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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

The hubs and I took the boys on Sam’s first overnight, multi-state roadtrip trip this weekend to visit my parents. He did great for about 4 hours of the drive. (It’s a 5.5 hour drive, without stops. So…yeah.)

But when the baby WASN’T crying, we discussed one of our favorite topics: Moving someplace warmer.

St. Louis is great, but for almost six months each year, the weather is terrible and we’re cooped up indoors. So every winter, we say “this is our last winter here!” because we’re just so fed up with it. We’re also beach lovers and would love to be within a couple of hours drive to the beach someday.

We also talk about being close to an airport for traveling purposes, affordable housing, low crime rates, good job market, fewer allergens (we all have terrible seasonal allergies). We start looking at various Internet articles that say things like “Best Places to Raise a Family” or “Top 10 Happiest Cities”. Finally, I just stopped and said, “None of this matters. The question we should be asking ourselves is where do we want our kids to grow up?”

So I’m curious, freaders, where do YOU want your kids to grow up? Is it where you are right now? Is it where you grew up? Is it on a farm? Is it in a big city? Is it on the beach? Is it in another country? On an island? In the suburbs? WHERE??

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Is it just me or has Mother’s Day become this insane competition to see whose husband/kids can come up with the best brunch, gifts, and excursions? Even my husband admitted that Mother’s Day is  “a lot of pressure” because we’re all bombarded with advertisements that essentially guilt everyone into making sure they appreciate all the mothers in their lives, and do it better than everyone else.

On the other hand, as the recipient of all of this appreciation, I guess I shouldn’t be complaining. Despite the stress it causes him, my husband always goes above and beyond. I’ve already told the boys, jokingly of course, that they’re going to have a hard time living up to the Mother’s Days that their daddy gives to me.

This year, I woke up to the smell of bacon, coffee, and blueberry waffles.  But before I could even come downstairs, the hubs sent D into the bedroom with a card. On the inside, a little blue handprint (D’s) and a little blue footprint (Sam’s). So cute.

Downstairs on the table was a lovely display of breakfast, flowers, a framed pic of the boys, and a box full of my favorite goodies – chips, hard apple cider, cookie dough ice cream, Dove chocolates, and Food Network magazine.

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After breakfast and showers, we attempted to head to Grant’s Farm even though we both had a hunch it would be insanely crowded, much like the zoo was last year when we went. When we saw the line of cars just trying to park in the main lot, we turned around and headed to the Frisco Train Store instead. Of course, once we got there, the sign on the door said they would be closed for Mother’s Day, so we headed to the Transportation Museum. Third time’s a charm as the parking lot was pretty much empty! Score! We paid our entrance fees and bought our train tickets and $28 later we were finally on our way to an enjoyable afternoon. What is it about trains that can keep little ones occupied for hours? D had a blast! The auto exhibit was less exciting for him, but still pretty interesting to us.

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After the museum, we went to a new-to-us restaurant in the area where I had the most delicious buffalo chicken sliders. Fortunately, both boys behaved themselves, right up until we were paying the check. Sam started getting fussy and D yelled at the top of his lungs, which turned almost every head in the joint. That was our cue (and also why we don’t eat out much anymore). Of course, neither one made a peep the entire way home. Kids, man.

The rest of the evening was pretty typical. A little afternoon mimosa for me and a couch nap for the hubs. Later, we spent about an hour hanging out in the backyard. D started pointing at the sky and it took us a minute before we realized he was pointing at the moon. Little guy discovered the moon for the first time! So cute. Overall a pretty fantastic day with my little family that I’m so lucky to call mine.

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Easter Basket Fun

My boys are still too young to really understand Easter so the only “Easter-ish” thing I did for them this year was put together simple Easter baskets.

