Monday, November 29, 2010

It's official - Christmas is here!

Yes... time just flies by, doesn't it? Here we are again. Thanksgiving is over... Black Friday came & went. Today is Cyber-Monday and the Christmas season is officially among us. All of you that kept saying "It's too early to think about Christmas shopping & decorating" better stop saying that. It's here.

First off - Let me apologize for my blogging hiatus. I was away visiting my husband's family for the Thanksgiving Holiday. I really need to learn how to blog using my Blackberry. It was nice to get away for a few days... Baby Belle got to see her Aunt Kristin and her cousins ... both sets of grandparents on my husband's side... and some step-relatives. She had a great time! We walked around the mall on Saturday and her eyes were as big as saucers checking out all the Christmas lights, decorations, and people. She was in sensory overload big time. That day, we got our family portraits done in JC Penney's ... they got some good shots of us but I nicknamed them the Photo-Nazi's. The lady was not very nice & rushed us in and out in like 10 minutes. Julianna puked all over my black shirt & the JC Penney's carpet. haha. Take that Photo-Nazi! Eh, whatever - at least we got some good family photos. I also got to show Santa what Christmas present I want from Coach .... hehe.

Julianna reached a huge milestone this weekend! As most of you know, I have been struggling with feeding her solids. For the last 2 months, she has pretty much let the food sit in her mouth forever, and then dribble out ... or some of it made it down the trap but not by her doing... it was by accident. She hasn't been able to get the whole "put your mouth around the spoon, then push the food to the back of your mouth & swallow" thing. Then .... on Thursday morning, I fed her some Oatmeal. Low & behold - she pushed the food to the back of her mouth & swallowed the first bite on her own! I got so excited and called for my husband to come watch! Next bite- Julianna got excited, kicked her legs and even opened her mouth for the oatmeal! She closed her mouth around the spoon, and swallowed the oatmeal! Yayyyyyyy! This is Huge! So for the remainder of the weekend, we fed her cereal in the morning, and Squash for dinner (she likes it but not as much as cereal). The downside is, Julianna got the most wicked case of constipation I ever saw. Poor little baby. I guess her insides were getting used to digesting solids. She is back to normal as of today ... but she was in so much pain for a few days. I won't get into details of what my husband and I had to do to help her, but let's just say.... you do what you gotta do to make your baby feel better. Awwww...

I am going to have our daycare provider start giving Julianna cereal tomorrow morning for breakfast! And now she will actually eat with us for dinner (in between bottle feedings of course). We can start introducing more solids since she will actually "eat" now. She even gets excited. It's like she knows she reached the milestone!

Here are some pictures from this weekend

Just chillin' and chewin'

Julianna modeling her new hat 

Daddy with Julianna & Pepper (our dog).
Julianna loves Pepper! 

Julianna with Aunt Kristin

Julianna modeling her new hat that Grandma S. made her

Julianna with cousins Justin & Nathan 

Mommy snuggling with Baby Belle 

Mommy snuggling with Jul some more... 

Some of Julianna's cousins... 

Grandma F. with Julianna

Grandma & Grandpa F. with Julianna 

Studying her book very intensely 

After a long weekend & a long ride home, Julianna passed out in Daddy's arms an hour before her bedtime. Awwwww.

We lit the tree last night for the first time ...
Julianna looked at it with wide eyes, then fell asleep.

Her 6 month checkup & vaccinations are today ... I am so curious to see how much she will weigh & how long she has gotten!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I am thankful for ...

Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I thought it was the perfect time to talk about what I am thankful for this year. I know this is a very common topic right now, so I'll keep it short & sweet.

I am thankful for the following things: 

  1. My beautiful baby girl - she has changed our life in every way imaginable.
  2. My incredible husband. I am the luckiest girl in the world.
  3. I work from home full time. No commuting in bad weather!
  4. My husband and I haven't been a victim to the bad economy, we are both blessed to have good, stable jobs and not in danger of losing them.
  5. My family is healthy, especially my mother who is still cancer free.
  6. We have a caring, trustworthy and reliable daycare provider that we are so lucky to have found.
  7. My friends
When I see a story on the news or in my local newspaper about a family that is in a bad situation ... evicted from their home, no money, no food, no where to go... it makes me stop & think how lucky I really am. My problem is, I want to help everyone. I want to help homeless dogs in shelters, families that need food, babies, animals, cures for diseases... you name it, I wish I could help them all.

So instead, I did my part and donated some baby food to the Morris County Food pantry ... and we usually donate some gifts to some local families at Christmas time. It's a good feeling even if I can't save the world.

