Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Latest Obsession

It's no secret that my sweet tooth is larger than any other tooth in my mouth and my latest obsession/addiction will confirm that. My trips to Starbucks in recent weeks have now become even more outrageously expensive than before - how is that possible you ask? One answer...cake pops. Oh yes, I was sucked into their vortex by an insanely cute exterior that had me yearning to see (and taste, of course) what was inside. Cake on a stick that looks like a lollipop!?! Why didn't I think of that?? At a hefty $1.50/pop or 2 for $2.50, I was hesitant to pay that much for what appeared to be a very small snack. But alas, Starbucks sucked me in with an offer a few weeks ago for a free cake pop with any drink purchase! Wonderful! I would finally try one of those little suckers and see what I had been missing. what I had been missing indeed!!! I was in heaven as I bit into my birthday cake lollipop, through the sweet, white chocolate candy coating into the middle of the most delicious, moist "cake" I had ever had!! So moist in fact, that some have compared it more to cookie dough than cake. Um, can you say my dream come true!?! Oh yeah, I was hooked, then and there.

Anyone who loves birthday cake as much as I do can't look at that and not fall in love! They do offer other flavors as well - Rocky Road and Tiramisu, to be exact.

I have tried the Rocky Road one as well (they were sold out of the birthday cake flavor at my local Starbucks one afternoon - big surprise!), but wasn't as impressed with it. The cake was chocolate and not nearly as moist. The addition of the chocolate coating, nuts and marshmallow were nice, but it just didn't hit the spot like the birthday cake one did. I have not tried the Tiramisu one, but probably will the next time they are out of the birthday cake ones! ;) Indeed I am truly a vanilla cake lover at heart though. My close friends and family can attest to that!

Now, what to do about this latest obsession...I could continue to spend gobs of money at Starbucks each week (don't get me wrong - I still will on my iced caramel macchiatos!! hehe), but in an effort to be a bit more money-savvy, I am going to attempt to recreate these cake pops at home to satisfy my sweet tooth...probably using this recipe. I need to make a trip to Michael's to gather the sticks and candy, then I will be ready to go! Stay tuned for my adventures in cake pops! :)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Seafood Paella....Dinner Fail!

I must say that it does not happen often that I try a new recipe and we agree I will never make it again, but this latest recipe may just fit into that category. I found a recipe for a Simple Paella by Colleen Weeden in the January 2011 issue of Parents magazine on page 36. The idea of this "one-pot wonder" was appealing and the picture looked quite appetizing, so I thought I would give it a try last night for dinner.

I gathered all of my ingredients and went to work.

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup chopped sweet peppers
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup uncooked regular brown rice
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 12 oz fresh or frozen shrimp, thawed, peeled, deveined, and halved
  • 12 oz tilapia fillets, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Coat a 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray; add peppers, onion, and garlic.
  • In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine broth, rice, thyme, crushed red pepper, and turmeric. Microwave on high for 4 minutes, or until just boiling. Pour over vegetables in cooker.
  • Cover; cook on low-heat setting for 4 hours.
  • About an hour before you'd like to eat, stir in shrimp, tilapia, and peas.
  • Cover; cook 45 minutes more, stirring once. Remove cooker from liner; let stand, covered for 10 minutes. Makes 6 servings.
  • Nutrition per serving: 269 calories; 29 g protein; 3 g fat; 31 g carbs; 3 g fiber; 60 mg calcium; 3 mg iron; 205 mg sodium
And here was the finished product on the plate...

As for changes I made to the ingredients and recipe...I didn't use cooking spray, I just used a crockpot liner to keep everything from sticking to my crockpot. I love this product because it makes for a much easier clean-up! :) I used 2 small red peppers for the sweet peppers and a 1/2 of a sweet onion for the onion. I didn't measure them, but they probably came out to more than what it called for in the recipe. At the last minute I realized that I only had instant brown rice and the recipe called for regular, so I thought it might be a mistake to use that. So, I substituted the only regular rice I had, which was Kasmati, an Indian rice I use when I make chicken curry. I figured it would work better than the instant variety. I also used fresh shrimp since I am not a fan of frozen shrimp.

