Chicago Trip Snapshots

Last week we got the chance to go to Chicago for my cousin's wedding and to visit family. We also snuck in some time exploring downtown Chicago. We had a great trip and I was wonderful to introduce Caleb to my family and to a very cool city. Here's a few snapshots (okay, a lot of snapshots) from the visit. I'll let the photos do most of the talking.

Uncle Chuck & Aunt Sue

As you can see my Uncle Chuck loves trains. He's got quite the setup in his house and we got to see the trains go choo-choo (video!). Caleb is throuoghly obsessed with trains now. We also enjoyed a lovely brunch with the Merkner crew. 

Wedding and Rehearsal

We were invited to the rehearsal dinner, which was great since we got to play some mini-golf. Caleb's first time and Grandpa John was proud to teach him how to golf.  The wedding was beautiful and took place on a lake. The weather was perfect and we all enjoyed ourselves immensely. 

O'Neill Family BBQ

My cousin Erin hosted an awesome family BBQ on Sunday afternoon. All the aunts, uncles, cousins, and little cousins (technically 2nd cousins, I think) got to hang out and catch up. Caleb had A BLAST with all his little cousins. 

Morning with Zerth Cousins

We got to spend one morning at the Morton Arboretum with my cousin Erin's boys, Ethan and Henry. This arboretum was so cool and the kids had some much fun even though it rained! 

Chicago Navy Pier

Grandma Ruth would be pleased as punch to see that we took Caleb to Navy Pier. We didn't go on the "world's tallest ferris wheel" (so says Grandma Ruth), but we did to remote control boats and the merry-go-round. As you can see, Caleb was pooped by the end of the day.

First Train Rides and More Downtown Chicago

Caleb had his first train ride from Downers Grove to downtown Chicago (video!). He thought it was the coolest thing ever. Then we grabbed coffee and breakfast and walked to Millennium Park. We ran around Maggie Daley Park, walked by the bean, and then enjoyed lunch at Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill. 

Flight and Downers Grove

We stayed at a trendy Home Away (similar to AirBnB) in Downers Grove, which is near my cousin Erin's house. There were some great parks to play in and we also checked out the Saturday Farmer's Market. And the flights...well, we survived. 

Soon to be Four

You are reading that title correctly. Soon there will be FOUR Browns in this family. Josh, Heather, Caleb, and....another little boy! Baby Boy Brown #2 is expected sometime late November or early December -- official due date is December 2nd, 2018 (we'll see!).

It seems not so long ago we were announcing my first pregnancy and birth of Caleb. Now, we're adding another to our family crew. We're all very excited and can't wait to meet this little guy. I'll try to keep you in the loop as the year progresses! 

New Years, Getaways, and Grandparents

A few days after Grandpa Don and Grandma Nada left, Grandpa John and Grandma Jan arrived. They came up to visit for New Years and for Caleb's Birthday. We had a great time having them visit. They even babysat Caleb overnight so this mama and dad could sneak in our first night away from Caleb and have a getaway! 

New Years 

Guess what a mom and dad do for New Year's Eve with an almost-two-year old? Nothing. We go to bed at 10:30pm, open our eyes due to fireworks and then close them again. Then you wake up and it's another day. Who's with us on this one? 

But we did have a fun last day of 2017. Grandpa and Grandma O'Neill joined us for a trip to Point Defiance Zoo on a beautiful day. So clear that you could see Mount Rainier. It always appears so much smaller in your photos then it is in real life. The elephants and walruses were a hit as was a ride on the carousel. Weee! 

Basically Another Christmas

Considering Grandpa John and Grandma Jan's visit was so close to Christmas, we basically celebrated it again. I got to make the meal I had actually planned for Christmas since we finally got our oven (read about the oven fiasco on this post). It was delicious! And Caleb got MORE presents. 

Our Getaway

Since Grandpa John and Grandma Jan were game for a night with Caleb, Josh and I decided to take a night away from the little guy for the first time since he was born. We opted to stay nearby...just in case. We chose to stay in Gig Harbor at Raft Island. We found the most darling AirBnB. It was decorated with a nautical theme and still had Christmas decorations. 

Raft Island reignited our love for exploration. We had no idea this little island existed. It is a small island about 15-minutes from all the Gig Harbor action. You just cross a small bridge and you're on this quite, beautiful island. It was our little sanctuary for the night. It seems secluded and romantic yet not far away from fun activities (and home).

