Sunday, February 26, 2012

New Year's Resolution: Dinner with Friends

I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions, mostly because there's never anything I'm really gung-ho on drastically changing about my life. I don't work out; no measly goal in January is going to change that. I am eating more healthy foods (more, I didn't say entirely) and drinking less caffeine but that change for the better is inspired by motherhood and breastfeeding more than anything else. I could vow to travel more or live adventurously, but luckily I'm married to a man who inspires all those things in our lives.

As I bid last year farewell, there was one thing I told myself I wanted to do more of in 2012: spend time with our friends. And not just the friends we regularly see on weekends and for play dates (although those definitely count too). I made a New Year's Resolution to host dinner for one group of friends each month. Be proactive early; ask someone to dinner and set a date (because isn't that usually the culprit of friends never getting together; never finding a date on the calendar?).

In January, I emailed a couple friend of ours and invited them to dinner at our place. Unfortunately though, life got busy and a few emails back and forth never resulted in setting a dinner date on the calendar. January = BUST. Bummer.

When February rolled around, I decided to invite Andi's friend and co-worker Do, his wife Kim and baby girl Hannah to dinner. We see Do and Kim fairly often, but it's always for work things or Hannah's recent 1st birthday party -- events where there's lots of people and activity and never enough time to chat just the four (er, six of us).

On Friday, Tory and I ran to the grocery store to buy ingredients for our dinner party. We decided to serve lasagna, salad, breadsticks and green beans. I picked a recipe which required little dinnertime prep (since 5:30pm - 6:30pm is meal time / bed time for Tory) and something kid-friendly for Hannah.

Tory and Hannah

... And, dinner was fantastic! My lasagna was just 'eh' (the recipe was alright, nothing too special) but I really enjoyed catching up with Kim and Do. They shared lots of great advice about what to expect with Tory in the next six months and Hannah, well, she's an absolute doll. I always love watching her little personality shine.  

Looking forward to hosting another dinner with friends in March!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Baby Love

On the way home from the cabin last weekend, Andi and I made a pit stop in Minneapolis to visit his Grandma Marion and mom Janie (who happened to be visiting at Grandma's Marion's house). While we were there, we called Andi's cousin Megan (who lives next door) and invited her to bring over Baby Connor so Tory could play with her little cousin.

I can't wait to see these two kiddos grow up together. They're personalities are already shining through -- you can tell just by the photos who's going to be Miss Bossy and who's going to be The Brut.

The Brut

Miss Bossy

Look here, Mister!

Doesn't want to share her Mommy ... uh, oh!

Tory - 5 Months (24 Weeks)
Connor - 3 Months (15 Weeks)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Winter Weekend at the Cabin

I'm feeling extra twitchy because I haven't blogged in days. It feels like my life is passing me by too quickly to document it. But if I don't write it down, I'll forget it. Sigh. Having a baby is really cutting into my free time, geez. Who saw that coming? And since I'm only working 3 days a week now, I don't have enough time to blog at work (I mean, ahem, I never blogged at work before). I have to cut the BS and get down to business just to get everything done while I'm there or it hangs over my head like a nagging ex-girlfriend (except I'm a girl and I have a husband ... so that doesn't really make sense. GAH, I'm tired ... you get my drift).

Long story short, it's taken me a few days to chat about our awesome weekend at the cabin. February is shaping up to be the best month I've had in a long time, partly because it's my birthday month and hello! celebrating! but also because Andi's been home at a decent time in the evenings (most nights, he's not home tonight of course or I wouldn't be sitting here on the computer) and weekends. March and April are going to be evil crazy-busy travel months for him so I'm soaking up every single minute I can with our little family of three. (Remind me of these happy moments when I'm a pity-party-of-one as I'm solo parenting in a few weeks).

We drove up to the cabin on Friday night as documented in my Day In The Life post earlier this week. Our friends Ellie and Derrick met us up there late Friday night. Andi and I were really excited to spend a quiet, relaxing weekend with two of our bestest friends in the world. They're even cool with us having Tory in tow which is another reason I love them so much.

