Tuesday, November 20, 2012

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Little Photographer

This year we are giving Cati a camera for Christmas. I think my constant picture taking has paid off in the most interesting of ways and now Cati loves to take pictures. She knows how to take pictures with my phone and with the point & shoot. The best part is that she will even tell us to pose and smile for pictures. Could Cati be a photographer when she grows up? Who knows but she sure does know how to take some good pictures:


I don't know if I have ever said this on here but Cati really does amaze me. Before I had kids I honestly thought kids didn't have a personality or do anything interesting before the age of five. At 2.5 years old, Cati has a big personality and is already showing us what she does and doesn't like. I love seeing her grow and develop and I love seeing the things she takes interest in. Today it's photography and I look forward to whatever tomorrow brings.

Monday, November 19, 2012

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Red Velvet Cookies

So I have been on a bit of a red velvet kick around here. Soon after making the red velvet brownies I went ahead and made these cookies. The best part about this recipe was its simplicity of ingredients. For as much as I like baking things 100% from scratch, I also enjoy baking things that come together quickly by using cake mix. The original recipe had these cookies rolled in powdered sugar but instead of doing that I added white chocolate chips. I'd say that was a great change and now I can add red velvet chocolate chip cookies to my chocolate chip cooking baking obsession.

Red Velvet Cookies 
Source: The Novice Chef
Yield about two dozen cookies

6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
18.25 oz box Red Velvet Cake Mix
1/2 to 3/4 cup white chocolate chips

 Preheat oven to 375°F and line two cookie sheets with a silicon mat or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine butter, eggs and red velvet cake mix until there are no large lumps left. Stir in white chocolate chips.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls (about 1 tablespoon worth of dough) and place on cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches for spreading.

 Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the tops have cracked and the tops look set (the centers will still be gooey). Let sit for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

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Elina: Nine Months

Dear Elina,

Happy nine months sweet girl. This past month has been one of the best months with you. I feel like I'm a little slow to the game but this past month is when I really felt bonded to you. I've always felt bonded to you but now I feel really confident in how you are growing and developing and I feel like you are my little buddy. Perhaps it was all the baby wearing on our first family vacation or us getting comfortable in our daily routine while Cati's in school. Maybe it was the smiles that great me throughout the day or the kisses or the coming to me when I call you or the giggles you spontaneously bust out in or your babbling and dinosaur hissing noises. Or maybe it was just reflecting on you reaching this inside-outside milestone where you have gone from two cells to a real person with a unique personality in 18 months.  Whatever it was, I am thankful. I am a late bloomer when it comes to motherhood, but this falling in love slowly is everything I could ask for and a dream come true.

You continue to develop and your achievements leave me in awe. You stand, you take assisted steps, you climb up stairs, you will try whatever food I put in front of you (you put your dad to shame!), you smile, you, laugh, you giggle, you play independently for a few minutes, you have a killer pincer grasp, and you love to play with your sister. Your mouth is full of five teeth and you have started letting me feed you pureed vegetables, even though I still need to give you something you can grab and chew. Bananas are your favorite fruit and you seem to really enjoy squash.

You're just a little person. More than anything this past month, you've just become more of a little person. I can watch you play for hours, watch you move things from hand to hand or to your mouth, watch you bang things and all I'm thinking is, "please keep playing so I can discover you some more." When you grabbed a toy and started giggling on your own I knew that you were on your way to being undeniably you, Elina Gabriela.

For the past nine months I have seen you grow from a tiny baby that fit snuggly in my arms to a big baby that climbs all over me and gives me wet kisses. It's hard to believe your first year of life is winding down, that soon you will be a toddler and these days of babyness will be behind us, but oh how I have enjoyed you.

Happy nine months Elina. I may not have done a great job at tracking your development or of taking pictures of you but know that I have loved you wildly and fiercely and that I have relished you without restraint.

