Wednesday, October 3, 2012

and suddenly, she's two.

{a drop of golden sun} party
this child. 

she has been the sunlight in our lives, even from day one. she's been such a pleasure to parent, even in the tough moments. i don't pretend to think that "two" is going to be easy, but some patience+GKGW+some deep love for this little Rae has to make it an adventure. we can't get over the kindness and/or funniness that she has, stroking our arms on her own sometimes, saying: "ahhh mama" or saying "daddy, poot, funny"--she's got her priorities straight. she helps clean. she likes to be creative. she always wants us to be around. she loves her babies. she loves her cars and her colors and balloons. 
so, we celebrated her turning two with a saturday brunch with the most important requirements: good food and playtime. our friends nicole and brian were kind enough to lend us their bouncy house, and it was surely a hit. the basement was a veritable three ring circus of play-doh, bouncing, and parents refereeing the Cosy Coupe. fun for all! 
 perfect mini pancake stacks by the Grammy
 buckets of beverages
  cute friends {like Hunter!}

 tons of good food.
 pear bread, pumpkin bread, bagels, maple pecan butter, bacon, turkey sausage, bird's nests (hashbrown mini miracles), grilled breakfast pizza, fruit + marshmallow dip, pumpkin baked donut holes, mini quiches, cinnamon rolls, cardamom espresso cinnamon rolls, morning glory muffins, chocolate chip coffeecake, chocolate chip biscoff scones, lemon truffles, cinnamon french toast bake, fluffernutter cupcakes.

 front and center: lauren's cinnamon french toast bake
 the Grammy cake. I tried to "fancy it up" with some fondant--terrible idea. should leave the classics alone. it at least did nothing to impair the flavor, just the looks. 

 she wasn't so sure about that fire-sparking-candle thing. 
 loved the Grammy cake. she ate the cake and left the icing. it's okay, we complement each other--i ate it. 
 the girl with her yellow balloon. i believe that we've started a tradition of 3+ foot balloon, one for each year. last year was one...this year we had two... by the time she's 18 we'll have to make sure the mailbox is rooted in cement. 

i love that "r". totally bought it for her new "big girl" room. 

 we couldn't leave the grilled pizza off the menu. 
this time it was the breakfast edition, and boy, it will see an encore. 
we're so grateful for a happy, healthy little two year old. we're tremendously grateful for great family and friends who celebrate with us. it was a wonderful day, spent catching up with friends, eating and eating some more, and letting the kids "have at it". I could not have done it without Phil's help, and Grammy and Papa were instrumental in helping us pull this off. 
Looks like that drop of golden sun affects a pretty large group of people :)
we love you, rae! 

Monday, March 26, 2012

18 months

this just sums up Rae's quirky individuality so perfectly. her favorite things right now: headbands and avocado. she also say 40+ words. i kid you not. she will be reaching her 2012 goal of pronouncing "loquacious".

Saturday, March 3, 2012

the wonderful world of Disney 2012

We had the privilege of traveling to Florida right after Christmas for a trip to Disney with the Douglass side of the family. It was a great time! We were all together in a rented house (thanks, Mom and Dad!) and it was a never-ending chorus of fun and excitement! 
Our first day took us to Universal, where we loved Seuss Landing. We took Rae on her first ride on The Cat in the Hat. She was definitely not sure about it when the seat we were in started whirling like the Tilt-a-Whirl, and it got all dark. Thing 1 and Thing 2 were too many Things, too. All in all, though, the carousel was a sure hit.  
And so was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where Phil and I rode the Dragon Challenge ride. The counter said 10 minutes' wait time, but really they meant it was a 10 minute walk, literally! We walked right on to the rollercoaster, but had to cover some serious ground beforehand. It was a blast, and I loved the whole set up for Hogsmeade and Hogwarts. Call me a geek/nerd/dork, I love it. Every minute was super fun. We went from there into Jurassic Park, and that was great, especially Camp Jurassic. We were able to do some hands on climbing, strolling, and running around in there (it's kind of like a big jungle gym). We enjoyed the sweet food deal at Universal since you can purchase a wristband for $20 and eat-all-you-can all day. And everyone else with you. We ended up feeding 13 people (+2 babies) for $60. Not a bad deal at all! We went back to Seuss Landing toward the end of the day where our daughter sat down in the water in the little "If I Ran the Zoo" park, she loved it so much. 

