7 reasons I love our CSA, and 2 reasons I don’t

Last year, I was torn about whether to plant a garden. I’ve successfully grown vegetables before and liked the idea of getting the kids involved with it, but like many people, I have a lot going on in my life and tending a garden isn’t my favorite way to spend my time.

So last year, I settled for potted herbs on our deck and green beans in our built-in deck planter—easy enough to water with the kids (no dragging the hose across the backyard) and I figured I’d hit up farmers markets with Corban or Mara as often as possible.

Then I started researching CSAs.

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CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The basic idea is you purchase a fixed-price weekly (or bi-weekly) share of produce from a local farm and then receive a box of whatever they have to offer each week.

Each farm works a little differently, and there are a lot of options in the Milwaukee area. Making a decision can be overwhelming—I was nervous about getting too much food, not getting enough food (it’s not the cheapest way to shop), receiving produce we wouldn’t want to eat, the pick-up being inconvenient…

When I saw that one farm had a pick-up site located within walking distance of our house, we decided to go for it (LotFotL Community Farm in Elkhorn).

Writing the check at the beginning of the summer was a little bit scary, but it was a great decision. Here’s what I loved about being a member of a CSA:

  1. We ate a ton of vegetables! You have to in order to keep up with the weekly boxes, but with a steady diet of fresh, local produce—raw, roasted, grilled, pureed into hummus, etc.—our small share box was just right for our family of four (one veggie-loving adult, one good-sport-veggie-eating-when-asked adult and two kids whose appetites are still negligible).
  2. It was fun to be surprised by what’s in the box each week. (They do give you a rough idea—and recipe links—via an email newsletter two days before pickup.)
  3. We ate seasonably. Everything is freshly picked, so you know it’s in season right here right now.
  4. We discovered new produce—celtuce, anyone? Can’t get that at the grocery store, or even at the farmers market.
  5. Our grocery list was always really short (and quick—who likes spending time in the grocery store in summer?).
  6. We were almost always stocked with enough produce to throw together a good, healthy meal.
  7. We branched out from our go-to vegetables and found new loves, like sautéed Swiss chard and roasted beets.

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So that was all great, but there were two downsides: the price (it ended up being roughly $20 a week, which is more than I would normally spend on veggies alone) and the fact that the constant stream of veggies, while great for our diets, also sometimes felt like a lot of work (washing, storing, meal planning, prepping, not letting it go to waste).

Despite all of the things I loved about our CSA, because of those two factors I was hesitant to join again this summer.

Then I got the email that I had won a free 2016 share (thanks to my diligent entries into their weekly trivia contest). Um… yeah, not going to turn that down!

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The share we won is bi-weekly, so that actually solved both problems (price and the overwhelming task of keeping up with a weekly box). Bi-weekly has been perfect; I don’t know how I kept up with it weekly last year (must have done a lot more cooking).

I guess next year will be the true test of whether I’m committed to CSA… there is no trivia contest this year so no shot at winning a free share!

Any other CSA members out there? What do you see as the pros and cons?

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Just sauteeing a little chard.

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Homemade Strawberry Coconut Lime Popsicles

We’ve been steadily checking items off our big list of summer fun. Today, since the weather was a bit meh and I was feeling estranged from our house, we stayed home and finally got around to making popsicles.

These recipes all sound fancy and fantastic, but it was 7:30 a.m. and I had two tiny helpers, so a real recipe wasn’t going to happen. Here’s what we improvised instead.

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Strawberry Coconut Lime Popsicles
Makes about 8 popsicles

1 can coconut milk
10-15 frozen strawberries
Juice of 1/2 lime
Maple syrup, to taste
Unsweetened, shredded coconut

Do not shake the can of coconut milk before opening. Open and skim off the layer of cream from the top (reserve for another use — like coconut whipped cream!). Add about half the remaining coconut milk, frozen strawberries, lime juice and maple syrup to a blender and blend until smooth, adding more coconut milk if needed. Add a handful of unsweetened coconut flakes and pulse until combined.

Sprinkle a pinch of coconut flakes in the bottom of each popsicle mold and fill each mold with the puree. Insert the popsicle sticks and freeze until hard, about 4 hours. For us, that meant lunchtime!

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Great success!

They aren’t too sweet, but were a huge treat to the kids. Mara mowed hers down to a stump then traded me for the remaining half of my popsicle. Nice move, little one.