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Left: Sam’s Basket

1. Jellycat bunny, personalized from PeekaWhoo.com

2. Easter board book

3. Baby keys (gift from Jenni)

Right: Dez’s Basket

1. Jellycat bunny, personalized from PeekaWhoo.com (purchased last year, but who cares?)

2. The Hungry Caterpillar board book

3. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Easter board book

4. Keebler Fudge Graham cookies

5. Blue, light-up bouncy ball from the dollar spot at Target

6. Chocolate covered Oreos (gift from Sara)

And a few plastic eggs thrown in for fun, which D has already been tossing around the house. I’m sure I’ll find an egg or two the next time we rearrange the furniture.

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The Thanksgiving Menu

I know this is already more than a week late, but I don’t care. I want to make sure I document a couple of the recipes we used for Thanksgiving so I can reuse them again in the future.

So here’s what was on the menu:

Appetizers:

  • Chips & dip
  • Chips & salsa
  • Cheese & crackers
  • Variety of green olives

Main Course:

  • Turkey (Butterball – about 15lbs) – My mom handles this, but she basically removes the giblets and cooks them down in a small pot on the stove for gravy. Then she sticks pads of butter and fresh spices under the skin all over the turkey, rubs it with oil and we put it in my turkey roaster for a few hours.
  • Ham (Kentucky Legend, I believe. Don’t remember how big.)
  • Rolls (Sister Schubert’s brand. The best!)
  • Cranberry Jelly (from the can, which I hate and we also forgot to put out. No one missed it.)
  • Green bean casserole (my grandma always make this and brings it to my house. She doesn’t do anything fancy though so it’s basically just like this recipe, minus the soy sauce.)
  • Baked mac & cheese (The cousins I’d never met before brought this and it was REALLY good but I don’t have a recipe, sadly.)
  • Stuffing (My mom’s recipe which I’m pretty sure she just makes up in her head every year. All I know is she uses a mix of regular bread pieces and cornbread, finely chopped onions, carrots and celery, chicken stock, butter, breakfast sausage, and a mix of herbs & spices. It’s always delicious.)
  • Mashed potatoes (We always make mashed potatoes from scratch for the holidays, using your basic butter and milk recipe. HOWEVER, once I saw The Pioneer Woman’s mashed potatoes and that her secret ingredient is a package of cream cheese, I just had to try it. And hot damn was it delicious. I even forgot the seasoned salt and they were still amazing. Highly recommend.)
  • Sweet potato casserole (I can’t seem to find the exact recipe again but I essentially did this one without the topping and just sprinkled pecans and marshmallows on top during the last 10-15 minutes of baking.)
  • Kale and pancetta (My mom insisted on having some “greens” so this was our first attempt at making kale. We basically used this recipe, adding pancetta and leaving out the vinegar. While I didn’t have any of it, she said it was good.)

Desserts:

We had delicious pumpkin pie and pecan pie. From…Sam’s Club. I should be slightly embarrassed to admit this but you guys, their pies are SO GOOD and so big – not like the pies you buy from the grocery store. And they’re better than anything either of us could make homemade, which is saying something since we both love to bake.

My great aunt also brought over some peanut butter fudge and a cheesecake pie that was pretty tasty.

So that was our menu! I only wish I wouldn’t have been so crazed with everything so that I could’ve taken pictures. My place settings weren’t particularly fancy, though I did use my good/hand-wash only dishes, but I was just happy we could basically fit everyone at one big table, using real plates and silverware. When you’re catering to 12 people, this is much harder than it sounds!!

However I should probably also point out that I’ve already declared I’m not hosting again next year. I’ll gladly volunteer to bring the pies. :)

 

 

 

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The Thanksgiving Post

Now that my month-long daily posting of what I’m thankful for is over, allow me to complain a little.

Thanksgiving was not much fun.

Rather than give you a play-by-play of the entire day/weekend, I’ll just recap a few of the sucky parts in bullets.