Saturday morning, we woke up around 8ish. Andi and Ellie made breakfast and we played toys with Tory while Derrick slept in a little bit. Later that morning, the boys wanted to drive into town about 20 minutes away to watch a sporting event on the web. Since we don't have internet at the cabin during the winter, we loaded up the baby and made our way into Nezzy's Bar and Grill. It was Tory's first time at a bar (gasp! horrible mother alert!) but actually, it's a clean bar / restaurant and we were the only people there at 11:00am. The boys fired up their laptops, we ordered appetizers and cocktails and hung out for a few hours. Tory was so well behaved considering we were cutting into nap time. Ellie and I couldn't stop laughing when we tried to feed her rice cereal at the table with no high chair available. Tory kept spitting her food and it was flying all over Ellie and I.

Saturday afternoon, we headed back to the cabin so Tory could take a nap. Little stinker only slept for 20 minutes or so; it was just enough time for the boys to sneak off and do some 'guy stuff' outside. Derrick and Andi went target shooting on some empty land nearby. Oh boys ...

Since Tory didn't sleep long, we decided to go ice fishing when they returned. There were a few people fishing out on our lake so we bundled up Tory and headed to one of the open holes. Luckily, it was warm enough for her to be outside. Ellie and I were a little nervous walking out on the lake since it's been so warm but the boys assured us we'd be ok. It was Tory's first time on a frozen lake too. Don't worry baby girl, Daddy said it was safe!

Ellie and Derrick ice fishing. How cute are these two?

Once it got dark, Andi and I took Tory back to the cabin to feed her and put her to bed. Derrick and Ellie decided to make a stop by the local watering hole - The County Line. Andi and I were perfectly happy back at the cabin, reading Kindles and snuggling together by the fire.

Sunday morning, we packed up and drove back to the Cities. It's such an awesome treat to get away for the weekend at the cabin. It's funny how being just a few miles and an hour or so outside of the city melts away every bit of worry. I'm already looking forward to our next visit back to the country.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Making Our Own Baby Food

Andi and I decided to try our hand in making baby food this weekend using the Beaba Babycook machine I bought a few months ago. Ideally, I'd like to make all of Tory's baby food now that she's ready for solids and everything I've read seems like it'd be easy enough to do so.

On the way home from the cabin on Sunday, we stopped at Trader Joe's to pick up some fruits and veggies to accompany this week's meals. Andi ran into the grocery store while I tackled the diaper explosion Tory created during our drive home. I swear, if I had a dollar for every time I've cleaned up poop in the backseat of my car, I'd be rich! It's an all too common occurrence these days.

Andi purchased sweet potatoes, peas, bananas and yellow squash. Once at home, he began by chopping the fruits and veggies into small cubes to steam and puree.

Have I mentioned how helpful it was to have four hands to tackle this project versus two? Weekends like this remind me how much I miss Andi when he's traveling for work. Tory's a wiggly worm these days and it takes all of my effort to keep her occupied. This would have definitely been a nap time project if I was conquering it solo.

Watching our sweet potatoes steam ...

Once the sweet potatoes, bananas and yellow squash were pureed, Andi placed 1-2 tablespoons of each into ice cube containers. Since this was our first attempt, we started small with these portions. Next time, I think the key will be to make a bunch of purees all at once. Each frozen cube lasts for up to 3 months in the freezer.

Dinner time! Tory's ready to try her very first vegetable - sweet potatoes.

I popped out one cube serving and halved it, placing the other potion in the fridge for the next feeding. Not sure how Tory would respond to her first serving of vegetables, I didn't want to waste or contaminate the entire portion. Next, I prepared rice cereal with formula and added the sweet potatoes into the same bowl. I didn't mix the two together so she'd be able to taste each one but this gave me extra formula liquid to thin out the sweet potatoes a bit more.

The verdict?

Tory loves sweet potatoes! Her reaction was pretty tame, actually. She didn't spit them out and only gave me a few shoulder shudders when she took a bite that must have hit her taste buds just right. We'll try sweet potatoes for a few more days just to ensure she has no adverse reaction to them and then we'll move onto bananas or squash next. It's hard to believe my baby girl is old enough for solid foods! As tough as it is on this mama, it's also fun to move onto the next stage in her development. Yay for Tory!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Day In The Life - Winter Edition

Once again, I'm participating in Navigating the Mothership's quarterly Day In The Life blog session. I chose to document Friday, February 17 but haven't had a chance to write about my day until now.

