Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Eight-Year Anniversary Trip to NC

Two weeks ago, at 32 weeks pregnant, I knew time was running out for hubby and I to escape on our own for a bit, before the baby's arrival. Just turning two (literally, the day before we left!), we had never left Noah overnight, but he was ready. So, we decided to take a 2-day trip to nearby Asheville, NC to check out the Biltmore Estate and other local attractions.

On our way there, we took the scenic route, to check out some other beautiful locations. We stumbled upon this refreshing waterfall at one point, and took the obligatory "selfie" in front of it. ;)

We experienced some gorgeous views on the Blue Ridge Parkway!

Later that afternoon, we arrived in Asheville, and checked into our hotel, the Renaissance. Yay for being a Marriott rewards member! It was a gorgeous hotel with a nice, comfortable room. We got ready for dinner, and at the concierge's suggestion, decided to check out Chestnut, downtown. With the hotel in a wonderful location, we were able to walk there for dinner. I am so sad that I didn't take any pictures that evening. The restaurant atmosphere was perfect for a quiet dinner with my hubby, and the food was incredible!! I started with a bowl of their lobster bisque. It wasn't as thick and creamy as most that I have had, but the huge chunks of lobster were delicious. For my main course, I chose to order a medium plate and salad. The risotto cakes on lobster ragout and the heirloom tomato salad were perfect. The mix of creamy risotto and gooey fontina cheese with the crispy crust was wonderful. More lobster chunks with the dish completed the plate. For the salad, the arugula paired perfectly with the fresh mozzarella and sweet tomatoes. The parmesan crisps and candied pancetta were a tasty addition as well. Sadly, I was too stuffed for dessert, but left very happy with my selections for the evening. Josh chose the tomato pesto grilled swordfish for his entrée. Served over fennel and olive cous cous, with green beans amandine and a tomato salad, he enjoyed his dinner as well.

The next morning, on the day of our eight-year wedding anniversary, we enjoyed the breakfast buffet at our hotel before heading off to Biltmore for the day. The made-to-order omelets were just what we needed to fuel us up and were a great, quick meal. The Biltmore Estate was a short drive from our hotel, and we joined the hundreds of others checking out the remarkable house. Perhaps a bit more house than I would care to clean (haha!), it was gorgeous, with amazing attention to detail in every room. It's crazy to think about how much something of that size would cost to build nowadays! Unfortunately, I didn't think about the fact that the house would not be air-conditioned. :/ Combine that with being packed in like sardines with all of the other tourists, and I was one H-O-T mama! After fueling up and cooling down with a tasty brownie sundae at their Ice Cream Parlor for "lunch," we made our way to the gardens next. Wow. It was quite the amazing display of every flower and plant you can imagine. Unfortunately, due to temps in the 90s and the fact that my preggo body couldn't handle the heat or sheer amount of walking, we didn't walk around as much as we would have liked to in the gardens. There was probably a reason we noticed only one other woman there that day that was visibly pregnant, though not as far along as me. No one else was crazy enough to attempt it!

We proceeded from the Estate and gardens to Antler Hill Village to learn more about the history of the Vanderbilt family and take a tour of the winery. I'm sure this part would have been much more fun if I wasn't preggo, but at least we bought a few bottles of their wine that I can enjoy in a couple of months!! After a loooong day, we headed back to our hotel to get ready for dinner. We weren't really sure what we wanted to eat, so we headed out by foot to check out the downtown selection once again. We stumbled upon Strada Italiano, and decided that it sounded good. Josh and I rarely order the same thing at a restaurant, but after he chose his entrée, I decided it sounded too good to pass up. I wanted something different, that I couldn't normally get at the usual boring family restaurants we frequent here at home, so I also ordered the Tuscan Duck - seasoned local duck breast, Tuscan figs (duo of basil whipped goat cheese stuffed figs wrapped in prosciutto, arugula and Chianti reduction), risotto del giorno, and broccolini with a Chianti reduction. It was fantastic! The duck was cooked perfectly and had great flavor. I am a sucker for risotto, obviously, so I was happy to indulge in that again that night! This time we saved room for dessert. I was so glad I did because their flourless espresso and chocolate ganache cake, topped with cream, was mouthwatering! Josh enjoyed their Tiramisu, which he raved about as well.

