1st halloween: g is for giraffe..

When I was 21 weeks pregnant with G, we found out that he would be a boy and had already decided on his name and that giraffes would play a role in his nursery decor. The costume was a given. The funny thing was that we found it last September, guessed on the size and hoped for the best.
Luckily, it could not have been more perfect and G did spend his very first Halloween as the cutest giraffe I've ever seen ;-) This boy will do all he can to get out of wearing a regular hat but, a giraffe hood? Bring it on. He was happy as could be all suited up.
We took him to the walking path around our local resevoir to take these photos. He was so intruigued by all of the leaves and surrounding trees that he didn't even attempt to crawl around. This may become a new favorite spot for seasonal photo shoots.

Happy Halloween all!


fall baking: carrot pumpkin muffins

Autumn is my favorite season with the vibrant colors, crunch of leaves underfoot and the cool, crisp weather. In my kitchen, fall means that my oven starts getting a workout, exploiting the delicious, plentiful apples and pumpkins to turn out cakes, muffins, cookie bars and breads. Some of my favorite recipes are complicated with long lists of ingredients that need to be precisely measured. Sometimes though, you just need a quick, easy fix that takes 30 minutes, including baking time. This is it.
I've been using this very simple recipe for years, dating back to my Weight Watchers days. Usually, chocolate is the go-to cake flavor but, for breakfast muffins that would be more baby friendly, I went with carrot this time and the results were delicious enough to share:

Carrot Pumpkin Muffins

1 box carrot cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Super Moist)
1 can (14.5 oz) pure, packed pumpkin
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line cupcake pan with 12 paper inserts, or mist with cooking spray.

Mix dry cake mix and pumpkin until combined. Batter will be thick but, do not add any wet ingredients. Fold in raisins and cranberries. Divide evenly among cupcake tin.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.


on my {one day} wishlist right now...

I have a very well stocked Google Reader. It's bursting with blogs of creative types - photographers, craftspeople, cooks. I love to browse though the updates for inspiration, recipes and a bit of window shopping. Every once in a while a stumble across something that jumps off the screen and says "Take me home! I'm perfect for you." But, my rational self says, "Hello sister, you are saving for a larger home, you have baby clothes to buy and *ahem* you have NO room for this stuff. Maybe one day but, today is not that day."

Still window shopping is fun and putting together a list of fun, inspiring and maybe-will-be-mine-one-day things is harmless. Right? So here goes:Avid-reader mom + loaded diaper bag + very little home storage + running all over the city for work = Kindle 3 solution. In Graphite, I think. This one would actually save us storage space. So, really, it just makes good sense. Well, if I'm dreaming of the Kindle 3 it would need to be protected and a case with a light for night-time reading would be a natural extension. In Apple Green *yum* because, is there really another option? I think not.
Her name was Lola, she was a freaking gorgeous camera bag! Oh, oh, oh Epiphanie. You nailed everything a woman could want in a bag...a girlie photog's DREAM. Yes, I already have a camera bag that is fairly new but, we are talking window shopping here. And, this one doubles as a large, beautiful bag. Dual duty always makes more sense. This necklace wants to be around my neck. Perfection.
Or this necklace, this one is just perfectly fabulous too. I can't decide.
Chalkboard thought bubble by Rachel. What a super fun photo prop...oh the possibilities!
A speedlite for my beloved Canon. Because, sometimes you just need a little more light.


mom-friendly meals monday: shredded chicken tacos..

I was fortunate enough to stumble across the best, simplest recipe you could imagine on a message board I frequent. With only a few ingredients, no prep work and a rave from the friend posting it, I had to give it a try...and am SO glad I did! This will become a staple in our meal rotation. It was so good, in fact, that I was even motivated to give you a visual. I may or may not have devoured this plateful just after taking the shot...
Shredded Chicken Tacos

Package of chicken breasts (+/- 3 good size breasts)
1 can corn (14.5 oz)
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz)
1 can black beans (14.5 oz)
1 packet taco seasoning (I used McCormick)

Add all ingredients, including liquids in cans, into crock pot and cook on LOW 8-9 hours.

Shred chicken with two forks and mix all ingredients when finished cooking. Serve with hard or soft taco shells with cheese and the fixings.

This is the easiest recipe I have ever made and is just delicious - and healthy!!! If you are watching sodium in your house, McCormick also makes a low-sodium taco seasoning packet. If you aren't a taco fan, it would also be delicious served over rice...with a dollop of sour cream, of course.


ten months of you...

