Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Traditions

Well, this week hasn't exactly proceeded as planned. Yesterday around 11 am, Marshall woke up from a nap crying inconsolably and just wouldn't stop. Except two more short naps (in the Ergo, because he screamed louder if I put him down), he screamed for four hours. I was at a total loss for how to help the poor little guy. My best guess is teething. 

Needless to say, those errands I mentioned didn't happen yesterday. Instead we spent most of the day pacing around the house, cuddling, trying to find distractions to help Marshall calm down. I'm not sure I've ever been happier to see my husband come home on time from work!

After that nightmare, I was thrilled with my earlier decision to throw a chicken in a crock pot for dinner. All I had to do was mix up the ingredients for my favorite cornbread and saute some greens for creamed spinach. Great meal, and easy to make even with a fussy baby. 

Today has been much, much better. Marshall and I took off early in the morning for some shopping, and he did great! I was so relieved to have my happy buddy back!

And practicing his rocking on his hands and knees!

All over the blogosphere I've been reading about other families' holiday traditions. It's so fun to see what other people do around this time of year and read what makes Christmas special. I remember as a kid I felt like every year needed to have a few key elements, like leaving cookies and milk (later wine...hmm...) for Santa, opening stockings on my parents' bed, and eating my mom's breakfast casserole with a Cinnabon cinnamon roll on the side (my mom would buy one a day or two before Christmas and reheat it on the day). Terry says his favorite traditions from his childhood were spending Christmas Eve at his grandparents' house, eggnog and pastries on Christmas morning, and decorating the house for Christmas. 

Now that I'm older, married, and a mom, I still have a few must-do items for Christmas:
  • Watch Christmas favorites, like Love Actually and Charlie Brown Christmas. 
  • Listen to Christmas music while decorating the tree and/or wrapping gifts. 
  • Drive or walk around to look at Christmas lights.
We're starting to develop some new Christmas traditions this year with our first baby celebrating his first holiday season. I wonder which ones will stick and which will give way to other traditions in the future. Hopefully Marshall will come to appreciate the little things we do as a family. Terry and I both talk all the time about how much we each loved our traditions growing up, and I hope we can give that gift to Marshall. 

Tonight, we are heading out to check out Christmas lights near our neighborhood. When Marshall goes to bed, we'll drink some hot cocoa and wrap gifts by our tree. I can't imagine a more wonderful way to celebrate the season than spending this festive time with my two favorite people. 

What makes it feel like the holidays to you?

What's your funniest Christmas memory? Once I heard my mom scream in the living room, and when I ran out to find her she was buried under our giant Christmas tree, which had fallen on top of her. At 5-foot-tall, my mom was no match for our 17-foot tree that year! I couldn't help but laugh. And then I probably eventually helped her.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Getting a Jump on Celebrating Christmas

Aaaaannnnd we're back! I took a long weekend from the ol' blog for the sake of sanity and celebration around here. I'm glad to be back and to share the goings on from the last few days.

Throughout last week, we decorated our tree and put finishing touches on our apartment decorations. Some of our stuff is still up in storage, but we certainly managed to make the house feel cozy and Christmasy. I'll get around to taking some photos...eventually...but here's our tree!

(We finally got the tree skirt this weekend--found a great one at Marshalls! But we're still waiting for our tree topper to arrive sometime this week. We ordered this one from Amazon.)

We had a lot of fun pulling out all our ornaments and reminding each other about from where they all came (we try to collect an ornament in every city to which we travel). Marshall hung out on his mat while we trimmed the tree and seemed rather uninterested in it all.

On Friday, Marshall and I took a walk around the park during the break from the glorious rain.

Then we enjoyed a weekend of family and friends. We felt a little bad sticking Marshall in the car for two long car trips in two days, but he did well during most of the drives (Saturday evening's drive home was miserable for all three of us--the poor guy just couldn't sleep and wouldn't stop crying).

Our annual friendsgiving was on Sunday! Terry and I brought apple crisp, but I threw it into individual ramekins to make serving easier (plus it was then easy to omit walnuts from some!), with cinnamon ice cream on the side (just vanilla ice cream with a tablespoon of cinnamon added during the churning).

