Holiday Baking!

I consider myself to be more a chef than a baker at any point during the year. Recipes are not really my friend and I don’t normally have the patience for baking. The exception is during the holidays! I’m known to bake anywhere from 10-20 dozen cookies during the holiday season and this year is no different. I lost track where I’m at right now, but I think somewhere around 15 dozen.

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We’ve delivered cookies to our neighbors, enjoyed some treats to ourselves and shared them with friends from work and at our holiday party. Now all that’s left is baking at least one more batch of something to share with family for Christmas and then bring some to the NICU and Antepartum {where I stayed during the end of my pregnancy} on Christmas Eve, a tradition we started last year.

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Ben and Edina had fun decorating delicious sugar cookies last week. Thanks for the pictures, Edina!

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I tweaked the sugar cookie recipe that I had used in the past and turned it into my own recipe this year and combined that with a different frosting recipe. Two thumbs up!

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Additionally, we made linzer cookies, peanut butter blossoms, and new this year, Irish shortbread toffee bars. Normally I make peppermint bark but I got such a great deal on buying it from Williams Sonoma that I saved myself a little time and purchased it. It’s really hard to pick a favorite, and not to toot my own horn but they’re all really, really good this year.

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Ben has become quite the helper in the kitchen and loves to watch me cook or bake. We’ve got a step stool that is perfect for him to pull up to the counter and lend a hand once in a while. He gets so excited to be included!

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Fourth Annual Holiday Party

Hosting our holiday party has become quite a fun tradition we look forward to every year. We’ve learned a lot over the last few years and definitely had it dialed in this year. We tried a few new foods and continued our same laid-back approach to the soiree and it was wonderful.

{not our best family photo, but the best of the bunch!}

{not our best family photo, but the best of the bunch!}

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{this year's spread included: a beautiful and bountiful cheese board; crudite platter; chicken skewers; caramelized onion, mushroom and gruyere puffs; brie and apple puffs; Christmas pinwheels;  dips from our local Greek restaurant, paired with their pita; and a big plate of cookies.}

{This year’s spread included: a beautiful and bountiful cheese board; crudite platter; chicken skewers; caramelized onion, mushroom and gruyere puffs; brie and apple puffs; Christmas pinwheels; dips from our local Greek restaurant, paired with their pita; and a big plate of cookies.}

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{Having fun with the "portrait" mode on our new phone!}

{Having fun with the “portrait” mode on our new phone!}

{The chef!}

{The chef!}

{This year's signature drink was Bee Keeper Punch.}

{This year’s signature drink was Bee Keeper Punch.}

{Plenty of bubbly and sparkling rose to go around.}

{Plenty of bubbly and sparkling rose to go around.}

{The Millers arrived a little early to help taste-test :) }

{The Millers arrived a little early to help taste-test 🙂 }

I had so much fun looking back on the last three parties – my oh my how life has changed. We have a really great time putting together these parties and are so grateful to have so many friends in Seattle to enjoy the holidays with.

Third annual party

Second annual party

First annual party

New Craftsman Cabinets

We’ve known for months {read: a year} that our dining room’s open shelving, housing our wine, liquor, serving dishes and wine glasses, would need some childproofing. Parenting, life and whatnot got in the way and it took us a while to get on top of hiring a carpenter to build us some doors to close in the cabinets. I’m happy to report that they’re officially childproofed!

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We hired John of Evans Renovation to design and build some cabinet doors. He was wonderful to work with and we couldn’t be happier with our new doors. It’s such a little thing but it makes a significant difference in appearance, and most importantly, safety.

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Now that the project is complete we’re thrilled with how it looks. The doors look like they’re original to our 1909 house – it’s like they’ve been here all along! John picked out some beautiful skeleton keys to lock the cabinets and keep true with the style of our little craftsman. We absolutely love this new addition to our dining room!

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Ben is 18 Months Old!

Our baby really isn’t a baby anymore. He’s a year and a half old!!! Lately he has been acting more and more like a toddler and frankly, a little boy. This last month’s theme is, without a doubt, communication. Ben’s vocabulary and comprehension is soaring in the most exciting way. He is such a little sponge and a parrot {realized we have to start being mindful of what we say!} and he has begun to really follow simple directions quite well.