1. Hosting any event is a lot of work, whether it be a play-date, a birthday party, or just dinner for a couple of friends. Hosting Thanksgiving for 12 people is not only a lot of work, but it’s also EXPENSIVE. The turkey and ham alone cost a small fortune, but it’s all the little ingredients you’ll only use for this one day that you have to buy because somewhere, someone said that there must be 12 side items, 10 different desserts, and all of them must be made from SCRATCH. Or else. This is also why I have ONE photo from Thanksgiving. Just one.

2. Figuring out seating for groups larger than 8 is nearly impossible in your typical American home. I think there should be a new rule that whomever has the biggest house and the biggest amount of disposable income should host Thanksgiving in each family. Most of us cannot compete with these Pinterest-worthy table settings. Between the salad plates and the dessert forks and the table runners and elaborate centerpieces and the wine and water glasses…where does one put the food? It all worked out in the end, setting the food on the countertops in the kitchen and having everyone go at it buffet-style, but the amount of time we spent rearranging our living room to be a large dining area so everyone could sit together and making sure we had enough (matching) dinner and silverware for everyone was a bit stressful.

3. Trying to time everything so that each dish is warm and done on time is also stressful. Especially when you only have one oven and far too many side dishes.

4. My mom is a great cook – and was a HUGE help in the kitchen. But what she lacks is the ability to clean up after herself as she cooks, so as I was cooking my own assigned items, I was also picking up butter wrappers, putting utensils in the dishwasher, wiping up flour and cornstarch, and just trying to keep the counters clear so we could have a place to set the food once it was done. This is exhausting.

5. Walking around barefoot on tile floors all day – while roughly 6 months pregnant – was not my smartest decision. Sciatic pain had me limping around that evening and most of the next day.

6. I did not know 4 of the people that came to Thanksgiving dinner prior to their arrival. They’re relatives from Alabama and while incredibly nice, their 2 yr old daughter was extremely sick. As in couldn’t stop coughing to the point where I thought they may have to take her to urgent care. I assumed it was either croup or whooping cough, it was that bad. I felt awful for her. Considering she had JUST come down with it that day, I knew she must be highly contagious, which is EXACTLY what I wanted around my own 18 month old and my pregnant self. I cringed with each and every cough, so imagine her coughing every 30 seconds and me cringing every 30 seconds. Fortunately, D was napping when everyone arrived and we were able to keep him in his room for the first hour and 15 minutes they were there. Unfortunately, that little girl played with almost every single toy we own and roamed throughout the house coughing all over everything. We used a lot of Lysol after they left.

7. My stepdad did not leave my house – or more specifically, my couch – from the moment my parents arrived Wednesday night until they left Sunday around noon. The TV was on non-stop and there was a permanent two liter bottle next to my couch for 4 days. I guess he stopped believing in cups or something. We didn’t interact much because that would’ve interrupted one of his many couch-naps or one of his 35 favorite TV shows. In his defense, I assume he was just trying to stay out of the way, but damn. I’ve never seen lazy like this before.

8. My uncle must’ve gone hiking through the woods before he came over because I kept finding clumps of mud from his boots all over my floor within just a few minutes of their arrival. At least I hope it was mud.

9. Plungers were needed. That’s all I have to say about that.

10. I didn’t get to do much shopping or decorating on Friday. Why? Because cleaning your house after hosting Thanksgiving takes an entire day. Even though you just cleaned before everyone got there.

Basically, I never want to host Thanksgiving again.

 

EDITED TO ADD: I want to make it clear that I love my family and I’m glad we got to be with so many people for the holiday.  BUT family can drive you nuts, especially around the holidays, and especially when they stay with you for prolonged periods of time, and especially when they have possibly brought the plague inside your house. I’ve very thankful for family. But I’m also thankful when they leave. :)

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Best 4th of July EVER!

Oh, you guys.

I just had the most wonderful 4th of July. Perhaps only so wonderful because it was NOTHING like last year’s no good, horrendous excuse for a holiday.