Our friends Katie and Corey hosted and made a seriously delicious meal of Brussels sprouts, potatoes, and prime rib, and our friends Heidi and Ed brought some incredible appetizers for which I'm going to get the recipe (they were like little breaded cream cheese cakes that you dip in marinara...yum!). We had a wonderful time catching up with our buddies and letting the babies (well, two babies and a toddler) play. Katie and Corey have another little girl on the way, so our group is still growing!

Marshall is sporting new pjs. I had to buy him several 12-month fleece footed pjs, because his thighs got too thick for the 9-month ones, and already I'm concerned about how quickly he'll be out of the 12-month size. Luckily Costco and Target both happened to have some great sales and I picked up a couple, like this cute construction sleeper! (My brother, Uncle Chris, was proud!)

(Babies in fleece sleepers are THE cutest thing.)

Sadly, the weekend ended too soon and we were back to reality at 6:45 this morning. But tonight was soup night, and that meant a new recipe! (Terry suggested having soup every week about a month or so ago, and I challenged myself to find a new recipe each time.) Tonight was Ina Garten's Butternut Squash & Curry Condiments soup. It was SO easy! Just roast up some apples, squash, and onion, then throw 'em in with some chicken stock, add a bit of curry powder, and blend it all up!

(topped with toasted coconut--after I burned the first batch--scallions, macadamia nuts, and bananas)

I also set aside some roasted squash and roasted apples and blended them with a little applesauce to make a puree for Marshall. He LOVED it! (Actually, I thought it was pretty tasty too!) I made about a cup of it, and he ate at least half. It's so fun to see him start to actually ingest food (the first few weeks of "eating" involved mostly smashing food everywhere). Now he's starting to understand how the whole swallowing thing works, and I'm loving it!

Marshall and I have approximately 83 errands to run in the next few days. If they go anything like today, I'll get to about four of them, so wish us luck!

Are you starting holiday celebrations already? We'll be heading up north to celebrate with my family this weekend, and we have already enjoyed a couple of celebrations with family and friends so far.

Do you have a favorite soup recipe I should try? 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Successes and Failures Part II

Why is it even a possibility in my life to write this type of post again? Why am I such a mess? Should we not ask these questions?

Oh, well. Here are some successes and failures lately.

Success. Starting positively...Jenn and I met for a workout today! AND--bonus--Terry came but took Marshall for a stroll so Jenn and I could work out just the two of us like old times. It was SO fun! I really haven't done much of anything without Marshall--aside from a trip to the store here and there, plus one massage--since May, so it was such a treat to get to spend some time with my pal. Here's what we did:

Warm up: Jog 1 minute, walk 2 minutes--3 rounds (9 minutes)
10 minute park workout: 30 seconds of work, then 30 seconds calf raises before moving on to the next exercise

  • Squat to Hip Abduction (right side)
  • 180 Squat Jumps
  • Squat to Hip Abduction (left side)
  • Tuck Jumps
  • Stationary Lunge Pulses (right side)
  • Plie Squats
  • Stationary Lunge Pulses (left side)
  • Star Jumps
  • One-Leg Glute Raises* (right side)
  • One-Leg Glute Raises* (left side)
*Since the grass was wet, we did one-leg deadlifts instead.

Then, to wrap up: Jog 1 minute, Walk 1 minute for a total of 10 minutes

It was perfect; I definitely think we'll be feeling it tomorrow, but we were able to keep up a conversation throughout the workout. Bonus: No equipment required!

Failure: Virtually no pictures for WIAW, with one exception (below). I have no excuses. But you should look at other people's food pictures, because that's always fun.

Success: I have made it a goal in my life to have friends who think of me when they see funny things and then send me those funny things. Here's what Jenn sent me tonight.

Failure: Today I thought up what I hoped would be an incredible lunch: whole wheat toast with melted brie and crushed blackberries (I toasted the bread, then topped it with the cheese and berries and put everything in the oven for 15 minutes to get the berries to burst). And really, it was quite tasty--except I managed to flip one of my pieces onto the counter (upside down, obviously). Bye, berries. I didn't even take a photo of my disaster because I was so upset.


Success: Marshall is starting to learn how to get into a crawling position! I get to take credit for his successes, right?

(I haven't gotten a photo of the crawling position yet, but you know what it looks like.)