During our getaway we enjoyed a nice dinner and then saw the third movie we've been to in two years (others movies included Beauty and the Beast and Dunkirk). We saw The Last Jedi. It seemed fitting since it was New Year's Day and the last Star Wars film we saw in the theaters was The Force Awakens which we saw New Years Eve 2015. It just so happened the next day the story of Caleb began. Caleb must be bound to like Star Wars.

We spend the morning in downtown Gig Harbor. We ate at the pizza place I've wanted to try in forever, but has been impossible with a noon nap schedule. We also enjoyed a sampling at Heritage Distilling

Grandparents

Caleb spent some fun times with the wagon with Grandpa John and Grandma Jan. We also took them to the Children's Museum for a fun afternoon. It was a great visit, as always!

Instagram Best

So 2017 was pretty awesome. I took lots of photos, as usual. Here's the most liked from Instagram. Caleb, family, and food...seems about right.  

And now we can move into 2018 fun and posts!! 

Snapshot of our 2017 Christmas

Well, gosh, this is embarrassing. I'm only just now posting about our Christmas. It was super busy, but it was wonderful. We watched Christmas movies, listened to Christmas music, ate cookies, and most importantly, cherished our time together as a family. We loved that we were able to celebrate Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa Brown. Having family at Christmas is so special.

Caleb was pretty stoked about Christmas. I think every third picture has him throwing his arms up in excitement. He wanted to help everyone unwrap their gifts and was thrilled with each gift he received. He was at the cutest age for Christmas. We loved watching him!

I got hasty there just jumping immediately to Christmas. Let's step back and look at all the Christmas preparations and festivities.

For Christmas Eve, we all went to the Christmas Eve service at our church, Resurrection Church. It started to snow during the service!

Later that night, Grandpa Don and Josh put their handyman hats on and put together Caleb's train table gift. Go Team Brown!

The snow continued through the night and Christmas morning came as a white Christmas. I've never had a white Christmas and it just made it that much more fun. But more surprising for Caleb was to wake up and discover a blanket of gifts under the tree and a totally awesome train table. Check out his Christmas morning video.

For our family, Christmas gifts are opened Christmas morning. We were all smiles! 

We took advantage of the snow and went for a fun, little walk. This wasn't Caleb's first snow experience, but it probably felt like it for him. He was so young last year when it snowed. He was unsure about it on his rain boots, but otherwise seemed to think it was pretty cool.

Before Christmas, we got to see some good friends of the Brown family up in Seattle. 

Josh, Caleb, and I also got to see our good friends, Jeff and Melissa, with their son, Thomas. They were in town for the holidays and we got brunch and a quick stop at the park together (but ultimately, too cold to be outside for long!). If you can't tell, Thomas is Caleb's doppelganger. 

Photos thanks to Jeff Herbage

Caleb is in a major train kick right now. We all went to the Model Train Exhibit in town and he LOVED it. Chooo Chooo! Chugga Chugga! (That's all Caleb seems to say these days)

After Christmas, and after Grandma and Grandpa Brown had headed back home, we got in a lovely family walk at Titlow Park. We got to see a beautiful a rainbow!

Then there was the oven fiasco. OMG, friends. This is the longest, most annoying story. So our oven broke the first week of December. Of all the time in the year, it broke during the highest oven-needed month. UGH! The stove worked, but the oven wasn't heating. We had some repair guys come look to discover there was an electrical fire in the wires where you turn the knobs. It was going to cost more to fix the oven than to replace it, unfortunately. 

So we decided we would make the switch to gas. We had a plumber come get a gas hook-up for us (yes, a plumber, they do this apparently). When he was in our crawlspace, he found a leak from a corroded pipe with a HUGE crack. So we had to fix that. (Not sure why the guys we had come out to get rid of the mice didn't see that down there *scratching our heads*).  Then when the plumber pushed our stove back into place, the stovetop cracked and became unusable. 

We bought a stove/oven from Best Buy. It was a great deal, but when we came home we realized it wouldn't fit with the microwave cabinet that's above the oven. (side note: Josh went to go back to Best Buy, and his car wouldn't work). Finally, we found a gas stove that would fit, but it was more money they we had hoped since we needed a special kind that isn't as widely available. 

