Dec 30, 2011

What's For Dinner? - Baltimore, MD - Dec 2011

So these days I'm completely motivated by food. With Little Sticks squashing my stomach in to my UPPER rib cage, somewhere around my shoulder, I get to eat a few extra meals each day! That's never a bad thing! =)

So with a looming grocery store run hanging over me yesterday I thought to myself "What's for dinner?" and THANKFULLY I had an answer! (so often I'm like... "I don't know... Whatever!?" But yesterday I got and answer! Woo hoo!!! Eggplant Parmesan!!! With this dish being one of my all time favorites I thought I'd do a little "blogumenting", is that a word?

My little sister made it for us for the first time when she came shortly after El was born and we loved it! SInce then, it's my "go to" meal when "we're having friends over for dinner", " a good friend has been in the hospital or has a new baby", or "The Hub wants to eat something that's not a casserole". It's ALWAYS met with RAVE reviews!  It also freezes well and makes for awesome leftovers!

You will need:

1 large eggplant
2 cups of bread crumbs
2-3 eggs
canola or vegetable oil or olive doesn't really matter
Approximately 48 ozs of homemade pasta sauce (made in advance) or 2 jars of whatever flavor of marinara sauce you like (I like Classico Tomato & Basil)
fresh spinach
fresh basil
42-3 cups of mozzarella
1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese (not canned)

STEP 1 - Preheat canola oil in a cast iron skillet (once oil is hot keep heat on medium to medium low, depending on your stove and pan, to prevent oil from smoking).  At the same time, preheat oven to 350

NOTE TO READER: I use a cast iron skillet because it maintains a pretty consistent temperature and canola oil because it has a higher smoke point, both of which make it so that we are less likely to set off the fire alarm. =)

STEP 2 - Peal the skin off the eggplant and first slice the eggplant into quarter inch slices, then cut those slices in half,

Bread the eggplant slices. Have one shallow bowl for an egg wash (break eggs into bowl and mix whites and yolks together) and one shallow bowl for bread crumbs and a clean dry cutting board or cookie sheet for breaded eggplant slices. Once pealed, cut, and breaded they should look like this.

Note to Pregnant Readers: If your oven/stove top controls are on the front of your appliance beware, your baby belly likes to adjust the size of the flame. Oops! =)

(Holy Crap where the heck are my feet!)
(Oh thank goodness... There they are!)
 STEP 3 - Once all eggplant slices have been breaded place into hot oil and brown on each side.  According to the below picture, I can usually fit 8 or 9 half slices in the pan at a time.

 STEP 4 - After all the eggplant slices have been browned, it's time to assemble.  This goes together in layers, sort of like a lasagna.  Coat the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish with a ladle full of marinara sauce 

NOTE TO READER: If your going to freeze half for later or take half to a friend, use two 8x8 baking dishes.  Also when I'm freezing or taking to a friend I get the disposable aluminum 8x8 DEEP baking pans from the grocery store.  Makes clean up super easy and they don't have to worry with cleaning and  returning a dish.

Layers go like this on top of the thin coat of marinara sauce, layer browned eggplant, then cover with spinach, then mozzarella cheese, then a few torn basil leaves, and then another ladle of marinara sauce.  Should sort of look like this.
(It takes about 3 layers to use all the eggplant.)

STEP 5 - Once all the eggplant has been layered, top with a nice layer of marinara, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.  Should look like this just before you stick it in the oven. 

Step 6 - Bake at 350 for 30 min.

Then it's yum yum eat it up!

Till next time,
Bon Voyage!

Dec 29, 2011

31 Weeks - Baltimore, MD - December 2011

I haven't done nearly the number of posts I thought I'd be doing on this pregnancy, but much to my amazement, my friends that are mommies of one and one on the way were right!  The days and weeks are just FLYING by!

(25 Weeks - Fall photo session by Monica Leigh: MM Leigh Photography)

The 2nd trimester was great!  I pretty much ran after the Monkey throughout that entire 12 weeks.  El and I also did some fun traveling.  First to see my friends Robyn and Sarah in Florida for about a week and then to see my Sister in Kansas for a 4 day weekend.  We also went as a family to New York City.  All of these trips I fully intend on posting about, so please stay tuned and please don't give up on me.  I just feel like on most days I'm going in circles and praying that at the end of the day the beds are made the sink is clean there is something to eat for dinner, The Hub has clean scrubs to wear tomorrow, and I can say I accomplished SOMETHING that day.

