Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thirsty Thursday: Peach Muscadine Sangria

I picked up this bottle of wine during my last trip down to Louisiana, knowing that we had an upcoming BBQ for our 5th wedding anniversary.  It seemed like a perfect way to add a little "Cajun" flair to our party!  

In the past, I've not had a lot of good luck with Louisiana wines--primarily because the grape that grows the best in Louisiana is the muscadine.  It's a beautiful, GIANT grape with a thick skin, native to the southeastern states with a slightly odd sweet taste that in my past experiences has resulted in an overly sweet wine.  However, it seems that Landry Vineyards has managed to tame the wild muscadine, resulting in a light, semi-sweet, very drinkable peach blend.  I would have been perfectly content to sip this chilled from a glass all by itself on our back porch...but I promised our friends a peach sangria!

I was really pleased with how this turned out.  Very light, drinkable, not overly sweet, perfect for a summer BBQ!

1 bottle (750mL) peach muscadine wine (you could sub another white fruit blend if you can't find this exact one)
1 cup peach brandy
1/4 cup lime juice
2 cans ginger ale
Fresh Fruit: 2 peaches, 1 apple, 1 orange, washed

The morning of the day you plan on serving (or the night before if you'll be having with brunch), slice up your fruit and add to a pretty pitcher.  Pour in the lime juice, brandy, wine, and ginger ale, stir, and then cover to help preserve the effervescence.  Place in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours, then serve to your guests! Use the bits of fruit as garnish. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Fifth Wedding Anniversary Gift: DIY Wooden Puzzle

How time flies!  It's a little difficult to believe that The Hubs & I have been married for 5 years now.  Sometimes it feels like it was just last year...and other times it feels like it's been forever.  In a good way, I mean.
(Amycakes.  Still the best cakes on the planet.)

In the past 5 years, The Hubs & I have:
Traveled to 7 countries
Visited 20 states
Bought & sold 1 business, and
Made one really awesome child.
As you may know, I like to give at least one handmade gift each anniversary.  I've blogged about each here:
So Year Five is "Wood". (Or "silverware" according to the "modern" list.  But I'm of the opinion that the "modern" list isn't so "modern" anymore, so let's just stick with tradition, shall we?)  

There's no shortage of wooden gifts available out there, so it's all about what suits your spouse's personal tastes.  And mine has a taste for beer.  So I ordered him a custom engraved bottle opener wall mount for our kitchen:
And then I also wanted to make him something.  Like a puzzle!  But I was having a hard time finding a blank wooden puzzle that I could get in a reasonable amount of time, and that wouldn't cost a fortune.  Then it occurred to me...I could just BUY an existing puzzle and use that--it didn't have to be blank!

So I found a wooden tangram puzzle with a small frame.  Then I picked two photos--one from our wedding day, and one from very recent.  My puzzle measured about 4.5" square, so I ordered 5x7" prints of each of the photos, and then trimmed then down to match the puzzle size.

I applied Modge Podge to the back of one photo, then overlaid it on the puzzle pieces, and let it dry overnight.  Once dry, I trimmed around the outer edge so it would be nice and even, and then Modge Podged the second photo to the opposite side, allowing it to dry.

Once fully dry, I used an Exacto knife to separate the pieces, and trim excess from the edges of each piece.  And then I used Modge Podge to coat the outside of each piece to add some extra protection and help fill in any gaps.

Last step was to put it back in the frame and then use some cling wrap to cover it & keep all the pieces in place once I put it in with the rest of his gift:  A box of truffles from The Candy House (for us to share, of course), and a bottle of BARREL-aged beer (barrel = wood).  

In return, The Hubs made me a very sweet piece that is now hanging in our bedroom:

Along with another mystery gift that arrived unassembled while he was out of town for work, and that I didn't look at so as to keep the mystery intact. All I know is that a) it likely is made of wood, b) it's heavy and large, and c) the box also contains glass.  Quelle surprise!