Love always,

Friday, November 16, 2012

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Inside Outside

Thirty-nine weeks. Inside and outside. I still remember taking the pregnancy test that would create a new mark of time for us. The countdown began on June 13, 2011 with that first pink line. We waited and waited and I, once again, marveled at my body's ability to grow, expand, and accommodate a new life. From two cells, brought together by love, a person began to take root. Each day brought new developments and achievements. For 39 weeks miracles happened everyday. From two cells to a cluster of cells to viability to full-term; from indistinguishable blob to uniquely you.
Photo by Simply Captivating
For 39 weeks I thought about you, dreamed about you, wanted you. Perhaps not as obsessively as I did the first time around, but definitely as intensely. Those 39 weeks were punctuated with moments of stress but we made it through together. In the end, 39 weeks in, you came into the world just as I hoped and dreamed you would. You changed my life, our lives, and even my view of motherhood.
You were born on February 17, 2012 and in those 39 weeks since I have seen us all grow. I have seen Cati grow into a caring, loving, and thoughtful sister. I have seen your dad grow even more weak in the knees. I have seen myself grow more comfortable and at ease in this motherhood skin. Of course, the one who has changed the most has been you. 
Photo by Simply Captivating
In 39 weeks you have gone from a helpless little infant to a blabbering, crawling, standing, grabbing, constantly moving baby. Thirty-nine weeks ago I could swaddle you with ease. Today, just getting you to lay on your back is a battle. Thirty-nine weeks ago I had to do everything for you. Today, you still need for to do a lot, but there is so much you can do on your own. In the past 39 weeks you have learned how to give back with your smiles, kisses, and calls for attention. 
On the one hand, it astounds me how much you have accomplished in just 39 weeks. On the other hand, I know all that you will accomplish in the weeks to come thanks to Cati. I feel as if I am in this beautiful position of having treasured your past, relishing your present, and anticipating the future.

There is so much I want to say. So many ways I wish I could express my love. I have been trying to do it for the past 78 weeks. Where you were physically may have been different but the aim was always the same: provide you with a safe and loving environment that will nurture your growth. You have been outside as long as you were inside. Time plays bittersweet tricks on us and soon this milestone, which is only truly meaningful for me, will be behind us. Many milestones await us, but for today, as I look at my flat belly and my arms full of you, I am thankful.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

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Red Velvet Brownies

I love red velvet. I love red velvet in all its forms. Here are some red velvet brownies that were simply perfect. I made the full recipe of the frosting but only used half of it because I'm not a big frosting eater. Even so, there was enough frosting to create that classic red velvet-cream cheese combination. This is the type of dessert I wish everyone could eat. I think the world would be a happier place if that were possible.

Red Velvet Brownies
Source: What Megan's Making

1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1-1/2 c. sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 oz. liquid red food coloring
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
4 T. butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/2 c. sifted powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325°. Line a 9x9 baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang so you can lift out the brownies when they're done. Spray foil with nonstick spray.

In a large saucepan over low heat, stir together butter and chocolate until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and whisk in the sugar and eggs. Stir in the vanilla, salt, and food coloring. Sift flour and baking powder over mixture and stir to blend well. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top springs back when touched and a tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs. Cool completely in pan on rack.

For the frosting: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and powdered sugar. Remove the brownies from the pan using the foil and cover with the frosting. Cut into bite size squares to serve.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

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The Glow Run 5K

My November fitness event was almost two weeks ago. I have had this post on my to-do list for almost as long. I had come across The Glow Run 5K back in August and thought the whole concept was cool.  Glow necklaces, glow glasses, a 5K run on the beach at night. Doesn't that sound cool? In a way, the race was what I expected and in another way, it wasn't. I knew the run would be in the dark but for some reason I thought there would be more things to "glow" the way. I also didn't expect half the run to be on the beach. Have you ever ran on the beach? It is hard and it is even harder when you can't see the ground! I almost fell a few times but reaching the finish line felt so good. I finished in 35:12. Considering I did close to 7.5 miles with my group that same morning, that time felt really good.