We met our friends at SeaWorld the next day. If it weren't so cold, that would have been super fun, although the company you keep makes everything bearable (or not). We have some great friends: Bryan, September, and Nola were in from Missouri, and Ryan, Sara, Sadie and Paul are Florida natives that we are blessed to know. We stayed with the Baumans before we left on our cruise in September, and we had known them literally seven hours previous to that. Good friends introduce you to other good friends. It's a fact. 
SeaWorld was, of course, full of sea creatures, which Rae found very exciting. She was out of sorts most of the day, but found some smiles for the dolphins (and her mom cried during the dolphin show) and she definitely loved the fish (popping lips). Not at all related, we ate at Texas de Brazil that night, and I've never had a garlic sirloin like that, ever. It was the stuff of dreams. 

We took on the Magic Kingdom on Sunday, after a day of shopping for warmer clothes. Thankfully, the weather reconsidered and it was much warmer the rest of the week. We enjoyed going to Magic Kingdom, but like I said, Rae was still out of sorts (maybe from teething, traveling, lack of naps, parenting?..) so the highlight of her little day was the balloon we got her. I should have followed my gut and bought the crazy thing hours beforehand, but it did the trick regardless. She did like the parades and shows we stopped to see, and it was fun to see all the sights. It seemed that the tough thing was keeping our little traveler in her stroller since there really isn't a good space to play (like at Seuss Landing or Camp Jurassic). I also managed to lose her shoes twice, and my ticket once, but happily everything worked out fine in the end. Just a scatterbrained mommy.
One of our favorites, though, was Epcot, which we saw the next day. It was beautiful and pretty quiet, and we walked straight up to Rae's favorite character, Marie (in France, of course). She loved seeing the "Kiiieee".
 We also saw Aurora, Aladdin and Jasmine, and Pooh, Goofy, Mickey, Chip and Dale, and Pluto because we happened to catch the characters before they left on a break, and were told when they would be back, so we waited for them. We were first in line.
I have to say, that was a highlight. I look more excited to see Mickey than my baby, although now "Miii Mi" on tv is pretty exciting to her, and she wants to watch these videos on my phone over and over. 
Our three-way tie for first place in favorite parks included the last one: Animal Kingdom. Rae did great watching the Lion King show and we had a blast going on the safari! The Expedition Everest ride was fun, so fun that our niece Lily rode it three times. Dinoland was fun, and Rae really liked the Triceratops Spin ride. We made it to another parade, and back into some of the wildlife areas to see the gorillas, hippos, monkeys, and other animals. 

We were so blessed to spend time with family and great friends in our nine days in Florida. It was a great time and we count ourselves so lucky! Hopefully, we've documented it well enough for Rae to appreciate her first visit to "where dreams come true".

Sunday, February 26, 2012

christmas past

I did a terrible job doing anything with Christmas pictures and posts, so here is a quick attempt to make up for it. We had a terrific photo shoot with a home-for-the-holidays best friend, and her camera magic was as-always a sure hit. We sent off a lighted {biodegradable} lantern, and it was a hit with our 15 month old. and me. {just being honest!}

We also took some pretty, informal pictures of Rae, but just trying to get her to stay where I put her is a tremendous challenge. In short, these are the best of the bunch.

Thanks JSS!! You're the best. 
Merry post-Christmas and happy new year!

Friday, February 24, 2012

fav at 17. months, that is.

Rae is officially 17 months old. How did that happen? It’s amazing because life seems to be just that much more wonderful and complex since adding her to the mix. I loved life before, and now I love my life even more. It has taken on new meaning and delights. Just think: your life changes when you have a baby, but no one mentions that it doesn’t have to be a bad change. You instantly think selfishly: “I’ll not have time for myself anymore” or “we will have to stop doing fun things” but really that’s not what you find yourself thinking once it’s happened. You drive home from a long day at work excited to see a tiny person say “MOOOm, momomom!” {or daaaaDEEEE!} It is the feeling of being an immediate comfort and a delight to something else, and the best part is, it’s yours. Rae has been the best, and most fun we could ever have hoped for; we are grateful we have her each minute. Praise God.
Here’s a list of our 17 favorites, current trends, quirks….
1.       Crossed ankles. Still.