One final childless night at the hotel and it was time to head back home. First, we checked out the Over Easy Café for an incredible breakfast. I chose the Lavender French Toast, to try something new. Oh. my. goodness. It was a party in my mouth! They use a local bakery's challah bread, topped with house-made granola, vanilla lavender yogurt and powdered sugar. It was served with a side of fresh fruit (peaches, blueberries and bananas) and real maple syrup. I could seriously eat it everyday. Probably not a great idea for my waistline, but it was definitely worth every calorie that morning! :) Josh chose the Corlitos Omelet. Stuffed with bacon, mixed mushrooms, roasted garlic, spinach and white cheddar cheese, it was quite the treat. Served with a side of roasted potatoes and a biscuit, he was set for awhile! I'm sad now that I didn't also try one of their delicious-sounding smoothies or fresh-squeezed juices, as I am sure that I would not have been disappointed. This is definitely a place we'll return to if we are in Asheville again!

We made our way back home to the boys, who had spent a fun couple of days with their Grandpa and Grandma Frank. Thanks, mom and dad, for staying with the boys! It was a fun getaway to celebrate our anniversary and get a little time for just us, since we hadn't been on a "date" (aka, night out without the boys in tow) in nearly a year! Now, it's time to wait for this baby boy's arrival and hope that we'll get a chance to celebrate our 10-year anniversary somewhere tropical in a couple of years! ;)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Meatless Monday: Tomato Basil Pasta

I found this gem of a recipe on a Facebook friend's page over a month ago. It looked so tasty in the pictures, that I had to give it a try! The original recipe can be found at the Apron Strings blog. I
made a few slight changes to the recipe, and we all really liked it, so I'll probably stick with it that way. :) What is most awesome about this dish...it's quick, easy, and uses just one pot!! Let's be real here, washing dishes is no favorite past time of mine, and I'm sure I can speak for most others to say the same. I also love the minimal amount of sauce in this dish. As I've stated in other posts, I don't like lots of sauce on my pasta, and this one has the perfect amount. It is also one of hubby's favorites and the kids gobble it up!! It's a winner!

Tomato Basil Pasta | more than 9 to 5: my life as "Mom"

Tomato Basil Pasta
(serves 4-6 as an entrée)

  • 16 oz linguine, broken in half to fit in pot better
  • 1-2 cans diced tomatoes, or 2 large fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, cut in julienne strips
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 large sprigs basil, chopped, or 2 tsp dried basil leaves
  • 5 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Salt and pepper, as desired
  • Shredded parmesan, for garnish
Turn your burner to high. Place the pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and basil in a large pot. Pour in the vegetable broth. Sprinkle the red pepper flakes and oregano on top. Drizzle with the EVOO.

Tomato Basil Pasta | more than 9 to 5: my life as "Mom"

Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and keep covered, cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so. Remove the lid and cook uncovered for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until almost all of the liquid has evaporated/reduced.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, stirring to distribute any extra liquid. Serve garnished with shredded parmesan cheese. This dish is excellent served with some fresh French bread to soak up every bit of the yummy sauce!

