Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Feelin' grateful...

Last night while cooking dinner, this thought crossed my mind: "Today I am grateful for a husband who will willingly eat anything I place before him - even when he's already eaten it three times this week!" The poor guy must be so sick of chicken and noodles. He's very patient with my pregnancy cravings! Gosh, just looking at this picture makes me want to gobble down another plateful!

Later on last night, I did what I do every night before heading to bed. I snuck into Chloe's room to give her one last kiss (after ensuring she was still breathing of course). When I found her like this with her baby laying on her chest (as she once layed on my chest), I couldn't help but melt (well, and grab the camera). This cute little thing is gearing up for her big sister days! What a pro she'll be by the time November rolls around. I am so grateful to have her in my life. She drives me nuts and wears me out, but I could never imagine life without her!

I spent the morning volunteering with some women from church at the Marian House Soup Kitchen. Sadly, this was the first time I've ever done anything like this. It was humbling to say the least. Over 430 people, homeless or of low income showed up for lunch. I worked in the back of the main dining area, collecting dirty plates, cups and utensils, and in the process interacted with many. I'll have to say I was especially touched by those who cleaned their plates entirely and offered me a very genuine "thank you!" on their way out the door. It showed me just how grateful they were for what very well could have been their only meal of the day. I took a break around noon and went and sat in a separate dining area, designated for families with small children. It was tough watching some of those kiddos scarf down their food as if it was the last meal they'd ever eat. One little family in particular really got me. It was a young mother with her three year old son and ten month old daughter. The sweet little baby and I kept making eye contact, and each time she'd give me a big huge smile. She was quite a flirt, actually, and oh so cute! I don't know that I've ever in my life seen such a smiley baby before! What an example she was, that even in the midst of struggles and heartache, it's still possible to wear a smile!

There is so much to be grateful for. A roof over our heads, food in the fridge, flushing toilets, electricity, health care, shoes, family... so many of the things we take for granted are the very things others wish for more than anything else. Today was a real eye opener for me, and I hope it's made me a better person.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A work in progress

Well, we finished the main color yesterday (second coat and all). The weather was all over the place, which especially made us nervous during the moments we could no longer see sun light. Luckily the rain did not pay us a visit! We wrapped things up around 6, and then devoured an entire large Papa John's pizza! I cannot tell you how incredibly exhausted we both were last night, and are still today! I'd like to say what's left is minimal, but it really isn't. At least we're finished with the main body!

Here's the house in its current state.

Saying goodbye to the last of the brown... good riddance!

Nothing spectacular at this point, but anyone who has seen our house in person would agree that it already looks better. We still have trim, shutters, the front door, and possibly the garage doors left (depending on whether or not their current color blends with the rest of the house once we are finished). I'll post true before and after photos once the job is complete.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

It's official...WE ARE CRAZY!!

Last Sunday as Neil and I were discussing how we could make the most of our upcoming Memorial Day weekend, we quickly came to the conclusion that painting the exterior of our house was the best option (yes, we are crazy). Since the day we moved in we've H-A-T-E-D the color. Okay, I've hated the color, and Neil has agreed that it's ugly. Only one other house in the entire neighborhood is the same color scheme, if that gives you any idea of how awful it is. Unfortunately other house projects have taken priority up to this point. But this weekend (finally) seemed like the best time to tackle this one, and here's why:

  • We are almost ready to landscape the backyard - yay! (just have to install sprinklers), and we figure it's much smarter to paint now rather than after we've laid sod and planted bushes and flowers right up against the house.

  • We have a paint sprayer (yet another amazing Craigslist find)! We actually bought it for the sake of painting the basement, but made very good use of it yesterday and will once again crank it up tomorrow! What a HUGE difference it has already made for us!

  • I have re-gained my energy, am not awkwardly large (yet) and can still maintain my balance. Don't worry, Mom, I haven't gotten too high up on the ladders.

