Portland Mini-Trip: Adventure Edition

The food on our recent trip to Portland was stellar. I'm still drooling over it. But, food isn't everything. Right? It's actually the combination of food and experiences that make a trip fantastic. Good Food + Fun Times = Great Trip. Lucky for us, our PDX trip had both!

Where we Stayed.

We stayed at at AirBnB, which we decided it best if you're traveling with a baby/toddler/kid. You can a kitchen, get more space (multiple rooms, even), and more privacy (no worrying about the people next door hearing a crying baby at 2am). We loved our experience on our babymoon, and loved this experience as well. I think we're regular AirBnB-ers now. 

Our AirBnB was in a great location on Nob Hill and just a few blocks from NW 23rd Street, which has tons of restaurants and cute shops. This turned out very convenient on the first morning when it snowed. We just walked down the street for our coffee and donuts. I also managed to getaway during one of Caleb's naps to go through the shops. It felt so great to get out and just browse without worrying if Caleb was fussing. 

I think the AirBnB may have been Caleb's favorite part of the trip. We loved the stairs. If you set him down, he would immediately head to the stairs and banister. It was pretty hilarious. 

We thought the place was great. Josh thought it would make the perfect bachelor pad. HA!

Here's a video tour of the place! (a video brought to you by me)

What we Did.

Oblations Paper Press

There was so much we wanted to do and such limited time. On the must list was revisiting the site of our engagement. Josh did the cutest proposal at Oblation Paper Press in the Pearl District. It was a walk down memory lane as we strolled the Pearl District and headed to Oblations. Sadly, the brunch place we ate at before he proposed is gone now as is the red couch in the store itself. But, it was fun to go back and relive our proposal day - such happy memories, such a happy day! Don't we look so young? And blond hair - haha.

Powell Books

What's a trip to Portland without a visit to Powell's Books? We got lost in there the last time we visited, and then our cell phones didn't have any service so we wondered around trying to find each other for a good while. Luckily, we stayed together this time so no getting lost. We mostly checked out the children’s section. There were tons of children's books and we had a awesome time checking out the books. Caleb enjoyed some of the books as well, but mostly he enjoyed pushing his stroller through the aisles. We ended up getting the Opposites book and the Children’s Book of Virtues for Caleb's library collection. 

Downtown & Ace Hotel

The lobby of the Ace Hotel is a great place for photos. As you can see from the Then & Now photos below, we've made this stop before...many years ago. We haven't changed much...right??!! 

We didn't spend much time downtown. We didn't even go to the main square where Nordstrom and stores are located. We walked by the food truck area, and the Ace Hotel on our way to Powell's and the Pearl District from our parking spot. I guess we'll have to spend more time downtown next visit (and get some shopping on - especially with the no sales tax!).

Pearl District

As I mentioned above, we went to Oblations and Powell's which are both in the Pearl District. We have always enjoyed this area of Portland - trendy, hip, and cool buildings. We didn't spend much time going into shops or anything, but we did enjoy walking around a bit. If we had more time, we would have spend more time walking around and probably grabbing a bite to eat in this 'hood. But alas, time beckoned us to be quick (and so did Caleb's nap time). 

NW 23rd Street

This was just a few blocks from our AirBnB. There are such cute shops along NW 23rd. I could have done a lot of damage if I let myself do some serious shopping. But I have restraint...a little. I did get a cute hat at Goorin Bros. We also grabbed some treats at The Meadow. This was also the street where Salt and Straw, Barista, and Blue Star Donuts was located. 

Waterfront 

When we pulled up to the Waterfront it was practically hailing. Then, after about 10 minutes the sun came out. That's the Pacific Northwest for you. Josh likes to say, "if you don't like the weather, just wait 15 minutes." It's pretty true. Anyway, before grabbing dinner, we did a stroll along the waterfront. It was quick beautiful with the sun coming through just after the rain. There was even a rainbow! This is such a lovely place for a stroll in the early evenings. 

Pine Street Market

Pine Street Market is a relatively new addition to Portland - it just opened in the spring of 2016. Josh and I alway seem to find ourselves at these type of marketplaces. We love the concept, find the buildings they are in super cool (usually they are historic buildings), and think it's fun to see a few different restaurants of a city all in one space. Pine Street Market was originally a Carriage & Baggage Building that was used as a livery and horse-drawn carriage storage facility until the early 1900s (read more about it here), which we found interesting. Deciding where to eat was tough, but with the rainy day we opted for ramen. Afterwards we just had to buy some bread and pastries for later. Definitely a fun place to have a meal and check out. It worked especially well for bringing a noisy toddler to as well. 

Portland Children’s Museum

Wow! This is a GREAT children's museum. It's much bigger than the Children's Museum of Tacoma will all different rooms and activities. It was perfect for the rainy day, too. Caleb has a blast even though he did get bird poop on his head as we walked into the museum! I think his favorite activity was the mega bright lite board. He also enjoyed the grocery store, vet, construction site, and campsite. Oh, and there was a room with African instruments, and he learned to play the drums. Definitely a place to take your kiddo, and we will be back for sure!

That was quite a lot to do in just a day and a half! We had tons of fun and are so glad we were able to get down to Portland for a quick, last-minute getaway. 

Portland Mini-Trip: Foodie Edition

I confess...I am a foodie.

I know this might sound good, but I have always have felt slightly embarrassed to admit to being a foodie. Which got me thinking...why? After some thought, I guess it comes down to my need for everyone to like me and that as a foodie someone might think I'm a food snob. But really, it just means I like food. I like eating it, cooking it, baking it, reading about it, researching it, talking about it, photographing it...just like a hobby. Nothing to be ashamed of, right? I hope you agree. 

Great, and now that the foodie confession is off my chest, I want to talk about food. Surprise! Josh is transitioning jobs right now and got a few days off between work. We seized the opportunity to go on a family mini-trip down to Portland. We haven't been to Portland since we moved to Seattle in 2010. Crazy, huh? I mean we just live three hours away. I chalk it up to: life. 

Portland has really grown since the last time we were there, especially in the restaurant scene. It's become a real foodie town. As soon as I knew we were headed down, I started to compile a list of lists of where to dine. I looked at my Pinterest board, asked Facebook friends, and read some of my bloggers Portland must-eats. You know, foodie research.

I know we wouldn't be able to do it all - not just because it was just a day and half long trip, but because bringing a baby along changes everything. Oh, and my list was way over 50 restaurants/cafes long (heh!), but that's neither here or there.

We did get to some pretty awesome places. Also, I snuck some food photos for you (again, slightly embarrassed to be taking photos of food. Apparently not enough to not take them, though). 

Okay, enough of the talk. Here's where we went and what we ate...

Breakfast  

Barista {Day 1 - Coffee} There is a picture of me with the Barista sign from our last visit (see photos below). I am pointing at my head because it was when I was working as a Starbucks barista in Eugene. Wow, that seems like a long time ago. Back then, I'm pretty sure that was the only Barista location, but this time we found there were several locations.

Lucky for us, Barista was just a nice walk away from the AirBnB we were staying at. It snowed that morning, so we walked down and got ourselves some delicious coffee. I ordered the hazelnut latte and Josh got the Valhorna Mocha. I normally don't go for hazelnut lattes, but it was housemate syrup and I saw someone rave about it on Yelp. It was delicious - slightly sweet, nutty, and smooth. The mocha was a winner, too. The chocolate was rich, but not too much - it was just right. 

Blue Star Donuts {Day 1 - Food} Honestly, I don't have a huge want to go to Voodoo Donuts. Most of them look like they are covered in cereal. They might be delicious, and if I get the chance, I'll try one. Mostly, though, I look for a classic donut with a fun twist. And that is what Blue Star delivered. They were so freaking good. 

The gal was late to open the store, but she let us hang out inside (snow in the PNW always slows things down!). So we had time to debate what flavors to get...it was so tough. We ended up with the Raspberry Rosemary, Mexican Hot Chocolate, Smoked Grapefruit, Bourbon Blueberry Basil, and Breakfast fritter (bacon potato goodness). I think my favorite was the Raspberry Rosemary donut, and Josh couldn't decide but mentioned the Smoked Grapefruit being a favorite because it was just so different. I think I have to say it: this was the best donut I've ever had. 