Tomato Basil Pasta | more than 9 to 5: my life as "Mom"

It also gets even better the next day, after all the flavors have been given more time to meld together. Yay for yummy leftovers! Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Noah's Fish-Themed Second Birthday

*Please scroll to the bottom of the post if you are interested in purchasing fish-themed party printables! *

Now that I've updated you about Noah's 2nd year, it's time to talk about the party!! When I asked Noah what he wanted for his birthday party this year, he didn't give me an answer (surprise!), so I started suggesting different themes, and I kept hearing emphatic "no's!" So, we went through lots of different ideas, and finally when reading one of his favorite bedtime stories, The Very Silly Shark, that night, I asked him if he wanted "fish," and he gave me a very enthusiastic "yes!" So, away I went planning an adorable aqua and orange fish-themed party for my little guy. First on the agenda, the invitations. I love including photos on my birthday invitations, so I found a way to incorporate 3 photos from our most recent photography session in the spring into this double-sided invite! :)

Fish-themed double-sided birthday party photo invitation | kreations by kristy

I was so happy with how they turned out!

Fish-themed double-sided birthday party photo invitation | kreations by kristy

After the invitations were mailed, I started brainstorming ideas for the party. To decorate the house, I bought some "Caribbean" and "Orange Peel" latex balloons (inflated with helium and hi-float) at the local party supply store, Party City. I also made a custom banner that read "Happy 2nd Birthday Noah" using the same fish/color theme.

Fish-themed birthday party banner | kreations by kristy

Here's an example of the banner letters, close-up. I purchased some aqua and white bakers twine from Spiral Sage on Etsy to string together the circles. It worked and looked great!

Fish-themed birthday party banner | kreations by kristy

For the party favors, I bought a box of the small bubble wands and aqua and orange ribbon from Michaels (bubbles located in the wedding section) and added coordinating thank-you tags (reading "Thanks for swimming by!") to them. I also thought that the kids would appreciate a snack bag of Goldfish, so I packaged those in clear, plastic bags and topped them with personalized tags (reading "Noah o-FISH-ally thanks you for attending!"), too. The aqua and orange buckets with the "2" on them, that held the favors, were also purchased at Michaels, on clearance! :)
Fish-themed birthday party favors | kreations by kristy

Instead of making a big cake, I decided to make cupcakes and cake pops for the party. I didn't want to attempt any elaborate decorating of the cupcakes on the day of the party, so I made cupcake toppers (coordinating with the banner) to stick in the simple aqua-frosted, vanilla cupcakes that I baked that morning (thanks to my mom and sister for helping get them decorated!). I purchased the orange and white polka-dotted cupcake liners from Spiral Sage. All of the "Caribbean blue" and "Orange" plates, napkins, utensils and tablecloths were purchased at Party City.

Fish-themed birthday party cupcake toppers | kreations by kristy

I was able to make the cake pops the day before the party and keep them in the refrigerator. It had been almost 2 years since the last time I had made them, so I was a little rusty. I was having trouble getting the candy melts to thin properly, so the cake pops were not as pretty as I hoped they would be. What they lacked in appearance though, they made up for in flavor. ;) I used white cake mix, homemade buttercream frosting, and Wilton's candy melts for the cake pops. You can find the recipe/technique here and here. I used a double boiler technique for melting the candy melts, but perhaps microwaving would have worked better this time.

Fish-themed birthday party cake pops | kreations by kristy

I found a recipe for a blue punch here. I used a one-gallon container of Hawaiian Punch Berry Blue and a two-liter bottle of Country Time Lemonade. The flavor was pretty decent, but I thought that Sprite would add that needed fizz, so I added about 3/4 of a two-liter bottle of that, too. The color was great! For those who didn't want punch, I also provided water, flavored with orange and lemon slices. I bought the cute, 3-gallon drink dispensers at Walmart. The ice core did a great job keeping the beverages cool for the duration of the party! The adorable aqua- and orange-striped paper straws, and the orange and white bakers twine (holding all of the tags on) were purchased from Spiral Sage also.

