Friday, December 26, 2014

Where'd Christmas go?

Can you even believe that Christmas has already come and gone?!

This Christmas was weird, but weird in a good way.  Before Victor and I started dating, I always spent Christmas with my family in Cincinnati.  Then we started taking advantage of the fact that I had 1.5-2 weeks off work over Christmas/New Year's and did some traveling over the holiday break.  We visited Portugal one year (LOVE) and then we went on a cruise for the next three years (Christmas cruises are lots of fun and so beautiful...highly recommended).  I was leery about cruising while pregnant last year so we stayed home, and now that Max is here, I am requiring that we be home for Christmas while our kids are little to establish and maintain our own family traditions.

So, celebrate at home we did!  My mom and sister came out to visit the weekend before Christmas, so we opened gifts with them on Saturday.  To say Max is spoiled is an understatement.  That's what happens with the first grandbaby!

Max really enjoyed unwrapping his gifts and trying to eat the paper

That bug spins 3 balls around and then opens its wings and dumps them out on the floor as it sings "Let's have a ball!  1-2-3!"  Thanks Grandma!

We had an early Christmas dinner with the in-laws that weekend and took some fun family photos.  Dottie Millwater does it again!  "It" being taking fabulous photos.

Wanna know a funny story about that green sweater I'm wearing?  Well too bad, I'm gonna tell you.
My mom got it for me for my birthday.  Funny thing is, I had purchased and wrapped the exact same sweater for her for Christmas just a few days before my birthday gift arrived.  I had a good chuckle when I opened it, and she had a good chuckle when she opened hers.

Greatest gift ever!

  My mother-in-law got Christmas jammies for everyone (even her grand-pups!) and she made us all change into them.  We all have the same reindeer socks on, too!

Max was so excited about Santa coming that he woke up about 8 times on Christmas Eve...Mommy was very tired on Christmas day.  (We asked Santa for Max's two top teeth for Christmas but Max learned to crawl instead.  Looks like we're in for a few more sleepless nights until those teeth pop through.)

On Christmas day, Victor, Max, and I opened gifts together at home and then went to Christmas mass with Victor's family.  

I just can't with this kid.

Then we stayed home watching movies and eating delicious Christmas treats all evening.

It was a lovely Christmas, even though it was weird.  I can't believe it's over.

Now it's time to get our house back to normal, clean out Max's drawers to make room for all his new clothes, and start working on our very first family yearbook!  We should also baby-proof the house.  Max is all over the place now.  Nothing is safe!!!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday with your loved ones and made many precious memories!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pretzel Treats Recipes

Some of you have probably made these--or at least enjoyed them--at some point before.

I started making them a few years ago and I love how simple and delicious they are.  I'm sure there's some special name for them, but in our house, they're called
Pretzel Treats.

My mouth is watering just looking at this picture.

I tend to make them most around the holidays (in fact, one of Victor's co-workers has requested that I make these for their office Christmas party again), but you can make them any time of the year.

Here's what you'll need.

  • 1 bag of snaps pretzels (you can use other varieties but I find these work best, especially if you're using Hugs
  • 1 bag milk chocolate M&Ms
  • 1 bag regular Hershey's Kisses and/or 1 bag Hershey's Hugs
I don't remember what size the bags of Hugs and Kisses were.  But just know that the limiting factor is always the Kisses/Hugs since fewer come in a package.

Here's what you need to do.
  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with foil.
  3. Spread a few handfuls of pretzels over the foil.  Remove any broken pieces (you have my permission to eat them). 

  4. Unwrap Kisses or Hugs and place one on each pretzel.  Repeat for the entire cookie sheet, or until you run out of Kisses or Hugs.  Important: do NOT mix Kisses and Hugs on the same sheet as they require different baking times.  If you plan to do both, do one whole sheet of Kisses, then do a whole sheet of Hugs. 
  5. For Kisses, place cookie sheet in the oven for 6-8 minutes.  For Hugs, only bake for 4-5 minutes. Hugs will melt down a bit more than the Kisses will.
  6. Remove cookie sheet from the oven and immediately place one M&M on top of each pretzel/chocolate, pressing it down into the chocolate.  