The one thing this race did for me is confirm how not South Beach I am. There's just a certain crowd and atmosphere that makes up South Beach and it's not my scene. As soon as I finished the race I was ready to leave. House music and half naked people dancing on a stage are not my idea of a good time. My idea of a good time was the steak dinner that I had after we left the race.

I'm debating whether or not to do the Turkey Trot next week. Otherwise, my next fitness event is Color Me Rad in Austin on December 8th and possibly my first half marathon on December 29th.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

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Life Lately

Trying to "have it all" is easier said than done. Trying to do it all is even harder. I'm four weeks away from being done with school and it's taking all the energy I have to sprint to the finish line. I'm still waiting for things to get "easier" with the girls  and although some things have gotten easier, things have gotten so much harder. Both my girls are mobile and, while they're demands may be different, they still demand a present and participating mama. My lap and arms are prime real estate around here and as soon as one child vacates the space, the other jumps in to fill the void. Dr. Seuss said it the best when he said, "Life's a great balancing act."

Whenever people ask me how I'm doing I always say I'm surviving. Each day is a triumph. There are moments of frustration, meltdowns, tears, and big emotions. But, there are also moments of spontaneous kisses and "I love you very much." There are sweet sisterly exchanges that capture my heart and tender hugs that remind me why I choose Alex to live this crazy life with. Everyday is about surviving, but it's also about enjoying those moments that make you smile at the beauty that is a life well lived.

The updates on life have been sparse around here. The one thing that always gets neglected when things get busy is the blog. I have so much to say but when it comes time to put those words down, there's always something else that needs to be done first. Today though, there will be an update. In the past two months:
  • I have become an aunt. Carolina Michelle was born on September 29, 2012 and was 8.5 lbs of baby love. 
  • I have said good-bye to my sister as she left Miami to live in Austin, Texas. I miss her so much and not having her here makes Miami feel so empty. 
  • We went on our first family vacation. The last time we went to Disney we had just started dating. To go back now, with two kids, was such a surreal moment. 
  • I spent a whole weekend alone and it felt sooo good. Alex was away for work and the girls stayed with the grandparents. I ran with the wind, ate without sharing, slept without interruption, and missed the girls incredibly. The breaks was long overdue and I felt so refreshed and ready to take on another day. 
  • I spoke to my mom after more than two and half years of not talking. It was shocking and different and, as with everything, it's all a process. 
  • I booked a flight to Austin, Texas to visit the family over there. I can't wait to see my sweet niece again and I am just a tiny bit terrified of traveling with two children by myself. 
  • Elina has started to take assisted steps, somehow has a mouth full of five teeth, and has started to drink formula (more on that later). 
  • Cati has started yoga and loves to test boundaries, particularly with Alex. She is in the categorizing stage of development and has begun to pay attention to labels and groupings. While I know this is normal, it saddens me that I won't be able to control the way she sees the world anymore because she is paying attention to the labels and groupings other people used. For example, it broke my heart to hear her call herself "shy" because someone at school called her that and it bothered me to hear her say she liked a toy because it was a "girl" toy. I don't want her labeling herself when (a) she doesn't know what the word means and (b) what if she sees herself differently? I also don't want her seeing things as only for boys or only for girls because then she is going to start limiting or censoring herself. 
  • I have had to learn and learn and learn again that parenting is hard and it isn't always what you think or want it to be (see above). There is so much we don't have control over as parents. I just hope I am doing a good enough job that allows the girls to accept themselves wholly and approach the world without restraint. 
And that is life lately. It feels like a lot has happened in the last two months and, at the same time, it feels like barely anything has happened. Either way, time keeps on ticking and soon tomorrow will be here.

