Saturday, June 30, 2012

What's Cooking?

It was a make it work week this week as we were trying to use up as much food as possible as we are in Viroqua for a very long weekend.

We had made this recipe once before a few weeks ago and really liked it. It is super fresh, and light and uses up a lot of things that we always have on hand thanks to Costco:
Tomatoes
Avocado
Hummus
Bread

And that is about it. This is a recipe I found on Pinterest. See the original post here.  This is probably more of a lunch recipe than a dinner recipe because Nate was complaining of hunger an hour after we ate, but it was delicious either way.

I yanked the picture from the original blog, because ours didn't turn out quite as well.


We paired ours with some corn on the cob and I dipped mine in a pistachio-chili powder mixture. It was pretty good.




Ingredients:
6-8 slices of bread [gluten-free, whole wheat, etc.]
1/2 cup hummus [store bought or homemade]
1 avocado – halved, pitted and peeled
4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, cores and seeds removed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
salt + pepper to taste
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Arrange the tomatoes on your baking sheet, cut sides up, in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
Roast for 25-30 minutes, until the tomatoes are beginning to caramelize.
While the tomatoes roast, toast your bread. Using a cookie cutter or circular object, cut out 1-2 circles per toast, depending on how big the piece of bread is.
Spread ½-1 tablespoon of hummus on each circular toast.
In a bowl or plate, mash avocado with a fork, leaving large chunks.
Layer the mashed avocado over hummus, season with salt + pepper, and then top with a roasted [or fresh] tomato.
Serve immediately.



Wednesday, June 27, 2012

AMMA Babes

I'm not sure I could have survived the first year of motherhood without the circle of friends who gave me advice, lended a listening ear, dropped off food that kept me alive, gave me a shoulder to cry on and who offered support in so many ways.

Being a new Mom is tough. Your body is raging with crazy hormones, you are dealing with a lot of change, and a lot of uncertainty. And if you can surround yourself with people that reassure you through the hormones, help you through the change, and provide some calm advice you will be a happier person

I was so fortuante to fall into a group of women who were fast-friends through AMMA Maternity, as part of my 'new mama' class.

From sharing our birth stories, the trials and tribulation of breast-feeding, asking for sleep advice, feeding advice, job advice, these women were there. They quickly became my go-to panel of experts before I would consider calling our pediatrician.

Nursing at 3AM in the morning...most likely one these gals was also online and providing some form of entertain ment to get me through the night.

It's hard to believe that this is what happened through-out the year:








On Sunday, we all got together to celebrate these babes turning 1. And it was a birthday miracle that they all sat still in one place for long enough to snap a picture of all of them.

And because I know so many of you were very upset at the injustice of Matilda not getting cake on her 1st birthday, you will be happy to know that she got cake. Not only did she get a cupcake, but I'm pretty sure she ate about 3/4 of Sam's cupcake. She took hers down in three giant handfuls, and immediately turned to Sam's cupcake and dominated it.
As you can tell, the sugar was enjoyed by all....


HAPPY BIRTHDAY to all of my AMMA babies. I can't wait to see you all grow big together. I'm pretty sure we will have to rent out a padded room for the 2nd birthday.....

Monday, June 25, 2012

Catching Up

Apparently we have been too busy having fun, because I am so dreadfully behind on the blog.
So indulge me in a very fast, abbreviated version of all of the fun that has been happening in our home the last few weeks.

We had so much family in town for Matilda's birthday. It was loads of fun to see everyone. The cousins even got to hit the town to take on teh Drunken Spelling Bee. The Keaty's were here from Chicago. The Grandparents  and Schulz's were here from WI. And the 'other' Ekerns were here all the way from FLORIDA and St. Louis.



Leo literally ate about half of an entire watermelon.


And Finn and Tillie enjoyed breakfast together. Finn took care to help Matilda eat her food... I think Matilda was more worried that Finn was tryin gto steal her pancake.


Rub a Dub Dub -- three cousins in the tub. It's so fun to get to watch these three actually PLAY together now. Leo is talking like crazy, and it is so fun to hear him give Tillie toys.


And because Uncle Nate always thinks of the 'coolest games', Finn got pretty amped to be playing Ninja Jumping off of our porch. Very safe, Nate.


We got to check out the splash-pad, which was a favorite for all the kids, and I was pretty stoked to get a litle sun on these pasty legs.



And, this past weekend was filled with lots of movie watching at night, a 5K run for charity, and the Pride Fest with Emily and Tundra. And I am here to tell you that Tundra with her little bow in her hair, stole the show.

