Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas, from our family to yours! An appropriate card for this year, as our days are filled with much peace, joy and love with our two little boys. :)

Here is our letter for the on the pic to see a slightly larger, more legible version! :)

We enjoyed a quiet Christmas at home here in Georgia this year. With our big move scheduled for next week, we felt it would be easier to stick around here then spend the week on the road visiting with our families. With all of the time Josh has spent traveling to and from TN lately, it will be a nice break for him to get to relax for the week.

We spent our Christmas Eve doing the things we traditionally do, which includes making Christmas cut out cookies and watching 24 hours of A Christmas Story on TBS. We were able to get a big smile out of Ethan here with the promise of more cookie dough. Like mother, like son! ;) haha!

Once the boys were in bed, it was time to get to wrapping! Of course, Santa forgot to check how much Scotch tape he had left, so we ran out around 12:30 am. Awesome. Fortunately, the packing tape came in handy as a substitute!

Though Ethan woke up Christmas morning excitedly saying, "Race cars? Race cars?" he was in no hurry as he snoozed way past 10 am. I have a feeling we probably won't get the luxury of sleeping in next year or for many more years to come, but it was nice while it lasted.

Ethan was very excited Christmas morning to come downstairs to a bunch of presents piled under the tree. Amazingly, we convinced him to pose for a picture before beginning to open everything.

Quite the expert this year, he enjoyed helping Daisy, Noah, Daddy and Mommy all open up theirs too! :) He was super excited about adding another 20 cars to collection!

Even Noah got in on the action and did a pretty decent job at tearing the paper off his presents too. :)

Later, Daddy helped Ethan set up his new race track. Santa definitely knew what this little boy wanted for Christmas! ;)

We enjoyed our traditional Santa-cakes for brunch. Here's Ethan pointing out the "reindeer poo" in his. hehe ;)

We spent the day relaxing, playing with new toys and watching movies. It was a fun day for everyone! We hope that you had a wonderful Christmas spent with your families and have a blessed, happy new year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Noah is Five Months Old!

It's time to update what Noah has been up to lately! First up, his stats. He weighed in this month at 16 lbs, 6 oz (50th to 75th percentile), which means he gained just 14 ounces. It is hard to believe his gain was slow again, since he was still nursing around the clock this past month! He grew just 3/4-inch to measure up at 26.5 inches (75th to 90th percentile). This puts him right at the 50th percentile for height-to-weight ratio, so I guess that makes him a normal, healthy baby boy? ;)

Below is the pic of Noah at five months, wearing the 12-month onesie. I know it's hard to tell in this pic, but he is actually starting to get some hair! Woohoo! It is super light and fine, so he still looks like a baldie until you get really close-up and see the fuzz. ;) Love it! He hasn't lost any of his cute, chubby rolls yet and his blue eyes are still hanging in there too.

Unlike his big brother's early eating adventures, we haven't progressed much with the solid foods yet for Noah. We let him get his first taste of rice cereal at four months old, but since then he hasn't been eating it on a regular basis yet. Perhaps that is the reason for the slower weight gain? It's mostly my fault because I haven't been doing a great job at making sure he gets it every day. In my defense, I have found it to be much harder to do by myself with another kid demanding my attention too, and Daddy is normally the cereal guy! Also making it difficult is the fact that he is not a big fan of it when mixed with formula (which Ethan had no problem with). Sigh. Hopefully he will warm up to it at some point to make it a bit easier on me!

New accomplishments this month:
  • Puts his pacifier in his mouth by himself
  • Rolls all over the place
  • Almost able to sit up by himself, but his head is still a bit too heavy ;)
  • Recognizes and responds to his name
  • Big, hearty laughs

He continued to struggle in the sleep department this past month, going for 2- to 3-hour stretches all night most nights. So, we decided it may be time to implement some sleep training...for both of us! The one problem with using a baby monitor is that I hear everything. Anytime he would begin to stir, I would wake up and go to his room to feed him like clockwork. He never had to cry when he was hungry because he never had the chance to get that worked up! So...we decided it was time to turn the volume off on the monitor. Yep. That was a hard one for a control freak like me! But it has turned out to be most helpful! Now, when he does wake at night, he actually has to cry, loud enough for me to hear him down the hall before I will go into his room. Sometimes I let him go for a few minutes (watching him on the video), then he stops and goes back to sleep. Awesome! We are teaching him to put himself back to sleep. I know some think it's cruel, but I think it's necessary for all of us. He doesn't have the physical need to eat that often during the night now. He has doubled his birth weight, which is supposed to indicate that he should be physically able to sleep through the night. So, that is what we're trying to accomplish. So far it seems to be going quite well! He gave me his longest stretch yet just this week - 9 hrs 45 min! Awesome!! I had put him down at 8:15 pm and he made it all the way until 6 am without me hearing a peep! He has been giving me some 6 hour stretches again too most nights since we started as well. Ahhh, loving it! He still takes a morning nap of around 30 minutes to an hour, a longer afternoon nap of around 1 to 3 hours and occasionally takes an evening nap of around 30 minutes.