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Learning through food: Resurrection/Easter Story Cookies

Throughout history, food has served as much more than physical nourishment for mankind. Sharing a meal with others is a bonding experience, a sign of hospitality and respect and a way to show love. Cuisine is a huge part of every culture, and one that many people take pleasure in.

No matter how much we eat, within hours our hunger returns. As one of the essential needs shared by every person on earth, food is powerful. We celebrate with food. We mourn with food. We worship with food. It connects us to one another and to the past.

We see that especially this time of year—those who are Jewish honor Passover by eating unleavened bread as their ancestors did in their hasty flee from slavery in Egypt; the lamb shankbone on the seder plate commemorates the sacrificial lamb God required of his people that night he freed them (and for Christians this symbolism goes further to represent Christ’s sacrifice in order to free us from the bondage of sin); eggs represent new life, in the most basic springtime sense and also in the context of Jesus rising from the dead; empty eggshells remind us of the empty tomb Jesus’ loved ones found the morning he was risen; and the Lord’s supper, first celebrated just before Jesus’ death, is a sacrament that has brought Christians together in worship for millennia.

Food as a metaphor is a beautiful thing.

This weekend I decided to use baking cookies as a hands-on storytelling device with Corban and Mara. At age 3, Corban’s eager little heart is soaking in the Easter story, and I hoped to use this as another way to help it take root. At age 18 months, Mara just was excited to be helping in the kitchen with us, and that’s good too.

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These Resurrection Cookies or Easter Story Cookies can be found all over the Internet. Each ingredient and step tells a part of the Easter story with scripture and symbolism. I used this handy printable sheet to guide us, along with our shiny new Reformation Study Bible, but halfway through it was getting too chaotic to flip through the pages so I just stuck to reading the scripture verses off the recipe.

The ingredients are simple—all things we already had on hand.

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1 cup pecan halves

1 teaspoon vinegar

3 egg whites

Pinch of salt

1 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the pecans in a plastic freezer bag and have your child break them into small pieces by beating them with a wooden spoon. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, Roman soldiers beat him. Read John 19:1-3.

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Have your child smell and taste the vinegar before adding it to a mixing bowl.

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Explain that Jesus was offered sour wine/vinegar to drink while He hung on the cross. Read John 19:28-30.

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Add the egg whites to the bowl, explaining that eggs represent life and Jesus loves us so much He gave His life in order to give us life. Read John 10:10-11.

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For some reason they were blowing in the bowl.

Sprinkle a pinch of salt into your child’s hand and have him taste a bit before shaking the rest into the bowl. Explain that Jesus’ friends and followers cried salty tears when He died. Read Luke 23:27.

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Of course, after tasting the salt, you have to let them taste the sugar. This was by far Corban and Mara’s favorite part. Let’s just pause and observe.

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Yes, I let that happen.

Gradually add the sugar to the bowl while beating the egg whites on high with a whisk attachment. A stand mixer helps tremendously for this recipe. As you add the sugar, and your kids lick the spilled granules off the counter, explain that even though Jesus died, the story is sweet because He did it because He loves us. He wants us to know we belong to Him. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16.

Continue beating the egg whites until they are glossy and stiff peaks form (peaks stand straight up when whisk is removed). This will take a while—10 to 15 minutes.

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While you beat the egg whites, have your child observe how white the mixture is and explain that white represents purity and Jesus cleansing us of our sins. Read Isaiah 1:18.

I’ll be honest, I had to be somewhere so I rushed it and didn’t quite let the egg whites get to stiff peaks. This was a big mistake—make sure you keep beating until the peaks stand straight up and don’t fold over when you lift the whisk out!

Gently fold in the pecans.

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Drop the mixture by spoonful onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper or parchment paper. Explain that these mounds represent the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid. Read Matthew 27:57-60.

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Can’t resist a little taste.

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By this point the scripture passages were background noise, but I still was able to have meaningful discussions with Corban about the symbolism. Since this wasn’t his first (or last) time hearing about these concepts, it was fruitful as another way to let the story sink in.

Now it’s time to put the cookies in the oven. Close the door and turn off the oven immediately. Have our child put a piece of tape over the door and explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed and secure. Read Matthew 27:65-66.