  7. Place the entire cookie sheet in the freezer for about 10 minutes to allow chocolate to re-set.  For best results, store in a container in the fridge.
The mix of salty and sweet is amazeballs.  You can't eat just one (handful).

Now, brace yourselves, because I'm now going to tell you how to make something that is quite possibly even MORE delicious than the treats pictured above.  It looks a little something like this:

These are purely sinful.
 Here's what you'll need for these beauts:

  • Snaps pretzels (just use what's left of that bag from the Kisses/Hugs'll still have leftovers when you're done)
  • A bag of Rolos
  • Pecan halves
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with foil.
  3. Spread some pretzels out on the foil.
  4. Unwrap Rolos and place one on each pretzel. 
  5. Place cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 3-5 minutes.  4 was the lucky number for my oven.
  6. Remove cookie sheet from oven and press one pecan half into each Rolo/pretzel. 
  7. Place the entire cookie sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes to allow chocolate to re-set. For best results, store in a container in the fridge.
 Now, I'm not a big caramel gal myself, nor am I big on pecans.  But oooooh-weeeee these are to-die-for!  They certainly give the Kisses/Hugs treats a run for their money!

Now go whip some of these bad boys up...but make sure you have people to share them with (or a good place to hide them), otherwise you're gonna eat them all yourself.  There were coupons in last weekend's paper for Mars products (M&Ms) AND Hershey's products, so you can save a little moolah when you buy your supplies.

Have you ever made these Pretzel Treats before?  Do you know of any other variations?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

7 months young

Max is 7 months old today!

I can't believe he'll be a year old in 5 short months.  Where has the time gone?

This guy amazes me every day with all he is learning and accomplishing.  And he's changing right before our eyes.

He's "Army crawling" all over the place.  He's especially fast when he's going after things he's not supposed to have, such as laptop cords, the TV remote, our iPhones, a roll of wrapping paper, the gifts under the tree, etc.  He is learning the meaning of "No," and he's NOT a fan.

Even though he's not yet fully "crawling," he's got his sights set on bigger and better things.  He loves it when Daddy helps him stand using the laundry basket.

He supports himself once he's up!
 He is also showing some interest in things that are up high.

If only he could figure out how to get up there.  Then maybe he'd make Mommy and Daddy's bed.

He had 2 teeth before he was 6 months old, after which we got about a week's worth of sleeping through the night and diminished drool.  Then the teething monsters reared their ugly heads again and it's been icky ever since.  He wakes at least twice a night, he's chewing on everything, and the drool rash on his neck is here to stay for a bit, it seems.

He cracks me up!
He loved solids up until a couple of weeks ago.  Like, loved them so much I couldn't feed him fast enough.  Then he went on a solid foods strike out of nowhere.  His stubbornness and intelligence were showcased during that week of refusal.  He wouldn't open his mouth at all for the spoon and turned his head away every time I tried to give him a bite, and often times he'd scream his head off until I gave up.  I tickled his leg a few times and when he opened his mouth to laugh, I snuck the spoon into his mouth to give him a taste.  But that only worked about 3 times.  Then he'd still giggle when I'd tickle him, but he'd keep his mouth clamped shut.  Little stinker.  We took a break from solids for a few days and tried green beans for the first time today.  He didn't refuse them, but he was still unsure about them.  And then they just got to be too much to handle.

Being 7 months old and eating green beans is exhausting!
He's gotten much too big for his infant bathtub, so he's been taking "big boy baths" for about a week now.  He loves the tub!

Rubber duckies make great chew toys.
Victor and I love watching him play with his toys and interact with the world around him.  He's so observant and curious.  He loves being read to and he's starting to "sing" along with us when we sing to him.

The past 7 months have been the best of our lives.  We're so lucky to have such a sweet, silly, scrumptious little goose in our lives!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

30, flirty, and thriving

So I turned 30 on Sunday.

I wouldn't say I was sad about this milestone birthday.  I guess I was more indifferent about it.  But I did say more than once that day, "I'm too young to be this old."

Not that 30 is know what I mean.