Failure: I keep wearing the wrong workout clothes. Usually I am pretty chilly in our apartment, and I figure (despite experience continuing to prove me wrong) that in December it should be nice and crisp outside, so I continue to try to wear pants and long sleeves to work out. And then I get outside and it's 75 degrees and I'm dying a slow, hot death. This evening I got smart and wore shorts to work out with Jenn, and of course it got dark and cold before we even started. 

Success: I finally went to a Stroller Strides class! (Fun fact: I last wrote about my inability to attend during my last successes and failures post. I love when life comes full circle like that.) I thought the workout part was pretty light, very manageable for new moms, anyone getting back in shape, even pregnant ladies (two moms who attended are pregnant with their second kids!). The tough part is that kids are so unpredictable, so at any given moment at least one kid was upset about being in the stroller. Still, I got to see a few moms I've seen before, we all got outside, I tried something new, and Marshall got to interact with some of the other babies at the end of class. 

Failure: Yesterday I went to the store for eggs and milk (and only those two items), and then I got distracted by candy canes and chocolate chips (what?). Guess what I didn't buy? So then today we had to make an emergency stop on our way home from the park to grab milk because we couldn't go another day without hot chocolate. 

Success: Dinner was a winner! Roasted spaghetti squash with homemade sauce (onion, carrot, celery, garlic, canned tomatoes, wine, tomato paste, some dried herbs, lots of simmering...), plus some greens thrown in for good measure. Delicious.

You decide: Success or failure? My family and I have been texting back and forth the last few days on a variety of topics. Tonight included the "storm of the century" that's about to hit Northern California (they have closed most schools for tomorrow--what?!). My dad and brother are both Eagle Scouts, so I got these texts:

Should I feel proud that he's so ready? (My brother later texted a similar photo...despite his original sarcastic response.) Should I feel worried that Marshall will be inheriting at least some of these nerdy genes? Should I feel fear for the residents of Northern California? Or should I just call it a night and have another glass of wine? 

I choose the wine. Goodnight, friends.

Any successes or failures lately? Come on...make me feel better.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Making Spirits Bright

Apparently the holiday rush has already begun. I thought people were supposed to procrastinate! What happened, fellow shoppers? Why aren't you waiting until the week of Christmas to do your shopping? Why are there already guys in neon vests directing traffic around the parking lot at the Home Depot shopping center? Why is Bed Bath & Beyond already packed with people pushing full carts up to the checkout counters? I thought I was on top of things and ahead of the crazy chaos that is last-minute Christmas errands.

I was wrong. The chaos already started.

So now I'm starting to take a look at stuff I usually leave to the last minute, because procrastinating is not an option with an infant. I won't be able to shop for twelve gifts in one day, wrap them all that afternoon, bake cookies while Terry ties bows on the gifts, and still stay in the Christmas spirit. Here are some ideas if you, like me, are trying to avoid panic and actually enjoy this holiday season.

Plan, plan, plan. You know this girl loves a list. Terry and I always make a Google Doc that we can both edit so we keep track of what we might get for people, what we've already gotten, and what still needs to be done. It helps ensure we don't leave time-sensitive gifts to the last minute and helps me stay organized in the midst of mom brain.

Try to go out during non-peak hours. I have the luxury of shopping almost anytime of day because I stay home with Marshall now, but I realize not everyone can do that. Still, if possible, aim for hitting up stores right when they open. Even shopping during lunch hour might be more efficient than tackling a long list at Costco on a Saturday.

Avoid the rush altogether by making homemade gifts. Gina created a post with lots of ideas, but you can find ideas on Pinterest, or you can make this hot chocolate mix and put it in a mason jar and find yourself buried in thank you notes because it's that delicious. Bonus if you include some homemade marshmallows.

The Internet is your friend. I have grown to love, love, love my dear buddy, the Internet. I value that I can find almost everything I want to give friends and family and often keep it super personal. This year, since our world is a bit focused on this guy,

a lot of our gifts are personalized photo items. Of course, I don't want to give anything away for those who might be on the receiving end of these gifts, so I'll share what I've found around the web in case you're looking for personalized gifts!