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Now go to bed. Ask how your child feels to leave the cookies until tomorrow, and explain that Jesus’ friends were very sad when He died and was placed in the tomb. Read John 16:20, 22.

Leave the oven closed until the next morning. Then remove the cookies and have your child examine them.

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The sides of the cookies will be cracked. When they taste them, they will find that they are hollow. Explain that on Easter morning, Jesus’ friends were surprised to find the tomb empty. Jesus was alive! Read Matthew 28:1-9.

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Now I have to confess that our cookies were not hollow. (Womp womp.) I believe it’s because the egg whites were still at soft peaks rather than stiff peaks when I stopped beating them.

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But do you see these faces? Do they care?

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We pretended they were hollow. The kids were still excited Jesus was raised from the dead. And mostly just thrilled to be eating cookies at 8 a.m.

I’m sure this activity will bear more spiritual fruit as they grow older, but I think baking is a wonderful teaching tool even at this age—or maybe especially at this age. Food has that way of connecting with us all.

Basketball-themed 2nd birthday party

If only every birthday could be as joy-filled as a 2nd birthday!

My baby Corban turned two years old yesterday, and if I stop and ruminate on that for too long I’ll get teary eyed. He had a most wonderful day celebrating with family, and I had the best time watching him enjoy himself so much.

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We decided for birthday #2 to do a family party, and since none of our families live in the same state as us, we moved the festivities to my parents’ house. One of Corban’s main loves right now is basketball, so a basketball-themed party it was. This was definitely an easy theme to pull off.

Basketball eating paraphernalia…

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Basketball cake on a basketball court table cloth…

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Basketball cookies…

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Basketball mandarin oranges…

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And (not pictured) basketball cutouts hanging from the ceiling and other assorted basketball decorations. I had to resist buying a basketball piñata from the party store…

The menu:

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We just did appetizer foods since the party was at 2:30 in the afternoon. It’s not easy picking a party time for a 2-year-old, and we failed miserably with our 2:30 gamble. Corban would not fall asleep for his nap when we put him down at noon. I’m sure the fact that he knew it was his birthday and that we were having cake later did not help. As our final last-ditch effort, Peter lay down with him until he passed out… at 2:15. So we let the birthday boy nap for an hour and be late for his own party.

After being woken up from his nap and presented into a basketball-laden basement full of both strange and familiar faces, Corban was a little overwhelmed. He quickly warmed up, though.

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Aside from his little sister, C was the only kid at his party. And Mara snoozed almost the entire time.

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He I was honored to have some of my dear high school friends in attendance, though.

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After a while, Corban got ahold of a dessert plate and a fork and made it known that he was ready for cake.

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“Cake? Cake?”

He had this very disconcerted look on his face the entire time as we sang to him. His head turned from one side of the room to the other, slowly taking it all in.

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But at the end of the song, he knew what to do.

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And then he stuck his fork in the cake, claiming it as his own.

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I debated telling guests not to bring a gift, like we did for Corban’s first birthday, but I’m glad I didn’t because Corban had SO much fun opening gifts.

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He reacted with such genuine pleasure after each one. He wanted to stop and play with each gift immediately after opening it.

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We had to whisk them away from him to keep things moving along.

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“The first Elmo that hugs back” — a little creepy, but C is in love with “Big Elmo.”

Corban slept on our long, snowy drive back home last night. He woke up as we pulled in, so I sat him in my lap in his room to read a book before putting him back to sleep. After we read, he groggily murmured, “Birthday,” followed by, “cake…” and “people…” and I could see the little wheels turning in his head as he processed the day and his very special party. It makes me so content to witness such pure toddler joy and wonder every day, and when it comes to joy and wonder his second birthday just couldn’t be topped.

