The Busy Life: Toddlers, Blogs, and More

Hello Stranger, 

And that's totally on me. I  feel so guilty that my personal blog has been so neglected. I have these dreams of getting lots of fun posts up for you, but then life happens and whomp whomp. I'm sure you're curious as to what's keeping me so busy. Well, for starters, everything, but here's a few.

Caleb

This kid has me like whoa. He is so active. I am that mom chasing her son everywhere - the grocery store, the zoo, the park, the library...anywhere you can run which is everywhere if you ask Caleb. I'm working on getting him to listen to me, bahahaha. He's too cute, though. The cuteness makes up for all of it. Not to mention, I get a good work out. I feel like he's been on and off sick with croup or a cough since February, but I think we're starting to get over it. Gawh, winter and the sick season with toddlers is terrible. I'm so glad for spring and summer on the way. I'll write more about Caleb soon. Can you believe he's two and a quarter already? 

New Blog

I've started a new blog adventure. It's called Raising Tacoma. Basically it's about raising Caleb up in Tacoma. I am trying to write about places we go and things we do in the area, but also more genetic toddler things so if you don't live in Tacoma you still can get something out of it. Maybe someday it'll make money, bahahaha again. But for now I am just looking to create a little space on the web for mom friends to get ideas and connect. So come on...read it, share it, love it!

O'Neill Grandparents in San Diego

The last weekend in February, Caleb and I flew down to San Diego to visit my parents, aka Grandma Jan and Grandpa John. Caleb was a champ on the flights there and back - best yet! We enjoyed the sunshine, the beach, bubbles at Balboa Park, the Railroad museum, shopping at UTC, visiting Grandpa John's work and just chilling.

Easter

Easter was pretty low key here. Sadly, Josh caught the stomach bug Easter morning, so Caleb and I went to church together. Then we let dad rest as we walked the park and enjoyed the sun that showed up in the afternoon. He also refused to wear his adorable Easter outing. Apparently collared and buttoned shirts are not a thing right now. 

We also did an Easter egg hunt at the park down the street. We were joined by our friend, Sebastian. Luckily Caleb didn't realized there was candy inside the eggs until after the hunt was over. Then he was thrilled to discover chocolate inside. I think he would have picked up like two eggs had he known what lie inside. Caleb also discovered temporary tattoos and bouncy houses. Woo Hoo!

There was also some Easter egg coloring fun, too! Read about how we did it on my Raising Tacoma blog!

Brown Grandparents in Tacoma

About two weekends ago Mimi Nada and Papa Don visited us here in Tacoma. Unfotunately there was a ton of rain, but we still managed to have a great time. We went down to Olympia for breakfast and the Farmer's Market, we did some Southcenter Mall shopping, and strolling in Sumner (with crepes at Craft 19, of course). Josh and I can thank the grandparents for a date night, too! 

It's so cute because with both grandparents, Caleb got super attached. We so glad to have such loving family and the opportunities to see them. 

The Everyday

Don't discount the everyday, it's busy. I have laundry to fold, dinner to make, a house to clan, a dog to walk, a toddler to chase...all of which keep me away from the blog world. I hope you understand! I'll try to keep up with updates, but for now I hope this fills you in on all the happenings. 

XOXO, me.

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.

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

It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas...

This season has been busy, busy, busy, busy...so busy. But also fun, fun, fun, fun!!! I love Christmas. The season started off going slow, but now I'm like "wait...hold on! Slow down!" Can you believe Christmas starts this weekend? So excited and yet I want the season to continue for much longer.

I'm going to keep the writing short, and the photos long on this one (well, like most of my posts these days, haha). 

Santa Visit

Of course, we had to see Santa. Caleb handled it very well. No crying, in fact. Although, he was WAY more interested in the candy cane than in Santa. He wasn't sure why he was sitting with Santa, but if it meant getting to eat a candy cane, then he was all for it. I was pretty surprised to find how much he likes candy canes. He never ceases to surprise me. 

Check out last year...the Santa visit was much smoother this year.

Reindeer at Watson's Nursery

I heard there were reindeer at Watson's Nursery, so we made a trip one Sunday afternoon to say hi. Caleb did actually waive and say "hi" to the reindeer. He does this with most animals. There was a cute little shop and Christmas trees (although, we got a tree at a place closer to home).

Our Christmas Tree

We got our tree at the same place as last year, Gardensphere. We put Caleb in the stroller and Asha on the leash, and walked over to it. It's a great family owned nursery, so it's great to support them. Plus, they do free delivery and setup. Sold! 

We got the tree all decked and glowing. I love the baby's breath and poinsettias on our tree. The baby's breath idea is from the Brown family and the poinsettias from the O'Neill family. Caleb just loves the tree. He says, "wow" whenever he sees it and insists the lights be turned on. He also likes to bring me ornaments. 