Fish-themed birthday party drinks | kreations by kristy

For the dinner menu, I chose:
  • Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs
  • Chips
  • Crabmeat appetizers (a mixture of crabmeat, butter, Old English cheese, worcestershire sauce, minced onions, and salt on English muffins)
  • Pasta salad (I used tricolor rotini, mini pepperoni, shredded parmesan cheese, and Zesty Italian salad dressing)
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Assorted fruit and marshmallow dip (1 large jar of marshmallow fluff, 1 8-oz block of cream cheese, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon)
  • Jell-O Cups with Swedish Fish (5 oz plastic tumblers from Party City)
I wanted some of the food to go with the party theme, which is why I chose the crabmeat appetizers, shrimp cocktail, and Jell-O cups. The crabmeat appetizers are always a hit whenever I make them, so I'll have to get the entire recipe posted soon. Thanks to my mom, dad, and sister for helping me get all of the food ready!

Fish-themed birthday party food | kreations by kristy

Here are some pics of the birthday boy enjoying his day!! :) His crab outfit (how lucky I was to find it in coordinating colors!) was purchased on clearance at Gymboree.

Noah's Fish-Themed Second Birthday Party | more than 9 to 5: my life as "Mom"

I'm having trouble getting my video to load directly to this post, so please visit this link to our YouTube channel to watch the birthday boy blow out his candles! :)

Now it's time to get the thank-you's written. I decided to go with postcards this year, so I designed a 4" x 6" double-sided card for this.

Fish-themed double-sided birthday party thank-you postcard | kreations by kristy

Happy 2nd Birthday to our tiny man!

All items you see above are available for customization and purchase through my business page, kreations by kristy. You can also find me on Facebook and Etsy.

The Wednesday One: Week 29

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tiny Man is Two!

It's hard to believe my "baby" is two already. He's so little, yet seems so big already! We celebrated his birthday this year with a fish-themed party (he chose the theme!) for friends and family on Saturday, and on Sunday, he officially turned 2! Gone is this little baby...

He's a big boy now!

Patiently waiting for the doctor!
On Monday, I took Noah to his pediatrician for his 2-year well-check. Everything went great and he appears to be right on track with his peers. He actually scored between age 2-3 on the developmental milestones checklist, so that's good! He weighed in at 24 pounds, 10 ounces (up 3 pounds, 2 ounces from his 18-month check), and measured up at 34 1/4 inches (up 1 1/4 inches from his 18-month check). This puts him right at the 50th percentile for height and 10th-25th percentile for weight. Looking at both figures, he's up to the 10th-25th percentile for height-to-weight ratio, finally bulking up a bit! His head circumference was measured at 49 cm (down to the 50th-75th percentile here). If it's true that boys are half their adult height at age 2, it looks like Noah will be around 5'8" or 5'9" as an adult. I guess he's inheriting his height from my side, while Ethan will be taller (6'), like Josh. He was up-to-date with all of his vaccinations, so no shots for that visit. Yay!
Snuggling his elephant!

Noah sleeps around 10-11 hours a night and is still taking one nap a day, anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours, in the afternoon. He'll soon be moving in with Ethan, to share the bunk beds in his room. I'm hoping that goes well and doesn't mess up his schedule (fingers crossed)!

Loved his first corn on the cob!
He still has a voracious appetite and is usually the first to get in his seat when it's time to eat! :) He weaned himself completely in March, at 20 months old. We also weaned him of his paci in May, the day after we returned from the beach. He was becoming increasingly attached to it, so we decided it was time for it to go. He actually did really well with giving it up, surprisingly. He cried for a very short period (maybe 5 minutes?) of time the first couple of days at naptime and bedtime, but then I guess he figured out he wasn't getting it back and hasn't made a peep for it since! :)

New accomplishments the past 6 months:
  • Teeth 12-16 made their appearance
  • A word explosion around 23 months
  • Taking off his clothes by himself
  • Identifying most colors and some letters
Brushing those tiny teeth!
He went for several months without any action in the teeth department, and I was beginning to wonder if he was ever going to get the rest! Then, several started coming in around the same time in April/May, with 15 and 16 currently still emerging right now. Poor guy. He doesn't have a full mouth of teeth yet, but getting close now!

