Monday, December 26, 2011

Tomato Basil Soup

We used to have this amazing restaurant in Oshkosh called the Water City Grill. The space was vintage, the decor was hip, and the food was incredible. It was one of our favorite date spots before it closed in 2009.

The food at this place was the stuff of legends, and the chef's famous tomato basil soup is no exception. The recipe has been included in community cookbooks over the years, but I got a variation from a friend of a friend of a friend who used to work there.

Ben and I made this with grilled cheese for Christmas Eve dinner. It should serve four people, but we're freaks for this soup, so we ate the whole pot ourselves. Enjoy!

(Sorry, no photo! We gobbled it up before I thought to grab the camera.)

Tomato Basil Soup
Adapted from Ryan Nolan and Water City Grill

4 cups diced or crushed tomatoes (we used Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes)
2 cups cream
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 T. sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine tomatoes and cream in a large pot. Bring to a boil.

Blend the mixture with an immersion blender (we don't have an immersion blender, so I just poured into my regular blender, pulsed, and returned to the pot).

Add basil and cheese. Season with sugar, salt and pepper.

Allow flavors to simmer for at least an hour. Serve with parmesan cheese and fresh basil sprinkled on top.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

This Christmas

Be merry and bright

Feeling extraordinarily blessed this year, celebrating Christmas in our new house, watching the holiday through the eyes of our toddler. He's wholly unaware of everything going on, but he loves the special decorations and food. Not to mention having Daddy home with us for 10 days straight!

We started celebrating last night, hosting Ben's parents, brother and sister-in-law for dinner. We ate together, exchanged gifts, laughed, talked and drank plenty of wine. It was the perfect start to our holiday.

Tonight, we go to church. I love church on Christmas Eve. The candlelight. The carols. Taking a moment to slow down amidst the hustle and bustle. Taking a moment to be thankful for all we have.

Later on, we will put Will to bed, pull the gifts out of the guest room, and enjoy a bottle of wine in front of the fire place. We will go to bed early, excited to celebrate with our child on Christmas morning.

He won't understand what is going on or why, but it doesn't matter. We do, and we will always remember this, the first Christmas in our new home.

We will make pancakes and hot chocolate for breakfast, pile into the car and head to Ben's parents for Christmas Day. I went overboard on the food (two desserts and two sides), but there will be almost 20 of us this year, so I'm sure it will all get gobbled up.

After a fun-filled day with family, we will head home, stuffed and exhausted. We will take a day to rest, only to head to Minnesota on Tuesday to do it all over again with my family.

As I said, we are so blessed. Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, joyful holiday!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Interim Break

Oh, how I love interim break. No classes. No homework. No group projects. I don't even know what to do with all my free time.

However, I could use some direction, so here's my goal list...

  1. Read three "fun" books (i.e. books that aren't assigned for grad school)
  2. Organize the hall closet, coat closet and laundry room closet
  3. Organize the basement and garage
  4. Paint Will's bed side table and book shelves
  5. Plan out Will's activity schedule for the winter/spring
  6. Finish Will's 7-12 month baby book
  7. Start Will's 12-18 month baby book
  8. Blog at least 3 times a week
  9. Start working out at least 3 times a week

Help me stay accountable, people! Interim break ends on January 30.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

15 and 16 Months

These days, we can only get photos in motion

Dear Will,

As you can see from the title, this is my first combo month. Not to shabby really. I'm impressed I didn't drop the ball before now.

Here's the thing though, actually playing with you is so much more fun than writing about playing with you. So the blog goes by the wayside a bit. But I want so desperately to remember every second of your precious little life. So here we are.

At 16 months, you have quite the vocabulary. You're picking up new words each and every day, and you like to try and imitate what Daddy and I say. The words you use on a regular basis include: up, milk, more, apple, oatmeal, bread, cheese, truck, duck, Mama, Dada, shoe, book, hi, bye-bye and help. You also know a lot of animal sounds, including: horse, sheep, cow, dog, cat, elephant, lion, monkey, fish and bird. Granted, Daddy and I are often the only one's who know what you're saying, but we think you are the smartest child ever.

You continue to love books, but we've entered the stage where you want to read the same book over and over and over again. Like 10 times in a row. Literally. And I think you would want to keep going if I didn't hide the book ask you to pick another one. It can be mind numbing, but it's hard to say no to books. I love that you love reading, so we read them over and over and over again to your heart's content. Your favorite book this month is probably Dear Zoo (you like to lift the flaps and say all the animal noises) or Ollie.

