Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Red Man

We picked up a Columbia fleece bunting at a consignment shop a few months ago (but without the dinosaur spikes shown on the one at that link) and this past week was cold enough to put Ryan in it for his car ride to my parents. The nice thing is it keeps his whole body warm without adding too much bulk to try to stuff into the car seat. It also covers his hands without trying to keep mittens on (impossible). The con is also that it cover his hands so he can't turn pages of books while riding in the car. The hood is also a little tight and the whole thing is a little bit too small. That's what we get for buying it a few months early!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Daddy's Office

Last weekend we took a trip to Adam's office so Ryan could see his new fish! He loved watching the bright orange and yellow fish and seeing the other little fish dart back and forth. He also took a little rest in the bean bags! It was a fun little field trip but I'm glad the fish tank stays at school (so I don't have to clean it)
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Friday, November 26, 2010

O Christmas Tree

Christmas, for me, is largely about tradition. There's something comforting and cozy about hauling up the tubs of decorations the day after Thanksgiving while listening to Christmas music. This year we had a big helper!

Here's a little clip of Ryan's reaction to the lights:

Both Adam and I grew up receiving one special ornament each year from our parents and kept various other ornaments created in school, Sunday school, camp, and received from other family and friends. When we got married, we discovered our parents had the exact same "Keepsake" boxes in which we stored our treasured memories, so now we have 2 matching (and perfectly stacking=bonus) boxes of ornaments! I enjoy getting them out every year and finding the perfect place for each on our tree. Our tree sure wouldn't win any home decor awards, but it is meaningful and special to us.

We wanted to continue the tradition with Ryan, so last year he received a "Baby's First Christmas" ornament and this year I stopped by the Hallmark in the Centre Mall to choose his 2010 ornament. There were many cute things to choose from, but I wanted it to reflect something about the year and something he enjoyed. My friends actually pointed it out, but as soon as I looked closer, I knew it was perfect!

The Zoo Keeper Says 2010 Hallmark OrnamentIt's the 2010 Hallmark Keepsake Ornament that's a tiny version of a Fisher Price "The Zoo Keeper Says" See 'n Say.  Not only do I remember playing with this toy as a child, but Adam's mom still has their actual See 'n Say from when Adam was a toddler and Ryan absolutely loves playing with it at their house!

We let Ryan open the ornament so we could put it on the tree. The string and ring are too small for him to pull, but he loves watching the arrow go around and listening to the familiar voice say "Listen to the seal count to three! Arhh! Arhh! Arhh!"  We put it on the tree and continued decorating, but pretty soon he was holding it in his hand again! He had plucked it off the tree and carried it around the rest of the night, occasionally bringing it up to us to pull the string for him. I'm really glad I picked out a plastic, practically unbreakable ornament, because he threw it multiple times and of course tried to eat it once or twice. We moved up all the other ornaments so only the top half is decorated and I just took the hook out of the top and let him carry around his See 'n Say!

I'm not sure if we'll continue the Fisher-Price nostalgic toys series, but I am almost tempted to pick up a 2009 ornament on Amazon of other classic toys from my childhood. I'd have a hard time deciding between these two: 

Except if I had bought the Chatter Telephone last year and saw that it was going for a $100 bucks this year, I might be tempted to sell it and buy the $10 bus.

The kid would never know.

Black Friday Reunion

Since I hate shopping under the best circumstances, there's less than 20% of me that wants to go shopping on Black Friday. The 19% is my frugal/maximizer voice that says "BUT YOU CAN SAVE MONEY". Luckily the detest shopping voice told my frugal voice to "Pipe down and go back to bed."

However, I did venture out in late morning to the mall...the Centre Mall. This is a pseudo-mall in a small town about 50 minutes away, but it is where one of my co-workers, Brittany, lives. She has a daughter only 2 weeks younger than Ryan and they haven't met since they were about 1 month old!  We met at the mall to have lunch with our other former co-worker, Steph, who moved to Florida last year. She was home for Thanksgiving and drove up to see us. After a great lunch at Casey's Bakery, we did a little window shopping, and made one actual purchase (see next post about Christmas decorations), then headed to Brit's to hang out for a little while.

The two little ones had fun playing together and it was great to catch up with Steph.

Here's Steph and Ryan a year ago at her going-away party:

 And here they are now:

Macyn was terrific about sharing her toys with a wild boy who about hit her in the face with various balls and toys/books he threw like balls.

 Ryan loved the rocking chair and a snow globe that played music.