Friday, February 17

12:05am and 4:22am
I hear Tory cry from her crib in the next room. I roll out of bed, stumble into the nursery and nurse her back to sleep. We're still not sleeping through the night over here - not even close - but we're slowly moving in a positive direction. Last night she slept for a 5 hour stretch from 7:30pm - Midnight and another 4 hour stretch from Midnight - 4:00am. That's pretty good in my book.

Tory's crying from her crib. I go into her room to soothe her back to sleep again but of course, she's wide awake. The nanny says she sleeps until 8:30am or so most days, but this almost never happens for me. It's like Tory knows when Friday rolls around and Mommy's home. Anyway, I change her diaper and trim her fingernails. Girlfriend has my nails and they grow so quickly! I usually trim them every Friday morning after she's scratched and pinched my face all week long during her feedings.

I bring Tory into my room and we snuggle in bed for a bit. 

I have a lot to accomplish today so I make a list while Tory lays beside me: 
  • Trim my fingernails
  • Give Tory a bath
  • Sweep / mop
  • Wipe kitchen counter tops
  • Vacuum
  • Steam bottles and breast pump parts
  • Pack for cabin
  • Laundry
  • Haircut
  • Pay nanny

Usually I give Tory a bath at bedtime but since we're heading to the cabin this weekend, I decide to give her one before we go. I gather a baby towel, big bath towel, washcloth, baby lotion, a diaper, a onesie, an outfit - and the baby! -  and carry everything to the bathroom. I feel like Rachel Ray on 30 Minute Meals when she carries all her groceries to the counter at once. Why don't you just make two trips, I always say! (I have no idea why I don't make two trips).

I run water into her pink bathtub and undress her.

Tory loves bath time and she splashes and plays in the water. Usually I let her play as long as she likes, but we've got a lot to do this morning. I wash her, towel her dry and dress her.

Tory starts to cry. We sit in the rocking chair together, I nurse her and lay her down for a nap.

Ok, she's asleep! Chances are, I have an hour or less to get dressed, brush my teeth, eat breakfast and power-clean the house. I find myself paralyzed in the moment as I assess what to do first. I rush into my bedroom, pick out some clothes and get ready.

After I'm dressed, I make some oatmeal and a cup of coffee. I try to eat oatmeal every morning for breakfast to sustain my milk supply. Oatmeal's not my favorite, but this brand is actually pretty tasty. Abundance - check it out. 

Tory's still sleeping. Quick! I bust out the broom and sweep the upstairs wood floors. Andi's family was over last night and I couldn't help but notice (and be completely embarrassed) as we ate dinner and I could see all the crumbs and dirt on my kitchen floor. GAH. Next, I grab some Windex and wipe down kitchen counter tops, the stove top and appliances. I unload the dishwasher and throw in a load of laundry. Sh**! In the mix of my cleaning, I find a card from the DMV tossed with some junk mail on the shelf. My driver's license expired on my birthday WHICH WAS MONDAY. Crap! Crap! Crap! Why do I always lose track of these things? I Google the telephone number to the closest DMV office to see if I have to re-take the driving test, written test or both. Lord, please don't let me have to ...
... Phew! I don't have to. The lady on the other end of the line says I can just renew it if I come down to the office right away. I'll have to add this to my "to do" list today.

I swap a few text messages with friends and notice a work email pop up on my Blackberry. It's a message from my boss and she's responding to a request I sent to her on Tuesday. My shoulders weigh down when I realize I'll have to find time to pull out my laptop, locate an email, fix a file and email it back to her by the end of the day. If I don't, I won't meet the Monday deadline (since I won't be back to work until Tuesday). 

Work will have to wait because Tory's awake. I go into her nursery, change her pants and lay her on a blanket as I pack up her clothes for the weekend. Then I carry all of her things into my room, set them on the bed and bring her into my room so she can help me pack. A pang of mommy-guilt sweeps over me as I realize Tory and I have yet to play together this morning. I hate days when tasks take over quality time with my baby girl. Luckily, she doesn't seem to mind. We chit-chat while we pack clothes for the cabin.

Enough busy work; time for playing. I carry Tory into the playroom and we read stories, practice rolling over and play toys.