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Ben just had his 18-month check-up and here are his stats:

  • Weight: 22 pounds 6 ounces (10th percentile – still a peanut!)
  • Height: 32 inches (50th percentile!)
  • Clothing size: he’s still in 12-18 months but he’s about to break into 18-24 in tops, definitely not bottoms {of course this is brand dependent}
  • Number of teeth: 7…. two molars are just starting to poke through though now, finally, so soon we’ll be at 9+
  • Favorite foods: sausage, broccoli{!}, applesauce, cottage cheese
  • New foods: artichokes!, finally likes brussels sprouts!
  • Favorite activities: pointing out airplanes, running, climbing, shaking his finger saying “uh uh uh”, dancing, making people laugh, playing peek-a-boo, reading stories

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At the time Ben turned 17 months he was just coming off of a little rough patch health-wise. He had lost quite a bit of weight and was not sleeping well. I’m so, so, so pleased to report that is a thing of the past. After a couple days of drinking protein shakes and eating a ton Ben’s weight started to bounce back. We introduced probiotics and vitamin d drops as a way to help improve his gut and immune system and it sure seems to be working. AND by some miracle he went the entire rest of the month without getting sick!

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One helpful thing we did to work on getting Ben’s sleep back on track was purchase a tot clock {AKA “ok to wake” clock}. We opted for the fancy Hatch Baby Rest “clock” which is more of a night light/sound machine. It is so cool and Ben picked up on it right away. How it works is that at 6:45 p.m. the orange sleep light comes on and it starts playing soothing lullabies. That’s our cue that it’s time for Ben to get into his sleep sack and have some cuddles, bedtime stories and milk. At 7:00 p.m. the lullabies change to white noise {our house is so loud we use white noise to drown out the creaky floor and noisy pets} and it’s time for bed.

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At 6:20 a.m. the light turns green and the white noise/green light stay on. The green light signals it’s okay to be awake. Really, I can’t believe how quickly he picked up on this. One night I was so exhausted from getting up with Ben and Alex having been sick all week that I just didn’t get out of Bed when Ben woke up in the middle of the night. Or was it 4 a.m. like he had been doing for weeks? I was so tired I can’t remember. He whined a bit and then put himself back to bed a short while bit later. We didn’t go in the next morning until the green light went on and I kid you not, that’s all he needed. From that night on, we haven’t gone in there and he hasn’t needed us in the middle of the night. Some mornings he’ll wake up too early and talk to himself or put himself back to sleep until the light turns green. Other mornings he won’t wake up until after the light turns green and then he lets us know it’s time to get up. Also, Ben started sleeping with a pillow!!

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Now that we’re all caught up on sleep, everything is wonderful. Ben’s vocabulary is growing by several words a day. Some new words he learned this last month are: Santa, Sarah, tree, artichoke {a new favorite food of his!}, fire and trash. We’re estimating his vocabulary is about 60 words right now {that’s only words he knows in context and can identify solely on his own – he’ll repeat pretty much anything you ask him to at this point}. We’re really working on names of people.

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About a month ago we had a revelation that we’d been holding Ben back from eating with utensils. It’s so so so much easier to spoon feed him when he’s eating something like applesauce, cottage cheese or oatmeal, so that’s what we did. After seeing a friend a month younger than Ben completely master using her spoon to eat mac & cheese we realized we needed to give Ben that freedom. Turns out, he was ready! Now if only he could quickly figure out how to drink from an open cup! 🙂

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It’s so neat to see Ben’s comprehension solidify in new ways. We’ve found that he’s able to follow so many simple instructions – “Ben, go sit on the mat and drink your milk” or when I was in the kitchen one day I said “Ben, go put your jammies in the laundry please” and I was shocked that he did. And he even takes the time to make sure they’re totally in the laundry and not hanging over the side. Type A like his mama!?

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As a baby, Ben was not into cuddling. Thank goodness he is now! He is really in a cuddle phase and loves to be picked up and snuggled. I had a really sweet moment one afternoon when I got to cuddle in my bed with him and take a little snooze together.