Story goes, Best Buy comes to deliver - days later than they could originally since they messed up - only to discover they packed the truck with a washer. They didn't know where our oven was! Luckily, it was found again. And they delivered it the Friday after Christmas (it was supposed to be delivered before Christmas, mind you). So no cooking for Christmas except for a hot pot and crockpot. 

And that's that. I immediately made Christmas cookies (after Christmas) and a loaf of bread. I missed my oven. This one is pretty awesome, though.

Long story--and that was my effort to shorten it...I warned you.

The big T-W-O

Can you believe it?! My little baby boy is two! TWO!!!! Of course, we had to celebrate with fun, friends, family, and treats. 

Poor guy, he basically has a holiday birthday. He was born January 2nd, so he's not quite a New Year's baby, but for me it all started on New Year's day so I say it counts. By his birthday, everyone is burnt out from Christmas and New Years. But this mom won't let the fun stop until after we party for his birthday! In fact, we celebrated twice - once on his actual birthday and again with friends at his party.

The Actual Birthday

This year Grandpa John and Grandma Jan were in town to help celebrate. Then Dad/Josh took the day off of work. Lots of family around to give Caleb birthday hugs and laughs.

As for treats, Caleb has two loves: frozen yogurt/ice cream and cookies. I think frozen yogurt beats ice cream only because it sticks to the spoon better so it's easier to eat. So, we all headed to Black Bear for some froyo. 

Caleb got some more gifts so we opened them. He LOVES his guitar from Grandma Nada and Grandpa Don. Seriously, he has his own jam sessions. Check out this video of him dancing

Grandma Jan and Grandpa John got him a wagon. We intended for him to sit and be pulled around, but he had something else in mind: pulling it. We should've know.  

I tried to get a cute picture of Caleb with this new sign, but he was more interested in playing with the sign. I usually take the birthday photos with the blocks, but the past few times he's thought it funny to knock them over - our wood floors fear him.

So the birthday was a nice day of treats, music, and wagon walks. 

The Big Party

Saturday, January 6th we celebrated his birthday with friends. We had the part at the Children's Museum of Tacoma. This is one of his favorite places - we go at least once a week. It seemed fitting (and easier than having it at home!). I called his party, "Ready TWO Play!" 

We partied for two hours. The first hour was in a party room. The kids played with play-doh, the parent's chatted, and then we all ate cookies.

Yup, cookies not cake. This kid loves cookies. It's probably the number one word used these days. He will randomly say it, too. Not to mention he thinks many things are cookies - crackers, circles, etc. He takes his fingers and pretends to eat and says, "cookie cookie cookie."  It's too freaking cute. So I put frosting on a cookie and used that for the candle. I made Cake Batter Chocolate Chip cookies and Funfetti Cookies Supreme. He grabbed both cookies - two hands, two cookies, two years. 

Here a video of us singing happy birthday to Caleb. I love how he sways with the singing and then tries so hard to blow out the candle.

Even though there is holiday burn out, we still had good friends show up to party! We are so thankful for such great friends. Caleb gets so excited these days when he hears his friend's name. We had Xola, Johann, Theo, Sebastian, and Liam. Yay for friends!

The second hour of the party was free play fun out in the museum. Caleb's face was red and flushed from all the running and playing...a true sign of a good time. He was all giggles. As we were all leaving, the kids all sat on the little blue couch and said, "cheese" for a picture. It was the cutest thing ever. 

Wow, just too much fun - this mom is tired out! But what a great celebration. Caleb is my little toddler, now. So grown up. We love him so much and can't believe how fast time has past. We are loving every minute with him (minus the tantrums...well ok, we will even take those as well, just because we love him that much). 

And I can't resist, here's Caleb at his two year check-up. He loved the paper on the bench. And he checked out great. Up to 8% from 2% in weight. Then up to 21% from 11% in height. My lower back knew he was growing. ;)

P.S. See all the birthday party photos here!

Very Merry Christmas

Can you believe it, it's here?! We are in the beginning hours of Christmas Eve. I'm so excited to begin all the festivities. I want to savor these days - they go so quickly and it's been such a wonderful season.

I am so thankful for all my family and friends. I hope you enjoy these magical days of Christmas. I send you my love and hugs. 

P.S. In case you missed it, our Christmas letter is up - just click "Christmas Letter 2017" in the top navigation. Or, I copied it below as well.

Merry Christmas!