Buzz! Time to change the laundry. I carry Tory downstairs and lay her down on a blanket. I keep a special set of toys in the laundry room just for this occasion and she's happy to wiggle on the floor and play with her rattle while I fold a pile of clothes. While I fold, we talk about how big she's growing. "Time to pack away our favorite fuzzy pink pajamas," I tell her. "Oooh, look at these pretty new jammies from Nana," I say. Tory's very intrigued.

Lunch time! I place Tory in her high chair and mix up some rice cereal for her. She doesn't seem very hungry and only finishes half the portion.

Nap time. Tory and I sit in the nursery and I nurse her to sleep. I'd love to cuddle her and read The Hunger Games on my Kindle, but I have a hair appointment in a half hour. The nanny's coming over to watch Tory for a few hours. I hear her car pull up so I lay Tory down in her crib and run to the door before Chloe has a barking meltdown.

I update the Nanny on Tory's last feeding and sleep schedule and rush out the door.

My ghetto Blackberry doesn't have a map feature, so I fumble to read my chicken-scratch directions on a piece of paper as I make my way to a new salon. It's the first time in 5 years I'm seeing someone new for a haircut and I'm a little nervous. Especially since I'm going to the DMV to get a new driver's license after this. No pressure or anything. 

Im feeling extra frumpy as I wait for my new hairstylist. Is that lady really wearing a leopard-print skirt, black tights and high heels? Yes, yes she is. I'm feeling a little under dressed in a simple black shirt and jeans. Mental note: find some style. 

While I'm waiting, I take a work phone call. I still haven't had a chance to get to a computer to fix the file and send it over to my boss. I'll need to find time this afternoon which upsets me because I don't work Fridays and this will cut into my quality time with Tory this afternoon. Grrrr.

My stylist, Jill, comes over to greet me. We make small talk, I explain how I'd like my hair cut and she gets to work. We talk about work, our families and weekend plans. Et voila! A fresh hair cut and it's exactly what I asked for. I like it, and I like her. I'll definitely come back again.

Next I head to the DMV to renew my driver's license. I put on an extra happy smile and pray the same worker I speak with agrees with the lady I talked to earlier on the phone. I'm really not prepared to take the driver's test today. Please, please, please don't let me have to....

Surprisingly, the line's short and it only takes me 20 minutes to fill out my renewal paperwork and wait for my turn. The DMV worker was nice (I wouldn't say extremely but they're not suppose to be, right?). I hand her my paperwork, bat my eyes and smile and she tells me it'll be $24. Sweet! No testing needed. She snaps my new driver's license picture and I'm on my way out the door. It'll be 3-5 weeks before my new license arrives in the mail so I'll be carrying around a snipped license and papers until then, but whatever. 

Back home, I recap the last two hours with the nanny. Tory's slept most of the time I was away and she's wide awake and ready to play now. The nanny leaves and Tory and I head into the playroom for more toys and books. First though, I've got to fix that file for my boss so I drag my laptop onto the floor next to her and search my email for the document. Of course I can't locate it so I email back and forth with someone in our corporate office to re-send it. Tory's fussing and clearly not happy I'm not paying attention to her. I finally get the file, make the changes and email it to my boss. 

Now it's play time. I read some of Tory's favorite books aloud and we cuddle on the floor together. Andi calls and says he'll be home soon. We decide to leave for the cabin before rush-hour if at all possible.

Daddy's home! Andi and I rush around to pack up our things. I change Tory into some pajamas so she's more comfortable for the drive and we head off to the cabin.

We're finally on the road but stuck in traffic. Thankfully, Tory is asleep in her car seat so Andi and I take a deep breath and catch up on our day. Holy crap, I'm tired. I feel like I've been running around crazy today.

That didn't last long. We made it out of the city limits but Tory's awake and she's getting restless. She still isn't a big fan of her car seat. I throw various toys her way but it's not working. We decide to stop half-way in St. Croix Falls.

Andi runs into Walmart to pick up a few groceries and I move to the backseat to nurse Tory. It's not the first time I've fed my baby in a Walmart parking lot, probably won't be my last. Even though Andi parked waaaay back in the lot so I could have a little privacy, a young guy pulls in next to our car a few minutes later. Why, dude? Out of all the parking spots around here, why must you choose this one directly next to the place where I sit with half my shirt on?   