Sterling Coffee Roasters {Day 2 - Coffee}  I always have a dilemma when traveling. You find something you really enjoy one day, but should you return to it knowing you really liked it or should you try something new? What if the something new isn't quite as good? #firstworldproblems. I usually end up forcing Josh to make the decision. Generally, Josh is on Team Try Something New, so that usually want we end up doing. And that is the case on our last morning in Portland. Instead of Barista, we walked a little longer to check out Sterling. It's a tiny coffee shop made more for commuters than dwellers. It was swanky and nice inside, though. I ordered a vanilla latte with their homemade vanilla syrup. Josh ordered their house caramel latte. Both were smooth, creamy, and delicious. We also purchased some beans to take home and we are still enjoying their coffee. Their beans are quite good, in fact. Unfortunately, I don't remember the exact ones, but I believe they were Ethiopian.

We took our coffees to go and strolled back to our AirBnB for some food to go along with the coffee. Man can't survive off coffee along...or, can he? Naaawww. Food required!

Trifecta Annex - {Day 2 - Food} If you continue to read, you'll know we went to Pine Street Market. When we were there we picked up some bread and pastries. For breakfast, we noshed on sweet citrus morning buns. They were buttery and had a lovely touch of orange zest inside. Take that an dip it in your coffee. Now, that's what I'm talking about.

Lunch

Lardo {Day 1} Our intention was actually to get lunch at Tasty 'n Alder, but it was a 45 minute wait. When you have a baby who's nap is coming in about an hour this just won't do. Instead, we crossed the street and hit up Lardo. This place specializes in meat and sandwiches. If you can do a good sandwich, oh man...

I indulged in the Pork Meatball Banh Mi while Josh got the Philly Joe Jones. Both were terrific. To accompany the sammies, we go the fries which were also great with herbs and such. Josh got some red velvet beer, which was in fact red colored. He thought it was great and refreshing. A great spot for lunch! 

Tasty ’n Alder {Day 2} Basically everyone I asked mentioned we should go here. It's one of John Gorham's restaurants, and he's the hit restaurateur in Portland right now. We ordered the house cottage cheese with pineapple jam for Caleb. Caleb refused it, but don't let him tell you if it was good as he's currently only living off fruit and puffs right now. Anything else gets dropped, hidden, or squished. We ate it instead and our impression of cottage cheese was changed for the better. And now I want to know how to make it!

I enjoyed the Polenta n Sugo, which was basically creamy polenta topped with a chicken and pork ragu sauce with mozzarella and topped of with an egg. Oh man, it hit the spot on the rainy day. Josh took the waiter's advice and ordered the Korean Fried Chicken, which was spot-on spicy and delicious. This place didn't disappoint...even after all the hype. 

Caleb enjoyed this Bamba (peanut puffs). And flirted with the ladies next to us.

Snacks

Salt & Straw Ice Cream {Day 1 & 2} Oh man, oh man, oh man. This ice cream is the BEST. Da Bomb! The creme de la creme. Probably the best ice cream ever. Statement made. Done. 

The flavors are freaking amazing. Different but not so wildly different that you scratch your head in confusion. We opted to share a flight of ice cream. Yup, a flight of ice cream. We found it to be the perfect way to enjoy several flavors. We tried the Chocolate Gooey Brownie, Arbequina Olive Oil, Coconut with Petunia’s Salted Caramel Bars, and Pear & Blue Cheese. We both thought the Pear & Blue Cheese was the best (of the best!). And Caleb liked their spoons. Can you find the missing spoon in the photo below?

Guys, it was so good, we made a pit stop before hitting the road back to Tacoma for a treat to go. Josh got the rootbeer float, which was dynamite. I couldn't resist and got a waffle cone of the pear and blue cheese. 

Dinner

Jo Bar & Rotisserie {Day 1} We arrived late afternoon to Portland, and didn't have much time before Caleb needed to go down for the night. He's an early to bed guy, so we need to eat at 5pm if he's going to join us. We were staying within walking distanced to 23rd Street in the Alphabet district (slash near Nob Hill), so we walked down to see what would work. We landed at Jo Bar, which received good ratings on Yelp (not that Yelp is the end all be all of rankings, but it usually steers us well). The good thing about early dining is happy hour. We both got a drink - Josh a beer, and me a cocktail (blood orange old fashion, my fav!). Our favorite dish was the fondue. Not only fun to eat, but delicious. Then we shared the rotisserie chicken since rotisserie seemed to be their specialty. We ended up having to gulf it down because Caleb started to get tired (that's code for - fussy, flailing arms, shrieks, etc). But it was a solid dish and worked well for that evening. 

Pine Street Market {Day 2} We always love a good market. Like The Ferry Building in SF, Krog Market in Atlanta, Pike Place in Seattle, Granville in Vancouver. If there is a market in the city, you can probably guess Josh and I will check it out. Pine Street Market is fairly new - just opened a year ago (according to some guy that served me some food). It has several little restaurants inside and is very hip/trendy. And we loved it. We ended up with ramen from Marukin Ramen, which was soul warming. Before we left, we bought bread & pastries from the Trifecta Annex to enjoy later. I would definitely want to come back and try more places! I love marketplaces. 

What a great weekend! What a culinary adventure! I'm pretty proud of us for getting to so many places with a baby/toddler. We definitely have to return to PDX soon. So many good places to try still. Have you gone to Portland recently? Foodies Unite! 

Caleb's 14 Month Update

I am a bit behind on getting this post up, but what's new. That's the way of life these days with a baby/toddler. Yea, that's right, I haven't quite committed myself to calling him a toddler, yet. Not until he's toddling on his own, or that's what I'm saying now. 

So, 14 months. I say this every month, but...how?! Life is crazy. He's definitely growing and learning, though, and it's amazing to watch. For one, look at his hair. It's really coming in now. The first haircut might be a while still, but there is so much more hair then just a few months ago.

A lot happened during his thirteenth month of life. He's soooo close to walking. I think he really could walk, but figures he is a speed crawler and doesn't really need to walk, yet. That is the most common comments lately - how fast he can crawl. No joke, this kid is a speed crawler and could win the gold in the speed crawling Olympics. 

His love for pushing things is still as strong as ever. And he's grown a love for fresh fruit as in that's all he wants to eat. Just fruit. All the time. Nothing else. I guess it could be worse. 

Cute Guy

He's just a goof ball and he just makes me laugh. He flirts and smiles at everyone -- and I love it. 

Family Time

We had some more snow in February. Caleb took his first steps in the snow and thought it was the coolest thing ever. We also went out on an excursion to Salmon Beach.

We also spent a lovely week down in San Diego with the O'Neill grandparents and Aunt Lindsay. We enjoyed the sun and extra help. More to come on that visit in another post!

Friends

We all love to hang with friend. Yes, in that top photo Caleb is basically stark naked except for socks. I refrained from sharing the naked photo since I don't think future Caleb would appreciate totally naked photos on the internet. But I have it in my back pocket for someday, mwhaha. Just kidding. 

We had some fun with our friends Nora and her parents Sarah & Mark on Sunday morning. We also had a fun trip to IKEA with our friends Vivian and Margo. Then we had a birth class baby reunion. 

Pushing Everything

If it moves, Caleb will push it. He eyes anything with wheels. His favorite thing to push is his stroller. I have to hid it or else he'll want to push it around the house nonstop. He gets very upset if he sees me close the laundry door room with the stroller inside. He also enjoys using the cart at the store, briefcases that roll, play cars...really anything. 

Food and Shoes

We discovered guacamole is a favorite. Not quite fruit, but still something he enjoys. And he does some interesting things with food like dipping pesto bread into soft serve. 

We also purchased our first walking shoes at the Stride Rite outlet while with my parents. He was pretty happy about it because it means more pushing and walking.

Valentine's Day and Other Goofy Things

Caleb still enjoys climbing the stairs and will race us to the staircase if he see it's not blocked by the baby gate. Like I said, he'll push anything, such as the toilet paper holder. He also enjoys climbing into small spaces. 