All of the sudden, something clicked and Noah started saying all kinds of things - hundreds of words now! Quite the opposite of his big brother, so it has been a new experience for me hearing a little one talking so much. It's quite helpful! Noah is very decisive and will give you a distinct "yes" or "no" when you ask him a question. It is so cute how he says them so matter of fact-ly. He repeats back to us most words we say to him, so his vocabulary continues to increase by the day! He is able to use everything in the correct context and he has great diction, too.

Streaking through the house!
After dinner dance party!
He has figured out how to take his clothes off by himself, and can often be found running around without a shirt on, with some prompting from his big brother! They love "wrestling" shirtless, and he thinks it's hilarious when he's half-naked! While I'm helping Ethan get dressed in the morning, he does a great job taking his pajamas off so that he's ready to be dressed when it's his turn! :) Noah has also been known to bust some moves when the music comes on, too. He usually requests Gangnam Style when Daddy plays DJ in the evenings, but he doesn't usually discriminate against any of the songs Daddy picks. If he's still in his seat, he'll bounce along to the beat. Too cute! He's also a great singer and does a really good job at singing along to the blessing before meals.

He is doing pretty well with saying the major colors when asked what color an object is. He has also started saying what some letters are when he sees them, too. I used to work with the foam letters with Ethan, in the bathtub, a lot at this age, so I need to start with Noah. It's hard with a big brother there who wants to chime in with the correct answers as quickly as he can! :/

Noah had a great year. As the second to go through this stage, I can say that I definitely love this age the most. They learn so much and change so much the second year. They start to gain some independence (in Noah's case, a lot of independence!) and self-sufficiency, but still welcome plenty of cuddles. As he is figuring out the world around him, his little personality is definitely starting to show. He is still the best hugger ever, very empathetic like his big brother, but with a little temper on him, too. If he doesn't like something, he has no problem giving scowls and swats, but the next moment he can pour on the charm with a "yes, please," or "bless you," or "love you!" He loves dancing, singing, reading, playing with his big brother (most of the time), and cuddling with Mommy and Daddy. He is an all-around pretty awesome little guy!

Like I did with Ethan this year, for his birthday, I decided to ask Noah some questions that I'll ask every year now, to see how his responses change over the years. I had to ask a lot of yes/no questions at this age, but it worked out pretty well! Responses in quotations were given without a yes/no prompting. Here they are, in case you can't read them in the picture:
  1. What is your favorite color? "yellow"
  2. What is your favorite toy? Legos and "airplanes"
  3. What is your favorite fruit? strawberries and bananas
  4. What is your favorite tv show? America's Funniest Videos
  5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? cheesesticks, "trail mix" and applesauce
  6. What is your favorite outfit? shirts with trucks
  7. What is your favorite game? anything with Daddy
  8. What is your favorite snack? "fruit snacks"
  9. What is your favorite animal? "fishies" and "lions"
  10. What is your favorite song? Gangnam Style
  11. What is your favorite book? The Very Lazy Lion and The Very Silly Shark
  12. Who is your best friend? "brother"
  13. What is your favorite cereal? "Cheerios"
  14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? go down the "slide"
  15. What is your favorite drink? "water" and milk
  16. What is your favorite holiday? birthday
  17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? elephant and raggy
  18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? pancakes
  19. What is your favorite dinner? chicken and mac 'n cheese
  20. What do you want to be when you grow up? Daddy
While not our firstborn, Noah continues to keep us on our toes, as his own little person. He amazes us daily with the things that he says and does and we look forward to what this year will bring with it. Happy 2nd birthday, Noah. We love you!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Baby Bump Update: Week 32

Here I am at 32 weeks!

Is summer over yet?? This heat and humidity is miserable. Not going to lie, I avoid going outside at all costs right now! With this being the latest in the summer that I have carried a baby now, I was sad, but not surprised, to see that my feet were swollen the other day after spending a lot of time out in the heat. I was fortunate to not experience any swelling with Ethan or Noah, and I'd like to continue that trend this round, too. I think I'll be sticking to my air-conditioned house and seat on the couch with my feet propped up for the duration now! ;)

Week of Pregnancy: 32 weeks, 2 days

Baby size: Baby is about the size of a jicama this week!