My sweet, sweet husband finally speaks my language. I see him barreling through the parking lot pushing a shopping cart toward our car. He finally understands time is of the essence when I'm waiting in the car with the baby. He shopped as fast as he could and I'm so grateful. Plus, he even bought me a Boppy pillow to keep at the cabin since I forgot mine at home this trip. If that's not love, I don't know what is.

On the road again.

We're nearing the cabin and Tory's growing increasingly frustrated by her car seat. I throw all my "baby be quiet" tricks at her but they're quickly falling short.

The cabin! I carry Tory inside and Andi unloads all of our stuff into the house. Man, husband of the year over here!

I whip up some rice cereal for Tory and Andi holds her on his lap while I attempt to feed her. It's not the greatest arrangement and I make a mental note to purchase one of the those portable high chair/booster seats for the cabin. Tory's more interested in looking around than eating her dinner so we throw in the towel. I clean her up, take her down to our bedroom and nurse her to sleep. Meanwhile, Andi heats up the Papa Murphy's pizza he bought for dinner.

Andi has a cold beer waiting for me when I return upstairs. I dish up some pizza and fries and take a drink of my ice cold Spotted Cow. Ah, cabin life.

Andi and I laugh and talk. We share some ice cream and read books on our Kindles. This is our heaven.

Our friends Derrick and Ellie arrive. We sit in the living room and talk with them for an hour or so before calling it a night. It's been a busy, exhausting day but we've got a relaxing weekend at the cabin ahead of us.  

As Andi and I crawl into bed, Tory begins to stir in her pack n' play. I decide to get up and feed her because I know she'll cry out just as I fall asleep if I don't. She eats and goes right back to sleep.

Good night!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Big 31

Birthdays are a BIG DEAL to me so it took me by surprise when February 13 snuck up so quickly this year. I guess being a parent means I have a few other things to pre-occupy my time with these days. About a week before, I started to panic with fear my 31st year would pass by with a whimper. I brainstormed a few ideas and emailed them to Andi, knowing he's the one person who'd have to pull off a fabulous birthday celebration for me (I'm pretty sure it's in our marriage contract, right under the part where I promise to pick up his underwear off the floor until my dying day).

My birthday fell on a Monday this year, so naturally we'd need to celebrate ALL WEEKEND LONG. Also, knowing Andi had a work event on Friday night, I suggested the following birthday activities:

1) Take a last-minute flight deal to somewhere. This is a gamble as we'd be in the mercy of the airlines and whatever special they might be offering. I could end up spending my birthday in Pittsburgh.

2) Take a weekend trip to Duluth, Minnesota. Andi and I usually spend a weekend there once a year anyway. We could stay in a hotel, find a fun activity to do on Saturday.

3) Stay home. Relax. Hang out as a family. Have dinner with friends. Eat cake. One catch though, no or/ limited technology throughout the weekend. I didn't want Andi to be torn into work or answering calls during my days of honor.

4) Go to the cabin. We already had a cabin weekend planned for later in February, but this is the one place on Earth where we can quickly escape all stresses of reality.

Andi chose #3. We decided to stay home for my birthday (something unprecedented; we almost always have some fun adventure planned. I have to admit, I was a little nervous The Big 31 wouldn't live up to my expectations.


On Friday night, I put Tory to bed and headed down to Six Speed's Open House for their new office space. I had a blast hanging out with friends and once again, was so proud of Andi for taking the next step in running a successful agency. It was neat to talk to clients and work friends of his and listen to them sing his praises, confirming what I already know: what an awesome friend and creative mind he is.
Photo credit: Hickey Photography
As part of the event entertainment, Six Speed hired shadow dancers. It was so funny to watch the crowd in amazement of these ladies dance behind a white screen. Men at the party with jaws open wide and drool streaming from their mouths; women not sure if they should be mad or intrigued. Definitely a party highlight.
Photo credit: Hickey Photography
The party was still roaring at Midnight when I quietly made my exit. I playfully reminded Andi my birthday festivities would start early the next morning ... was he ready to celebrate?

