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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Keswick Forest

We continue to LOVE our new house and neighborhood!!!  We really lucked out in the neighborhood department.  It's almost like there was a screening process--younger families with kids.  I love turning into our neighborhood, and I especially love hitting the cul-de-sac because I love the houses Focal Point built.  These are pictures from our first real snow--it was really pretty!  It was also gone in about 24 hours--I sure love Virginia for this reason ;)
Our neighbors are awesome!  Our whole family benefits in different ways.  I have made a few really good girlfriends with some of the other stay at home moms.  I didn't realize what a nice perk this was until I had it!  Our neighbors were nice enough in our old neighborhood, but we didn't really know each other past a wave-and-say-hello-when-outside level.  We have socialized with three different families other than hanging out outside while our kids are playing, and I LOVE that!  How convenient to just walk down the street to have dinner together or enjoy a fall fire on the deck???  Jackson LOVES having so many friends to play with!  There is a wonderful mixture of babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers, elementary-agers, and middle-schoolers.  He gets so excited when he sees other kids playing outside--I love watching him hurry to put on his shoes and jacket to go play with his friends :)  The pictures below are of Jackson and Avery (she lives two houses down and is in Kindergarten) playing outside last week :)
This picture was taken in Hallie's backyard (they are three houses down, and she has Izzy who is 4 and Mary who is 2 1/2).  Toni is on the right and lives next door to Hallie--she is in 3rd grade and SO sweet!  She just loves Jackson and he loves her back :)
We have done a few Date Night swaps, during the day childcare swaps when someone has an appointment, and I have been lucky enough to have neighbors keep Jackson while we go to our doctor's appointments!  The day of our housewarming party, Aimee (across the street-ish) called and asked if she could borrow some paprika.  I was THRILLED!  I loved that she was asking to borrow something, because that meant, most likely, she would be willing to lend me something when needed!  It sounds silly, but if you are out of ONE thing, it is so much easier to have a nice neighbor to borrow from than to load your toddler up in the car and run out for one thing! A few of us have continued to borrow things, exchange recipes, share baked goods, and just hang out :)

Last week Aimee (she lives across the street from us) hosted a Yay! We Made it Through the Holidays Luncheon!  It was SO fun, and such a nice treat during the week to visit with friends.  She made a delicious lunch consisting of top-your-own salad, bread with a delicious dipping sauce, and a pear bread topped with strawberries, kiwi, and greek yogurt.  The recipes are listed below:

Dijon Apple Salad

mix well and chill:
1/2 c canola oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 c sugar
4 Tbs red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dry mustard
2 Tbsp minced red onion
1 Tbsp dijon mustard

1 head grean leaf lettuce
1 head red leaf lettuce
1 c craisins
1/2 c feta cheese
1/4 toasted pinenuts (in pan or under broil - watch carefully)
1 large apple (I used gala) chopped

Bread Dipping Blend
1 Tbsp minced fresh basil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parlsey
1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground black pepper (fresh ground is best)
½ tsp minced fresh rosemary
½ tsp ground sea salt or kosher salt
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp olive oil
1/8 tsp fresh lemon juice

1. Combine all the ingredients, except oil and lemon juice in a small
food processor or coffee bean grinder. Chop briefly until all
ingredients are about the same size.
2. Stir in oil and lemon juice.
3. To serve, combine about 1 teaspoon blend to 3 or 4 tablespoons
extra virgin olive oil on a small dish. Dip sliced bread in mixture.