I'm starting to "list" all the things that need to be done before the arrival of Little Sticks and am starting to get a little overwhelmed, and A LOT excited!  Most things will need to wait until after the new year, but with the Hub on a pretty rough couple of rotations in a row I know we must take our time and do what we can today and be okay with leaving the rest for tomorrow, or the next day, or even next week or month.

It's been a lot harder for me this time around not knowing the gender of this baby because I am worried if it's a boy that he'll have to wear pink new born stuff, but I'm comforted when I pull out the box of preemee and newborn clothing from when El was tiny and remember that we deliberately bought things to be gender neutral. =)  Good thinking us!

Here are a few belly pictures
20 Weeks
 25 Weeks
30 Weeks

How far along? 31 weeks
Total weight gain/loss:10 lbs
Maternity clothes? Yep (Thank you Katie, I'd be naked without your super cute tops!)
Stretch marks? Nope
Sleep: Not so great. My dreams are still NUTS and the heart burn is KILLER!!!
Working out? I picked up The Perfect Pregnancy Workout: Vol 1 and it's actually pretty good.
Best moment this week: I have 2: One hearing Little Stick's heart beat on Tuesday and two When El woke up yesterday morning she pointed at my belly and said "baby" and blew Little Sticks a kiss.
Movement: ALL THE TIME!!! And he/she gets the hiccups like you wouldn't believe!!!
Food cravings: Japanese Hibachi food, Red Robyn bottomless fries, and root beer floats! Mmmmmmmm!!!!
Gender: Not finding out!!
Labor Signs: Nope (unless you count Braxton Hicks contractions which I've had in both pregnancies from the 2nd trimester through to the end). 
Belly Button in or out? OUT
What I miss: Sushi and sleep
What I am looking forward to: Christmas! (I know this is a little late.)
Weekly Wisdom: Sleep when you can!
Milestones: I have my "shelf" back! Most often used as a plate or cup holder while kicking back on the couch, this belly comes in pretty handy! =)

Til Next Time,
Bon Voyage!

Nov 28, 2011

Family Gift Swap - Baltimore, MD - November 2011

I can't believe I'm already thinking about Christmas gifts.  reason number one is that it's in the 60's out side and I didn't even wear a coat today.  Reason number two is, if it's almost Christmas than I have less than 3 months till we meet this sweet baby! Yay!

After doing the family Christmas crazy dance last year, my siblings and I chattered about potentially doing a name swap this year so that we could concentrate more on the season rather than the mad dash to be sure you'd gotten everyone a gift.  So a few weeks ago I reintroduced the idea and everyone was still game to give it a go, so I volunteered to organize.

First off, I found this website which made it super easy to randomly generate the swap.  It allows you to set exceptions so that you don't draw your spouse or the same person you drew last year.

Second, I wanted to find a cute way to let my family know who they'd drawn. Yes, e-mail is "easy" but a cute card in the mail is WAY more fun!!!

I got these great "I Am Thankful For" cards from this Jones Design Company post.  This isn't how she used the cards, but I thought they were perfect for what I'm calling "Swap Cards".

I found these colorful blank cards at Target and stuck the "thankfulness" cards to the blank cards 
This is the finished product. 
(NOTE: The lower "eat-drink-be merry" card was from this JDC Free Christmas goodies post and I used it to communicate the "swap" details.)

I sent them to each family member with instructions to include the card with a message when they gave their gift.  This may sound silly to some, but this year more than ever I'm really feeling the need to stay connected to my family as we aren't going to be able to return to Tennessee for Christmas and both of my younger siblings could very likely be deployed fighting for our country next Christmas.

It was my goal to make it as easy as possible for each of us to know how much we are loved and to know that each of us hold a VERY special place in our family.
I miss and love them like crazy!

