Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review

2011 was a busy year for our family.  Here are a few lot of highlights:

Little G turned one! 

He wolfed down the cupcake and would have eaten more if I'd given it to him!

"Official" 1 Year Photo

He mastered the art of getting around - even if he couldn't walk yet. 


We taught him to start contributing around here!

Playing with the vacuum

He had his first plane trip and boat ride when we visited south Florida.


Taking a passport photo.  It turned out great!

In the spring we undertook our biggest adventure yet and went to Paris with Little G for 10 days!  The flight was miserable and by the time we arrived, I was ready to permanently relocate to Europe to avoid a return flight.  Fortunately, I had 10 days to compose myself and get my mind right about the flight home.

We saw some of the tourist highlights.  From the outside.  Fortunately, this wasn't our first trip to Paris, because we didn't go inside very many attractions and museums were a no-go.  We enjoyed the slow pace, good food and adventure of getting around an old, big city with an almost-toddler.  We spent lots of time in parks, taking walks (the Eiffel tower was walking distance to our apartment) and enjoying the neighborhood around our apartment that was a true Parisian family neighborhood.  We went further afield a couple of times to take a guided tour in another arrondissment (district), which we loved.  We also went to visit a small amusement park that was fun for Little G.  We even got to see the finish line for the Paris Marathon and ride the Metro with thousands of marathon participants and their friends and families.  It was a special surprise bonus!

Eiffel Tower

Double Decker Bus Tour

Crusing Around at Notre Dame


Summer found us going to infant swim lessons.  Little G was a trooper and after a rocky start he picked up on it and was soon swimming and floating around the pool. We highly recommend ISR for infant swimming and safety training! 

We went to the beach a few times and enjoyed spending time with the ladies and Little G enjoyed impressing folks at the pool with his crazy swimming skills. People would literally go get their family to come back and watch him swim. We were a teeny bit proud of him. :)

July 4th

My side of the family

 We capped off the summer with a trip to the lake with Big G's side of the family. It was great to have all three cousins together. They were all born within a few months of each other and are old enough now to play together.

Bouncing on the bed after bath

Getting in the lake with Sug and A

Big G's side of the family


Little G started preschool two morning a week in September.  He loves it!

Next on our calendar was a trip to Chicago to spend time with friends!

Enjoying the view from our high rise apartment

Baby J - sweetest little heartbreaker!

Playing with Baby J

Walking around the Lincoln Park Zoo with Mr. Lucas

Next Up... Halloween!

Chillin' in the sweet ride at the pumpkin patch!

Our Little Lion

I was a terrible photographer at Thanksgiving and don't have a picture to show!  We had a fun time visiting my side of the family and eating way too much.  We have so much to be thankful for!!


Here is our Christmas card photo from this year: 

We celebrated Christmas the weekend before Christmas with my side of the family and then on Christmas Day went to Big G's family.  The three cousins were united again!

Opening Gifts Christmas Morning at home

P is a Pony!

"Airpane" as G says

Our all-three-babies-in-front-of-the-tree photo

dancing followed

A was feeling the music!!

All the fancy Christmas presents and they find an old bin to play in.

The Aftermath

As you can see from the last picture, we have some cleaning out and donating to do with the older toys.  I'm also going to put away some of the new toys so I can rotate them in later.  I've found that Little G plays better with smaller groups of toys.  Maybe because he can focus more? 

That brings us up to date.  Almost.

I have one other bit of news to update.  I hope it won't change the way you think about me.  Big G and I had a fundamental shift in one of our long-held beliefs this year.  Something has happened that we said we would NEVER happen.  I'm not proud of it, but I'm working on swallowing my pride and embracing it. 

We bought a minivan.  Or as I prefer to call it, a car with sliding doors.  Shocking, I know.  It was a sad day when I parted with my beloved Infiniti sedan for a more sensible mom vehicle.   I finally came to the realization that the time in my life for zippy, fun cars is not right now.   Right now, I'm in it for the sliding doors and extra back seat leg room for those huge baby car seats.  It is the smallest minivan on the market since I wanted to be able to park in the garage and my stall isn't very long.  Also, it isn't very cute, but as I said above, I'm working on embracing it.

Here is our little swagger wagon .... please try to contain your envy!

Mazda 5

Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Well, the past two months have flown by in the blink of an eye!  I had every intention of posting regularly and even thought about posts I would like to compose.  Alas, my sidekick and life in general have conspired against the blog. 

It is hard to believe we are only a few days away from Christmas.  In fact, we've already celebrated with my side of the family, who came up to visit and exchange gifts last weekend.  It was a lot of fun seeing them and Little G loved seeing KK, Pops and Aunt Sessa (Sarah).  They brought him (and us!) some fun loot too! 