I love that he seems to be a happier baby now too. In the past, I couldn't set him down for more than a minute without the threat of him throwing a tantrum until he was picked back up. Now, he is able to entertain himself (which usually involves eating his toes, haha) and he really enjoys when Ethan is nearby and he can watch/"play" with him! Ethan has been such a great help at keeping Noah entertained at the dinner table by pulling his high chair close to him and giving him toys to play with or just his attention. Noah loves it and I love Ethan for being so great with him! He is a super big brother and has really grown up these past few months!

Here is a pic of Ethan at 5 months with Noah's pic. Ethan looks like such a booger in this pic! Noah is not quite the ham that his big brother was/is, but still a cutie! ;) I love these little guys!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Comfort Food for a Rainy Day

Today was the perfect day for some yummy comfort food. It was a cold, wet day in Georgia, so we warmed things up inside with an all-time favorite that even Ethan gobbles up every time - tomato soup and grilled cheese. I have changed things up a bit though from how I ate it as a kid. Don't get me wrong, I still like American cheese on wheat sandwich bread with condensed tomato soup. I grew up on it! But, I have found a way to make it a bit more fancy...perfect for a nice family meal and even one that I would serve to company! :)

I recently discovered Campbell's Select Zesty Tomato Bisque soup. I love that it has nice, big chunks of tomato in it and some great seasoning to give it that zesty kick it needs. To perfect it, I add a bit of heavy whipping cream (probably 1/8 - 1/4 cup per can) to it while it is heating on the stovetop. It gives it a great creamy texture and richness. Once I dish it into the bowl, I add a sprinkling of shredded parmesan cheese to the top. It looks pretty and tastes yummy too. There's no such thing as too much cheese in a meal, right?

For my grilled cheese sandwiches, I like using Publix's white mountain bread, which can be found fresh in their bakery. It is incredible. I will definitely shed a few tears when I have to leave Publix behind for our move north. :'( I am hoping they continue to open new stores in TN, as they can only be found in the Chattanooga area right now. I generously butter each slice of bread. For Ethan's sandwich, I use good old American cheese because he likes it. For the adults, I use asiago cheese, sliced fresh in the deli. I love asiago cheese. Side note: We don't usually eat fast food much, but with all the traveling we have done in the last few months, we have had our share of it. My absolute favorite right now is Wendy's asiago ranch chicken sandwich. So tasty! Anyway...for my sandwiches, I get two thick slices of cheese for each sandwich. When it melts, it melds together the two pieces of bread perfectly. I use a grill pan on the stovetop to cook my sandwiches and give them those perfect grill marks. The sandwich is absolutely heavenly with the smooth, mild, gooey, creamy cheese sandwiched between the crisp, buttery pieces of bread. Yuuuuuum. The perfect comfort meal for today! Notice how ooey, gooey that cheese is! :)

Even Ethan's little meal was looking yummy! :)

To top it all off, Ethan and I decided to make dessert earlier in the day. I love double chocolate Ghirardelli brownies. I have blogged about them in the past. They really don't need anything extra to make them delicious, but there is one thing that can make chocolate even better...peanut butter. Oh yes. I decided to make a peanut butter cream cheese icing to put on top of the brownies to kick them up a notch. :) To make the icing, I used about 2 ounces of cream cheese (softened in the microwave for 1 minute on 50% power), about 1/4 - 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter, about 1/4 cup granulated sugar and a splash of milk to thin it out some. I didn't actually measure anything, but just added stuff until I got something that tasted good. :) I mixed everything together until it was the consistency that I wanted. When it was time to eat them, I spread some of the icing on each brownie individually. Heaven.

