Friday, October 31, 2008

happy 1st bithday, oliver

dear oliver -

happy 1st birthday! i can't believe a year has passed already. i guess we've been so busy we hardly had the chance to notice. i look over my shoulder in awe at all we have done together, while still elbow deep in mommyhood in the present.

the past year has been eye opening, breath taking, amazing, and special beyond words. bringing you home was scary and exciting. the responsibility of being a new parent is, at times, overwhelming. nothing can prepare you for caring for a newborn. like most miracles, your first child is something you have no idea how to deal with. but all it took was you cuddled against my neck to fill me with a profound feeling of love and accomplishment.

everyone will tell you to enjoy every moment when you have a baby. it is hard to remember to love the moment in the middle of the night, when you have not slept, when you have changed the 5th poopy diaper in a 4 minute time span, when your child is crying and you have no idea how to make it better. it is draining and frustrating, and you doubt yourself as a parent. but it is so difficult because you care so much and want to be the best parent you can be.

i have tried too hard this year to do everything right, and i think the biggest lesson i have learned is that there is no right, not every time. parenthood is not like math - there isn't always a clear, concise, definitive answer. maternal (and paternal) instinct, along with a little education, is what best defines a parent's "right" actions.

but parenthood isn't all confusion and challenges. the incredible joy of being a parent is that seemingly infinitesimally small things are what make this, the world's toughest job, seem like the best kept secret in career choices: the first smile, the first laugh, the first gibberish conversation, the first real word, the first sloppy baby kiss; sitting, crawling, walking; who ever thought that watching someone roll over would be so thrilling? watching a person grow and develop through all these milestones is a very, very special gift. you cuddled in my lap while reading books; acting silly and laughing together; watching you play out some game that, until you have the language to explain it to me, will be a mystery. learning your likes and dislikes as you grow and determine who you are. and i don't think that your child sleeping on your shoulder ever gets old. these are the things which have made me wonder how i ever lived without you.

it is for all these things and those around the corner that i am so excited for this next year. seeing what comes next and learning how to enjoy all of it, even those 2 year old temper tantrums (which you're doing a good job practicing for, might i add). you spent the first year of your life growing into a person; it will be this next year that we'll see just who that person is. i promise you that i will continue to try to be a good parent. never forget that my love for you is boundless, and that as you grow, as happy and proud as i will be that you are becoming your own amazing person, i'll always need your sweet little kisses.

happy birthday, my sweet baby boy (now nearly a big boy). i love you!


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

oliver's 1 year photo shoot

here are a select few of the pics from ollie's 1 year photo shoot. there are a few more in the gallery if you are interested. we didn't upload all 148. :)

Monday, October 27, 2008

4 days, 2 hours, 33 minutes

i'm not feeling very creative today, so excuse the short blurbs...

also forgive the pic sizes - blogger is doing it, not me, i swear.

the meals:

tuna casserole with peas (wednesday 10/15): bryan made a lovely quickie version, as it we didn't didn't have mushrooms for a proper mushroom cream sauce. he added peas to the casserole. it was pretty darn delicious.

maple mustard chicken thighs with brown rice and brussel sprouts (thursday 10/16): i always look forward to bryan's brussel sprouts: par boiled, then seared in butter, with toasted breadcrumbs. they are a thing of beauty. the chicken was the star here, though. bryan used whipped maple from a local maple farm, and whole grain mustard. it was so well flavored, and the glaze got all carmelized (which always makes me want to lick out the dish).

oven roast with honey glazed white carrots, squash fries, and sweet potato fries (saturday 10/18): bryan loves a good oven roast, and i had been thinking about squash and sweet potato fries. i wanted to do something simple with the roast, so i made a combination of worcestershire, red wine, salt, pepper, garlic, and fresh thyme in the mini food processor, cut slits into the roast, and stuffed this mixture in. i seared the roast in the dutch oven, then rubbed the remaining stuffing over the top, added red wine to the pot, and let it roast. i made a pan sauce by straining the liquid in the pot and reducing it. everything was a hit. oliver LOVED the sweet potato fries!