Miss you, Steph! Hope I can come down to FL sometime to see you!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


We had an enormous Thanksgiving meal with Adam's dad's side of the family at noon on Thankgiving day. There was so much food we had to put boards over the sink for more counter space. And by "we" I mean I didn't help at all, I was too busy trying to take pictures of Ryan and Kenley!

I just showed up to eat (hey, I brought a pie) and eat I did..turkey, ham, stuffing, cheesy potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, beans, corn, veggie pizza, relishes, jello salad, fresh fruit...and that was besides the appetizers, desserts and snacks.

Ryan ate a dinner roll.

The best part, of course, was spending time with family and seeing people we haven't gotten together with in a while. Here's a few pictures:

 Time-out to regroup during the annual "Nerts" game. I couldn't get a picture of the chaos of Nerts in action because I was busy leading my team to a solid second place finish. (Okay, so my team was just Adam and me so most likely I was following my team leader to second place.)  It is usually not recommended to partner with your spouse if you want to be on speaking terms the rest of the day, but we managed to leave our competitive card feelings at the table.

 Ryan loved getting to play with Aunt Kim and Uncle Andy again! 

 He also loved Christina's necklace (and Christina of course!)

 Here's a picture of all the great-grandkids that are age 7th grade or younger (there are 4 more but 2 are in Alaska and the other 2 are out of High School and had left by picture time...strategically I'm sure).

After all the fun at Adam's parents, we took Ryan over to my parents where he finally crashed for a nap at 5:30. We let him sleep through supper so we could enjoy our nachos, croissants and cream puff dessert (yes, we ate again) and then woke him up for a little play time (and "bookths") with Aunt Abbie and Uncle Wade.

We headed home late, enormously thankful for our families and especially for the bundled up sleeping baby in the back!

Ryan and Kenley

At Thanksgiving, Ryan became fast friends with Kenley, the daughter of one of Adam's cousins who is 6 months older than Ryan.  She is simply adorable and we captured many cute pictures of the two munchkins.
 Who, us? We're not the cutest thing since kitties baking cupcakes.

 "You know, honking that horn isn't making this thing move any faster."

 "Please, you have it. You saw it first." ~Kenley
"That's what I thought."~Ryan

 "I am reading a fascinating tale of love, loss, and reconciliation. How about you?"~ Kenley
"Triangle. Cheese...Circle. Pizza." ~Ryan

 Do you want to read to us?

 Christina will!

I love thinking about the marketing team sitting around a conference table brainstorming titles for this book. I wish my team could just name one of our new products "Candy" and call it a day.

Ryan and Kenley ended the afternoon with a rousing dance-off to Christina's cell ringtone. It took Ryan a little bit to catch on, but the second video shows a bit more of his show-off moves.

He thinks he's such a hot shot.

It's not like they had an audience or anything.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cousins -Football Playoffs

We've made it a little bit of a tradition to stay at my sister's the weekend before Thanksgiving so Adam can watch the Iowa High School Football Championships. While he sits through 4 football games in the Dome, my sister and I have a chance to catch up and now the kids get to play together! I was hoping to get a picture of all three of them together like we did last year:
But, as you can see, one of them was not as cooperative this year.

Maybe at Christmas *cross fingers*

P.S. Where did that blond kid come from?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Strike Up the Band

On Saturday night after Ryan and I got back and the kids were all in their PJ's, they decided to strike up the band! My sister had a variety of "shaker" toys made of cereal (Berry Rice Krispies, if you want to date the creation of these impromptu percussion instruments) and toy instruments. The kids had a blast marching around and making an overall ruckus and I love watching them have fun together!


When I decided to go to UNI, I was grateful to have 1 girl friend and 3 guy friends from High School to share the experience with. But, a few people had advised us that it would be better to go "potluck" for a roommate so we could meet some new people. My girl friend and I both hit the roommate lottery, being paired up with strangers who would quickly become friends.

I got paired up with K, who was from the opposite corner of the state. She was a truly a godsend of a roommate and we ended up living together sophomore year, then going to California for a semester exchange program at the beginning of Junior year. My High School friend and her roommate, my roommate and I, plus the girl who lived next door to us became fast friends and us five ate lunch together everyday at 11am on the dot, choosing between the old-school cafeteria food like chicken noodle casserole, cold sandwiches, or cheese sticks from the "make your own pizza" machine. We usually met up with the guys from my high school and their new dorm friends and I have many fond memories of college lunches with all of them.