  • The weather is perfect - warm, but not HOT! My only wish is that the wind calms down a bit tomorrow!
We got our colors approved through HOA last week, and I picked up paint Friday. That same afternoon Neil pressure washed the house. Then all of Saturday we were outside painting away (thank you, Molly and LeAnne for helping out with Chloe). We made more progress than we'd planned to, and hope to be finished with the main color by noon tomorrow (have I mentioned how handy a paint sprayer can come in?). All that will be left then is the front door, shutters and trim. Yes, we are crazy! But any of you who know Neil really can't be that surprised by this undertaking. He's fearless when it comes to projects.

Speaking of Neil, here he is in action yesterday! More pictures to come...

On a side note, if any of you are around tomorrow and want to drop by with some fresh lemonade, we'll gladly welcome it (clear of throat... STELENE!, WHO LIVES RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET)! Only kidding, unless you really are feeling charitable! :)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chloe's latest treasure

For months I have been watching Craigstlist faithfully for a Little Tykes slide. And as you can see, my efforts finally paid off! We picked it up Monday and all the way there and back Chloe repeated, "I get a new red slide! I get a new red slide!" How she knew it was red before she saw it, I haven't a clue. Needless to say, she's been in heaven ever since, and I am quite convinced it's the best twenty bucks I've ever spent!

Tuesday Chloe and Joel had a play date, and naturally the slide was their main source of fun. I placed it in Chloe's little pool and those two just had the time of their lives splashing around and soaking in the sun. I've never heard so many squeals and giggles from two children! They built up quite a bit of speed going down but didn't seem the least bit bothered by the hard landings.

Poor Emme probably felt left out watching the big kids play!

Silly silly kids...

I am hoping we continue to have beautiful days. I sure am ready for it to warm up FOR GOOD!


Monday, May 19, 2008

I've been tagged...

Wendy tagged me (like a week ago), so here goes!

My Random Three's

1. Being married to my best friend and knowing we're equally committed.

2. Being a mother and being pregnant.

3. Music and dance, two things that have always inspired me.

1. Something terrible happening to Neil, Chloe or another close family member.

2. More of a phobia: big spiders and bugs (HATE THEM ALL) and still jump like a little girl every time I see one.

3. A house fire or some other crazy accident that could result in the loss of a loved one, important possessions, or our home.

1. To be a more patient person.

2. To learn to play the piano WELL.

3. To obtain my Bachelor's degree.

1. I have managed to hang onto old family photos (going back to my parents' childhood years), every single letter and card Neil and I have ever exchanged, cards from baby showers and other keepsakes for Chloe, etc. Now if I could just transfer all of these valuables from boxes into cute scrapbooks... HA!!

2. I am a perfectionist and hate it! I have no problem starting a project, but often the thought of finishing it overwhelms me because I'm afraid it won't be good enough. This can be as simple as hanging pictures on the wall or as complex as completing a scrapbook or some other craft project.

3. The closest thing to a "collection" I have are Willow Tree figurines. I've acquired several over the years and LOVE them, but have never intentionally "collected" them.

I am fascinated with the city of New Orleans; the music, architecture, culture (voodoo, which I really know nothing about), creole and cajun food, the people, their "yat" dialects, and the cemeteries with above-ground tombs. Some of my favorite movies take place in the south, and what I've seen of it myself I have loved. But for some reason there's something extra appealing about New Orleans. Neil is going there next month on business, and I'm jealous.

2. This one may change your opinion of me forever! Oh well, here goes... I love twisted and disturbing crime shows/movies and stories, even if they give me the worst nightmares. Ted Bundy and all those other crazy serial killers who took crime to the next level absolutely terrify me, but at the same time I can never seem to get enough of them, whether it's reading a detailed article or description of just what they did, or watching some random documentary. Even the thought of touring a prison, especially with death row inmates totally fascinates me, though I'd never actually have the guts to do it, or the opportunity, I'm sure. And while I'm spilling the beans, I'm also totally fascinated with corpses and the autopsy process, etc. We had some good friends in college (Brad and Maria) who lived above a mortuary (weird, I know), and I remember going down to the office with Maria one day (they did some work for the mortuary, which lowered their rent) and walking by gurneys holding dead bodies, and also walking by the room where they performed autopsies and the embalming procedures, and seeing a couple bodies laying on the exam tables. TOTALLY creeped me out, but at the same time my twisted mind wanted to see more! I'm whacked out, I know.

