December Day 31: Happy Birthday to me

December 31st: Out of 31 days in December, I’ve managed 27 posts. Didn’t make it every day, but pretty close! So it ended up being 27 days of the mundane.
I think my birthdate is pretty fun. This year it was pretty laid-back. I spent the morning running errands like a crazy person since I didn’t have the kids with me. How hard is it to find a chocolate brown cardigan with 3/4 sleeves? Pretty darn hard.
This afternoon, Hannah and I went over to a friend’s house to exchange Christmas gifts and ended up staying awhile to watch baby sister and little brother while big brother went to urgent care for some crazy stomach pains. It was cute to watch Hannah and little brother play together, he is about six months older than Violet, so it is fun to get a glimpse of how playing will be different in a few months at our house. And of course sweet newborn time.

All seems to be well now for big brother, so hopefully they will enjoy a quiet evening.
For my birthday dinner (because going out on New Year’s Eve is a little crazy), I made risotto and shrimp. For dessert, a chocolate cheesecake pie.

Interesting point – all gluten free. Violet has been gluten free for about six weeks, and she definitely seems to be experiencing less tummy pain. We decided to all try GF for a while to see if she would get even better with me off as well, and we were curious to see if going GF would help with some things with Hannah. Brett is just along for the ride since I’m the chef, and he can eat all the donuts and pizza he wants on his own. ;)
So instead of graham crackers, the cheesecake crust was made of pecans, sunflower seeds and coconut oil, and it was yummy! Risotto is always tasty, and the shrimp was a treat.
Now I may or may not be off to have another slice of that cheesecake…

December Day 29: The office move continues

December 29th: Brett has worked every day since Christmas. He had a very late night on Friday, setting up the network, and it’s going to be another late one tonight. He is thankful to have some extra help from a part-time former co-worker who is familiar with the systems and is available for big projects like this. Things were going pretty smoothly, but some electrical issues were discovered this afternoon. Moves are complicated already, but they are also dealing with new construction problems. Temporary chaos.
The last few days have been weird at home with Brett gone so much. We are also off our normal routine. When Brett went back to the office this evening, after being home a quick hour to eat dinner, Hannah crawled on the couch next to me and cried. It was past her bedtime, and she was missing Daddy. So we ate up the pumpkin cheesecake in the fridge.

Then bedtime for real.
These were supposed to be vacation days for Brett, but his bosses said he can carry them over to next year along with the other people who have been working extra for the move. We’re all looking forward to the days off mid-week coming up. Hopefully everything will be in good shape by then for him to have a good break!

December Days 26-28: Moving weekend

December 26th-28th: Brett’s office is moving to a new building, so he has been working overtime this holiday season. That means lots of time at home for me and the girls. Today we headed to “My Gym” to get some wiggles out. I got a Groupon to “My Gym” last summer; they were offering passes to their “Active Play” room. It’s a large room set up with all kinds of gymnastics equipment, and you can drop in whenever and play as long as you want. This was perfect for the summer when it’s too hot to go to the park.
We used up our allotted Groupon visits over the summer, and Hannah kept asking to go back. Then, some family members gifted us with a membership for Christmas.

Of course, the benefit to Hannah seems obvious, given her level of energy, but today I could see the benefit for Violet. She was getting frustrated when unable to climb on things or get in or out of spaces. This is great! She scoots around happily at home with no attempt to climb or pull up or increase her mobility. But some things at “My Gym” made her mad, and that’s what’s good for her. ;)

December Days 24 & 25: Celebrate

christmas 2013 collageDecember 24th and 25th: Christmas festivities! Daddy home during the week, Christmas Eve service, tamales, Uncle Michael visiting, hot apple cider, a fire log, watching Elf, stockings of treats, homemade cinnamon rolls, piles of presents from loved ones, lots of giggles and playtime and eating. Merry Christmas from Olive Street!

December Days 22 & 23: Adoption Day and sticker games

December 22 & 23: Four years ago was Hannah’s official adoption day. I did a blog post describing the process. Now, each year, we celebrate by having a special sweet treat and looking through the Adoption Day scrapbook I made.

I like having an open adoption for the same reasons I like not doing Santa: we don’t have to keep up any stories or avoid any questions. Just answer things truthfully as they come. After all, the truth, whether it is the amazing gift of adoption or the gifts lovingly chosen by your parents, is more wonderful than the charade.
We made two-ingredient fudge which is pretty tasty. After dinner, we drove past a house that features train sets in the Christmas decor.

It is tucked away on a cul-de-sac and wins the neighborhood award every year. It is truly fantastic. Three running train sets with sound effects!
Today was a pretty quiet day. Various preparations for Christmas. Hannah discovered a fun sister game called “take the sticker off my nose.”

This occupied them for quite a while with many giggles. Then we hit a cheesesteak restaurant for kids eat free night.
More excitement coming tomorrow!

December Day 21: Spying on Daddy and first ballet

December 21: Brett’s new office building is nearing comepletion, and he has started moving things over. The big official move is next weekend, but he has several things that need to go over sooner. This morning, he was setting up the server rack. It was a bummer for him to miss our usual Saturday pancake breakfast, but we got to check up on him.