2.       Her delight in an old photo album. She carries around a light, random album of photos from about the time when Phil first joined the Air Force. It is her favorite thing to flip through all the pages.

3.       Jewels. She wears no less than at least 4 necklaces. Heaven forbid if mommy has one on and she does not.
4.       The Kitty. (KEEE-eee!!!) the highest pitch you can imagine. Good thing Luna is a good sport.
5.        Pasta. The girl can eat.
6.       Books. If You Give A Pig A Pancake. Not sure how I feel about the greedy pig, but she loves it.
7.       Animal sounds. Just ask her what a cow says. MMMMMMMMO. Heavy on the M-oh.  Or the lion {my personal favorite}.
8.       Mirrors. Circles. Dancing. She’s got skillz. Shout-out to Miss Dana in the clip :) 
9.       Reading in the car. She just needs a few to look through, and she always holds it the right way and thumbs from page to page, left to right, just the way it’s supposed to be done. (don’t worry, I took this picture using the backwards camera feature on my phone and the rearview mirror—I’m a safe driver, even at stop lights).
10.   Pulling the towels off the rack. Just because it’s fun. I think it’s because she likes to see what’s cooking in the oven.
11.   Ponytails.
12.   Cooking. {i.e. big messes} She likes to have a little menagerie of rice, cheerios, water, and mini utensils to “cook” while I’m cooking at the stove. It’s fun and it’s messy.
13.   Words & Copying. She is saying So. Many. Words.  Kitty {her first}. Cheerios, blueberries, love you, mommy, daddy, Ky, car, upstairs, outside, pasta, Papa, Gigi, hi, book, “A, E” {the alphabet song}, lion, cow, pig, sheep, doggie {she barks} and fish {she pops her mouth like a fish}.
 And it changes daily.
14.   Tip Toes. She’s just discovered her feet can lift her higher. She’s trying to get the gist of jumping next.
15.   The swing, and loving to be outside. WHEEE WHeee!
16.   Kisses. Open mouthed or blowing kisses.
17.   Being friendly with others i.e. I can still drop her off at the nursery and she doesn’t like it, but she’s brave and will get report cards that say: “Played, Interacted with the Other Children”.
Best thing ever. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

whims may take me...clementine muffins

on a whim, on a dark snowy night, my sister and I felt the need to bake something sweet. We had the ingredients for a recipe I had recently pinned on Pinterest, from my new muse: The Novice Chef. Jessica had posted this amazing recipe alongside her wonderful pictures, and a particular one caught my eye.

(photo courtesy of The Novice Chef blog)

My mind started going, and I thought it looked as if Jessica had baked those darling muffins INSIDE the clementine peel.


What a great idea!!

I pinned that recipe straightaway, with the note "could I bake them inside the peel?" and promptly my pin was copied by 47 others. 

Anyway, we were presented the opportunity to try out the theory tonight, and I must say it was a great success!!

One of the best features of a clementine is its easily peeled skin. We cut these in half, and just carefully pulled out the soft segments in one. These were lovely, larger clementines from Morocco, purchased at our local farmer's market. 

 Here you can see the peel formed to the pan, with a flat bottom and curved sides. I peeled one away to inspect (ie. taste!) the difference in texture, and was pleased to find out that the muffin baked within the peel was delicate and soft, delicious, not overly clementine-y from the oils in the skin. It peeled nicely, too, without losing too much of the flesh of the muffin.
I continued with the recipe, and glazed and "blinged" the muffins out with a citrus glaze and zested sugar, and with all that flavor going on, you might think they would be overboard. They are not. They couldn't be any more delightful, and the peel just makes you feel ever so clever. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

culinary tour 11.11.11

Most people who know me, know I'm a planner. I love lists, and I've had one on my computer for over a year called "New York Culinary Tour". I had accumulated a bunch of places that were either recommended by some Food Network chef, a friend, or on a blog or website. I came to find out a spectacular girl I worked with (Lauren!) also loved food and food places, and she offered to go on this mad, whirlwind tour with me. This was not for the faint of heart, and again, if you know me, you know that we don't vacation, we travel. Meaning: we see absolutely as much as we can and do as much as we can in the time we have. (Hello, we've toured 5 countries in one day.) This was a planned 14+ stop visit to the Big Apple, and I'm happy to say we conquered it. We left on the 8am train from Hazlet bound for Penn Station...