His second Valentine's Day was great. We enjoyed a sunny day and took a mom-baby walk outside and played in the grass a bit. 

Love this little guy!

Tacoma Explorations: Salmon Beach

One of my favorite things about my relationship with Josh is the fun we have exploring together. I had an adventurous spirit before meeting him, but it's so much more fun with your best friend. 

With moving to Tacoma, we've had the opportunity to explore our new town. You may remember my earlier post on my first few Tacoma explorations. The explorations have continued, and just last weekend I was at the salon when my hair gal mentioned she lived on Salmon Beach. Neither Josh nor I had heard of this place, but it sounded cool. So the next day, we hopped in the car to check it out.

It turns out it's only like 5-10 minutes from our home. It's a small waterfront community that started in the early 20th century. It's about 100 cabins built on stilts at the bottom of a steep bluff near the Tacoma Narrows. Many of the cabins are in original condition, and cabin 97 is even on the National Register of Historic Places. There is only parking lot on top of the cliff for residents, so visitors have to park further away and walk in. 

We had no idea about the walk and steepness and honestly we weren't prepared. We didn't have the normal baby carrier. As we parked to start the adventure, we were talking about how we forgot the stroller. Ha! That would NOT have worked at all, so good thing we forgot it. We did have the back-up carrier, so I strapped that on for Caleb.

As a visitor, you have to walk down the road for about a quarter mile to reach the resident parking lot and top of the bluff. Then you can either go down steps or just a sloped trail to get down to the cabins and beach. 

We headed down and we were greeted with these cool cabins. There is a wooden pathway between the bluff and cabins that you can walk along. At the one end, there is a beach with great views of The Narrows Bridge. You also get a closer look at the stilts of all the cabins. 

It's really quite quirky. I imagine it's hard to lug stuff up and down, so if you bring something down it usually stays down. The residents have really made it there only little community. And everyone seemed to have a kayak.

As we walked along, we met Roger "the historian" (this is how he introduced himself). He wrote one of those Images of American books, this one being, Tacoma's Salmon Beach. He was really kind and apparently his wife was the artist of the mermaid statue in my photo below. He offered for us to swing by his cabin, but only after we visited cabin 97 which is the cabin on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Caleb also seemed to enjoy all the sites. On the hike back up the bluff (work out!!) he was giggling and laughing the whole time (as his mom huffed and puffed up the hill). Asha was in on the fun as well.

It was a fun afternoon as we lucked out in some clear weather and a break from all the rain. We loved the views and enjoyed checking out a new place. 

Happy Valentine's Day 2017

Happy Valentine's Day! I love to celebrate this holiday because it's just a great reminder to give thanks to those you love and appreciate in your life. Tonight I'm making a special meal for Josh and I to enjoy together. It'll be this pork tenderloin, butternut squash gratin, brussels sprouts, and finishing it all with these brownies

And I've been enjoying my day with my little sweetheart. Can you believe this was him last year? Ahh, my heart. And here he is today. What a huge difference. He is still, and will always be, my Valentine cutie. 

I hope you're treating yourself and your loved ones today. Hugs to you all! 

Snapshot: Life Right Now - February 2017

I'm not kidding when I say that every weekend this year we've had something planned. It's been a busy 2017 so far! Sadly, this means I've neglected my blogging. (Although, I have posted a few things over here if you're into baby stuff). 

So, I thought I'd fill you in on my life right now...

What am I reading?

The Rook. Josh persuading me to read this and we're both actually reading it together. I'm ahead of him though. Not that it's a race (yes, it is, shhh). So far I'm really enjoying the book! 

The book I read before this was The Woman on the Orient Express, which I enjoyed. I wouldn't say it's a must read or my favorite book, but it was fun and kept me turning the pages (or tapping).

What am I watching?

I've just finished a bunch of shows, actually. By far my favorite was The Crown. I highly recommend this one if you're into history at all. Very well done and well acted. 

This is Us is another one I've been watching. I finished season 1, but can't figure out where I can watch season 2. I would put this in the same category as Parenthood, although I enjoyed Parenthood a bit more since it has some lightheartedness to it whereas This is Us is all drama all the time. I still would recommend it, though!

Now that I've finished these, what's next?!? 

What am I wearing?

I'm absolutely loving my Hunter boots. I got them from Josh for Christmas. They are so much easier to slip on then I thought and they keep my feet so dry. I can hop in puddles without a problem, and believe me, I've needed them. 

What I am eating during the week?

I'm totally crushing on this Thai Beef Bowl recipe. I've made them two weeks in a row and I'm not a huge beef eater person. I think it could work with chicken or pork, too. I don't have a spiralizer, so I cut the veggies into strips and I cook them a bit. I served it on top of coconut quinoa instead of rice. Uh yummy in my tummy!

That said, I made this creamy kale mac and cheese tonight and I it just hit the spot and I can't wait to eat leftovers tomorrow. I did add chicken sausage to it, which is a must in my opinion.

What am I snacking on?

Loving this green pina colada smoothie! I love that it is sweet and delicious yet I get some good fruit and veggies, too.

What am I looking forward to?

Going down to San Diego to visit my parents for a week with Caleb at the end of February. It'll be good to see my family, catch some sun rays, and get some help with Caleb during the week. Although, I'm a bit nervous about the flight on my own with Caleb. Wish me luck!

What am I missing?

I haven't seen movie in the theaters since before Caleb was born. The last movie we saw in the theaters was Star Wars: The Force Awakens on New Years Eve 12/31/15 -- yup, Caleb was born 1/2/16...two days later.

There you have it! That's my life right now. What's going on with you?

 

Caleb's 13 Month Update

It's Caleb's monthly birthday time again - a bit late to blogging about it, but better late than never. On February 2nd, he turned 13 months old. Being one year old was sooo last month. ;) I don't even know if I can call him a baby anymore. Waaahhh. He's really in an in-between stage of baby and toddler. I'm inventing a new word: baddler! Eh, sounds like bald, and he's no longer bald. Definitely growing hair these days. Let's just say he's a baby still, okay?

No more stickers, but we still have the blocks. I have the one photo there to show off his hair and the cute little curl thing he has going. You can see a fun new game he's made called "crawl over the dog" (or under works, too).

12 Months Development & Happenings

His 12th month of life was full of new things. He is soooo close to walking now. He uses his walkers and practically runs around the house with hit. He needs to work on steering a bit, though. 

Smiles, Cutie, and Goofy

I love to watch him sleep; he's just so peaceful. And I can really look at him as it's the only time he is still. The smiles are the best, though. Oh lordy, they melt my heart. He also started doing this funny thing with his lips one day, which was completely hilarious.

Eating Food

Guess what?! He likes frozen yogurt!! Yay! He is eating way more things now, it's awesome. There he is having a wee little taste with a red spoon at Black Bear.

He's a funny, little eater. He only likes his food room temperature or cold. The face he gives when the food is hot is like "OMG, it's fire!" 

Oh, and bananas are acceptable now and he'll eat it as a whole banana. I found this out at Metropolitan Market. They have free fruit for kids while you shop and I grabbed a banana. He ate it all up! 

Non-Stop Playtime

Caleb does. not. stop. ever. One of the most common observations from others is how fast he is at crawling. Ohhh, I know it. I sure do 'cuz guess who's chasing him. You got it.

He's discovered the fun of pulling tissues out of the box and grabbing the toilet paper. He likes to stuff things into shoes as well. He's also been seen grabbing two car toys - one in each hand - and wheeling them around the house. 

Mom and Dad

He sure loves his daddy. There are lots of giggles and fun with dad. He looks out the front window when Josh leaves for work, which is adorable.

Notice no smile on the carousel. He did start to smile when it moved. He loves to move it move it. 

Getting Around

As I've said earlier, he sure likes to move. We have a path through the house for him to walk around with his baby walkers. It's the first thing he likes to do in the morning and the last thing before bed. He has an obsession with strollers, too (really anything with wheels that he can push). He'll grab the stroller and push it around. I've let him do this at the grocery store with the cart as well and he gets the biggest kick out of it.

