Monday, December 19, 2011

Our Christmas

     We celebrated Christmas this past weekend because we will be going to Georgia to visit our families in a few days. We wanted to be able to have our own little family Christmas and start our own traditions with Owen. We began our day when Owen woke us up with a big family snuggle in bed. Then we moved our celebration to the kitchen to feed Owen and I made sausage balls like my mom typically makes for Christmas. While they were baking, we sat down around the tree with my Bible and Owen's book "Christmas in the Manger." Tim and I began the tradition of reading Chapter 2 in Luke before opening presents on our first Christmas together and have done it ever since. 
Owen paid very close attention. Even though there are no pictures.
     Then I read Owen his new Christmas book. It is a very cute book with a page devoted to each of the people and animals present at the birth of Christ. Owen loves to pat the pages and talk along with me.
Reading about Baby Jesus."I
 am the baby asleep on the hay. And I am the reason for Christmas Day!"
      Then we began opening presents, focusing mainly on opening most of Owen's gifts so we could get him down for his morning nap. Opening presents with Owen is so much fun because he still thinks ripping the wrapping paper is the most funny thing ever and he can grab the bows off and sometimes get the top off the boxes by himself if there isn't any tape holding it shut. He had so much fun playing with all the paper and ribbons.
And the fun begins...
Happy little elf.
My new rug is so soft and fun to touch.
Laughing at the sound of ripping paper.
Poppity Pop Dino! And a baby who can pull up to standing on pretty much anything!
Bows are the best part. And the paper. And what's inside. Okay, everything about opening presents is the best!
Peeling the tape off so I can get in that box.

Petting Follow Me Fred. Not so sure if we love him though.
Owen's special "tag" blanket.
This is probably Owen's favorite present. He plays with this activity table every day.
     We spent the rest of the day playing with Owen's new toys and having fun together. I made Christmas dinner for us to have that evening and we ate it off our wedding china.
Roast chicken, cajun tater puppies and pecan green beans. Yum!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Our 2011 Christmas card(s)

     I love sending and receiving Christmas cards. There's just something about going to the mailbox and pulling out a bunch of cards to feel the goodwill and love of the season. I practically race to the mailbox each day to see if we've gotten any. On a side note, I think this is the year for procrastination (or maybe people don't send Christmas cards anymore) because we've only received six so far. Since we're leaving next week, we might have to call some of them New Year's cards because we won't get them until we get back from visiting family for Christmas.
     This year was especially fun because we have such a cute subject for the photo on our Christmas card. In the past, we just sent a regular Christmas card with a letter detailing our year in review, but this year, we wanted to do a photo card. The only problem is that I can count the number of photos of the three of us on one hand and none of them seemed Christmas card worthy. So I just did multiple photo shoots with Owen to get the perfect photo for our Christmas card. Then the only problem was choosing the best photo because we had so many good ones to pick from. In the end, we selected three different photos and sent out three versions of our Christmas card once we found one with wording that we liked. (It had to say Christmas and not holidays, for instance). We tried to alternate who we sent them to so that if you got one version, chances are that someone else you know got one of the other versions. For instance, Tim's parents, his brother Joseph and his wife Leah, and Tim's sister Jenny each got one of the three versions so they would be able to see all of them at some point. 
     We also decided against writing a Christmas letter because most of our family and friends read the blog so they already know what is going on in our lives. In the future, I will probably include the blog address on our Christmas card for those who don't know it. 
     Here are the three versions. Each of them also had a photo of Owen with Santa on the back. Which one is your favorite?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pinspiring Friday!