3. On a much lighter note, I am addicted to the Discovery Health channel. The miracle of life, the human body and the doctors and scientists who have found solutions to the most mysterious medical questions just amaze me. I especially love the shows about labor and delivery, but could be content watching just about anything else the channel offers.

I tag: all my cousins - you know who you are!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Potatoes, potatoes, and MORE potatoes!

Tried these first two recipes out earlier in the week and loved them both! As for the third, all credit goes to my mom. She made these a ton when I was growing up, and to this day they are the best french fries I've ever tasted!

So for all you potato lovers out there, here's your fix for the week!

Petite Potatoes with Herbs

1-1 1/2 pounds petite potatoes, unpeeled
1 cup chicken broth (I used chicken stock and threw in a chicken bouillon for even more flavor)
3 T. butter
1 t. chopped fresh parsley
1 t. chopped fresh chives (or 1/2 t. freeze-dried chives)

Scrub potatoes with brush and cut them into quarters (I only cut mine in half because they were so tiny to begin with). Arrange quarters (or halves) in large heavy skillet in one layer. They must fit snugly. Pour in broth and bring to a boil. Cover tightly and cook about 4 minutes, shaking skillet over high heat until almost all liquid has evaporated. Lower heat, add butter and cook gently 10 minutes, uncovered, shaking skillet often. Test with fork. Partly cover and set aside; keep warm. Sprinkle with salt, chopped parsley and chives just before serving. Serves 4-5.

Parmesan Baked Potatoes

6 T. butter (or margarine), melted
3 T. grated Parmesan cheese
2 t. Italian seasoning
1 t. garlic powder
6-8 small baking potatoes, halved lengthwise

Pour butter into a 9x13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder. Place potatoes in pan with cut side down. Bake, uncovered at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until tender.

*I cut the recipe in half (as you can see in the above photo), and used a combination of basil, oregano and chives instead of Italian seasoning (I didn't have any on hand). In addition to garlic powder, I added a pinch of cayenne pepper. Baked in a 7x11-inch baking dish for 35 minutes, and they came out perfectly. I'm not huge on baked potatoes, but I liked these. You can still add all the normal toppings that you would to a traditional baked potato. This just adds a little extra crunch and flavor.

Mom's French Fries

4-5 medium russet potatoes (this makes enough for Neil, Chloe and me)
6-8 cups canola oil (or enough to fill a small stock pot 3-4 inches)

Heat stove to medium-high heat (I put the knob to 7). Scrub and rinse potatoes, and slice lengthwise into strips to whatever thickness you prefer.

After the oil has heated about 7 minutes, dip one fry slightly into the hot oil. If the oil immediately starts fizzling around the fry, that's a pretty safe bet the oil is ready (see picture to the right). If not, give it another minute and try again. If on the other hand the oil immediately starts splattering around, it's too hot, so turn it down slightly and give it another minute. Every stove heats differently, and the temperature of the oil is key to success with this recipe. My stove takes 8-10 minutes to heat the oil, but that doesn't mean yours won't heat faster (or slower).

When the oil is ready, place the fries carefully into the pot. The oil should immediately come to a rolling boil, but again, not splattering all over the place. Immediately turn the temperature to medium heat (5) once the fries are in the pot (again, this is just what works with my stove. Adjust the temperature to whatever keeps the oil at a consistent rolling boil but not splattering - this may mean high heat for your stove - just use your own judgement). With a slotted spoon, gently break up the fries to prevent sticking (I know that sounds silly since they're in oil, but they can stick if they aren't separated). Gently stir fries every couple minutes.