He just goes and goes and goes. And I'm sure he could win a race with his speed crawl. But you can see, sometimes he wants to be picked up. But it's not because he wants to be near mom or dad, but rather he wants to see what's happening from higher up.

And now such a big boy in his convertible car seat. Bye bye baby car seat. I'm a big boy now!

Play and More Play

We have added the Children's Museum of Tacoma into our weekly routine. He has such a blast there. Other fun destinations are the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, the park, and the coffee shop that has a great kids play area. 

It's pretty amazing to watch him learn and grow. We love this little guy!

A Look Back: Christmas 2016

At long last I'm getting to the Christmas look back post. Let's just say I waited to post it to build excitement and anticipation, sound good? ;) Just go with it. 

Luckily, I didn't leave you totally hanging. I did share some Christmas season happenings and our Christmas letter with you. Hopefully that tied you over until this one. So let's jump into it. 

Family

Hurrah! My parents and sister flew up a few days before Christmas and stayed for about a week. For the first time ever they were able to stay at our house since we now have a guest bedroom. We took advantage of that by kicking up our feet and watching some awesome Christmas movies. And reading The Polar Express to Caleb before bedtime. 

It was so nice to have the whole family together, which is the best during the holidays. 

Celebrating with Caleb

Everyone wanted to see the Christmas spirit through a one year old's eyes. And Caleb loved having so many people to play with -- and grab their glasses, hair, etc. 

Christmas Morning 

There is something magical about Christmas morning. The tree is all shiny and bright, the gifts are under the tree, the stockings are full, and everyone is cheery and ready to celebrate. We even put a fire in the fireplace to make the house all cozy and warm. 

Caleb's First Christmas

I have been waiting to celebrate my favorite time of year with a baby for a very long time. Caleb was the cutest 'firs Christmas baby' ever. You could tell he was having a wonderful time and soaking it all in. Ahh, my heart melts! 

Toys Toys Toys

I totally thought Caleb would be more interested in the wrapping paper than the gifts itself. However, he surprised me by liking both. Sure, like most babies, he thought the wrapping paper was so cool - sparkles and crinkles galore! But the toys captured his interest as well. He really wanted to play with each toy after opening it. He got some pretty rad gifts, so who can blame him?! Trucks, helicopters, motorcycles, Rody, a singing soccer ball, bowling set, and clothes. Lucky (and very loved) little guy! 

Opening Gifts

Caleb wasn't the only one receiving gifts. We all must have been good since we got some great gifts as well. 

The Feast

After a long day of merriment, we needed to nourish ourselves with some delicious food. I hosted the dinner and made it very similar to Thanksgiving, but with some improvements like these rolls, Brussels Sprouts with butternut squash, and sweet potatoes. My tummy rumbles just thinking about it all. Honestly, I think it may have been the best meal I've ever served. 

What a perfect Christmas it was. I'll always remember this one for sure with it being Caleb's first Christmas, the first Christmas in our new home, and with the whole family. Such great memories!

Caleb's 12 Month Update

You might think I already did the 12 month update from my post the other day. No sir ye! That was totally different; that was his birthday party. This is his monthly update where I share pictures from throughout the month and take the blocks and sticker photos. Hurray, more Caleb!! 

As you can see, Caleb is ready to pounce on his first year. One is totally going to be fun...

Ok, let's have some real talk for a moment about those monthly stickers. While they were fun, they have also become my worst nightmare from a photo taking sense. It's impossible. He wants to ripe them off immediately and eat them or trash them up. It's cute, but incredibly annoying if you're trying to capture a photo. You put him down for the photo, step back to snap a shot, but by then he's already ripped it off and moved on to something that's caught his eye.

He finds the stickers so interesting. Sticky and crinkly. Let's rip it off and crawl around with it. Yea, it's sorta cute. The last photo is of him on a new toy. I added that to the collage just because it's cute - nothing to do with stickers. 

As you know, I've been doing the mostly block photo with bullets on what he's done that month. At the start of it all, I decided to have it so the picture was from the start of that month and the bullets listed what he did for that following month. Here you see the 11 month photo and the bullets are for what he did during his 11th month. Although, now that we're at 12 months it seems awkward. Maybe I should have done it differently, but it's too late now. It made sense in my sleep-deprived mind back then. Let's just go with it. Here's a look at 11 months:

Family Time

Holidays are great for family time. We got a whole week with dad off from work, which was awesome. He has said dadda a few times and that just makes Josh's day. But he's going to be a mama's boy. Yes, he is. YES I say! 

Playtime

This kid loves to play. It's hard to keep up with him. Toys are good, but everything else is better...like chapstick. We call that photo his Winston Churchill pose. 

Christmas 

The most wonderful time of the year and it was even more wonderful with Caleb. I'm going to write a post specifically for Christmas so I'll keep this part short. It was great to have Auntie Lindsay, Grandma Jan, and Grandpa John around. 

Food is Fun

Food can be fun, but can be frustrating. He isn't the biggest solid/real food eater yet. He likes to play with his food, though. He especially enjoys squeezing the food and dropping it on the floor. This mom just loves to pick it up and clean it up (wink wink, cough cough).

Just Cute

The first photo I like to call "budda baby, sleeping pup." The next photo Caleb was watching sports with Grandpa John. The other one is him playing with wheels (his favorite) on the table at the coffee shop. And the last one is just crawling and plain cute.

And that's the life of a one year one. It's hard to believe he has grown so much! It's incredible to experience. He has brought so much joy and love to our family.  

Let's Look back: birthwelcomenewborn photosfirststwo monthsthree monthsfour monthsfive months + anothersix monthsseven monthseight monthsnine monthsten monthseleven months

Caleb's First Birthday

Inconceivable! Hmm, "I do not think it means what you think it means." Okay, Heather, that was nerdy.

But seriously...oh.my.gosh Caleb is 1 year old now. It really does seem inconceivable sometimes. Yet, here we are with practically a toddler now. Generally I would launch into how quickly the year has gone by and yada yada. In reality though, sure it went fast, but parts of it went extremely slow. Like those nights where you wake up every three hours. That seemed slow. Or the days where he was Mr. Fussy pants and was all crankiness most likely due to who-knows-what -- sick, teething, tummy ache, it's a toss up sometimes. Yea, that all seemed slow.

Overall, though, I look back and think, "wow, we've raised this little guy from birth to a year old. That happened fast!" I keep thinking back to last year at this time. It's been an incredible journey so far (and it'll keep going and keep being incredible!). This has been the hardest, but most rewarding year of my life. Life has changed radically and I do not think I can even put it into words. It's been amazing to watch Caleb grow from the tiny little 5 pound 6 ounce newborn to his current 17 pound 5 ounce boy. I look at his newborn photos and it seems unreal now, but it still melts my heart. 

The little guy we have before us today still melts my heart. I'm 100% sure he'll melt my heart for the rest of my life. I go gaga over his little arms raised at me saying, "lift me up, mama!" Or that little finger he loves to point at everything and say "dat!" Or when he speed crawls down the hall, then stops and looks back expecting me to speed crawl after him. Then he continues on laughing. That laugh - it's contagious! Can you tell I'm in love? Is my gushing starting to get a little annoying. Well, it's my motherly duty. 

I bought him this adorable orange shirt. I think he looks pretty good in orange. He also looks good in blue; it brings out the blue in his eyes. Fun fact: the #1 thing strangers comment on are his blue eyes. They do seem to have a brilliant shade of blue and sparkle, especially when he smiles. The other two most commented things are his simple & dimple - he has a cute dimple on his cheek when he smiles. Also, I often get told he should be a Gerber baby model. I tend to agree (but I might be biased). 

To celebrate his first birthday, we had a small little get together at our home. I themed it "Winter ONEderland" (with sub-theme "celebrating Caleb's first on the first" since we had the party on 1/1/17) - yea, I'm corny. We decorated in blue, silver, and white to make it all wintery. Josh dressed up our holiday bear bust for the party, too. I thought it was pretty hilarious. It was fun to put it all together. Honestly, Caleb just wanted to tear everything down and put it in him mouth, so this was really for the parents. 