What's your favorite comfort food on a cold, rainy day?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Time to Give Thanks

Our Thanksgiving didn't go quite as we had planned this year. The boys, Daisy and I decided to join Josh in Tennessee for the short work week to check out a few more potential houses and also check out the apartment complex that Josh would be moving into this month. We were then planning to head back to Georgia to spend four restful days together at the house. It has been hard on Josh making the 5+ hour trek from TN back to GA every weekend to spend time with us, so we were looking forward to the break. Everything changed suddenly when I got the call on Monday morning from my mom that my Grandpa Frank had passed away Sunday night. Though it wasn't a complete surprise, as he hadn't been doing great since he had broken his hip and was staying in a nursing home, it was still not a phone call I wanted to get. The calling hours and funeral were set for Friday and Saturday, so with Josh working until Wednesday, we decided to go straight to Ohio once he was done. We made a pit stop at Josh's parents' house on Wednesday night to spend Thanksgiving Day with Josh's parents, his youngest brother, Aaron, and his daughter, Braelynn. That evening we made the drive farther north to my parents' house. It was a rough weekend to get through, but we had a beautiful military funeral for him, as he was a WWII veteran. It was nice to get to see all of my cousins, something I hadn't had the chance to do in years, though it wasn't the best circumstances. Here is a pic of all seven of us with our children. Not too bad for 11 little ones (eight of them 4 and under)! Apparently something fun was going on to the right since more than half of us are looking that direction! haha! Shout out to my sis for clothing my children. We didn't exactly have funeral attire with us, so thanks to cousin Jacob for letting the boys wear his old clothes!

Below are two of my favorite pictures I have of my Grandpa, from our wedding in 2005. Though you can't see his face, I love the expression on my face. You can tell he is giving me a hard time in the first picture, as he was known to do. In the next, you can see the emotion on my face, as I was so thankful that he was there to see me get married. At 83 years old at that time, you don't take anything for granted!

We spent Friday and Saturday with my family, then decided to make the trip home that evening. We had discovered on Wednesday night that Noah travels best at night, when he is sleeping! By the time we left it was getting late, so we decided to travel just part of the way, to the apartment in Tennessee. We got in late and got a few hours of sleep before waking up to travel the rest of the way home. The trip went well that evening with Noah sleeping almost the entire way. The rest of the trip home the next day was definitely not so pleasant. Sigh.

Josh had taken Monday off of work as a bereavement day and decided to take Tuesday off too since we still had so much we wanted to accomplish around the house that weekend. We decided to go ahead and make our Thanksgiving dinner on Monday since I had already purchased a turkey and all the fixings before we had left town the previous weekend. I started with the stuffing, preparing it the way my dad has always done it. It's a simple recipe, but when roasted inside the turkey, it tastes amazing and is always my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal! You start be melting two sticks of butter in a big pan, then you chop up some onion and celery and cook this in the butter. Once these are tender, add in 3 cups of bread crumbs and coat them in the butter mixture. Put all of this into a big bowl and mix in 6 more cups of bread crumbs, sage, salt, pepper and thyme, coating everything evenly. This is then ready to be stuffed inside the turkey. I had purchased a small 8-pound turkey since it was just three of us that would be eating, so not all of the stuffing fit inside. I kept the turkey simple, just rubbing it with butter and seasoning it with salt and pepper. I roasted it in a bag, which I think keeps the meat nice and moist. In addition to the turkey and stuffing, I made a corn souffle (1 can corn, 1 can creamed corn, 1 box corn muffin mix, 2 eggs - mix and bake at 350 for 45 min), green bean casserole (directions can be found on the French Fried Onion container), mashed potatoes, gravy (using the turkey juices, flour and milk, of course!), and Josh's favorite, a pumpkin pie (directions on the pumpkin puree can for the filling and I make my crust like my Momma does, using flour, shortening, water and salt). I was quite busy in the kitchen that day! And yes, we eat on our fine china for Thanksgiving. It's fun and makes it feel even more special. :) Everything was delicious and given that there was enough food for a small army, we had leftovers for a week!

As we did last year, we decided to decorate the Christmas tree after eating our Thanksgiving dinner. With our living situation in limbo this year, we weren't originally sure if we were even going to put up a tree. Once it was decided we would move after Christmas though, we wanted to decorate our house here in Georgia one more time. It was fun this year, as Ethan understands a lot more than he did his previous two Christmases. He helped Daddy decorate the tree, which to him meant throwing the tinsel at the tree, haha! Awesome.

Oh well, in the end it looked nice. :)

Definitely one of the busier Thanksgiving weekends we have ever had. We have so much to be thankful for again this year...but especially for the addition of another adorable little guy to our clan and for a new job that will allow us to spend more time together as a family. We are incredibly fortunate that Josh continues to find many opportunities in this hard economic time. We will be especially thankful to all be living together again soon!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Angry, Angry...Birds!