Till next time,
Bon Voyage

Nov 21, 2011

A Ponytail FINALLY!!! - Baltimore, MD - November 2011

I was mentioning to the Hub last night while playing with the Monkey's hair that I really thought it might FINALLY be long enough for a ponytail. I don't quite remember what his response was, but I'm sure it was something like,  "okay?".

Anyway, this morning, at her first peep, I rushed into her room, scooped her up and said something like "guess what today is? It's your FIRST PONYTAIL DAY!!!"

I must say, by far, I was the most excited about this milestone... 
Is this not the cutest, tiniest, little ponytail you've ever seen!

(NOTE TO READER: Those cute barrettes came out just after I took the pictures, as they're small enough to end up in her mouth, which I'm SURE would be the first place they'd go.)

I've been asked by SEVERAL people how I keep her still long enough to fix her hair?
That would be... iPhone Bribery! =)  Just kidding!

The truth is for the most part she sits pretty still and "reads" books, but as I said in my pig tail post, this has been  a bit of a process and my suggestion to mama's of little girls is, "START EARLY"!!!

Till next time,
Bon Voyage!

Nov 15, 2011

A Thanksgiving Craft C/O JDC Monthly - Baltimore, MD - November 2011

I joined JDC Monthly's printables a couple of months ago and have really enjoyed the cute calendars and note cards.  Another fun part is that she does a really cute DIY craft each month.  The first month she made her own envelopes.  Mine didn't turn out nearly as cute as hers.  The corners were all wonky  and none of my lines were straight (probably because I can't make a straight line to save my life) but I'm sure I just need more practice.

Each month generally has a theme, and this month had a hint of Thanksgiving.  I LOVED how cute it turned out in her house, so I decided to give it  a whirl.

So, after last year's whirl wind of putting up and taking down Christmas decorations with an infant under foot and only really getting to enjoy them for a few weeks, i decided that this year I'd start decorating after Halloween.  By doing this, our home would look festive and beautiful all the way through the holiday season.  So I started with our fireplace.

Before craft: This garland came from Sams Club last year and the "PEACE" letters were an after Christmas bargain 5 years ago from HomeGoods
 Craft in progress: I printed and cut out the letters from heavy card stock, then glittered the fronts...
 and backs of each letter.

 I used spray glu and fine glitter.

(I started using a glue stick, but the glitter didn't stick very well at all.)

 After letting everything dry for about an hour I punched two holes in the top of each letter and  threaded some twine through the holes to connect the letters.

FIRST LESSEN LEARNED: I think I'll let the glitter dry a little more if I do this again, because there was a little more glitter lost than I would have liked when I threaded the twine through the holes.

SECOND LESSEN LEARNED: When possible, do all gluing and glittering OUTSIDE!!!  Even after vacuming 3 times there is still glitter in places that I didn't even know existed.

After all the glitter settled, I hung the letters from the hooks that will eventually hold our stockings
Definitely don't needs stockings before Thanksgiving! =)

(And it is note worthy to say that the Hub actually said it looked really good and he REALLY liked it too! YAY!!!)

Another (LESS SPARKLY) Thanksgiving craft coming soon!

Till next time,
Bon Voyage!

Nov 4, 2011

Candy... STAT!!! - Baltimore, MD - October 2011

Last year, for Halloween, even though we didn't go door to door trick-or-treting, I couldn't resist dressing our little monkey up for the occasion.  She had two costumes...

A Monkey...

 I LOVE the tail!

And a Frog!

I LOVE both costumes and she wore them both from when they swallowed her up, until she was literally about to pop out of them.  I can't wait for "Little Sticks" to be able to wear them.  Dressed up babies are too cute!

This year she was a doctor.

When I was little we always went to our church's carnival for Halloween so I've never actually done door to door trick-or-treating, so we were really excited that Daddy was able to join us for our first trick-or-treating adventure!

It was really funny how quickly she caught on to knocking, saying "thank you"...

And then checking her bag for goodies,

She was great at sharing!

When we got home and dumped out the candy she was very cautious about if it all was hers, as I don't think she's ever even seen that much candy all in one place.

Daddy inspected all her candy and after going back and forth between Reese's Pieces and a candy bar, she finally decided that her first Halloween candy treat would be a Hershey's Cookies & Cream mini. 