Since I probably won’t get the chance to write a separate two-year update, here are just some of the things I don’t want to forget about my sweet little Corban at age two:

  • The way he pumps one arm up and down so fiercely when he runs.
  • Playing fire truck on the basement couch. He demands that I drive (fast), he honk the horn and we both get out and fight the fire with pool noodles.
  • His little voice saying, “Miss!” when he or someone else misses a basketball shot.
  • His backseat renditions of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
  • His repeated requests for “Monkey song” on my phone.
  • The way he counts — adding emphasis to every third number or so (“one, two, THREE!! four, five, six, SEVEN!!”)
  • The way he eagerly points out, “Open eyes?” when Mara wakes up, and always looks out for his sister’s wellbeing by putting her pacifier back in her mouth, alerting me when she spits up or rocking her car seat if she starts fussing when we’re at the grocery store. He also points out when she smiles, or asks me to make her smile.
  • The way he pronounces Corban (“Corgo”) and refers to himself in the third person.
  • His love for Biggles and daily requests to have him sit in his lap or come play with him.
  • How his imagination is just beginning to blossom: he treats his stuffed animals like best friends, soaks in the pretend games I teach him (like fire truck, picnic and singing performances) and reads to himself.
  • The irrepressible fun he has with his little friends, and how he mentions them by (mispronounced) name when he’s not with them.
  • The feel of his snuggly head on my shoulder as I hold him and sing to him before bed.

I finally did a quick glance through all the video clips I’ve collected over the past two years and put together a snapshot of Corban’s life thus far to screen at his party. Here it is. Amazing how quickly these two years have gone by!

Baptism celebration and easy, make-ahead menu

Mara was baptized on Sunday. Such joy!

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Elmer Sparks photo

Elmer Sparks photo

Elmer Sparks photo

Elmer Sparks photo

Elmer Sparks photo

Corban talked through our time up front, asking for his “boc,” a.k.a. pacifier. No amount of discreet shh-ing can quiet a toddler who wants to be heard!

Elmer Sparks photo

Elmer Sparks photo

After, he got his wish.

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Elmer Sparks photo

We were blessed to have Mara’s grandparents, great-grandparents, aunt and uncles there to share in the occasion.

Elmer Sparks photo

Elmer Sparks photo

After the service, we had lunch at our house with a simple, make-ahead menu.

Mara’s baptism lunch:

Since I knew we’d all be arriving back at our house at the same time, and right around lunchtime, I wanted to have everything pretty much ready to go when we walked in the door. The key to making this work? Using the slow cooker, delegating side dish duties and getting the house 100% ready the night before.

Peter’s mom brought her signature dinner rolls. My mom brought the potatoes, ready to just pop in the oven for 20 minutes, and the green beans (haricot verts from Trader Joe’s), which she sautéed in olive oil for about five minutes and tossed with sliced almonds. My grandma brought the appetizers. Their help really made the meal come together easily!

I set the two tables the night before with a simple, fall theme.

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I used my Goodwill mismatched “china,” dollar store placemats, my favorite (er, only) chargers and homemade coffee bean candles.

Just like when Corban was baptized, Peter chose two verses of scripture for Mara. The first, from our perspective. The second, from her perspective. Cards with the verses also went on the table to share with our family.

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3 John: 4: I have no greater joy than to know that my children are walking in the truth.

Psalm 139: 14: I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are you works; my soul knows it very well.

I also made a point the night before to get out every serving dish, pitcher and utensil that I’d need. That way it was all out on the counter and I wasn’t digging through cabinets when our guests were here.

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The slow cooker Italian beef turned out great – juicy, tender and full of flavor. I mixed all the spices the night before then zombie-walked out of bed at 5 a.m. to put it all in the Crockpot. The recipe is, appropriately, from our church cookbook (and too good not to share so it’s at the bottom of this post).

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I made two easy cocktails, one alcoholic and one not.

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Sparkling Cranberry Punch (left) and Champagne and Cranberry Juice Sparkling Punch. And that’s her birth announcement (more on that in another post) and newborn footprint and handprint in the background.

I also have to mention the cake. I had high hopes for the cake recipe I selected, White Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting from Add a Pinch.

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It’s a triple layer cake, which I had never attempted before. Sadly, I greased my pans but forgot to flour them, so one of my layers would not come out of the pan, and ended up in a huge pile.

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Fortunately, I was able to piece it together as the middle layer, and you really couldn’t tell the difference! Unfortunately, my layers didn’t seem to rise as much as the photo at Add a Pinch, so while I thought the cake had an excellent flavor, the texture was denser than it should have been. There also wasn’t quite enough frosting to cover all my messy crumbs from the jumbled layers.

Despite its imperfections, we enjoyed the cake and I have had no trouble polishing off the leftover pieces over the past few days.

After lunch, we spent the afternoon enjoying time with family and, of course, enjoying lots of Mara snuggles.

