Monday, June 25, 2012

Say 1, 2, 3

This is a story about how you know your 2 year old is far too smart for conventional parenting. The other day our sweet C was not doing so well finishing her dinner. J was sitting with her and trying to convince her to take a few more bites before getting down from her high chair. Suddenly amidst the coaxing and convincing, C says, "Daddy, say 1, 2, 3." As in, do that thing where you threaten some unknown consequence if you make it to three. On the occasion that we have to count to get her to do what we're asking we usually only have to say one. If I make it to three the only thing that happens next is I take her hand and make her do what I've asked, but I've been pretty pleased that she responds well to a count of just one. Needless to say J and I exchanged shocked glances, doing our best to keep from bursting out laughing, and I quietly suggested counting to three in a fun way rather than the you're-in-trouble way. He did and it worked. It's clear though that we are not raising your average toddler and we'll likely need to be more creative than the classic "1-2-3" bit to keep her in check. In our favor we do have the fact that she is extraordinarily well behaved. The biggest fear is a second child just as smart but not as interested in being a good listener! I guess that's why kids are so stinking cute :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Welcome to Summer

So yesterday was the Solstice while today was the first full day of summer. Summer is my favorite, don't get me wrong, but temperatures both days in our area were flirting with 100. In fact, I caught a photo of the thermostat in my car indicating it was 100 degrees. It only lasted for a moment and dropped down to a brisk 96 shortly thereafter, but you get the idea. It's toasty out there! So we went from being able to play at the play ground anytime we wanted for most of the spring, to playgrounds jam packed with school-aged children who are literally bussed in from their day camps since school let out 2 weeks ago, to it being positively too hot to play outside. This is not a big deal to me, I live for this weather 9 months out of the year. For my 2 year old it's a different story though. I have her health and comfort to keep in mind. She adores playing outside and wouldn't ever let the weather stand in her way, but I have to draw the line when the slides and hand rails at the playground are hot enough to give you blisters and the UV index is "very high." So instead we try to come up with inventive ways to amuse ourselves indoors.

Today's activity- playing with the Photo Booth application on my computer.

A good laugh for us, and for you as well! These photos are only made funnier by the fact that she had taken the rubber band out of her hair (as she loves to do) so it was doing its own thing. That and our dog walking around amongst the coral and the fishes in the last one- LOL!

Tomorrow's forecast- 92 / thunderstorms. Can't wait to see what we get into!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy Fathers Day!

We had a lovely Fathers Day spent with J's family at his parents' house. We pretty much enjoyed the beautiful weather, swam in the pool, and picked crabs! Well, everyone else picked crabs. I like crab meat but I am not into the picking. If you have to remove your food's lungs and clear out its gut before eating, I'm out. I had kebobs though, so it was all good :)  C and her cousin ran hard all day so she was totally wiped out by the time we got home around 8:30, which is her bed time anyway.

Earlier in the week C and I (or, just I) made J a little picture holder for his desk at work. I love a home-made gift, especially from kids to parents. There's something sweet and sentimental that just makes it better than anything in a store. Here's a quick explanation of how we (or, just I) made it...

I started out with some chip board letters (found at Hobby Lobby) and a few sheets of decorative scrapbook paper. Much like another craft I did at Christmas time, I simply traced the letters onto the paper, cut them out and glued them onto the chip board to make them pretty. As you can see here, I also used 2 paper clips and some hot glue to make a little stand at the bottom of the letter so it wouldn't fall over, and also a photo-holder at the top of the letter so a photo can be easily displayed.

Our final product looked like this! He loved it :D
Just so you know we spent more than $3.49 on him for Fathers Day, we also got him an awesome pair of sunglasses that he had on his wish list :)

Some photos of our fun at J's parents' house. I only wish I had gotten one with J's dad. What was I thinking?

I hope all the dads and dads-to-be out there had a wonderful Fathers Day too! :D

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mission (finally) Accomplished!

Dishwasher Installation Success!