So I am obviously a little behind with this post about Halloween, which seems like ages ago now, but life happens and things have been a bit crazy around here lately. It has become hard sharing our time between the house here in Georgia, the apartment in Tennessee, and several trips to Ohio thrown in there too! Unfortunately, we have not yet found a house in Tennessee yet, however, we did find a nice apartment that Josh will be moving in to next week - The Haven at Knob Creek. Luckily, we were able to secure a 3 bedroom unit on the first floor - the only one they had available! With two kids and a dog, I wasn't looking to do multiple flights of stairs all day long while trying to juggle a baby, hold a toddler's hand and a dog's leash. Whew! The rest of us have decided to join him after Christmas. By the time the moving company would be able to get us packed up and moved in, it would be getting very close to Christmas. So, we figured we might as well stay here and enjoy one last holiday here in Georgia, especially with it being Noah's first Christmas and all! We will be staying in the apartment until we either a) find a house we like or b) find a piece of property on which to build a house. Right now it is looking like option b will probably be the way we go. It makes more sense to us to build a house exactly the way we want it for the same price (or less) as buying a house that would need updated! Seeing as how we have done this now twice before, building wouldn't be so bad.

Ok, back to the original topic...Halloween. This year I hadn't given much thought to costumes and it was closing in on just a couple weeks until the big day. I started browsing the websites of the major stores late one night for ideas and came across the popular Angry Birds costumes. Ethan is obsessed with Angry Birds. Thanks Daddy. ;) The little addict starts chanting, "angry, angry," as he sneaks up to my iPad, covering the screen with one arm (does he think I don't realize what he is doing??) as he navigates with his other hand to the game. Yeah, I think he has a problem. haha! They had costumes for infants and adults online, but I couldn't find any that would fit Ethan. I also noted the outrageous price tag on them and decided there was no way I would pay that much for something they would wear just once! So, I started doing some more internet searching and brainstorming, and decided I would attempt to make the costumes myself. Yep, that's right. I hadn't touched a sewing machine in about 20 years, but you don't forget how to sew, right? ;) I found a few other blog posts (this one at Twin Dragonfly Designs was really good) describing how others had made their own costumes and went from there. I decided fleece and felt would be the easiest materials to work with and would be comfortable for the kids to wear too. We lucked out that it was a very chilly Halloween here in GA, instead of a hot one where fleece costumes would have been miserable!

In order to make the costumes, I needed to find a sewing machine first. I found a Singer that looked nice, at Target. Mom helped me get it all set up and I was ready to go. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that the machine wasn't as great as I would have hoped. I had bought it on a whim without reading reviews first. Shame on me. The tension was way too tight and I ended up breaking 3 needles while trying to backstitch! Yikes! I ended up taking the machine back once I was all done because it was definitely not one I wanted to use again. Please avoid this machine if you are in the market for one!

Now to the costumes...following the instructions from Heather at Twin Dragonfly Designs, I started by cutting out two red circles for Ethan's red bird costume. I then cut out another circle on plain white broadcloth. I sewed this piece to one of the red pieces. This would be the front of the costume, which would get stuffed to make the bird nice and puffy. :) Then I sewed the right sides of the red together and turned it inside out. I was going to leave holes for his head and arms to go through, but decided it was easier to leave the entire top open, then sew two small pieces of velcro on either side of his neck, to fasten together to hold the costume up. This worked well for putting the costume on and taking it back off. After that was complete, I cut out the pieces for the face from felt, outlined them with a fabric marker and hot glued them on to the costume. Viola!

Unfortunately, I didn't get a lot of pictures of the entire process in order to make this a good tutorial, but here is the one shot I have of me sewing part of Ethan's costume. Yes, I am sitting at Ethan's kiddie-sized table to do this. I am hoping to have room at our new house to set-up a properly sized table for a sewing machine! ;)

For Noah's yellow bird costume, I followed the lead from the department store costumes to make it a full body bunting costume with a hole for his head. The yellow bird shape worked best for this concept, so that is why I went with that one. I cut out two big yellow triangles from the fleece. Then I cut one of the triangles in half, lengthwise. I thought the easiest way to do trick or treating with Noah would be to carry him in the Baby Bjorn, so I decided to drape the costume around the carrier, then fasten it in the back. I sewed the front to the back pieces and then attached velcro to the edges of the back so that it could be closed. After that was done, I cut out the pieces for the face from felt, outlined them with the fabric marker and hot glued them on to the costume. Another one done! Woo hoo!

