Friday, February 22, 2013

Nine Months Old

Actually, he's nearly nine and a half months old, but we just had our nine month well baby checkup today, so I've been holding off on the update.

The most exciting part about the past month has been the explosion of mobility progress! He's gone from tentatively crawling a few steps to full on speed laps up and down our hallway. He can crawl up and down ramps, climb up and down a single step, and has mastered pulling himself to standing and getting back down to a seated position. He's even starting to cruise along the furniture a bit and will sometimes let us "walk" him across the room holding our hands. It's crazy how quickly it's all happened.

He eats a ton of purees now that he's getting more exercise -- maybe 16 oz. daily spread over three meals, plus he's still nursing every 3-4 hours. He eats everything! But he seems to especially love applesauce and sweet potatoes. I'm hoping to start integrating more table foods this month, although I love purees because it's so quick and easy to feed him rather than waiting for Mr Pokey to feed himself a quarter of an avocado for 30 minutes.

He's talking a bit more, I get "ma-ma-ma"-ed all day long, and he's getting other consonant sounds down too. It doesn't seem to have any meaning to him yet, but I still enjoy hearing it. I think he's understanding some of the sign language we do also. He seems to sign "All Done" and "Milk," although he seems to use "milk" for all food, not just nursing. I'm trying to teach "more" and "eat" right now. I don't take it too seriously but I like the idea of his being able to communicate with me a little earlier.

He started to feed me Cheerios this month, which is ridiculously cute. He's got a great little sense of humor and we giggle and goof around a lot during the day. He's still pretty clingy with me. We've been trying to leave him in nursery care at church, and I usually get "paged" to come back at least once during the service, little stinker. He loves being held and carried around. When Brandon and I are standing near each other and one of us is holding him, he'll reach out for the other parent every ten seconds so we're constantly passing him back and forth. It's cute but rather annoying when we're trying to have a conversation!

His favorite games right now are pushing our soccer ball around the floor, crawling and investigating everything, being tickled, and putting his feet into my mouth while he is nursing. Seriously. It cracks him up.

His nine-month stats:

Head Circumference: 18.5" (83rd percentile)
Weight: 24 lbs 0.5 oz (97th percentile)
Height: 30 inches (94th percentile)

I predicted that he'd fall back onto the charts this time, and I was right! What a scrawny little guy. He's practically a normal sized baby now.

Here are some photos from the past month!

I can get into all the good dangerous stuff now!

Trying out my new shoes at the park!

Pulling all my books out is my new favorite game.

What Mama sees any time she tries to eat anything.

Nine months old today!

One of my favorite photos ever of him. Love the Chucks.

Starting to look like such a kid!

Working on drinking from our sippy.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

New Recipe Saturday: Weeks 1-3

Something we've been having fun with recently is New Recipe Saturday. Brandon was going to be writing these up as we made them, but as it turns out, he's much happier cooking than blogging so the writing falls to me.

In our family, we each have one magazine subscription. Being the pop culture junkie that I am, I get Entertainment Weekly. Brandon gets Cooks Illustrated. For the past few weeks, he's chosen a recipe mostly at random from one of his old issues that he wants to make, and then I pick up the ingredients on Saturday and we make it for dinner that night. It's been fun!

Note: I'd link to the recipes, but I'm afraid the site requires a log-in in order to access them. In future, I'll try to include photos of the finished product! If you're a friend and interested in making any of these, get in touch with me and I'd be happy to send a copy of the recipe.

Recipe 1: Crispy Orange Beef

This was actually the first (and last) time we tried doing a new recipe on a weeknight. It did not work out well! With the baby's evening schedule, it's much easier to do the recipe on Saturday so we can start earlier and hopefully eat before I start Lucas's bedtime routine at 6:30pm. So the main con for this recipe was it took about two hours to make from start to finish. Also there were a lot of ingredients needed in small amounts, so prepping everything to be cooked took quite a while. This always seems to be the case for us when we choose Asian recipes -- maybe a characteristic of this type of cuisine?

The recipe called for dredging strips of flank steak in cornstarch and frying them crispy, then mixing them into an orange ginger sauce. Because of the cornstarch coating, the beef was perfectly cooked and not greasy at all, even for being deep fried. It had a tasty crunch and I loved the strong sauce, which had fried citrus peel and jalapeño strips in it. We served it with brown rice and broccoli.

