Monday, December 20, 2010

ho ho!

We took Natalie to the mall to see Santa the other day. The whole experience was great! The mall we chose has a train that runs behind Santa with a little winter wonderland setting. Natalie was too young to ride it, but she loved watching it go around while waving at the passengers. When her turn came, she spotted Santa and shouted, "Ho ho!" That's her name for Santa, and it's adorable the way she says it with such familiarity. "I know him! That's Ho ho!"

She sat happily on Santa's lap, and kept looking up at him with glee. "I can't believe I finally get to meet you!" her expression seemed to say. She also clutched her small stuffed Santa, which was beyond adorable. Enjoy!

Friday, December 17, 2010


Natalie walked tonight! When she realized what she was doing, she immediately stopped, but it was so amazing! Bring on toddler-hood!

Monday, October 4, 2010

first reds game!

Taking Natalie to a Reds game involved a lot of planning! We wanted to avoid night games, work around my weekend work schedule, and pick a day that wouldn't be too hot for her to be out for several hours. Hot days make us both cranky :)

We ended up buying tickets for the last Reds game of the season. Although we were joined by lots of other friends, Natalie was the only baby. She was awesome through most of the game. When she started getting fidgety, Matt and I took her for a walk around the park. She took home a Mr. Redlegs doll, and even got her picture taken with Gapper.

And we even won.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

OAMC Italian Style

I’m really busy. At least I think so. Tomorrow is my 15th straight day of work, and last night Matt and I were busy preparing the guest room for our impending house guests. I find myself running improbable errands on my lunch break (grocery shopping in 20 minutes: not recommended), and taking care of phone business on my commute. Most of my reading is now done by audiobook. All of this so that the end of the day brings uninterrupted family time.

I freely admit that if we hadn’t had the foresight to cook dinner ahead of time and freeze it, we’d have been eating out (or grilling out) almost every night this week. Instead, we got to choose from a variety of meals we’d already prepared. Last night, we chose Chicken Tucson. I’ve already shared that recipe, so today I’ve posted a different one. Another favorite cook and freeze meal… Italian style!

Stuffed Manicotti

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 8 manicotti shells (I always have more stuffing than shells, so buy extra)
  • 1 14-oz. jar pasta sauce
  • 1 cup Mozarella, grated
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
  1. Brown ground beef with onion in large skillet. Drain well, then add mushrooms. Cook and stir 4-5 minutes longer, until mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat and add breadcrumbs, milk, egg, first quantity of Parmesan cheese, and pepper. Mix well.
  2. Boil manicotti shells as directed on package. (Mine are never al dente enough, and they always break. If yours break while you’re stuffing them, don’t fret. They turn out just fine.) Drain, and rinse with cold water. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Stuff each shell with beef mixture.
  3. Spread 1/2 cup pasta sauce in the bottom of a 9×9 baking dish. (I don’t have any 9×9 dishes, so I use whatever I have that’s remotely close.) Top with stuffed manicotti noodles. Cover with remaining sauce. Chill in refrigerator, then wrap. Attach baggie of mixed Mozarella and second quantity of Parmesan. Label all. Freeze.
  4. To bake immediately, sprinkle with mozzarella and second quantity of Parmesan. Bake at 350 for 25 to 35 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.
    To cook from frozen
    , thaw overnight in refrigerator. (Mine always takes longer than “overnight”, so start early!) Cover and bake at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes or until hot. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese mixture, and 10 to 15 minutes longer, until casserole bubbles and cheese is melted.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Obviously classy

If you’re anything like most people, you’ve gone through a period where you hated your name. Maybe you’ve sworn, as I did, that if you ever got the chance to name your own child, you’d do much better than your parents did.

I decided on my daughter’s first name a long time ago, so I’m lucky that the husband has similar taste. But what does our choice of names say about our taste exactly?

According to the book Beyond Ava & Aiden (the updated version of Beyond Jennifer & Jason), the name Natalie is glamorous, vintage chic, and feminine. It is also serious and grown-up, a name “your daughter may thank you for as she gets older.” And it reveals that Matt and I have a touch of Yuppy in us.

Natalie’s middle name — Claire — is all of those things, as well as “obviously classy.” Nice to know!

None of this guarantees that Natalie will like her name. The name Frances is a hipster name that is both serious and vintage. And although it has been “over looked by the masses,” it “has class to spare.” None of which changes my opinion, of course.

If you want to know what your child’s name reveals about you (or what your name reveals about your parents!) find Beyond Ava & Aiden at your local library or bookstore. Or ask me to look it up. I totally will.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New ride!

The lateness of this post is embarrassing, but here it is… finally.