sausage en croute, marinated sausage salad, sauteed spinach, and potato pancakes (sunday 10/19): oh my, this was a belly stuffer. i wanted to make a german sunday supper so we could try out my homemade sauerkraut, though in the end we forgot to serve it. i pulled out our German Milwaukee: It's History- It's Recipes cookbook, and found a lot of recipes that looked great! the sausage salad was seared knackwurst with emmanthaler and tomatoes, and a vinagrette with thyme, gherkins, and onions. it may seem like overkill to have two kinds of sausage in one meal, but that notion is incorrect. the recipe for the entree called for wild boar sausage, which i was unable to find on short notice (but don't believe i didn't try). we substituted a pork hungarian sausage from the outpost instead, which did rather nicely. i made a cream duxelle with button mushrooms, thyme, shallots, sherry, and heavy cream, which made its way into puff pastry along with the sausages. i served those over potato pancakes, with wilted spinach on the side (i was worried we wouldn't have enough food, silly me). everything was very good. the sausage en croute will definitely be a keeper going forward. for dessert, i served baked apples. after such a hearty meal, they seemed like the perfect fall dessert. no one was really all that hungry, but we ate them anyways.

mushroom swiss burgers and candy striped beets (monday 10/20): hamburgers seem to be a recurring player in our weekly menus. of course, if you've ever had one of bryan's hamburgers, you'd know why. a perfect excuse to use up the mushrooms and emmanthaler.

spaghetti (tuesday 10/21): i made a crock pot spaghetti sauce, so that we would have an easy dinner. bryan made garlic toasts to go along - which it turns out oliver LOVES! he kept trying to get at them, so i finally handed one over, thinking he would not like he strong garlic flavor or hard texture at all, but the kid can't get enough of those. they've become a common snack of his!

shrimp alfredo (wednesday 10/22): bryan didn't realize i was getting him to eat pasta 2 days in a row until it was too late. mu ha!

pan broiled sirlion steak with warmed french breakfast radishes, squash, and tater tots (thursday 10/23): what can i say, it was delicious. oliver chowed down on the steak (good boy) and of course loved the tater tots as well.

steak salad (friday 10/24): bryan warmed and sliced the left over sirlion steak, and served that over a bed of mixed greens with blanched white carrots, radishes, tomatoes, and home made croutons. bryan had bleu cheese dressing, while i had caeser. i was craving salad all day, so that worked out perfectly.

cowboy spaghetti (saturday 10/25): yes, i know whose recipe that is, and yes, i knew that before i made it, but i made it anyways. i did make a few changes to it, such as omitting the onion, more bacon, more scallions, no hot sauce, and a local raw milk monterrey jack instead of cheddar. i also used a curly pasta rather than spaghetti, since it's easier for oliver to handle. this one was a big hit with everyone. oliver ate *3* helpings. it was kind of like spaghetti, but different, and easy, so it's definitely a keeper. and it just goes, once again, to prove what they say - bacon DOES make it better. i did forget to take a picture before we all started eating, so instead you get to see oliver enjoying his.

last night for dinner we went to mom & dad's, where dad had smoked a pork butt. completely forgot to take pictures! but it turned out delicious!

the deeds:

saturday the 18th was errand day, as usual. in our never dying quest to eat better, we checked out trader joe's. i had been a few times before, but bryan never had. the upside to trader joe's is that the majority of the items are all natural and/or organic; the downside is that none of it is local. but, we wanted to see if there were any items we'd rather get there than at the outpost. surprisingly, prices were comparable (we had expected it to be cheaper). there are a few things there that we'll probably get, but i think we'll end up sticking to the majority of our shopping at the outpost. as we were checking out, i left bryan and oliver in line to grab something, and as i was walking back to the register i could hear oliver YELLING. turns out, they had given him his very first helium balloon ever, and he was about 30 seconds away from having an excitement induced coronary. it was SO FREAKING CUTE. in the car, he was hugging the balloon, talking to it. it most definitely made his whole day.

bryan cut down the basil tree that was growing in our back yard (seriously, it was starting to grow bark):

some random pics from the last week:

in case you weren't aware, green beans are the new hotness in hair styling:

chillin' with ollie & ally:

oliver took 3 steps last friday! i was picking him up from day care, and the kids were playing in the dirt. oliver, of course, wanted to eat the dirt, so we pulled him away. while rachel ran inside to get something to wipe the dirt off him, he stood holding onto a lawn chair and staring at the pot of dirt. then, just like that, he let go and walked to it! i don't think he realized he was doing it. he has gotten a little bolder around the house, taking a small step here and there, but no consecutive steps again yet. now that he's done it once, though, i'm sure it will take him no time to be off and running.

we laid low this past weekend, running a few errands (to buy oliver's birthday present!), and getting hair cuts for the boys yesterday. oliver's first hair cut!! he was very well behaved, and while i think the bangs ended up a little short, he looks so adorable it's ridiculous (as usual). he looks less like a baby and more like a big kid!