For those of you that can ... check out your county's website or your local newspaper to see how you can help out. There are toy drives everywhere I look, it's a great opportunity to give a needy child a toy at Christmas. Even a few dollars can help a very needy family around the holidays. I hate to think of a child going hungry or not getting any toys at Christmas time. It makes me sad. It also makes me very thankful for everything in my life and I know I am blessed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Julianna is 6 months old - That's half a year!

Wow - I can not believe Julianna is 6 months old. We've come a long way baby! I remember when she was in the NICU when she was only a few days old... that seems like a lifetime ago. I remember bringing her home from the NICU when she was a week old... what a scary but amazing day it was! Little did I know how much this little child would turn our lives upside down! (BTW - she was in the NICU because she was born with a Pneumothorax, which by some miracle self-healed after 6 days!)

I spent the first few weeks worried I would never know what to do with this little child ... worried that I could never handle being a mom. How come these things don't come with a manual? Someone should fix that! I also had a slight case of post-partum depression for 6-7 weeks after she was born... It was a very hard adjustment for me since I am older & used to my life the way it was before she came. Once I got used to everything & got past the PPD, life was grand. Funny how things change. Brian and I brought Julianna out from the day she came home. I don't believe in that 'sit in house for 3 months' thing. You just have to be smart, like not going to Chuckie "germ" Cheese (Blegh!).

I remember the first time I brought her out in public on my own (she was 3 weeks old) and I fed her while having lunch with my girlfriend at a small cafe'. What an achievement that I was able to do that! I felt like a champ! From that day forward, I tried to get out of the house almost every day ... I took full advantage of having 14 weeks off in the summertime. Julianna and I had a great time. It was either that or sit home & be miserable. I opted for the fun part.

I spent one day a week with my good friend who just had a baby boy (Jake) 3 weeks after Julianna ... it was perfect because we went through our pregnancies together, and were able to share the "baby" questions and answers with each other- it helped both of us. We became expert "Mallers" - and had some fun times. It sucked having to go back to work... I wish I could have afforded to take more time off but hey, I should be happy that I even got that much paid time off. I will admit I was sooo happy to see that first regular paycheck!

I remember when Julianna first smiled at us- something that no parent forgets. Her smile warms your heart & soul! Julianna's smile is infectious and beautiful. I love thinking about all the small milestones that she reached during her 6 months. Rolling over, laughing, sitting up (with help), eating her feet, eating solids, sleeping through the night, talking (syllables), koo-ing, playing with toys, holding things with 2 hands, drooling, discovering our dog Pepper & laughing hysterically at her, holding her head up strong, and the list goes on and on. 
When she was a newborn, I loved after her bath, when I could wrap her in her hoodie-towel and cover her whole body with just her eyes & nose sticking out... Now, I wrap her up, and her legs dangle out the bottom of the towel and her arms stick out. LOL. They grow soooo fast!

I remember all the fun weekend trips we took during my summer off with Julianna. We went away almost every weekend to visit friends & family. We got her used to long trips in the car and she has always loved being in the car (luckily) because we had her out so often from day one. She went out to dinner with us so many times and she has always been a good girl when we go anywhere (except for the infamous "New Hampshire/KFC" meltdown - worth reading if you haven't).
We are blessed with this child. This is why we are stopping at one. LOL. She is perfect. No need to mess up anything. No, that's not really our reason for only one, but it sure does make the case for only one.

THEN ... Newborn

NOW ... 6 months

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Choosing a picture for our Christmas card ...

It's so hard to choose. I am putting together our Christmas card on Shutterfly ... and I think I want to use 2 or 3 of the ones below. Julianna is just too cute in all of these pictures... I can't decide! Haha!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Easy Recipes for the Working Mama (and non-working mama!)

I want to talk about something that I absolutely hate to do --->> Cooking. It's not that I hate it, I just hate how much time it takes to prep food and then make it, and not to mention, recipes with a lot of ingredients make my eyes spin. But it's a necessary evil, because we all need to eat - and not even I can justify "take out" 7 nights a week!

It occurred to me there might be others out there like me - that are in my "hate to cook" club. A friend also suggested that I maybe list some of my favorite recipes on my blog. So here it goes, I am sharing some of my "easy & simple" recipes that I have discovered recently & love.

A few things: I do like to use my Crock Pot, but I have to get over the thing where I only use it when it's cold outside. Crock pots are for summertime too, right?! I love to make large portions of meals, and freeze the rest for another night. I buy the disposable freezer containers and portion up the meals in those, then into the freezer they go. Perfect for another night when I sure as hell don't feel like cooking! My goal with any recipe is to have as little prep time & not that many ingredients, or I won't make it. It's just that way. One other thing you should know - I am not a big 'recipe book' person. I love exploring and finding new stuff online!

Here are some recipes I want to share... Enjoy. I have personally made everything here and loved each one!