If you missed it, I did a Wedding Week a few years ago—here’s the links if you’re interested: 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Adventures in Parenting: Month 9

We had our 9 month checkup earlier this week (no shots, yay!!!), so here's the official stats:

Weight: 21 lbs
Height: 29 inches
Teeth: 6, with 2 threatening to make an appearance.

Firsts:  Before you become a parent, you only think of the *big* firsts-- first smile, first laugh, first step, first word...  But there are SO many firsts.  And you don't realize how each of those little firsts is going to smack you in the face. 

We were at a friend's house for a BBQ and I was chatting with the group while keeping an eye on the kiddo in the next room. He is laying on his back, shaking a toy above his head.  I go back to my conversation. Not 30 seconds later, I look back over...and he's sitting up.  He went from laying down to sitting up ON HIS OWN.
And then of course there's the first time he realizes people laugh when he smashes his face against the side of the PNP.

A few days later, I was laying on the floor with him, holding a ball, and I dropped it and let it roll past him.  He watched it, picked it up, and then put it back in my hand. It was the first time he had ever handed me anything.  Thinking it might be a fluke, I rolled the ball again.  He picked it up, and put it back in my hand.  Four or five more times before he got distracted! My brain exploded. OMG, I thought, we're actually PLAYING together!  Not like when I tell him all the colors of the stacking rings as I put them on the pillar, at which point he looks at the tower, grabs the base and dumps all the rings off. Or when I say the color and shape of the block I'm putting into his shape-sorting bucket and he proceeds to grab the lid and start chewing on it.  We are actually interacting.

Every. Time.  Though usually not this neatly.

Eating:  Food is delicious.  Nearly all foods.  So far, the only things that he's not liked are:
A) Stage 3 Gerber "mac 'n cheese": Honestly, can't blame him here.  It doesn't taste like mac 'n cheese at all. I added some cumin and he was much more amenable to finishing it off, but it still took 3 days.
B) Crab-boiled new potatoes:  I think it was too spicy for him.
C) A mushroom from stir fry at HuHot.  Again, I think it just had a little more heat than he could deal with.  Not at all surprising, but a little disappointing, as I was hoping with his parents' love for all things spicy he might have sprung from the womb with a yearning for cayenne.  Alas, this is not the case.  We'll work back up to that later.

Otherwise, he's a fan of potatoes in all forms, peas, green beans, pasta salad, pasta sauce, cinnamon applesauce, mini Club crackers, bread, bananas, Greek yogurt, avocado, hummus, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, Salisbury steak, biscuits, gravy, Popeye's chicken, pad thai, strawberry shortcake, Cool Whip, ice cream, cheese, sausage...
Nomming on ground beef and diced green beans.

Can we talk honestly for a sec?  Feeding my kid "real" food is such a mixed experience.  Part of me is excited by the idea of him being able to share a meal with us, watching his face as he tastes something new for the first time, trying new textures and learning to feed himself.  And yet, at the exact same time...another part of me is fairly sure that he's either going to choke to death or have a lethal allergic reaction and die, right there in front of me.  Welcome to momhood.

And then there's the mess...I know, learning to feed oneself is an experience, it takes time, and I should beam with motherly delight as he smears blueberries around on the tray of his high chair because they make a pretty color and "he's learning to paint!"...but then there's the "no, don't drop that..." *yells to dog to come eat blueberries off the floor* "no, don't touch the wall..."  "don't touch your EYES!"  And why don't pints of blueberries come with a warning? "These contain seeds.  Like, LOTS of seeds.  So you're gonna be cleaning blueberries seeds off your son's hands for like an hour."

Outgrowing Everything:  We packed up the swing a month or two ago.  Well, looks like it's time for the bouncer to possibly go too.  Even buckled in, he tries to sit up in it, roll over, grab for things around him, instead of just laying back and chilling with his paci until he falls asleep (our at-home naptime crutch).  It's probably well overdue to just start putting him down for naps in his crib at home on the weekends, but we'd been rolling with what was easiest (for us) and habit.  He naps fine in a crib at daycare so I'm sure he'll probably do fine at home too, but old habits are hard to break.