bunch of new pictures in the october gallery.

dad took a few (148) pictures of oliver yesterday to serve as his 1 year photos. gosh, i have a cute baby. ;) we have a disc of all the pictures and will be uploading a select few, so i'll be sure to post some.

bill & linda fly into town on thursday for the birthday weekend bonanza. oliver's birthday is friday, bill's is saturday, and mom's is sunday! bryan and i have friday off, though we're still going to send oliver off to day care (being the mean, uncaring parents that we are). bryan will try to get some things done around the house, and i've got a few errands to run in prep for oliver's party on sunday. we do plan to start out the day right, however, by celebrating making it through the first year - there's a bottle of champagne for mimosas chilling in the fridge already!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

find me a cuter baby and i'll pay you (hint: you can't)

oliver and i made it through our 3 days/2 nights completely unscathed. he was a good baby and slept well for me, and he was at day care all day, so no one got hurt. we actually had some very nice evenings together! after he went to bed both nights, i was able to get a few things done around the house, work out, and get in bed early. tuesday night, i even managed to can both the pickled green tomatoes as well as some escabeche. i think we'll try to do some more escabeche, but i had the jars sterilized so figured i'd at least get a few done. i'm really looking forward to enjoying all our canned treats this winter!

a few pics of ollie and i pal'ing around:

tuesday evening, he was being cranky as i attempted to prepare dinner for him. so i gave him a whole pear to eat. the kid LOVES pears and you'd be shocked at how quickly he can eat an *entire* pear. needless to say, it shut him up!

after dinner (and a bath) we took a walk. his fire truck had to come along. notice the big spot of dirt in our yard - that's where the tree used to be.

after our walk, we played around a bit before bed. he loves sitting in the bay window (yes, i know i am creating a bad habit by encouraging it).

i decided that since bryan would be arriving home right at dinner time on thursday, and knew neither of us would be in the mood to cook by the time we arrived home, wednesday night i prepped ingredients for crock pot chili. tossed that together thursday morning before work; added some masa after work thursday; and by the time we got home from the airport on thursday, we had a lovely chili. i just did ground beef, onions, red kidney beans (yes, chris, i know that is heresy!), tomatoes, cumin, oregano, and ground chipotle peppers. we added sharp white cheddar, sour cream, and green onions, and it was a great belly warming and EASY dinner.

friday, i worked from home, and oliver was very well behaved, so i managed to get some work done too. i was a bad mom, though, and he watched lots of blues clues. he's officially addicted to the tv, i think. that night for dinner, bryan took me out to el matador for dinner. we had never been, but always drive past it on the way to and from the zoo, and wanted to give it a try. can i just say, it was terrible! first, we had to wait at the hostess station for 5 minutes. no hostess. it was 5 p.m., so they were not busy yet. a bunch of the bus boys and waitresses were sitting in the corner looking at us. finally one of the waitresses seated us. we asked for non smoking since, duh, we have a baby. the non smoking section is literally 4 tables in the corner of the smoking section. i wish i were exaggerating. a guy 2 tables from us lit up a cigarette and i was like, what the heck? so we finally got out water and placed our order, and the food was just barely mediocre. so, needless to say, we will NOT be going back again (and i'm giving it bad reviews on every web site i can find).

we mostly spent the weekend just hanging out. saturday we hit tarket and office depot (so we could have oliver's birthday party invites printed out - they are SO CUTE). we stopped by gram's house and then aunt mo's house to drop theirs off, then went to see mom and dad for a bit. that night for dinner, bryan made me his famous pizza, which i had been dreaming about. i know it looks huge in the picture but have no fear - bryan and i put a pretty good hurt on it. you can always count on us. oliver wasn't in bed yet, so i didn't have any beer with it, but that would have gone perfectly.

sunday, we went for a bike ride on the oak leaf trail. we rode for 30 - 40 minutes total, and oliver loved every minute of it. he can definitely go longer, so i think we're going to try for an hour next time. it was a gorgeous day, and the trail is very nice (and flat - which works well for bryan pulling the 50 lbs of kiddie trailer). he really seems to love riding in the trailer - which makes me so happy. every time i ride up next to him to check how he's doing, he gives me a great big grin. i really can't wait to take long (as in ride all day, camp overnight somewhere) type rides!

