Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What do I need?

After the last post about the crafts that are going on at our house in preparation for this baby, it got me thinking anxious about what I need to start purchasing/registering for. Jarrod and I are minimalists. We don't like to have a lot of things and especially don't enjoy those one-use items. We have no need for an omlet pan, bagel cutter, or salad spinner. Give me a kitchen gadget that I can use to do 15 things and I'm happy! We're approaching this baby business the same way. I don't want a house full of baby gadgets that serve one tiny purpose. And I really don't want items cluttering up our house that we won't even use.

That said, I know there are things that we do need. The big ticket items don't stress me out nearly like the smaller ones! Here's the list that's currently bouncing around in my head. Where applicable I added a link to our current faves.

Big ticket items:
  • Crib
  • Crib mattress
  • Carseat
  • Stroller (I hear angels sing when I see this stroller!)
  • Rocker - I'm looking for a neutral (preferably gray) simple upholstered rocker that doesn't cost more than my car. I'll find it, but it hasn't happened yet! 
  • Monitor
Small nursery items:
  • Wet bag for cloth diapers
  • Changing table pad
  • Changing table covers
  • Crib sheets
  • Small side table for rocker
  • Tall floor lamp to go behind rocker
  • Boppy
Small baby items:
  • Set of cloth diapers
  • Small diaper bag/changing system (I'm currently planning on going with a small system that I can throw in my purse, Jarrod doesn't feel silly carrying, or can fit on the stroller. Something big enough for just the essentials but small enough to carry around) and probably a small wet bag for the dirty stuff. 
  • Bath sponge (I read that this can be a wonderful thing rather than a baby bath tub because it stores easily and is very functional. Not to mention inexpensive!)
  • Booster chair (Another space-saving purchase! I'd rather have one of these than a huge high chair in my kitchen...)
  • Bumbo
  • Baby Bjorn - I love the idea of having the baby with us while we do life. This is manly enough that I'm sure Jarrod would love to wear it. ;-) 
  • Moby Wrap - I've heard great things about these wraps too. Especially for the little bitty baby. I plan to walk with our baby from the very beginning and a wrap like this, or the bjorn, seems more effective than the stroller. January can be cold and bundling up with the baby for a jaunt around the neighborhood seems to make sense. 
  • Breast pump - it is my desire to breastfeed for as long as possible (up to a year or so) if possible. A breast pump is going to be the only way to do this as I have a full-time job. Suggestions on the best ones? Is a double better than single? Is a $300 breast pump better than a $75 one?
    Of course I know we'll also need clothing/onesies, socks, nursing paraphernalia, a few bottles, pacifiers, blankets, lovies, books, etc. Those are a given. I'm reading, researching, and weighing the pros and cons of a Moses basket vs. a pack 'n play. We'll probably need some sort of swing/bouncy chair item, but I'd rather not have 14 of these littering our house. 

    I'd love to hear from you moms who have been there - what was a really important product, item, purchase that made your life easier and your baby happier? What could you not live without in the first 6 months of your baby's life? What did you think you'd need but ended up not using? Any suggestions are welcome, even if they are on things I've already "decided" on. Obviously nothing is set in stone yet!

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    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    Nursery Check-List

    We have curtains! After purchasing the curtain fabric at a very deep discount ($9/yard!), cutting them, getting them ironed, pinned, hemmed, and ironed again, they are finally hung and look amazing. Pictures and a post soon on how that all came together, but trust me when I say that they look GREAT!!

    Curtain Fabric: Waverly Groovy Grill Confetti
    While I was purchasing the curtain fabric, I picked up another one of our favorites while I was there. This fabric will be used for a floor pillow and accents, including birds!

    This fabric will be used to make a floor pillow. The contrasting fabric will be a thick solid white textured fabric I bought super cheap in Atlanta and have just been waiting to use! The blue in this fabric is nearly the exact same blue in the curtains - don't let your monitor fool you!

    Here are the upcoming craft projects for the room:
    • Pillows for the floor - I plan to adjust these pillows to make two large floor pillows for sitting. (One will be in the above blue and white. The other will probably be grey/white/yellow)
    • Pillow for the rocker - I'll also be sewing a pillow, maybe like above, maybe just a standard pillow, to fit in the rocker. I picture it being the same size as the width of the rocker in an accent color. This pillow might be in the same fabric as the crib skirt, but I haven't decided on that yet. Maybe a green and white geometric print. 
    • Crib Skirt - I'm relying on Sherry's mad skills and DIY a crib skirt. I don't know if I'll use her hem tape idea or sew the hems.  
    • Curtains - More on these soon, but they turned out great! I'm considering startching them to make them even more crisp, but we'll see. So far they look incredible and only took a few hours and about $55! The fabric is bright and beautiful! 
    • Birds - I plan to make these birds for either a mobile or wall art for hanging over the changing table. I like that I can use leftover fabric from my other projects AND other remnants to add color and texture. I can promise you that some of the birds will have pink in them! Bright pink, light pink, flowered fabric Jarrod won't let anywhere else in the room! He says they will come down if we have a boy, but I am playing the mama card and want a hot pink mama bird. :-) 
    • Wall art - I'm planning to hang 3 pieces of wall art on one wall of the nursery. I'm still perfecting the color combinations, but I've picked out the 3 quotes and begun working on them. I envision them in white square frames with thick white mats (although some days I think fabric mats would be good too) and hung close together in a neat and orderly montage. 
    These are the only crafts that I have planned. We will need to do some organizing with the closet to make it more useful, but nothing planned on that yet. Of course we also need a crib, rocker, changing pad, organizational devices, light fixture, and of course a baby! All these things will come in time. :-) And at least I'm not offering to take on the task of building my own crib...or better yet - volunteering Jarrod to do it! 
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    Music and Song

    It's no surprise that we love music around our house. I've always enjoyed music, singing, and songs. I married a man that not only received two degrees in music and makes his living playing music, but it's his passion and joy. We are always singing, talking about music, or playing music. One of my favorite things to do is to listen to Jarrod practice in the other room, singing and playing the guitar or piano in preparation for Sunday. He sings in the shower, in the office, and with the radio. It makes my heart happy.