     This week, I got together with some friends from my mom's group to make ornaments with our babies' hands and feet. It was really fun. We got the idea from Pinterest. Here is the original picture where we got the directions and inspiration. 
     To make the salt dough ornaments, you just mix flour, salt, and water to make the dough. Then we cut the dough into circles large enough for their hands to fit on. We used Owen's hand to figure out which size to make because he has the biggest hands of the four boys. Actually making the imprints was the hardest part as anyone with a baby knows. I think it took me three tries to get a handprint without Owen grabbing through the ornament dough or scrunching up his hand. And then I made a footprint, though I had to flatten the dough circle some and stretch it out to make it large enough for Owen's big foot. 
So cute. And the fact that they aren't perfect kind-of make them that much better.
Here we are making our handprint ornament.
     To finish the ornament, you bake it in the oven for an hour on 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Mine were still a little doughy so I left them out overnight to continue to harden.
Baby foot.
Sweet baby hand. And with the correct number of fingers too!
     I also made a recipe from Pinterest last night for our "Christmas" dessert. I made eggnog cupcakes from a recipe on Annie's Eats
      They turned out pretty good, but the frosting was super sweet and Tim said the cake part tasted a little like sweet cornbread. Not sure what that's about, but overall they were pretty tasty and we enjoyed them. Not sure if I will ever make them again though. If I do try to make eggnog cupcakes again, I may try to mess around with some other recipes I have and come up with my own version.
    And as an added bonus, here is a cute picture of Owen that I took yesterday when it was snowing a little in the morning. I had the curtains pulled back to let in a little light and he just crawled right over to the window and stared at the snow coming down and then sat up and patted the window and babbled about the snow. So precious.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tasty Thursday (Christmas edition)

     Well, we have less than a week until we will be back home in Georgia for Christmas! We are so excited. I'm especially excited because Tim hasn't been back home since July! I think it will be so sweet when everyone gets to see him. And Owen, of course. I am pretty anxious about flying home though because flying is always stressful to begin with, but adding a baby into the mix is just that much more stressful. But at least this time, I'll have Tim with me to help wrangle all our bags and Owen's stuff. Also, to get a better deal on our plane tickets, we had to buy ones that flew out of Spokane and not our airport and we have two layovers! That's three separate plane flights! Oh, the things we do for our families. We will leave early and get in late so we will have a full day of traveling and I'm hoping that Owen will be his normal cheerful self for most of the day. Though with teething still going on, all bets are off. Literally all we want for Christmas is Owen's two front teeth. Haha. 
    We have a short menu week because we will be going to Spokane on Tuesday night after Tim gets off work so that we won't have to wake up in the middle of the night and drive up there in order to make our early morning flight. We will be staying with Tim's aunt and uncle. We are planning on having our own Christmas dinner this weekend when we will open our presents to one another and celebrate before we go home to Georgia. I can't wait! 

Thursday: This week our meals were pushed back a day again because we went to Spokane last Friday for the day and had dinner with Tim's aunt and uncle that night instead. So tonight we will be having chicken fajitas.
Friday: We will be having our own Christmas dinner on Friday night after spending the day opening presents and playing with Owen's new toys. I will be making Creole Butter Roasted Capon with Pecan Green Beans and Cajun Tater Puppies. I found these recipes in the latest issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine.

     And for dessert on our special Christmas day? Eggnog cupcakes! Eggnog is a very polarizing drink and luckily for me, Tim and I are both firmly in the pro-eggnog camp. The recipe is from Annie's Eats. 
Saturday: Leftover chicken with be used in Skinny Taste's chicken pot pie soup
Sunday: Order pizza. We will be having to take our tree down, pack for our trip, clean up the house, etc. etc. etc. so I am going to order pizza to take one thing off our to-do list for the day. 
Monday: Skinny Taste Crock Pot Turkey Meatballs. These are super easy and something that I can throw in the slow cooker and then not worry about for the rest of the day. And the sauce is beyond yummy. Plus I have enough half-used boxes of pasta in my cabinet to feed a small Italian village. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I've been pinned!

     So my Italian Chicken Soup is now on Pinterest and people are linking to my blog for the recipe. Whaaa?!?! I'm Pinterest-worthy? No way!