This might be the best invention ever; The 5 Ingredient Casserole. It's as if they had me in mind! I also find many great recipes here:

Here are a few of my favorite & 'easy' 5 star casseroles:
Chicken & Rice Casserole
Red & White Tortellini Bake
Chicken Potato Casserole
Meatball Stew in Casserole
Sicilian Casserole

Crock Pot:
Crock pot Portuguese Chicken - This might be the best thing I ever made in the crock pot!
Healthy Crock pot Beef Stew
Classic WW Beef Chile - I make this on chilly football Sundays in the fall. I add 1/2 bottle of quality beer too.
Swiss Steak

Miscellaneous Recipes:
Overnight French Toast - The best ever!
Chicken with Feta Sauce - Simply Delish & healthy!
Taco Chicken Bake .
Lipton Onion Soup Pot Roast - I add a little beef broth to this too. It's the 3rd one down.
Dripping Roast Beef Sandwiches with Provolone - So easy to make & very good!
BBQ Meatloaf Recipe
Cheesy Chicken Roll Ups - awesome
Sopranos Sunday Meatballs & Gravy - I only make the meatballs from here and use my own sauce but the gravy/sauce sounds great too. The meatballs are fabulous!

Extra: It's called "Slamma Jamma Chicken Parmigiana" - Yummmy. OK yes, this one has many ingredients and what would normally seem like too much prep time for me... but I got sucked in to making it one day - and I have to tell you, it is by far, the best Chicken Parm ever. My husband loves it too!  My only substitution on this is, I use my own homemade sauce instead of their sauce recipe.  I highly recommend this!!

Going to try this one in the next week - Heirloom Carrot Spoon cake - if it's good, it's going on the Christmas-eve dessert menu!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday cuteness

Nothing major today -
Just a couple of cute pictures from last night of our Pear-eating maven!

Oooh Daddy, feed me Pears! I love my pears!

Yummm! I also like to play with my foot while Daddy is feeding me! 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fall is here but not for long ... I hear santa's sleighbells in the distance

The colorful leaves have fallen... those beautiful Autumn days have come and gone.

This is a small road up by Northwood on Lake Hopatcong.
This is a tree in my front yard about a month ago.

Now, we have barren trees, blowing leaves, it gets dark at 5pm, and it's darned cold at night!

But wait ... in the not too distant future is Christmas! Soon Santa will be here to deck the halls and bring Christmas cheer to all the children! I have to tell you, this is my favorite time of the year and I'm like a little kid. This year is going to be extra-special because it's Julianna's first Christmas and I'm pulling out all the stops! I love decorating for Christmas and playing holiday music. It puts me in such a good mood! I love wrapping presents and giving gifts! I can't wait to bake Christmas cookies and stuff stockings. I want to bring Julianna to see the Rockerfeller Tree but she might be a bit too young for that this year.

I also can't wait until I can bring her to see the Christmas spectacular at Radio City & the windows at Macy's ... Ohhh and of course we must go see Santa at Macy's in NYC too. I remember how I loved seeing Santa there as a kid! It makes me giddy to think of all the fun holiday stuff that Brian and I are going to do with Julianna. I'm getting an advent calendar to count down the days with Julianna too! Santa is going to spoil Julianna... I know it's silly because she has no clue what Christmas is right now, but it's still fun for us!

I also can't wait to watch Rudolph, Frosty, The Grinch, A Christmas Carol, Charlie Brown Christmas, and so on ... Maybe I'm jumping the gun a little too much - not like Julianna will know what those shows are yet. But I can still enjoy watching them with her LOL (yeah I'm a horrible mom for wanting to put my kid in front of the TV)

I am listening to holiday music already and it's only mid-November. We'll be putting up our Christmas tree this Sunday due to the fact we will not be able to do it on Black Friday - I really like when the tree is up right after Thanksgiving! Yep, I am one of THOSE people! haha! I can't wait to see Julianna's face when she sees all the lights on the tree!

Any day now, I'll be dressing my daughter up in some adorable Christmas hats & outfits so I can torture her by taking 500 photos of her ... all just to find the perfect shot for our Christmas card. I have some great ideas for Christmas photos of Julianna, hopefully I should be able to make one of them work ... (if she is agreeable!)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pears Rock

Hooray for Pears! We finally found a food that Julianna will eat off the spoon, mush up in her mouth & swallow. And she smiles after it! This has been a long time coming. I knew it would take time and we had to be patient ... but we finally found something she likes! We tried greenbeans, carrots, rice cereal, oatmeal & barley cereal, and Avocado. No dice.

I called the pediatrican & they said to try fruit. Before we tried anything else new, we gave Julianna a rest with the solids for almost 2 weeks .. and then tried again last night with Pears. Bingo. We have a winner.