Forgive the horrible taken-over-the-back-of-a-chair-with-my-phone-while-eating-lunch photo, I was just that excited. Hey, if you had been hand washing dishes for over 2 months with not one but TWO dishwashers in the middle of your kitchen floor you'd be excited too :)

Allow me to give you the brief recap of our dishwasher drama...
-February 16: Dishwasher & stove ordered
-March 22: Dishwasher & stove finally delivered after 3 previously scheduled-then-delayed delivery dates
-Next few days: J disconnects the old dishwasher with confidence he'll be able to hook up the new one
-After 83 trips to Lowe's, we discover that the type of valve that connects the water line to the dishwasher under our sink is not standard. It will connect to the old dishwasher pipe which will not fit the new dishwasher. The new pipe that came with our installation kit connects to the new dishwasher but doesn't fit the non-standard valve.
-Weeks pass while we ponder how to get around this. J worries about disconnecting the valve. I decide to just call a plumber.
-Two weeks later the plumber comes. He takes a quick look, says he sees what's going on with the valve, we just need a new (different) one. Plumber writes up the sales slip for standard installation + valve replacement for a grand total of $494. As I'm talking it over with J (who is at work), the plumber suddenly says he's "not supposed to do this but..." he would do the work for $290, final offer. Really? Two minutes later and the price is $200 less? How does that work exactly? Since we only paid $400 for the dishwasher itself and he seems to be less than trustworthy, we tell Mr. Plumber "thanksbutnothanks," and send him on his way.
-J goes in for yet another attempt on his own, armed with the new correct valve. A few hours later things are looking good. The dishwasher goes into it's new home, everything else gets attached appropriately, and a test wash is administered.  Success!

I have since been excitedly loading it with dirty dishes in eager anticipation of it's maiden wash cycle! Who knew one could be so thrilled over a kitchen appliance? We are still awaiting the maiden wash since not that many people live at our house, but we will finally re-assemble the kitchen when we see for sure that there aren't any leaks or issues. Meanwhile, some things are still out of place in the kitchen, and there's still an old dishwasher in the corner, but I'm not wasting time standing at the sink washing dishes, and that's what's really important in this story :D

This concludes the "Appliance" portion of The Great Kitchen Upgrade of 2012! We only started at Christmas and it's June, but who's in a hurry? ;)  So our upgrade list looks now like this...
Upgrade appliances
Paint cabinets
Lay new tile

*Over the past few months I think I would also add crown molding around the room and to finish off the tops of the cabinets, but those are less of an immediate necessity. 

Since we've had our tile for something like 2 years now, I'm guessing I'll be painting cabinets next! I think that will make such a huge difference in the whole look of our kitchen. Don't get me wrong the appliances certainly do their part for making things look much nicer, but the cabinets take up a lot more visual space. Having them painted white should really brighten and clean up the look of the entire room. Have you seen the difference it made in John & Sherry's kitchen on Young House Love? So excited!

Have you done anything fun to your house lately that you were seriously over-excited about? Do tell!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Our Amazing C

I felt I was time to give a little update on our amazing little girl. I swear at this age no one is kidding when they say kids learn/say/do something new every. single. day. We are constantly being baffled, amused, impressed, and totally tickled by the things she is saying and doing. Here are a few of the things that have taken us by surprise lately...

She has started identifying letters. We really haven't spent much time working on this, it's just something she is starting to pick up. SO... I've decided it's time to make her some photo flash cards with photos of people, places, and things she is familiar with. What 2 year-old knows things like rope, jam, or overalls (real examples from our current flash cards)?

She knows all the colors of the rainbow, and black and "wipe."

She says things like, "No mommy, no pants, mm-mmmm." And otherwise begs to pick out her own clothes... and hair accessories. Love her :)

She does pretend voices for her toys. The other day in the car I heard her in the backseat doing a pretend voice for Abby Cadabby. Abby was talking about everything outside the car - sky, trees, cars, clouds, airplanes.

Everything she sees in groups she excitedly points out are a mommy and baby, or a daddy and baby.