Our little girl has good taste!  What a fun time!  Who knows what she'll be next year...

Till next time,
Bon Voyage!

Oct 22, 2011

Pig Tails - Baltimore, MD. - October 2011

We've been a wandering family for the last couple of months, so the next few posts I'm going to work my way through our late summer and early fall travels, but for now, Here's a quick post of something that makes me smile every time I see them.

About the middle of August her hair was finally long enough to do something with.  I was so excited! 
 I LOVE her pig tails!

Even though she isn't always happy about the process ...
 (Her tears have gotten significantly less since this first tearful event.  SOMETIMES there's no crying at all!)
 There is much dancing after they're up!

Till next time,
Bon Voyage!

Oct 13, 2011

A Blog Wworth Sharing - Baltimore, MD - October 2011

A friend of ours linked me to this blog, 3 Kids, a Mini-Van, & a Mortgage, about 9 months ago.  Reading this mother's unedited account of her family's walk through their daughter Lucy's battle with a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer, Medulloblastoma, has become a regular part of my week.

I don't know her, but every time I reconnect with their story I find myself in uncontrolled tears.  Her writing is eloquent, heartfelt, and straight from her soul.  it isn't odd to find the time stamps on her posts at 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning.  Her ability to capture their experience, not only in words, but also in pictures is breathtaking.  I'm sure she has become immune to these images of 

...but I still get knots in my throat knowing the underlying cause of each of these things that have become so routine in her world.   Her blog is followed by just under 1500 followers and she posts several times a week. Their story has touched so many people.

There is nothing I can do for their sweet family except pray and share her blog and their story in hopes that you will, regardless of your faith, find a moment to fall to your knees and pray for them and thank God for your healthy children knowing that each day with them is a gift.

"Life can change. In the blink of an eye. It happens. You are never prepared for it. And when it does you just try to survive. And that's what we are doing right now. Surviing. I am going to use this blog to update Lucy's status and track her recovery so that one day she can look back at what she went through and know how much her mommy loves her. Tomorrow morning at 7:00am the staff at LeBonheur Children's Hospital will come get my baby girl for the biggest event of her life. 4-6 hours of a grueling surgical procedure to remove 3 brain tumors and 1 tumor from her back. Every time I allow myself to think about it I want to vomit. It doesn't seem real. Last night when I went to sleep I prayed that when I woke up this would all be a bad dream. Funny thing is, I never slept. So I feel as if I have been in a walking nightmare for 2 days. Tomorrow is going to be hard for us all. I don't think any of us are really prepared for the rollercoaster we are about to ride. I just don't understand why it had to be Lucy. I could understand why God would want to put this disease on me. I have had 33 years to live a sinful life. I DESERVE to suffer. But not Lucy. She's only 5. But that's not how God works. I know that. There's a reason for all of this. I will NEVER understand it, but that's not my job. My job is to remain faithful and trust that God will heal my sweet girl. Medulloblastoma is no match for my Father. I will praise Him in this storm while I cling to the hope that He will extend his hand of mercy and grace to Lucy in the days, weeks and months to come."

Her honesty, faith, and strength have made me a stronger believer, and a better wife and mother.  Thank you Kate!

Till Next Time,
Bon Voyage!

Oct 3, 2011

I Crave Movies - Baltimore, MD - October 2011

So although I absolutly crave different sorts of foods while I'm pregnant, what I crave most of all is MOVIES!!!  While pregnant with The Monkey I think I watched Julie and Julia at least 40 times and Juno... Well that number is pretty obscene and probably realistically falls somewhere in the 60's.  I know it sounds bad, but don't forget I was on Bedrest for 7 weeks.

This time around I find myself drawn to older movies that hold some sort of scentimental significance.  Old baseball movies like Field of Dreams,  For the Love of the Game, The Sandlot, Rookie of the Year, and Eight Men Out.  They aren't all fantastic movies, but they remind me of my dad and watching them on Sunday afternoon was one of our favorite pass times.

I also have had a hankering for The Sound of Music.  Little known fact, my older sister and I can sing EVERY song in this movie pretty much by heart.

In my DVD player, as we speek is one of my all time favorites which I believe I'll watch again tonight (4 time) before I send it back to NetFlix, is the 1994 version of Little Women that has be in tears within the first 5 minutes. I just can't stop myself!