I got my crafty hands out and made this little chalkboard sign for the party. I wrote a DIY post if you're interested in how I made it. It was fun to put together and think about all the Caleb-isms. Although I realized I missed a few things. Under "I Love" I totally should have listed that he loves the Apple TV remote. It's crazy how much he loves it. What didn't fit were listing nicknames like "Captain Yogurt Face" given to him by Josh. Or what he's known for: his dashing smile, dimple, and blue eyes. Or his favorite word: Dat. Otherwise it really sums him up! 

Of course, we had to have cake. What's a party without cake. I made Caleb a little smash cake. I used the How Sweet It Is Mini Sprinkle Smash Cake recipe and it turned out quite tasty and totally sweet. I considered one of those healthy smash cakes they say for babies, but then I was like...why? We are celebrating..with sugar!

I totally expected Caleb to smash it and rub the cake and frosting through his fingers like he does with all his other food. Instead he just sort of stared at it. I took some and put it in his mouth and that got him interested, but he really didn't go smash crazy. I do like that he picked up half of it and tried to take a bite. Here's a video of us signing happy birthday, figuring it out, and taking a bite

The rest of us got cupcake versions of the smash cake. Of course, I didn't want to have folks leave on a sugar high, so we also provided snacks and beverages. We were sure to have some Caleb's Kola around as well. And who am I kidding, more sugar - hurray! So there was my new favorite crockpot hot chocolate

We did enjoy celebrating and Caleb enjoyed sitting in his throne, I mean high chair, waiving his king scepter, I mean party horn. 

Bday_One.jpg

And no party is a party without friends! We had a few friends over to help celebrate. 

It was great to have a little fun to celebrate one! I still have to post the usual update, but I thought you'd like to hear all about the party first. So up next: 12 month update! I'll be sure to gush some more. ;) 

2016, You were Awesome

Happy New Year! 

We're already a week into 2017, and I'm just now writing a look back to 2016. The end of the year and start of this one have been keeping me pretty busy. It's just now starting to settle back into normal life routine (I wouldn't say slowing down...ha, wouldn't that be nice. With a 1 year old just not likely, though). 

Social Media says these were the best shots on Instagram. It got the majority of the highlights like having a baby and buying a house. I have to say, I'm glad the baby burrito made it onto my top nine photos. 

But really, I shouldn't let my Instagram feed tell me what was great about 2016. So I am here to give you the insight scoop.

  • We had a baby boy. Yup, this one is a big deal. In fact, it's been a life changer. You really can't top this one. Our lives were turned upside down on 1/2/16, in a very good way. 
  • New job.  For me, that is. I left the corporate world to be a stay at home mom. It's been the biggest blessing to be able to stay home with Caleb. Although, it's no walk in the park. This job is tough! But I wouldn't want it any other way.
  • Bought our first home. Another big deal. I told you 2016 was big. We love our new home and have enjoyed being home owners for half a year. It's in a great neighborhood, we have a great backyard, and I love the size of the kitchen. 
  • Moved to a new area. We bough our first home in Tacoma, which is just about 45-60 minutes away from Seattle. It's smaller, but family oriented and a great place to live. We have enjoyed exploring the neighborhoods and getting to know our new town.
  • Celebrated 5 years of marriage. Holy moly, it's been five years already! p.s. This is why there is a photo in the top row from our wedding. p.p.s. We've been together for 13 years, that's got to count for something, too, right?
  • Asha turned two. Our little Asha pup turned two years old in December. Can we still call her pup? I think so - she definitely acts it. I think she'll always be a pup at heart. She had a big year with the baby and move. She also went to doggie boot camp and is a much better walker and behaved pup. 
  • Traveling with a Baby. We went to San Diego and Utah to visit our families. Caleb and I went to San Diego on our own for a week to visit the O'Neill grandparents, but the other time it was all three of us for a friend's wedding (and visit the grandparents). We also went to Ivins, Utah to see the Brown grandparent's new digs. So three roundtrip flights with a baby...he was mostly good. 

I'm pretty sure 2017 is going to be great! I hope you all had a wonderful 2016, and here's to 2017!!!

P.S. Yes, I do intend to share Caleb's 1 year birthday celebrations and Christmas. Maybe a 2017 resolution should be to write posts more timely. But, let's not do that since I'm pretty sure I'll break it. #momlife #ihaveababy #stillababyright

Our 2016 Christmas Letter

Dearest Friends and Family,

It’s been big year for our family, full of blessings and changes! 

Caleb

People tell you that having a baby changes your life and before it happens you think “yea yea, sure, I get it.” However, you don’t truly understand what they mean until you actually have a baby of your own. 

Now, we understand. The change is huge, but wonderful. We feel so blessed to have Caleb in our lives. Josh and I often look at each other and try to remember life before Caleb, and it’s now all seems like a lifetime ago.

Caleb joined our family at the start of the year. He was very close to being a New Years baby and was born January 2, 2016. Although, it all did start on New Years day when we were out to dinner. People like to joke that we missed the tax benefit…that was the furtherest thing from our minds, haha. He came early and quickly, and he’s been on the go ever since. Caleb is almost a year old now and is non-stop energy and fun. We love his curious and observant nature. Soon he’ll be walking and his mama will be running. 

If you want to see him grow, here’s the posts from this year: birthwelcomenewborn photosfirststwo monthsthree monthsfour monthsfive months (and another), six monthsseven monthseight monthsnine monthsten months, and eleven months

House

When I said it was a big year for us, I really meant it. Not only did we welcome Caleb to the world, but we also bought our first home in a new town. We were thrilled to be able to find a cute home in Tacoma, WA. Tacoma is just about 30 miles southwest of Seattle. It’s smaller than Seattle, but very family oriented and we are enjoying exploring a new area. It’s been fun being first time home owners and definitely a change from renting. No more calling the landlord if an issue comes up! The home was move-in ready, perfect since taking on renovations with a baby sounded a bit terrifying. We do hope to make some updates to it in the future to really make it our style. 

Asha, the Pup

Asha is two years old now. She is the goofiest dog Josh and I have ever had. She’s been through changes this year with a baby to contend with and a new home. Luckily, she gets a backyard to roam and later on, a kid to play with. But for now she’s happy to curl up on her mat and just be near the family. 

She did go to doggie boot camp this fall and is now can walk off-leash with us and play at the park without running off. She’s definitely the biggest rascal we’ve had and look forward to her mellowing out (in a lovable way).

Work

More changes with jobs, too. I didn’t return to work after having Caleb, so I am officially a stay-at-home mom. I like to think of myself as Director of Home Operations. It’s amazing how much work staying at home is, but it’s totally worth it. This commercial captures it perfectly! That said, I have enjoyed seeing Caleb’s development and being able spend my days with him. Also, I have picked up writing for a pregnancy and parenting site called HelloBee

Josh is on his fourth year with Logic 20/20, a business and technology consulting firm. He still is project-based and goes where his client is located. Mainly, he’s been going to Tukwila, which is lucky since it’s halfway between Seattle and Tacoma. Mostly, his projects remain technology centered and the work keeps him very busy. 

Trips

Big trips weren’t in the cards this year given a baby and new home, but we managed a few getaways to the grandparents. We took Caleb down to San Diego to visit Grandma and Grandpa O’Neill in June and then in October we went to Ivins, UT to visit Grandma and Grandpa Brown. Caleb was a pretty good flier and thankfully the passengers surrounding us were all very friendly and nice (and patient). Otherwise, we enjoyed mini-day trips like the pumpkin patch or just around town in between nap time. 

We've enjoyed some visitors as well from both grandparents and Aunt Lindsay. And you’re always welcome to visit the Pacific Northwest! We love having people over. 

Merry Christmas!

We feel so blessed with all that have come to us this year. We are excited as we head into 2017 to see what adventures life will bring. We hope you are enjoying the holiday season. Cheers to our loving family and friends. 