Her favorite thing to play outside is "run, run, run!"  This is exactly what it sounds like. She even bends down and says, "Set... Go!" and then takes off running :)

She can correctly identify squares, circles, triangles, stars and hearts.

She hugs her daddy when he comes home after work and says "I missed you."

Our neighborhood is beautifully dandelion-free thanks to her love of picking flowers.

She sings along with her favorite songs (most recently the Tangled soundtrack) using things like toy chicken legs as a microphone, and loves to jam with daddy on drums, guitar, or keyboard.

When we call her name, she answers "Yes?" Seriously the cutest thing.

She refers to playing out front as "new outside."

She knows animals like peacocks and flamingos. And turtles say, "Cowabunga."

Her most recent favorite foods are apples and peaches. She especially likes peach yogurt which she calls "peachie go."

If you ask her what time is it? She answers, "Game time!" And if you ask her if she'll protect this house? She answers, "I will!" Girl loves her Ravens.

Ok, so maybe you have to be her mom or dad to find all of these things so incredible and amazing. Nonetheless, I write a blog and part of that blog is keeping people up to date on my child. So, here you have it. These are some things my cute baby is doing. You're welcome :)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The 28 Day Challenge

It all started at the dinner table back in April. I realized that our baby C almost never ate the meat that we would have for dinner. She would much rather make her meal on whatever vegetable was offered. She could take or leave the starch depending on what it was, but honestly I often skipped making a starch. Just one more thing to think of and prepare. At the same time I realized that darling husband J rarely ate the vegetables we had for dinner and preferred to have the "meat and potatoes." Coincidentally, during all of this observation I was doing I had also been trying to think of ways to trim down our grocery budget. These three factors led me to the idea of... vegetarian dinners!

I've never even remotely considered becoming a vegetarian. I was really just trying to come up with a creative way to feed my baby more of what she wants, my husband more of what he needs (and less of what he doesn't) and save some cash at the grocery store. When you build your dinners around a meat entree, you spend a lot of money on meat. So anyway, I hopped online to investigate some recipes in order to determine if this was in any way possible. My husband is really really not a vegetable person so salad 4 nights a week would never fly. I also had to make sure that we were still getting proper nutrition (enough protein tends to be a worry when giving up meat). I started out at and was pleasantly surprised with what I found. Not only were there tons of recipes that I thought even my husband would eat, but each one included nutrition information so I could see how much protein, fiber, carbs, sugars, etc were in each dish.

Also on this website was a 28-day Eat Green Challenge. Since we weren't attempting to become strict vegetarians, I mostly used that for recipe ideas and as a time frame for seeing how we'd get by with vegetarian dinners. Somehow, when I presented the idea of vegetarian dinners for 28 days to J he was totally on board. Miracles never cease.

We began the 28-day challenge on April 30th and I'm happy to report I have not bought meat since. That's not totally true. I do keep some chicken nuggets on hand for C since I know she'll eat them when she sometimes won't eat other things. Toddlers, right? Anyway, the challenge went swimmingly. We found a bunch of recipes that we really loved and some that we thought were terrible. I really tried to focus on recipes that use fairly normal ingredients since I didn't want to spend hours wandering through specialty grocery stores hunting for weird items I've never heard of that will cost me $20 for a pound when the recipe calls for a "dash." For the most part that was pretty easy to do. We did start using more of some things we hadn't often used before, but that is to be expected when you're eliminating another item that used to be the basis of your meals.

Some of our favorite recipes are:
Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas
Black Bean & Quinoa Burgers
Pineapple Fried Rice (we added tempeh for protein)
Broccoli-Cheddar Pockets
Southwestern Salad (we used black beans and added chopped red pepper)
Tempeh Tacos - just use tempeh instead of ground beef/chicken/turkey

These are just a handful of dinners that we particularly enjoyed. I have to say with some of them J told me he didn't even care what was in them because they were so good. How's that coming from a meat & potatoes guy? In addition to vegetarian dinners, we also tried some new shake and smoothie recipes. We love smoothies for summer time so we were excited for some new mixes to try. C's favorite is by far banana-peanut butter-chocolate (cocoa powder). I should also mention that when we're at a friend's house or out at a restaurant we don't necessarily adhere to vegetarian foods. Like I said, the idea was not to become vegetarians but rather to incorporate more plants into our diet and save some money.