Everyone likes their fries different, so after another 7 or so minutes take one out, let it cool off a bit and give it a taste. If it has just the right amount of crisp to it (and is entirely cooked through), then they're done and you can remove the rest. Just use your own judgement. Mine usually take 9 minutes, and I like them just barely crispy. Be sure to remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with a few layers of paper towel to absorb the grease. Sprinkle with salt (that's all we ever use) or whatever other seasoning you'd like.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

One Week...

...from tonight, my favorite show (well, next to The Office) premieres!
American Idol, you don't even hold a candle to this magic!


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lucky girls

Chloe's predictions for the day were correct (see previous post).

She got a sucker at Dr. Baer's office (2, actually)

...Then onto the grocery store for a cookie! What a lucky girl!

And what made her (and her mommy) even luckier is that they got to see daddy and have lunch with him! Neil has NEVER missed any of my doctor's appointments (with this pregnancy or the last). In fact, my appointment last month happened to land on one of his Pueblo days, which was especially difficult for him because on top of having to leave Pueblo earlier than usual to get to Colorado Springs in time for my 4:00 appointment (a good 50 miles), he had a dinner program that same evening BACK IN PUEBLO. The poor guy definitely made some sacrifices to be there, but never once complained! I don't know about you, but I think that says a lot. I sure do love my Neil.

And speaking of doctor's appointments, today's went very well. We got to hear the baby's heartbeat for the first time. It was music to my ears, let me tell you! At 155 beats per minute, it sounded as strong and healthy as ever! Once again, relief! And yippee, as of this Friday, goodbye first trimester, hello second! And, while we're on the subject, I felt the baby move for the first time last Thursday. They are just little thumps at this point (mostly on my right side), but they'll get MUCH stronger with time. What incredible things. I am very fortunate.


From the mouth of Chloe...

Chloe always has us chuckling about something she's said. Here's the latest:

  • Grandma Jill: "Are you a sweetie pie?"
    Chloe: "No, I'm Chloe Mae Andersen." Then a few seconds later, in a soft voice, "I'm not a pie."

  • Pointing at a zit on my face, "That's a big mole!" An honest two-year-old and pregnancy acne - 2 things you've just gotta love!
  • After convincing daddy to lay down next to her on the living room floor, Chloe said in an authoritative tone, "Go to sleep! Close your eyes! Don't open them again!" Then she kissed him on the forehead.
  • While banging on the piano, "I'm playing Chapsticks!"
  • "He touched the butt!" (A word for word quote from Finding Nemo - "butt" is actually supposed to be "boat"). Apparently Chloe has found the humor in this and repeats it quite frequently.
  • In the midst of a slight cough attack I asked Chloe if she wanted some water. She nodded, and a few seconds later said, "Actually, I would like juice! How about juice!?"

  • Many of you are familiar with the 'Clean up' song learned in primary and/or pre-school. In case you aren't, it goes like this: "Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share." Here's Chloe's version: "Clean up, clean up, everybody else!" Manipulative child!

  • This morning after informing Chloe of our agenda for the day, she repeated back to me her own interpretation, which was: "Let's go to Dr. Baer's and get a sucker and THEN go to the store and get a cookie!" Funny how I never mentioned anything about treats!
You just can't help but smile when this little girl opens her mouth, even when it's something sassy.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Father Daughter Fun

Here is Neil and Chloe's afternoon ritual. I generally stay in the other room during their "throw me at the pillows" game, in fear I'll otherwise witness Chloe's head going through the wall at any second! Still, it's pretty funny stuff. This girl has no fear.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

13 weeks

This girl is obsessed with her mommy's belly!