Dear Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas! We feel so blessed to have enjoyed another big year in the Brown household. It’s been full of family, trips, and adventure.

Caleb

This year started with Caleb celebrating his first birthday. On January 2nd, we’ll already be celebrating his second birthday. How did this happen so fast?

Probably the biggest development for out little guy was learning to walk, or should I say run. He is a fast and curious little guy, which can be a recipe for trouble. Lucky for us, he is a real sweetie! He waves to everyone and everything:  people, buses, dogs - you name it, he'll wave it!  He even gives the phone a hug and kiss when the grandparents are on FaceTime.

He’s also started to say some words. His favorite word is “go go go” but its a close race with "no no no." He's also termed his own word, “go-kay,” which we believe means “go, okay!”(or maybe cookie, haha).

He is growing so fast and we are really treasuring all the cute moments.  For more check out the monthly updates, his first Halloween going trick-or-treating, and Easter

Trips

We were blessed with some awesome trips this year. In September, we joined Grandma Nada and Grandpa Don in Kauai. The 5-1/2 hour flight was rough with a toddler but was entirely worth it.

Josh and I got a few date nights thanks to the grandparents! We also enjoyed some great family time as we soaked in the vitamin D, sunshine, and warm water.  Caleb absolutely loved the beach too. He loved everything: playing in the sand, playing in the water, lying on the boogie board, and running on the beach. It was the perfect vacation for us!

Earlier in the year, we spent a lovely extended weekend in Portland. We realized we hadn’t been down there to visit since we moved to Seattle, which is funny since it’s only a few hours away. Portland has really changed since we were there, and the experience was a lot different with Caleb. However, we had a great time exploring and eating some delicious food.

The three of us also made a special trip down to San Diego in the summer to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday. Of course, there was some exceptional wine and food as part of the celebration. We also got the opportunity to get photos of all of us together, as part of a gift to dad.

Work

Josh changed jobs and is now working for the Washington State Nurses Association. They were one of his clients and hired him to help with Membership and Digital Transformation projects. One of the biggest benefits of this job is it’s closer to home and the work hours aren't quite as intense either.

I am still doing the stay-at-home-mom gig. In my project manager style, I’ve got Caleb and I on a schedule to keep us busy. Every morning we have an activity planned. Our favorite place is the Children’s Museum of Tacoma. We are so lucky to have this near home. We also frequent the YMCA for swimming lessons, running around at Toddler gym, or this mama getting a yoga stretch in.

Asha

Our pup turned three in December. She still acts like she’s three months old, though! We think we finally pegged the type of dog she is, a Plott Hound. Or, at least, she definitely has that in her for sure.

She still loves to go to the park and chuck-it as well as stick her head out the window when we drive around. The latter brings many smiles to other drivers faces, as they see her with her ears flapping and an expression of pure joy. She’s great with Caleb, who now sort of walks her, and is a big part of the family.

Tacoma

We have officially lived in Tacoma for over a year now and we are loving it. It has turned out to be a great place to raise a child and we love the community. We are excited to be here and even more excited to see it grow. Oh, and having our own house is pretty swell, too!

This year has been full of such joy. We hope this holiday season is bringing you cheer and merriment.

Merry Christmas!

Josh, Heather, Caleb, and Asha

Giving Thanks

Wow, Thanksgiving is here! November flew by so quickly. Soon we'll be celebrating Christmas. But I don't like to jump so readily to Christmas. I insist on waiting on decorations and music until after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a special holiday and deserves to be the center of our hearts and attention. It is a day to give thanks and celebrate with friends and family. Oh, and to eat turkey.

Speaking of eating, my pumpkin pie is baked and cooling. So if nothing else turns out, at least we have pie. And that's the most important dish, right? The pie. Okay, maybe turkey is the star of the meal. Or the potatoes? Gawh, I love it all. 

Pumpkin Pie with Streusel Topping --- Yum!

The turkey will go in at 3pm since it's a small bird feeding just the three of us. And in reality, it's just the two of us probably eating because Caleb only eats yogurt, oranges, and Teddy Grahams. I  kid...sorta. Asha might get some bits off the floor, if she's lucky. If Caleb's eating, her chances are pretty good.

Back to the true meaning of thanksgiving: giving thanks. I am so thankful for my dear, thoughtful husband. My adorable, sweet son. My loving parents. My fun and awesome sister. My caring in-laws. My neurotic dog. My awesome family. And my fantastic friends both far and near. I am also thankful to live in a beautiful town in a great country. 