Photo Calendars. Last year, Terry's favorite gift from me was a photo calendar. We knew we wouldn't be traveling much this year (what with my belly and a newborn), so I chose a different city for each month and highlighted a bunch of our favorite travel photos. We put the calendar in our kitchen, and it makes both of us smile every day (no joke!). We're already working together on next year's calendar together.

Photo Books.  Can you ever go wrong with a photo book? You can focus on something specific, like a trip or a special event, or you can fill a book with special memories from an entire year. It does take some time to select and arrange photos, but at least you get to cozy up on your couch with some cocoa while you do it!

Everything Etsy. We purchased our family stockings on Etsy, and we also ordered an engraved picture frame as a gift. I don't use it enough, but Etsy truly has it all.

Holiday Cards. I mentioned it before, but I LOVE sending and receiving holiday cards! It's unrealistic (at least for us) to give a gift to everyone we love, but I truly believe that most friends and family simply appreciate the thought of a card. I genuinely enjoy hearing from those we love, getting a quick update on their year, seeing recent photos. The folks over at Minted got in touch with me, and I love their designs for Minted's Christmas cards. I think it's awesome that they use a variety of designers; my favorites are "Complete Tree"

 and "Hand-Painted Branches."

Check out all the other designs--plus, you can get free recipient address printing! (Minted has a ton of other lovely looking, personalized gifts, including stationery and photo art. Perfect for virtually anyone on your gift list!)

After the shopping, keep the rest simple. I'm taking a tip from my aunt this year and using simple craft paper to wrap all our gifts, but then we'll use fun bows and ribbons to add some personality. Instead of going crazy with elaborate meals and fancy baking, I'm sticking to tried and true recipes we love. We're also making sure to focus on the spirit of the season--purchasing and giving gifts should be a fun, thoughtful experience, and I want to make sure we keep that in mind as we get ready for the big day(s).

I hope your holiday season is truly joyous. I love giving gifts, finding the perfect something for each person I love, and watching them open the surprise. It's one of the best parts of the entire year!

Any tips to avoid holiday madness and keep the spirit of the season alive?

Please note: Part of this post was sponsored by Minted, but all opinions are my own.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Most Productive Day of the Week

(sung to the tune of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year")

Happy Monday to you! I hope the week is off to a great start. I usually find Monday to be the most productive day of the week at home for me. Over the weekend I tend to make a mental list of stuff I need to get done, and on Monday I start plowing through. Today flew by as I tidied up around the house, cleaned out the car, worked on some Christmas present ideas, ran a few errands, and of course played with my little sidekick. Great start to the week.

I took a rest day today, because I'm finally taking a Stroller Strides class tomorrow with a few other local moms. Instead, we had more of this hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows.

I put up the lights on our tree today! We're really taking this whole decorating thing nice and slow this year. Marshall seriously sat watching me (and the lights) intently for about 45 minutes! 

Speaking of that little guy, we had a really great day today. He took two looooong naps and had a blast playing on his own while I took care of a few things around the house. It's pretty awesome to see him become increasingly independent!

I started making Marshall's baby purees tonight! We like the idea of baby-led weaning, but Marshall definitely does not seem ready for it. Instead, we're going to let him check out the tastes of some purees for a few weeks and then try finger foods again. We started with broccoli tonight. I steamed some broccoli florets, then threw 'em in the blender with some water and olive oil. I made sure it was all pureed pretty well before placing a spoonful on Marshall's tray (cooled down quite a bit, too). He played with it and I also fed him a little on a spoon. I'm guessing he actually ingested a teaspoon or less, but it's all fun (and messy) for now.

Once Terry got home tonight--and after our messy dinner--we started decorating the tree with our ornaments! It's one of my favorite parts of Christmas. I love reminiscing about when we got each ornament, especially all the ornaments we've gathered while traveling. Plus it's fun to remember all the ornaments we've received as gifts from friends and family. Usually we get stumped once or twice a night and can't remember where something came from, but that adds to the fun. 

I always find it fascinating to check out the most popular baby names each year. (Marshall hasn't cracked the top 100 in a while, if ever!)

Gina over at Fitnessista has arranged for a 15-day free trial of Barre3 online classes. I signed up and have tried out a few short classes. I'm not sure I would be up for paying for Barre3 classes, but I always love trying new things!