So there it is. They very quick, kind of lame, but at least I am sharing some of these photos, review of some of the fun we have been having.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Skip This: Baby Items that You Just Don't Need

Before I get into this list that many people will probably disagree with, let me explain something about Nate and I. We live in a tiny little house. And we try to minimize the amount of random 'uni-tasking' items that are big and bulky especially as it relates to baby stuff that Matilda will outgrow in 4 months.

So without further ado....here is our list of items we are very glad we didn't register for, buy or borrow for baby's first year.

1) Bottle Warmer
That is what a Pyrex bowl and some hot running water are for. And when you are done warming that bottle, you can measure out ingredients for dinner, and put the bowl away. Bottle warmer = counter clutter.

2) To that end...Wipes Warmer
Question: Do you warm your toilet paper before you wipe your butt? Then why would you feel compelled to wipe your babies butt with a warm wipe? Wipes Warmer = Nursery Clutter

3) Diaper Genie
Keep in mind that we live in a tiny little house, so it is not a hassle for us to carry the dirty diaper to the kitchen garbage and throw it away. But this may single-handedly be the best decision we made. The nursery doesn't smell like poop (or should I say a muted-scent of poop) and we don't have to change a freak-nasty bag of dirty diapers every week. Plus we don't have another giant contraption in the nursery. Win. Win.

4) Stroller Cover
Let me introduce you to this thing called a blanket. You will have many of these with a baby. Use one of these hundreds of blankets to cover your stroller if the sun is too bright. These stroller covers are just fancy, expensive contraptions that you will constantly forget to bring with you. At which point you will just use a blanket.

5) Video Monitors
Do not let me fool you, there have been many a night where it is 3AM and Matilda is giggling in her crib where we have said "Man I wonder what she is doing in there", but at the end of the day, I am glad we did not get the video monitors. They are un-neccessary and quite expensive. And it takes some of the mystery out of the night-time guessing game. :)

6) Shopping Cart Cover
See description of #5. Blankets---such great multi-taskers.

7) Fancy Baby Cooking Machine
It's called a steamer, or a bowl with water,  plus an immersion blender. That combo puts about $110 in your pocket vs. the fancy baby food machines.

8) Every Single Apparatus known to Target
You just don' tneed all of them. And for us it wasn't an option unless we were going to get rid of real-people furniture to make-room for all of them. Our baby go-to item was the Fisher Price Rock n' Roll sleeper. Was the best for the itty bitty. Then we borrowed a swing and exersaucer from a friend. Unless you live in a mansion, pick and choose carefully.

9) Mirror for Car
So, on top of talking while driving, texting while driving (which no one should be doing), now you are going to do all of this while also checking out your baby in the little baby rear view mirror? How about instead, you just focus on your driving and pull over if you want to watch your baby being cute, or are worried there is something wrong.

10) Bumper for the Crib
You may as well just take the money you were goign to spend on this and light it on fire, because as soon as that little darling of yours starts moving in any way shape or form this needs to come out of the crib. Opt for a cute crib dust ruffle and nursery accents instead.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Birthday Girl

It is hard to believe that a year ago from this very moment, I was laying in a hospital bed having contractions and we were both anxious awaiting the arrival of Baby H, and wondering whether we would have a boy or girl.


And then, at 9:51PM we found out. A little girl. And so Matilda Mae was here.




The one thing that all Moms told me was that the first year goes by SO fast. And I'm not going to lie, at times it certainly did not feel like it was going by that fast, and actually could it please go by a little faster? But more on that later.

I knew that I would ultimately look back on this year and wish I could freeze time (because I do), could rewind time (because I would--at least back to 6 months), or make sure I could hold every little detail that I love about Matilda so much in my mind forever.

So, we captured each and every week  of this precious first year. Combine this with the running commentary along the way in this blog, and I am hoping that we will be able to look back and smile, laugh (and probably cry a little) at how lucky we are to have this amazing little girl in our life.




Happy Birthday, Matilda Mae Hanson. 
We love you so much.




Monday, June 18, 2012

Birthday Bash Barnyard Style

When I started dreaming up everything I would want to do for Tillie's birthday party, The 1st was related to her favorite toy, Sophie the Giraffe, and involved a Parisian theme that would be sure to be over-the-top girlie. But then I decided to bring it in a little closer to the roots for Nate and I, and since we both grew up in rural WI we thought a barnyard theme would be quite appropriate.




 And if I learned anything growing up, it was that if you are going to throw a party, you better have some serious food to feed the guests. And so, food we had.