Love,

Josh, Heather, Caleb, and Asha

The Christmas Season

Gingerbread, peppermint, hot cocoa, cookies, decorated trees, mistletoe, glowing lights, bustling shopping, crackling fires, snowflakes, movies, caroling, annual cards, giving presents, reindeer, advent calendars, jolly Santa...the Christmas season. I LOVE everything about it. It's my favorite time of year. And I get to share it with my son, Caleb. It's been a great season and it's hard to believe Christmas is coming up so soon. 

We've had a wonderful season so far. And there is still so much celebrating to do! 

Santa

I've been looking forward to taking a baby to see Santa and this year I finally got to do it. The weekend after Thanksgiving we headed to the Bass Pro Shop to visit Santa. 

I felt so sure that Caleb wouldn't cry because he's generally a happy fellow and let's most people hold him without much fuss. I couldn't have been more wrong. He was happy in line holding his ticket to see Santa, but as soon as I placed him in Santa's lap the crying started up. Afterwards, he was back to being happy Caleb. Ha! But we got a classic "baby crying in Santa's lap" photo.  

Then last weekend we were at the Proctor Farmer's Market and we had another chance to see Santa. This time Caleb didn't cry, but he wasn't too thrilled about it either. Even with me holding him instead! We got a pretty cute photo, though.

Cookies

You know me, when there is Christmas there has got to be cookies. I didn't think I'd get to make many, but I surprised myself and got a few varieties baked. There was one failed cookie this year: the pepparkakor. Sad, I typed the recipe into Paprika and must have gotten something wrong because it was super goopy. #cookiefail. Pepparkakor is a bit time intensive so I just decided to skip it all together. I did make some other yummy cookies, though. This year's cookie platter includes: bourbon soaked cherry oatmeal chocolate chip, molasses spice, peppermint snowcap meringues, and spiced cider macarons. All are new cookies I tried except the molasses spice and they were all quite delicious. The macarons were good although a bit too delicate and smooched easily (but who cares if you're gonna eat it, right!). The meringues were light and reminded me of a after dinner mint. The oatmeal cookie, well, bourbony and chewy goodness. Nom nom nom. 

I was worried I might not get to all my cookie baking so I hosted a mom and baby Cookie Swap. I had my mom friends from Tacoma and Seattle come over on a week day morning and we swapped cookies, drank some hot cocoa, and let the kiddos play together. It was a blast and fun to taste each others yummy treats. I posted about it over here if you want to read some more. All together we had sugar & spice cookies, chocolate crinkles, wild blueberry oatmeal, and even baby cookies. This may have to be a holiday tradition! 

Tree

Caleb, Asha, and I picked out the tree together one afternoon at the local neighborhood nursery, GardenSphere. I stepped inside on a walk one afternoon and just saw the perfect, little tree just sitting there. I went back the next day and purchased it. They delivered and set it up for us. Score! It looks so beautiful in our new home. We got an adorable baby's first Christmas ornament and our first home ornament to adorn the tree. 

I put up a gate at first to keep the dog and baby away from the tree, but I noticed when we took it down for company they both were pretty behaved around it. Although, I didn't put ornaments on the bottom of the tree except for a felt ornament or two. 

Decorating

With a new home, I had to figure out where to put my decorations. It's funny how you tend to put things out each year in the same place. I hope I picked a good place for each decoration because it's likely to be there for future years. It's a bit like where you chose to sit the first day of class. Ha! 

I realized with more space, I could do with a few more decorations. Maybe I can hit up some sales after Christmas for next year. Josh did hang Christmas lights on the house, so we definitely sparkle in the neighborhood. Next year we think we'll do the bigger, white bulbs instead and cover the bushes. 

Snow

We had snow!!! It's been a few years since it's snowed in Seattle/Tacoma area. It was a winter wonderland for a few hours. It snowed lightly on two different occasions. It didn't stay around long, but we did get to enjoy it a little bit. Of course, we built a fire in our lovely fireplace. So cozy!

Family

My parents and sister are coming tomorrow! Then the Christmas festivities begin! Oh boy, oh boy! We're going to have a feast similar to Thanksgiving. Then stockings and church. It's gonna be great holiday fun.

The Spirit of the Season

We've really enjoyed the season so far! From our daily walks in the neighborhood (even thought it can be chilly) to the poinsettia (that sadly died due to the snow) to snuggles by the fire. I hope you're enjoying the season, too! Merry Christmas!

Thanksgiving: The Outcome

I bet after My Thanksgiving Game Plan, you've been scratching your head wondering how it actually turned out. And then I didn't post anything and you were very upset with me. How could I post such good looking food and then never following up. I shall not disappoint you this time...here's my update!

So the dinner was...wait for it...AWESOME! I couldn't be more pleased (ok, I'm a perfectionist and being so I always seem to find something that "could have been better"). 

Here's how it all looked on the table

Oh man, I want it all again. A few things are missing from the above. The horror! So here's my plate from the meal. I should have a bit of everything on there. I ate it ALL. It was Thanksgiving after all. I even went for a few nibbles more of some of my favorites. 

Let's see, my favorite was probably the cornbread stuffing. Although, the turkey earned it's place as the main dish. It was so delicious. The mashed potatoes really turned out great, too. We were all surprised at the cranberry sauce. It was wonderful! I feel bad for cranberry sauce as it's usually an after thought side dish. Although it can really be a great addition, especially for leftover sandwiches. Oh, and the gravy. It topped it all off (literally, ha!).

The green beans were good, but I just feel like they weren't something I was drooling over for more. Maybe a bit too much work in the end for them. The caramelized onions did bring them up a notch for sure, though. The sweet potatoes were also great, but nothing crazy special - just good, solid sweet potatoes. I think the least successful was the rolls. For me, they were more dense, but everyone else seemed to like them. Maybe it's just me being a perfectionist. 

Well, I take all that back...the pie. It was a knock-out it was soooo good. The crumb topping was phenomenal. Honestly, though, I think it was the home roasted pumpkin that really upped the ante on this one. You really need to make this pie. 

So there you have it. I got some definite keeper and re-make recipes - hello, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and turkey. Welcome to my holiday rotation! 

More important than the food, however, was family. I am so thankful to have such a beautiful and sweet little boy this Thanksgiving. Not to mention, a wonderful hubby. Don and Nada, my in-laws, are the best in-laws a gal can have. They are so generous and treat me like their own daughter. I feel so blessed and I am so thankful for the family in my life. My only wish is that my family and in-laws all lived closer so we could spend more quality time together. Luckily, holidays bring family together and that is my favorite part of the holidays. Cheesey to say, yes, but oh so very true. 

Now onto Christmas cookies and food. Nom nom nom. I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving. 

Caleb's 11 Month Update

There are no more words or ways to say, "I can't believe it" or "time is just flying!" I have used them all up in my monthly updates. But it's just so true. This year has flown by and just can't believe he's getting to the one year birthday. Oh man, it's crazy. 

A wee bit late getting this update posted. Why, you ask? Because...Life (with a baby).  

Anyway, here we are at 11 months. Gosh, it's a good thing the stickers only go up to 12 months because it's getting ridiculously hard to get photos these days - constant motion, wiggles, crawls, standing up & down, and squirming all about. You can see I got desperate at the end when I stuck both stickers hoping for something...anything. Photos are tough (diaper changes are even tougher! TMI?).

Taking the photos has gotten frustrating and yet also pretty hilarious. Caleb goes from screaming, crying, hysterical laughing, and back to sweet Caleb. Look at the expression in that face! You could put some funny narration to some of these photos. I like the one with Asha sitting in the background. I imagine the dog saying, "good grief!" I also love his latest expression where he sticks his tough out. 

He's not only cute, but developing so much so fast. He stopped the adorable schooch, and now doing the standard crawl. Once he got that down, he started moving at lightning speed. His little butt wiggles as he goes. He seems to get faster when he's getting into no good (and he knows it). He also discovered the staircase and now likes to head over there to do some stair masters. His curiosity also brought him to the Tupperware drawer. 

SoCal - Grandparents Trip

Caleb and I went down to San Diego to stay with Grandma & Grandpa O'Neill for a week. We got to go to the beach, see Aunt Lindsay, and have fun in the sunny, warm SoCal weather. He was also witness to the Cubs World Series win, which brought Grandpa John to tears (ok, he was sleeping, but he enjoyed the next day celebrations).   