In 2004, I bought a gently used Ford Focus out of sheer necessity. I had totaled my beat-up ’92 Escort and needed a ride fast. Without help from a father or husband (but with some help from a best friend), I found the perfect car for me. It was blue, had low mileage, and I could afford it on my meager salary. Plus, with four doors, it was kind of an upgrade.

Six years later, having gotten married, moved three or four times, and had a baby, I found myself needing more from my car. It didn’t fit the car seat, and barely fit the stroller… forget about groceries.

I researched for months to find a car I liked that was in our budget. I wanted something in the crossover family: not a behemoth, but bigger than my sedan. Something with good gas mileage and better safety ratings. I missed the sunroof from my old Escort, so I definitely wanted one of those. Also, I had never had a car with cruise control, power windows or power locks, and I wanted all three. And of course, it had to fit the car seat. That I found a new car with a kickin’ sound package was a huge bonus. That it was priced to sell was an even bigger bonus.

We bought it the same day we test drove it. Natalie came along, and gave it her seal of approval — she didn’t cry the entire test drive! Matt came with me, but the only opinion he gave was that it was going to be my car, so it was going to be my choice.

(I also made sure the back seat could fit three car seats across. You never know! ;)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Things I have learned from being a mommy

3. Your time suddenly becomes a lot more valuable.

Pop Quiz: You get home from work around 6:15 pm. You have one hour and 15 minutes before your baby goes to sleep. You choose to:
A. wash the dishes.
B. cook dinner.
C. cuddle with, play with, or take a walk with your baby.
D. update your social networking sites.

Maybe you are thinking, “That’s a cinch! I could put him in his swing in the kitchen while I make dinner. We could sing silly songs while he watches mommy be silly dancing around.”

That is a great idea, and I’ve tried it a couple of times. But when your baby is in his swing while you’re cooking — no matter how much of an effort you make to interact with or entertain him, there are going to be times you’re more focused on the cookbook, the sink, the stove, the oven, the cutting board than on your baby.

Once I became a mother, my free time completely disappeared. Not because I had no free time, but because the free time that I did have I wanted to spend with my daughter. (Or, after she goes to bed, with my husband.) Even running errands during my time with Natalie feels like I’m cheating both of us, because I can’t see her or really interact with her at all.

Although maybe at least grocery shopping will be more fun now!

Natalie's first shopping cart ride (5-9-10)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cheating in the Kitchen

On a local message board for working mommies, a fellow poster mentioned Once A Month Cooking (OAMC). The theory is that you clear a day (probably a Saturday), have your ingredients ready, and cook up a storm. In one day, you should be able to get 30 dinners made — enough for the whole month. That’s the story anyway.

Turns out, I’m not that hard core. Matt and I have been trying OAMC in a less strict form. We don’t cook 30 dinners in one day. We cook, maybe 3 or 6 dinners at a time several times a month. Either way, the result is the same: dinner that is ready when you are. Here is one recipe we have tried and loved.

Chicken Tucson

1 (20 oz) jar salsa
2 (16 oz) cans black beans
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups cooked, cubed chicken breast
6 corn (we used flour) tortillas
2 cups shredded cheddar (I ran out and subbed in pepper jack)
1/2 cup sour cream

1. Spread 1/2 cup salsa in 9×9 inch baking dish and set aside. (I don’t have any 9×9 baking dishes, so I use whatever’s closest.) Drain black beans and rinse well; drain again. In large bowl, combine beans, bell pepper, chicken and remaining salsa. Mix well.

2. Place 3 tortillas on salsa in bottom of baking dish. Top with half of chicken mixture and sprinkle with half of cheese. Top with 3 more tortillas, then remaining chicken mixture. Either cook now or freeze for later. See instructions below.

To cook and serve immediately: dollop with sour cream, and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350 for 25 to 35 minutes until bubbly and cheese begins to brown.

Instructions for freezing, thawing and cooking later: Cover and label. Reserve sour cream in refrigerator. Place remaining cheese in zip-loc bag, attach to baking dish, and freeze.Thaw overnight in refrigerator. (Ours needed thawing over TWO nights.) Place small dollops of sour cream on casserole and top with cheese from zip-loc bag. Bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes, until hot and cheese begins to brown.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

I don’t think I’ve ever sent out an Easter card until now. But sending out cards for random holidays is more enjoyable now that Natalie is here. In fact, I have come to appreciate that Natalie makes everything – yes everything – a lot more fun. Even though having a baby means getting up at 2:30 in the morning on a regular basis. Or having to stand in the back of a packed church because (1) there is no room to sit and (2) if the baby cries, I need a quick escape route. Or going to family functions where Natalie will be fussed over and played with until she becomes overstimulated, starts to cry, and needs her mommy to cradle and sing softly to her.