Last year, I was on maternity leave, pumping every few hours, and after having just buried my grandpa two days before – on my grandma’s birthday no less – I was in no mood to celebrate. BUT, my inlaws – all 12 of them or something – were in town to celebrate the holiday and my FIL’s birthday (he’s a 4th of July baby). They weren’t originally there to go to my grandpa’s funeral but they came anyway and while everything was so damn chaotic, it was kind of nice to have so many loved ones around with children to give us a break from the sadness.

So last year on the 4th of July my husband’s aunt had a pool party/birthday celebration at her house for my FIL. The hubs and I went, with the baby, and my parents.

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All of about 5 weeks old.

Shortly after this photo was taken, my MIL started having seizures and it was the fastest way to ruin a party and make the already shitty holiday even shittier. It scared the kids, it terrified me, and it pretty much ruined my FIL’s big 60th birthday.

That night, I fell ill with some sort of crazy stomach flu or food poisoning or something, and ended up just going home and going to bed. I remember laying in the darkness, listening to our neighbors set off firecrackers and just wanting to curl up into a ball and die. My husband left, with the baby, to visit his family at the nearby hotel. Given the events of the afternoon, they weren’t in the mood for watching fireworks either and instead spent the evening packing up to head back home at 06:00 in the morning.

So last year’s 4th of July goes down as the WORST 4th of July in the history of my life.

But this year! Oh you guys, this year was PERFECT. Perhaps the BEST 4th of July in the history of my life. Here. Let me tell you about it.

We woke up around 8am, usual time. I fed the baby his bottle while the hubs made pancakes, including little baby pancakes (or, silver dollar pancakes as they’re apparently called) for D. He loved them. I loved them. My parents who were still staying with us loved them. It was grand.

Around 9:30, our little family of 3 loaded up to check out our first ever 4th of July parade as a family. We don’t normally do parades, but our town was having one and the weather was perfect (high in the low 80s) so we figured if we were gonna give it a shot, this would be the year to do it. We found a shady area, spread out a blanket, and just sat and played and people watched. And took selfies.

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Since our town is just a suburb of St. Louis, we didn’t expect to be there long. WRONG. The parade lasted almost 2 hours. But we didn’t mind. D ended up passing out in his stroller about halfway through so we just sat in the shade and enjoyed the festivities. We battled a little traffic on the way back, but not much. Then we went home to fire up the grill.

On the menu: Various types of brats, baked beans, corn on the cob, zucchini and yellow squash, pasta salad, chips and flag cake. For drinks we had beer and sparkling pink moscato. A simple yet tasty menu, and I’m all about simple and tasty. I didn’t take any photos of the food since it’s all pretty standard stuff but I was so proud of my easy peasy flag cake and sunflowers with flags that I snapped this pic for you.

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A few words about the cake.

First, I got the idea for it from Pinterest. Second, I used regular yellow cake, and a can of real whipped cream for the frosting. I could’ve used more strawberries and blueberries but I’m pretty lazy and was running out of strawberries as it was. The verdict? AHMAZING. And far fewer calories than a traditional cake with frosting, so I didn’t feel so guilty eating a second piece. This will definitely be making a repeat appearance in future years.

Considering we only decided to host a cookout the day before, we didn’t really invite anyone aside from a couple of friends who already had plans with family, and my cousin who was babysitting her sister’s 4 year old son. So my cousin and her nephew came over to play in the baby pool and splash table. There were only 7 people at my house, but it still felt like a party. We sat outside and sipped our drinks and watched the kiddos play and lathered ’em up with so much sunscreen they were like greased pigs, with grass sticking to them and getting in the pool. But they loved it and D would squeal with joy anytime SJ would splash him. It was fantastic.

After the food was put away, the baby went down for a VERY long nap and my cousin and SJ went home. So it was just the four of us sitting around outside, playing horseshoes, drinking drinks, and listening to me comment about 500 times on how great the weather was that day. I mean really, when was the last time anyone in the Midwest can remember a 4th of July that WASN’T 105 degrees and/or raining? I could not get over it. Still can’t.