And the verdict...FAIL! :( After all that time and quite an expensive little meal, we decided it really wasn't that impressive. The rice was too mushy, which may or may not have happened with regular brown rice? Or maybe not cooking it for 4 hours would have been better? The house smelled wonderful when the first ingredients were cooking, but I don't think that they needed that long to cook honestly. The overall taste of the dish was too bland, despite the use of crushed red pepper and turmeric. Maybe increasing these amounts would help? Even with some salt and pepper at the end, it didn't help much. The idea of the shrimp and tilapia being steamed/baked with no other seasonings on them was not a great one. I was definitely not a fan of how they tasted. I also did not care for the frozen peas (I only like fresh peas in their pods, sauteed in a little EVOO or canola oil), but they were the only item Ethan would eat! haha! Josh ate a decent helping, but didn't go back for seconds, which is usually a good indication that he isn't really digging a dish. I had a small portion then decided that a bagel sounded better. Awesome. So, with a little work, this dish might be ok, but I would not recommend it as is.

As promised in my last post, here is a pic of our completed puzzle! :) We are planning on framing it and hanging it in the formal living room with our other vacation pictures. Now we are on the hunt for their San Francisco puzzle...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cars, Cars Everywhere!

It was a gray, rainy day in Georgia today, so we didn't feel guilty staying inside for hours today at the Atlanta International Auto Show. Yep, Josh and Ethan's dream come true. I tagged along for the sake of my boys and fortunately it wasn't too painful. ;) Unfortunately though, Ethan has been under the weather since Friday evening, but his fever was down and we thought he would enjoy riding around in the stroller gazing at cars, so we made it up for the last day of the show.

We were able to see lots of the cars that Josh dreams about someday owning when we win the lottery. And of course we checked out all of Kia's vehicles on display. Here they are in front of the new Optima Hybrid.

And here they are in front of the Sorento Josh painted for the show! :)

Ethan really liked checking out the Jeep Wranglers!

The boys had a great day and to top it all off we came home and finished putting together our 750-piece puzzle tonight! Ethan placed the last piece in and the Chicago skyline was complete. :) Pics of that to come later. It was nice to finally have Josh home for the weekend, but it's back to the real world tomorrow.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pork and Puzzles

I know, I know, two new recipes in one week?! What has gotten into me? ;) I guess I was feeling adventurous when I made out my weekly menu on Sunday, or else I was just really tired of making the same old dishes! This particular recipe was titled Pork with Apples and Pears by Mark Bittman. I found it in the January issue of the Parents magazine on page 68. I actually find lots of yummy-sounding recipes in both this and the Parenting magazines. I need to start trying more of them and sharing them here.

I gathered all the ingredients I would need - not very many with this one!

  • 4 shoulder or center-cut loin pork chops, 1 inch thick, trimmed of fat
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water or white wine
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 to 3 pears or apples or a combination, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper. Put a large skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add olive oil; when hot, add chops and turn heat to high. Brown for 2 minutes on each side.
  • Reduce heat to medium. Add water or wine and garlic and cook, turning chops twice, until the liquid has almost evaporated - 3 minutes. Add stock, turn heat to low, and cover, cooking until chops are tender but not dry, 10 to 15 minutes. (When they're done, their juices will run slightly pink.)
  • Transfer pork to a platter and cover to keep warm. Add fruit wedges to the skillet, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan. If the pan seems too dry, add another 1/2 cup stock or wine and continue cooking until the fruit is soft and the liquid is reduced slightly, 5 to 10 minutes. Spoon the fruit and sauce over the chops and garnish with parsley. Makes 4 servings.
  • Nutrition per serving: 361 calories; 33 g protein; 14 g carbs; 17 g fat; 3 g fiber; 2 g iron; 278 mg sodium

And here was the finished product on the plate...