    We love sharing music with our little nephews. One of my favorite things about them is their incredible dancing abilities. They can groove to any kind of music, love singing, and already enjoy playing instruments - even when the instrument is just banging two objects together!

    Jarrod and I are so excited about the prospect of sharing music with our little one. As soon as I read an update that our baby could hear sounds, I knew we needed to start talking to and singing to our baby. Initially Jarrod thought I was being silly, but after hearing from our sister-in-law about the lullaby she'd sing the twins before they were born, to calm them down in the NICU, and before bed even now, Jarrod quickly got on board. I asked him to give it some thought and pick a song that we could sing each night to our little one.

    Every night we take a few minutes to read scripture and pray together. It's an important thing that we do each day to reconnect, remember to be thankful, and end the day with God. We have now added singing a song to our baby in this ritual. I charged Jarrod with picking out absolutely any song he wanted. A lullaby, popular song, worship song, I didn't care.

    He picked "Away in a Manger" from our United Methodist Hymnal. We only sing the first two verses (the 3rd verse is a bit morbid to sing to an unborn baby) and we sing them each night. Because this baby will be born in the Advent or Christmas Season (God willing!) it's a very appropriate song. And it's a lullaby too!
    Away in a manger,
    No crib for His bed
    The little Lord Jesus
    Laid down His sweet head

    The stars in the bright sky
    Looked down where He lay
    The little Lord Jesus
    Asleep on the hay

    The cattle are lowing
    The poor Baby wakes
    But little Lord Jesus
    No crying He makes

    I love Thee, Lord Jesus
    Look down from the sky
    And stay by my side,
    'Til morning is nigh.

    Sometimes it feels very silly to be singing a Christmas song in July to my belly, but most of the time it is a treasured time in my day. I am excited to continue singing this (and other!) songs to baby Beignet. And I love that Jarrod picked such a sweet song. He's a good Baby Daddy.
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    Pregnancy Update - Week 16

    What’s Happening This Week: Get ready for a growth spurt. In the next few weeks, your baby will double his weight and add inches to his length . Right now, he's about the size of an avocado: 4 1/2 inches long (head to rump) and 3 1/2 ounces. His legs are much more developed, his head is more erect than it has been, and his eyes have moved closer to the front of his head. His ears are close to their final position, too.

    We had a doctor's appointment this week and it went really well. Heartbeat is 144 and all tests came back clear. Getting blood taken was a little scary. As soon as it was done I immediately wanted the results. Would they call if things were good? How long would the results take to receive? What exactly were we screening for? I'm an anxious person. :-) I just got an e-mail (gotta love technology!) with my tests results - normal! It was a quad screening and tests for things like Down syndrome. Our next appointment is at week 20 and will include the important sonogram! While we (hopefully) won't be finding out the gender at this appointment, we are still VERY excited to see the baby! Jarrod was giddy when we scheduled that appointment.

    How far along? 16 weeks
    Weight gain: 7 lbs.
    Stretch marks? Still the ones on my hips, but that's all.
    Sleep: Some nights are better than others. I've found that a pillow between my knees works really well.
    Food cravings: Sweets - cookies, caramel frappuccinos, cake, etc.
    Labor Signs: None.
    What I miss: This week I really miss lunch meat. I'd love to have a nice turkey sandwich from Jimmy John's.
    What I am looking forward to: Feeling the baby move more. I feel little things here and there, but it's sporadic and goes as quickly as it comes. I'm also so excited to see the baby at our next ultrasound!
    Anxieties: Remaining healthy and keeping the baby healthy.
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    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Pregnancy Update - Week 15

    We have been taking these weekly pictures against one of the walls in the nursery. Get excited because next week the wall color will change! We painted this weekend! 

    What’s Happening This Week: Your growing baby now measures about 4 inches long, crown to rump, and weighs in at about 2 1/2 ounces (about the size of an apple). She's busy moving amniotic fluid through her nose and upper respiratory tract, which helps the primitive air sacs in her lungs begin to develop. Her legs are growing longer than her arms now, and she can move all of her joints and limbs. Although her eyelids are still fused shut, she can sense light. If you shine a flashlight at your tummy, for instance, she's likely to move away from the beam.

    How far along? 15 weeks
    Weight gain: 5 lbs. No change from last week.
    Stretch marks? Still the ones on my hips, but that's all.
    Sleep: I'm sleeping well every few nights. Some days I'm exhausted all day and then crawl into bed only to feel wide awake. The middle of the night bathroom trips are frequent some nights and much less frequent others.
    Food cravings: Sweets.
    Labor Signs: None.
    What I miss: The energy to walk as much as I'm used to. I can go about 4 or 5 miles but that's about it. Hopefully as the weather gets cooler (which is bound to happen someday!) I'll be able to go on longer walks or multiple walks without getting too tired.
    What I am looking forward to: We are headed to visit family and attend a wedding next week and I cannot wait! I'm excited to see family and show off the baby bump.
    Anxieties: Getting the nursery started. I know it's super early, but I'm planning to make a lot of the elements and want it to be perfect!