Caleb is thankful for puddles, boots, sticks, and Teddy Grahams. These photos are from our walk along Owens Beach this morning. I am also grateful that Caleb allowed me to put on his rain jacket without too much fuss!

I'll try to write a post later about the food because it is a day of feasting after all! I loved this card from my in-laws and thought I'd share it with you, friends. Happy Thanksgiving!

Farm Animals and Apples: Our Visit to Lattin's

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the flavors, smell, colors...everything! We had an exceptional fall this year with great weather. We started a little tradition last year by visiting Lattin's Cider Mill and Farm (check this post out, the bottom has some photos from last year that you can compare to this year). It was even more fun this year because Caleb got super into the animals and the donuts! 

Caleb got a kick out of feeding the goats and sheep (see video). He even waived to them - too cute! He tried to feed the pigs some oats, but they weren't too interested. The goats, though, they were definitely interested. Standing up over the gate interested. 

The animals were totally fun. I think the pig was a favorite with it's oinking. Look at that snout! 

It's also a cider mill, so we loaded up on apples. They also have apple donuts made fresh at the mill store. Caleb sucked the donut down, man. This kid is usually super picking and only takes nibbles of past donuts, but this one he devoured. He's still eating it in the apple tree photo, hahaha. 

It was a fun little family adventure together and made for a great day!

It'll probably shock me next year when we go and I look back at this post to compare Caleb's growth! 

Now, after tomorrow (Thanksgiving) we'll be on to Christmas and winter everything!

Sunshine with Grandparents

It seems I rarely get around to sharing my visits down to San Diego with you. With Caleb under two years old, he flies free on my lap so we've taken advantage and tried to make several visits this year. This past trip down, at the beginning of November, was our last trip with him under two. Next time we have to pay! Although, having that seat will be really nice. We've gotten an empty seat next to us every so often and it makes a world of difference. So even though we will have to pay, at least it'll make for a more pleasant trip (and let me tell you, you need all the odds in your favor when traveling with a toddler).

Lucky for us, we visited San Diego when the beautiful fall weather in Tacoma switched to more wintery weather. They had cold temperatures, snow, and rain. Perfect timing (sorry Josh - he had to stay for work). So we got to extend our intake of Vitamin D for an extra week. And had a bunch of fun with my parents, or should I say Grandma Jan and Grandpa John.

You can't beat palm trees, ocean, and sunsets...

After seeing Caleb have so much fun in Kauai at the beach, we made an effort to go in San Diego. We didn't go in the water (brrrr!), but we had a ton of fun playing in the sand. Moonlight Beach is so great and it's fun to take Caleb there since it was a beach I went to as a kid.

What's a visit with grandparents without a little ice cream? A new favorite on our past few visits has been Handel's Ice Cream. Oh man, it's good. Of course, I have to go to Golden Spoon frozen yogurt. I used to go there for froyo when I was younger, too!

Caleb definitely takes after me in his love for frozen desserts!

I used to always ensure we made a visit to Honey's for my favorite muffins. However, I found Lofty Coffee which makes dynamite salted caramel lattes, and it has won as my latest "must visit each trip" spots. This time, we found Ironsmith Coffee and it competes with Lofty. It's a family winner as well. You know my dad likes a place if he goes in and stares at the pastry case a second time. 

We had best luck with breakfast at Ironsmith, too. Caleb was still adjusting his schedule (after a cold, flight, and time change) and feel asleep on the drive to the coffee shop. We found a parking spot right in front, opened the car door, and placed our table next to the car. We enjoyed a toddler-free coffee and breakfast. Score!

We made a trip over to UTC, one of our family favorite malls. They recently did some changes and updates to the mall and it was totally different. It's quite the hip mall now. There was a Nespresso store so we got some pods for our machine back home. And Caleb enjoyed walking around outdoors. 

Nothing beats just staying at home and playing with Grandma and Grandpa, though.

We're so blessed to get to spend time with grandparents and go on these trips! This was another great time in San Diego!

Halloween 2017: Pumpkin Patching Time

I'm late getting a Halloween pumpkin patch post up (sigh...posting late, or not all all, seems to be the way of things these days. #toddlers). Of course, the pumpkin patch visiting took place before Halloween, so this post goes up first. Next up: Halloween. 