Moving vehicles continue to be an obsession of yours.  Buses, trucks, trains, cars, you name it. If it has an engine and wheels, you're all about it. Tuesday is garbage day in our neighborhood, and you love to peer out the front window and watch the garbage truck head down the street. Several weeks ago you started crying as it rounded the corner. "Ma," (more) you cried to me and pointed. "Ma!"

Considering your parents both adore food (and adventurous food at that), you are an exceptionally picky eater. Your favorite foods are cheese, yogurt, apples, peanut butter, bread, bananas, waffles, kiwi and cinnamon graham crackers. But you still won't touch meat, and you turn up your nose at most vegetables. We've gotten pretty creative at sneaking vegetables into your meals. We've found you'll eat them if we mix them in with your yogurt or hide them in a peanut butter sandwich. Whatever it takes.

We were so excited to put up the Christmas tree earlier this month, but you know what? You could have cared less. I thought for sure you'd freak out over the bright twinkling lights, but you gave it a resounding "meh". On the plus side, that means you pretty much leave the tree and ornaments alone.

One of my favorite things you do right now is help Mama with the laundry. You toddle in the laundry room after me and announce "helper", which means you want to help put the wet laundry into the dryer. So I put a few pieces on the dryer door for you to throw in yourself. You love it. So much so that sometimes you take the wet laundry back out of the dryer, only to throw it right back in.

Your favorite toys this month are your yellow dump truck, fire truck "book", Zany Zoo (wooden activity center) and popper. Grandma picked up the popper for you at a garage sale because it looked just like one Daddy had when he was a little boy. It's in great condition and you love it. Often you just run back and forth across the house, pop pop popping away.

I can't tell you how much I love this age. You are so fun and funny, sweet and silly, inquisitive and energetic. It's not easy parenting a toddler, but we're having a blast. You are our whole world. I love you so much, my sweet baby boy.



Monday, December 19, 2011

Spicy Kale Lasagna

It tastes as good as it looks!

We've been doing Meatless Mondays at our house for the last month. I don't think I could ever be a full-on vegetarian, but I certainly see the health benefits of limiting your meat intake. Plus, Will hates meat (seriously, the child eats NO MEAT). So I'm always looking for recipes that he'll enjoy as well.

However, we're not all veg-heads at our house. Ben is very much a meat and potatoes kind of guy, so while he goes along with Meatless Monday, he doesn't exactly look forward to it. I haven't been able to produce a meatless entree that he's actually enjoyed. Until tonight.

Allow me to introduce my first husband-approved Meatless Monday meal: Spicy Kale Lasagna.

I got the recipe from my friend Nicole over at Baby Food Scoops. And let me tell you, it's awesome. Really easy to make, and packed with green, leafy kale goodness.

I followed Nicole's recipe to the letter, except for one substitution. Instead of cottage cheese, I used 15 oz. of part-skim ricotta and one egg. But that's simply due to personal preference. I don't really care for cottage cheese.

There's some excess water in this lasagna due to the kale, so I would advocate for buying the no-boil noodles. Less water in your noodles = less water in your lasagna. And definitely take Nicole's advice to let the lasagna sit for a few minutes before eating. We let ours rest for 10 minutes after it came out of the oven, and it was perfect.

Husband-approved and all-around delicious. Enjoy!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Life's Tough, Get A Helmet

One of the most common searches that drives new traffic to my blog is "baby flat head". I've been really open about Will's brachycephaly, but I wanted to do a quick post for anyone looking for help and support.

First of all: stop the guilt. Right now. I know you feel awful, and you think this is all your fault. But you know what? It isn't. Some kids develop this condition. You did nothing better or worse than the parent of a kid who doesn't have to wear a helmet. What matters now is that you're doing something to help your child. And that's what counts.

When we first brought up Will's flat head to our pediatrician, he told us it would fix itself. But I couldn't shake the feeling that it was more serious than that. So I pushed for a referral to a specialist, and guess what? Will's case was severe. Helmet outcomes are better the younger your child is, so get that referral before 6 months if possible, even if your pediatrician says its fine. The specialist (in our case an orthotist) will tell you if treatment is warranted.

