Sunday, June 29, 2008

James' Birthday--Sunday

As promised, here is a run-down of Sunday's birthday activities:

James started out the morning glued to his new Thomas Trackmaster playset. As you can tell, he loves to sit and watch it go 'round and 'round!

All day he asked if we were going swimming. Here he is in the pool. LOOK AT MY LITTLE MAN!!!

Here he is all by himself with the little swimmy wings that Gini got him. He's doing great!

Hannah and Chris enjoyed playing a few rounds of chicken on the inflatable animals.

Nice lobstah, babe!

OK, so we headed inside for cake, and wouldn't you know the best and only pic of James really smiling has a huge water spot on it. DANG!!! Wish I knew a good Photoshopper . . .

I was so bummed that my friend Katie couldn't make James' cake--her cakes are SPECTACULAR, but oh yeah, she's in Atlanta about to have a baby. Anyhow, James loves the Cars movie and I found out that Baskin Robbins makes a Cars ice cream cake. Not too shabby!

Why am I wearing the hat? Shouldn't James be? Oh, yes--he had a meltdown when we all started to sing "Happy Birthday" and ripped his off and started screaming. R-I-G-H-T.
Our birthday boy and his cake. He LOVED it!

Well James, I can't believe that we just celebrated your turning two. You are the love of our lives. You are sweet and funny and sensitive and loving. I could have never known how amazing the opportunity to be a Mother has been--you are a gift and I treasure you every day.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Happy 2nd Birthday -- Saturday

Happy Birthday James!

We had Hannah and Connor and Garrin today
so we all piled in the car and headed to Peter Piper Pizza to have some fun!

This might be my new favorite pic of Connor.

James was such a big boy going up and through the playground
and slide (with some help from Hannah!)

Hi Garrin!

And then home to open some presents!

He got these great books from his grandparents all about
"Walter, the Farting Dog." I am SURE we will have great fun reading them!

And Thomas the Train Trackmaster stuff from his PPO and Jane.
We can't wait to set it all up for him!

Hannah is just beautiful.

Mom, James loves his Diego flashlight--he calls it an "eye"
and as you can see is not quite sure yet how it works or what it is for!

There were so many presents that we will open more of them tomorrow before
we head to Auntie Gini's for cake and swimming.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Almost Home . . .

I am sitting in my hotel room typing this--it is almost 7pm and the wear and tear of the work week is taking it's toll. I am in PA for a week-long team meeting which has been invigorating, productive, stressful and exhausting. Since I work from home and my company is in PA, I only get to see my colleagues three times a year when we come together to strategic plan.

Pre-James I used to travel nearly 20 weeks a year. Although I am the Communications Director for my company, I also wear an educator/public speaker hat, which used to take me all over the country. On any given day you might have found me speaking about how nursing homes COULD be places where elders are celebrated as individuals--not just thought of as places where people go to die. And, if I wasn't at a speaking engagement, I was onsite at a nursing home guiding the employees towards a model of care that was based on the whole person and not just their diagnosis.

The work was incredibly fulfilling, but the travel, delayed flights, smelly taxis, hotel rooms and Bob Evans-style meals were not always fun. This week has reminded me that "spreading the word" comes with the personal sacrifice of being uncomfortable, lonely, and food-challenged.

These days I am so thankful that my travel has been cut back and I am able to do 75% of my work from home. I travel about 6 weeks a year now (with MANY thanks going out to Gini for watching James while I am away, and to Chris for being there for him in the morning and at night). I know how rare it is to be able to sucessfully juggle being a Mom and working full-time, and I don't ever take that for granted. And many thanks go to my company for respecting the work/life balance that it's employees need in order to remain happy.

So, while the meal was less than satisfying tonight, and my 5th night in a hotel will certainly not be like sleeping in my own bed, I am only too happy to still be a part of an organization that is trying to make life better for elders.

I am headed home tomorrow--back to my husband, my son, my extended family and my home. THAT makes me very happy.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Just Stuff

I am a little down because I leave tomorrow for a week-long work trip to PA. Though I love seeing my colleagues a few times a year, I hate to leave Chris and James behind.

James has been changing so much and so quickly--right now his favorite two phrases are "What color is this?" and "Wait, Mommy, WAIT!!!" I adore my guys.

Chris took us to NY NY Casino today to a little place called "Fulton Fish Frye" which is seemingly the only place to get decent fried seafood without spending a bundle. We got fried fish and shrimp, hush puppies, french fries and coleslaw. YUM!!!! Thanks babe for giving us a fun day together when I am all emotional and blue about leaving you.

And of course, what could be better than the fact that a Ben & Jerry's is right next door? I mean . . . H-E-L-L-O!!!! What makes me so happy right now? ICE CREAM!!! And James, too, apparently, as he chowed down half of my cone (what? you recognize that flavor as "coffee, Coffee, Buzz, Buzz, Buzz?") Big deal--a little caffeine, some espresso bean chocolate? He LOVED IT!