My little monkey,
It's written all over your face in your ten month photo that sitting still is just not cool with you right now. Just when we think you are pausing to catch your breath after a marathon session of cruising along furniture, walls or crawling at warp speed you are up and off again, stopping only to eat and sleep. You have become incredibly curious about your world and it's workings. You explore every inch of our home, get down on your belly to look under furniture and doors and we can almost see the wheels turning in your brain as you try to figure things out.
You have started to become a better communicator. When you want something from me, you will assertively call out, "Mama!" When Daddy walks into a room or, leaves it, he hears "Dada!" You point to things that interest you and are making all kinds of pre-verbal sounds - more each day.
But, the best part of ten months? You are the happiest baby I have ever known. You smile, giggle, coo and belly laugh all day long! We are so incredibly blessed to be your parents.
At {TEN} months you:
  • love to play hide and seek. We will hide around a corner and, as you find us you break out in peals of laughter
  • are chewing through the rails on your crib. You may only have the two bottom teeth but, they are sharp and strong!
  • are a big fan of our windows. We have large windows with window sills that are the perfect height for you to rest your little arms and peer out at the world below. You spend a lot of time walking back and forth along the sills, watching the cars come in and out of our complex and particularly love the show put on by our landscapers using the leaf blowers.
  • wear mainly 12 month clothes now. The pants are still a bit long but all of your 9 month pants are highwaters...you are stuck in between, my boy. You are still wearing some of your 6 month onsies though (thank you Carter's). You are in size 3 diapers and likely will be for a while longer.
  • eat anything we put in front of you. You still take fruit and veggie purees but are also a big fan of chicken, fish, ground turkey, rice, banana, toasted cheese sandwiches, hummus on whole wheat and cooked veggies. At dinner time you eat whatever we cook. It is a pleasure to see you enjoy your meals and use that well developed pincer grasp to self-feed.
  • love music! You dance to the Toddler Tunes channel on our t.v., the music on your exersaucer and love listening to your kid's music playlist on Mama's iPhone when we are in the car.
  • have discovered the drawer of baking pans under the oven and like to drag them out and use them as vehicles to navigate the kitchen floor, or as very loud make-shift musical instruments.
  • are starting to show a bit iof separation anxiety. You don't like to see Mama or Baba leave the room and protest loudly when we do.
  • are becoming more social. You enjoy interacting with other kids on our playdates, share toys and are gentle in approaching your friends.
  • give hugs. While you are mostly on the move all.the.time. you do have some quieter moments where you will fling your little arms around the nack of whoever is holding you or, will sit quietly on a lap and cuddle.

It is so hard to believe that you are just two months from your 1st birthday and have come so far from the sweet, tiny bundle we brought home from the hospital. We are loving every little bit of your growing and changing but, stay a baby just a bit longer for us, okay?

I love you to the moon and back,



good {friday} morning, baby boy...

He played in his crib this morning while I folded and put away laundry. Lots of not-so-tiny-anymore onesies, pants and sleepers. Every time I put away laundry lately I'm struck by the relative size of his clothes now compared to just weeks ago.
Now, when he wakes in the morning I go in to find him standing in his crib, reaching up to me and, sometimes, greeting me with "Mama!"
And then, there are the early morning giggles. The best way I can think of to start the day. Today they were due to the sunlight streaming in though the blinds. Apparently bright lines of light are super funny. Who knew?
Whether I get the punchline or not, I hope he always stays this light-hearted and happy.


mom friendly meals monday: ghoulash...

"Ghoul"-ash...perfect name for a fall dinner recipe, no?

At first glance it seemed that this recipe would be too time-consuming to make with a 9 month old crawling around my ankles. But, it turned out to be the opposite so, I needed to share for this weeks Mom-Friendly Meal Monday. It's cooked in stages and each only takes a moment, then sits for 10-20 minute clips. Perfect for a busy mom, actually! It's a simple twist on a classic American recipe and was delicious. Even G thought so!

(adapted from a Bobby Dean recipe I recently came across HERE)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1.5 pounds lean ground beef
1.5 pounds lean ground turkey
1 large onions, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes, fire roasted
1 29-ounce can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni


1) In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the meat in the oil about 10 minutes, breaking meat up with a fork as it cooks. Add the onion; cook and stir for 5 minutes.

2) Add the remaining ingredients except the macaroni. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Stir in the macaroni; simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Let the goulash stand for 20 minutes before serving.

Servings: 8 to 10


tagged (and a bit slow on the uptake)...

I was tagged in a blog hop by Stacey at You+Me=Three and am (sorry!) just finally getting around to posting. Here goes!

1. If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I've always had a bit of wanderlust so, choosing one dream location is impossible. Even though I've traveled quite a bit I still really want to see Egypt and the Great Pyramids, back to Israel to visit the Dead Sea and spend more time in Jerusalem, China to walk the great Wall. And, on one of our trips to Greece I am determined to spend a few days in Santorini.

2. Which do you like better, cooking or baking?
Baking. Though I rarely have the time for it at this point, I love the measuring, mixing and watching for the delicious end result. Baking is relaxing for me, while cooking is a necessity.

3. What type of music do you listen to?
A little of everything but, my heart belongs to 80's hair bands, Billy Joel and the Beatles.