As for changes I made to the ingredients and recipe...I used thinly sliced pork chops (they were on sale at Publix this week), so I didn't need to sear them for long and when it came time to cover and simmer, I went with just 10 minutes so they would not dry out too much. I used water instead of white wine (I am not a big fan of cooking with wine). I used one Pacific Rose apple and two Bartlett pears for the fruit and I did not garnish with any parsley. When cooking the fruit, I did add about 1/4 cup extra water as the liquid was evaporating quickly.

I served the dish with some toasted pine nut couscous and sauteed green beans. It was quite yummy and another dish that I will be adding to our rotation! :) Let me know what you think if you try this one out.

After our yummy dinner this evening, we decided to make it a puzzle night - one of Ethan's favorite things to do! We have had a couple puzzles for months now, waiting to be put together, so we started in on one of the Chicago skyline. At 750 pieces and over 3 foot wide, it may take us a bit, but we were able to get all of the pieces sorted by color and the outside border put together this evening. I was quite proud that I got the top row done fairly quickly. ;) Ethan was super excited about helping us out!

He's so cute...who can say no to those eyes?!?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mac 'n Trees

I tried out a new recipe tonight that I got from a friend (thanks Jess!) last week. It's called Mac 'n Trees - super cute name for a fun and yummy dish. Maybe even cute enough for those picky eaters out there?? ;)

I gathered my ingredients and got ready to begin making the dish.

  • Salt
  • 1 pound whole wheat or whole grain rotini or penne with lines
  • 1 large head broccoli, trimmed and cut into small florets
  • 3 tablespoons light butter
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat chicken stock
  • 2 cups low fat milk
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded reduced fat mozzarella cheese, divided
  • Pepper
  • 1/4 cup chives, chopped or 2 scallions, thinly sliced (optional)
  • Pre-heat the broiler.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Salt the water and cook the pasta to al dente, according to the package directions (about 10-12 minutes total, depending on the brand).
  • When the pasta has been cooking for a couple of minutes, add the broccoli to the water and finish cooking everything together, 8 minutes more.
  • Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepot over medium heat.
  • Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the stock and milk.
  • Let the sauce thicken to coat the back of a spoon; stir in 2 cups of cheese and season with salt and pepper.
  • Drain the pasta and broccoli and toss with the sauce.
  • Adjust the seasonings, to taste.
  • Place in a large casserole dish and top with the remaining cheese and chives or scallions, then place under the broiler to bubble and brown the top.
And here is the finished product...

And now for my changes...Instead of a 1-pound box of pasta, I used a 13.25 oz box of Healthy Harvest whole wheat penne. I used regular stick margarine instead of light butter and I used whole wheat flour. Next time I think I will use white flour for a better consistency to the sauce. I used probably 1 cup of cheese on top (in addition to the 2 cups in the sauce) instead of just 1/2 cup. This was the best part and I would definitely recommend the extra. ;) I did not use the chives or scallions on top at all.

As for changes to the directions, there is really only one main one that I would recommend. Definitely start the sauce portion before worrying about the pasta and broccoli. I waited forever and ever (OK, it seemed like forever, but maybe it was actually just 5-10 minutes) for the flour/milk/chicken stock mixture to thicken, but ran out of time to wait, so I added the cheese before it had thickened up. The sauce was still very runny then when I mixed it all together, which resulted in it being much soupier than I think it was supposed to be. It still tasted good, but next time I will plan for this and allow it to thicken like it was supposed to. ;)

All in all, it was a good dish that I will definitely make again. Ethan loved it, which always makes it a winner/keeper! I think it is intended to be eaten as a main dish since the recipe said it made 6 servings (7 WW points per serving). We were eating it as a side dish, so we had tons leftover (just an FYI in case you do the same). If you do make it, let me know what you think! :)

Fueled up on pasta, Ethan and Josh had a fun time running around the coffee table in the media room about a million times this evening...

...which always ends with lots of tickles! :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Luck o' the Irish...