that night for dinner, mom came over for stir fry. bryan and i are far less intuitive when it comes to asian cooking - french, mexican, those are easy and well known. bryan has been wanting to learn how to make a kick ass stir fry so he decided that the first step is to make a few by following a recipe. a novel concept for us. he used some pork butt, carrots, this really awesome celery from our csa, green onion, bamboo shoots, and garlic. mom joined us and we all agreed that it turned out very well, though i think the flavors of the sauce (soy, mirin, and sesame oil) could have been a little more pronounced. i guess that just means he'll have to practice some more!

monday night for dinner, bryan made carnitas with the rest of the pork butt. he served that along with some super cheesy mac n cheese and frilly red mustard greens, which he sauteed quickly with a hot bacon dressing. it was a big hit - even oliver was shoveling big pieces of pork into his cute little mouth! this was after eating ham, even. that boy knows what is good for him, and obviously takes after his momma. viva el pork!

last night for dinner, we finally got around to having the whole trout we had. bryan seared it on the flat top in bacon fat (oh yeah, you heard me right - bacon fat), then finished it in the oven. we came up with a great salad to serve that on top of which included the rest of the frilly red mustard greens, arugula, beet greens, turnip greens, israeli couscous, french breakfast radishes, blanched green beans, sauteed baby bella mushrooms, and a lovely heirloom tomato from our garden. we used the leftover hot bacon dressing. some toasted pecans probably wouldn't have hurt it all that much, either. it was absolutely delicious! oliver was fascinated by the whole trout cooking on the cast iron griddle. it may be my imagination, but i swear he loves watching things cook. which is good, otherwise he'll be very, very bored for the next 17 years.

oliver has expanded his vocabulary (which i define as words he uses consistently and correctly) to include "hi" (so now he knows 2 words - "uh oh" and "hi"). it is the CUTEST THING EVER. he had said it randomly before, but i realized on friday he knows it as the word you say on the phone. i was changing him when the house phone rang, and he put the toy he was holding up to his ear and said "hi!" later i had a conference call, and when they dialed me and and i answered, oliver kept saying "hi" and trying to grab my cell phone. so he will push buttons on the phone, and say "hi" into it, and pretend to talk. holy bejesus, it's so cute. i got some video of that last night - enjoy!

bunch new pictures in the october gallery.

WFD: tuna casserole and brussel sprouts. i got some fancy pants tuna from the outpost, along with some lovely egg pasta. we're out of mushrooms, but we'll make a nice thyme cream sauce (none of that condensed soup crap in our house!), and top it with homemade bread crumbs (but of course). bryan makes the best brussel sprouts ever by blanching them, halving them, caramelizing them in butter, and adding bread crumbs at the last minute. if you haven't yet made your reservation, i am sorry - we're all booked up.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

sweet things

last week friday was a pretty awesome day. i skipped out of work at 12:30, along with a bunch of other coworkers, and drove up to cedarburg for a bike ride along the interurban trail. we rode from downtown cedarburg, to port washington, ending quite literally on lake michigan. it was about a 25 mile ride there and back, and we couldn't have asked for more beautiful weather. i was worried that i wouldn't make the whole ride, since it's been a long time, but the group i rode with was, shall we say, a little slower than i normally push myself. so i did fine (and was dying to go faster!). i'm looking forward to trying to squeeze in a few more rides before the real cold weather hits.

i headed home through rush hour traffic (which included some slowing due to rubber necking - apparently traffic on 43N was shut down due to a truck with animal parts falling over on the highway, and no, i sadly don't have any more details on that). bryan and oliver met me at home, where we played, ate, and i got ready to go see cirque du soleil with mom. mom and dad had bought tickets, but as dad was running a marathon sunday and decided not to stay out late, mom took me instead. we saw saltimbanco. i've seen 2 other cirque shows, but this was mom's first. this was a little different from the others in that they performed inside the bradley center arena, rather than the tents. since the arena is huge and they didn't sell out, we were able to get closer seats for free, score! mom and i really enjoyed the show. now mom is spoiled and will never think a normal circus is all that great ever again. an added bonus of the evening was that bryan had to put oliver to bed. which, given ollie's dependency on me, i wasn't sure was possible - but they did great! i think he went down even faster than he does for me, the little punk.

saturday, bryan headed out to madison to do computer whatever with dirk. oliver and i hit up the outpost to get our grocery shopping done. as usual, i had a blast, and oliver flirted with everyone. everyone thinks he is just the cutest, happiest, most well behaved baby they've ever seen. i invite any of them to come spend an afternoon with him.