The main two drawbacks of this recipe was the time required to make it, and I would have liked a little more of the sauce to eat with my food. This is probably the first time we've made Asian food that turned out this delicious though, so I'm calling it a success! 8/10

Recipe 2: Toasted Spanish Pasta with Shrimp

The dish that Brandon is probably best known for among our friends is his paella, a Spanish dish made with saffron, rice, and (in our case) seafood. This dish is a variation on paella that used toasted pasta instead of rice. It was a much quicker and simpler recipe. I'm afraid I was in charge of watching the baby while it was being made, but Brandon didn't seem to have much trouble with it. He toasted the noodles with some oil, then added seafood broth, tomatoes, and the shrimp and cooked it all under the broiler.

We, and the friends we had over to try it, thought the dish was good but not spectacular. I found it a little bland, frankly, and wish there had been a bit more seasoning involved. We served it with some roasted veggies and French bread. A fine meal, but nothing we'll likely make again. 5/10

Recipe 3: Chicken Parmesan

Last night we tried a "best" version of a dish that we already like, and I thought it turned out great! Essentially it's just the same Chicken Parmesan you get at a restaurant -- a panko-breaded chicken cutlet with mozzarella/Parmesan, served with marinara and pasta. Brandon chose to cook the chicken in our cast-iron skillet, which always makes things turn out better, in my opinion.

Randomly, we served it with roasted Brussels sprouts and leeks, because those were the veggies I had on hand. I would definitely make this recipe again, it used mainly ingredients we keep around already and was simple and straight-forward. I'd even make it, which is saying something for its simplicity. 9/10

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Quick Update: Our First Week as WW

Our first week as official Weight Watchers was mostly a success. Since starting to watch his diet two weeks ago, Brandon is down 8 pounds, which I think is pretty awesome! I just put together the menu for this week and will be headed to the store later. My mom lent us a great Points Plus cookbook that was helpful in coming up with new recipes that aren't "grilled chicken breast and veggies."

Unfortunately, the Breakfast Cookies that tasted so great when I first made them did not survive the transition to freezing at all well. The texture got really gross and Brandon refused to eat them after a single bite. Too bad, they seemed like such a great idea. The Travel Omelettes turned out okay, but I think I cooked them too long. Next time I will adjust the cook time from 35 minutes to 25-30 minutes.

Our best dinners this week were of the grilled meat and veggies persuasion, I'm afraid. Once with flank steak and once with chicken. We also had veggie-beef soup twice. Valentine's Day was kind of a Cheat Day, so we had In'n'Out -- so romantic, right?! For lunches, we alternated between dinner leftovers, grilled chicken salad, and cold pasta salad. All were a big hit. Brandon also got veggies with hummus and fruit along with the main dish.

This week, I'm going to bake a "clean" banana bread recipe I found on Pinterest that substitutes applesauce and honey for the oil and sugar. We can have slices of that for breakfast along with more Travel Omelettes. Lunches will be dinner leftovers again, and some Mexican chicken wraps with black beans/corn and salsa. Dinner ideas include pork tenderloin and veggies, chicken fried rice, baked whole wheat pasta, frittata, and chicken Parmesan.

I am enjoying the healthy food, although I've had to cheat a little to keep my weight up as I dropped a couple pounds this week on accident. The chocolate-covered strawberries Brandon gave me for Valentine's Day probably helped since I finished them off in two days. Man, I am going to miss my breastfeeding metabolism.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Today I want to talk about baby food.

Making baby food for Lucas is something I always figured I'd do as a stay at home mom. It's very budget-friendly and incredibly easy, two things I am a big fan of! Having the time to do it is also a nice perk, although I sometimes have to break each batch into 3-4 steps done over the course of two days, when my stage-5 clinger monkey will let me put him down for long enough.

To make your own veggie puree, you pretty much just steam/bake the veggie in question, add water, and puree. Then I freeze them in ice-cube trays and store so I can just defrost a few cubes at a time for meals. For fruit, I just wait until the fruit is ripe, then puree with water if necessary, with a few exceptions like apples and persimmons that I steam instead. Occasionally I add a little seasoning, like cinnamon, nutmeg, dill, etc., but no added salt or sugar.

I feel good about giving him food of which I know all the ingredients. I do give him store-bought sometimes, which is no big deal. There are plenty of good brands that have the exact same ingredients as my purees, with maybe one extra thing to keep it shelf-stable. If we bought him all his food pre-made, though, it would take up almost a third of our grocery budget every month!