As luck would have it, we did not have a very lucky St. Patty's day here in the Seeley household yesterday. :(

We started out the morning with Ethan's first trip to the dentist. We walked in the door and they had lots of fun toys and I was able to check-in electronically. It was looking promising. :) Ethan now does great in waiting rooms, however, as soon as they call us back through that door you would think he was headed to Death Row or something! :( The tears start flowing, I have to start dragging him behind me, and it's overall a pretty miserable experience. I am not sure why he has this newfound hatred/fear of medical offices, but he does. Lucky me. Fortunately, there was no waiting with this visit - we got right to it. I wanted to get a few pics or a short video of the experience, but I had to hold Ethan the whole time, so no such luck. He sat in my lap and we leaned him back into the dentist's lap so that she could begin. By this point he had calmed down a bit to a whimper, so it was somewhat bearable. Whew. Then the first thing she noticed was some gray staining on his front teeth. :( Not good. She asked if he took iron supplements, which he doesn't, but later determined it was just the early signs of cavities trying to form! Cavities in my baby!?! Not good. She removed a lot of plaque from along the gums and was able to get his teeth looking nice again. I also got a quick lesson on how to properly brush his teeth. It seems I was not doing a great job getting all the way to/past the gum line. As much fun as it is wrestling your toddler at brushing time, it will now be a necessary evil! After she got them all cleaned up, she applied a fluoride treatment. Much easier than what I remember from growing up. No bubble gum flavored foam stuff in an uncomfortable tray in your mouth for what seems like eternity. She just rubbed this very sticky stuff on in mere seconds and that was it! We just needed to be sure to not brush for at least 6 hours, but eating and drinking would be fine. Yay! Quick and painless. Perfect! I also learned something else at this visit. We had been using the toddler training paste, you know, the one with Thomas on front that doesn't have fluoride in it. Ethan does not yet spit out the toothpaste, but prefers to swallow it, so I thought fluoride paste was still a no-no. I was informed, however, that at the sign of the first tooth, fluoride paste should be used! Just a small smear (no pea-sized dabs) used twice a day and he should be fine. Doing this, we will hopefully avoid any cavities from actually forming. I guess we were lucky that we went when we did so that we caught it before he did have a major problem. So my advice to other moms - when your pediatrician recommends seeing a dentist at that one-year check-up (especially if you or your hubby is prone to cavities like I am), do yourself a favor and schedule it! I wish I would have sooner, but feel good knowing that at least we got him in there before it was too late. Though a bit traumatic for Ethan, we made it through it. I think the free balloon at Publix on our way home made up for it. ;)

Next up for the day - my allergy shot. I recently discovered that our insurance was no longer covering the cost of getting my weekly allergy shots. Instead of paying just 10% (and them covering the other 90%) like they did last year, I am now responsible for all 100%. Yuck! Over the course of a year, assuming I get my shot every week, this was now going to cost me over $700!! Wow! I know we have good insurance coverage (great deductible and co-pays), so I can't complain, but if I can save $700, I am going to do it! After speaking to an agent, I discovered that if I get my shot at a primary care office (vs. the allergist's office like I normally do), that it would still be covered at the 90/10. So, I was on the search for a new primary care office where I could do this. I managed to find one, and one close to the house too, an added bonus. Only problem is that it is a satellite clinic, so they are only there in the afternoons. This will mean working around Ethan's afternoon nap. So yesterday was going to be my first shot at this office. They wanted me to set up an appointment and be sure that the doctor was there, just in case. Of course a nurse would give me the shot, but I guess they were worried. We rushed from naptime to get there at the scheduled 3:45, of which they said I couldn't be any later than this. I proceeded to then sit and wait, and wait, and wait in their waiting room. :( Ugh. This was not how it was supposed to go. Of course I had Ethan with me, and trying to entertain an active toddler with just one of his toy cars and a Magnadoodle can be quite a task. And we all now know how he feels about doctor's offices too! haha. Then the lady at the desk tries to collect an office co-pay from me. Huh!?! I try to explain to her that I am not seeing the doctor, that I am supposed to only be paying an injection co-pay. So, they need to call insurance. Seriously? More than annoyed by this point, we continue to wait. Finally, they led us back to a room - oh joy, more tears from Ethan - and we sat there and waited some more for the doctor to come in and basically say hi. Then the nurse FINALLY gave me my injection. The doctor insisted that I wait at least another 10 minutes before leaving the office. Apparently this guy is quite scared that I am going to randomly go into anaphylactic shock, though it has never happened in the 5 years I have been getting shots. So, we sit and wait some more to appease him. We finally made it out of there, an hour after we arrived. Again, not so lucky, when this is usually something that takes all of 5 minutes at the allergist's office! :(