Next up: Squash and Sweet Potatoes to celebrate Thanksgiving week.

A side note about why I chose Beechnut: I did an excessive amount of research on what brand of baby food to feed our child ... and in the end, they are all the same ingredients, but of course I would never buy anything with added sugars, preservatives, salt, etc.... It seems all of those ingredients are void in the baby food that I have seen.

We chose not to go with organic for two reasons: There is such a high standard on baby food ingredients now and because of the way that the non-organic baby food is processed, it makes it very pure anyway. In my opinion, I felt it wasn't nessecary to buy organic baby food. (But yes, we will be doing organic milk, fresh fruit & meat later on)

Why Beechnut? The ingredients are the same for all brands. But, I like the idea (so far)of the tiny jars for stage one vs. a plastic container that some other brands use. It's easier to heat initially & then store the leftovers. It's not a plastic container & can be recycled easier since it's environmentally friendly.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Adventures in Tailgating

My husband and I went to the Rutgers vs. Syracuse game this past Saturday with 4 of our great friends. A fun time was had by all! It was a gorgeous day, we really lucked out with 65 degree temps! We ended up with quite the funny tailgating story without even meaning to. Oh by the way, my husband is a huge Syracuse fan (so I guess by default, I am too), and they won. The game itself was kind of dull with very little action.

Brian and I were in charge of bringing the food ... Bubba burgers, buns, Brian's famous Sausage & Peppers, chips, macaroni salad... oh and BEER. Of course Beer. By the way, if you've never had a Bubba Burger, you haven't lived. They rock the house!

A pick-up truck pulled into the spot next to us. The parking attendant made him park there, right next to us, even though there was 40 other open spots. So we had to move everything out of the way, and it was quite funny because the guy ran over 2 of our chairs, they were caught kind of under his truck trying to pull into the spot. Oops. Luckily they were very cool about it and we all laughed.

Our friends Cindy & Bob were in charge of bringing the grill. They are professional tailgaters, so that should have been no problem.

We unloaded everything ... and opened the grill .... and this is what we see:

Oops. No Grill Gate.
That sucked. I wish I had a camera to take a picture of our faces when we opened it. Kind of hard to grill anything that way. Who would have thought to check ahead of time, since the grate was there when it was last used! It was a completely honest mistake obviously. OK no big deal ... we just need to figure out a solution. What to do ... what to do?!

My husband and his friend set off on a search to find something that we could use as a replacement grill grate. Someone was on our side that day, because they came back with a refrigerator grating (like the shelf in your fridge!)... and yes it has a coating of plastic on the metal bars. LOL. Not sure where they got it from and we didn't ask - haha!
So we threw it on the grill ... and waited for the thick black poisonous plastic smoke to clear. Please, no environment comments. We know. We know.

Our tailgate neighbors were thanking us for poisoning them with the smoke - we told them it was payback for running over our chairs when they pulled into the parking spot. They agreed that we were indeed even. They also helped us out by giving us some tinfoil to coat the fridge grate so we could grill safely.

In the end, we were able to grill our burgers, sausage & peppers. They were quite yummy. It was pretty darned funny grilling on a Fridge grating! haha! It was that or no food for us. It created quite the memory for us to say the least.

Here is Bob, Brian (my hubby) and Matt. We are proud to say, we had our very own Rutgers Football Alumni player with us - Bob. (In red) He used to play safety in the 80's... and he played the "first ever" game at the Syracuse Carrier-Dome against Joe Morris (you old NY Giants fan know him!). Pretty neat story!

And here we are. Me, Michelle & Cindy. This was Michelle's first live sporting event.
She made it through without dying from boredom.

Me & Brian.

Walking into RU Stadium.

The Red wall of cattle moving up the walkway. Note to the Rutgers Stadium builders, next time build a ramp so more people can squeeze into the stadium at once.  

Nice seats. Good job Cindy & Bob!
Imagine what these seats would cost in Giants Stadium. hahaaha!  

Watching the game...  
Me & Brian.  

We were out of the house for 10 hours ... and I really missed Julianna. I was going through withdrawal on the way home. I was glad to see everything went perfectly fine with the babysitter. Julianna was already asleep by the time we got home, but I felt the need to pick her up, snuggle her and smell her... I had to put her warm little precious body against me and it made me sooo happy - that 2 minutes made my entire day! ....And she didn't even wake up. I guess that's just a mom thing that ya gotta do.

 Extra: Poor Brian got injured at the game... well not really. He was walking to the car on our way home, and twisted his ankle. He had to wrap his foot with an ace bandage, elevate his foot, and he was very pathetic on Sunday. At least he got to spend a lot of time with Julianna on the sofa!


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