We also got to people watch, which I love--and point out all of the terrible clothing choices people make. I mean, come on, how many times do we have to say it? Please wear a freakin' bra if you are more than a b-cup, don't wear dark hose with sandals, try not to dress like a serial killer, and for Gosh sakes don't squeeze into pants that give you a muffin top! (I mean, I'm no expert, but I do watch "What Not to Wear" and I saw many candidates for that show today!)

And remember that little poll I asked you all to vote on about what to do with my hair? Well, it's gone, baby, gone! Oh yeah, and I am lovin' it!!!

So friends, I leave tomorrow morning and won't be back until Friday night. I probably won't be posting from the road, so I'll see ya later.

Yes--I changed my blog back--AGAIN. I swear I don't know what my deal is--I can design other people's blogs and love them and still hate my own!!

Oh, and I almost forgot-- Gini--Happy Birthday! and Katie--best wishes on the birth of your new baby girl (scheduled for Friday!)

Outta here,



Friday, June 20, 2008

Best Dresses & Best Friends

I received a present in the mail yesterday--I had redesigned my friend Denise's blog and as a thank you she sent me a BabyGap gift card. AWESOME!! THANKS SO MUCH!!!

I told her that browsing through the BabyGap online store was one of the first times I really felt like I was actually having a girl!! I mean--look at these dresses!!! How to pick?

I can't possibly make up my mind! I guess I'll just have to get all of 'em!!! What a cutie patootie my sweet Ella is going to be!!

And, just to be fair to James, here are some fun pics I took of him recently with his very best friend in the whole wide world:

Ok, how priceless is this photo--don't you think they have the same look on their faces???

Thanks again Auntie Denise!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm Obsessed

. . . with my tomatoes! Can you tell?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

Dear Daddy,

Thanks for being such a good Daddy to me. I love it when:
  • we play with my trains (even though I rip apart all the track and you grump about having to put it all back--all the while thinking "Why can't your mother do this?");
  • we play ball in the kitchen;
  • when we roll around and wrestle on the floor;
  • when we give each other hugs and kisses before bed;
  • when you share your Otter Pops with me;
  • when you take me to Jimmy John's for sandwiches;
  • when you take me to car shows;
  • when you practice my letters with me;
  • when you ride around the kitchen on my ride-on toy,
  • when we ride the Southern Nevada Railway together;
  • when you tirelessly keep refilling my sandbox;
  • when you teach me new words like "crap" and "naked" and "boogers;"

You are the best Daddy in the whole wide world and I am so happy to be your little boy.



Saturday, June 14, 2008

Two Great Things:

Lunch at our favorite deli, Jimmy John's,

and a couple of rides on the carousel at the outlet mall!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Quite Possibly the Best Cookie Recipe on the Planet

Chris and I are HUGE fans of America's Test Kitchen on PBS. A few weeks ago I saw an episode that they did on cookies and I was totally intrigued with a recipe they had for Brown Sugar Cookies. When I say "intrigued," I mean I thought about them every day, they appeared a few evenings in my dreams, and at certain times if I was plopping an Oreo in my mouth I would stop and say, "Well, I could be eating A Brown Sugar Cookie if I would just get off my butt and make them!!"

Well, I finally did. One word to describe the finished cookie? AWESOME. No, make that SPECTACULAR. No, how about SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS!!!!

I am in LOVE with this cookie. Can you tell???

Next time (like when I make another batch tomorrow) I would take them out of the oven one or two minutes earlier than the recipe calls for. Other than that, these are the type of cookies that make you think about opening your own cookie shop, on some tree-lined little town's Main Street. Seriously folks, they are THAT STINKING GOOD.

Here's the recipe. I'm headed back to the cookie jar to get myself another one.

* * * * *

Brown Sugar Cookies
from the Episode: Cookie Jar Favorites

The most efficient way to bake these cookies is to portion and bake half of the dough. While the first batch is in the oven, the remaining dough can be prepared for baking. Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter. The dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is sufficiently browned. Use fresh brown sugar, as older (read: harder and drier) brown sugar will make the cookies too dry.

Makes 2 Dozen Cookies
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (about 1 3/4 ounces)
2 cups packed dark brown sugar (14 ounces)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons (about 10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter to melt; set aside for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large (18 by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. In shallow baking dish or pie plate, mix granulated sugar and 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, rubbing between fingers, until well combined; set aside. Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder together in medium bowl; set aside.

3. Add remaining 1 3/4 cups brown sugar and salt to bowl with cooled butter; mix until no sugar lumps remain, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula; add egg, yolk, and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined, about 1 minute. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed.

4. Divide dough into 24 portions, each about 2 tablespoons, rolling between hands into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Working in batches, toss balls in reserved sugar mixture to coat and set on prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart, 12 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but it will take 3 batches.)

5. Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are browned and still puffy and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone; see photo below), 12 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Do not overbake.

6. Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes; using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.