Already frustrated and late in the day, we took a walk when we got home. Ethan hadn't had a snack yet and it was already 5 o'clock, so I knew he would need one sooner than later. So, I strapped him in the jogging stroller instead of letting him walk with me, so he could munch on his Multigrain Cheerios and dried cranberries while Daisy and I walked. Things were going good until we were on our way back to the house. One of the neighbors has a male boxer puppy that is getting quite big and is already bigger than Daisy. The little girl was outside playing with him and when she saw us, she put him on a leash. We walked by the first time without any problems. On the way back, she apparently couldn't contain the frisky guy any longer and he broke free and started chasing us down the street! :( Here I am, Daisy in one hand, stroller in the other, trying to hold her back. Unfortunately, Daisy does not do well with other dogs. It all stems from an incident when she was a puppy and we were living in Kentucky. We were out one evening walking in the neighborhood when she was attacked by a Saint Bernard. The other dog drew blood on her face and neck and left poor Daisy traumatized. Ever since that point she has always gone on the defensive immediately if a dog gets near her face. I can't say that I blame her, but it's been hard trying to socialize her since that point. So, as you can imagine, this meeting of the two boxers in the middle of the street was not looking pretty. There was lots of vicious growling and snarling, and not just coming from Ethan either! ;) Finally the little girl caught up and managed to get ahold of his leash and drag her dog back to their house. Whew! Crisis diverted. My blood pressure, however, took awhile to recover. Could this day get any more unlucky??

Yep, it could. To top it all off, poor Josh got stuck at work late. They were having lots of issues and by the time he made it home we were eating dinner at 8 o'clock. :( The only saving grace to the day was the green Norwegian almond cookies we had for dessert. Oh yeah, so good they can make any day seem just a little less unlucky. :)

Here is my quick and easy version of the recipe:

  • 3/4 cup stick butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered (confectioner's) sugar
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Soften butter in microwave-safe bowl by nuking at 50% power for 45 sec to 1 min. Stir in the sugar. (To make them green, I added the food coloring at this point). Stir in the almond extract, lemon juice and egg and mix well. Gradually add flour and mix until the dough doesn't stick to the side of the bowl anymore. You may need to add a bit more flour to accomplish this. Drop by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet and bake for 6 to 10 minutes, depending on how done you like them. This recipe usually makes 20 small (very rich and buttery) cookies.

The original recipe calls for actual slices of almond (instead of the extract) and using a cookie press to make them pretty. I prefer doing it this way because it's much quicker and easier too. These cookies have always been a favorite of mine and I think Josh may agree. Even Ethan loves them too! :)

After our dessert, we took a few pics in our St. Patty's Day gear and made the best of the unlucky day we had been having. Here is Ethan, cracking himself up at something. He's finally figured out the whole "say cheese" thing. haha!

And here is a sweet kiss for his big sister, Daisy! :)

Actually managed to snag a good one with my little cutie! :) His "say cheese" was a bit awkward here, but we'll work on it! ;)

And yes, little kumquat (who still needs a name) is growing quickly now! Here I am at 23 weeks. Looking back at the bump pictures I took with Ethan, it appears I am progressing along about the same. If so, look out, because in a few more weeks I am going to explode! haha!

Sorry for another long post, but I am finding this blogging thing to be quite therapeutic now. As a child/teen I was a pretty good writer (go me on Power of the Pen team! haha), but I fear that may not be the case anymore. Oh well, I guess I'm not forcing anyone to read! ;) It will be nice to look back on all of this someday when my memories are fading!