Italian Chicken Soup

    If you haven't noticed, I'm kind-of in love with soup. Once the weather gets colder, I make soup at least once a week. I have several go-to recipes including vegetable beef soup, white bean chicken chili, pea soup, taco soup, black bean soup, and probably several others that I am forgetting. One of my newest favorites is this recipe for Italian Chicken Soup. It is originally from Pioneer Woman Cooks, but I have made some alterations to it that make it that much better and healthier (seriously Pioneer Woman, what's with all the heavy cream?) I also refer to it as "clean out the vegetable drawer" soup. Here are the directions for the soup. I added the ingredients list at the bottom for those of you who may want to try it.
    (Adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks)
    To start, throw three bone-in skin-on chicken breasts into a pot of water on medium heat and bring it to a boil. Then cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Afterwards, turn off the heat and leave the chicken in the water to cool. This makes for juicier chicken than if you immediately take it out of the water and shred it. Once it has cooled for a while, then you shred it and discard the skin, bones, etc. I also pour out the water the chicken cooked in. Pioneer Woman uses it as the broth for her soup, but trying to skim off all the fat is a pain to me so I just use store-bought broth.
    Next, finely chop some oregano (about four or five tablespoons).
      To bring out the oregano's flavor, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a small saute pan. Once it is hot, turn off the heat and add the oregano, stirring for about a minute. Then set that aside.
     Meanwhile, boil some water and cook about half a pound of ditalini pasta. Once it is done, drain it, rinse it, and drizzle on a little olive oil. Set it aside until later.
     Then it is time to chop the vegetables. I used an onion, a green bell pepper, three stalks of celery, and two jalapenos. This is where you can add whatever you think will taste good or whatever is currently in your veggie drawer in the fridge. You could try other colors of peppers or maybe some squash or zucchini. The possibilities are endless. Also, feel free to omit what you don't like.
     I also chopped up a couple carrots. I then cooked them in the microwave in some of the chicken broth for the soup to make sure they would be soft.
    Throw all the vegetables, except the carrots, into a big pot with some olive oil and saute them for 8-10 minutes until they start to get soft and even brown a little.
      Next, add two cartons of chicken broth, the carrots and the broth they were cooked in, and the shredded chicken. I also added a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes and a drained and rinsed can of kidney beans. Bring soup to a boil and then reduce heat and let it simmer.
    To add even more vegetables, I chop about two or three cups of spinach and add that in to the soup to wilt. 
     Once the spinach has wilted, add a cup of heavy cream, oregano, and pasta to the soup. Allow it to simmer for a few minutes and then turn off the heat.
And there you have it. Yummy!
Three bone-in skin-on chicken breasts
Two 32 oz. cartons of chicken broth
One bunch of oregano
Olive oil
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can kidney beans
Half a box of ditalini pasta (.5 pounds)
One chopped onion
One chopped green bell pepper
Three stalks of celery, chopped
Two carrots, chopped
Two jalapenos, diced
2 or 3 cups of roughly chopped spinach
1 cup of heavy cream

Cook half the box of pasta in a pot according to package directions, being sure not to overcook it. Drain and rinse in cold water to cool. Drizzle on 1 tablespoon olive oil and set aside.

Place chicken in a large pot or dutch oven and cover in water. Bring to a boil, then simmer chicken, covered, for 30 minutes. Turn off heat and leave covered for 30 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and shred meat. Discard bones and water and set meat aside.

Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium high heat. Add oregano and turn off heat, stirring for a minute to keep oregano from burning. Set this aside.

In a large pot, saute onion, green pepper, celery, and jalapenos in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until tender and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cook chopped carrot in some chicken broth in the microwave until tender. 
To the large pot of vegetables, add chicken broth, carrots and broth they were cooked in, shredded chicken, kidney beans, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add chopped spinach and allow to wilt. Add cooked pasta, cream, and all the oregano and olive oil from the small skillet. Stir to combine. Turn off heat.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What Santa is bringing Owen

     Christmas shopping for Owen has been really fun this year. I am so happy that he is the age that he is for his first Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I ooh and ahh over all the precious newborn pictures of babies with Santa hats asleep under Christmas trees like any other person, but I'm really glad that Owen will get to enjoy opening presents and playing with new toys. He is now at the age where he is bored with all his little baby toys that are basically made for chewing and grabbing and he is beyond ready to move up to more interactive toys with lights and music and pieces to manipulate, etc. So without further ado, here is what Owen is getting from Santa (err... Mommy and Daddy) this year.

Fisher Price Go Baby Go! Poppity Pop Musical Dino
This seems like a really fun interactive toy. And one that will hopefully keep Owen busy for a while putting the balls into the Dino and then chasing after them and retrieving them when they pop out. 

Tiny Love Follow Me Fred
This is a toy that encourages crawling and we're hoping that Owen will enjoy chasing it around the house. 
Circo Textured 30 x 50 Blue Chenille Rug
This rug has a really fun loopy texture and is soft and a really pretty blue color. I think it will look great in Owen's room and that he will enjoy playing on it.
Battat Fun Keys
Owen loves loves loves playing with our car keys so we decided he needed a pair of his own. No car though, Owen. You'll have to wait until you're 16 for that present. Haha! He already has a set of plastic colorful car keys, but he knows they look nothing like ours and aren't the real thing. These ones look much more realistic!