Have you seen that the Holderness family is back with another parody? It's a Thanksgiving one (um, I guess I'm out of the loop): All About that Baste. You're welcome.

Time for bed! In addition to the Stroller Strides class tomorrow, I'm also meeting Terry for lunch and attempting to run more Christmas errands. 

What traditions get you into the spirit this time of year?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

What a weekend! We had so much fun getting in the holiday spirit!

Thursday morning I took a long walk with some of my new neighborhood friends, and Marshall cozied up in the Ergo. It was FINALLY chilly enough for a little hat. 

And later that night we checked out a local holiday festival. Marshall was mesmerized by the lights. (I know he looks terrified, but I'm going with mesmerized.)

The whole event was adorable! They shut down several streets for a small parade, and local groups came out to perform (dancers, carolers, bands, etc.). Plus all the local shops stayed open late and provide free snacks or drinks!

Friday was a fun family outing to meet Santa! We headed up to The Grove and walked around for a bit.

 I wandered around Barnes & Noble while Terry took a work call, and I decided I just want all the cookbooks.

We grabbed lunch at the famous farmer's market and finished with ice cream--pumpkin and salted caramel. YUM.

Then it was time for Santa! Marshall was soooooo sleepy, but thankfully he held out for the big moment and then burst into tears when the helper elf lady tried to talk to him.

On Saturday we got our tree! And Terry carried the damn thing up three flights of stairs. He must have an awesome trainer who helps him keep in great shape. (False, he's just a macho stud.)

Saturday night we got to work in the kitchen and made this hot chocolate with some whipped cream. We also made some homemade marshmallows! We've been wanting to try it for a while, and it turned out to be relatively easy. They are the perfect texture!

Today Marshall let us sleep in until 8:30, and then we got to see our friends for a few hours before they headed out for a date night nearby. All in all, a great weekend getting ready for Christmas!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Quick Indoor Workouts

Okay, I mentioned yesterday how difficult I find it to get motivated during these dark, rainy days. And I live in LA, where I'm pretty sure it hasn't dipped below 59 degrees since last winter. So I imagine that wherever you are is a little colder than here, and I have no excuse for blaming the elements for my lack of motivation to work out.

And yet, I do blame the elements. So my workout options dwindle during this time of the year, but I just got back to feeling strong and have a good thing going with regular exercise. I want to keep it going, but I need realistic workouts that I can do at home with minimal time and minimal equipment.

That's what I'm here to share today: workouts that can be done anywhere, with little or no equipment, in 20 minutes or less. No excuses!

Upper Body Supersets (Dumbbells only!)
Complete each set twice, then do 15 pushups before moving on to the next set. Use medium weights.

EMOM Workouts (No equipment needed!)
(Every Minute, On the Minute) These workouts have quickly become a favorite around here, because they're quick and easy to customize. Here are some ideas:

Full Body EMOM:
EMOM 15--Complete 5 Burpees every minute for 15 minutes (Works up a good sweat, full body workout, and super quick!)

EMOM 20--Complete 5 push ups + 10 squats every minute for 20 minutes (Hits major muscle groups in the upper and lower body, and definitely challenging.)

Upper Body EMOM:
EMOM 10 (x2)--I posted two upper body EMOM workouts a while back. These ones alternate even and odd minutes to add variety to the workout.

Lower Body EMOM:
EMOM 20--10 squats + 5 squat jumps every minute on the minute for 20 minutes. Great for toning and getting that heart rate up.

EMOM 15--5 plie squats + 10 walking lunges + 5 calf raises every minute on the minute for 15 minutes. Challenges the entire lower body.

45/15 Cardio/Core (No equipment needed!)
Complete each exercise for 45 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds before moving on to the next.

Mountain Climbers
Squat + Backward Lunge (alternating legs)
Reverse Crunch
Plank Jacks
Walking Lunges (alternating legs)
Bicycle Crunches
Speed Skaters
Plie Squats
Air Squats
Glute Bridges
Reverse Plank

Repeat as many times as you would like. :-)

More great workouts for your winter enjoyment:
Stability Ball Core Workout
12-Minute Workout
January Indoor Workout
Winter Core Circuit

You can also follow me on Pinterest to find lots more workouts I like!