Even though it’s a lot more work, it’s also so much more fun.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Things I have learned from being a mommy

2. Settled down is actually kind of nice.

When Matt and I were dating, I told him point blank that I did not want children. I furthermore did not want to be tied down to a life of boring domesticity. I wanted to travel (I had just gotten back from a four-week tour of the British Isles). I wanted excitement and adventure ’round every turn. I did not — NOT — want to settle down.

Luckily, he wore me down. I’m not saying it’s not the right path for some people, but getting out of the Army was the best decision for us. Watching Matt in the morning with Natalie, I am so grateful that he is here. I am so grateful that he will never miss a birthday. Or Christmas. Or dance recital. He will be available to chaperone field trips and ferry her to soccer practice. He can teach her the intricacies of baseball and long division. And — when she’s older — boys. Because she will probably go to an all-girl’s high school, he will be available for those Daddy-Daughter dances that my cousins are so fond of now. He will be the one to teach her to make snow angels in Winter and how to execute a perfect cannonball dive in the Summer.

And although it’s so so important to both of us that she knows who he is, I am also grateful that he knows who she is. I don’t want her to be stranger to him either. My mom hasn’t seen her granddaughter since she was about 3 weeks old. Of course, she remembers Natalie. Of course she has watched her grow in pictures and, soon, will watch her on a webcam. But if you ask her, she’ll say it’s just not the same.

Army life is rewarding in other ways. I’m grateful for Matt’s involvement in Natalie’s life, that’s all. I feel blessed to have my family together and safe. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

920 -- Things I'm loving these days

  1. The rain. It is nature's car wash. Plus it smells good.
  2. The PSI monitor on my car. I'll leave you to your inferences.
  3. These to do list note pads from I appreciate their honesty. (PS My birthday is coming up!)
  4. Moms Like Me. After searching high and low for a full time working mom online support group, I finally stumbled on this (all local!) site. They have already helped me through one low point.
  5. My darling daughter. Despite sickness, exhaustion, and general icky feelings, she manages to be amazing every day. We should all be so lucky.
  6. My new fabric softener scent. Hey, it's all about the little things, right?
  7. My husband. He works really hard, and never (hardly ever) complains. I have a lot to learn from him.
  8. Custom return address stamps like these. Because labels are so last decade. Did I mention my birthday is coming up?
  9. Bath time. Natalie's bath routine is the time we are guaranteed every day. We pick out her clothes, get some tub time in, and she talks up a storm. Afterwords, I feed her and sing to her. Sometimes she sings along.
  10. Friends who call more than a month ahead of my birthday to ask what my plans are and if I want to get together to celebrate. They don't need no stinkin Facebook reminder! Thanks friend :)
Anything you're loving these days?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

808.882 -- Nerdy Librarian Quote

"When you handle books all day long,
every new one is a friend and a temptation."
-- from The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Monday, March 8, 2010

649.1 -- Things I've learned from being a mommy

1. A very very clean house is not necessarily a home

Of course it's necessary that Natalie has a clean place to grow and thrive. Clean clothes to wear. Clean bottles from which to drink. And a clean place to sleep. Does that mean it's important to vacuum the house every day? To scrub her bathtub after every bath? To sanitize her bottles after every feeding? Not to me. Will she mind if the dishes pile up or if her laundry never does get folded? She won't. And if she does, I hope she won't care.

What I hope she remembers are the trio of lullabies I sing to her at every bedtime. That I would rather cuddle and play with her than anything else. Even if she doesn't remember specific things, she will hopefully remember that she was always more important to me than chores.

I try to get Matt to understand this, but maybe one of us has to keep an eye on the dust bunnies.

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I've grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew
And out in the yard there's a hullabaloo
But I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren't her eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep!
I'm rocking my baby for babies don't keep.

by Ruth Hulbert Hamilton

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Saturday, January 2, 2010

747 -- Another New Addition

You might recall that we decided to overhaul our master bathroom weeks before our precious daughter was born. We thought we'd have plenty of time. I wasn't much help, other than painting and design decisions, so Matt had a lot of work on his hands.

The master bath before... desperate for an update.

After hearing from my OB that Natalie was likely to be a week late, I was confident Matt could finish on time. Then she came early. When we left for the hospital at 4 a.m. on a Saturday morning, our new quartz countertop and Corian undermount sink were on saw horses in the kitchen. Which is exactly where we found them when we got back from the hospital 2 days later.

Matt dragged himself away from our little one long enough to install the sink, fit the plumbing, hang the vanity mirror, and install the glass shower enclosure. We now have a luxurious master bathroom to relax us after a long day, or revive us in preparation for a long night.


Note the stone corner seat (Matt's idea) and the custom inserts on the wall (my idea). I'm especially proud of the vanity that Matt put together. He had to order a wall cabinet and customize it himself for our very small bathroom. The medicine cabinet/mirror was another project. Recessing it into the wall added "visual square footage."

I love our new bathroom. There isn't one thing I would change!