    Jarrod always poses to get the camera ready before we take the weekly picture. Lucy often wants to get part of the action!

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    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Officially "pregnant"

    Don't be confused by the title. I know I've been officially pregnant for some time now. Pregnant is what Jarrod insists I say rather than fat. So consider the title "Officially Fat." :-)
    It's been some time coming. At first my pants fit snugger by the afternoon or evening. By 13 weeks I instituted the "if the pants zip they fit" rule and utilized the belly band to make this an appropriate rule.

    Now some most all of my pants won't even zip. My wardrobe is getting more and more limited, not just because of my growing belly, but also because of my hips, behind and chest. Jarrod and I are traveling to New Jersey later this week for a family wedding. We'll be seeing my entire family - some of whom I haven't seen in years. I was saving a pre-pregnancy dress that I thought would still look cute for the wedding. I tried it on this weekend and it was NOT pretty. While the dress still fits, it is not flattering. It looks like I had too many cookies. Not the cute-skinny-pregnant look that I was going for.

    My sweet husband told me we should go get a dress for the wedding. I resisted at first - I've been hesitant about spending money on maternity clothing. Something about investing money in something makes it more real. I know many folks won't understand this, but for me it's like admitting I'm getting fat. When you put on a few pounds, you do not immediately go out and purchase new clothing in a larger size. You fight the fat as long as you can and eventually lose it to fit into your old clothes. I understand pregnancy is not fat and is not going away, but the emotions are the same. Admitting that I need to allocate money in the budget for maternity clothing means I'm getting bigger and there's nothing I can do about it.

    I've spent the past 15+ years worrying about my weight. Over the past 2 years I feel like I was finally getting to a good place. I'd hit my goal weight and was staying there or slightly under. It's not about a number - my clothes fit better, my energy and mood were better than ever, and I was able to be as active as I wanted to be. Most women I've spoken with are thrilled to have the free pass to eat whatever they want, get a new wardrobe, and grow a big beautiful belly. While I definitely share a lot of this, I am also struggling with the weight gain.

    I shared some of this with my sweet husband, but he doesn't really get it either. At Target this weekend I found several awesome maternity pieces on sale and asked Jarrod if we could make room in the budget. Not a problem, but he reminded me that it was his idea to add a maternity line item to the budget. In line at the cashier he pushed again - I should have listened to him and added a line item for maternity clothes in the budget. I shut him down and asked him to stop. By the time we got to the parking lot, I was sobbing.

    I just bought large panties with a soft waistband because all my panties were digging into my belly and leaving uncomfortable lines in my skin. Do not mess with a woman buying large and practical panties, jammies with a thick waistband, and jeans with a panel. My husband immediately backed off, apologized, and listened as I sobbed about how hard this is for me. He sees my pregnant belly like most women do - natural, beautiful, and an excuse to eat whatever I want. I am getting there.

    I know I am on a long road. I am completely aware that this struggle will continue well after the baby is born. I know that I need to do what is best for the baby and growing is only natural. And trust me, I'm eating like a horse! But I also need to do what is best for me. I love walking and have continued to walk 20-25 miles a week. I'd like to continue that for as long as I can, hopefully the entire pregnancy. I do not want to put on more weight than is healthy because there are definite complications associated with that. It's a slippery slope.

    This is a little glimpse into my pregnant mind. Some may not understand. But I am fairly confident that I'm not alone and hope that reading this will help someone else feel like they aren't alone...or weird!
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    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    Eggplant Lasagna

    I have always loved lasagna. Ricotta cheese makes my heart so happy. It's been at least 15 years since I started experimenting with making my own lasagna and while some turn out better than others, I'm never disappointed.

    After perusing the internet for some recipes for our July menu I landed on this zucchini lasagna recipe. With zucchini pizza already on our menu, I decided to replace the zucchini for eggplant and give it a go.

    The frustrating part of lasagna is that it takes a while. Preparing the noodles or veggies, making the sauce, browning any meat, and organizing all of the ingredients take time and energy. Once everything is ready to go, assembly and baking are a breeze! And thankfully, most lasagnas will feed a crowd (or two people for several days!).

    Eggplant Lasagna

    1 large link of sausage (we use organic from the deli section)
    1 can (8oz) tomato sauce
    Several cloves of roasted garlic

    1/2 cup bread crumbs
    1/2 tsp. garlic powder

    2 tablespoons of olive oil
    1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
    1-2 large eggplants
    1 C ricotta cheese
    1 C grated mozzarella or italian cheese

    Heat oven to 425. Slice eggplant in thin slices and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and garlic salt. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. In a medium skillet, brown sausage; stir in tomato sauce, garlic and garlic powder. I also add a little olive oil and worchestershire sauce. 

    Arrange half of the roasted eggplant slices in the bottom of a lightly greased 9x13" baking dish. Sprinkle half the bread crumbs. Top with half ricotta cheese and half the sauce. Top the sauce with half the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers, ending with the mozzarella cheese.