Daisy loves dressing up for Halloween too. Ok, so the verdict is still out on that one, but she does love the attention she gets when she is out with us in costume! ;) Of course I needed to make her a costume too! I thought she would make a wonderful green pig. Fitting since the little birds (aka my crazy boys) are always "attacking" her! So, I cut out a green circle from the fleece for the pig's face. I added a couple ears and the facial features, from felt. To keep it secured to her, I made 3 sets of velcro straps (one around her neck, one for the chest and one for her tiny waist) to fasten it to her. Again, another pretty simple costume to make and I was done!! Yay!!

I didn't think that making the costumes would be too time consuming and I was right. I went shopping for all of the materials on the Monday before Halloween. I started cutting things out that Tuesday evening after the boys were in bed and worked on it during naptime and when they were sleeping at night that week. I had them finished up by Friday and ready for Trick or Treat on Saturday! :) Total time for the three costumes was under 10 hours for sure, maybe under 8? It was totally worth every dime and every minute when I saw these cuties all dressed up!!

We took everyone downtown the Saturday before Halloween for the Trick or Treat with the local businesses. It was fun hearing lots of the other kids excited about the Angry Birds costumes! haha! Surprisingly, we were the only birds there!

Here are the boys in their skeleton outfits later that evening. Too cute! :)

And finally, Happy Halloween from the tiny one! :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes

While on my previously mentioned pumpkin kick around Halloween, I decided that pumpkin pancakes would be a tasty treat for breakfast that weekend. I didn't have a recipe to follow, but decided I could wing it. I started by preparing my usual weekend pancake recipe and altering the add-ins a bit to come up with this:


  • 2 cups Bisquick mix (I use the Heart Healthy mix)
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • Sugar (to taste, I don't measure this, but it's probably ~1/4 cup)
  • Pumpkin puree (I didn't measure this either, but I think ~1/4 to 1/2 cup)
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, melted
  • Heavy cream (I used just a dash - less than 1/4 cup)
  • Powdered sugar (I didn't measure this either, but maybe 1/4 cup?)

Preheat griddle to 250-275 degrees. Mix all ingredients for pancakes together until well blended.  Pour batter onto griddle and cook until bubbles surface, then flip and cook for another few minutes until cooked through completely. While pancakes are cooking, prepare the topping. Melt the cream cheese in the microwave (I nuked it for one minute at 50%) and stir in some heavy cream and powdered sugar until a nice consistency and taste is achieved. To serve, spread the cream cheese mixture onto the pancakes and top with whipped topping if desired.

These were absolutely heavenly. It was almost like eating dessert for breakfast! Maybe not a "healthy" food, but the pumpkin and cinnamon are nice nutritious add-ins. :) I thought I would post this before Thanksgiving in case you wanted to prepare this super yummy breakfast item for your family on Thanksgiving morning. It's a perfect way to wake up and start the holiday! :) Let me know what you think!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pumpkin Cake Pops

I love any excuse to make cake pops. Sure, it's easier to just order a couple while I am driving through Starbucks (yep, Ethan loves when I do and often urges me to do just that! haha!), but it's so much more affordable to make a big batch myself. They keep well in the refrigerator, so I can enjoy them for a couple weeks! I decided I wanted to try making a batch for Halloween to pass out to the adults during our neighborhood Trick or Treat. I thought that combining pumpkin cake with cream cheese icing would be fantastic and festive. So, I decided to experiment with the cake first. I came up with the following recipe:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice


Preheat the oven to the temperature recommended on the cake mix box. Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl and add the cake mix. Stir in the water and pumpkin puree. Add in the pumpkin pie spice and stir until well blended. Prepare two round cake pans and pour the batter evenly between the pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Once the cakes have cooled, crumble them into pieces. Normally at this point, you would add the frosting to the cake to moisten it, then roll into balls. This cake, however, was already super, super moist and adding frosting would make it too moist to form the cake balls. So, I (with Ethan's 'help") just formed balls from the cake and popped them into the freezer to help them firm up. 

Later that day I prepared to coat the balls. It was then that I realized I had left them in the freezer too long - they were completely frozen! :( This had not happened the last time I made them - they never completely froze or else maybe I didn't leave them in long enough to do that? So, I had to let them defrost a bit on the counter, then I was able to begin. I still wanted that cream cheese flavor, so I tried melting some cream cheese to add to the melted candies. As I expected it might, it made the chocolate seize up immediately. That wasn't going to work. :( I had to settle for coating the cake balls with melted candies and no cream cheese. I had decided I wanted to make them look like pumpkins, as I had seen on another blog. So, first I dipped the sticks into melted dark chocolate, then inserted the stick into the ball. This would represent the stump of the pumpkin. I then used yellow and red candies to make an orange coating for the ball. Unfortunately, this was also a learning process. I thought more red would make a brighter orange color, but sadly it made an awful reddish-peach color instead. I ended up using mostly yellow with a just a few red candies to make a semi-decent orange color. I was still never able to achieve the color I really wanted, but it worked. I was then going to pipe melted green candy leaves to top them off, but I ran out of time, so I didn't.