Baby is now around 16 3/4 inches long from head to heel and weighs around 3 3/4 pounds. In the funnier, Dad-to-Be Edition of How Big is Baby? that I discovered, our little guy is as long as a loaf of bread this week! Wow! That's a much more useful visual than a jicama. What the heck is a jicama anyway?!?

Symptoms: Still dealing with intense back and hip pain. I'm so incredibly thankful for our Tempurpedic bed. After our recent anniversary getaway (more about that soon!), and two nights on a coil-spring bed, I realized what a difference a mattress can make! I was waking up much more frequently to flip sides at the hotel. Let's just say, I missed the boys while we were away, but our bed was a very close 2nd place!! Haha! Fortunately, the dizziness I was experiencing at the last bump update has subsided. I'm trying to eat smaller portions more frequently as much as I can. I think that is helping. Unfortunately, I had the return of acid reflux a few weeks ago...with a vengeance! So, my OB was so kind as to prescribe a medicine to help with that. It is a miracle drug, for real! I'm now taking Prevacid once a day and it has entirely eliminated the reflux, making life a bit easier! I no longer need to guzzle Tums all day like it's my job. Yay!

Food cravings: I had a craving this past weekend for an orange, but other than that (and sweets, of course), still nothing specific anymore. I've put on about 20-22 pounds now, so I really need to start watching what I eat a little closer with 8 weeks still to go! :/

Food aversions: Nothing here now. I want to eat. All the time. It's like this baby thinks it's his job to grow or something?!?

What I'm excited about: Recently, I've started to get really excited about the idea that I'll soon be cuddling a sweet little newborn again. Perhaps it was the realization this week at Noah's birthday party that he is definitely not a baby anymore? He's growing up so quickly! I must admit that I don't love everything about the newborn/infant stage, but there are definitely parts that I do, and I'm looking forward to those.

What I've done to prepare for baby: With all of the recent summer clearance sales, I've started to buy some clothes for next spring/summer for all 3 of the boys. But that's about it. I seriously need to get my butt in gear! First up, we need to paint Ethan's room so that Noah can move in with him! Then, I'll be able to make any changes to the nursery that I want. Now that Noah's birthday party is done, I'd like to start sewing some things in my free time, too.

Funny moment: The other day, I was expressing my frustration to Ethan that I was tired of stepping on Hot Wheels cars every time I turn around because I can't see them due to my continually growing belly. He suggested that I "need a bigger head so I can see everything better." Hmm, not sure that is the solution I was looking for...

Yep, that is our sweet baby boy! It was exciting to have the 3D/4D ultrasound this late in my pregnancy (at 31 weeks). We had one with Noah, but it was done at 19 weeks when we found out the gender, so he wasn't as developed, and the pictures weren't nearly as cool as these! It is amazing to be able to see so much detail! This little guy was being quite stubborn, as he was facing my back when we started. The tech had to do much poking and prodding to try to awake him, so he would turn so we could see his little face! This was the best look we were able to get as he continued to snooze away, arms wrapped up around his head. I'm hoping this will be an indication of his ability to sleep through anything after he is born. That would be nice! I do believe this little guy looks like his big brothers!! Here are Ethan (left), and Noah (right), at around 1 month of age.


Everything looked/sounded great at my OB appointment last week. Baby's heartbeat was strong in the 150s. I was also happy to learn that I passed my glucose test at 113. From what I have read, they make you do the 3-hour test if you're above 130 or 140, so I was close, but safe! Whew! Such a relief. I saw my normal OB's partner at this visit, so it was good to at least be able to put a face with the name in case she ends up being the one to deliver the baby! She seemed nice enough, but I definitely prefer my OB to her. I'll be going back to the office again next week, as I'm at every-other-week appointments now! Wow!