    Bake uncovered for 40 minutes or until cheese is browned.

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    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    June and July Goals Update

    It might seem like we've been neglecting our goals because I haven't posted an update since our May update on June 2nd, but that's simply not true! I promise that we've kept our goals in mind, they just have changed slightly since January because of our new station in life.

    To read a recap of what our 2011 goals are, please read my original post January's updateFebruary's update,March's update, April's update or May's update.

    While we still feel really good about our goals, some things have changed.

    Obviously my weight has not dropped like it did in the earlier months of the year. I am currently 15 weeks pregnant and have gained about 5 pounds. I am still less than I was when I started this journey on January 1st, but I'm coming up on that number very quickly! I'm doing my best to eat healthy and maintain as much of a healthy lifestyle as possible while growing this baby!

    Since January 1, 2011 I have walked 180 days. That's 180 days out of 194 total days this year. This means I'm walking an average of 92.3% of days and to meet my goal I need to maintain an average of 82% of days! I intentionally set this goal to be days walked vs. miles walked, knowing that pregnancy would slow me down some. And it has! Earlier this week I experienced some intense pain in my hips and had to sit two days out. I'm so glad I did because now I'm back to walking and feel great!

    Since January 1, 2011 we have visited family and had more family visit us. In January, Jarrod and I visited our dear friends Renee and Mike in Atlanta. In February, Aunt Pam and Uncle Marco visited us from Phoenix. Jarrod and I went to Dallas once in March and once in April and were able to spend great time with family. My dad also visited in March from New Jersey. When we made this goal, we were hopeful that a move to Dallas and a baby were in our 2011 future. We are thrilled to have both happen so quickly and have definitely made 2011 the year of family! We see Jarrod's family and our chosen family in Dallas very often and we love that. Next week Jarrod and I will be flying up to New Jersey for my cousin's wedding. It's our first trip back since our engagement party in December of 2008! A lot has changed and we're so excited to see family again.

    Since January 1, 2011 we have paid off $15,550 in debt. We have not paid off any debt in the past two months because we put our baby steps on hold. We are now stockpiling all extra money, including extra payment on debts, into a Baby Emergency Fund only to be used on emergencies. God willing, when the baby and I come home, we'll take all that money and pay off debt with it. So far we have over $4,000 in this fund. I cannot wait to stand in the lobby of Financial Peace Plaza with a 6 month old baby and scream that we're debt free!

    Since January 1, 2011 Jarrod has taken 9 yoga classes. He got caught up in work and other things and yoga slipped down in his priorities. He's not found an exercise practice in Dallas yet. I'm hoping we can make it to the community center sometime soon to sign up for memberships. Maybe we can take a class together or something!
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    Friday, July 15, 2011

    Funny Pregnancy Memories: Volume 1

    I've been told numerous times to keep track of the things happening in my life right now because it will all pass so quickly and I'll forget. I am thankful that I can use this blog to help track the changes in this pregnancy and how I'm feeling. However, there are special memories or funny stories that haven't made it into those updates that I know I'll want to remember.

    A few weeks ago when Jarrod and I were celebrating our anniversary I was laying very flat on the bed. I felt a light fluttering in my very lower abdomen. I told Jarrod that I thought I just felt the baby! He said, "No, that was gas." I'm pretty sure I know what gas feels like, especially now that my stomach and intestines have all shifted around. It wasn't gas, it was much lower than gas. "No, it was gas." Really, why was he being so pushy? It was my body and I felt like he should have been excited! Perhaps asked to feel the baby. Nope. I argued again. "No, not YOUR gas. It was the BABY'S gas!" he says with a grin. That's my husband! I don't know if it was the baby or not, but it could have been!

    Jarrod and I had plans to go visit with some of his old church friends who recently had a baby. I knew we'd be seeing a lot of folks and wasn't sure what to wear. He's my fashion expert and I often rely on him to keep me hip. :-) When I asked what I should wear he said, "Something that makes you look pregnant!" I feel pregnant all the time but know that some things (mostly maternity clothes) make the bump much more prominent than other things. I thought it was very sweet that Jarrod is loving my pregnant body and wants to show off the baby already.

    After work one day Jarrod informs me he has a present for me. My husband is very sweet, but rarely buys gifts or has surprises for me. He went to the dresser drawer and pulled out a card. We didn't even exchange cards for our anniversary! Shocked, I opened the card to reveal a very sweet note and four "certificates" Jarrod made. Each certificate entitles me to one free favor and they cannot be used for hugs or normal household tasks. Jarrod told me that whenever I get overwhelmed (which happens frequently when I'm NOT growing a human!) I can throw one of those at him and he'll know it's serious. The coupons mean to him that he needs to drop everything and help me. While he openly admitted that he got the idea from someone else, I still think it's incredibly sweet. Naturally, pregnancy is difficult. I'm tired, crabby, anxious, overwhelmed, overjoyed, and excited. Jarrod has been more than wonderful the past few weeks. He does the dishes, cleans the kitchen, makes dinner or makes sure dinner is hot when I get home, and runs errands. This was an incredible gift on top of him already pulling more than his share of the household weight.

    I've had quite a few strange pregnancy dreams, but can't remember any of them now. Hopefully future installments of these pregnancy memories will include weird dreams!
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    Baby Steps on HOLD!