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I was in love with her little outfit and didn’t want to take it off her at the end of the day.

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How wonderful it is to be able to celebrate God’s covenant to us and publicly welcome Mara into our church family.

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Slow Cooker Italian Beef
Makes 14-18 servings

6 pounds boneless chuck or rump roast
1 packet onion soup mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning (I used a pinch each of basil, oregano and parsley)
1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt
1 teaspoon Ac’cent (I didn’t know what this was so I used Mrs. Dash — don’t ask why I own that…)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 to 1 cup water

Place meat in slow cooker, sprinkle spice mixture over it and add water. Cook on low 8 hours. When beef is done, slice or shred and leave in juices (the longer it sits, the better it tastes) until serving on buns.

Groundhog Day and Corban’s first steps

Everyone keeps referring to this weekend as Super Bowl weekend, but to us it was Groundhog Day weekend.

Peter has always adored the movie “Groundhog Day,” and he successfully got me on board with it shortly after we started dating. It’s a movie we can both watch over and over (how appropriate). So this year we took advantage of February 2nd falling on a Saturday and decided to celebrate the holiday and the movie with a bunch of friends from church.

There were groundhog cookies…

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(Decorating cutout cookies makes me crazy! I must remember this next time I am tempted to make cutesy cookies.)

Groundhog cupcakes…

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(Thanks, Laura!)

Woodchuck cider…

(Did you know groundhog = woodchuck?)

And acorns.

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(Because groundhogs are similar to squirrels, right?)

Corban actually got his first taste of chocolate after snatching one of the acorns out of the bowl while I was photographing them. He loved it, of course.

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Other than that, it was just a normal party with lots and lots of food. I went with my tried and true menu of homemade barbecue pulled pork, Chinese salad, green salad and baked beans. Plus lots of snacks and desserts provided by our guests.

Peter and I love to have people over, and we usually throw at least one decent party each year. Strangely, I’ve found that the more planning I put into an event, the more stressed I am during the party. This is probably because when I plan in too much detail, I overcomplicate it by doing things like beer-tasting tournaments, overly ambitious meals and detailed decorating.

This party was quite low stress, despite including lots of homemade food. No decorating, no worrying about friend groups mixing awkwardly, no activities planned (besides some people watching the movie). We kept it simple, and therefore were able to have fun during the party. I love party planning, but too often I end up enjoying the planning but stressing during the party itself — I should be able to enjoy both!

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In even more exciting news (more exciting than Groundhog Day? No kidding)… Corban took his first steps on Thursday!

This was one of the coolest parenting moments for me so far. It was unexpected, too. He’s been standing on his own and cruising along furniture, but none of us expected him to just get up out of his mini rocking chair and walk. But that’s exactly what happened. Two unanticipated steps. We all (meaning Peter, my friend Litzy, who was over for dinner, and I) just laughed in astonishment.

Aforementioned rocking chair, though not on the day he walked.

Aforementioned rocking chair, though not on the day he walked.

I also breathed a huge sigh of relief that I was there to see it. The sad truth is that I am at work during more than half of his waking hours, so there was a good chance I would miss this milestone. I’m thanking God that I didn’t!

Aside from a few other single steps that we coaxed out of him that night, he hasn’t done any more walking. He’s still content with his expert crawling. So for now I’ll just continue to enjoy my baby who loves to be held, cuddled and chauffeured around on my hip before he turns into an independent toddler.

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In other news, I missed the halftime show, but enjoyed an even better splashtime show instead.

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Valentine’s Day DIY goodies

My mom was a Pinterest mom long before Pinterest (or even the Internet) was around. She always made Valentine’s Day extra special with a craft or handmade gift. In first grade I had the COOLEST valentine card box for school (remember making those?) My mom helped me make a candy heart house with a slot for valentines (think gingerbread house but with conversation hearts). That thing would totally be all over Pinterest these days.

Last February I was on maternity leave and in total nesting mode, so I made several DIY goodies. They’re no conversation heart gingerbread house, but still kind of fun and festive.

3-D “I love you” Valentine – tutorial here.

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Valentine’s Day wreath (which easily converts for any season) – tutorial here.

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[My wreath remained in Valentine’s mode until about October. Then it had a brief stint in fall mode, and it’s currently still in Christmas colors. Oops. Time to make it pretty in pink again!]