I still make a regular go at Juno, but my copy of Julie and Julia is missing in action (maybe it ran away with my Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred that the Hub says I conveniently lost).  Thank goodness I've been able to get my Meryl Streep fix from weekly submersion into The Devil Wears Prada while folding towels durring the Monkey's nap.  The only problem is that watching it has got me  wishing for more Anne Hathaway, which could go a great many dirrections... SIGH!!!

My one complaint is Instant Queue. Although NetFlix has been a big help durring all of my late night needs for the silver screen, the amount of material on "Instant Queue" is pretty disapointing.  Of the movies I've listed, only 2 are available instantly.  The others I've had to wait a couple of days for.  I have been able to get my Friday Night Lights fix instantly as all five seasons are now at my fingertips via Instant Queue, so this is a big plus, but still, I want more!

Pregnant or not, what movies to you crave?

Till next time,
Bon Voyage!

Sep 30, 2011

Being One is FUN... And Long Over Due - Baltimore, MD - May 2011

Note To Reader: This post is about 4 months over due so as far as milestones go she's way further along now than she was at a year.  Please forgive me for being so late with this post!

I seriously can't believe it's been a year! It's amazing to me how much she's grown and changed in this first year. I mean a year ago she was less than 5 lbs and just under 17 inches long. She couldn't do anything for herself and the Hub and I were just learning how to do things for her. She took a bath in our kitchen sink, she was too little to go in the Baby Bejorn, She was swimming in premee sleep and plays, and she slept less that 10 feet from us.

Although sometimes I still sneak into her room to listen to her breath while she's sleeping, she has gotten so big. She's almost 19 lbs and well over 2 feet tall. She's wearing size 12 month in everything but swim suits. She takes baths in the big tub without any sort of baby seat. Although it's very messy, she can feed herself and she drinks from a cup. She's walking while holding onto things. She's generally a very happy baby, loves being social, and loves music and dancing. Her favorite time of the day is when Daddy comes home from work.  She is still learning the importance of sharing but I'm confident she'll get it eventually.

She still has just a few words in her little vocabulary, but is starting to mimic sounds we make, like when the phone rings or someone walks into a room she says "ah oh". In the last week or so she has started to make kissing sounds and was a very quick study when learning to blow kisses.

Here are her official 1 year stats:
Weight: 17lbs and 3 ozs (3rd%)
Length: 28 inches (15th %)
Head circumference: 43 centimeters (4th%)

And finally her last set of Butterfly Pictures.  
 El Brand New

 El 1 Month

 El 2 Months

 El 3 Months

 El 4 Months

 El 5 Months
***6 Month Picture MIA***

 El 7 Months

 El 8 Months

El 9 Months

El 10 Months

 El 11 Months

El 12 Months

it's safe to say that she has officially grown too big for the butterfly blanket Oh and she was not in a smiling mood the day I took her pictures.  She was cutting her first two molars, need I say more.  There were a couple of good ones this month, but I chose this one because she was in the same position, with her knees drawn up, as she was in her first "brand new" picture. What a difference a year makes.

The birthday celabrations started when her God Parents sent her a special birthday package that included som fancy new clothes and  a fabulous lady bug book.

 Her favorite parts though were the stuffed lady bug and the card

Mmmmmm!!!  Tasty!!!

 There were also a few special treats from her Granny that she got a little early so she could wear the outfit on her big day.

For the actual day we invited our good friends Megan and Nathan to spend the weekend with us at my Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Jack's home on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

The birthday girl and her daddy

Our little family

Practicing for blowing out the candles

"Mommy did you see all the presents behind me? Are they all for me!?"

The Birthday spread: Burgers with all the dixings and lots of extras

Me and my sweet girl!

She LOVED her birthday cake!

Getting ready to take a birthday boat ride with Megan and Nathan.

She was not a fan of the life jacket, but finally tolerated it.

We had so much fun sharing this big day with friends and family.  It's amazing how much we love this little lady and it's so wonderful for us to see how much others love her too.  She is a special little girl and we are so lucky and blessed to be her parents.

Till next time,
Bon Voyage!