Sunday, August 21, 2011


Avery is growing by leaps and bounds. So much so that I feel like I've missed the past six, no seven, months, and want to relive them all over again. As tough as it was, I could so easily and happily go through the sleep deprivation, labor recovery, frustration, terror, spray poop, and whiny screaming again just for one or two sweet gummy 3-month-old smiles. So I'm desperate to preserve just a little of this tiny-ness. Sure, I have her clothes, but now that she's outgrown them it seems more like they were for a tiny doll instead of this larger-than-life imp taking a nap in the other room.

My good friend Rebecca has the sweetest handprint hanging in her breakfast nook of her husband and son's hands together, like Avery's hand is in Mike's above. The highest form of flattery is imitation, so of course I was dying to have one done with our little monster. I was thrilled when Rebecca told me that Mitzi, who owns the business Handprints by Mitzi, was coming to Sweet Dreams to take handprints that next week. I didn't want to be left out of the fun, so we asked Mitzi at Sweet Dreams if my hand could be in on it too. I love how teeny tiny her hands are within ours and that we have hard, physical evidence of her size relative to us. And I love how the sandy beige of the glaze goes with the blue in her room. This plaque is now one of my favorite treasures.

Avery had a kick making these prints too. I suppose she felt like a movie star.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mississippi Hippie Baby

When I was pregnant, everybody had a product that I just HAD to HAVE, otherwise clearly I could not have a baby without it. Usually it was the pack n' play, which Avery now hates. I'd like to say it's because she's claustrophobic, but the most likely culprit is the fact that she isn't the 1,000% absolute center of attention when she's in it. Everybody said I had to have a swing, and sure, I've used it, but a friend of a friend had a baby die of SIDS in a swing, so that ruined it. I'd often stop it just to be sure she was still breathing.

Nobody told me I had to have this, but oh my gosh. I couldn't have a baby without it. Forgive the crappy iphone photos - these were all taken while poking around the house. Avery LOVES and ADORES her ring sling made by the talented Kate Dyess of Mississippi Hippie Baby. And I LOVE and ADORE wearing her - she's my favorite accessory.
Great for traveling! No need for a stroller - the above pic was snapped in Florida while visiting Mike's parents. Great for errands! You can leave the $#@*%! baby bucket in the car.

Be prepared for the public reaction when you wear one of these - it's like having a celebrity on your hip. Everybody loves it, and every time I wear it somebody wants to know where I found it. Even a lady working at Babies R Us said this is way cuter than anything you can buy there, and you know what? She's right.

Another plus? People can't reach in and touch your baby like they are wont to do. WHAT is WITH complete strangers touching babies?!?
Great for the grocery store! Vacuuming! Emptying the dishwasher! Brushing my teeth! Writing thank-you notes! Folding laundry! Putzing around the kitchen! Making lunch! Eating lunch! Putting on makeup! Fixing my hair! You name it, we've done it in the sling.
Napping! She was fast fast asleep in this picture and had been for two hours, her longest nap on record. At the time, she was 10 weeks old and had terrible colic. The only place she could find comfort was right on top of me. I could have "frogged" her legs up within the sling, but she kicked and pushed until she was all stretched out. Typical.

Thank you Kate, for the product I HAVE to HAVE. Babywearing is the bees' knees.

Friday, August 19, 2011

7 Months

Dear Avery Dale,

Well, now that you're about 7 months old, you seem to have forgiven us for bringing you to this mortal plane and have finally decided to enjoy it. You are in a constant state of exploration and mischief making, and you have yet to meet a shoe you don't like.
You ADORE the water. Whenever you go into a complete funk, the most sure way to pull you out of it and have you giggling again post haste is to throw you in the bathtub. Your favorite tub toys are rubber ducks, a whale, and a baby-sized beach ball. We have to give you your own washcloth on which to suck and scrub your own face while we soap up the rest of your little body.