Saturday morning, Andi and I woke up to the sounds of Tory and Grandma Janie playing in the living room. Janie had babysat Tory Friday evening and stayed the night since we planned to be home late. Tory still isn't sleeping through the night (although she's getting better!) so it was a nice treat to sleep in on Saturday morning for a few extra hours while Janie took care of the baby. Andi ran out to our favorite French bakery for pastries and coffee for breakfast and we sat around the rest of the morning playing toys with Tory.

On Saturday night, we were invited to our friends Nick and Julie's house for dinner. It's always chaotic fun when our two families get together because the kiddos rule our evening. Julie's boys, Joel and Alex, played with Tory, we ate dinner and ice cream all while the adults tried to have a conversation over play time. Our life has definitely taken a different turn with kids, and I love every minute of it.

Sunday morning, Andi suggested we go to church. We're trying to find a new place to go near our house in the suburbs. The last time we attempted church on Sunday, Tory had a full-on meltdown through most of the service but this visit, she was happily entertained by the music and people around her. We made it through most of the service before she started to get cranky. Tory fell asleep on the car ride home so Andi and I decided to drive around so she could get in a little bit of a nap. We went to the car wash, stopped and got Quiznos and ate our sandwiches in the car. (A very 31-year-old way to celebrate my birthday weekend).

Later, Andi and I met our friends Derrick and Ellie for drinks and dinner in downtown Minneapolis. Andi's parents were babysitting Tory and for once I let go of all my breastfeeding obsessions about pumping and storing milk fall to the wayside. It was my birthday weekend and I decided to have a guilt-free good time. (Usually, I fret all evening about pumping to replace the milk used while we have a babysitter and not drinking alcohol so I can feed the baby /or pump as soon as I return home). Andi and I started our evening with a cocktail at Eli's Bar, then met our friends for another cocktail at Marvel Bar. This place was swanky and hipstery, all the things WE ARE NOT these days, so it was really fun to be outside our element for once. We made our way to Bar La Grassa for a fabulous dinner. Seriously, it was by far the best meal we've eaten in a long time!

Birthday Date Night!

On Monday - MY BIRTHDAY! - I spent a quiet day with Tory. We read stories, played toys, she took a nap and I fed my new obsession by reading The Hunger Games. Tory even made me a sign above her changing table to wish me a happy birthday (thanks Janie!)

Andi came home from work at 4:30pm (!!!) and made me a birthday dinner of pork chops and butternut squash risotto. But by far, the best moment of my birthday was after dinner. Andi and I laid on the floor of Tory's play room with her and took turns reading her bedtime stories. It was one of those euphoric floating-on-the-clouds moments where I realized my entire world was right there before me.

Thirty-one wasn't the craziest birthday celebration, but it was one I'll never forget. I wished for quality time with my family and friends and Andi made it perfect. It's going to be a great year.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Baby Girl's Play Room

We have three upstairs bedrooms in our house: the master, the nursery and an "extra" room which was living up to its name perfectly. An extra room accumulating stuff I didn't feel like storing in my living room. Mostly, this included various baby gadgets like the bouncy seat, exercauser, Bumbo seat, activity mat and a lifetime supply of baby rattles.

(Alright, so you don't think I'm a complete slob, I should confess there isn't usually a random lamp and a ladder thrown into the mix. I asked Andi to snap a photo before we began to do a little re-decorating).

I decided to turn our extra room into a play room for Tory. Obviously, she doesn't do a lot of "playing" at 5 months of age but I wanted to create a comfortable space to spend time with her and also a place to store her growing pile of toys. The catch is, I didn't want to spend a lot of money (or put in a great deal of time) because this room will eventually become her future brother or sister's nursery and there's no sense in decorating a room only to re-decorate it in another year or two. So, a play room on the cheap. Challenge accepted!

I figured a vinyl wall sticker would be the fastest (and laziest) way to make a big impact in the room without changing the paint color so I searched Etsy and found this adorable animal-themed sticker for $129. Kind of a lot of money for a sticker, yes, but I figured it'd be the room's primary focal piece so I bought it. Andi lovingly volunteered to help me assemble it on the wall one evening this week after Tory went to bed (holy cow, I was so tired the next day, did I mention how silly it is to start home improvement projects at 9pm?).