2-ingredient strawberry fudge. I made it last year but never wrote about it. It’s just a bag of white chocolate chips melted with a container of strawberry frosting stirred in (I made a batch with cherry frosting too and liked it even better). I topped mine with mini M&Ms. It’s sickeningly sweet, but strangely addictive. Recipe is from this blog post.

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I’ll keep you posted if I get ambitious and do anything cutesy for Valentine’s Day this year. Right now, though, I’m in Groundhog Day mode. Yup. We are having a little gathering Saturday to celebrate Peter’s favorite movie and the holiday behind it. Groundhog cookies, here I come.

What I’ve been cooking (and therefore eating)

As a recovering food blogger, I find myself doing things like writing down detailed modifications to recipes as I make them, composing descriptions in my head of the meals I’m tasting and feeling guilty for not photographing a new recipe before chowing it down.

My food blog of 4+ years kind of fizzled out this past year. I took a four-month break from blogging at Kitchen Adventures during my maternity leave, and then when I came back, not only was I too busy at work to have much time to blog, but my passion for trying new recipes and cooking techniques kind of faded for a while as we adjusted to life as parents.

At some point this past fall, I went a week, then a month, then two months without writing a single post, nor having much inclination to write one. So that marked the unofficial adios of Kitchen Adventures.

Perhaps I’ll revisit that decision (and writing this post actually makes me want to now, so don’t write off KA just yet!), but for now I’ve got some food blogging I need to get off my chest.

Here’s the best of what I’ve been cooking recently. (Of course, I only have a photo of one recipe.)

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Falafel-Stuffed Pitas with Tahini Sauce from Mama Pea | This was great fresh, but got dried out as leftovers. The tomatoes really brought all the flavors together.

Crock Pot Pork and Apples from Eat Live Run | 5 ingredients. 6 hours in the slow cooker. Peter liked it. Corban liked it. I liked it. WIN. [I shredded it all up at the end and served it mixed together.]

Szechuan Broccoli and Quinoa from Mama Pea | Another crowd pleaser. Super flavorful and healthy.

Coconut Curried Shrimp with Coconut Rice from What’s Gaby Cooking | I am definitely making this again soon. The shrimp was rich and slightly spicy, with the perfect crunch to it.

Roasted Cauliflower and Tahini Salad from Daily Garnish | This sounds like the weirdest salad ever, but once I had one serving of this sweet and bitter flavor combination, I was addicted.

Quick Sesame Soba Noodles from Eat Live Run | Peter wasn’t a huge fan, but I thought these sweet, tender buckwheat noodles were satisfying hot or cold, fresh or leftover. Very quick and easy to make.

Hippie Bowls from Daily Garnish | This may seem like an odd mix of ingredients – including carrots, raisins and quinoa – but a creamy peanut sauce really brings them all together.

African Peanut Stew adapted from Mama Pea | This is a longtime favorite of mine that I blogged about at Kitchen Adventures a couple years ago. It’s a keeper.

20-minute Vegetarian Chili with Pumpkin Cornbread from Daily Garnish | I made both these recipes twice in a row one weekend. They are really easy and perfect for dinner guests.

Slow Cooker Paella | You’ll have to wait for this one – I’ll write about it in a future blog post.

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You may have noticed there are a few bloggers whose recipes I am consistently drawn to (Mama Pea and Daily Garnish are my two faves. The Peas and Thank You cookbook rocks). Meal planning is easier knowing I can just browse their sites and I’m bound to find a reliable recipe that suits my taste. And, related, here’s a post on how I meal plan (which I don’t do every week, but always wish I had on the weeks I skip!)

Perhaps you’ll start seeing some more food posts around here. I’m obviously in a bit of withdrawal.

13.5-month update

13.5 months? Wouldn’t you just round that to one year? That’s what I always thought before having Corban. I actually thought it was kind of ridiculous when people would say their baby was “13 months old.”

But now I’m the one doing that, because, as it turns out, a lot can happen in a month.

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It’s hard to believe it’s only been roughly six weeks since Corban’s first birthday. It seems like he’s changed so much in that time, but then again, I think I say that every month. Here are some milestones of the past month and a half:

Communication Skills

He is getting much more proficient at communicating with us. It’s amazing to witness this process! He points to his mouth if he sees food and he’s hungry. He will clap and sometimes wave on command. He gives sloppy, open-mouthed kisses if you ask for one  (the best!). He will say “woof, woof” if he hears someone talking about a dog or sees any animal resembling a dog (this includes cats — both live and in books — and just about every farm animal). Actually, we’re pretty sure he just thinks animals in general are called “woof, woofs.” We’re working on introducing some meows and moos into his vocabulary.