    If you're not familiar with the baby steps, run (don't walk!) over to Dave Ramsey's website and check them out! To read more about my journey, our plans, and how our monthly goals are helping us achieve financial freedom, all you need to do is walk some of the pages in this blog. We aren't debt-free yet, but we definitely have freedom and peace in our house with regard to our finances.

    I've heard Dave Ramsey talk to countless folks in the midst of pregnancy about putting their baby steps on hold - you're in the midst of an emergency and you need an umbrella! Stop paying on debt, put as much money away as you can, and once mama and baby are home safe, put all that money back on the debt. Essentially push pause on the debt snowball and then hit play once all is well.

    That's well and good for other people, but my goal to be debt free by July 2012 doesn't have room for stock-piling money! The (incredibly irrational) fear of having $20,000 at my finger-tips was much more scary to me than losing income because of bedrest, having huge medical bills, or finding ourselves in a huge emergency without the funds to get out. If I have a huge pile of money at my disposal, what's stopping me from buying the stroller of my dreams? Even $500 won't put a dent in $20,000! (Don't worry, I've come to my senses!)

    But once we got pregnant, I decided it was time to come clean to Jarrod. I told him what Dave would say and how I was feeling about it. We decided to take two weeks to think it over before making any decisions. We both weighed different options over those two weeks. My spender-turned-saver husband and I finally came back and decided that because Dave hadn't done us wrong in the past, we should probably keep following his ideas. Jarrod assured me that he'd make sure the money was ONLY spent on emergencies - and a crib, fancy stroller, and a fancy rocker are not emergencies. We set up a separate account and call it "Baby Emergency Fund". It is completely separate from our bank account and our $1,000 emergency fund. 

    We also set up a sinking fund of cash for baby purchases. Each month we set aside the same amount of money in an envelope to be used for baby things - fabric for curtains, paint for the nursery, etc. This will help keep my spending on track so that I don't feel even the least bit tempted to dip into the baby emergency fund. 

    We haven't made much headway in terms of paying off debt, but we have stockpiled a good bit of money already into our baby rainy day fund. I pray everyday that we won't ever have to use that fund, that we'll have a healthy pregnancy, safe delivery, and bring home a very special little baby. I hope that we can use that whole huge fund immediately on debt as soon as we get the baby home. It will be the best welcome home present that we can give our little Beignet - a huge step towards becoming debt free! 

    It's a scary, exciting, and anxiety-producing time in our lives. I am so thankful that although there are many things we cannot control, we can control our finances. We live well below our means, acknowledging that there's no way to predict what life will throw at us. At the same time, we live with the joy and peace that comes from dreaming and planning for the future! 
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    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Fried Rice

    For our 2nd anniversary dinner and to accompany the Ginger-Soy-Lime shrimp, Jarrod made fried rice. While this sounds slightly boring, I promise you it was not! When I make fried rice it is usually with left-over veggies (carrots and celery), one scrambled egg, and stale rice. Saute it up with soy sauce and BAM!

    Jarrod's fried rice put mine to shame! The ingredient list alone was enough to scare me!

    Fried Rice
    Courtesy of the Food Network
    8 dried shiitake mushrooms - we used fresh
    3 tablespoons peanut oil
    2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a pinch of kosher salt
    4 scallions (white and green), thinly sliced
    1/4 cup minced carrot
    1 large clove garlic, minced
    Pinch red chile flakes
    1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
    3 cups cooked long-grain rice
    1 cup cooked meat cut in 1/2-inch cubes, such as pork, ham, beef, or chicken - we omitted
    1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted in a strainer at room temperature

    Jarrod started by preparing all of the ingredients. While it drives me crazy to clean 18 small bowls, it does make it considerably easier for him to put meals together, and for that I'm thankful! He cooked the rice in our rice cooker and it turned out perfectly. 

    Heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil in a well-seasoned wok or large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl to coat the pan. Pour in the eggs, swirl the pan so the egg forms a large thin pancake. (Lift the edge of the egg to allow any uncooked egg to run to the center.) As soon as the egg has set, turn it out of the pan onto a cutting board. Cool, cut into 1 inch pieces.

    Wipe out the pan with a paper towel and heat the remaining peanut oil over high heat. Add the scallions and carrots and stir-fry for 1 1/2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic, chile, and ginger, stir-fry for 1 minute more. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil and rice and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the meat, peas, and reserved egg, cook, stirring until heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

    Prior to this recipe, we'd never cooked with long grain rice (we use brown), scallions, shiitakes, or fresh ginger! I'm so thankful that Jarrod is adventurous in the kitchen. Otherwise we'd eat a lot of casseroles! :-) 
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    Ginger-Soy-Lime Marinated Shrimp

    People who know Jarrod are often surprised that he's the main chef in our family. He loves to seek out recipes, explore flavor combinations, and try new things. He's amazing at following even the most complicated recipes. I think one of his favorite things is to seek our new and fancy recipes to try for our anniversary or birthday. Any celebration is just an excuse for Jarrod to try a new recipe!

    I mentioned in our journey through food anniversary recap that Jarrod made grilled shrimp. That makes it sound much too suburban - Jarrod made Ginger-Soy-Lime Marinated Shrimp. The ingredient list included things that we've never cooked with before including ginger root and shallots. But Jarrod was up for the challenge!

    Once we got going, the recipe wasn't nearly as complicated as I initially thought. Jarrod got all of the ingredients ready well before it was time to cook, which is key because of the preparation needed with several of these guys.