It was a great day, despite a few kinks in our plans.  Max slept through the night for the first time since...I don't remember the last time he slept through the night (teething can bite me...ha).  I viewed the uninterrupted sleep as his gift to me.  And then I went into his room to get him up and his face was covered in snot and he had a fever of 100.6 degrees.  But he was happy and smiling.

We decided to cancel my birthday get-together with friends and family and keep Max home for the day.  Victor made me fruit crepes for breakfast, which is my favorite meal at my favorite breakfast/brunch/lunch place, First Watch.  He did a pretty good job, too.

"First Watch, eat your heart out," he said as he placed the plate in front of me.  Filled with bananas, blueberries, and strawberries.  Topped with yogurt.  Delish.
Mama sent me pretty birthday flowers.

The "vase" is an ornament jar.  Too cute!
The in-laws came over for dinner and ice cream cake.

Can't go wrong with a Carvel cake with crunchies.
30 candles + 1 for good luck.
Max had fun with his avos (Portuguese for "grandparents") and tios (aunt and uncle).

Sharing secrets with Vovo
Santa Max was all smiles with Tia and Tio
I actually enjoyed the low-key day.  It was perfect.  Max is still snotty but less fever-ish and is working on growing a few more teeth, so no need to worry about him.

Instead of being deep and enlightening about plans for my next 30 years of life, I'm going to share 30 incredibly random facts about me that you may or may not already know.  Happy 30th birthday to ME!

  1. I was born in Texas.  Yeehaw!
  2. I have a terrible short-term memory.  If I don't write it down, especially if it's a task that needs to be completed, I'm likely going to forget it.
  3. I think pickles are the absolute worst.  They're ugly.  They stink.  I can't eat any food they touch if one tragically winds up on my plate.  One time when Victor and I were still dating, he thought it would be hilarious to taunt me with a pickle and touch it to my face.  I thought it was terrifying and I cried.
  4. I was obsessed with Hanson when I was in 7th grade.  My room was wall-papered with pictures of them from Tiger Beat and BOP magazines.  Taylor was my fave.  We were going to get married.
    I totally had this book.
  5.  I am really good at procrastinating.  Too good, actually.  I believe I work better under pressure.
  6. Double standards make me angry.
  7. When I was little, I loved the movie "Annie" and would sing "Tomorrow" to anyone who would listen.  Also, I still love the movie "Annie."
  8. I prefer lakes to oceans.  I like the sound of ocean waves, but being in waves freaks me out.
  9. A part of me dies inside when watermelon season is over.  My diet consists mostly of watermelon in the summer. 
  10. I used to be a lifeguard and perfected the art of "whistle twirling" while in the chair. 
    I put my lifeguard suit to good use for Halloween my junior year of college.
  11. Blue is my favorite color.  Any shade of it.  I have lots of blue clothing as a result.
  12. I don't like being the center of attention.
  13. I love making gifts for people.  Sometimes I think I get more joy out of the whole process than they do about receiving the gift.
  14. My parents put me in dance classes when I was little and I LOVED it.  I also joined the Folk Dancing Dolls in 5th grade (gave up recess to practice with our music teacher).  I even took hip-hop classes when I was in high school and participated in the staff dance numbers at my old school's talent shows.  I love a good choreographed dance! 
    Dancing queen circa 1992-ish
  15. I love Jodi Picoult's books.
  16. Violent/gory/scary movies/shows freak me out.  I can't watch them.
  17. Hearing people chew their food/gum makes my skin crawl, especially the "banana noise."  Gaaahhhh!!!
  18. I was Betsy Ross in my 3rd grade play.  I had 29 lines.  I was in the local paper (along with much of the rest of the cast--life in a small town).  I wore a bonnet.
  19. My closet is organized by color.
  20. I get agitated and short-tempered when I'm secretly nervous or worried about something.  Victor is often the victim when this occurs.
  21. Falling to my death is one of my biggest fears.  You won't find me on top of a ladder.
  22. I have never broken a bone.
  23. One of my favorite things to do is perusing cards at a card store and laughing too loud at the funny ones.  My mom and sister do it too.  It must run in the family.
  24. I could watch Law & Order: SVU all day.  It's actually on right now.  I've probably seen most of the episodes, but I can't always remember how they end so of course I have to watch them again.  If a scary part comes up, I just change the channel or leave the room for a bit (a result of #16).
  25. I've tried many times to like tomatoes and I can't do it.  The best I can do is sun-dried tomatoes.  Those are delish.
  26. I wish I was more into fashion/accessories, but I'm a creature of habit and wear the same jewelry every day.  I also tend to choose comfort and function over style, especially since becoming a nursing mother.
  27. I loved my childhood and hope my kids can have a similar upbringing.  This requires lots of bike riding, pretend playing, outdoor adventures, book reading, sleepovers with friends, small birthday parties, and minimal electronics.
  28. I pride myself on my midwestern manners.  I say "please" and "thank you" a lot.
  29. I get overly-attached to TV shows/characters.  I can feel the depression creeping in as "Parenthood" comes to an end. 
    Don't leave me!!!  (source)
  30. I'm not allowed to eat cereal for breakfast now that I'm a stay-at-home mommy because I can't stop refilling my bowl.  I love cereal.  When I was working, I didn't have time for refills.