First Thanksgiving

I thought it would be such a fun idea to do a turkey hand picture for Thanksgiving. It didn't go exactly as I imagined, but nonetheless it was cute. Caleb ate some turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and green beans. Best part of Thanksgiving: seeing Grandma and Grandpa Brown. 

Family Time

Dad works a lot, but we get some fun family time on the weekends. See the rainbow in that picture? That was almost our Christmas card photo. 

Expressions

What I love about Caleb is all his expressions. He's got the best faces! The hats don't stay on very long, but a persistent mom is around to keep it on. I think the most common observation from people when we're out & about is how blue his eyes are and how happy he is. We're pretty lucky to have such a joyful baby.

Friends

Caleb thinks his best friend is Asha. Asha thinks Caleb is her worst nightmare. Maybe once the ear and tail pulling phases ends, things will change (or so Asha hopes). We also got together with our PEPS group friends at Queen Anne Beerhall (yes, babies at a beer hall).

Activities and Around Town

Caleb discovered the Tupperware drawer...eureka! We also still enjoy baby time at the library - we get to play with the parachute and bubbles. And it's pretty cute - every time we pass by a green bush, Caleb points at it because he wants to touch the leaves. 

Dare I say it, but next update is one year. OMG. OMG. OMG.

My Thanksgiving Game Plan

Do you ever think back to what you were doing last year at this time? I find it so interesting to think back and consider how life has changed. Last year I was in my third trimester and getting pretty preggo. This year I have a 10 month old baby and have a home in a new town!

And yet, some things stay the same. Last year my in-laws came to our place for Thanksgiving and they are coming again this year. I enjoy spending time in the kitchen cooking and baking and Thanksgiving is the ultimate kitchen challenge. I am always on the quest for the perfect turkey and dishes. There are so many options out there it’s always so hard to decide!

There are a few dishes I’m going to keep the same as last year because they were dynamite, but there are a few new dishes on the line-up. Here’s my plan for our Thanksgiving feast this year along with what I did last year.

Turkey & Brine

One thing I’ve learned is brining is key to making a juicy, tender, and delicious turkey. Please don’t skip this step! I am going to use the same brine and roasting recipes as last year, which is from the Pioneer Woman. One trick I heard this year that I’m going to try out is to put the turkey in the refrigerator uncovered the night before roasting. Apparently, this helps achieve a nice golden turkey.

Stuffing

OMG, this was so good last year. I declared then that I would make it again this year. Hopefully it’s as delicious as I remember because it was a winner. I call it stuffing but I know some of you out there call it dressing.

Gravy

I always buy a jar of gravy just in case I either run out of time or energy and/or the gravy doesn’t turn out for some reason. This year I’m trying a recipe with a cornstarch thickening agent opposed to flour from last year’s recipe.

Cranberry Sauce

I’ve made a different cranberry sauce the past few years. I just haven’t found “the one.” I’m looking for a balance of sweet and tangy. Hopefully this does it! I did like the conveniences of the slow cooker, though. It was a decent sauce, but I’m looking for perfection!

Mashed Potatoes

I bought a potato ricer to try this year. I should get it any day now. I hope this will make these the lightest and fluffiest potatoes! I think I’ll make them early and keep them warm in the slow cooker.

Green Beans

I usually make Brussel Sprouts, but learned that my in-laws don’t really like them all that much. Ha! So this year the veggie is green beans. Roasting is my favorite way to cook green beans – yum! I’ll just do Brussels Sprouts for Christmas and the recipe I have is so good!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

I love mashed sweet potatoes, but I thought it too much to have mashed sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes – too much mashed up! So roasting it is.

Rolls

I always have grand plans of making rolls, but then end up just buying them. I’m hoping I’ll be able to bake them this year with this quick 30 minute option. I was tempted with the freeze and bake ones, but realized they still need to rise for like 4-5 hours in the morning..

Pumpkin Pie

It’s not a complete Thanksgiving meal without some pie. Pumpkin pie, of course! I love everything pumpkin so this is the hardest decision for me. This one calls my name with that delicious looking crumb topping. But I highly recommend the one I made last year, too.

So there is the line-up. Now, the game plan:

A Few Days Before Thanksgiving:

  • Make the pie crust and store in the refrigerator (or freezer depending on when I get to it)
  • Cook a fresh pumpkin for the pie and store in the refrigerator (I’ll have canned pumpkin on back-up, just in case)
  • Make the rolls and freeze them
  • Make the cranberry sauce – I think this will be just fine in the refrigerator for a few days
  • Bake the cornbread for the stuffing
  • Caramelize the onions for the green beans – Optional
  • Brine the turkey for 18-24 hours

Thanksgiving Morning:

  • Take the rolls out of the freezer first thing in the morning – they will need 4-5 hours to defrost and rise
  • Make and bake the pumpkin pie
  • Assemble the stuffing
  • Assemble the green beans
  • Peel the potatoes
  • Peel and parboil the sweet potatoes

Before putting in the Turkey:  

  • Bake the rolls, stuffing, green beans, and sweet potatoes

Turkey Time:

  • Roast the Turkey – The time really depends on the size of the bird. It’s about 10 minutes per pound of turkey
  • Sauté the green beans
  • Prepare the mashed potatoes

While the Turkey Rests:

  • Warm up all the sides in the oven – I hope they all fit in my oven!
  • Pour some wine (or sparkling cider)

Lastly, as part of my preparation, I like to go through all my recipes, read them, add them to Paprika, and list out the temperature and bake times. For the last item, it’s great to know what the need is for the oven. Sometimes you can bake things together. I only have one oven so I need to be efficient!

  • 25 mins @ 350 — Rolls
  • 35 mins @ 375 — Pie
  • 25 mins @ 350 — Pie Topping
  • 15 mins @ 450 — Cornbread for Stuffing
  • 45 mins @ 400 — Stuffing
  • 50 mins @ 400 — Sweet Potatoes

Whew! I can do this, right?! It’s going to be a challenge with a 10-month old baby, but with help I think we can make this feast a success.

Tell me about your Thanksgiving plans! Any dishes that are pure perfection? 

Caleb's 10 Month Update

Guys, it's November. NOVEMBER! What the. How the. Oh man.

So Caleb is now 10 months old. That's two months away from a year. Absolutely crazy! This year has been moving the fastest of all the years of my life. At the same time, it's moving the slowest. I know that sounds contradictory, but there is no way to describe how the concept of time changes once you have a baby. It's bizarre. And lovely at the same time.

Taking photos is extremely difficult these days. He absolutely will NOT stay on his back. Not for a second. I have to do a jig and turnaround and sing to get his attention. Even then, it's only like 15 seconds of attention. Otherwise it's back to exploring. The heater vent is way interesting, or how about that wine rack, or maybe the decorative lamp thing. To this 10 month old, everything is captivating. So photos, yea, are the last thing he wants to do. I'm lucky I got these photos - some are blurry, but still cute.

Caleb has been pretty busy this past month. He's learned to pull himself up to standing with anything that's nearby - a couch, toy, person. He's taking some steps with assistance. Teeth are now appearing. It's all so amazing to see. 

Grandma & Grandpa in Utah 

We flew out at the beginning of the month to Utah to visit Grandma and Grandpa Brown. We had a great time visiting them and seeing their new home. Here's my post about our visit

Standing Up

As I mentioned, our little explorer is much more mobile these days. He's standing up and taking baby steps (literally taking baby steps, haha). See that one photo in the middle row...that's his determined face. It's hard to capture in a photo, but it's the cutest face he's started to do this past month. He's a very determined little guy. He also likes to climb everything. It scares this mama sometimes, but it's awesome to see how strong he is. 

Cuteness & Food

I think he's just the cutest. I tried buttered toast this month. He likes to naw on it and get the butter and leave the gummed up bread for me. He also thinks everyone should try it, too. He will push it in your face to let you know. Speaking of food, he decided the pouch purees are no go anymore. Instead he's all about the crunch factor. Puffs FTW, especially these Bamba peanut butter puffs. He get SUPER excited when I pull out these puffs - basically pants and bangs on the table. He also loves yogurt. So puffs and yogurt it is. 