You are so obviously proud of yourself whenever you do something new. The first time you sat up was probably more than a month ago, but I remember it distinctly. I was brushing my teeth in our bathroom. You were puttering around the floor. You looked at me, grinned, threw both arms out wide for balance, and sat right up. Then you giggled in your own Avery way. Since then you have really surprised us with your new tricks. Just 9 days ago you pulled up to stand up next to me as I sat on the couch.
I'm not sure if I've trained you, but you've become a little ham, always smiling at the camera. You'll even look up, flash a gummy grin, and go back to whatever you were doing whenever I pull out the camera. Lately you've started scrunching up your nose and kicking your smile up to an even higher notch. Sometimes I swear your ears point and you look like a happy little demon child.
Next to me, your daddy is your most favorite person on the planet. You give him smiles that you don't give anybody else, and sometimes he's the only person you want.
You are crawling everywhere. Just this morning I found you in the hamper cabinet of our bathroom. I'm still not sure how you managed that. Your crawling technique tickles me to pieces: you raise that hand up high and bring it down with a mighty, deliberate wallop, so we always know where you are by the splat-splat-splat of your hands. You go straight for whatever will kill you first, and you have found electrical sockets in our house that we didn't even know we had. Your favorite toys are colored blocks that I stack and you knock down, baby-sized forks, my shoes, and a big can of diced tomatoes.
I make all your food. Prunes are not your favorite.
You have always been a morning person, but now your happy times are pretty much any time of the day. I can tell when you're winding down or running on fumes and when a crash is imminent. But when you're happy, oh my, are you happy. You are the Patronus to fend off any dementor around. You like to sing sing sing with me, to me, and to anything else that will come along, including Dante and Kearney.

Your version of petting is still a little violent for either of the pets - it's more a full-out, straight-arm baby-sized wallop - but Dante often brings you his toys. He desperately wants you to throw them, but you'd rather give them a good chew. Kearney lets you touch him every now and then, but he usually gives you a wide berth.
We love you more than anything in the whole wide world. Through trial and tribulation, you have made our little family (and our lives) complete.
Did I mention that you love the water?


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Baby Food

Our Avery will be seven months old tomorrow. I am officially the cliched mom, desperately trying to figure out where all the time went. Photos prove that yes, she has grown from 7 pounds, 7 ounces all the way up to 15 pounds, 12 ounces, but these past few months have flashed by so quickly that I feel like I've missed them.

Breastfeeding this baby girl is one of the pure joys of my life. Sure, it's the most difficult thing I've ever done. In the early weeks, the huge hormonal shift combined with extreme sleep deprivation almost led me to give it up more than once. It would have been so easy to throw a bottle at Mike and curl up back to sleep. But you know I'm stubborn, and I'm so glad I stuck with it.

So it's a surprisingly bittersweet thing to me that she's growing up and ready for real food. I was so proud (and completely in awe) of the fact that all her nutrition up to six months came directly through me. But the signs were there: while Mike and I were eating, she was VERY interested, so we decided to give it a shot, planning to just let her have tastes here and there and to take it one day at a time.

I cried. And cried.

Even though I'm still nursing her, somehow it completely broke my heart that she was no longer so dependent on me. And then Aunt Nancy gave me this:

The Williams-Sonoma Beaba BabyCook. Of course I could have just used a steamer pot and blender, but neither of those are dishwasher safe in my kitchen. And this only messes up one pot! AND it's SO EASY. I didn't even read the directions (didn't have time to!) - just peeled and chopped up a sweet potato, added some water, and turned the dial to steam. Once the little light went off, I dumped the sweet potato back into the water and pureed it to my heart's content. Then I poured it into the freezer trays, and voila!

I'm still making Avery's food!

Since then, she and I have taken the produce section by storm. Her favorites are sweet potato, English peas, and broccoli. I've also fed her bananas, apples, zucchini, summer squash, acorn squash, peaches, avocado, grapes, prunes, sugar snap peas, carrots, chicken, egg yolks, blackeyed peas, butter beans, watermelon, Brussels sprouts,

green beans,
and sweet potato. It's her favorite. Lots and lots of sweet potato.
I've yet to buy a jar of baby food, and I don't know why I ever would. Maybe when she has two or three little siblings running around, or I'm too busy to make it, I might, but why make a trip to the store when you can just dig around in the fridge and find something she'll love?
Maybe it's not as sweet or mess-free as a nursing session, but it sure is fun.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pistachio Cupcakes

So..... Ever since I signed up to bake strawberry cupcakes, I've been in a cupcakey mood. Do you have any special requests? Because if Mike and I continue eating said cupcakes at the rate I'm baking them, we're both going to have coronaries in the next 5-10 years. But oh, we will die happy.