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Something I’ll never forget about this time in his life is how he repeats, over and over and over, the name of his nanny. He truly says her name around 100-150 times a day. “Edina!” “Edina!” “Edina, Edina, Edina!” It is so sweet how much he adores her. And I know the feeling is mutual!

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In addition to Ben’s vocabulary, another theme this month has been climbing. Holy climbing. Ben is currently trying to climb anything and everything. He just grew a smidge and it was enough to give him the height he needs to climb into a chair. That’s going to be interesting! In a very short period of time he figured out how to safely climb down the stairs or get off of something high up, like our bed. It seemed like overnight I stopped worrying about him going down the stairs.

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One thing I find so impressive about Ben is that he practices things so intentionally. I’m not sure if this is something all kids do, and either way, it is so impressive that when he’s learning a new skill he wants to do it over and over and over to build mastery. He’s been doing this a lot on random staircases or at the park. I can sit back at the playground and he’ll climb up the little tot steps and go down the slide safely all by himself. I’m really not sure when he became such a big kid.

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Ben continues to be quite the entertainer! He is definitely a Rossdeutcher {Alex’s mom’s side} and loves to be the center of attention. He loves making people smile and laugh and wants to be sure people know he’s there. He’s the master of blowing kisses, he loves dancing – especially to Outkast and Notorious BIG {seriously} or really anything if you tell him to dance. He has started repeating names of people and will say “hello” and “ta ta” and can say “ho ho ho” when you ask him what Santa says.

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Ben is such a happy little boy. He laughs a lot, smiles and plays peek-a-boo any chance he gets. There are days when he’s a little whiny and he is getting more advanced and dramatic at throwing tantrums, but overall, he’s a really easy-going, loving, sweet boy.

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Here we are – on to the next month and the next milestones. Our little Benjamin continues to amaze us and we are so grateful to be his parents.

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Early December

This holiday season is shaping up to be quite a memorable one! Ben is at such a fun age to where he’s starting to understand so much that I think he’ll really get into things this year. We have a lot of holiday and seasonal activities planned – I can hardly wait to experience this holiday season with our family.

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Earlier this fall I bought a beautiful advent calendar. I received it in the mail and was floored at how gigantic it is. The advent calendars I grew up with were the cardboard kind where you open the window each day of advent and that was that. This new calendar had pockets for every day. I was completely thrown off by how to use this calendar and ended up deciding to fill each pocket with a holiday/seasonal activity for that day.

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It’s kind of nice because it forced me to sit down with my calendar and idea list and plot what I wanted to do when and really plan out the month of December. I came up with some really fun ideas and realized that there’s a lot we wanted to do and not that much time so it also brought me back to reality.

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One of our first advent activities was cutting down our Christmas tree, followed by decorating it the next day. We went to Trinity Tree Farm in Issaquah to cut down our tree this year. Last year we purchased a pre-cut tree from them. Last year’s tree was the most beautiful tree either one of us had ever had and this year’s blows last year’s out of the water. Our tree this year is stunning!

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We picked a very typical Pacific Northwest day to go get our tree. It was POURING. Thankfully we all had our rain boots and positive attitudes. Ben loved jumping in the puddles – right now he’s obsessed with water in all forms and couldn’t get over the act of puddle jumping.

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Alex was a true family hero when he tackled the acts of cutting down the tree and tying the tree on the car himself. It was a multi-person job managing Ben and it required both Edina and me to corral him and keep him from diving into a puddle headfirst. I saw photos of a friend of mine who has three kids under 5 and she and her husband brought their kids and their dog to cut down the tree {mind you, they didn’t also have an extra set of hands there like we did!} and they seemed to have managed just fine. I have no idea how.

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Decorating the Christmas tree was adorable. Ben really seemed to get the concept. While he didn’t really successfully hang any ornaments, he placed them on branches or he pointed out where he thought a good place for a pretty ornament would be. His favorite part, though, was climbing the step stool and being a little entertainer.

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I feel like we’re in pretty good shape for the holidays at this point. There’s a lot we need to do to prepare for the rest of the season and it is all so much fun!! This is by far our favorite time of year. We get so much joy in entertaining and spending time with family and friends, especially during the magical holiday season.

