Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Adventures in Parenting: 18 Months In

Just...ignore the fact that I didn't do a 17 month post. See?  You didn't even notice until I said something.  Possibly because my 16 month post was so late.  It's been busy.  Y'all understand. I've been momming and stuff.

Weight: 28.1 lbs (75th percentile)
Height: 33.5 inches (<75% percentile)

So this little guy is in LOOOOOOOOOVE with stairs.  He REALLY wants to master them. Both going up and down.  Which is awesome and a little terrifying at the same time.  He's figured out that if he holds our hand, he can go up while standing fairly well (so long as the steps aren't too tall). Or he can just crawl up them super fast. Going downstairs is a crap shoot.  He might turn around and "reverse crawl" down the stairs...or he may try to butt-scoot down them while not holding on to anything, which is terrifying.  OR, he may just get frustrated and cry until we pick him up.
At least if he falls, his head will be well cushioned...

He's also learned to kick a ball, which is awesome...because I accidentally lied to our doc at his 15 month visit and said that he could.  So now I feel better about myself. :)

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A FIRST WORD.  And it's not "mama" or "dada".  It's "Uh-Oh".  Thanks, kid.  Hoping that's not a sign he'll be as accident-prone as his mother.  This was quickly followed by "bah" (ball), "dah" (dog) and "ayyeeeee" (hi or bye, depending on context). He *will* say "mama" or "dada", but it takes some prodding. Depending on context, "dah" can also mean "door", and "bah" can mean "bird".  He also likes to say "ahhhh duh" (all done) in a sing-songy rhythm when he's ready to get out of his high chair.  

He's solid on 3 baby signs ("milk/want", "more", and "all done") in multiple contexts (i.e. "I'm all done with this bath, Mom" and "please quit changing my diaper"). He will nod or shake his head for "yes" and "no".  There's also been a lot more parroting of syllables--for example, at his 18 month appointment, he pointed at his pediatrician, so I said, "doctor".  To which he responded "da ta", much to his pediatrician's delight.

There are also times when we KNOW he's trying to tell us something, because he looks very serious, and repeats a certain bit of jibberish multiple times.  It has to be frustrating to speak a language that only you understand.

At his 18 month appointment, they went through the MChat questionnaire, which is designed to look for signs of autism. Thankfully, everything was negative.  Our little man is very social and loves to interact with everyone...including frogs in the backyard.

Eating:  He will actually get a little mad if I don't give him a utensil to eat with.  Granted--he may only use it half the time, and be holding it in one hand while shoveling food into his piehole with the other hand, but he has to HAVE it.  He also wants to take spoons/forks from me, instead of me feeding him. And we are getting a LOT better about not throwing our cup on the floor.

Second Haircut:
Auntie T came back into town in March from Ohio, so he was finally able to get another haircut.  Really a good thing, since his mop has started to develop its own concept of style (particularly if put to bed with wet hair).
(Before: Not from the wind.  That's just how he woke up.)
His first haircut back at Christmas went Easy-Breezy-Beautiful-Cover Boy.  But this one...not so smoothly.  Auntie T thinks her shears were a little dull and pulled his hair, which upset him.  He was already past due for a nap anyway, so that didn't help.  But we got through it, and now he's a proper handsome lil' dude.

Parenting:  I'm really grateful for my Hubs. I probably don't say that enough.  But we've got a pretty good routine down and it makes for a good flow.  Most mornings, I take Lil' Man to day care, so Daddy wakes him up & gets him ready for the day while I'm making/eating breakfast, then I'll feed the kiddo while Hubs finishes his morning routine.  An example evening routine goes like this:
6:00p - Mom makes dinner while Dad plays with kiddo
6:30-7p - Mom feeds kiddo, Dad cleans up kitchen & loads dishwasher
7:00p - Mom plays with kiddo while Dad pays bills/misc from computer, then he joins in the playtime when done.
7:30p - Mom gives kid bath & brushes teeth while Dad folds laundry & cleans up the toy explosion
8:00p - Dad puts kid in PJs & finishes bedtime routine while Mom puts laundry away
8:15p - Mom & Dad kick back with a beer on the couch and watch DVR'd TV shows.