We managed to visit two pumpkin patches this year. Both with awesome, fall weather. The first patch was Spooner's Farm, which is the one we visited last year. Caleb and I went with our neighbor friends and had a pumpkin-tastic time. We went mid-week, so sadly Josh wasn't able to join. Don't worry, he did get to go to one.

Spooner Farms

Here's Mighty Caleb pushing a wheelbarrow. Caleb's mantra: If it's moves, I will push. 

Caleb thought the pumpkins pretty cool. He tried to pick some of these monster pumpkins up. Seriously, they are like two times his size, yet he still tries. 

Sebastian and Caleb being pumpkin heads. 

Picha Farms

The other pumpkin patch was Picha's Farms and Josh got to join the fun. 

The tractor ride was the highlight for Caleb. We got to sit in front and see the wheels and everything. 

This patch had a U-pick field, so we did some pumpkin exploration. Caleb tried to eat one. I guess exploration to him means everything including tasting. 

All these pumpkins got me to wanting to bake pumpkin. Heck yes to pumpkin season!!!

Six Years of Marriage

Let's count...

one year.

two years.

three years.

four years.

five years.

Now we're celebrating six years together (eh hem, that isn't counting all the years of dating either). But, these have been the best six years of my life! So much has happened these years - married, job changes, paid off debt, got a dog, moved, bought a house, pregnant, and a baby! 

We're celebrating with Thai take-out tonight, haha. However, we did get to celebrate in a more romantic way when we were in Kauai, though. We went to a delicious dinner at Bar Acuda and had cocktails at the St Regis Bar and watched the sunset (both sans toddler). 

And aren't we still looking young, hip, and cool?

Our Aloha Vacation

Aloha! 

Ahhhhhh, Kauai. I wish I could go back and it's been less than a week since we were there. Such a magical island and so many good memories for our family. Our first visit was in November 2006. We were with Don and Nada on that trip and apparently it was also the trip where Josh decided he wanted to marry me. Fast forward and we went again in October 2011 for our Honeymoon. Finally, here we are in 2017 and with Don and Nada again...and...Caleb! 

We had a wonderful week in Kauai. We were pretty lucky since we were able to stay with Don and Nada who really helped get everything ready for our visit - even a pack and play for Caleb. We stayed in Princeville, which is a perfectly situated on the North shore. The week was fun and relaxing and awesome for a toddler. 

As you can see, we had lots of fun together...

It was so wonderful for us to spend quality time with Grandpa Don and Grandma Nada. Caleb adores them, and I think the feeling is mutual. And Josh and I appreciated the help (wink wink).

Fun times with Grandma Nada and Grandpa Don

One of my favorite afternoons was at the secret, hidden beach of Molaa Beach. Let's keep this beach just between you and me, okay? There was nobody else there except for the paddler boarder that passed by in the lagoon. We didn't bring Caleb's swimwear, so we just pulled off the shorts and let him go crazy. Isn't it nice to be a toddler, just pull off your pants and it's considered cute. 

Afternoon at Molaa Beach

Of course, there are coconuts in Kauai and Caleb had a grand time playing with one on Molaa Beach. Who knew a coconut was not just something to eat/drink, but also to play with.

Caleb discovers coconuts at Molaa Beach

Oh, Hanalei. You can't beat the sites from this beach. And the pier is quite cool. Caleb had a blast watching the water under the pier. 

Hanalei Pier

I really had no idea how much Caleb would love the beach. He LOVED it. Every time we arrived, he'd run and then stop and have a huge smile and eyes full of wonder and excitement. The sand was a big hit. Wide spaces to run without limits (mostly), you're able to dig your feet and hands into the sand, and you can play with it - what's not to like for a toddler? 

Caleb loves the Beach

Not only did he love the sand, but the water! He surmised us with loving the boggie board out on the water. He'd lie on it and we'd hold him as he floated around. He even tried to stand up like a surfer. Ha! Then he thought we could do the same thing on the sand...without much luck. He insisted that I pull him, and then insisted on trying to pull me. This kid, I tell ya. 

Caleb and the Boogie Board

Kauai Coffee Company was a fun visit as well. Of course, Caleb wanted to run around everywhere in the coffee fields. If you can run, he'll run. If you can pick it up, he'll pick it up. If you can grab it, he'll grab it.  