I packaged the finished product up to pass out. I ended up having quite a bit leftover (I had made 3 batches of cake), so I was able to share some with family in Ohio the following week too!

I was pretty happy with how they turned out. Not quite the appearance I was going after, but the taste was delicious!! Still on a pumpkin kick, I made pumpkin pancakes the next day with a sweet cream cheese spread. Delicious! Next up I will be trying out a chocolate mint recipe for Christmas. :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Noah's Four-Month Check-Up

I took Noah for his four-month check-up today. I know that I said in his two-month check-up post that that was our last visit to their pediatrician here in Georgia, but it turns out I was wrong. I haven't found a doctor for the boys yet in Tennessee. After weeks of trying to procure their medical records from their doctor's office here, including numerous calls to the medical records staff and clinic manager, I was finally told that their charts couldn't be found anywhere. They had simply vanished into thin air. Sigh. Supposedly the records had been copied too and they were also nowhere to be found. Really? Just my luck. Poor Noah has zero records aside from the shot records from his two-month appointment, as they are kept electronically. Finally during my last phone call a few weeks ago, the manager apologized profusely and offered no-charge appointments for both boys before we moved. So, I decided to take her up on it, seeing as how I hadn't found another doctor yet and Noah would soon be needing his four-month immunizations! She also promised no waiting once we arrived, a definite plus at that office! As promised, when we arrived today and I asked for her, she came out shortly and escorted us to the back. Whew. I had to fill out the usual first-appointment info sheets again, but no biggie. Ethan stayed entertained by catching up with the Angry Birds. Yay for iPads!! We made it into the room in a fairly timely manner and the doctor was right in. Woo hoo!

Noah was checked out first and we got his current stats. Since last month he gained just 14 oz (surprising given his current round the clock eating habits), to weigh in at 15 lbs, 8 oz, which is in the 50th-75th percentile. He grew almost 2 inches to measure up at 25.75 inches (75th-90th percentile) and his head is now 43.5 cm (75th-90th percentile). No big surprise there! He had to get two immunization shots today and another oral one. Poor guy. Fortunately, he was a champ and after just a few seconds of crying he was all better again. Lots of hugs and kisses from Mommy always help! :)

Ethan also did well with his check-up. At almost 2-3/4 years old, he is still weighing in at 30 pounds and measuring up at xx inches (Oops! I'll have to fill that in later when I get copies of their records!). The doctor decided to do some blood work on him to make sure everything looked good. Thankfully, they did this with just a finger prick instead of actually drawing it from his vein like the hospital did back in the spring. That was a disaster and something that did not need to be repeated. He also needed his flu shot. That was not pleasant for him and he is still saying he has a boo-boo on his leg. :( Poor "big boy". Apparently all of that tired him out because he came home and took a 3+ hour nap! Wow! I even managed to accomplish some sweeping while he was sleeping without waking him. Score!

Below is a pic of Noah at four months, wearing the 12-month onesie. I love that adorable little face and those chunky little thighs! ;) Sadly, however, Noah has regressed the last month with his sleep schedule. That seems to be the trend with the second child. :( While he still sleeps around 12 hours total at night, he has been waking up every 2 to 3 hours again, like he did when he was a newborn. Occasionally he gives me a 4 to 5 hour stretch (normally the first stretch of the night), but it is rare. He is still taking short (~30 min) morning and evening naps along with a longer (1-3 hrs) afternoon nap. It is wonderful when I can time up both of their naps and get at least an hour of time to get stuff done during the day! That has been essential with Josh gone during the week, leaving me to tend to the boys by myself 24/7. I love them, but I do need a bit of a break! I find it challenging being a SAHM to two little ones who aren't in school yet, aren't involved in any activities outside of the house, and having our families so far away. We do have occasional playdates, but even that has become very hard with a tiny one again. Hopefully we will make some friends when we move to Tennessee!

Noah has really been enjoying the time he spends in his jumperoo. See the video I posted on FB. Those little legs don't quit! At this rate, I swear the boy will be walking before his big brother did, at the early age of 9 months. I think it has something to do with the fact that he adores his big brother and can't wait to really play with him! It is rare that he takes his eyes off of Ethan during the day when we are all playing together. Ethan has been a really fantastic helper and has done great at trying to "play cars" with him when he isn't being a booger and trying to drag him across the room. Oops!