I've made a few crafty projects in the past couple of months.  Most recently I made some felt jumbo crayon and notepad wallets for Little G's five preschool classmates.  I need to make a couple more for the cousins.  They turned out pretty cute and weren't difficult to make.  I'm a slow cutter and sewist and I could make one in 20 minutes or so.  The materials are also inexpensive, with the costliest item being the crayons.  I had a difficult time finding the jumbo crayons in stock and ended up paying $3.99 per package, which was annoying since I bought the last ones on clearance for fifty cents.  I was happy to find them though, so I ponied up the cash.  I'll post a pic when I make the next batch, since I forgot to do that before giving away all the others. 

The other project that I'm still working to complete is those darn training pants.  I have ten pairs completely cut out and all are at least partially sewn, but I still have a way to go to complete them.  They are the project that won't end.  I counted the number of pieces in each pair and when multiplied by ten I realized that I've cut out 150 separate pieces to make the 10 pairs of pants.  No wonder I'm tired of them! 

Since I'm loaning a few pairs to my sister in law when she trains her daughter and she's starting next week, I've got to buckle down and finish. 

G is doing pretty well with training too.  He sometimes stays dry for multiple hours now, but not consistently enough that I can just put him in underwear anytime.  He never makes a dirty diaper, which is wonderful!

I've done a little cooking since the last post.  Nothing too exciting, but I recently made my usual cranberry orange nut bread for a little Christmas treat for our friends and neighbors.  I also tried a recipe for microwave peanut brittle I saw over at Made that turned out great!  It has been raining since the day after I made my initial batch, so I haven't made more yet. 

Back to the salt mines sewing room so I can get some stuff accomplished while my little boss is asleep!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pear Butter

As part of my ongoing cooking kick, last week I decided to make pear butter.  I'd never really had much to do with apple butter, or any other "butters" for that matter. 

As you probably already know, there isn't actually any butter in these preserves, that are just a really thick smooth fruit spread. 

I made a small batch using 2 1/2 pounds of pears. 

Please forgive my pitiful photos.  My kitchen is dark!

I cut them up and added a little water and lemon juice cooked them down on the stove until they thickened and were very soft.

Then I used my stick blender (one of my very favorite kitchen tools!) to blend them to my desired consistency.  I wanted it to be completely smooth, but that's personal preference and you could leave it chunky. 

I added my spices and flavorings - cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla - and returned it to the stove to continue to cook down.  Once it reached the consistency I wanted I cooled it a bit and put it in my jar. 

Since this only made one jar I obviously didn't can it, but you could do that if you make a large batch. 

Little G has taken it to preschool for his lunch on a sandwich, we've had it on toast and I made biscuits one night and it made a tasty dessert!  I'd love to get a bigger batch of pears to make more.

Warning!  Random cuteness moment coming up:

Contrary to appearances, Little G isn't throwing a gang sign here.  He using sign language to say I love you!  Awww... melts my heart.  Especially when it's spontaneous and I don't have to beg him to do it. :) 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Artisan Bread

I recently mentioned my new cookbook, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  Well, I'm back to report that it works!  I mixed up my first batch Tuesday night and baked a loaf Wednesday and it was by far the best bread I've ever made.  I made another loaf from the same batch of dough yesterday and the flavor was even better.

In the past I've made bread and it was always quite dense.  My most recent attempt at french bread was better, but still slightly denser than I would prefer.  I'm sure I was putting in too much flour, but try as I might I couldn't avoid it.  This method is very quick and simple - it really is about five minutes of hands on time.  There is no kneading either at the time of mixing or when you are ready to bake. 

You mix your dough with a spoon in your covered container and then put it in the fridge to rest at least for a few hours or overnight.  Then you pinch off about one pound, shape it, let it rise for 40 minutes, and bake it for 30 minutes.  The hardest part is waiting for it to cool enough to cut.  I have to fend off Big G from the warm bread. 

Here is my second loaf:

I still have enough dough for another loaf or two in the fridge.  The dough lasts for about 10 days before it starts losing its rising power.  You don't have to use a starter or feed it.  I definitely recommend the book! 

Friday, September 23, 2011


We have this place near us that we found on Craig's List a while ago and it is the strangest and best place.  We found it when we were looking for a particular baby gate and it turned out that it had so much random stuff it sort of blew my mind.  Their stock is comprised of returns primarily from Amazon, but also Bed, Bath and Beyond, Walmart, JCPenney, etc.  It is a huge warehouse stacked helter skelter with anything and everything you can imagine.    I dubbed it "graytail" since it isn't retail or wholesale and you can't be 100% sure where it came from.  Actually, that's a joke, because usually you can tell from stickers exactly which returns center it's from. 