I have since also purchased a vegan cookbook recommended by one of my mom's friends. My parents have basically become vegans out of necessity. My mom is allergic to dairy and my step-dad can't tolerate meat since his surgery. The magic of vegan and vegetarian recipes is that you can always add a little bit of meat to it if you want, but you still have a healthy, vegetable-based meal. The vegan cookbook is called Supermarket Vegan ($12.89 on Amazon) if you're interested in checking it out. The focus is on common ingredients and simple recipes which I'm all about!

I'd be happy to answer any questions about our experience if you have them. Just leave me a comment :)

Monday, June 4, 2012

My Happy 30th

Well, I survived! Actually, I more than survived. It was a great day and overall a great weekend. On Friday (my actual birthday) J, C, and I went down to the town of St. Michaels on Maryland's eastern shore (which sounds like the ocean, but it's really the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay, if you're not from around these parts). It's a picture-perfect little waterfront town with brick sidewalks, adorable houses and B&Bs, and dozens of one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants along the main little road, Talbot St.
We started our day at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum where we took a boat tour of the Miles River along which is the house(s) where scenes from the movie, Wedding Crashers were filmed. Yea, Maryland :)  Then we wandered through an exhibit titled, "At Play on the Bay." It was in an old boat house and was full of fun coastal Maryland info and culture. We also took a tour through a rare screwpile lighthouse.

Hooper Strait Lighthouse and the "Mister Jim" 

She loved her first ever boat ride!

Explanation of how the "screwpile" lighthouse got its name. Doesn't C look so excited??

Headed up to look around the lighthouse

 View from the top of the lighthouse (you can see in the pictures that it's not super high up) 

This was J's favorite boat of the day seeing that it was named "Thor"

"At Play on the Bay" Exhibit


This little picnic table was actually part of the exhibit. We do love us some steamed crabs here in Maryland :)

By that time we were ready for lunch so we walked over to the St. Michaels Crab & Steak House. I had a delicious crab cake, my most favorite food! It was here that I made my "Officially Old" comment of the day. A very friendly kid who appeared to be 16-ish came to seat us and when he walked away I said like a true old person, "Well he was awfully nice for a teenager." Immediate palm-to-forehead. Oh well, it had to happen sometime, right?

After lunch we did some shopping at a store called Ophiuroidea. There was so much there that I had a hard time picking something out. I ended up with a picture frame after realizing I could most likely make most of the things that I really liked. The only item I really wanted but couldn't justify the price for was this model sailboat made out of driftwood and actual retired sails. I could probably make something kind of similar minus the authenticity of retired sails. They were made by By The Bay Creations (check them out here). I still might pick one up at some point :)  After picking out a picture frame and a few other small items, we headed over to the St. Michaels winery. Unfortunately by this point in the day, our little trooper C was running out of steam. With no time to taste, we chatted for a few minutes with the people in the winery and got their recommendation for a great summer wine. Their suggestion was called Gollywobbler White (that has to be good, right?) and we went with it.

We drove home through some thunderstorms (what summer day is complete without a thunderstorm? :) and ended up under a tornado watch for a good while once we got here. Eventually the storms passed, we had some pizza, and J & I got to snuggle on the couch with our wine. It was exactly what I wanted my birthday to be. I got to spend it with my two favorite people (who also happen to be the two cutest people I know) in a beautiful location. I got to take pictures and eat crab cakes. In a word - Perfect :)

Here are just a few of the scenic pictures I took.

Pretty cute, right? We loved it. St. Michaels is seriously picture perfect, and every person we came across was really friendly (not just the teenager at the restaurant, haha). We'll definitely be going back :)  To top the weekend off I got to celebrate with my parents and siblings and nieces and nephews yesterday. They only picked on me a little bit about being old, but mostly spoiled me :) I really couldn't have asked for a better birthday weekend!