    Ginger-Soy-Lime Marinated Shrimp
    From Bobby Flay
    2 large shallots, peeled and chopped
    1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
    4 cloves garlic, smashed
    3/4 cup soy sauce
    1/2 cup fresh lime juice
    2 tablespoons sugar
    1/4 cup chopped green onions
    1/4 cup peanut oil
    1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
    2 pounds large shrimp, shells and tails on

    Place shallots, ginger, garlic, soy, lime juice, and sugar in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the green onion and oil and blend until combined. Season with black pepper, to taste. Place shrimp in a large bowl, pour the marinade over, and let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes.

    Preheat a grill to high. Remove shrimp from the marinade and grill for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side.

    Sadly we ran out of propane just before the shrimp finished cooking. Jarrod removed them from the kabobs and finished them in the skillet. Absolutely delicious! He even grilled up some limes and we squeezed those on top. Yum! 
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    Chicken Florentine Rice Bake

    A few days ago I prepared Chicken Florentine Rice Bake. The recipe looked easy enough and with rice as the main starch, it was completely gluten free! Jarrod and I both love easy casseroles that make good leftovers and I love casseroles that pack in the protein, whole grains, and veggies. It makes lunch at work that much easier!

    While Jarrod grilled up some chicken, I prepared this recipe so that we could simply bake it up when needed in a few days. Because Jarrod is usually home about 90 minutes before I am because of my commute, I rarely get to help out in the dinner-making department. This was my contribution.

    The ingredient list is fairly straight forward:
    2 chicken breasts, diced
    1 T olive oil
    3 garlic cloves (or 1 tsp. garlic powder)
    8 oz mushrooms, sliced
    1 C brown rice, uncooked
    1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
    2 cans (15oz) chicken broth
    1 C spinach
    1/2 tsp. parsley (I omited)
    1 tsp. oregano
    1 tsp. basil
    1 C shredded Italian cheeses

    I started by browning the chicken. I seasoned it up with some spices we had. Easy enough! While it was browning, I sliced the mushrooms and laid them in the bottom of my lightly greased 8x8 casserole dish.

    Once the chicken was cooked thoroughly, I placed it on the mushrooms and seasoned again, not with the recommended parsley, but with some seasoned salt and garlic powder. Once I did this, I added the rice to the same pan I just cooked the chicken in. I added the tomatoes, chicken broth, and seasoned this again. Once this began simmering, I added a few handfuls of fresh spinach.

    After a few minutes, the spinach was wilted, and I began to pour the mixture on top of the mushrooms and chicken. This is when things got a little crazy. While the original recipe assured me that there would be lots of liquid, my pyrex 8x8" pan was not big enough to contain the liquid and I needed to pour some out. No big deal, I covered the pan and put it in the refrigerator.

    Several days later, I decided to cook the casserole before work so that it would be ready when we both got home that evening. I sprinkled the casserole with cheese, placed it in a 350 degree preheated oven, and set the timer for 45 minutes. Off I went to get ready for the day.

    45 minutes later the cheese was brown but the rice was very firm and the water had not even come close to being absorbed. My husband was still sleeping, so I set the cook timer to 20 minutes and kept the casserole baking. Jarrod removed it to cool before putting it away. I asked if it looked okay and he said it was still very watery but the rice looked cooked.

    I got home that night and went to taste the casserole. Crunch rice and way too much liquid. The cheese was well past lightly browned. I covered the casserole with aluminum foil in hopes to protect the cheese and encourage more absorption. I baked it for an additional 30 minutes.

    Even though I more than doubled the cooking time, the rice was never thoroughly cooked. It got mushy, probably due to all the liquid, but wasn't firm like rice should be. The flavors were delicious, but there were some things I'd do differently before trying this meal again.

    • Saute the mushrooms first. They were very rubbery, especially when reheated as leftovers.
    • Use baby spinach or chopped spinach. I used big leaf spinach, like the picture on Finding Joy in My Kitchen and it was okay, but baby spinach would probably be better. 
    • Use a 9x13" pan. It might not be as thick, but it will have more liquid, giving the rice a better chance of cooking all the way through. 
    • Cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes before adding the cheese and putting it back in the oven to brown the cheese. This might help with the rice. 
    I did take some pictures, but they were all fairly scary, so I'm leaving them off. I have always been incredibly impressed with Finding Joy in My Kitchen and think this will be an incredibly stellar recipe with a few changes. Our ovens, rice, or pans may have completely changed the outcome of this meal. I'll be trying it again and will hopefully have pictures to share! 
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    Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

    With pregnancy (and raising children, I assume) there comes a lot of decisions that need to be made. I had a recent minor freakout on my husband because he didn't seem to understand the intense amount of information, details, and decisions weighing on my mind. I can't blame him - he doesn't have the constant reminder that our baby is growing like I do. But I did need him to enter into the decision-making process with me and help shoulder some of the anxiety I was feeling over these decisions.

    A few days after this freakout, I came home from work on a Thursday evening - Johnston family cleaning day. I was prepared to eat dinner with my hubby and then we were going to seriously clean the house. With guests coming for dinner the following evening, cleaning was a high priority. I typically vacuum while Jarrod does the bathrooms and then we come together to clean anything else - the kitchen, general tidying, etc. I got home to find that Jarrod had not only cleaned the bathrooms, but he'd vacuumed the whole house. AND he made dinner! He said that rather than cleaning, we could sit and talk about baby stuff - whatever was on my mind that I needed to share. Yeah, he scored major points for that!