Here's to being 30, flirty, and thriving!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Shopping Crunch Time

So how's everyone doing with their holiday shopping?

I always get a little overwhelmed this time of year, probably because I put a lot of pressure on myself to find the perfect gifts for the people in my life.  I want to make sure that the gift is meaningful or at least something the person is really going to like.  Which is why I've left several stores empty-handed in the last week.

I think this all stems from my own personal preferences when it comes to receiving gifts.  I know it's the thought that counts, and of course I'm always grateful and appreciative of any gift I receive, for any occasion.  If I could choose the perfect gift for myself, it would be something that was useful and/or geared toward my personal taste/style, and possibly meaningful/sentimental.  Price is no factor.  Sometimes the most meaningful, well-thought-out gifts are handmade or small/simple.  I don't want clutter.  I don't want stuff just because you felt obligated to get me something; in those cases,  I'd honestly prefer a nice note or card.

And now I feel terrible for having "requirements" for gifts I receive.  I apologize.  But this philosophy toward gifts I receive is 100% applied to the gifts I give to others, so I guess it's not so bad, right?  I was brought up to "Treat others the way you want to be treated."  Why shouldn't that apply to gift-giving?  I do a lot of handmade gifts when I can.  I try to stick to people's lists, if they give me one, but I also like to throw in some well-intentioned surprises.  And if they're useful, BONUS!

The people I have the hardest time buying for are my husband, my father-in-law, and my brother-in-law.  I could play it safe and get them another sweater, or I could think outside the box.  I've got some ideas, but my indecisiveness is getting in the way of zeroing in on one particular thing.  But I'm running out of time!!!

Is anyone else having the same problem?  Where do you like to find gifts for those tough-to-buy-for recipients?

On another note, we I DID decorate last weekend.  I got a little Christmas up in herrre.  And even though I'm having a hard time finding gifts for some people, at least I have a pretty tree to put them under when I finally find them.

Most of those gifts are books for Max.
 We've been doing a fake, pre-lit tree for a few years now since we often take a trip over the holidays.  Starting next year, though, once Max is old enough to understand Christmas, I want to start the tradition of picking out our tree together at a nearby tree farm.  We always did that growing up and it was such a fun kick-off to the season.

Here are some close-ups of some favorite ornaments.

This was given to us in 2012, the year we got engaged.  Victor proposed on a boat in Key West.

Our big news last year

My mom wanted to name me Noel since I was born close to Christmas (btw, I turn 30 tomorrow.  I don't want to talk about it...).  There was a period of my childhood during which I hated my given name and wished she had actually named me Noel instead.

I made this in school when I was little.

I love this Lenox ornament.  It's part of a set of 4.  This one's my fave.

Goooo Redlegs!  Looking forward to taking Max to his first spring training experience in a few months!

Another ornament from school.  That's me in first grade.
Stockings made by yours truly.  Max chose the fabric for his.

Should've closed that drawer.  And I kinda want a more festive lamp shade.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend and that you're having better luck Christmas shopping than I am!