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Standing

The biggest physical development of these past six weeks is his ability to stand unsupported. He usually will only do this if you’re sitting on the floor with him and stand him up, but he finds it hilarious and waves and laughs the entire time he’s up (the video at the end of this post demonstrates this). We think his record is about 15 seconds. This new ability has made him much more proficient at walking while holding our hand(s), and he can walk across the entire house this way. If he really wants to get somewhere though, he’ll crawl (super fast) or reach for us to pick him up and then point to where he wants to be carried.

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Hair

His hair is out of control! Actually, it’s just the front that is an issue. It doesn’t like to stay brushed to the side and is getting quite long. But I’m still not emotionally ready for the first haircut, so we’ll continue to attempt to sweep it out of his eyes. It doesn’t seem to bother him at all.

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Play Time

He loves zooming cars around on the floor, especially little Hot Wheels. Still enjoys dancing, and sometimes “singing” with us. Buttons and touch screens are absolutely fascinating.

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He’s really into books, and has definite preferences for certain books. If he’s in a picky mood he will reject each book you offer until you hold up the one he wants. This is usually any of the three “Spot” books we own (they are the best! Perfect size, storylines, flaps, pictures, etc.), “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You Hear?” or “Where is Baby’s Bellybutton?”

Corban now uses his shape sorter as a shape sorter (rather than just a bucket) and after a few tries can usually fit the shape through the correct slot. He adores his counting piggy bank my parents gave him for his birthday, and also got tons of use out of his Little People nativity set from Peter’s parents before we put it away for the season.

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He also loves putting this plastic bucket on his head – his “helmet” – and wearing it around while talking to himself in the echo chamber.

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Weaning

Ah, yes. Right when he turned one, it seemed time to officially start the process of weaning. We are now down to one nursing session a day, in the morning right when he wakes up. I always thought the bedtime nursing would be the last to go, but we both seem to enjoy it most in the morning. I’m guessing my milk supply will naturally deplete over the next few weeks and that will probably be the end. *Tear!* But weaning has actually been very natural and comfortable (minus a few days of physical discomfort for me) for us both so far. I’m thankful for that.

Thanks to my ridiculous freezer stock of breast milk, he still has at least three bottles of breast milk a day and we probably have another month of milk left. I admit, it is nice to clear some space in the freezer, though.

I will probably do a separate post about the weaning process, so leave a comment or email me if you have any questions!

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Holidays

I almost forgot, Corban experienced his second Christmas and New Year’s Eve this past month. He got to see two cousins who are a little bit older than him.

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Can you handle this?

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Christmas Eve was such a sweet (and toy-filled) night with my mom’s side of the family.

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We didn’t spoil him on Christmas Day, but he loved his new sled.

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Corban also got a kick out of riding around in Pa’s walker like it was a stroller.

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Sleep

Huge improvements/changes in sleep this past month! I finally weaned him from nursing in the middle of the night, which doesn’t mean he is consistently sleeping through the night (yet, at least), but he is sleeping through the night a lot more. Peter and I switch off nights getting up and getting him back to sleep if need be. This usually involves replacing the pacifier, re-covering him with his blanket and rubbing his back for a couple minutes. I’d like the back-rubbing part to go down the drain, but we’re taking this one step at a time.

He is definitely down to one nap a day now. That was a somewhat rocky transition, but now he naps for 1.5 to 2 hours starting in the late morning or early afternoon. This is much better than our previous mid-morning and late-afternoon nap schedule, which often involved either a battle for the second nap or a cranky, awake baby.

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Food

Corban’s appetite is sometimes shocking. He’s unleashed an undying love for frozen peas/carrots blend, and if he’s in the right mood he can eat half a bag in one sitting. I maintain that he is welcome to eat as many veggies as his little stomach desires! His other main food groups are bread, Cheerios, bananas, grapes, scrambled eggs, plain yogurt and cantaloupe. I need to find some more easy foods for him because the aforementioned make up probably 90% of his diet.