Here's hoping the luck o' the Irish was with your family yesterday more than ours! :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ethan's Two-Year Check-Up and Party Time!

Though there was a lot of work to be done leading up to Ethan's birthday party, I think everything managed to go off without any glitches! :) We finished painting the living room just in time to get the room back together and cleaned up before our families arrived from out of town on Friday afternoon. Now let's back up a bit...

On Friday morning we had Ethan's two-year well-check visit. Since birth he has seen Dr. Kemi at the PAPP Clinic in Newnan, but with me switching OB's to one in LaGrange (and also the hospital where I will deliver), we thought it might be easier to also change pediatricians to one a little closer. It usually takes us at least 35 minutes (depending on traffic) to get to Dr. Kemi's office and once we (who am I kidding...probably just me most of the time) will be going more frequently with a newborn (and Ethan in tow too), I thought this might be too far. So, we made Friday's visit with Dr. Lisa Allardice, at Pediatric Associates of LaGrange. I didn't know what to expect because we didn't know anyone who also sees her. I was very impressed with their new office location. When you walk in the front door you immediately choose one of two doors to go into next - the sick side or the well side. So, from the beginning you have different reception desks and waiting rooms. This is, of course, awesome! No picking up icky germs at this office! Unfortunately, it went downhill from there...We didn't wait long in the waiting room, but once we got back into a room, we waited for 40 minutes for her to come in! :( While I realize that this may not be unreasonable for a pediatrician's office, the only thing we had to compare it to was Dr. Kemi's office, where we have never waited longer than maybe 10 minutes for a well-check. Yeah, we loved that office and Dr. Kemi!! By this point, Ethan was super, super unhappy and tired of being caged in a tiny room with us. :( Finally the doctor came in and started talking...about potty training. Potty training?!? We really hadn't even begun to think much about this yet. Ethan had just turned two...and he's a boy. Everyone knows that boys usually potty-train later than girls. He still wakes up in the morning with diapers sopping wet and has given us no indication that he is anywhere ready for going on the potty. Yet this doctor seemed to think that we needed to be pushing it on him already without even really asking us much about him and his development at this point. :( Ugh! She went on to discuss several other things and the more she talked, the more I started to tune out. While Ethan suffered over a month of sinusitis last fall and I fear that he may have inherited my terrible allergies, this doctor wanted us to start giving him OTC allergy meds without so much as an allergy consult to see if he really has allergies or not!! Seriously?!? Did she really think we wanted to just start drugging our child up, just in case?? Needless to say, it was quite a miserable visit and by the time we left the office, Josh and I had already decided we would not be going back there again. After all that lecturing, the doctor never even asked us if we had any questions or concerns, just pretty much ran out of the room when she was done saying what she wanted to say. Not a good experience at all! So, I have now set up an appointment to see another pediatrician in LaGrange - Dr. Kalyani Rajeev, at Kid Station Pediatrics. One of Josh's co-workers uses this doctor and they seem to like her, so we're hoping this next visit goes much better than the last! I guess if it doesn't, we may just suck it up and make the drive to Newnan since we love Dr. Kemi so much! I also decided that instead of just starting Ethan on allergy meds as advised, we are going to take him to see a specialist to be tested to see if we really need to do so. For this, I made an appointment for him to see Dr. Robert Cartwright, of the Allergy Center at Brookstone, next month. I like that he is certified in both Pediatrics and Allergy and hope that we can get some answers at this visit. We're also set up for Ethan's first dentist visit with Dr. Angela Patterson in LaGrange. That should be fun and exciting! haha. We'll see how that goes this upcoming week...