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Ali’s Favorite Things 2017

Per the request of one of my friends, I put together an “Ali’s Favorite Things” list. I knew I had done this before but I didn’t realize it was three years ago already. It’s funny looking back on that list because every single one of those items I mentioned would be on my list today still. Definitely check out my original list – some goodies on there, for sure!

Big & Small Set of Kitchen Tongs

Silly, I know, but I absolutely love having a little pair of tongs around. We have four {or is it five?} pairs of tongs in our “gadgets” drawer and there are more days than I expected that all of the tongs are in the dishwasher. I guess you can never have too many tongs!

 

Fancy Measuring Cups & Spoons

Who doesn’t love a set of fancy measuring cups and spoons?

 

100 Days of Real Food: Fast and Fabulous

An update to my 2014 list – Lisa’s new cookbook focuses on weeknight meals. I have made so, so, so many of these recipes and they have become staples in my repertoire. Some favorites: chicken chili, veggie and bean burritos, snack bars and so many lunch ideas!

Speaking of food – here are a few of my favorite meals to make these days:

Killers of the Flower Moon

Ok, so, I really haven’t read nearly as many books this calendar year as I had hoped, but even if I had read a book a day, Killers of the Flower Moon would still be at the top of my list. This book is about the murders of the Osage Indians back in the 1920s and is so fascinating, disturbing and unbelievable.

 

Glassybabies

Glassybaby votive holders have become rather special in our home. We live just four blocks from the Glassybaby glass blowing studio and these little votives are a fixture in our neighborhood and now our home. They’re a signature Seattle item – most Seattleites have a vast collection. They are so beautiful, all hand made right here in Madrona and every Glassybaby supports a different cause.

 

Faux Sheepskin Throw

Pottery Barn does not disappoint with this super cozy throw. I got it as a throw but it ended up becoming a layer in our bedding because I love snuggling up with it. Our cat doesn’t seem to mind this either! 😉

 

Zella Keep It Cool Crop Leggings

Apparently these are everyone else’s favorite leggings too because they’re sold out at Nordstrom right now! These are my most favorite leggings I have ever had. Keep checking back!

 

Athleta Beyond Soft Pranayama Wrap

This is one of the coziest little sweater/wraps I’ve ever had. I love wrapping myself up in it in the morning or the evenings and being all cozy. It’s great to pair with leggings to go to the gym/studio or wear around the house or with your favorite athleisure combo out and about.

 

Lalicious Sugar Scrub

I use this incredible scrub on my feet every other day in the shower and it’s divine. I love the smell {brown sugar vanilla is my favorite}, the way it feels and the texture. Plus, it makes my feet so soft!

 

CND Vinylux Nail Polish

Vinylux nail polish has been my go-to for several years now. You have to get the top coat, too. I can get 7-10 days from a manicure with this nail polish and I’ve gotten as many as 7 days doing my own nails.

 

Arbonne Calm Daily Moisturizer

I tried to veer from this and only ended up disappointed. This moisturizer feels so light and calming on my sensitive skin. It’s really nice stuff!

Thanksgiving 2017

We certainly have a lot to be grateful for this year – and what a wonderful year it has been. One of the things I’m most thankful for is our family. I’m also so unbelievably grateful that we have had such an incredible nanny raising Ben alongside us for the last 14+ months who has become a part of our little family. I’m so grateful for the time we got to spend last week as a family. To me, the best part of the holidays is the immense time with family that comes with the season.

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Alex and I had quite a bit of time off of work to enjoy the holiday week together with Ben and Edina, as well as my mom, who came out for part of the week from Minnesota. We got to show my mom Ben’s school and one of the community centers he plays at, we all experienced the Seattle Gingerbread Village for the first time and we spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen preparing food for our Thanksgiving feast.

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Overall, it was a pretty low-key and relaxing holiday. The food turned out really well – my favorite was the sweet potato casserole, something I had never made before, nor was it a staple in my family’s Thanksgiving. I absolutely loved it. We tried some new recipes but stayed true to our turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing recipe. My mom and Edina were very helpful in the kitchen.