From a shortcake bar, to pulled pork sandwiches, fresh cheese curds and Spotted Cow from WI. We had 'horse feed' (Popcorn) and "chicken feed" (Cheerios) for the babies.

My Mom tested her culinary prowess with her first attempt ever at making cake pops. You see those gorgeous looking things in the picture above. Well if you thought THOSE were cute..check out what it looked like when you bit into one:
She outdid herself. Add it to the list of things she can put on her food truck. Anyway, back to the party.

While I firmly believe part of the 1st year birthday party is celebrating the fact that we, as parents, managed to keep this child alive and generally  meet the growth standards amidst sleep deprivation, uncertaintly, fears, tears, did I mention sleep deprivation?, I wanted to capture Matilda's year in some way.

So we strung up some clothesline  and hung out a few of Matilda's clothes from the teeny tiny to a recent favorite, along with pictures that captured her through-out the year. Then we asked all of our friends and family to fill out a birthday wish and clip it to the line, and we would gather them all up and put them in her baby book. 
\

We had a station for all of Matilda's little friends to plant their own wildflowers to take home. There were a few future farmers in the group that had some good planting skills.          
                                                                      

And then it was CAKE time!!! Does this look like the face of a girl ready to have some delicious cake?


 Well, much to my friends chagrin, Tillie did have cake but it was less of the traditional cake with frosting type, but more of the home-made shortCAKE with berries kind. And she loved it. Whipped cream and all.




 And then....the cake pop came out. And Matilda got her first taste of massive amounts of sugar.


 It was an incredible weekend filled with family and friends. Many who came from very far away. Shout out to my Aunt and Uncle who flew from Florida to be here, my Cousin Meghan who flew from St. Louis and the whole Keaty crew who drove from Chicago. It wouldn't have been the same without any of you, and we are so grateful for everyone we have in our lives and Matilda's.






Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

What do you say about a husband who is not only a one-of-a-kind husband, but an out of this world dad on his first Father's Day?

Nate is a rare breed of Dad. Willing to jump in to plug the paci at all hours of the night, change the dirty diapers without thinking twice, and spends many nights whipping up pretty amazing meals. He had all sorts of special tricks, songs, and giggles with Matilda.

Most nights when Nate comes home, Matilda and I are already sitting at the table for Matilda's dinner. You can tell how much Matilda just loves her Daddy, because the second she hears that back door open, her eyebrows go up, her feet start kicking, and the giggles start. And as soon as she sees that bike helmet and full on biking get-up, she knows she is getting some serious snuggles at any moment.

So with Father's Day approaching, and knowing that this weekend was going to be filled with family fun for Tillies birthday I decided to try out a rapidly growing website to fulfill the Father's Day gift. Enter www.fiverr.com. Where you can find people to do some pretty crazy things for $5.

Like draw a art rendition of a favorite photo:

Ok, ok. I admit. This is kind of  of creepy. And the original is probably better.

 But it was the thought. Right?

So I tried again. This time, I think we got a winner. For $5, you can get a person to make a video. You send in your photos, copy and song request and they do all the grunt work.

video

To my dear husband, I am so lucky to have you and Matilda is even luckier to have you as a Dad. Thank you for everything you do to keep this family functioning, happy and full of fun.

We love you!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Best of the Rest: Babies 1st Year Must Haves

I was so surprised at the comments, emails, and facebook messages on my earlier post this week around the must have items for babies 1st year.

And of course the list is longer, so I share with you now the other must-have items on my list:

1) The Nose Frida
Yes, Marie, this one just hit the cutting room floor in the top 10. I had to fit in friends and family. After all it was you, my friend, that introduced me to the Nose Frida.
Nose Frida--sounds scary. Nate would say it is. I say it is a miracle worker. Do not under any circumstance think that your little nose sucker from the hospital will function the way you need it to. Instead, buy this thing. Get over the fact that you are literally sucking up your child's boogers, and do it. Your baby will be happier. She will sleep better. You will be happier. Easy enough. Target.com carries it. Buy it here.

2) Trumpette Socks
Don't bother with any brand. They all fall off. And you will spend hours of your life re-putting on socks. Until you buy these and end the insanity. Their tights are pretty nice too.

3) Pampered Chef Steamer
Remember my little Immersion Blender tip? Well once your babe graduates to finger food, you are going to be steaming a lot of vegetables. And this puppy is worth every dime. And guess what...it's not that many dimes. 85 to be exact (that's $8.50 for those mathematically challenged people out there).
This thing gets action every day, three times a day in our household. I've even got pretty good at knowing exactly how long it takes to do food in this thing. Asparagus? 4 minutes, 23 seconds. Boom.