Making the decision to get the helmet is a very personal one. It's a big commitment on the part of the parent, and some insurance companies will not pay for treatment because it's deemed "cosmetic". If you're on the fence, allow me to share some advice that really helped me: I have never once heard of a parent who regretted getting the helmet, but there are plenty of stories out there of parents who didn't helmet and now wished they would have. The window of correction is so small. No one wants to look back and think "if only..."

Helmets come in all kinds of colors and patterns. If possible, get a solid color so you can mix it up with some fun vinyl stickers. This made the helmet process a lot more fun for us. My friend Lisa at Vinyl Wall Decor and More has some super cute designs available. Bling Your Band also does great work.

When your kid gets their helmet, you will probably waiver between thinking it's the worst thing in the world to thinking he/she looks super adorable in it. I would literally go from sobbing about how horrible it is, to taking a million pictures because Will looked so damn cute (see photos below).

Some people will be really rude. I had people tell me I was a bad/lazy/selfish mother. I had people tell me that this wouldn't have happened if I would have done baby wearing (which I did). I had people tell me that they never would have spent that kind of money ($2,800) on a "cosmetic" condition. Going out in public with your kid in a helmet makes you develop tough skin. But I took it as an opportunity to educate people about the condition and teach some empathy.

Despite the occasional rude comment, most people were really wonderful. They told me how adorable Will looked, or made a point to comment on his bright eyes or shy smile. What I really appreciated though, was when a parent would come up to me and tell me their kid wore a helmet too. It was so nice to talk (even briefly) with someone who made it out the other side. I make a point to do the same now.

Talking to other parents who know what you're going through is really helpful. I was fortunate to find a wonderful Facebook support group for parents of kids with plagiocephaly and brachycephaly. It's a closed group for privacy, but anyone is welcome to join. The community is wonderfully supportive. I largely credit this group of women for helping me get through Will's treatment.

Finally, I know it feels like they'll be wearing the helmet forever, but I promise it will go fast. Soon your kid's head will be much rounder, and this all will be a distant memory. I pulled Will's helmet out of the closet last night and smiled. As weird as it sounds, and as much as I hated it at the time, it's hard not to love something that was such a part of him for 5+ months.

Proof you can be adorable while wearing a helmet 
Isn't he darling?!?

Monday, December 12, 2011

On Vaccines

Not to engage in a pointed and highly political debate, but I had to share this post by one of my favorite bloggers. She sums up my stance on the vaccine debate perfectly.

We choose to vaccinate Will because we believe in herd immunity. We believe in the good that vaccines do, and we believe in our responsibility to keep ourselves and others safe from serious illnesses.

That being said, the amount of toxins and preservatives in vaccines troubles us, so we do a delayed vaccine schedule. We choose to space out shots so that Will doesn't receive more than three vaccines at any one appointment. I know three sounds like a lot, but when you consider how often kids receive combo vaccines (MMR, DTaP, etc), we typically reach that three vaccine threshold in just one shot. At our last appointment, if we would have followed the recommended schedule, Will would have received three shots for a total of eight vaccines. That just seems like a lot for his little body to handle.

For us, the delayed schedule is the best of both worlds. It allows us to control the toxins being put into Will's body, as well as monitor any reactions or side effects more closely. Yet he's still fully vaccinated.

I know several families that don't elect to vaccinate. They are wonderful, caring people, who also care deeply for Will. This was not a decision they made lightly, and I respect their individual choice. But for us, herd immunity is a powerful thing. We're a community and we need to think like a community.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Our Christmas cards hit the mail this week! Here's a peek...

We ordered them from Tiny Prints this year. Aren't the gorgeous? The quality is amazing, and the turn around time is fast. I splurged a little more than usual, but I needed a beautiful card to showcase a beautiful photo.

Anyway... Happy Holidays to you and yours!

P.S. This post was not sponsored or endorsed by Tiny Prints. I just love their products.

Friday, December 2, 2011

52 Reasons

Ben and I are celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary today, but we exchanged gifts last night. I was so excited to give him my present...

It's a book of 52 reasons why I love him (made with a card deck). I got the inspiration from Pinterest, and had some custom playing cards made on Shutterfly. I know it's a little sappy (and will just gather dust on his bedside table), but I had a lot of fun making it and I think he really got a kick out of it.

Happy anniversary, dear! I love you, now and always.