The sticker was really easy to put up, actually. In my foggy no-sleep brain, I couldn't remember if I ordered it according to the size of our wall or not so we just winged its installation. The type-A, logical part of my brain thought we should have measured it out beforehand but the tired, "holy crap, I'm going to be up with Tory all night" part of me said screw it, let's just get it done. I think it turned out quite well, all things considered.

Next, I asked Andi to move the IKEA bookshelf from Tory's room into the new play room and added soft cubes from Target (on sale, $7.99 ea.) to store her toys and add a splash of color.

Andi hung the Wood From The Hood growth chart Tory received as a Christmas present on the wall. I added an animal lamp from Target ($29.99) which matches the characters on the wall almost perfectly.

Et voila! An easy-peasy play room space for Tory, all for around $200. Someday, I may add a bulletin board to the wall to hang her artwork but in the meantime, this space is perfect for us. We've already spent quite a few hours here reading books and playing toys on the floor.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Freezer Meal Monday

I love Mondays. I think I'm the only person on the planet who probably says that, but I do! On Fridays, while I'm happy to be at home with my little Tory Bean, I'm also dead tired from my work week and getting up with Tory all night long. Weekends are fun, but they're full of places to be and visitors at our house. I'm not complaining by any means, they're just busy. Mondays, though, are glorious. They're quiet and peaceful and usually just Tory and I at home. We play toys, take good naps and tackle household chores. On Monday, I kicked butt at domesticity.

I was inspired by Mama Tully's blog post the other day to make some freezer meals. I used to go to one of those places where you make a month's worth of freezer meals at once, but I tired of the same menu items and the inability to use organic / local ingredients to my liking. After I had Tory, the thought of getting out of the house to make meals, even for an hour, was overwhelming. Five months later, I finally felt ready to tackle a big cooking project in the kitchen.

I borrowed several meal ideas from Mama Tully's blog and also perused this website to formulate a list of meals to suit our family's taste and budget. In the past, I've always thought the hardest part about making freezer meals is the lack of direction in what steps to hold off on until day of cooking or how far to assemble the meal. That's why I loved the Once a Month Cooking website so much! It clearly listed all of the steps I needed to prepare my meals ahead of time.

I selected the meals linked to below, but halfed the portion sizes to 3-4 servings. It makes sense in theory to prepare 6-8 servings and split them into two meals (or make it all and have leftovers) since I already bought the ingredients and am going through the work of assembling the meal, but I know from past experience we won't eat something again if we didn't like it the first time. If I split it into two meals and we don't end up liking the recipe, the second meal will sit in the freezer for months before I finally end up tossing it out. We're not big leftovers people so I know we won't re-heat a meal and eat it for dinner a second night. I'm not creative enough to take one meal and transform it into an entirely different menu item the next day. I thought it was better for us to make smaller-portioned recipes, try them first and add them into our meal rotation if they're winners. Lately, I've been preparing a plate for our nanny to eat for lunch the next day with our small amount of leftovers and she loves it when I do. I think it's easier for her to heat up whatever we ate the night before instead of making something for herself and it's easier (and cheaper!) for me, too. I don't have to buy extra snacks and groceries for her meals on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. So, all this to say this list won't feed us for an entire month because I halfed the recipes and won't have leftovers to re-heat for another dinner. But! It's a good start.

Recipe List:
Orange-Beef Stew, Chicken N' Cherries, Italian Beef, French Dip Sandwiches (featured in context of Tully blog)
Easy Ranch Chicken
Cranberry Chicken

I also made Black Bean and Rice Enchiladas to deliver to a friend with a new baby and doubled the amount of black beans and tomatoes to make enough for a second meal. I bought disposable square tins to store the enchiladas in (6 enchiladas per tin). This made enough for two freezers meals for us, plus a third to give away.