By the way, any tips on traveling with kids? How about things to do in Austin?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

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M&M Confetti Cookies

I have been baking and, at the same time, I really haven't been baking. I bake about once a week now and it's usually cookies because I like to bake cookies and they seem to be the type of dessert that fits in well with our lifestyle, especially the grab-and-go lifestyle of two kids almost always on the move. I came across this recipe and knew I would wait until a special day to make them for Cati because M&Ms are her favorite candy. I made these while she was at school and, as soon as she was strapped into her car seat, I told her I had something special waiting for her at home. The funny thing is that she somehow knew I had baked cookies. The best part is that she knew exactly what was in the cookies just by looking at them. These cookies are crunchy and chewy and were a big hit at home and at my school. I can't wait to make them again with more colorful M&Ms. 

M&M Confetti Cookies
Source: Just Baked
Makes about 30 cookies 

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar   
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg and 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 oz bag of M & Ms, crushed (more or less to your liking)

Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, the yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed (or mix by hand with a spatula) just until combined. Crush the M&Ms in a big Ziploc bag with a rolling pin (or any other heavy object you have handy) . Stir in the crushed M&Ms.

Using a cookie scoop, scoop out dough and place on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart. 

Bake until the cookies are light golden brown, the outer edges start to harden, and  yet the centers are still soft and puffy, about 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheets.  Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a wide metal spatula.

Monday, November 5, 2012

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First Family Vacation

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We took our first family vacation two weekends ago and decided to go to the happiest place on Earth: Disney. We drove up to Orlando on a Saturday (after my first ever 6-mile AM run!) and drove down to Miami on a Monday. Because we stayed at my aunt's house we were able to stay longer and be in complete comfort. There were many tantrums (on the first day Cati cried and cried because she didn't want to go to Disney), interesting sleeping arrangements, and a lot of picture taking. Despite not being able to ride much with the two girls, we were able to do quite a bit. We went to all four parks and even had dinner at Downtown Disney on the first day there.

The first park we went to was Magic Kingdom and this park had the most rides for us to ride. Cati's favorite was the "It's a Small World" ride and now she sings the song around the house when she's in a good mood. My favorite part about this park was seeing Alex and Cati ride the race cars together.


The second park we went to was Animal Kingdom and this one had the most opportunity for character pictures. I thought Cati would be freaked out but she loved all the characters, especially Minnie Mouse, Tigger, and Daisy Duck. It was also at this park that we found out how scared Cati was of dark rooms and loud noises (Rainforest Cafe and The Bug's Life show). The best part about Animal Kingdom was seeing how excited Cati was during the safari ride. While at this park we told Cati she could have whatever she wanted from the Rainforest Cafe store. Do you know what she chose? A pink hat. With all the toys and stuffed animals and candy, she chose a hat. I love that kid.

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On our last day in Orlando we went to Hollywood Studios and Epcot. We ended up doing both because there wasn't much for us to do at either park except walk around. This was the perfect way to spend our last day in Orlando because it was low-key. We even got to do something adult-ish with the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot.

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Elina was the "easy" one on the trip and spent most of the time in the sling. Cati had her tantrums and thought bedtime was a game, but, for the most part, she behaved so well. So well, in fact, that we can't wait to go back again.

Friday, November 2, 2012

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October Foodie Pen Pal


Always, always late with these posts. It's been a busy week here with Alex being on vacation, us taking our first family trip, and me having a test on Wednesday. Anyway, this month my pen pal was Pam from the North Oregon Coast and she sent me a box full of goodies and even some Halloween-themed napkins. The best part is that Pam sent me Moonstruck chocolate, which is currently my favorite chocolate.
  • Ocean Spray Original Craisins
  • Moonstruck Milk Chocolate
  • Moonstruck Dark Chocolate
  • AncientHarvest Quinoa Inca Red (I already tried this and even Elina approves!)
  • Black beans
  • Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oats
  • Private Selection Oregon Marion Blackberry spread
  • Jack-o-lantern napkins
For more information on Foodie Penpals visit Lindsey's blog, The Lean Green Bean. The deadline to participate for November is the 4th so head on over. Participating is fun and easy; $15 limit and you get to shop for your pen pal when you do your regular grocery shopping.
The Lean Green Bean