Festival of Trees 

We joined our friends Bri and her son, Johann, at the Festival of Trees in Tacoma. The boys loved the trees - each with a theme. They especially liked the trees themed as kids gifts. Soooo tempting to just crawl under the rope (well wait a second, they did try that). 

Gingerbread House

I bought a gingerbread kit at Costco, so Caleb and I put one together. Caleb preferred to eat the gingerbread man and candy, but he did get some candies on the house. 

Stepping into Christmases Past

We went to Fort Nisqually's 19th Century Christmas, which as quite fun even thought we were cutting it close to nap time. Father Christmas was fun, and again Caleb enjoyed a candy cane. 

Christmas Spirit Around Town

We went to a few craft festivals, shopping, and walking the neighborhood and seeing lights. My favorite was when Caleb first saw the stockings. He asked what it was and I said it as a stocking, so he tried to put it on his foot. Too cute!

Decorating the House & Wagon Rides

I got out all the decorations and the house is full of wrath and spirit. I love it. 

Caleb enjoyed the red wagon after visiting Santa. Isn't that sweater the cutest? Caleb loves it too since it has a truck and a dog. 

Zoolights

The Point Defiance Zoo lights up each night during the season for Zoolights. We went with our neighbor and friends, Krissy and her son, Sebastian. The lights were beautiful and the kids enjoyed the goats and carousel. A bit chilly but good fun!

We have a few more days to continue to celebrate. I'll be sure to fill you in on all our festive fun!!

The 2017 Cookie Swap with Tots

If you know me, you know that I love to bake. I also love cookies. Therefore, I love baking cookies and then eating them. In fact, my parents tell me one of my first words was cookie. Not surprising, Caleb also has discovered a love for cookies. He takes his hands to his mouth, and enthusiastically says, "nom nom nom!" He will do this with pictures of cookies and even plastic toy cookies. It's hilarious.

Our love for cookies must be shared, which inspired a cookie exchange. It seems December hits, and you never have time to make all the varieties of cookies you want. Then Caleb came along and baking all the cookies became even harder. So last year I started a cookie exchange party with all my mom and baby (now tots) friends. It's so much fun to get everyone together to enjoy cookies and conversation while the kids get out all their energy. Win win! Everyone liked it last year so much that I just had to do it again this year...and now it'll be the annual cookie exchange. I'm committed to it now my friends. 

Let me share some of the party fun in pictures because the pictures tell it all.

All the cookies:

Here's the cookies (start top left): Oatmeal Cranberry, White Chocolate, Walnut Cookies*, Cinnamon Sugar Pie Pinroll Cookies, Oatmeal Blueberry Cookies, Ginger Sparkle Cookies, Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, No-Bake Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies, Caramel Apple Cider Cookies, No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies, and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

*These were my cookies. There is a story here about our oven, etc. I hope to share that with you soon. But for a sneak peek: the world was against me making cookies.

All the tots:

Kids starting from ~6 months to almost 4 years old. Sadly I didn't get a great photo of the baby, but he's a cutie!

Everyone playing:

All the party people:

The top photo is everyone but blurry, and the bottom photo is not everyone but better focus.

Food, Caleb, and Cookies:

I made some warming spiced apple cider and lots of snacks, but the cookies were the main dish. ;) And I had to share the one of Caleb. I don't know how many cookies he ended up eating, but he kept snagging them off the table, the little stinker. Apparently, we have a chocolate lover on our hands, too.

Such a great time with friends and really helps get me into the Christmas spirit. Love this day!

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!

Halloween 2017: The Treating

Witches, ghosts, bats, monsters, and...train conductors! Well, a train conductor isn't so scary, and actually, it's darn cute. What is scary, though, is how much different this Halloween was compared to last year. Last year, Caleb was still just a gourd-sized pumpkin and this year he is a little pumpkin. Heck, last year he barely had any hair!

Since he can't talk much yet, he told me telepathically that he really wanted to be a train conductor for Halloween. It only makes sense, he loves his wooden trains and tracks. Although, it's a toss up with cars and trucks - anything that moves and has wheels.

This year is great because he was old enough to do some actual trick-or-treating. Plus, there has been an influx of families and kids in the neighborhood over the year, so we saw lots of kiddos while we did our trick-or-treating. 

We went trick-or-treating with our friends/neighbor, Sebastian, Krissy, and Joe. Sebastian was a lion. Caleb didn't want his hat and scarf and Sebastian didn't want the lion head. But the moms were happy that they wore something! 

We just went down the block and back up, but we picked up a considerable amount of candy. Caleb was more excited about going up the paths to the front door, knocking on the doors, and saying hi than getting candy. He's not really eating the candy yet, but I think the act of acquiring it was enough for him. Next year candy will be eaten, and this year mom and dad get some sweets. I tried to steer his hands towards the good stuff in the buckets, heehee.