I'm lucky in that Lucas will eat pretty much whatever you put in front of him. We usually mix in a little cereal (oatmeal and mixed-grain) to these as well, and also Greek yogurt (to the fruit). I haven't given him much meat yet -- meat purees are expensive to make and annoying. I may go straight for table food on the meat front. These are the purees I've given him so far:

1. Acorn squash
2. Applesauce
3. Banana-Blueberry
4. Beans (red and white, made from dried beans cooked in the crockpot)
5. Broccoli
6. Butternut squash
7. Carrots
8. Eggplant
9. Green Beans
10. Mixed Veggies with Spinach
11. Peas
11. Sweet Potatoes and Chicken
13. Yams

Today, I decided to add a little new variety to his diet, so I headed to Trader Joe's to explore the produce section. Okay, I went to buy wine and cookie butter. But they have produce there too, so it worked out. These are the new purees Lucas will get to try out this week:

1. Eggplant-Spinach
2. Butternut Squash-Cauliflower
3. Carrot-Turnip
4. Mango-Strawberry

The mango-strawberry is from frozen fruit, which works great for produce you want to use but that is out of season or difficult to find a ripe/tasty enough fresh version in stores.

We're nearing the last few months of purees for Lucas as I begin to transition him to table food. I'm going to miss giving him purees, actually, feeding a toddler seems much more daunting to me for some reason! Thank goodness for Pinterest, it's giving me lots of ideas. Let's just hope Lucas doesn't turn picky like his Mama was anytime soon.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Starting Weight Watchers (with Bonus Recipe!)

Brandon and I are starting a new adventure in eating next week: Weight Watchers! Brandon would like to lose some weight, and my own weight is finally stable enough (as Lucas is getting older and eating more solids) that I no longer need to constantly stuff my face in order to maintain a weight I'm comfortable with.

I'm pretty skeptical of most diets, but I like Weight Watchers because it's mainly a system of tracking what you eat and encouraging you to eat fruits and veggies, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. My mom has been an avid Weight Watcher pretty much my whole life and lost over 50 pounds back when I was in college/law school (yay Mom!). She has maintained the loss over years now, so I know it can work as a lifestyle change rather than a quick fix.

Much of the work of planning, shopping, and cooking will fall to me but I've been having fun coming up with healthy ideas for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners over this first week. Here are some of the foods we're going to eat this week:


Healthy Breakfast Cookies (I used this recipe that I found on Pinterest, with a couple minor substitutions)
Travel Omelettes (See my own recipe, below)


Cold pasta salad with tuna, edamame, and veggies
Grilled chicken and salad
Dinner leftovers


Marinated flank steak with potato/turnip mash and Brussels sprouts
Crockpot Dijon Chicken and roasted broccoli
Weight Watchers recipe beef nachos
Crockpot Veggie Beef soup
Lemon leek pasta with lobster meat (and probably salad as well)

I'm excited to start eating more healthy foods, both for myself and so I can feel good about feeding what we eat to Lucas as we transition him from purees to table food. Neither Brandon nor I enjoy eating many vegetables, so I'm going to do the best I can integrating more veggies into all of our daily meals.

These egg muffins are a good example! Or, as I have decided to call them, Travel Omelettes. They're a great quick breakfast for both of us. Brandon rushes out the door at 6:15 every morning, so this is something he can take with him, and it's an easy thing for me to microwave and eat without having to spend time in the kitchen preparing breakfast every morning. This time, I used bell pepper, onion, and spinach with Parmesan cheese and ham, but you can put in pretty much anything you want. Next time, I'm going to make a New Mexican version with green chile, cheddar, and bacon.

Elizabeth's Travel Omelettes


10 eggs (the recipe I based mine from called for 12. I used 11 because of all the veggies I had in there, and still over-filled the compartments, so next time I will use one less.)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup ham, chopped (The meat is optional, unless your husband is from the Midwest, or you could substitute sausage or bacon)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1/4 cup milk (I used skim, but you can use whatever you have in the house)
Cooking spray


1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease 12-piece muffin tin using cooking spray.
2. Divide chopped ham between 12 compartments.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet. Sauté chopped onion and bell pepper for 5 minutes, until soft. Then add chopped spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes more, until wilted. Set aside until slightly cooled. Once cooled, divide veggies between compartments, placing on top of ham.
4. Place one tablespoon Parmesan cheese in each compartment, on top of veggies.
5. Whisk together 11-12 eggs, adding in seasoned salt and milk. Then use a measuring cup to pour the egg mixture over the ham/veggies/cheese. Do not fill each compartment all the way to the top, I did and it spilled over a little. Use a fork to mix the egg mixture into the other ingredients.
6. Bake for 35 minutes, or until they are puffed up and slightly browned. Cool and keep in fridge or freeze until ready to eat.