“Dada! Dada! Dada!”
The security system is connected to the network, so Brett pulled up the camera in the server room on his iPad before he left. Then we were able to click on an app and check on Daddy. This was pretty exciting and kind of weird. We were also able to talk to him through the system. The girls loved to see him on the iPad, so it was a fun thing to try. Brett says it was a little weird to think of people watching him.
This evening, we had a big “first.” The ballet studio where Hannah and I take classes was doing a performance. The “baby classes” and the adult classes were not involved, so we were just spectators. Hannah picked out her fanciest dress and requested that I paint her nails before we go. I didn’t have the heart to tell her everyone else would be wearing jeans, including me, and she didn’t seem to notice.
I haven’t taken Hannah to anything that required extended quiet sitting since I took her to a wedding almost exactly a year ago (that was rough). There has been much growth in a year! She stayed in her chair and only whispered a couple times. Like when she saw the big girls en pointe and exclaimed, “Their toes!”
It’s exciting for me to see her gaining the maturity to enjoy special things like this. We made it through a 30-minute dance program, someday The Nutcracker!

December Day 20: Play

December 20: I am thankful that both Hannah and Violet are very good at playing by themselves. Hannah can now create elaborate stories with dolls or Little People, and Violet loves scooting around the playroom from one activity to the next.
I’m not sure what the storyline was here, but I found this set up.

I’m excited to see what will happen when Violet is more mobile and verbal and they can play together more. Right now, Hannah enjoys cooking pretend meals for Violet and always emphasizes that every item is gluten free.
Most other playtime interaction consists of taking each other’s toys and getting mad about it. I made up the phrase, “Girls who take away don’t get to play.” as a warning before timeout for toy stealing. Grrrr. Maybe they’ll grow out of selfishness when I do. ;)

December Day 19: Words

December 19: With two little girls, there are a lot of words in our house.
Violet, at 14 months, says several words: Daddy, Hannah, kitty, dog, snack, ball, please, juice, jacket, socks, hi, baby, cookie, cheers. Of course, these are not necessarily traditionally pronounced, but they are consistent and recognizable.
Hannah talks a lot and is starting to think about the sounds in words. Today, we were sitting in the Chickfila drive-thru line, and I was explaining why we wouldn’t eat inside the restaurant.

Me: There are a lot of barf germs in Austin right now, so we don’t want to catch any barf germs from some kids at Chickfila.
Hannah: Are there a lot of germs in Germany?
Me: Um, probably some… Why?
Hannah: Because it’s called GERMany.

Harharhar. Put that girl to work for Laffy Taffy.

December Day 18: Beef and veggie soup

December 18: For a long time, Hannah wouldn’t eat soup. Recently, she has decided it is okay. This is the recipe that turned her around, and she requests it! Violet loves it as well, so I’ve been making it about every other week lately. Love a meal that’s healthy, easy and a hit with everyone!
This is adapted from a recipe I got from my mom. I simplified the ingredient list, and I think it tastes just the same as the original.


Beef and vegetable soup

1 lb. ground beef, browned
1 bag frozen mixed veggies (12-16 oz)
1 can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 onion, diced
1 carton beef stock (32 oz)
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
4 Tbs. butter
1/4 c. flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Put first six ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 7-8 hours. An hour before serving, make a roux with the butter and flour and stir into soup. Then cook on high for another hour to thicken.

Conventional ingredients: around $8, $1/serving
With “upgraded” ingredients: around $12 (natural beef, organic veggies, organic beef stock), $1.50/serving

(I made this without the roux to be gluten-free)

December Day 17: Grocery day

December 17: Off to HEB, the best grocery store ever. I’m a firm believer in menu planning and shopping with a list, and I think this is even more important with kids! Some things end up in our cart that aren’t on the list, like when we walked in and they had pineapples on sale for 98 cents!
Here’s what we ended up with. In two pictures because I left out a few things in the first one.


On the menu soon:
– beef and veggie soup (the girls’ very favorite meal)
– chicken nuggets (homemade) with spaghetti squash and roasted potatoes
– pizza bread
– spaghetti and meatballs
– shredded pork tacos with black beans
– crustless quiche with hash browns
– broccoli cheese soup
And I want to make puppy chow at some point for a fun treat; I can’t remember the last time I had puppy chow! Many ingredients for those meals are already in my pantry or freezer.
I do buy organic versions of many products. In this trip, I calculated that I spent an extra $7 on organic and hormone-free products over the conventional versions. I also usually buy cage-free eggs, but they were out. That much extra per week does add up over a year, but broken down per serving we feel it is worth it.
The average family spends $70 a month on cable TV. We don’t have cable, we’d rather spend extra money on food upgrades. I also found an interesting chart with average weekly grocery expenditures in the US. For our family, the thrifty plan has us at $124.20. Our average, including when we have local grass-fed beef, is under $100. Today’s trip was well below that.
I’m glad to have a family of pretty easy eaters. Hannah goes through random picky phases, and there was the whole non-dairy and now gluten-free thing, but, for the most part, cooking and eating in this house is an enjoyable experience.