bryan arrived home shortly before oliver woke up from his afternoon nap, and we all headed to the mall together to get oliver some new clothes for fall and winter. seriously, they make the *cutest* stuff for kids!! we picked up some really adorable stuff, and had fun bumming around the mall together.

that night, we made taco trash for dinner. the meal was inspired by danielle, one of the moms from my message board. i can't resist tacos, and taco trash sounded like too much fun. in short, it was tortilla chips piled with ground beef, green onions, my bread and butter pickled jalapenos, corn, pinto beans, gold tomatoes, and a cheese sauce bryan made with provolone and muenster. i forgot the sour cream. but it was very tasty! bryan had the leftovers for lunch yesterday, and said it was even better when he mixed all the toppings up before putting it on top of the chips.

sunday, i canned a bunch of beets. we had some golden super sweet beets from our csa, and a bunch of beets in our garden. so i canned some plain to have over the winter, and pickled some others. i made 1 large jar of champagne vinegar pickled beets, 2 small jars of cider vinegar pickled beets, and 3 small jars of your plain ol' white vinegar pickled beets. we'll see how they turn out!

oliver and i went to kohls to do some more shopping while bryan stayed home to watch football. i was disappointed kohls didn't have as much boy baby clothes as i had hoped, but we still managed to get a few things. including a winter jacket and snow pants! he looks freakishly adorable in the entire get up - like a big, blue, puffy marshmallow! i'm not sure how much we'll take him out in the snow this year, but at least once to try out the snow suit!

that night, mom and dad came over for dinner. bryan made an amazing timballo, a baked pasta dish inspired by the timpano dish in the food movie big night. we used italian sausage from the co op. i hadn't picked up swiss chard, thinking we had some, but we didn't - so bryan used beet green from our garden as well. we made a non dairy, gluten free version for dad using quinoa pasta. we served it with a delicious salad of iceberg and red leaf lettuce (from the csa), yellow/white and purple carrots (also from the the csa), radish (from the csa), tomatoes, and cucumber (both from our garden). the yellow/white carrots were SO sweet! the purple carrots were gorgeous. for dessert, i made individual blackberry clafoutis in my mini enameled cast iron dutch ovens. i had never made clafoutis before but had always wanted to. turns out they are a super simple dessert to make, and really hit the spot! seeing as how you can use any fruit in them, i can see myself whipping these up quite often. i had originally wanted to watch the movie while we chatted and ate, but mom had already seen it, so she got the connection with dinner. plus, blue's clues won out instead, yet again. (i dare you to try arguing with my [almost] 1 year old on that one!)

yesterday, it was back to the grind. bryan made meatloaf for dinner. YUM, i love meatloaf. he shredded a bunch of carrots into ours, which gave it a nice sweetness. we don't baste ours with ketchup (since we're opposed to ketchup for adults as a general rule) or bbq sauce, so the carrots took the place of that. bryan blanched the remaining yellow/white and orange carrots, sauteed the rest of the radishes in butter, and made a turnips and cabbage dish that grew out of confusion over whether we were having bubble and squeak or neeps and tatties. it worked, though.

this morning, bryan flew off to detriot for a work trip, so oliver and i are flying solo for a few days (and even scarier - nights). oliver slept through the night last night, so pray or do a rain dance or whatever it is you do in hopes he continues to. i plan on having early nights and lots of pasta this week.

due to the late spring and early cold (damn you, wisconsin), the majority of our tomatoes are still green. not wanting to waste any, we decided to try pickled green tomatoes. i'm hoping to get those canned tonight.

day care has friday off, so i'll be working from home to baby wrangle. i'm even flirting with the idea of taking the day, or half the day, off. we'll see how my work load is come friday.

my plan for this weekend is to hopefully pickle some escabeche, a mexican pepper and vegetable pickle. we have lots of peppers and carrots from our garden, a huge cauliflower from our csa, and lots of small green tomatoes we'd like to try including.

other than that, nothing else is on the schedule for the weekend. i need to get to the printer, and send off oliver's birthday party invites! i used my favorite website to create them, and boy are they cute!!!

speaking of, oliver got his first 1st birthday present yesterday! brent and jessica sent oliver some new books. he loooooves books. he was slightly confused by the whole gift wrap concept, but caught on pretty quickly. he definitely has a new favorite book, about a bunny's birthday! we must have read it 15 times already.

new october gallery is up!