As part of his check-up they did the usual height and weight measurements. We were not surprised to learn that Ethan has continued to top the height charts, but not so much on the weight side. He was measured at 36.5 inches tall and 27.6 pounds. For his age, this puts him in the 90-97th percentile for height, and just under the 50th percentile for weight. That is actually an increase for him with the weight, so that is good. When comparing his height-to-weight ratio though with others of his age, he falls in just the 3rd-10th percentile. So, he is still super tall and skinny! I guess Josh and I were both super skinny when we were little, so this makes sense. Now we'll just have to wait and see if he continues the trend. Using the predictor of adult height that a 2-year-old boy is half their future height, that means Ethan should measure in someday at 6'1". That is probably about right since Josh is 6' tall. I'm just happy to see he won't be a shrimp like me! ;)

After all the excitement of the morning, on Friday night, we all (my parents, Josh's parents and his brother, Jared) went out to eat together at Red Robin. We had a nice meal and even had them sing to Ethan for his birthday! :) I don't think he cared about the singing so much, but was anxious to get a taste of the huge ice cream sundae they brought out with them! ;) After dinner I picked up the party balloons at Party City and we headed home. For future reference, if you get the special "high float" added to the helium balloons to make sure they will last through your party...they will. Though they claimed it would make those little latex balloons last just 24-36 hours extra (and they usually last maybe 12 hours normally), the latex ones actually managed to survive almost an entire week afloat! It finally hit the ground here sometime yesterday. The big mylar balloons are still going strong, so Ethan has been enjoying his birthday balloons all week now! :)

On Saturday we began getting the house decorated for the party and I started decorating the cake. The theme for the party was Thomas the Tank Engine. Ethan is a big fan of trains, so I thought this would be fun for him. I had lots of cute ideas in mind and we executed a few of them. I had sent out the party invitations, that I created, a few weeks ahead of time, announcing the theme. Here is a generic version (in case there are any weirdos out there reading this)!

I bought all the decorations and party supplies at Party City, as they had a nice selection of Thomas items. To their "Happy Birthday" banner, I created an "Ethan" to personalize it more.

Using some plain, white canvas drawstring backpacks that I found at Michaels, I created personalized favor bags for all of the kids who would be attending. I downloaded images of Thomas (for the boys) and Rosie (for the girls) and then added the child's name to it and printed it out on an iron-on transfer. I affixed these to the bags and used them to hold all the goodies! :) I bought Thomas balls, Thomas bath toy squirters (found exclusively at Target), created Thomas coloring books (by printing coloring sheets out from the Thomas website, adding a cover and "sewing" it together), and threw in some Crayola crayons. Here are some pics...

Then came the cake. Whew! I had no idea it would end up taking me hours to bake and decorate it, but of course, it did! I started by making two batches of homemade vanilla sheet cake, baked in two-12" x 17" jellyroll pans. I cut each layer in half and stacked them all to make a four-layer cake. Between the layers, I decided to add a little flavor so I bought raspberry and almond filling and alternated those between the layers. I love this cake recipe because it is super moist and delicious! It is the same recipe my mom used for my birthday cakes when I was little, and still my favorite cake today! :)

I topped the cake off with a layer of homemade buttercream icing, then started working on the fondant. I had never used fondant before, but wanted to give it a try because I love how awesome it looks on all of the cake decorating shows. I bought a big 5-pound box of pre-made white fondant, at Michaels, and some gel icing to color it. Coloring fondant is no easy task! It took much kneading to get some green gel color all worked in to 2.5 lbs of fondant, but finally it worked. I used latex gloves to protect my hands from the color and then sprayed them with some oil cooking spray too, to keep the fondant from sticking too much to the gloves. I rolled out a big piece and then covered the cake with the green. Around the cake, on the cake board, I spread some blue buttercream icing and topped that with some blue sparkle gel icing that I found at Walmart. This was to represent the water around the "Island of Sodor" cake that I had made. To decorate the top of the cake, I colored some more fondant gray. I rolled this out and then cut out a big "2" to act as a train track. Then I made some small black pieces for the cross-ties. I set one of Ethan's wooden Thomas engines on the track and wrote "Happy Birthday Ethan" with the blue sparkle gel icing. I thought it turned out pretty well, especially for my first attempt at fondant! I definitely need to learn how to properly do corners though....haha!

Here is one of my favorite pics of Ethan from the day....