Here is a pic of Ethan at 4 months with Noah's pic. :) I can still see the family resemblance, but there are obvious differences too. Noah has a much fuller/rounder face and is obviously still chunkier than his big brother was at that age, as he should be at a whole pound heavier and almost an inch shorter! haha!

What I discovered on our recent trip to Ohio, while I was looking at a photobook of pics from when my sister's son, Jacob, was a baby, was how much Noah resembled his cousin! Take a look. Definitely safe to say those are both "Frank" babies!! Wow!

This next month should bring some interesting changes, as we are hoping to be reunited with Josh in Tennessee soon! We are still on the hunt for a house there, but we are realizing that we may have to go ahead and rent an apartment while we continue our search, or find a piece of land and build a home. Life would be so much easier if we weren't so darn picky! ;) Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure...all of us will be happy to be together again, no matter where it may be!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

I love Indian food. I know, that is a very surprising fact given the picky eating habits I possessed when I was younger. However, Indian food was one of the many cuisines Josh turned me on to while I was in college. Shh, don't tell him because he is always taking credit for the newfound variety to my diet. ;) Anyways...chicken tikka masala quickly emerged as my favorite dish at one of the local restaurants in Cincy - Ambar India. If you live near Cincy, you must go there and get some of the best food in the city! Josh and I like our Indian food pretty spicy. Traditionally at Indian restaurants, you order the spice level you want for your dish on a scale of 1 to 5 or 6. I normally order a "3" or "4", and Josh gets anywhere from a "4" to "6", depending on how much he wants to sweat. ;) One time we made the mistake of opting for the lunch buffet instead of ordering our meals. Never again. The food they prepare for the buffets is made to appeal to the masses and is at about a "1" on the spice scale. Definitely not enough spice for us.

A few weeks ago a friend posted a recipe for chicken tikka masala to be prepared in the slow cooker. I couldn't wait to try it out because 1) I haven't had the dish in ages and 2) I love meals that I can just throw in the crockpot! Sadly, LaGrange is not exactly a hot spot for Indian food. There are NO Indian restaurants anywhere near us. :( Such a travesty, isn't it? We were definitely spoiled in Cincy living just minutes away from Ambar India. In Kentucky there was a really good Indian restaurant just down the street from where I worked at UK. I definitely took advantage of that one, especially during the last 5 months we were there, as I craved Indian food more than anything else during my pregnancy with Ethan. After moving south we were left with no options to satisfy those cravings. :'(

So, this past weekend I decided to give the recipe a try. I was going to have it ready on Friday when Josh arrived home from his 5+ hour trip from Tennessee, but unfortunately, though it is a crockpot recipe, it does require a bit more prep work than I was able to accomplish with a needy 4-month-old in the middle of the day. :( So, with Josh home all day Saturday, I had time to get it assembled to enjoy that evening.

The recipe can be found at Meal Planning 101's blog. Here it is, in full, if you don't feel like visiting their blog...

Chicken Tikka
1 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cumin
1/4 to 1 tsp cayenne (depending on how spicy you like it)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
6 to 8 chicken thighs (skin on, bone-in)

Stir all of the ingredients, except chicken, into the bottom of a large plastic container. Add the chicken and coat the chicken completely with the marinade. Cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour, or overnight.

1 can 28 oz diced tomatoes
1 can 5.5 oz tomato paste
2 inches fresh ginger, grated (store your ginger in the freezer and it will be super easy to grate)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, diced
1 Tbsp garam masala
1 Tbsp tikka paste (could use mild curry paste instead, but then also add about a Tbsp of lemon juice)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried coriander

1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 cup cream
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Turn your oven on to broil. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a rack over top. Take the chicken out of the marinade and place on the baking rack. Place under the broiler about 6-10 inches from the heating element and broil on each side about 10 minutes. You don't have to worry about cooking the meat all the way through, you are just looking for a nice browned color. As you can see, I didn't have a rack, so I placed it right on the baking sheet.

While the chicken is broiling, in a pan over medium high heat, add about a tsp or two of oil. I used olive oil. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes to soften. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for a few more minutes until the mixture is nice and fragrant. Place the mixture into your crockpot. To that, add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, garam masala, tikka paste, cumin, chili powder and coriander. Stir together. When the chicken is done broiling, add them straight to the slow cooker and stir into the masala. Slow cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.