Makes about ¼ cup blend
I often add fresh Italian parsley

Pear Bread with Topping

2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 c packed brown sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
(the original recipe calls for 1 tsp fresh ground ginger, but I didn't add that)
1/2 c chopped walnuts (optional, I don't usually add them)
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup plain yogurt (I used plain, non-fat Greek yogurt)
1 egg (or 1/4 c liquid egg substitute)
1/2 c pear, peeled and finely diced (I grate the pear) --about 3-4 pears

Preheat oven to 400 degrees for muffins and 350 degrees for a loaf. Mix all
ingredients, just until moistened. Spoon batter either into 1 loaf pan or into 1
muffin pan. Top batter with a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar. Bake muffins
for 20 min, and a loaf pan for 40-45 min, or until loaf or muffin springs back when
touched lightly in the center. Remove from pan immediately. Place on a wire
rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Topping for Pear Loaf:
Chop and Mix:
strawberries (about 1 - 2 cups)
kiwi (2-4)
mix in a few tablespoons of:
sugar, OR orange juice concentrate OR Jam (like strawberry, raspberry, peach,
orange marmalade. I used peach jam)

Top with vanilla yogurt (I used Greek)

This was ALL SOOO tasty! I think I could eat it every day...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Visit to Gramma J

 We went to visit Gramma J for the last part of Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend.  We only had a short time frame when we did an early Christmas with the Smith side of the family, so we didn't get to visit with Gramma then.  We drove down on Sunday of MLK weekend and stayed the night.  We had a very nice drive down...until about 4 miles from Gramma's house when we hit a poorly placed pothole and blew out a tire :(  Luckily, Josh maintained control of the car and was able to pull off on the shoulder.  Doubly lucky, Josh pulled off on a nice, flat spot where he could change the tire.  The rest of the road was fairly uneven.  Gramma came to pick up Jackson and me since it was close to naptime, we wanted to get him home and settled.  Josh got the tire changed with no problem and was close behind.  After a yummy lunch and naptime, Jackson had a great time playing with his power drill toy we had brought with us.
 He LOVED lying on the floor like this to drill!
 He insisted on tapping each screw into place after drilling.
 Using the wrench.
 Snuggles from Gramma :)
And, yet more drilling Monday morning!  I took the car in to get a new tire Monday morning and then we all went out for lunch before we hit the road that afternoon.  It was a quick trip, but Jackson and Gramma have such a good time together :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Menu Plan Monday: Double Issue

Sunday: Steak seasoned with salt and pepper topped with avocado butter and roasted red potatoes as a side.  S'mores Cheesecake for dessert!  The avocado butter was ok.  Josh thinks it would be better on chicken or pork...  The cheesecake, however, was yummy :)

Monday: Stuffed Belgian Endive with rice.  We just discovered the Food Network show Ten Dollar Dinners, and this was the first episode we watched.  Everything about this dish was yummy...except the endive!  LOL I am not a huge cabbage fan--texture or taste.  We are thinking of trying this recipe but with potatoes instead of endive...

Tuesday: Chicken Parmesan Casserole--DELICIOUS!!!  I can't wait to make this again!  SOOO easy, too:)  The only thing I didn't like about this recipe was that the website posts the list of ingredients, but you have to watch a video to get the instructions, including the cooking temperature and time :(

Wednesday: 15 Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta--SOOO yummy!  Can't wait to make this again!

Thursday: Leftover Chicken parm

Friday: Little Ceasar's $5 Hot and Ready :)

Saturday: Dinner at The Yanceys': Pan-Fried Chicken with a DELICIOUS sauce, green beans, and mashed potatoes.  Then, Susie made S'mores Brownies for dessert:

I'm pretty sure this was the recipe:
Lay graham cracker sheets on bottom of 13x9 pan.
Top with brownie mix prepared according to box directions.
Bake according to directions on the box.
Sprinkle mini-marshmallows and chocolate chips on top of the cooked brownie.
Bake under the broiler until marshmallows start to brown.

Sunday: Out of town

Monday: Hamburgers and homemade fries

Tuesday: Buffalo Chicken Soup with biscuits

Wednesday: Dan Dan Noodles--this was really yummy!  Next time we plan to try it with chicken or shrimp mixed in.  I only put in half the garlic, which I think was a good decision.  Josh even said he would not add as much chili oil.