    So after a nice dinner, we sat on the couch and read review after review of cloth diapers. Previously, Jarrod wasn't completely on board with the cloth diapering and wasn't too into it. He's still not as interested in it as I am, but at least now he sees the incredible value in cloth diapering. We reviewed different systems, priced things out, and looked up lots of answers to our questions. The reviews that were especially helpful to us were Heather's review of pocket diapers, Sherry and John's bumGenius review, and Simple Mom's very helpful cloth diapering series (especially her reasons to cloth diaper!). These posts helped Jarrod see that it's not the pins and prefolds that his mom used 20 years ago. We haven't decided what brand we'll use, but bumGenius and FuzziBunz seem to be the most popular option on the internet.

    While decisions regarding what type of diapers we'll use haven't been made, we have decided that we'll give cloth diapering a go. Understanding that cloth diapering, like everything else, is very baby-specific. I'm going to give it a good shot and if it doesn't work, disposables are easy to obtain in an emergency.

    After solving all the world's problems one cloth diaper at a time, Jarrod and I began to tackle the child-care discussion. Child-care is something that has caused anxiety in my since I first began thinking about having a baby. Who in the world could I possibly trust to care for our baby? Jarrod and I both absolutely adore our jobs and we work flexible, but somewhat crazy hours. Sharing my concerns with my calm and collected husband was so helpful. We have lots of options and will begin to narrow them down in the next couple of months so that we can make educated decisions soon. Knowing that we're on the same page and don't need to have 4 years worth of child-care laid out today really helped with my anxiety.

    We didn't make any decisions about who will care for our baby while we're at work, but we did decide to take it 6 months at a time. We'll come up with a 6 month plan before the baby's born and go from there. And of course, everything is flexible. Babies are all different and we'll just have to see how quiet and well-behaved ours is!

    We made a few other decisions as well - we bought a dresser/changing table and we chose the paint color for the nursery! After a lot of thought, I finally talked Jarrod into white nursery furniture. Jarrod could only picture white furniture in a girl's room - frilly white ornate crib with pink everywhere. It wasn't until I showed him Ethan's nursery that he was on board with white being okay for little boys AND little girls. We went with the dresser I pinned from IKEA and are thrilled. We have a different dresser from the same line in our bedroom and love it. It will be the perfect height for adding a changing pad. We plan to hang a hook off the side for diaper wet bags a la Sherry and John. I'd like the large one for the bedroom and a small one we can take on the go.

    The paint color we decided to go with was Valspar Fountain Mist color matched to Olympic Zero VOC in a satin finish. Because we color matched from one brand to another, the color didn't turn out exactly right. It was slightly more blue than green. Once we got it home and got it on the wall, we didn't care - we actually like it better. It looks gorgeous. We checked it out in the morning, afternoon, and evening light to make sure that we really liked it. I'm going for a gorgeous blue color like this beautiful little girl's room or this gorgeous bird-themed room. Jarrod loves it but was worried that I would think it wasn't gender neutral. That gorgeous blue will look great with pink accents if we have a little girl.

    We are purchasing fabric, deciding on patterns and gathering things together. I'm a planning, want things perfect, want to save money, and want to do things my way. Giving myself 5 months to do the nursery might be too much time for others, but is just the right amount for me! As more decisions are made, I'll keep you posted!
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    Baby Book

    I'm the oldest child in my family and because of that, I have a baby book that is filled out almost completely. I have no idea where this book is now, but I remember looking through it as a child and adolescent fondly. My younger sister laments that her baby book was never filled in, let alone finished. She feels slighted, as a second child always should. ;-)

    When we got pregnant, I knew I wanted to immediately begin to DIY a baby book for our little Beignet. Not only is it what Sherry and John did, but it suits our creative side. We were able to customize the pages with what we want to remember. The hardest part of the whole thing was deciding on the fabric-covered scrapbook to purchase.

    After some tweaking of Sherry and John's template I was left with about 30 8x8 pages ready to be printed on card stock, cut to size, and adhered to the 12x12 scrapbook paper we purchased. After much debating about the paper color scheme, I finally decided on bright and colorful neutrals. Because the nursery will be in vibrant blues and greens, I decided that would be the best way to go. Jarrod got veto rights over most of the paper, so none of it is especially girly, flowery, or baby-y. It's perfect if our baby is a girl and it's perfect if our baby is a boy!

    I've already begun filling it out and am excited to continue updating it as the pregnancy progresses and our baby grows. My favorite addition to the original form is "First Church Service" and I cannot wait to fill that one out!
    The pages leave plenty of room for writing and pictures. There are places to write down firsts, predictions about our baby, general information, and record-keeping for the first year. It's a little inconvenient to have to pull the pages out of the protective plastic just to write the answers down, but that's just a necessary evil.