We've also had to move his exersaucer up to the highest setting, move his car seat straps, drop his crib mattress down, and put bumpers in his crib to help keep his feet and pacifiers INSIDE the crib. 

I know.  Bumpers are evil. It's a temporary measure because he's in this "creep backwards" phase, so at least a couple times a night we were being woken up because he'd gotten himself backed into a corner with both feet sticking out between the slats and nothing to push off of to get back to the middle of the crib.  He also tends to drop his paci off the backside of the crib and frankly, we only have so many paci's he can go through in a night.  Since he's outside of the high risk age for SIDS and can easily turn his head (let alone his whole body) if he's not feeling comfy, we'll use the bumpers until he starts pulling himself up on the edges of the crib. (I stood him up for the photo above, he hasn't tried it himself yet.) [ETA: scratch that.  See "Mobility" section.]

Sippy Cups:  At the beach we discovered that El Kiddo will drink anything at any temp as long as it comes from a straw.  Since he's weirdly temperature-sensitive about his bottles, we took this as our "aha" moment to try to get him used to cold/lukewarm liquids since they'll be giving him cold cow's milk in 3 months when he moves into the Toddler room at daycare.  We were gifted several types of sippy cups but so far have had the best luck with the Munchkin 360 cups (which are the most like a regular cup), and the straw sippy cups.  But, these are also larger, heavier projectiles for him to chuck around the kitchen, so there's that to look forward to.
Digging his Munchkin 360 cup.

Mobility:  I think we're in a heavy development time period, so I'm going to break this down by date, since if I type one thing it will surely change by the time this post goes live.
6/20/16:  He mostly just creeps backward, but can spin side-to side quickly to reach things. Also, a lot of rolling to get to things (Dad's PS3 controllers are of particular interest.)  He is starting to get his belly off the ground in a stationary position, sometimes just planking for a few seconds at a time, and every so often actually getting his knees up under him and rocking back and forth a bit.  Sitting, he can scoot on his butt a little to get to things, and he like to stand holding on to fingers or the coffee table, but he forgets that he can't let go without falling.
6/25/16: Today he managed to get himself from laying down to sitting all by himself.
6/29/16: Pulled himself up to standing at the coffee table for the first time. Spends a lot of time on his hands and knees rocking back and forth, but no forward motion yet.  I'm convinced he is pretending to be making his way through some elaborate laser maze via scooting on his butt, then creeping backward, rolling, and spinning on his belly.
7/4/16: Pulling himself up at the coffee table regularly, first time side-stepping (aka "cruising") to maneuver his way along the edge.
7/7/16: Sat up in his crib on his own for the first time.
7/8/16:  We have forward motion!!!  He's still clumsy, but it's official, he's crawling. And always toward the things he shouldn't be getting into. Also cruising around the coffee table with ease, primarily motivated by wherever the remote control happens to be sitting.
7/10/16: Pulled himself up to standing in his crib for the first time.  Guess we gotta pull those bumpers back out.
"Oh, you know, just checkin' Facebook."

BabyProofing:  We've been putting this off, because we're lazy busy people.  I mean, we've had outlet covers installed since before he was born, but we haven't gotten around to dealing with surge protectors, cords, baby gates, the fireplace, the entertainment center, the gravel in the base of the fake plant in our living room, etc. However, we did accomplish one important thing:  We replaced our coffee table.  Before, we had a lovely glass set that Lil' Man loves to pull himself up on...and to bonk his head on.  

As much as I like the look of the glass, it just gave me a panic attack every time he got close to it, anticipating him cracking his head wide open.  So we got a faux leather storage bench instead.  I'm sure he'll still find ways to terrify his poor mother, but at least now I know he's not going to knock all his teeth out or split his head open.  At least...not on THAT piece of furniture.
Old vs. New.

Fourth of July:  Fireworks are N.B.D. to this kiddo.  I was nursing and rocking him around 9pm on Independence Day, and it sounded like a war zone outside our house.  Not once did he even turn or twitch.  Conked out and stayed that way all night.  I guess having action movies on in the background while he was napping in his bouncer as a newborn paid off!
Explosions outside...sawing logs inside.

