard and it almost hits my baby in the head. I stopped it with my foot at the very last second. Merry Christmas to you too, A------.

The line isn't moving. My arms are burning as I futilely pass my child from the left to the right back to the left again, trying to get him in a more comfortable hold. We wait and wait and wait. I keep whispering in his ear, "You're doing such a great job, Buddy. Thanks for being my patient helper. We're going to be done soon." He doesn't understand what I'm saying, but I feel like we both need the encouragement.

He takes a long look all around the post office, then looks up at me with his big blue eyes and silently barfs all over both of us. Message received. We'll go home now.

And today is the day I'll remember as the time my seven month old had more sense than any of us adults. He knew we were all going to die waiting in that post office like we were in some existential French play. At the time I felt relieved to give up and go home, but now, typing this, I realize I still have a stack of cards and no stamps and I'm going to have to face the post office all over again. Ho, ho, ho, humbug.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Meaningful, Affordable Gift Idea (With Tutorial)

I'm sometimes wary of DIY gifts because too often I find that the cost of supplies exceeds the cost of a comparable store bought gift and with the former you're having to invest your time too, which can be in short supply at this time of year. In contrast, I promise this handmade ornament is both inexpensive and easy (if your hand model is in a cooperative mood.)

I bought a tub of clay from Target (in the office/art supplies section) for something like $5.00, give or take. For a baby hand print, you need to grab a hunk of clay about the size of your two hands balled together, slightly larger than a baseball. With all rings off, work the clay in your hands for a few minutes to make sure there aren't any air bubbles in the clay, and then roll into a ball like it's a meatball. While you're rolling, the goal is to make sure there are no seams in the ball.

Put the ball on a piece of plastic wrap and cover with a second piece of plastic wrap. Here's a thrifty tip: Pre-used plastic wrap (clean, of course) actually works better than a new piece of plastic wrap because it's less clingy, and it also seems to be less likely to wrinkle during the next step. 
With the clay between the plastic, slowly roll the ball into a flat disk with a rolling pin. More passes with less pressure makes the plastic less likely to wrinkle and leave undesired imprints in the clay. When your clay is about 1/4 inch thick, pull the top piece of plastic off the perfectly smooth, flat disk.
Grab your hand model and put his hand on the disk. Use one hand to hold his hand in place (probably unnecessary if the hand model can be relied on not to wiggle) and your other hand to press the top of each part of his hand, to get an even imprint. Remember to place his hand towards the bottom of the disk so you have room to make a hole. My instinct was to try and center my model's hand, but that doesn't work for the next step.

Use a drinking straw to make a hole at the top of the ornament for hanging. Let dry for several days. Mine took about 3-4 days to dry completely. If desired, you could write the name of the hand model and the date on the back with a permanent marker.
A 2.5 pound container of clay will make at least six baby hand prints, so this gift costs about $1 each, yet it's thoughtful and personal. I also like that it's not messy (the clay isn't sticky) and doesn't take a lot of time if you do it assembly line style (i.e., roll all the balls, then flatten them all into disks, then do the hand impressions, then wipe your model's hand, then punch the holes.) You could also not punch the hole and give it with a plate stand if you think your recipient would prefer to display the hand print year round rather than have an ornament.

These are ideal gifts for parents and grandparents. We already gave one to my notoriously hard to shop for father-in-law and he liked it very much. We're keeping two for ourselves (one of each hand) and when Baby is grown up and moves out (*sob*) we'll give him one to take with him.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What's Been Going On

Since I last wrote, we've been keeping busy.
This guy wore a bow tie on Thanksgiving, which was pretty hilarious. It was a tie that had belonged to my husband when he was a boy.

Not to brag, but this was the best turkey I've ever had in my life. It's gone now. We ate it for lunch and dinner everyday for more than a week.

My baby tried solid food for the first time on Thanksgiving. (I've been exclusively breast feeding for seven months! This was not my plan, but he's been developing on the slow side with the milestones.) He did really well with it, but caught a cold the next day so we haven't given him any more food since then so he could get the breast milk antibodies and whatnot.

We got our Christmas tree.

My 20 pound seven month old and his 29 pound three year old cousin.
We went to see my in-laws, which wound up being a total nightmare. I think my sister-in-law has a personality disorder.

Chuk and I celebrated seven years together with a fancy Italian dinner. Baby came along too, so it wasn't so much romantic as it was entertaining/exhausting, but it was still nice.

We still take lots of walks.

And we've been trying to squeeze as much family time in around Chuk's finals schedule as possible.

Of course, we spend most of our time just playing at home.

But tonight someone got to meet Santa for the first time. He was unimpressed.