Visiting the Kauai Coffee Company

In Kapaa, we found a hip and delicious (and expensive!) coffee shop called Java Kai and juice/kombucha shop called Kauai Juice Co. But the building was even more fun with the pineapple art. Pictures were taken.

Cool Art in Kapaa

We also make a visit down to Koloa where we enjoyed some coffee at Aloha Roastery. Back in Kapaa, we had the best shaved ice at Wailua Shaved Ice. Caleb tried apple bananas, while I had avocado toast at Hanalei Bread Co (which was quite delicious). Also, below you'll see a window from Josh and my meal at Kileaua Fish Market, Caleb reading the menu at the Fehring Farm Fruit Stand (we had pineapple frosties, yum), and Caleb and Grandpa Don enjoying breakfast at the condo rental.

Kauai food experiences 

With grandma and grandpa around, you better believe Josh and I got some time to be a couple again. We celebrated our anniversary a week early and enjoyed a delicious meal (for us, and the mosquitos!) at Bar Acuda. Also, we enjoyed cocktails while watching the sunset over "Bali Hai." 

Heather & Josh go on some date nights!

We just had a great time chilling, laughing, and having fun. Caleb enjoyed playing with his sunglasses more than wearing them. We watched a few sunsets, which are the best off the North Shore. And just kicking it back, Hawaii style. 

Kauai spirit

I mean, look at the beauty...can't beat it. Pair that with warm water, sunsets full of color, palm trees, and tropical weather. Bam...paradise!

Beautiful Kauai

And I have to share a chicken photo...because you can't go to Kauai and not experience the chickens. Josh was a super dad with the beach equipment as was Don (not pictured). It rained (hello, tropical) so Josh felt it necessary to use an umbrella. Caleb became a beach bum, too. Oh, and how do you like my sunglasses...they saw a lot of beautiful things.

Cool and Goofy

And I'm not going to lie, the flight was rough especially the trip to Kauai. But it was worth it. 

Traveling with a Tot

Can I go back now? I think our next trip will be sooner rather than later. 

Aloha!

Home Sweet Home for One Year

Today marks the one year anniversary of moving into our first home as well as our move down to Tacoma. I'd like to say I got some awesome pictures of the whole family in front of our house to commemorate the occasion, but Caleb was already down by the time Josh got home. And this mom ain't pushing back bedtime for a photo. 

I almost just posted a photo of the house (isn't it adorable?), but then Josh arrived home from work so we did a selfie (naturally).

We are so very happy in our home and with Tacoma. I particularly love...

...the window in our kitchen and how I can look into the backyard and see the flowers or dog running around. 

...the light that comes into the front room and how Asha and Caleb look outside together. 

...that we are so close to parks. There are at least three within walking distance. 

...the location. We can take a 15 minute walk to the Proctor district for coffee, library books, groceries, and the farmer's market. Or, hop in the car for fun at Point Defiance Zoo, Aquarium, and park. Or, go to the waterfront. 

...that we have a guest room, so friends and family can stay with us.

...our blueberry bush (wait, that's Caleb...well, I love it, too).

...that I know my way around town now, and we have our favorite spots (but still have opporunties to discover more!).

...that it is ours. 

It's amazing to think about all that has happened over the past year - especially with Caleb. It feels like we've lived here forever (in a good way). This definitely feels like home now!

Cheers to many more years! 

Caleb enjoying freshly picked blueberries from the backyard.

70th Celebrations and SD Sunshine

Ahh, sunny San Diego. Look at that: the sun, the ocean, the palm trees...but most importantly it's where my parents live. If you didn't know already, I grew up in Encinitas, CA and still get to visit since my parents live in San Marcos. Last week we headed down to celebrate my dad's 70th birthday. We had a great time and I especially appreciate the extra help with the little guy. 

Of course we went to the beach, but the main event was the birthday party. You don't turn 70 years old everyday (well, you could say that about any age, but you get the point).

I had the honor of making the German Chocolate Cake this year. My dad requests it every year for his birthday. It was a Grandma Ruth speciality. Shed used to make it for him every year (and every time she came out to visit), but now it's up to my sister, mom, and/or me to make the cake. Everyone seemed to like it, so I think I did a pretty good job. It's a lot to live up to with it being "mom's cake" (or in my case, "grandma's cake").