Me:   Okay, so we're nine months in...exactly when is my hair supposed to STOP falling out in droves?  How am I not bald right now?  And for every hair that falls seems to be replaced by a gray one.  So it's official, my kid is making me go gray.  

Solo Parenting:  Can I just give some seriously mad props to all the single parents out there?  You do NOT get the respect you deserve.  The Hubs is currently out of town for work, and has been for the last 7 days.  Prior to this, I'd only been alone with the kid for about 48 hours.  This is ROUGH.  Even with being able to take him to day care, and having my folks help me out over the's HARD.  Maybe it doesn't feel as hard to a single parent who's always had to do it on their own because that's all they've ever known, but for someone who's always been able to share the duties (packing, carrying, napping, wake-ups, feeding), it's a real challenge.  And there are people who do this every day.  You guys are ROCK STARS.  

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Adventures in Parenting: Beach Vacationing with a Baby

In June, we took a trip to Destin in the panhandle of Florida.  This is about 12 hours (normally) by car from our home, and it's a trip we used to make every Memorial Weekend with a big group of friends.  We'd carpool down, stay 4-5 days, and split a condo or house.  The last year we did it we had 14 people, so it was super fun and super cheap.
...beach vacationing with a kid... is nothing like those days.  Aside from the location.

Let's break it down into 10 easy steps. (Also, anything we took with us that was really helpful for our trip, I'm including links to. I don't get anything for endorsing these*, they were just really awesome.)

1. Getting There.  I expected this to be horrible.  But it was actually not that bad.  (It's entirely possible that my gauge of "not that bad" has changed since being a mom, FYI. Remember that I have touched poop that didn't make.)  We loaded the car the day before, all except for our bathroom bags, ourselves, and the kid.  We then woke up before the sun, put the kid into the carseat while still sleeping, carefully loaded him into the car, and set off at 3am.  He then slept until about 7am--BAM, we're already a third of the way there!

Once he woke up, he played with his toys for about 45 minutes until he announced he was hungry. We stopped for gas, fed the kid, and then I took over driving for a while.   The kiddo happily played in his carseat for about an hour...
...until he started scream-crying. Totally upset, sudden onset, no obvious reason.  The Hubs climbed into the back seat to soothe him.  Since it was around his normal morning nap time we assumed he was just tired, and he did eventually fall asleep...for about 30 minutes, and then woke up just as upset as before.  We pulled off at a rest stop...where The Hubs discovered our poor kid had an eyelash in his eye.  

After some additional screaming at Dad for sticking his finger in his eye, the eyelash was retrieved and our kid was happy again.  We let him play for a bit, then put him back in the carseat and continued on down the road.  We stopped for lunch in Birmingham, and managed to get some additional food into the kid before he snuggled in for his afternoon nap, which lasted about 3 hours (cue the Hallelujah chorus).  Another bottle in his carseat when he woke, and then I just hung out in the back seat with him for the last couple hours of the drive to help keep him entertained.  We got to Destin around 5pm, relatively unscathed, just in time for dinner (which the baby slept through) and a sunset walk on the beach. Total travel time: 14 hours.

2.  Sleeping.  Our son does pretty well in a Pack 'n Play (PNP), thankfully.  But setting up the perfect sleep station takes a little work.  At home, he's got blackout curtains and is in his own room.  In Florida, he shared a room with us, and woke up at 6am the first morning because well, the sun was up!  So the following nights, we draped our beach towels over the windows to try to keep it a bit darker.  There was also an A/C vent that blew right into the area where we had the PNP set up, so we had to close that--which ended up making the room kind of hot, so we had to keep the ceiling fan on. We were right next to the beach, so the waves made for some really lovely white noise.