After a little hemming and hawing about which fireworks display to check out, we decided to return to a spot we’d been to about 3 or 4 years ago and watch our own little town’s display. I wanted a spot where we could spread out on a blanket on some grass and not battle crazy amounts of traffic afterward. So we packed a small cooler, a sippy cup, some bug spray and blanket and picked the perfect little spot to settle in and watch the show. And to my surprise, baby D even watched nearly half of the display without even so much as flinching at the pops going off around him. But I think most of all he just like the fact that all his favorite people were sitting on a blanket, surrounding him.20130705-111352.jpg

Watching the fireworks

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Cuddling with grandpa

We fought almost zero traffic getting out of there and was home just before 10pm. A bottle and bath for the baby and he was down for the count before 11. And just as I had hoped, the day’s events WORE HIM OUT. Despite about 3 months of shitty sleep, he ended up sleeping for 6 hours straight with barely a peep. At 5:15 am, he finally woke up and wanted to be in our bed, which he does every night but MUCH earlier, say at around 1am.

This post is getting far longer than I intended so I’ll just wrap it up and say it was a spectacular 4th of July.

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Daddy’s Day

daddysdayMother’s Day and Father’s Day are quickly becoming two of my favorite holidays. Two entire days dedicated to honoring parents.

Last year was hubby’s first official Father’s Day, and the last Father’s Day we celebrated with my grandpa. In fact it was really the last time we had a meaningful conversation with him at all. I gave him a card with pictures of baby D. (What do you get a man who’s dying, can’t get out of bed, and can’t eat anything?) We talked about baseball and watched some of the Cardinals game, trying to avoid talking about the future. Less than two weeks later, he was gone.

So this year we were determined to keep things positive. I woke up a little before 8am, hubby and baby D snoozing beside me. Threw on some jeans and drove to our favorite local donut shop to grab a half dozen donuts.

I came home to find the boys already on the couch, baby D with his bottle. Oops. I made a pot of coffee and gave the hubs his presents – a book of “Awesome Dad Projects” and some personalized golf balls. The golf balls were a much bigger hit than the book. The card went over pretty well too, since it had a pic of a dog that looks like ours. That’s always a surefire win.

This weekend also happened to be free HBO weekend and Field of Dreams was playing, followed by a Rocky marathon. This meant the rest of the morning was spent on the couch. We each made some phone calls to family, put the baby down for a nap, took showers, and got ready for our activity of the day – Grant’s Farm. For those not from St. Louis, Grant’s Farm is a cross between a petting zoo (but bigger) and a real zoo (but smaller) with free beer. Actually the whole thing is free except for the $12 parking. Once you get there, you hop on a train tour to look at animals like wild mustangs, deer, buffalo, longhorns, ostriches, and mountain goats. Once the train drops you off, you walk through an area of goat, duck and chicken feeding, a giant carousel, and around the way, you can even see elephants, and another feeding opportunity, but for camels and llamas. Then, finally, you reach the beer garden where each over 21 adult is given 2 complimentary beers. Food can also be purchased (and it was) and there are a some stables with Clydesdales. It’s one of the better places for families in St. Louis to spend a few hours.

Baby D LOVED the goats and sqwaked at a couple of geese (who sqwaked at him first). We also stopped by the Clydesdale stables on the other end of the parking lot (there are two sets) and one of the horses even let us pet him.

On the way home, we picked up some BBQ ribs for dinner and spent time on the deck catching up with an old neighbor who stopped by the neighborhood to visit.

Then it was bath time, reading time, and bed time. But since we’re still struggling with some sleep issues, I ended up snuggling him in the rocking chair for a good half hour or so and then patting him on the back in his crib until he fell asleep.

And I didn’t mind one bit. 

 

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