It works pretty well for us, and I'm glad to have a partner in this whole parenting/adulting thing.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Pinterest Project: Basement Bar

So, we recently did a little DIY/Pinterest project in the basement of our new house. More "DIY" than Pinterest, since we really just used Pinterest more as a "pinspiration" than anything.  Yes...typing that word made me gag a little.  But anywho...I really love how it turned out.
So our new house, which I love, came with this weird alcove in the basement. I'm 90% sure that the previous owner had a bunch of bookshelves tucked into it, but I forget from when we did the walk-through.
The basement already has tons of storage (the doors to the right in this photo are our game closet), so using it for a closet didn't seem to make sense.  Reading nook was a possibility, but it's really dark right there, so that would require adding in some lighting.  It was too shallow for a play area (plus, as the kid gets bigger, I'm sure the whole downstairs living area will become his play area).

So, what to do with it?  Currently, the downstairs living area is our "movie room" (though we haven't made much use of it yet).  So it struck us to turn the alcove into a small "dry" bar (no plumbing in this area of the basement) for drinks and snacks.  This freed up some space in our dining room upstairs (which is where our wine rack used to be, but since our new dining room is a little smaller, there isn't really space).

So...where to start?

With a fridge, of course!  We found a black mini fridge on the FB Marketplace for about $40.  Therefore it seemed to make sense to focus our build around this.  I visualized the fridge, a wine rack, and a cabinet or two for closed storage that would potentially be lockable.  Then a countertop and some shelves above.

My initial sketch. Please ignore typos.

We priced cabinets at the big box home improvement stores, but everything was higher than we really wanted to spend, or was too tall/short.  So I would periodically visit the thrift stores near my office to see if there were any end tables that might work.  I finally hit paydirt-- $7 for this fiberboard laminated TV stand.  It was in rough shape and needed some love, but overall it was sturdy, and the doors were in decent condition.
The top and the casters made it considerably taller than the mini-fridge, so we just removed those.

Then, there was the wine rack issue.  Our existing wine rack was just about right as far as height, but the wrought iron detailing along the sides wouldn't allow it to fit in the space we had left.  I searched FB Marketplace and Craigslist, but could never find anything that would work (or that hadn't already been snatched up, or the lister wouldn't respond, etc.).
Mid-process pic.  You can see how the current wine rack just isn't going to work.

I saw some pics on Pinterest showing wine racks made out of wooden crates, and had a "Eureka" moment.  We could find a crate that would work, and then use some plywood that we already had on hand to make an "X" shaped divider.  Brilliant!  Now...all I have to do is find a crate that fits the space!

...whiiiiiich was harder to accomplish than originally thought.  Everything seemed to either be too narrow or too short--but if it was too short, stacking two would make it too tall. *sigh*  So, I went to DIY Project Mecca:  Hobby Lobby.  After much searching through the store with my tape measure in hand, I found a large crate that measured 14 inches wide by 29 inches tall.  It was a little short for what we needed, but I knew we could work with that.

Meanwhile, the Hubs took care of finding the countertop and the shelves.  We recently got a Menards, and they were running Grand Opening sales, so we got some great deals on white-laminated MDF, measuring 8 feet wide--just a bit wider than the alcove's opening.  The countertop had to be notched to fit, but I think the Hubs did an amazing job.

So then...we had a dark brown laminate cabinet, a black fridge, and a light brown crate.  Guess it's time to paint!