Before serving, stir in 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala and salt if it needs it (it needs it!!). Then stir in the cream and fresh cilantro. Serve a chicken thigh and lots of sauce over basmati rice or Yellow Basmati Rice: 2 cups basmati, 4 cups water, salt, and 1/2 Tbsp of turmeric. Stir together and prepare as you normally would. When the rice is done, stir in 1/2 cup frozen peas.

More notes: I used greek yogurt. Not sure if this affected the flavor or not. For the cayenne pepper, I used 1/2 tsp as I didn't want it to be too spicy in the hopes that Ethan would eat it. I was short on time, so I marinated the chicken for just an hour. Fortunately, I already had almost all of the spices in my cabinet because I have a delicious chicken curry dish I make and I also love using the Indian spices on roasted chickpeas. :) I did need to get the tikka paste. Unfortunately, I couldn't find tikka paste at my local Publix, so I settled instead for red curry paste. I also passed on the cilantro as I didn't think it was really needed. Still short on time, I cooked the meal on high for just 4 hours. At the end, I used regular whipping cream, not knowing for sure what to use since the recipe didn't specify. I served the dish over plain kasmati rice with plain naan (Ethan's favorite!) on the side.

Now for the bad news. We weren't super excited about this dish. :( As I said before, we like our Indian food spicy and this just didn't hit the mark. It was definitely more along the lines of a "1" on the spice scale, which was great for Ethan. He ate a whole plate of it! I don't know if using the full amount of cayenne pepper would have remedied this problem or not. We felt the dish was too chunky from the tomatoes (even though I bought the petite diced ones), and at the same time, the sauce was not thick or creamy enough either. Perhaps a heavier cream would have helped this? Maybe using a tikka paste versus a curry paste would have made a difference too? If I was to make the dish again (not sure if I will yet), I think I would opt for boneless chicken breast. The thighs may have given more flavor, but I definitely got a few bites of cartilage (not as easy to spot as the bones), and it wasn't pleasant. Overall, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the dish was bad. It just wasn't the chicken tikka masala I know and love and was craving when I decided to try the recipe. I may give it a try again and alter some ingredients to see if I can recreate the dish that I want.

As I noted in the previous paragraph, I was excited to see Ethan eat a good portion! For a little guy who normally prefers hot dogs and mac 'n cheese, he sometimes surprises us with what he will eat. :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fall Fun!

Last year we went to our first pumpkin patch, at Uncle Bob's in Newnan, GA. Ethan was 19 months old and it sounded like a fun thing to do with a toddler. Josh and I had never gone to a pumpkin patch just the two of us because I guess those are the sorts of things you do once you have children. :) We had a good can read about it by clicking here.

This year, we decided to try another local patch. Uncle Bob's was fun, but I found another that sounded like fun too, so we gave it a shot. This one was called Jack-O-Lantern Lane in Lafayette, AL. We loaded up the kids and made the 45-minute trek to the farm in the middle of nowhere. Deciding that a stroller would probably be difficult, I strapped little Noah to my chest in the Baby Bjorn, and Josh wrangled the other crazy little man for our adventure. We bought tickets that allowed us to ride the wagon out to the patch and pick a pumpkin while we were there. Awesome! At Uncle Bob's you had to pay admission and pay extra for pumpkins, so it got a little pricey. This was a much more affordable option. The only downside to the day was that it was in the 80-degree temperature range, which was a bit warm for pumpkin hunting, but we survived. :)

We started by checking out the animals they had available for petting. Poor Ethan was frightened by the horse's neighing. I guess I have to admit that that guy was so loud that even startled me! ;) haha!

Ethan was very happy to move on to the bunnies!

I think Noah liked them too. :)

After spending lots of time with the bunnies, we made our way over to another area. Ethan had lots of fun grinding corn all by himself! We even watched them make cornmeal from it too. I guess I should have bought some since he had a part in making it. Oops. :/

After finishing with the corn, we went to pick our pumpkins. They had two big fields for us to wander through, searching for the perfect round pumpkins. After quite the hunt we made it out with three nice ones. Ethan even picked one out all by himself! :)

We rode the wagon back to the parking area, tired from a few hours in the hot sun. Poor Noah didn't look very comfortable, but took a great nap! haha

While he slept, the rest of us enjoyed the most delicious vanilla homemade ice cream I have had in a very long time. It was the perfect creamy texture and was just the refreshing snack we needed on that toasty day!

I can't believe how big my "big boy" is getting!! :'(

Time together as a family is limited right now mostly to the weekends with Josh in Tennessee working during the week and the rest of us at the house in Georgia. So, it was a great day spent all together at the pumpkin patch. :)