I'm grateful to my roommate for putting up with all the "hometown" talk from my high school friends and I, my obsession with talking about my family, my constant cable-TV watching (Trading Spaces, A MakeOver Story, reruns of Saturday Night Live, and Late Night with Conan O'Brien),  my less-than-perfect housekeeping skills, and my periods of homesickness and negativism. College would have been miserable without her and I will always be grateful for her friendship!

In the 7 years since I graduated, I've seen my college friends at each of their weddings, but not very often otherwise. Coincidentally, after graduating and getting married at different times, my roommate and I both had our first baby (boys) within 4 months of each other. Last weekend I arranged to go visit her while I was at my sisters since it's only a 1.5 hour drive from there.  We had a great afternoon catching up and watching the little boys play. Hopefully the whole group can get together sometime this Spring/Summer! I miss all you girls!

At first, little K wasn't too sure about this other little dude invading his space.
 But he soon warmed up to the idea and the two little Hawkeye fans had fun with all the toys.

 Even though Ryan largely ignored him in order to play/bother their boxer, Malachi.

 Little K (16.5months) and Ryan (13.5 months)
Thanks for a fun day! Let's do it again!

Waverly Weekend

Here's a few pictures of Ryan's weekend in Waverly.  Ryan had a great time playing with his cousins!

On Saturday morning, Emily demonstrated a new game I dub "Glamour Golf".
After Lincoln got his picture taken in the rocking chair for his 18 months photo, a few others thought they needed a turn.
After lots of negotiating and wiggling, Emily let me put a braid in her hair for the concert.

Emily was able to give up the spotlight long enough to catch a picture of Megan reading to Ryan.

Or not.
That's the rubber snake she picked out for her birthday and LOVES.

By evening, it was one big game of "Tackle Courtney"

And I loved every minute of it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Drummer Boy

Ryan's drumming seems to channel multiple celebrities. His singing/commentary (not sure which it is) uses vocabulary made popular by "The Fonz". His wooden spoon/colander equipment is indicative of Emeril or Jamie Oliver or some new celebrity chef that I don't know about because I only watch cake shows on the Food Network. His overall style of drumming seems to be more "Animal" from Muppet Babies than Max Weinberg, but be sure to stick around for the big finish! His bow is pure Shoji.

P.S. I also added a video to Friday's post of Ryan standing up/walking/reaching to pick things up.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lobster Boy

Even though it is pretty chilly out, we all were in need of some cobweb-head-clearing fresh air this afternoon, so we bundled up for a short walk.  Ryan has been pretty tolerant of his "joker" hat and today we added mittens to the winter ensemble. It was hilarious pulling the oversized mitts on because they looked like boxing gloves and he started laughing and trying to clap with them on. I especially enjoy the long striped wrist part that we pulled over his coat sleeves. Although he didn't seem to mind them, I think we'll be looking for another pair to wear for non-snow-playing occasions that don't make him look like a lobster boy!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Gingerbread House 2010-The Three Little Pigs

It's that time of year again, the time when I forget the pain that is called making a gingerbread house and foolishly decide to give it another go. I liken it to forgetting about labor pain enough to want to birth another child. Only sometimes I think giving birth is a little less messy.

My adventures in gingerbread house making started 4 years ago when my co-workers and I had a contest to make a house decorated in our company's candy. I made a dollhouse that took about 12 straight hours and all the sugar in China to complete. The next year, I suggested we sponsor a community-wide contest and made a few sample houses to promote the contest and a farm-inspired creation entitled "Santa's Stables" to display at the actual contest. View my creations here and a web album of the 2008 contest entries here.

I took last year off from the "creating" (if you have an excuse like "I have a one-month-old baby, why not use it, right?) and simply organized the contest and helped supervise the voting. Here are some pictures of the entries from 2009.

So, this year I returned to decorating and decided to do a "Three Little Pigs" Theme.  It took about 3 hours of baking and 7 hours of decorating and I can't say I'm that satisfied with the results, but there came a point where I just needed to be done with it. Hopefully displaying it will help draw some entries into the contest!

We enter the scene after the first little pig's straw house has been violently blown down by the Big Bad Wolf.
I used Edible Easter Grass as the "straw" and the pig is sculpted out of Lots of Frutti Chews, a strawberry taffy my company sells. I simply microwaved a few bars until I could work it like clay (hot clay, mind you) and it eventually hardened. It was tricky to say the least and if I'm 100% honest, I'd  have to tell you that this little pig's head is not currently resting on its shoulders. I tried to "fix" it a little tonight and it came off. So, if you suspect a little hot-glue-gun action when you see this in person, you might be right.