Thursday: Leftover soup

Friday: Leftover soup with grilled cheese

Saturday: Date Night :)

For more yummy recipe ideas, check out Menu Plan Monday!

Recipe Roundup

So...Menu Plan Monday sort of got put on the back burner once I became pregnant and all I wanted to eat was Ramen, mac-n-cheese, pizza, pasta, and eggs.  I didn't think that all needed to be highlighted ;)  BUT, over the last few months I HAVE tried some yummy recipes, and I still wanted to share!

Some of these I already posted, but I wanted to report on which pumpkin recipes I made off of my original list of ten I wanted to try:
Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Cookies--I couldn't find the pumpkin kisses anywhere, so I just used chocolate chips--still yummy!
Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies--not super pumpkin-y, but yummy!
Mini-Pumpkin Tiramisu--I was a bit disappointed in this one.  The homemade cool whip was delicious!  The pumpkin filling was a little rich.
Pumpkin Dip--delcious, and the possibilities of what to dip are endless!
Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Scones--SOOO good!!!
and one that wasn't on my original list: Chocolate Chip Oat Pumpkin Cookies

Holiday Treats We Baked
Peppermint Whoopie Pies--I realized I'm not a huge Whoopie Pie fan :(  The filling was amazing, however! I think I would bake some chocolate-chocolate chip cookies next time and put this filling in the middle.
Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies--these are now one of my favorite cookies!
Mountain Sky Banana Bread--delicious--I think the cream cheese it what makes this one stand out!
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Shortbread--so easy and so yummy = a lovely combination :)

Good Eats' Pretzels--we LOVE these!  We have made many batches and just started experimenting with flavors.  We sprinkled on cinnamon sugar on one batch and that was super yummy!  Then we tried another round with
Root Beer Roast--I tried this with a piece of beef, and I will definitely try it with pork next time.  There was a bad combination of pregnancy horomones and appetite combining here to make it so I barely ate any of this!  The recipe sounds SO good, but poor Josh was left to eat pretty much the whole thing in leftovers by himself :(
Corn Waffles--this recipe was invented by our neighbor, Aimee.  I think they are delicious!  Josh likes them but doesn't think they are as amazing as I do ;)  Here's the recipe:

2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 stick butter--melted
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda

Mix all ingredients and ladle on to pre-headed waffle iron!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Three and One Quarter Years Old :)

 I don't even know how to start this blog post, except that I just wanted to write about Jackson for a bit :)  Even though he ups the challenge portion of pregnancy, I LOVE the added bonus of being pregnant and growing our next child while he prepares to become a Big Brother :)  He is SO excited, and really does seem to "get it."  He loves talking to Josh and me about the baby in my belly and talking to other people about the baby in Mommy's belly.  He retains information (too well sometimes) and remembers that my back hurts sometimes because of the baby growing or that I can't bend down certain ways, etc.  I think he is at such a special stage right now.
On the one hand, he is such a Big Guy!  He feeds himself, gets his cup out/puts his cup away in the fridge, lets Pax outside, feeds Pax, goes to the potty and washes his hands all by himself, cleans up his toys, sits quietly to look at books, watches "Big Kid" movies, walks for longer periods of time without needing to be carried, sings his "ABCs," counts mostly to 20, can identify all letters and is working on the sounds, read his first sight word last night (TOYS), takes off his shoes, puts on his coat, rides a trike, hits a ball with a bat, can follow directions to put things away or find them to bring to a different room, and I'm sure many other things :)  But on the other hand, he still takes super good naps (SOOO thankful for that), needs kisses for his booboos, likes to be cuddled and snuggled, likes company when relaxing with a movie, and just needs to be our baby sometimes.  He woke up partway through a nap the other day really upset (clearly still needing more sleep, but hysterical), so I layed with him for a few minutes and just couldn't get over his long eyelashes, chubby fingers, and sweet breathing sounds.  He seemed so LITTLE to me then!  I still like to peek on him at night before I got to bed because that is when he looks the littlest, and let's be honest, I'd like to keep him as little as long as possible :)
We are loving watching this stage!  Jackson LOVES Pax and cannot seem to get enough of him!  He always wants Pax wherever he is playing.  The pure joy that spreads across his face when Pax comes into his room with me in the morning is wonderful to see!  He loves to pet him first thing :)  He also loves to sit and watch (very closely!) while Pax eats and drinks--such a good little brother ;)  He STILL loves anything to do with transportation: helicopters, planes, trucks, trains, cars, etc.  He runs them over ANY flat surface!  I actually like when I'm working in the kitchen and he uses the island as his raceway/runway/train track/airspace!  He is showing more and more interest in songs (YAY!) and points out letters everywhere we go!  He now will say the letters followed immediately by "What's that spell?"  I am thrilled that he recognizes that groups of letters make words :)  I LOVE the fact that Jackson will take any toy he can find that is remotely similar to a character he likes from a TV show or a movie and pretend it's that character!  That is awesome since money does not grow on trees and the toys with the actual characters on them are expensive!  The first toy he did this with was a white and red airplane from the Dollar Bin at Target.  He has ever since pretended it's Rocket from "Little Einsteins!"  He has a blue/silver little car that looks just like Finn McMissle from "Cars 2."  Excellent!  He does actually have a small Batman figurine, but he has since decided he is a Super Guy like the characters from "Super Why!"  I am loving watching his imagination develop, especially since that's not MY strong suit...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Belly Report: The Big Day!!!