Mike particularly likes pistachios, and this recipe from Real Mom Kitchen was the first to come up when I Googled "pistachio cupcakes." I've never really done an altered box recipe before, and Oh. My. Gosh. Does this one live up to the hype. It's the fluffiest cake part of a cupcake I've encountered in a while. Of course I am enamored of the oddity of ingredients and simplicity of the batter: literally just dump white cake mix, eggs, pudding mix, canola oil, and CLUB SODA (of all things!) into a mixer and beat. I'm seriously considering looking for strawberry instant pudding next time I go Krogering.

The icing is pretty special too: it's whipping-cream based instead of a classic buttercream, so it's light and fluffy. Kinda like me.

Pistachio Cupcakes
  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1 (3.5 oz) package instant pistachio pudding
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup club soda
  • 1 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1 (3.5 oz) package instant pistachio pudding
  • 4-6 drops green food coloring
  • 1/4 cup chopped pistachios, optional
  1. In a large bowl, beat together all of the cupcake ingredients with a mixer. Mix on low for 30 seconds then increase speed and beat for 2 minutes. Beware that the club soda with cause the ingredients to puff while adding them to the bowl.
  2. Place batter in muffin tins that have been lined with liners. You only need to line 21 muffin tins. Fill tins about 2/3 of the way full with batter.
  3. Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes until golden. Allow cupcakes to cool.
  4. Once cupcakes have cooled you can make the frosting. In a large bowl, whip together the milk, whipping cream, and powdered sugar until soft peaks form. I did this in my kitchen aid.
  5. Then beat in the package of pistachio pudding and food coloring until combined and firm peaks form. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes. Sprinkle each cupcake with a little of the chopped pistachios if desired. Makes 21 cupcakes.
Photo and recipe courtesy of Real Mom Kitchen.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

S'mores Cookie Bars

A good friend of ours (who will remain nameless since she hasn't yet "come out" in the blog world) is expecting a little girl in November. We are all over the moon excited for her, and we're hosting a couples' baby shower for the sweet expectant couple in September. I've been put in charge of desserts.

Now, this friend is just a darlin' and wants a good, old fashioned cookout, complete with burgers, hot dogs, and s'mores. The guys will probably completely forget that they're even attending a baby shower, and you know, that's probably for the best. Mike once went to a baby shower and took a bottle of Jack Daniels with a nipple on top for the parents. I thought that was inspired for a single guy - that's EXACTLY what we needed somebody to give us just before we had Avery.

But I digress.

Anyway, I started thinking - as much fun as s'mores are, there's also a certain amount of danger involved. True, that danger provides a lot of the flavor, but I'm not sure what the fire insurance policy looks like for the hostess whose house we're using. Fire + marshmallows + long sticks + alcohol + a crowd of people might not = such a great idea. What to do, what to do......

And then our friend Mary Straton sent me this recipe from Crepes of Wrath....... Yes, I made it. Yes, I ate the entire pan.

S’more Cookie Bars
from Baking Bites
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 8 graham crackers)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 king-sized milk chocolate bars
1 1/2 cups marshmallow Fluff (not melted marshmallows because they harden when they cool)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and/or line an 8-inch square baking pan.
2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and vanilla.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined. Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Don’t worry if it seems thin; the baking powder will allow it to rise.
4. Place chocolate bars over dough (don’t layer the bars, just break them to fit if you need to), then spread the marshmallow Fluff over the chocolate bars. Finally, top the Fluff with the remaining dough by forming the dough into sheets with the palm of your hands and laying it down (as shown above). Don’t worry if the dough isn’t covering everything! It’ll spread out as it bakes.
5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. If the top is browning too quickly, you can always cover it with tin foil for the remaining baking time. Cool completely before cutting into bars. If you don’t allow them to cool completely, they will crumble when you try to cut them. Makes 16-20 bars.
Thanks to What's Cooking America for the s'more photo and Crepes of Wrath for the fabulous recipe.


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