Personalized Handmade Tag Blanket
Owen loves finding the tags on blankets and stuffed animals. He will examine them closely, flick them back and forth, and suck on them occasionally. I thought a tag security blanket (it's about a foot square) would be perfect for him and found a lady on Etsy who would make him a special one and monogram it too!

LeapFrog Learn and Groove Activity Table
Owen has played with this table for a long time at his friend Rowan's house. Rowan's mom Joni told me that I just had to get one for Owen, so I did!
   Infant and Toddler Music Class
I signed Owen up for this weekly program that "will allow infants, toddlers and their parents the opportunity to explore musical instruments and to make music. Music is enjoyable for people of all ages, but it can be used for more. Research has shown that making music in groups can be useful in promoting cognitive, behavioral, and social skills, especially at such an early age of development. These skills and others will be experienced through playing instruments, singing songs, and movement through music." 

   Owen will also be getting some stocking stuffers on Christmas morning. We decided to wait on those until we were in Georgia as a special thing to do with Tim's parents who traditionally open stockings on Christmas morning as a family. He also needs some clothes, but because I have several Gymbucks coupons that I can't use until January, I will be doing his clothes shopping after Christmas when there will be sales and I can redeem my coupons at Gymboree. Also, that way I can see exactly what he might still need after he gets presents from our family and friends this Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Date night!

     Tim and I were very fortunate to be able to go on a date this past weekend. We have only been on maybe two and a half dates since Owen was born. The first was in April during the week after Owen was born. My parents were in town and they offered to babysit him while we went to see a movie. We figured it would be nice for them to get some one-on-one time with Owen and also that we should take them up on the offer since we didn't have a babysitter or family nearby to do it once they left. It was actually a pretty horrible date because we spent the whole movie looking at each other, both willing the movie to end early so we could go home to our baby. We went on a semi-date in June when we went home to visit our families. Really, we left Owen at Tim's parents house while we went to Chick-Fil-A to pick up some banana pudding milkshakes for the family. But for parents of a two-and-a-half-month-old, 15 minutes in a car alone together is a date! Haha! When we went to the beach with my parents, we went to see the latest Harry Potter movie and that was really fun. 
     This past weekend, I finally decided to take my friend Amanda up on her offer to babysit for us. It's hard when you're far from family and you don't feel like you know anyone well enough to leave your only child with them. But we've known Amanda and her husband Jim now for almost a year and they are expecting their first baby in May or June, so we figured we would let them practice on Owen for a few hours. 
Here we are all dressed up for our date! And yes, Momma is wearing some eyeliner!
     To begin our date, we made a trip to Target before our dinner reservation for some baby wipes. We may have gone on a date, but we didn't stop being parents. We also picked up a little something for our sweet boy. 
It's a onesie with a picture of milk and cookies on it that says, "For Santa, not Daddy."
     After our quick Target trip, we went out to dinner at the Tri-Cities' newest and arguably most popular restaurant right now, Texas Roadhouse. If you don't call ahead for a spot, the wait is generally more than an hour. Dinner was great because we were able to talk and laugh and enjoy one-on-one time with one another. We had a baby onion blossom for our appetizer, though we were only able to eat about an eighth of it. For dinner, I had a small steak with a baked potato and salad and Tim had pulled pork, ribs, mashed potatoes, and steamed carrots and broccoli. What was really funny about dinner though, was that we were for some reason seated in the baby section. There were no fewer than six babies in the tables directly around us that night and they kind-of made us miss our boy.
      After dinner we drove down to the Columbia River to park and wait for the Lighted Boat Parade. It was really interesting. The boats start at Clover Island in Kennewick and sail down the river to Howard Amon Park in Richland and then return to Clover Island. There were at least 12 boats in the parade. My favorite was one decorated to look like Santa was surfing.
Here's a photo from online that shows one of the boats.
These are our photos. Here they come!

     The boat parade ended close to nine so we headed home to see whether Amanda and Jim were successful in getting Owen to bed. We were not too surprised when we walked in to find them still playing on the living room floor. What was the best part was seeing Owen's face when he first glimpsed me coming in the room. Generally I get to see Owen make that face when Tim comes home from work, but it's rarely directed at me. It was just so sweet to see his face light up when he saw Mommy and Daddy come home. After Jim and Amanda left, I got Owen to sleep and we ended our night with Tim playing some Modern Warfare 3 while I read and went to bed early.