On Tuesday morning we had our big ultrasound appointment, and we were SO anxious to find out if Jackson would be getting a brother or a sister!!!  We told him after naptime, and then we let him tell Pax:
We could not be more thrilled to be having another baby boy!!!  Neither Josh nor I really cared if Sammy was a boy or a girl, but I had said from the beginning that I would LOVE to add another little boy to our family :)

We got a great report form the ultrasound!  We got to see pretty much all of Sammy, except for his spine and hands.  He was lying face up, so the ultrasound couldn't get a good shot of the spine.  He also had his hands clenched into little fists the whole time!  The technician was really great, and she did give us some time to get him to turn around, but she said based on how he was lying, it would be pretty unlikely for him to just flip all of a sudden.  We might need to go back for another ultrasound in a few weeks to check on the position of my placenta (it's not quite as far from my uterus as they would like), so the technician said she could recheck the spine and hands then.
 Cute little baby pose :)
 It's a boy!  As evidenced by the pointy object on the right-hand side of the picture ;)
 Baby feet!

I was a little nervous to tell Jackson what the ultrasound said since he has been saying he wants a baby SISTER!  We waited until after his nap, and then told him that he was going to have a baby brother!  He didn't say much then, but we spent the next couple hours playing outside and he told all the neighbors I had a baby brother in my tummy :)  Excellent!

This past Sunday, we turned 19 weeks along!  Sammy is now the size of an heirloom tomato (according to Baby Center, about 8 1/2 ounces and 6 inches long, but according to the ultrasound Sammy is about 11 ounces)!  Sammy's brain is working on developing specialized areas in his brain for all of his senses.  There is a good chance Sammy can hear us now, so we are encouraging Jackson to talk to him and letting him know that when we read stories, we are reading to his baby brother too :)

I am feeling pretty good still!  I am finally feeling Sammy kick on a regular basis!  Not surprising since he was quite the wiggler during our ultrasound :)  I remember LOVING this part of pregnancy, but I forgot how little the flutters are in the beginning.  Bending over is getting more challenging, and my back is sore more often.  I am doing my best to make smart snack choices and to drink lots of water--I tell myself that hydration can solve all sorts of problems ;)

We are not wasting any time getting ready to welcome the latest little Smith guy into this house: tonight we ordered nursery decorations, a new stroller, and the first two sets of matching shirts!!!  I also couldn't resist this adorable outfit at Target this morning:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Belly Report: 18 Weeks (and Some Comparisons)