Yoga, Friends, Out & About

We like to get out of the house during the day and explore. We did mom and baby yoga together this month. We met some other babies and moms, so it was good fun. 

Caleb also will "sit" in the cart seats at the store. But he likes to turn around and face the direction we are going - not put his feet through the proper way. He's my navigator and captain. 

We hung out with good friends as well. We've known Vivian since his first few weeks - it's so great to see them grow up together. And even though we moved to Tacoma, we still get to see Seattle friends like Tricia and Matthew. 

Oh, and IKEA. That was fun.

First Halloween

Of course, we celebrated Caleb's first Halloween. We didn't dress him up as anything - it didn't seem to make much sense since we weren't going to trick-or-treat nor did we have anywhere to go in a costume. And he's not eating candy yet...but we did get two cute onesies. This one said "Scary Handsome" and the other "Wanna Hang" with a bat hanging upside down. I think he enjoyed the wrappers making crinkly noises the most - he LOVES things that crinkle. 

Fall and Rain

Around mid-October, we started our rainy season. To make us feel better about it, the PNW gives us so many beautiful colors. I just love the fall leaves and treats. Did someone say pumpkin? We visited two different farms in October - a pumpkin patch (see post here) and Lattin's Apple Cider Mill. Fall is my favorite season and I'm so glad to share it with Caleb. I think he likes it, too (I hope, I hope, I hope).

I guess the countdown to his first birthday starts. Yikes! It's so weird to think back to last year at this time - super preggo. Haha! Time...you so crazy.

To Grandma & Grandpa's house we go...

Over the mountains, and through Las Vegas, to Grandmother's (and Grandfather's) house we go... 

Am I the only one out there that puts a song to everything? Well, besides my mom. Just me...well, that's awkward. Let's move on then.

Josh, Caleb, and I headed out to Ivins, UT to visit the Brown Grandparents in early October. They recently moved from Indio, CA (near Palm Springs) to Ivins, UT (near St. George). They have a beautiful new home nestled up against a red mountain (check out Day 5 collage to see it). The area is quite stunning. It's not far from Zion, so use that to help picture it. The weather was fantastic - our last taste of warm, sunny weather until next summer since we're headed into the rainy season here in the Pacific NW. 

We have a wonderful time visiting. It was relaxing and nice to catch-up. Visiting family is always so great. Plus, I got some extra help with little guy, which is always nice. And Caleb just loves his grandma and grandpa. It's so cute to see him with them. 

Here's a quick look at our visit:

Day 1 -

Our first day was mostly travel. We took a flight from SeaTac to Las Vegas. I was so proud of Caleb on the flight. He didn't cry out once. At the end of the flight, people walked by commenting that they didn't even realize there was a baby. SCORE. He even laughed at take-off when the engines roared - it was adorable. Planning it around a nap worked perfectly. Go us! 

Once we arrived, my father-in-law picked us up and we drove to Ivins - about 2 hours. Again Caleb did great and slept most of the time. So the day of travel was very successful. 

Hey look, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's Super Dad (in the photo).

Day 2 -

We got a preview of the Ivins area. We drove by Kayenta Homes, a beautiful development, and got some tasty treats at Nielsen's Frozen Custard. Caleb got spoiled with a taste of custard. Speaking of spoiled, Caleb always got some new fun toys from grandma and grandpa. He absolutely loved the Learning Walker toy. 

Day 3 -

We made a day trip out to Zion National Park. This was Caleb's first National Park visit. Grandma Nada got him a National Parks Passport. I had one of them when I was little (I wish I knew where it was, bummer). Zion is such a beautiful area. It also brought back good memories of our trip in 2012.

Day 4 -

Unfortunately, Grandpa Don got sick and was stuck in bed (poor guy! we later found out it was pneumonia). So, Grandma Nada took us touring around St. George. We walked around the cute shops and grabbed lunch at TwentyFive Main.

That evening, Josh and I went out on a date night - just the two of us! We celebrated our five year anniversary with dinner at Xetava Gardens Cafe. We enjoyed a glass of wine and dinner al fresco. It was a lovely evening and great to get out. 

Day 5 -

We did some shopping around town and then mostly chilled at home. Caleb was a bit fussy with his bottom teeth coming in, but sitting out on the grass really cheered him up. While Josh and I soaked up the good weather. 

Day 6 -

We had a nice, relaxing day. Nada had to take Don to urgent care because he wasn't getting any better. It's a good thing, too, because it turned out to be pneumonia. Poor Grandpa!

Josh and I decided to help out and make dinner. We went to Harmons Groceries, which is an awesome grocery store. We went there a few times during our visit. And that mountain in the photo, that's just us driving home from groceries. Not too shabby, not too shabby at all.

Day 7 -

Lucky me because I got a massage at Red Mountain Resort. It was heavenly. The massage therapist said I was pretty tight - uhh, yea. thanks to lifting a car seat, baby, stroller, chasing baby, etc.

In the afternoon we drove through Snow Canyon State Park. It was a beautiful drive and we'll have to go back for some great hiking (or camping, if Josh can convince me). 

Day 8 -

Happy Birthday to Josh! We celebrated with breakfast at Bear Paw Cafe, delicious shakes from Larsen's (OMG the banana cream pie shake is to die for), and a hearty dinner at Rib & Chop. Otherwise, we enjoyed a nice walk in the neighborhood and just lounging. 

Day 9 - 

Ho hum, we had to head home. Another day of travel from Ivins to Las Vegas, then onto SeaTac. Caleb was quite a handful (to put it nicely) at the start of the flight. By the time we were in the air, he settled down into a nap and the rest was fine (whew!). Luckily the people behind us liked to play peek-a-boo. 

We had such a lovely time. It's so great to spend time with family. I wish we could go back right now! 

Off to the Pumpkin Patch

Oh boy, oh boy, the holiday season has finally arrived. I've been waiting all year for it and this year will be even more delightful since we have Caleb. It's always been a dream of mine to have a little one to share all my holiday joy. I LOVE the holiday season. And Halloween is a good holiday to kick-off the holidays. 

When I was a little one, my parent's would take my sister and I out to Bates Nut Farm. I just loved all the pumpkins and then the store with all the apple and caramel goodness. I do remember my parents made my sister wear sweatshirts in the 90 degree weather so they could get a Christmas card photo. I said to myself then that I wouldn't do that to my child. Luckily for Caleb, it's not 90 degrees in the Pacific NW for October. However, I did find myself wanting to get a great Christmas photo. So I guess I'm turning out like my parents after all. Again luckily, they are pretty great people.

What do you think...do any of these have Christmas photo potential?  

You'll see from the photos that we went to Spooner Farms (Bates Nut is just a bit far away - haha). It was a cute place with pumpkins, a maze, a pumpkin sling shot, food, barn, and a gift shop. We just did the pumpkin patch, barn, and store. I'd hate to get lost in a corn maze with a screaming baby. Seems a bit nightmarish - a good store for a Halloween horror movie, perhaps. 

Anyways, we took lots of photos (and by we, I mean me. I did warn Josh beforehand that I'd be a photo commander). So of course, we had to put our little pumpkin in a wheel barrel. Yup, I'm that mom. But isn't he the cutest? There was some lady behind us that was just making him giggle. 

And get this. I'm here eat Josh's parent's house for the week and Nada shared this photo of Josh and her. Josh is a bit older in his photo, but it's I think it's pretty awesome. 

Caleb and Mom had a good time together trying to pick out a pumpkin. Caleb was just indecisive about which pumpkin to pick as his mom.

Dad was very macho pushing the wheel barrel with all our pumpkins and gourds. Plus, carrying our little pumpkin.

There were some farm animals there as well. Caleb was very interested in the piglets and turkeys. 

Lots of pumpkins and gourds to chose from! We had such a wonderful time as a family together. 

By the end, Caleb was tuckered, but I think he had a good time. I know his parents had a good time! I got some baking pumpkins as well for some delicious pumpkin goodies.