4. What's your favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving. It's just about family and food...love both :-)

5. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Introvert, which is strange considering that my job (career?) is in staff training and engage in public speaking all the time

6. Are you excited for fall? If so, what do you love most about the season?
I *pinkpuffyheart* autumn!!! The crisp temperatures, baking with apples, the rich colors, the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot. Love.

7. What websites do you frequent most often?
The Bump, The Nest and my Google Reader

8. What is your favorite childhood memory?
Camping trips with my parents and sister - pitching the tent, campfires, swimming in the lake.

In turn, I'm tagging these four bloggers to answer a few questions of my own:

Aurie at It's Our Good Life

Tania at Altered Moments

Sara at NinjaPanza

Lynn at Murphy's Law

Here are your questions, ladies!
  1. As a child, what did you want to be when you "grew up?" Are you doing it now?
  2. What is your favorite, quick go-to recipe on a busy evening?
  3. Do you burn candles in your home? If so, what is your favorite scent?
  4. What was the best vacation you can remember?
  5. If you have a wedding album, how often do you look at it? Where is it stored?
  6. What is the thing your treasure most about motherhood?
  7. What is your favorite day of the week and, why?
  8. Are you doing anything to be more "green" or earth-friendly?


(nearly) wordless wednesday: beautiful morning for a walk downtown...

How perfect is this jacket? My mom found it and picked it up for our little guy during her last visit. Fits him, well, to a "G"...thanks Mom!


mom-friendly meals monday: bbq pulled pork, broccoli slaw and sweet potato hash

It's a three-fer today for Mom Friendly Meals Monday! This was last Monday's meal on our menu plan and turned out so delicious that I had to share each element. I served the pulled pork topped with broccoli slaw on small Kaiser rolls that we had in the freezer leftover from G’s baptism luncheon. Since G is now eating every meal I make, I set aside some of the shredded pork for him before mixing it with the sauce. He loved it! The hash was really tasty and yielded so much that I used it again as a side dish later in the week.

BBQ Pulled Pork (Slow Cooker)
Adapted from Southern Living, Oct. 2010

1 (3- to 4-lb.) boneless pork shoulder roast, trimmed
1 (18-oz.) bottle barbecue sauce (I used Bulls’ Eye Original)
1 (12-oz.) can cola soft drink
1 packet McCormick Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork seasoning
2 sweet onions, roughly chopped

1. Place roast in a lightly greased 6-qt. slow cooker with onions; Mix together barbecue sauce, cola and seasoning and pour over roast over roast. Cover and cook on HIGH 5 hours or LOW 8 to 10 hours, or until meat shreds easily with a fork.

2. Transfer pork to a cutting board; remove bones shred with two forks, removing any large pieces of fat. Skim fat from sauce, and stir in shredded pork.

Broccoli Slaw

1 bag broccoli slaw
1/2 cup Light Sweet Vidalia Onion salad dressing (I used Ken’s)

Toss slaw mix with dressing and refrigerate several hours.

Sweet Potato & Zucchini Hash
(Adapted from Martha Stewart)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and thinly
sliced crosswise
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise

1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until potatoes are almost cooked through and golden, about 15 minutes.

2. Add zucchini, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until zucchini is soft and potatoes are cooked through, 7 minutes.


10.10.10: first pumpkins...

A beautiful fall morning called for an outdoor activity...the search for the perfect pumpkin. Or, at least the perfect spot for fall photos with our own little pumpkin. I think he might have enjoyed himself, just a bit...

It doesn't get much better than this!

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mom-friendly meals monday: turkey, sweet potato & cranberry stew

This is my first time joining Mama Insomnia in this weekly posting. She's asking Mommy Bloggers to join in and post their favorite easy recipes to help each other in menu planning and to make preparing dinner a bit less stressful. Couldn't we all use some help in that department?

Last week I adapted this slow cooker recipe that I had seen in Prevention magazine and it turned out to be a hit with my little family, including G.

Turkey, Sweet Potato and Cranberry Stew (Slow Cooker)

3 lb turkey breast (boneless, skinless)
1 lg onion, roughly chopped
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 C chicken stock
2.5 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1" chunks
1/2 C dried cranberries
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp cold water

1. Combine turkey, onion, honey, vinegar, ginger, salt, pepper, and stock in large slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 5 hours.
2. Add potatoes and cranberries. Cook until potatoes are tender, 90 minutes more.
3. Drain liquid into a bowl and set aside. Whisk together cornstarch and water until smooth (adding more water if needed). Pour mixture into reserved liquid and whick together to make a gravy.
4. Toss meat, potatoes, and cranberries with gravy and reheat if necessary.

This turned out delicious! I made a few adjustments from the original recipe published in the magazine and was happy that I did. 1 pound of potatoes would not have been enough and I substituted turkey breast so that I would not have to remove meat from bones. The result was very flavorful and moist. This is one I'll plan to make several times this fall and winter.
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