Ah, so many things are different with this pregnancy (yet so many the same)!  The #1 difference, I think, is that last time Josh and I diligently checked Baby Center every Tuesday and I sat down to blog about any new changes right afterwards.  This time around, Josh and I still diligently check Baby Center each week (on Sundays this time), but then I THINK about blogging until I have time to actually write said blog :)

We are 18 weeks along (in the middle of our 19th week), and Sammy is about the size of a bell pepper (5 1/2 inches long and about 7 ounces)!  According to the Baby Center update, Sammy is practicing flexing his/her arm and leg muscles--movements I CANNOT wait to feel!!!  Blood vessels are more visible through the skin and Sammy's ears have reached their final resting place :)  I wrote about how interesting I found the focus on the ears last time around (Red or Green, Part 2).  Still amazes me that they spend so long moving to the correct position...

Pregnancy this time is different simply by the fact that there is a three-year old demanding my time, energy, and movement.  Overall, I feel great!  I do get easily frustrated when I realize I can't bend in certain ways or play in certain positions anymore :(  Jackson has done a great job settling into the role of Big Brother To-Be!  I'm a nester by nature, but I can feel myself kicking into overdrive already (look out, Josh, there might be quite the list of projects headed your way...).  We have our appointment on Tuesday to find out the gender of this baby, and to, more importantly, see how everything is developing so far!  I CANNOT wait to find out if Jackson is getting a baby brother or a baby sister!!! We honestly don't care--but I think I'll burst if I have to wait much longer to start choosing nursery decorations!

I have also been thinking lately about how things will be so different with this baby since he/she will born at a different time of year!  For starters, Jackson's first holiday was Halloween--he was only a few weeks old! Sammy's first holiday will be Father's Day and he/she will be just a couple weeks old.  Jackson was EIGHT months old for his first Father's Day!

Halloween: Jackson (under a month) Sammy (almost 5 months)
Thanksgiving: Jackson (about a month and a half) Sammy (about 5 1/2 months)
Christmas: Jackson (almost 3 months) Sammy (almost 7 months)
Valentine's Day: Jackson (just over 4 months) Sammy (just over 8 months)
St. Patrick's Day/March Madness: Jackson (just over 5 months) Sammy (just over 9 months)
Mother's Day: Jackson (just over 7 months) Sammy (just over 11 months)
Father's Day: Jackson (8 1/2 months) Sammy (a couple weeks?)
Fourth of July: Jackson (almost 9 months) Sammy (about a month)
August 5th (Uncle Larry's wedding): Jackson (a good 3 1/2 years) Sammy (about 2 months?)--I am really excited about this trip--I think Jackson will find the festivities and a special trip WITH Mimi and Bampa (not just a trip to see them or them to see us) really fun and I think Sammy will be portable and snuggly :)

I am pretty much equal parts ecstatic and terrified to become the mom of TWO!  That sounds about right, right?  :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day

Josh drove to Covington Thursday afternoon, and he and Joe left early Friday morning for Nashville to watch Wake Forest play in the Music City Bowl.  They then continued to Atlanta to cheer on UVa in the Chik-fil-a Bowl!  They drove back on New Year's Day.

Jackson and I had a good time while Josh was gone :)  We did some fun shopping, some errand running, and had a date to Chik-fil-a to support the Hoos before the fact ;)
Jackson posing with his kids' meal :)
Mommy and Jackson clinking cups on our date!
 On New Year's Eve, our neighbors, Ashley and Alyssa, hosted a Noon Year's Even party!  What a CUTE idea!
 There were headbands to make...
 Hula hoops and jump ropes to play with...
 And lots of friends!
 Just before noon, we did a countdown and then banged pots and pans with spoons :)  SO fun!  We really love our neighbors and neighborhood!
 Later that day, Jackson and I watched "Cars 2" in the evening before bed and then I rented "Something Borrowed to watch on my own.  I showed Jackson the pictures of the past three years of his cute hats I made.  He was excited for a new one and I was able to guide him to choose the colors blue and orange in support of UVa ;)
 Happy New Year (at 7:30pm)!
 Josh and Joe drove all day on Sunday from Atlanta to Dumfries and Susie and Rachel drove from Covington to Dumfries!  We had fun playing in the afternoon with the girls, and then we all had dinner and hung out once the boys got back :)  The Yanceys slept over, and we enjoyed more time together Monday morning!  A rousing game of football broke out between the guys and kids!
 Running a play
 Rachel and Jackson had a GREAT time chasing and being chased :)
 Jackson goes in for the tackle!
 They got Joe!
 Setting up a play