More like "Happy Mamma"...but in all seriousness. I didn't want to be a Mom that went by any books. But then I had Matilda, and this child didn't sleep. And so I bought all the books. And I immediately took all teh books back except for this one. I know this wouldn't be for everyone, and it wouldn't be for every child. But it worked for us, and I would not have survived the first year with out it.


5) MAM Pacifiers
If you are going to be a parent that allows pacifier, or in our case, a parent to a child that literally came out sucking on its wrist-- you want to get the best pacifier. It tooks us a good 3 months to discover this one, but once we did all I did was hear other Moms talk about it. Apparently it is literally designed to stay in better. And. it. totally. did. Buy them. by the dozen.


Stay tuned for my list of 'top things everyone tells you you need, but you don't..."


Sunday, June 10, 2012

What's Cooking: Week 2

The Grill is out in full force, and we are firing up some old favorites, as well as trying out some new recipes.

Monday was Jerk Chicken with Stuffed Mini Bell Peppers and grilled garlic bread. This recipe was from Cooking Light and while the Jerk Chicken was tasty, it wasn't anything to write home about. The Mini Bell Peppers were however quite delicious. A quick and easy side, perfect for a night of grilling or a grill-out you may be hosting. Click here for the recipe



Tuesday was the MAJOR hit of the week. It's hard to go wrong with Steak. A favorite for Nate, but the real gem of this meal was the new Roasted Potatoes with Arugula-Pistachio Pesto that we made (again from Cooking Light). Yes, there is a little more required than throwing the potatoes in the oven or on the grill, but I promise it is worth it.


It takes about 60 minutes from start to finish to make these suckers.
Here is the recipe:
2 pounds of fingerling potatoes (we used baby reds)
1/4 cup EVOO
salt
pepper
1.5 cups packed arugula leaves
3 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan (we used pecorino Romano)
1.5 Tbspn pistachios
2 teaspoons water
1.5 tspn fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove

1) Place a jelly rolls pan in oven. Preheat to 400.
2) Combine potatoes, and 1 Tbspn pil in bowl, toss well. Arrange them in a single layer on the preheated pan (**We would highly recommend you pre-oil your pan to avoid the mess we had). Sprinkle potatoes with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Toss. Bake an additional 25 minutes or until tender.
3) Combine remaining EVOO, salt, pepper, arugula, parmesan, pistachios, water, lemon juice and garlic in a food processor and process until smooth. Toss with hot potatoes.


Wednesday brought a past favorite that is commonly in rotation when we have arugula on hand. This was from Cooking Light last May. Roasted Asparagus and Tomato Penne Salad with Goat Cheese. We always love Wednesday nights because that is when we have our regular favorite house-guest (Auntie Em!) over.



Thursday was supposed to be Grilled Turkey Thai salad. But it had been a long week, and we were both not feeling the recipe. So we defaulted to turkey burgers on the stove-top with some Alexia brand frozen sweet potato fries and a salad. Still a pretty good meal!

If you are going to try anything from the above, make it those potatoes!!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Must Have Items for Baby's 1st Year

As Matilda's one year birthday creeps closer and closer, and more and more people in my life expect their own babies, I thought I would share our top 'must-have' items for baby's 1st year.

1) Saftey 1st Pro Grade Thermometer.
We got intimately familiar with this thing on our very first night home from the hospital as Matilda started spitting up blood. Not stressful at all for a 1st time Mom. It's expensive for a thermometer. But guess what? There are 3 heads--one for the ears, one for underarm, and one for the area no one wants to get their temp taken from.
And that seems like overkill, until you are on the phone having a slight panic and the nurse is giving you extremely careful instructions to not stick the thermometer too far up your brand new babies butt. And then you tell her the kind of thermometer you have, and she says "oh, well that one is designed to make sure that doesn't happen so don't worry about it.'

And if I've learned anything in the last year, if there are any devices that can cut down maternal worry, then they are worth the investment.

2) A Baby Bathtub
Sound pretty obvious. But just ask my husband, who was convinced that this was a ridiculous marketing gimic, and that we absolutely did. not. need. one. After all, we have a sink. And isn't that the same thing? Fast forward a year, and enter in a child that takes a bath literally every single night (like no joke I think we've missed like 10 nights of her entire life). And all of the sudden. Mr. Dad is changing his tune.

The baby bathtub was an obvious choice, but my real recommendation is the blow-up bath for the slightly older baby! Super quick to fill, and contains them and keeps them safe. Here is Tillie modeling in her favorite bathtub.