He has mastered the art of drinking water from his straw cup, and we also introduced a travel mug-like sippy cup (this one, specifically). It’s basically a baby version of a travel coffee mug, with a lid with a small opening. I like it because he is learning to drink like you drink from a regular cup (which is the end goal) — just with less spillage. I took the no-spill suction thing out so he can drink it without sucking like he would from a bottle.

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Life is good with this little one in it. My love for him grows as he grows. Each new development and personality quirk is such a blessing.

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In Action!

Here’s a video of Corban from earlier this month when he first started standing on his own (right at 13 months old). Note how thrilling the novelty of it is to him!

P.S. I completed my attempt at taking and posting a photo of Corban each day of his first year. Here is the finished project.

Some things are better with kids

Zoos. Aquariums. Sledding hills. Swimming pools.

Those places are all fun no matter who you are. But after  years of going to the zoo, the pool, etc. with only adult companions, I have to admit, they’re even more fun when you’re sharing the experience with a child.

Also like that? The Wisconsin State Fair.

I love the fair in and of itself. There are farm animals, ridiculous products being sold, cheesy entertainers and every kind of fried food you can think of (on a stick, of course). Last year I was pregnant during our trip to the fair, and as we wandered through the crowds, getting jostled by strollers and cut off by little kids, all I could think about were our future trips there with baby in tow. Today those images came to life and Corban had his first taste of fair fun (on a stick).

He is still too young to really appreciate it, and probably would have been just as entertained hanging out in our backyard, but today Peter and I had a great time showing the little guy what the fair is all about.

Oh! And before I go on, I should mention that the fair  has nursing baby areas, and they are nice. There is one in the expo center, one in the Journal Communications building (represent!) and one in a trailer by Herb Kohl’s milk stand. We hit up the latter one, a private, air-conditioned room with four nice, new recliners (thank you, Steinhafel’s). Even just for a diaper change, it sure beat the bathrooms.

Going on a weekday morning was key. In the past, we’ve gone on the weekends, and it’s just packed and hot and exhausting, so I can’t imagine doing that with a baby. With the much cooler temps today (70s?!) it was stroller central, and Peter and I enjoyed scoping out some double stroller varieties for future reference. We also vowed not to be those parents who struggle to push a huge stroller carrying a kid who is way too big to need one.

We started the day with a trio of beer sorbet. Yep. Beer sorbet. At 10 a.m.

Orange-dipped witty, lemon-dipped hefe weisen and chocolate-dipped Bavarian brown. I really liked them all, especially the hefe weisen. The sweet coating offset the slightly bitter sorbet nicely.

Then, of course, we couldn’t pass on Herb Kohl’s 25-cent flavored milk. Root beer, strawberry and unpictured chocolate.

The next two hours were spent walking around in the hopes that Corban would nap in the stroller. The goal: keep moving. This is actually a really good goal to have when you plan on enjoying some fried food later in the day. He fought it for a good hour and a half, but eventually, the little man gave in. For about 30 minutes, at which point a blaring pan-flute band woke him up.

That was OK though, (well, not really, he needed sleep, but…) I was eager to show him some baby animals.

He mildly enjoyed watching 3-day-old piglets (!!!), a baby lamb, goats and fuzzy chicks (one of which gave his finger a tiny peck when he grabbed the cage).

Lunch was had in the Wisconsin Products Pavilion, which is where you should go for real food at the fair. I had a sliced lamb leg sandwich with a cucumber sauce and it was perfect. I love that you can bring food and non-alcoholic drink into the fair, so we also split a banana I had brought in case we felt like feeding Corban solids here (not worth the effort).

Dessert was something I had been eyeing for the past couple years.

As with most deep-fried foods, it was good, but didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I guess when you anticipate something for two years, it’s likely that it won’t.

We finished off the afternoon in the small animal palace, where Corban made some bunny and bird friends.

Navigating a stroller in that joint was a mess, so we took turns taking C around to see everything.

He showed no emotion when a rooster cock-a-doodle-doo-ed at him, but he was fascinated by the tags labeling each cage.

All in all, great fun! I’m sure it will get even more fun in years to come.

And while some things are more fun with kids, outdoor showings of “Zoolander” aren’t… so on that note, our babysitter is here and we’re off to the Milwaukee Lakefront for Fish Fry & a Flick!