The fun started at Doughnut Plant, inside the Hotel Chelsea. I had read about this pastry sensation and had wanted to score a square doughnut for myself. I chose wisely, picking a peanut butter banana offering from their "yeast" menu. I brought one home for Phil, a "blackout" from their "cake" menu, and his was better. Dark chocolate and all, you know. They have about the most amazing assortment. 

We had to stop at the New York Cake and Baking Supply Co. I came out with a few odds and ends of things. You know, important essentials. 
I have always wanted to see the Flatiron Building, so this was stop #3 on our agenda. It was a gorgeous morning and the sun did everything it could to add some grandeur to this timeless building. 

Eataly is conveniently located on the same block as the Flatiron Building, so we were able to combine lots of attractions without walking too far (it's all in the planning! lol).

Gelato Bar

The market at Eataly is amazing. There are lots of interesting sections to browse, and all of it sports a cool warehouse/carrera marble combination. Beautiful.

Wouldn't you like to try something, just to watch it be made?

Lauren approved the fresh, unpasteurized milk.

Apparently, "Bah-ram-ewe" isn't always going to work :(

Butcher counter
Bread! I came home with a loaf of rustic fig, and it was wonderful.
Fresh pasta
Fresh fruits and vegetables! I found black garlic and was super stoked to try it. It's been making appearances in several of our dishes, and most noteworthy was its addition to our family favorite: rigatoni. 

Loved the set up in Eataly, this in particular was a wine/salad pairing where you stood at sampling tables.

How would you ever choose?

Spicy soppressata, please.

The cold caprese sandwich was incredible. It had house-made fresh mozzarella, a yellow heirloom tomato, a basil-infused olive oil and salt flakes. Salt flakes?
They rocked my world. You wouldn't think they'd make that much of a difference, but the salt flakes made the sandwich.

From Eataly, we crossed a few streets in search of the Coolhaus truck. I was following them on Twitter, so we were able to find them in the midst of the NYC Veterans' Parade. 
We tried the Sweet Potato ice cream with a spiced pumpkin cookie, and the Nutella with snickerdoodle. Yes, it was November, and yes it was cold, but it was gooooood. 

Our next stop after the ice cream truck was to Zara. I got Rae a Christmas present, and we walked back over to Union Square GreenMarket. It was amazing. The vendors and the varieties available in the city really is incredible. I had sumac tea, Lauren had Hot Pear Cider. Hers was better. We bought a few items like handmade pretzels, and made our way to the metro. I didn't take any pictures :(

Motorino was slated by the New York Times to be some of the BEST pizza in New York. I had to find out, and wow, yes, that's right. I loved the thin crust, the fresh cheese, the delicious sauce, and the place! It was so super cute, and honestly, the pizza was just amazing. Soft, foldable, dripping...yum! 
We went next door to S'Mac for a takeout since we had eaten more pizza then we had planned. of course. We ate the Four Cheese the next day, and it was good. Not as good as some baked macaroni though. 
We then had an impromptu stop at a thrift store we both of us bought some things (as if we had room!) and then our foot tour took us right past another store we had considered going to: Broadway Panhandler. This was actually much more my speed than the Baking Supply Co. and it had some really cool and unique items. I got quite a few Christmas presents there. and not for me! Next up was a different, more touristy site
Washington Square Park
So I saw August Rush, whatever. :)
It was beautiful and so cute overrun with kids doing anything to be busy and playing outside.
City moms have it tough.

Chelsea Market: Home of the Food Network.
Naturally, on a food tour, we'd stop there, right?
We did some shopping there at Chelsea Market Baskets and Buon Italia, and added a few more Christmas items to our overflowing backpacks, along with some herbs and spices that were cheap at the market.
Happy Veterans' Day! 
And, to top it all off, stop number 14, Mood. I happen to like Project Runway, and I've always wanted to shop at Mood. I needed five different fabrics--something fun and cool--and within the 30 minutes we had to shop, I got them all. Projects to come later :)
We ate at the Pig N'Whistle, and stopped for some much-needed Starbucks before leaving on the 8pm train bound for Hazlet. It was amazing that we accomplished the whole day's agenda, but we did!