3) A Monkey Thing
Technically called, a 'Waterfall Soother', I could really give a rats ass less what it is called because this contraption was a huge reason that our baby-who-doesn't-sleep, was able to put herself to sleep without the pacifier. In our house, it is lovingly referred to as 'the monkey thing'. As in (Matilda wakes up in middle of night): "Go in and press the monkey thing", and then Matilda drifts back to sleep.

This amazing miracle of a 'toy' was what saved our lives as Matilda was waking up every 40 minutes because she wanted her Paci for 6 weeks. Finally, instead of continuing to plug that GD paci, we started pressing the monkey thing. She got distracted long enough that she would fall asleep in the process. And sleep for longer than 40 minutes. MUCH longer.

I honestly do not know why any parent would not have one of these.  I would pay $200 for one of these. Luckily they are only $40. If Fisher-Price ever needed a spokesperson for this thing, I would be it.

4) A subscription to Amazon Prime
I feel incredibly guilty for even writing this because of Nate's employer, but I feel strongly that this is a great investment for the first year of a babies life especially if your baby has colic and you fear taking her in public, and you are in a household with two full-time working parental units.

I think it costs $75 for the year. And you get free 2-day shipping. And I think there are other benefits too, but honestly I coudl care less about those.

Christmas shopping 2011: pretty much all amazon prime.
Anytime daycare says "we need mroe diapers, wipes, food, etc": amazon prime.
Bookclub picks a new book: amazon prime.
Random thought about something we need at 9PM at night like a baby gate: amazon prime.

And viola! It is immediately off my mind, and 2 days later it is on my doorstep.

5) An Immersion Blender
All of those baby-food maker machines are completely un-necessary. Take the food you want to puree, steam it/cook it/whatever you desire, and use your immersion blender to break it down. It's a win-win: you aren't buying a uni-tasking kitchen gadget that is pretty much obsolete after 3-4 months, and you can continue to use it to make yourself some delicious food once the baby is eating real food.


6) A Quality Stroller and a Convenience Stroller

A convenience stroller (we did the Snap N Go) that the Momma can open and close with hand, while holding a 15 pound watermelon. I'm serious. If you are shopping for a stroller, you best be taking a watermelon or sack of potatoes to whatever Baby Zoo you are creating your registry at, and try this. If you can't, walk away.

And don't even LOOK at those awful 'travel systems' unless your post-baby work-out plan is lifting and pushing a god awfully heavy and bulky stroller....

A quality stroller for longer, more enjoyable walks. Or family runs. Or just if you want your baby to feel the luxury of a smooth ride. In the humble opinions of these Hanson's, you can't beat the BOB.

7) White Noise

No, I'm not just talking about white noise for the baby, although I would HIGHLY recommend the Cloud B Giraffe for the early weeks...I am talking about white noise for the ADULTS.

Maybe you sleep like a rock. Maybe you life in a mansion.

Both of things are not me. And so, since giving birth, I now sleep with a fan on in MY room, because any little peep wakes me up. And then I am up stressing that the baby is waking up, and going to be up all night. And in reality she probably just rolled over, or sighed, but there I am up for an hour going crazy. And so the fan goes on. And we all sleep better.

8) New Mama Class at AMMA Maternity
If you live in Minneapolis, you need to sign up for this class. Go to this website, and check out the class schedule: http://www.ammamaternity.com/. If you can get Suzy as an instructor, do it.

There is nothing like walking into a room of new moms, all going through the same changes, feelings, challenges and being able to lose it (as I did), not feeling stressed if your baby is screaming (because mine almost always was), and becoming fast friends with women you are sure will be lifelong friends. Oh, and the private facebook group with a built-in "nursing at 3AM conversation and entertainment" was pretty nice too.

9) A good pump

If you are thinking of breastfeeding, do not scrimp on the pump. This thing will be spending lots of time with you even though you probably don't want to be spending all that much time with it. So, get a quality pump because you can crank that sucker up and get it done and over with as quick as possible.

We got the Medela Pump n' Style. If you can get past the ridiculous name.. (really? Pump in Style?? Just because it comes in a 'discreet' black bag. I don't think so)...it's a good quality pump and I can speak from experience that it lasts for an entire year!

10) Good Friends and Family

No mama can get through the first year without an arsenal of support around her. And if you don't have it find it (see #8). I was lucky enough to have some absolutely amazing friends and family, and I couldn't have done it without them. I really, truly could not have. None of the above fancy gadgets would have helped if these people would not have helped keep me sane.