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On Saturday, Alex, Ben, Edina and I headed east over the mountains to Yakima to pick up some wine from our wine club before they close their doors for the winter. We bumped into our good friend Carrie and her family, including little Roslyn, at the winery, too!

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It felt really early according to the calendar, but after Alex did some major re-organizing, I pulled out my boxes of Christmas decorations and got our house ready for the season! Ben came with me to the garden store near us and helped me pick out a wreath and some pine boughs and I’ll pick up a garland this weekend. I think we’re ready!

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We ended the weekend with a really nice dinner over at my Aunt Cathy and Uncle Michael’s home, joined by my cousins and their families. It was so fun watching Ben and Henry {age 2.5} play together and see baby Claire {8 months} crawl around and join everyone at the table. We also walked down to the water to see the Christmas ships – there’s basically a boat parade with ships decked out in lights. We caught the tail end of it!

I was really sad to see all of our family time come to an end when we put Ben to bed on Sunday. I love our family time so much and it was extra special having so many days to spend together. Happy holidays!

Day Trip to Leavenworth

I have apparently fallen behind in keeping up our blog. Oopsies! In any case, a few weeks ago we took the opportunity to head out to Leavenworth to check on our property and see some snow. It was such a wonderful day – Edina joined us and we got to play in the snow, eat sausage and spend time together.

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We made an impromptu coffee/stretch stop at Stevens Pass. Alex and I were visualizing our future here – we’re so excited to get Ben started with ski lessons in a couple years {we’re thinking age 3 for lessons} and it’s so fun imagining family ski days up at Stevens.

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Our timing ended up coinciding with our land surveyor – we crossed paths with him while he was at our property marking off the lot lines. Alex got to help him out a bit and we learned that our lot lines were a little different than we expected, in a very good way. We were able to pick the spot on the property where our house will be built.

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It was pretty rainy when we were on our lot so the views weren’t anything like what they are on a crisp, clear day, but man, it is so gorgeous over there. I still feel like I need to pinch myself every time we go to our lot.

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We couldn’t go all the way to Leavenworth without going into town for some sausage. Plus, Edina had never been there before so we had to show her around. We strolled the town, enjoyed delicious sausages from our favorite spot, grabbed a coffee for the drive home, then packed up and headed west.

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It was a very quick trip and a lot of time for Ben to be in the car {thankfully he had his buddy in the back seat keeping him company} and we all had a really memorable time!

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**All of these photos are courtesy of Edina’s fancy new iPhone — part of my lack of keeping the blog updated this month is because my phone storage is full and I haven’t been taking many photos. Alex’s and my new iPhones are expected to arrive next week!

Big Changes Ahead

A few weeks ago we found out that our beloved nanny will be leaving us by the end of the calendar year. We had anticipated this was coming since she is graduating in December, but nonetheless it was pretty devastating to hear the final verdict. We all absolutely adore her and Ben will truly be heartbroken when she leaves us.

Edina moved in with us at the beginning of October and everything is going very well. Ben quickly realized that now Edina is just downstairs so he walks all over the house calling her name in the mornings, evenings or on the weekends when we haven’t seen her yet. He is crazy about Edina! It is so sweet but it’s going to be so, so sad when she leaves. Edina is constantly singing or talking to Ben – I swear she’s at least 75% of the reason he is talking so much. She literally is constantly talking to him. It’s incredible. We will be forever grateful to her.

We quickly realized we needed to figure out what we’re going to do to replace her position – we still need childcare after all. After mulling over some options, we’ve decided to hire an au pair. An au pair is someone who comes from another country to live with a host family and provide childcare in exchange for immersing herself in our culture. It is a government regulated program and is considered a cultural exchange.

I’m excited to report that we have been successfully “matched” with an au pair! She is from Panama and she speaks Spanish {as well as very good English}. We are really happy to be welcoming a Spanish-speaker to our family and look forward to Ben learning more Spanish. So, we’ll be ending 2017 by saying “see you later” to Edina and starting 2018 off transitioning to a brand new caregiver and housemate.