Yes, I think he was slightly afraid of the small candle that was burning on top of his cake. He also wasn't a huge fan of being sung to by a roomful of people either! :( Oh well. He still had a great time opening all of his gifts and enjoying the feast (hot dogs, hamburgers, homemade mac 'n cheese, baked beans, chips, and fruit with homemade dip) that we prepared for everyone.

After the party, I sent out thank you notes for all of the gifts he received using a matching design I created. :)

All in all, it was a great day celebrated with friends and family and I definitely need a year-long break before the next one! ;)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Two Years Old!!

I honestly can't believe that two entire years have passed already since the day our lives changed forever! Our firstborn, Ethan Paul, is two years old today!!

The boy certainly took his sweet time making his grand entrance though! Not only did he decide to start his exit nine long days after he was due to arrive, but he also took his time making that exit too. Apparently he felt like being fashionably late to his party? Since I never recorded the details of his birth story two years ago, I am going to do that now before the details get too foggy in my mommy brain! Read on at your own risk as I recall that day... ;)

It all started early on Monday morning, the 2nd of March. It was 1 am when I woke up and looked at the clock, feeling this strange, different kind of pain. Not the same aching pain my hips had been experiencing for a couple months, nor the constant heartburn that plagued my last trimester. When it kept nagging at me so that I couldn't fall back asleep, I finally got out of bed and made my way to the couch to wait it out, hoping that I was indeed finally having labor contractions! Little did I know at that time that I would be waiting all day. I was actually scheduled to go in to have labor induced that day at 5 pm and ended up waiting until that time to finally make my way to the hospital. I had continued to have contractions all day long, but despite my careful tracking, they never made it to 5 minutes apart consistently, so the nurses told me to keep waiting patiently. Um, patient?? Fortunately they weren't super painful all day long, but started to move that way around 3 pm that afternoon. By 5 pm I was miserable and we were stuck sitting in the hospital lobby waiting for an L&D room to be cleaned. Lovely. Finally they came to take me up to the room where I met the doctor who was on call that night - not my doctor, of course - but he seemed nice. Not too long after I arrived, my doctor showed up to start the induction process since things weren't moving along very quickly at that point. She inserted the cervidil and we settled in for the evening. Unfortunately, I had tested positive for Strep B at the 38-week check (one of the unlucky 10-30% that do), so I had to be hooked up to an IV with antibiotics for that upon admission. I was also quickly informed by the anesthesiology team that due to the two protruding lumbar discs in my back, they did not feel comfortable with the idea of giving me an epidural, so that would not be an option if I had wanted it. Didn't seem like a huge deal at the time because I was determined to make this a natural birth. Much later, after a couple hours of trying to push Ethan out though, I think I would have welcomed the idea, haha. ;) I continued to contract throughout the night and fortunately, thanks to an Ambien, was able to doze off in between the contractions. Remember, I had been awake since 1 am - I was exhausted already! Poor Josh, however, was stuck sitting in a not so comfortable chair beside my bed, trying to hold my hand through the bed rail (that he says they insisted be kept up, for my safety apparently) with no drugs to help him sleep. :( Looking back, I almost feel bad for him...haha!

As 8 am was nearing on the 3rd, I started getting this uncontrollable urge to want to push. It just felt like that was going to help the pain. But, it had apparently gotten busy in L&D and the doctor was not able to come in to my room. So, I had to wait for one of the midwives to arrive and then the real fun began. Yeah, lots of fun...I finally started trying to push the little man out. And I tried and I tried. Minutes ticked by, then hours. Finally, after four hours of pushing he made his appearance. I pretty much collapsed back into the bed out of relief and exhaustion. He arrived at 12:05 pm and was absolutely perfect!!! Weighing in as a heavyweight at 8 pounds, 7.2 ounces and 20 inches long, he was bright-eyed and amazingly alert for a newborn! Here is one of our first family pictures, after we had both cleaned up a bit. Trust me, I was looking pretty rough before that shower and no one wants to see those pics!! ;)

And here is a pic of our perfect little man, just a few hours after he came into the world, changing our lives forever...for the better! :) Happy 2nd Birthday, Ethan!! :)