The interwebz told me I should probably sand the laminate cabinet and then prime it.  But I am lazy.  So instead, I found black satin spray paint that would adhere to laminate.  The project took about 3 cans, which were $5 each.
We waited for some beautiful weather, and then spread out a drop cloth in the back yard, weighted it down with rocks, and I went to town. (I also painted some of our outdoor fixtures while I was at it.)
Overall, it took 2-3 coats. And I probably SHOULD have scrubbed the laminate at least a bit before starting--I think the previous owner had used some sort of oil-based polish on it at some point, so the paint didn't adhere great to the doors or front edges, but the rest looked pretty good.  In order to save on paint, I only painted the surfaces that would show--there was no point to do the sides that are hidden in the alcove. So I just wrapped onto the sides a bit.  And I only did part of the shelves as well, so that I could put down patterned contact paper instead for some fun detailing.
We used some pieces of 2"x4" to shim up the difference in height between the cabinet and the wine rack, and painted those black as well.
Once everything was coated evenly and was dry, we put it all into place, and then added the counter and shelves.  I decorated them with things that had been on our old wine rack and other miscellaneous bits and bobs. 
We also added a glass rack to the lowest shelf so we could hang wine glasses out of the reach of our little one.  Finally, we bought 6 puck lights at Home Depot to add some light, since this corner is really dark.  
All in all, really happy with the result.  It works perfectly for what we need, adds a little "wow" to the basement, and just seems like a smart use for the space.  Also--we don't spend a ton of time in the basement right now, so I kinda like that I have to earn my calories for a beer/soda/glass of wine by  going up and down the stairs. It also keeps the sodas a little more out of reach, so they're not just there to grab in our kitchen fridge.

Overall cost:
Fridge: $40
Cabinet: $7
Wine Rack: $30 (originally $49.99, with 40% off coupon)
Paint: $15
Counter: $17
Shelves: $2
Brackets: $18
Glass Rack: $12
Lights: 22

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Boudin King Cake - Happy Mardi Gras!

As you know, I get to travel to Louisiana about 4 times a year for work.  And I generally try to schedule the first quarter visit so that it overlaps with my favorite Mardi Gras parade--the Scott parade, which rolls past my friends Bonnie & Paul's house, so they always host a big shindig and it's a great chance to see all my old friends.  

But this year, I couldn't make it happen. I had to schedule my trip much earlier in the year, and missed Mardi Gras season altogether.  And was very, very sad.

So sad, that I convinced my coworkers to let me host a Mardi Gras potluck at our office, on Mardi Gras day!  (This really didn't take a lot of convincing.  My coworkers are generally down for anything that involves food and chit-chatting over lunch.)
My colleagues were up for the challenge. Our CFO made gumbo, the compliance team brought red beans & rice, our social media manager (whose wife's family is from Abbeville, LA) made crawfish macque choux...one of my teammates made shrimp cornbread, and a senior scientist (who also lived in Lafayette for a spell) helped me put together a shrimp boil, with jumbo skrimps fresh from the Gulf. We even had bread pudding with bourbon sauce.  Everything was AMAZING.
And me...well, I was so inspired by all the tales I heard of Twin's Bakery making boudin king cakes, I thought I'd give it a whirl.
Now, if I ever make this again, I think I'll use the sheets of crescent roll dough from the refrigerated section.  I tried using pre-made pizza dough with this version and it ended up a little doughy.  But overall, it tasted amazing.  And it was relatively easy to put together!

INGREDIENTS: (makes about 12 servings)
2 rolls of pre-made dough sheets (again, I'd recommend trying crescent roll dough)
1 package boudin (I was able to find Richard's at my local market, which hails from Church Point, LA) - 2 links, casings removed
1 egg
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (you could opt for pork cracklins instead, like the Twin's original)
1/4 cup pecan halves, toasted in butter for about 5 minutes

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, then roll out one of the dough sheets. Place one of the links down the center of the sheet, and then using a knife, cut slits along the sides, and then braid the slits together (over/under).  Leave the first two and last two unbraided, so you can use these to "tie" the two sides together.

Now roll out the second sheet and do the same, with the link curving toward the first braid.  Once braided, curve the two sides together until they meet (you may have to break the boudin link) and then use the unbraided ends to combine the two sides.  Mine ended up a little wonky where the two halves met, but it still baked up just fine.
Heat the oven to 350, and then bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and drizzle with the Steen's syrup, and sprinkle on the bacon and pecans.  Cut into about 12 pieces and serve while warm!
So while I didn't get to spend Mardi Gras season with my LA peeps, we still got to have a great time, eat some great food, listen to some good Louisiana music...
...and enjoy each other's company.  Because Missouri Yanks can pass a good time at work, even while the entire state of Louisiana enjoys their day off. :)  Happy Mardi Gras y'all!