Before we went trick-or-treating, Caleb and I hit up the Proctor Treats event. The little neighborhood downtown area, Proctor, closes down the streets and all the stores and restaurants hand out candy. Caleb did NOT want to wear his costume AT ALL. There was pulling on the overalls and rolling on the ground. Crying, of course.* I got a minute or two of no-crying to get a picture. Thomas the Train fans will understand my "costume" t-shirt.

*So the only difference between the costume wearing for Proctor Treats vs. trick-or-treating is he was wearing boots. Boots apparently make everything okay for Caleb (he LOVES his boots).

The fire station also brought out their engine and opened up the station, which we thought was pretty cool. As you can see, Caleb was still grumbling about the costume (hence the no costume in the photo). 

One of the treats Caleb got was this vampire teeth whistle toys. He thought it was the best thing ever, but couldn't quite figure it out.

The Friday before Halloween, we got together with some friends and got into costume. There was a train conductor, scarecrow, pumpkin (who turned into the Green Giant), and Tinkerbell. Good toddler times were had. 

We had a spooktackular Halloween. And the weather was wonderful. Apparently, it was the first dry, warm Halloween in our area since 2006. I'm hoping this year's weather becomes a trend for a few years, otherwise Halloween is gonna be so fun (I say sarcastically). 

Happy Halloween! And happy November. 

 

 

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!!!

A Happy and Fun Fourth

We had our very first Fourth of July celebration in Tacoma yesterday. We had a wonderful and patriotic day. Tacoma pretty much shuts down for the Fourth of July and everyone heads to the big Freedom Fair that runs along the water. This is just another thing we love about living in this town - you really get more of a small town feel here (and it's not really a small town!). We decided to join the crowds and check out the fair. 

Of course, to get there we had to walk down, and yes back up, a very steep hill - definitely got our workout for the day. 

At the Freedom Fair, there was an air and car show. Caleb's nap was during most off the air show, but we did catch some planes from our house. Pretty neat! But we did make it down for the car show, which I'm glad because Caleb got to see wheels. He loves wheels and shiney things, so the car show was a.w.e.s.o.me. He was in his happy place.

I always like to make something sweet to celebrate and cherries scream America to me. I got some delicious Rainier and Bing cherries and made a sweet cherry pie. 

Caleb is a fruit fanatic so naturally he's thrilled our backyard has a blueberry bush. He can't walk by the bush without getting a blueberry. And watermelon is a must for the Fourth of July. 

To wrap up the day, we fired up the grill and had some sausages and brats with coleslaw. Yum! No fireworks for us, but we heard them (so did Asha, and she was not thrilled or impressed with the booms). 

Hope you all had a great Fourth! Go America! 

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!

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. 

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? 

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. 

Happy Fourth 2016

On the Fourth of July I always want to blast the song God Bless America by Lee Greenwood. I know that's totally geeky...but, hey, that's me. So this year I played it for Caleb. Poor kid. 

Usually, the fourth of July is the first great summer day here in Seattle. But so far it really hasn't been that way. It's been a fine weather day, not cold or anything, but it's cloudy and overcast. But we still got ice cream anyway. Soon we'll be out grilling up some hot dogs and hamburgers to chow on with the potato salad and zucchini I cooked up. The grand finale is dessert...a berry tart! This will have to do in place of fireworks because Caleb will already be asleep - and I am NOT about to wake a sleeping baby for fireworks. Plus, the dog is going to freak out. She already did last night and that was just for a few neighborhood fireworks. 

It's been a great day - and this family is totally proud to be American. God bless American (come on, sing it!)

Every Morning is Easter Morning

Every morning is Easter morning from now on... (hear it here)

This song is forever ingrained in my memory from my childhood church. I totally remember driving around with my parents and they would belt this song out. It wasn't Easter without it. Naturally, I find myself singing it today. It's the only Easter song that I can think of actually, which is funny because there are tons of Christmas songs. Isn't Easter just-as important (nay, more important!) of a holiday than Christmas? If you know any good Easter songs, let me know! 

Anyway, it was a good Easter here in Seattle. It was special for us since it was our first Easter with Caleb. He was handsome in his little Easter outfit. I can't wait until he can go on Easter egg hunts - his mom loved Easter egg hunts as a child.

We started with church this morning. We got into our Sunday best...

And then we enjoyed some tasty food. I made a mini Easter feast for us. We had Whole Foods glazed ham, scalloped potatoes, brown butter roasted asparagus, deviled eggs, cardamon rolls (from Byen Bakeri), and carrot cake oatmeal cookies for dessert. And because I'm crazy, and had more shredded carrots from the cookies, I made carrot-spiced oatmeal muffins for tomorrow morning.  Boom...Easter feasting. 

In other words, this Easter we dressed up, went to church, sang, cooked, and ate. Pretty good Easter if you ask me!