I especially selected these meals because they required few ingredients and many of which I already had on hand. I assembled them during Tory's morning and afternoon naps (which as everyone knows are VERY SHORT) so I would guess I spent a total of 1 1/2 hours assembling the freezer meals. I felt so accomplished after my success in the kitchen, I scooped Tory up and snuggled her for the rest of the afternoon. She snoozed a bit and I read The Hunger Games on my Kindle. What an awesome way to spend a Monday.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Bowl Weekend

This weekend was suppose to be our annual girl's trip in Des Moines, but Mother Nature had other plans and dumped 11 inches of snow in Nebraska and Iowa making travel too dangerous for our road tripping adventure. Des Moines isn't necessarily a hot-spot destination, in case you're wondering, but it's half-way between Omaha (where my best friend Ashley lives) and the Twin Cities. Since my girlfriend Val is expecting her second baby next month, this was the last feasible weekend for us all to get together. Sigh, a weekend of girl talk and shopping wasn't in the cards, I guess.

Since Tory and I were planning to be gone this weekend, I told Andi to make other plans with his friends. And he did - he rented an ice house and invited some friends to spend the weekend at the lake, fishing and drinking. There was silence on the other end of the line when Andi told his friends my trip was cancelled. I assume they thought theirs would be too but I'm an awesome wife so, of course, I let Andi still have his weekend. Go on Andi, tell everyone how wonderfully lucky you are ....

Before Andi left Saturday morning, we snapped these photos of the beautiful winter wonderland in our neighborhood. Later that afternoon, Tory and I we ventured to Val's house for an play date with Kasen (too bad he slept for most of it!). Even though we weren't able to meet up with Ashley, I still had a nice time visiting with Val.

On Sunday, Janie came over to play with Tory. I ran to the grocery store and got a much-needed massage. Falling asleep with Tory in the rocking chair at night has limited my ability to turn my neck to one side and it's my birthday week so I thought I deserved a little pampering! Sunday evening, Andi, Tory and I were invited to a SuperBowl Party at my friend/co-worker Suzanne's house. Let's be honest, we mostly went for the food ... I didn't really care who won the game this year.

Tory's first Super Bowl Party. She's a little too excited to watch TV whenever she's near one.

Actually, Tory had a really fun time playing with all the kids at the party. It's nice she can finally sit up and be part of the action.

Suzanne, Tory and I 

Andi and I left at half-time because parenting means bedtime is far more important than Madonna or a football game. When did we become so old and lame?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tory in the Snow

Seriously, I've never heard of the word "hoar frost" but apparently we had a beautiful case of it yesterday in the Twin Cities. Hoar frost is the deposit of white ice crystals on trees, streets and fences and made for an absolutely breathtaking winter's day outside our window on Saturday. And now I will stop saying that word because it sounds super weird and creepy and non-meterological ...


Because the weather was so picture-perfect, Andi and I decided to take Tory outside for a quick photo session. It was 35 degrees outside but looked like a winter wonderland all around us.

My snow bunny

Mama and Baby

Daddy and Tory, too

All together, our family of three


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Jim's 60th

Andi's dad, Jim, turned 60 on Thursday!

Janie invited us over to their house for a fish fry and cake to celebrate Jim's big day. Jim's a big outdoorsman and caught some walleye on a recent fishing trip in Canada. Paired with wild rice salad, it was the perfect birthday meal for a true Minnesotan at heart. Lindsay baked Jim a chocolate cake and we brought the ice cream for dessert.

Tory wore her favorite "I Love Grandpa" shirt in honor of the birthday boy.

Grandpa Jim and Tory (later, in her jammies)

This was Tory's first time meeting Andi's grandma Dee.

After dinner, it was time to open presents. Lindsay gave Jim a Minnesota State Fair sweatshirt and his favorite candy.

Andi apparently decided the most practical birthday gift for his dad's 60th was a gun. My dad often tells me in life to "pick my battles" so I didn't ask questions ...

Jim (a big outdoorsman, remember) was shocked as he opened his gift from us ...

... and things are about to get WEIRD. These are photos I never thought I'd be posting on my blog but Andi thinks are hilarious.

Guns are scary. Have I mentioned my feeling on this topic?

I asked Andi what would one shoot with a gun like this? He said it's good for you know, "plinking around and stuff." Cans and targets, I assume.

There are more photos ... like ones where Andi's grandma is holding the gun but I can't bring myself to post them. Too creepy, weird, la la la la, strange.

It should be noted there were no bullets in said gun or anywhere around us at the time of this joyous birthday celebration ...

Ok, moving on ... we're ready for cake!
This was Tory's first time singing "Happy Birthday."

Happy birthday Jim!