But still...he's sleeping in a strange place, with a new wonky schedule, and discovering all sorts of new things like sand and the pool and how to drink out of a straw.  So his sleep was far more erratic than at home.  One night, he woke at 11:30, 1 am, 3:30am, and then again at 5:30am, at which point we put him in his bouncer on the floor and I laid next to him, bouncing him until he fell asleep (This took a while. I actually dozed off a few times, and would then open my eyes to find him staring at me), and then by the grace of God he slept til 7am (at which point I heard my in-laws awake on the balcony so I went out, passed him off to them, and we went back to sleep for an hour).  We had to resort to this bouncer trick only one other time, thankfully (and Dad took that turn).

3. Bring Your Village.  My in-laws met us down there and we shared the condo, a lovely two-bedroom place in a 10 story complex right on the beach.  And I'm super grateful that they were there, because if it had only been The Hubs and I, this would not have qualified as a vacation.  "Relaxing" with a child is WORK.  First off, 90% of the stuff in our beach bag was for him:

Kid's Stuff Our Stuff
Bottle/Food Water
Hat/Sunglasses Hat/Sunglasses
Baby Sunscreen Adult Sunscreen
Toys Towels
Beach Tent Phone in Waterproof Case
Swim Diaper
Regular Diaper/Wipes
Pool Floatie
Spray Bottle Fan

So first, you get down to the beach.  My MIL had thankfully saved us chairs and an umbrella earlier that day, so at least that part was already taken care of.  But then someone has to hold the kid while you set up the beach tent for him (so he has a nice shaded, sand-free place to play).  
NOTE: If you're going to get a beach tent for your kiddo, I recommend an "instant" version, rather than what we have. Ours has poles...that are not the same length...and we ended up breaking one because of COURSE the first time we set it up EVER was there on the beach. But ours was free courtesy of Wednesday Night Trivia Winnings from our pre-baby days,

Then there's the toys, and keeping him cool (thus the fan/spray bottle) and hydrated (I actually have a nipple that screws onto a water bottle and I totally left it at home, but he did okay drinking straight from the bottle...and if he didn't, who cares!  It's water, it spilled all over him and helped keep him cool.

And there's keeping him entertained, and let's not forget that he's still at an age where he can only go 2-3 hours awake without needing a nap, and we weren't quite at the "just let him nap on the beach" phase (though my in-laws, who are total beach bums and would stay out there 9am-6pm if they could, definitely petitioned for it).

But with 4 adults, this is much more manageable.  Grandpa takes the baby down to the surf while we set up the tent, then Grandma plays with him in the tent for a while while Mom & Dad go out into the water.  Then we tag out and one of us plays with him in the tent while the other relaxes.  And so it rotates for a couple hours until it's time to go in for lunch.  

Ceviche with Plaintain chips and a beachside view...perfect.

We also actually got to have a DATE NIGHT while we were there!  Grandma & Grandpa stayed in with the kiddo and we went out, had dinner, walked on the beach, tried some new brews, all sans kid.  It was LOVELY.  When we got home, he was PJ'd up and snoozing peacefully in his PNP.  Good job, grandparents.
Complete with dessert: vanilla bean creme brulee.  YUM.

4. Eating: We ate out quite a bit while we were in Destin/Fort Walton Beach. Our son thankfully does great at restaurants:  he either sleeps, or just hangs out, plays with his toys, makes sweet-eyes at the servers, and eats whatever you deem acceptable to give him: french fry guts, bites of hushpuppies, little chunks of fried fish, occasionally his own actual food.  He was a pretty happy camper. 
For eating at the condo, we brought his trusty travel high chair, snapped it onto one of the dining room chairs, and he was set.  In addition to his regular baby food, he got to try bits of watermelon, cantaloupe, egg, biscuit, and toast.  The only thing he didn't like was a piece of crab-boiled new potato--guess we're gonna have to build him up to spicy foods. :)
Eating from his bottle was a different story.  WAY too many distractions.  Plus he is ridiculously temperature sensitive.  He likes his bottles WARM.  Really warm.  We were fighting to get him to drink 10 ounces from a bottle a day (he usually eats 12-16 oz from bottles in addition to nursing at morning/bedtime) because he wouldn't sit still and we couldn't keep it at the right temp being on the beach much of the day.  We gave him lots of bottled water so I wasn't as worried that he would get dehydrated, but I still didn't want him being hungry.  Finally, I had an "aha" moment.  He's really into straws right we pulled the straw out of a fountain drink we'd brought down to the beach and stuck it in his bottle.  Success!  He still didn't drink a LOT, but it was better than nothing.