We follow the Rip Rolls Rainbow Reaction path to the second little pig's house of sticks that is being blown in by the Big Bad Wolf (sculpted out of blue raspberry Lots of Frutti Chews with a strawberry vest). Side note: Why does the Big Bad Wolf always wear a vest in the story books? But only wears pants with that vest 50% of the time? Ask Donald Duck.

The third little pig is looking suspiciously smug in his house of bricks (decorated with Rips Bite-Size Licorice Pieces with a Rips Bits-trimmed door). Maybe it's because his licorice landscape adds incredible curb appeal. Or maybe it's because his ranch-style dwelling has been rated as "wolf-proof" by the Storybook Land Society of Civil Engineers?

I think we all know how the story ends, but I thought it would be interesting to capture this tableau mid-sequence. Actually, most of me wanted to just throw a pile of grass and pretzels on a pile and put all 3 pigs safe-and-sound in the brick house, but I like to make things difficult for myself.

I'll post pictures after the contest, which is being held on December 4, and if anyone who lives near my Hometown has questions about the contest, please let me know!  I hope to see lots of creative entries!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Walking Update

Since I keep this blog instead of a "baby book", I'm noting for the record that Ryan's walking reached a new milestone on Friday! He is almost 13.5 months and can now go from sitting/crawling to standing by himself (no pulling up on anything) and he can also reach down, pick something up off the floor, and then go on walking. He is getting steadier (and faster) every day!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

7 Wonders of Northwest Iowa Kitchens

Since my last post bestowing the title of "7th Wonder of Northwest Iowa Kitchens" on Ho-Ho Bars, I've been thinking of what the full list would look like. So, here they are, in no particular order.

  1. Ho-Ho Bars
  2. Homemade Chili and Cinnamon Rolls (if you're a life-long NW Iowan, you might not realize that others think this combination is odd)
  3. Taverns (not BBQs, loosemeats, Maid-rights, or Manwiches)
  4. Pizza Ranch (the go-to answer for any "don't feel like cooking" occasion)
  5. Dried Beef and Cheese Spread on Rusk Buns
  6. Church Soup and Pie Suppers
  7. Snicker Salad and our ability to justify its placement in the "salad" category 
What would you add to the list?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Holla at my Ho Hos

We hosted Small Group on Sunday night and I decided to attempt (yet again) to make Ho-Ho bars. For those of you unfamiliar with this 7th Wonder of Northwest Iowa Kitchens, they consist of a chocolate cake-like base, a frothy white filling, and thick, chewy chocolaty topping. I suck at making them.

All seems well through the first two layers, then the third layer consistently kicks my butt. Every.Single.Time. This is what it is not supposed to look like:
But indeed, this is what it looked like after I followed the directions to boil the butter, milk, and sugar, then stir in the chocolate chips. I beat until thick, then spread. And spread it did not.  Instead of melting a bag of chocolate chips and spreading it over top to hide the disaster (as I have done on plural occasions), I decided to give up, go to the store, and buy the ingredients to make Easy Chocolate Poke Cake from Chocolate from The Cake Mix Doctor.  Abbie and Wade ended up the big winners as I sent half the Ho-Ho bars home with them and they actually taste very good despite their ugly appearance.  Now I have leftover cake AND ho-ho bars in my fridge. Oh the tragedy.

On Sunday I had a chance to consult the Queen of Ho Ho bars (my grandma who used to send me back to college with a box of these and other delicious treats- the ho ho bars rarely made it past Pocahontas).  She cleared up a few subtleties in the recipe I was following that seem to be the source of all my worldly troubles. She said the trick is to just stir it until the chocolate chips melt, but then QUICKLY pour it onto the white filling, moving the stream of molten chocolate back and forth and letting it spread like liquid across the surface. My recipe had said "beat until thick and then spread over second layer." Well, honey, you're not supposed to beat it too long or it will harden on impact, and that stuff "spreads" with a knife about as well as spreading cold peanut butter on a pile of cornflakes. So now I know, for the next time I decide to make these approximately never.

The good news is, the substitute cake turned out perfectly (it's chocolate cake with vanilla pudding poured down into holes while it's still hot and then topped with pudding and whipped cream) and Ryan even helped me mix up some Crystal Light for our guests!