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Recipe of the Week

Enchiladas were sounding especially good to me today, but when Neil came home from work and told me he'd had enchiladas for lunch I decided our original meal plans for the evening would need to be altered. Taco casserole was the winning compromise! Different from enchiladas, but still zesty and cheesy, which I think is what mostly appealed to me with the enchiladas. I found this recipe on months ago, and we've enjoyed it several times since. It's quick, easy and makes great left overs. Enjoy!

Taco Casserole

1 pound ground beef
8 ounces macaroni
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed tomato soup
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning mix
2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
2 ounces shredded monterey jack cheese
3/4-1 cup crushed tortilla chips
Optional toppings:

Chopped green onions
Sliced black olives
Sour cream


Preheat oven to 350.
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling water until almost done (it will continue to cook some in the oven). Drain.
In large skillet, cook and stir ground beef and chopped onion over medium heat until brown. Mix in tomato soup, diced tomatoes, and taco seasoning mix. Stir in pasta.
Spoon beef mixture into a 9x13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle crumbled tortilla chips and grated cheese over the top.
Bake 25-30 minutes. Serve with optional toppings or whatever else you'd like!

My own personal tips:
*I've found that the diced tomatoes often have larger chunks of tomato than I'd like so I throw them straight from the can into a food chopper for 10 seconds before throwing them into the pan. Just a personal preference.

*I never measure the cheese. I just sprinkle a handful of both over the top of the casserole.
*Next time I make this I'm going to add canned corn and possibly black beans!

Looks a lot prettier with the toppings, eh?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The latest with us...

My mom flew in from Salt Lake last Monday and was here until Saturday. She helped out so much with Chloe, gave me a piano lesson, allowed Neil and me a relaxing evening out Friday, and spoiled her grand daughter absolutely rotten! Wednesday we celebrated her birthday with a surprise ultrasound that had been priorly arranged, a fun lunch date, and key lime pie to finish the day off.

Just one example of how this child was spoiled!

It's my understanding that you're supposed to pay for the doughnuts before you eat them! Way to set an example, Grandma Jill!

The ultrasound was awesome, and boy was the baby showing off for Grandma - jumping, waving, and kicking. S/he measured two more days ahead of schedule from last time. Guess it just shows we've got a healthy growing baby in there! You can certainly tell by looking at my bump.

At one point the technician asked if we wanted to know the baby's gender. When I asked if she could detect it this early she said she often can. Pretty impressive for being only 12 weeks along! Though the thought crossed my mind, I knew Neil would K-I-L-L me. Not only would he be disappointed if I found out without him, but we've decided, once again, that we are going to let this one be a surprise. Sorry guys! You're just gonna have to wait! If it's any consolation to you though, my gut says boy, WHICH MEANS we are having a girl! We learned with Chloe that my "mother's intuition" is non-existent (I swore she was a boy up until the moment she was born)!

Look at that long skinny leg and perfectly formed foot! Must take after his mama.

Okay, okay. Enough baby talk. Here's what Neil's been up to.

*560 two-by-fours: $1,120
*David's truck to carry the two-by-fours: 5 home cooked meals
*5,000 nails: $70
*9 Saturdays (and a handful of evenings) full of measuring, nailing, drilling, sawing, and countless trips to Home Depot: a tired husband and a flustered, yet grateful wife
*A 2,000 sq. ft. basement fully framed without ANY hired help: PRICELESS!

My husband is amazing! He has worked so hard these last several weeks, and it is really paying off. We are currently having air conditioning and a humidifier installed. The next step will be plumbing and electric. Then onto the drywall, mud and texturing phase. Our goal is to have the basement finished by the Fall, mostly so we can accommodate family when the munchkin arrives. Here are some more pictures that have been taken throughout the process.

And finally, since this post isn't random enough, here's how I found Chloe yesterday morning. Apparently she needed a band aid, but couldn't decide which one to use so thought she'd try them all out. Gotta love this stage.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Very VERY funny!

I couldn't wait until Mother's Day to post this. Absolutely HYSTERICAL!!

{be sure to scroll down and pause my music before hitting "play"}