I'll report back next week on how our first week as Weight Watchers went!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Quick Update: Sickness and Sleep Deprivation

Sorry we've been a bit MIA around here the past week. Lucas caught another virus last week (he already had RSV/bronchiolitis earlier in the month) and we've been battling illness and the sleep deprivation that inevitably follows for the past week and a half.

I noticed Lucas was a bit "off" last Wednesday, and overnight he developed a nasty croup-y sounding cough, stridor (that gasping sound when they breathe in), and a low fever (101.5). A trip to the doctor confirmed that it was not the flu, thank goodness, but just a run-of-the-mill cold and flu season virus that we would need to wait out. The doctor said his fever might last for 4-5 days, but my adorable little tank fought it off by Friday afternoon. Luckily, the croup-y cough never came back after that first night, either.

The regular cough that followed the fever has been another story. It's been keeping him awake for over a week now, although he rarely coughs during his waking hours. We tried a humidifier in his room and putting his crib mattress at an incline, but neither seemed to help much so it's mostly just been a waiting game. As the stay-at-home parent, I handle all the night wake-ups unless I'm completely burnt out and too frustrated. So I've been spending a lot of hours either sleeping with a baby in my arms, running back and forth across the hall to soothe a coughing baby back to sleep, or simply sitting in the nursery holding him while he coughs in his sleep. It's been a rough week! We finally seem to be coming out of it, though.

Between the RSV, three new teeth, and this new cold, it's been a difficult month or so for our baby and us, too. Brandon and I both caught Lucas's cold so we've been dealing with that as well. It's a lot harder to recover from illness when you're only being allowed 4-5 hours of broken sleep per night!

For the moment, we all appear to be back to health. Let's hope it lasts for a few weeks!

In more exciting news, Lucas turns 9 months old this weekend! I'll save his 9-month update for a couple weeks, after we see his doctor to get his official stats. My guess is that this is the month my Biggest Boy falls back onto the growth charts, even if he is wearing 18-month size clothes now.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Budget Talk: Groceries

One of my household responsibilities has always been meal planning and grocery shopping. I enjoy both, and left to his own devices, Brandon would come home with a car full of brand names, ice cream, and Tater Tots. We're lucky not to have an extremely tight food budget at the moment, so I don't need to be crazy cheap with the meals I make for us.

One thing that never particularly worked for me was couponing. I tried my hand at it a bit when we still got the Sunday paper, but the coupons in the paper are pretty worthless. They're all for brand name items and processed, unhealthy foods. Generally, even if I wanted to buy the item, the store brand was considerably cheaper. Now, the only coupons I use are the store-specific coupons that Ralphs sends me in the mail. This helps me save maybe $5 or so on a good week. In addition, I get online and look at the weekly ad and try to plan meals around sale items, which also cuts down on the total weekly bill.

Recently they sent me four $10 coupons to entice me to remain a Ralphs shopper since my closest Ralphs recently closed. No problem there -- I've tried to shop at both Albertsons and Vons and hated it. I've gotten my groceries at Ralphs for the entire decade that I've been responsible for my own groceries -- it's the only chain where I know how to easily find everything I am looking for. In other grocery stores, I just wander the aisles like a spaced-out lunatic, bouncing back and forth a dozen times until I manage to find everything on the list. When you shop at the same grocery store, you get to know the sales and how to work the rewards system also, which helps to save a little more.

We buy most of our meat and household products at Costco. We invested in a deep-freezer for the garage about a year ago, which is nice because we can stock up there once a month and then I rarely have to buy any meat at the regular grocery store. I also find that we save money by getting the following at Costco: diapers, wipes, shampoo, soap, dishwasher and laundry soap, paper products, toothpaste, contact solution, coffee, cereal, and cheese. It's also great for when you throw a party. I never get produce there, though, because we don't go through it quickly enough.

Most of our produce comes from our weekly CSA (community-supported agriculture) box. We use Abundant Harvest Organics. This allows us to eat good quality organic produce, but it's also seasonal. Winter is the worst, week after week of turnips, radishes, and squash. We only get one every other week in the winter and fall, and bump it up to weekly in the spring and summer when we like the produce better. This costs slightly more than I was spending on produce at the store, by about $5 weekly, but I think it's worth it. Especially now that I use the produce to make baby food for Lucas.

Some weeks are tighter than others, but I enjoy the challenge of groceries and meal planning. Plus, Lucas adores the grocery store so it's a fun outing for us on Saturday so Brandon can have a little time to himself.

If you got through all that, here's a photo of Lucas's first trip to the store when he was about 6 months old.