We've been back a few times to try to find random stuff and it's hit or miss to say the least.  Today I looked through bins of mostly housewares that were amazon returns. There was everything from grain mills and yogurt makers to insulated beverage mugs to ravioli makers to photo frames to sheets, and on and on.

I found the retractable baby gate I was looking for and a few other things.  Yay!!  I love digging around and finding things I was already planning to get or had my eye on, but putting off purchasing. 

Here is a picture of my haul:

Here's what I got and they current Amazon price for each item:

1. Wilton cupcake decorating kit $7.75
2.  Bento Lunchbox Kit $27.95
3.  Retractable Mesh Baby Gate $59.99
4.  Accordion Wall Mounted Drying Rack $20
5.  Stainless Steel Heavy Duty Mandoline Slicer $68.40
6.  Pullman Style Non Stick Bread Pan $27.87
7.  Alphabet Cookie Cutter Set $31.69
8.  Retractable Clothes Line $9.99
9.  Parchment Cupcake Liners $12.83 (who in the world would pay that, I don't know)

The total price if I ordered these items would be $266.47. 

Of course, I would never pay that!  My price for everything was.....


To say that I was pumped would be a huge understatement!  I basically got everything for what the baby gate alone would normally cost.  I just love a good deal!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


A week slipped away quickly since my last post!  We took a short trip to Chicago from Thursday - Sunday and it seems to take longer to prepare and recover from trips that involve a todder.
Little G enjoying the beautiful view from our apartment.

We rented an apartment with another family who have a precious 9 month old.  We have mutual friends who live in Chicago and we all got to spend lots of time hanging out, eating and talking.  We did go to the Grant Park Zoo with Little G and he enjoyed it, but other than that it was a very low key trip.  We've done the tourist highlights in the past and this trip was focused on spending time with friends. 
Who needs pants?  Let's go to the zoo!

Little G is a seasoned air traveler now, but it still isn't a pleasant experience.  This was his fourth air trip this year.  I think it has become more difficult the older he grows because he is more and more independent.  We bought a portable DVD player to use on the plane and it was a big help on our return flight.  Our outbound flight was during nap time so he was just too grumpy to be happy watching a movie.  Now that he is down to one nap a day, I am going to make every effort to schedule flights during the morning so we aren't flying during nap time.  He won't sleep on the plane and it's pretty miserable for everyone.  Although after what I thought was a miserable flight the man sitting ahead of us turned around to compliment Gabriel on how well behaved he was.  I think parents are harder on themselves than other people are sometimes. 

Little G walking with our friend at the zoo

Another thing that helped pass the time was a small magna doodle I bought.  Little G liked to draw on it, but also liked for me to draw simple - all I'm capable of! - pictures for him to identify.  There was more than one time, that I couldn't believe he figured out what my pitiful drawing was supposed to be!  He must be a genius. 

Checking out a zoo exhibit

His favorite thing to do is squirm down on the floor at our feet (not in the aisle) and unpack his diaper bag.  As you may guess, that isn't my favorite thing for him to do since it means things go rolling everywhere or get dumped on the floor. 

The days of traveling light are not for us anymore.  We used to travel to Europe for two weeks with a roll-aboard suitcase each.  Now, we check bags and gladly pay the fee so we don't have to haul them through the airport!  I actually got a gold delta AMEX card last winter since I can waive the first checked bag fee for everyone in my traveling party.  It has more than paid for it's annual fee in saved baggage fees. 

Other tips I've picked up over the last year:

  • Check the car seat unless you are on a really long flight.  Heavy and bulky don't even begin to describe what it's like to drag it through the airport. 

  • Don't take too many clothes.  They are heavy and you can do laundry at your destination so you can wear things more than once. 

  • Take more diapers and snacks than you think you'll need onboard the plane.  Fortunately, I did NOT learn this the hard way.  New and special snacks are a handy way for us to pacify Little G. 

  • You can take liquids through security for your child (milk, juice, etc.), but expect the TSA agent to inspect it closely.  It has never been a problem and they've always been friendly towards us in that regard.

  • Expect to be embarassed by your child. The yelling and crying.  It will happen. 

  • Agree in advance with your spouse to forgive and forget arguments that may arise while traveling with a young child.

  • Take turns child wrangling with your spouse or traveling partner so everyone gets a break.

We enjoyed our trip, but were glad to get home Sunday afternoon.  After a long nap, Little G woke up and his Pops (my dad) was here for a quick visit while he was in town for business.  Little G was happy to see Pops and was soon giving him commands on how to play.   Since Pops is wrapped around Little G's finger, he followed his orders like a pro.