Thursday, January 5, 2012


 Earlier this week Jackson kept telling me to take a picture!  I would look and he's be posing with Pax wanting a good picture taken!  Paxton has ALWAYS known exactly when I'm going to take pictures and always moved. 
  Then Jackson would chase him to try to get him to pose again, and that of course, didn't work. 
  Finally, we did get a good shot, but I thought the other pictures of the process were cute too :)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Belly Report: A Month's Worth of Updates

 Obviously, I fell behind on my pregnancy updates...

Here is what has been going on for the last four weeks:  At 14 weeks Sammy was about the size of a lemon (3 1/2 inches long and 1 1/2 ounces)!  Sammy can make facial expressions and suck his/her thumb!  Sammy is producing urine and bile.  The soft covering of hair (lanugo) has started to develop at the point. At 15 weeks, Sammy was about the size of an apple (4 inches long and 2 1/2 ounces)!  Sammy is busy moving amniotic fluid through his/her nose and upper respiratory tract which helps his/her lungs to develop further.  This was one of my favorite updates with Jackson because Baby Center suggests if you shine a light on my belly the baby can sense the light and might move away from it--I love the idea of playing tag!  At 16 weeks, Sammy was about the size of an avocado (4 1/2 inches long and 3 1/2 ounces)!  Sammy's legs are more developed, his/her head is more erect, his/her ears have moved closer to their final spot, and his/her eyes are moving closer to the center of his/her face.  Sammy's heart is pumping about 25 quarts of blood a day!  On Sunday Sammy turned 17 weeks :)  Sammy is now about the size of a turnip (5 inches long and 5 ounces)!  The soft cartilige is changing into bone and the umbilical cord is strengthening.

In terms of how I'm feeling, I'm feeling pretty good.  My appetite is pretty much back to normal, and I'm not feeling as tired (although there are still moments).  This pregnancy I feel much more weepy and sensitive.  I'm sure some of it is because we just went through the holiday season and those always seem to be a bit emotional, tiring, and stressful...  Overall, Jackson has been a very good sport, but my patience is thinner and it tires me more the more I have to correct him or try to talk to Josh over him.  

Mom and I did a ton of shopping while we were in Evanston, so I have plenty of clothes that fit :)  Jackson continues to be excited about becoming a big brother!  He is going to be awesome!  He is more consistently saying he wants a Baby Sister, and we will find out of January 17th what he is actually getting!!!  We can't wait!  For a few days he was saying he wanted a Baby Sister AND a Baby Brother.  We corrected him and said, he was getting one or the other, not both.  Today after his nap, he asked me if something was Baby Sister's.  I said that it was going to be for his Baby Sister OR Baby Brother.  I asked him if it would be ok if he got a Baby Brother.  He was sort of convinced, but then said, "But not both.  Baby Sister OR Baby Brother!"  Glad he's listening :)  

Flashbacks: Mmm...Lemon Heads!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Family Date on Boxing Day

 We took off for the National Zoo after naptime on Monday to see Zoo Lights!!!  Josh and I went to see Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago last year, and this was even better!  Part of it was the weather was MUCH more mild, but the National Zoo really did an awesome job :)
After Zoo Lights we stopped at Qdoba for dinner on the way home.  The holiday weekend was bookended by Chipotle and Qdoba--that's a tradition I can get behind!