The big party was on Saturday night. We got the outdoor patio at Bentley's to ourselves and all our family friends came to celebrate...and drink wine. We got to tell fun stories about my dad like how he loves to listen to the cockpit when on flights or take notes when he reads. My dad is pretty awesome and I so glad we got to have such a great party for him.

With my dad, there was wine. Definitely wine. It wouldn't be my dad's party without wine. And prime rib. I have to say the wine was excellent. The wine was some of the finest I've ever tasted. I'm happy to say I like wine now, too. Somewhere between being pregnant and having a kid, I developed a taste for red wine. The three wines served were Keever, Altamura, and 7&8. If you ever get a chance to taste one, do it.

It was so wonderful to see my parents with Caleb. You can see the love! Caleb will run up and give them big hugs. I love it! Of course, they spoiled him (exhibit A: see my dad eating cookies and ice cream with Caleb). It's so great to see them together.

When you visit home (yup, I still call it home. I call Tacoma home as well. So I have two homes), there is always a crowd. We saw all our friends and Aunt Lindsay and Damon came down to visit, too. Monkey and Max, our friend's dogs, even stayed with us a couple of days.

Daddy (Josh) also got to spend some good, quality time with Caleb.

No, they didn't really ride the motorcycle. 

I think Caleb's favorite part of the trip, though, was this Little Tikes car. It's an understatement to say he loved it. I think it's a blessing and a curse - good he loves it and keeps him preoccupied, but he doesn't want to stop playing. But when you see the joy on his face, you know it's a blessing. ;) 

Caleb got his first taste of the Pacific Ocean. He's been before, but only in a carrier. This time he walked up to the water on his own...and then fell. Watch the video, it's hilarious. There was lots of time at the park, in the sand, or roaming around Caleb-style. 

Unfortunately, I got a sinus infection while we were down there. I got some delicious pho, so that helped. And we had to get Lofty Coffee because I love it. Plus, the food is killer. The salted caramel latte, ahhhh so good. The eggs so freaking good. I die in food happiness.

We also went to Bellows for an early birthday dinner for me. I had a cauliflower steak, which was surprisingly super delicious. 

And when in SD, you gotta get Mexican food. We got some delicious tacos at Oscars Mexican Seafood.

Everything nom nom nom.

And to get there involved some flying. Caleb and I went down early, so we flew on our own. It was exhausting, but we did it. He wanted to do all the things he's not supposed to, and when I stopped him from doing them we got a bit of a tantrum. Blueberries helped for maybe five minutes...it's the small things. 

Luckily, Josh was with for the return flight. Still exhausting, but the help was nice. He was in a better mood, but it's non-stop wiggling the whole flight. And he was tired, so in normal toddler fashion he thought the best time to nap was when we landed in SeaTac. Figures.

Oh, and we survived our first flight delay. It wasn't too bad, maybe even for the best, because it gave us time to eat breakfast and stretch our legs. You can see Josh entertaining Caleb with the McDonald's neon sign. 

I love getting to visit SD and my parents. Can't wait until our next trip (except for the flight part, that's not something I really look forward to, hehe).

A Lovely Mother's Day

I sometimes just can't believe I am a mother. It's just so amazing to look at Caleb and know he's my son. He is the light of my life and brings me such joy. Being a mother has been the hardest, but most rewarding thing in my life. Caleb brings a whole new, wonderful layer to our lives. I love being a family! I feel so honored to be part of the motherhood club.  

I am so grateful for the beautiful, strong, caring mothers in my life. The most important being my mother and my mother-in-law. They have taught me so much about being a good mother. I love them so much.

This was my second mother's day and it was so awesome. Josh and Caleb did a super job at treating me like a queen. I woke up with a little Caleb lying on top of me and giving me a great big, tight hug. Oh, the love and joy! Then we got a lovely breakfast at Jewel Box, which of course included coffee. And I enjoyed one of my favorite things, crepes! 

We went to church and they gave all the mothers a rose and pink donut. Yay!

We finished the day with a trip to the mall where I picked out my new mom bag, which was Josh's gift to me. I love it and feel so stylish. Much lighter then the diaper bag. More yays!

To finish the day, we did a family walk around the neighborhood and lucked up with some sunshine. It was fun to see Caleb on the walk - so much excitement over rocks and flowers (although it takes 45 minutes to go 4-5 blocks, haha). 

This mama didn't have to cook dinner, but we picked up some delicious Thai food. It was such an great day. 

Happy Mother's Day!!

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 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

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.