5. Play time: As with most beach condos, the main rooms were tile floor--not great for an infant that still doesn't have the best grasp on gravity.  But we managed--we used blankets and spare cushions to build him a little play area.   The beach tent worked well for play time outside.  Though I'm not sure why we bother with toys--he'd rather chew on a plastic water bottle the entire time.

6. Stylin' Sun Wear:  I snagged up some baby swim trunks and rash guards at a consignment sale prior to our trip--he had three full beach sets and two hats which worked well for our one-week trip.  Only had to do laundry one time (small washer & dryer in our condo).

7. Pool time:  This was Baby J's first experience with the pool, so I was a little nervous, but he was totally chill about it.  It took him a little while to get used to his floatie, or just hanging out while we held him, but eventually he realized he could splash the water if he swung his arms around.  Also, Daddy is way more entertaining in the pool than Mama (as with all things. Le sigh.)  The sunshade and his hat kept him nice and cool and no baby sunburns!
I also got a partial pack of disposable swim diapers at a consignment sale before the trip (there were a LOT, which leads me to believe that no one ever goes through a full pack), and I found one cloth swim diaper at a baby thrift shop for about $3.  We used the latter more.  

NOTE: if you didn't already know, swim diapers serve exactly one purpose:  keep poo in.  Pee passes right through.  So you're supposed to change them into one right before you get in the water, then change them out of it once you get out.  Our last day at the beach, I put it on him when we got down to the water so Grandpa could take him out into the surf.  Then he came back and Grandma wanted to hold him.  I noted, "he's only wearing a swim diaper, so he may pee on you if we don't change it."  Five minutes later, Grandma shouts, "he peed on me!"  So there's that.  (Then are at the beach.  There's a giant body of water out there filled with fish-pee...just go take a dip to rinse the human pee off.  File this under "things that are 'not that bad' now that you're a parent".)

Deciding whether to pee on Dad while wearing the swim diaper.

8. Naps:  Maybe you have an awesome napper.  Our son, while he has a pretty regular nap schedule [45 minutes around 9:30a, ~2 hours around 1pm], requires some coercion to actually drift off.  As such, we frequently resort to the bouncer (which he is rapidly outgrowing, so that trick is about to get chucked out the window).  But I mean, honestly, if you had a giant vibrating lounge chair and fuzzy blanket, you could probably take a nice long two hour nap, too.

9. Getting home.  This was pretty uneventful, thankfully.  We used the same strategy as Step 1 left around 4am, which got us about 3 hours down the road before he woke up.  He was a little more fussy on the way back, so we spent a little more time in the back seat keeping him entertained.  But ultimately it was really pretty bearable.  We stopped outside of Memphis on the way back and had lunch, and made it home around 6:30pm.  Travel Time = 14.5 hours

10. Getting Back Into A Routine:  Once you're home, of course there's the unpacking and the laundry and such, but just like you always take a while to get back into gear after a trip, so does the kid.  Our normally 'sleep through the night' baby was waking 2-3 times a night, and got some sinus issues from the change in climate/locale.  It also took him a while to go back to eating well from a bottle during the day.  All in all, I'd say it took a full week and a half before things were back to "normal" for him.

This gives me a lot of hope for future travels with our son. I know things will change--he'll nap less and need to be entertained more, but we DID it.  We survived a beach trip, travelling in a car, through 6 states, with an infant.  I'm thinking this may have to be an annual thing.

Edited 4/23/18 - * While I am now an Amazon Affiliate and do make a small advertising fee for linking to Amazon products, I 100% personally endorse each item linked in this article.