    Here is a sample of one of the pages I designed in photoshop. If you're interested in the whole book, check out Young House Love's Freebie. I think something like this would make an excellent and thoughtful gift for your pregnant friend. It's definitely inexpensive, but takes a little thought and time - my favorite kind of gift!
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    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Pregnancy Update - Week 14

    I'm wearing my cute pregnancy pants. They are in my small size (the size I dream about) but with a panel. They're from the Gap and I bought them on serious sale. I love them. Someday I'll post a picture with the full view. The panel doesn't hide anything and when I wear them I feel pregnant. I feel MUCH bigger than this picture seems to convey. I think it's the difference between looking from the top down and looking from the side. Or maybe it's just because it's my body. ;-) 

    What’s Happening This Week: Welcome to the second trimester! This week's big developments: Your baby can now squint, frown, grimace, pee, and possibly suck his thumb. Thanks to brain impulses, his facial muscles are getting a workout as his tiny features form one expression after another. His kidneys are producing urine, which he releases into the amniotic fluid around him -- a process he'll keep up until birth. He can grasp, too, and if you're having an ultrasound now, you may even catch him sucking his thumb. In other news: Your baby's stretching out. From head to bottom, he measures 3 1/2 inches -- about the size of a lemon -- and he weighs 1 1/2 ounces.

    How far along? 14 weeks
    Weight gain: 5 lbs. exactly.
    Stretch marks? Still the ones on my hips, but that's all.
    Sleep: I'm still needing a lot of sleep - 8 hours most nights with a catch up night of 9 or so on the weekends. That's a LOT of sleep and I'm still tired!
    Food cravings: Sweets.
    Labor Signs: None.
    What I miss: Feeling skinny. I worked really hard to put on a pair of old pants and have them be too big. Or a pair of nice slacks and not have a muffin top. Now nothing fits and emotionally it messes with me.
    What I am looking forward to: Our 18-week sonogram! It seemed so far away, but now it's just 4 weeks until we get to see our baby actually looking like a baby!
    Anxieties: Not having a perfectly healthy baby.

    And another shot, lagniappe!
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    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    Food Cravings

    After people ask if we're having a boy or girl and how I'm feeling, the next question is typically about food cravings. My general response is that I don't have any. I'm still keeping track of my calories in Lose it! but now I'm much more flexible and have (of course) increased my caloric intake to account for the baby. What I'm not doing is saying no. Ice cream? Yes. Chicken fingers? Yes. More cheese? Yes. Food I've typically avoided like the plague are now options. Some because of the increase in calories and some just because I want them!

    Of course I'm completely avoiding those foods that will harm the baby. No lunch meat, raw fish, or alcohol. I watch my caffeine intake religiously and never come close to the limit of 200 mg/day. Do I have food cravings? Yes, I crave food. And once an idea is in my mind, that's what I need to have.

    It wasn't until today that I discovered I am having food cravings. Simply, I crave sweets. More specifically, I crave caramel frappuccinos. I always get the "light" version (but with added whipped cream!) to reduce the calories slightly. It's definitely caffeinated and it is my only caffeine for the day... (on the days I drink it, which is like once or twice a week.)

    Sometimes I'll be calmly sitting at my desk at work and suddenly crave a delicious and cold beverage. It could be 3 in the afternoon, but off to Starbucks I go! I've also been known to stop on my way TO work as well (though not on the same days I get one in the afternoon, that would be overkill!) to grab some sweet caffeine and a Very Berry Coffee Cake. :-) 

    And speaking of very berry, once I get a specific food in my head, there's little else I can think about or do before it is consumed. On a morning walk before church on Sunday I got the idea that I was going to make homemade blueberry muffins. I read Gwyneth Paltrow's recipe in Self the night before and with a tub of fresh blueberries, I couldn't get Blythe's Blueberry Muffins out of my head. So between walking, showering, and getting myself ready for church, I made these delicious muffins. Mine came out rather dense, but delicious! 

    I've always been obsessed with food, but I typically don't go to such lengths to curb a craving. Money, time, and practicality reign and talk me out of buying fancy coffee drinks, fresh blueberries, or making anything from scratch. Pregnancy definitely does weird things! :-) 
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    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Pregnancy Update - Week 13

    What’s Happening This Week: Fingerprints have formed on your baby's tiny fingertips, her veins and organs are clearly visible through her still-thin skin, and her body is starting to catch up with her head -- which makes up just a third of her body size now. If you're having a girl, she now has more than 2 million eggs in her ovaries. Your baby is almost 3 inches long (the size of a medium shrimp) and weighs nearly an ounce. As you start your second trimester, most of your baby's critical development will be completed and your odds of miscarriage drop considerably.

    How far along? 13 weeks
    Weight gain: 4 lbs. exactly. I get worried when I read about other pregnancies - women who are still in their regular pre-pregnancy clothes, haven't gained a pound, etc. However, I'm not tall and I was at my lightest adult weight when we got pregnant. I definitely have a belly now, there's no denying that I'm growing a little person! I'm just trying to get better about the lack of clothes that fit! :-)
    Stretch marks? Still the ones on my hips, but that's all.
    Sleep: I'm sleeping great, actually! I read that my uterus has been shifting to front-and-center and I think that's really helped the through-the-night trips to the bathroom. I've made it all night without getting up 2 nights straight!
    Food cravings: Caramel Frappuccinos from Starbucks. And thankfully, fruits and veggies!
    Labor Signs: None.
    What I miss: Feeling in control of my body. Before I'd feel myself gaining weight and my clothes getting tighter and I'm cut back on the calories and kick my exercise into high gear. Now I have no control over the changes. I'm trying to be okay with that, but it's very hard.
    What I am looking forward to: Looking more pregnant. Right now I look thick around the middle in most of my clothes. Not cute. I'm also really looking forward to starting on the nursery. It's early, but we're picking out paint colors now so that we can get it painted this summer before we worry about moving any furniture in.
    Anxieties: What other people think, particularly surrounding not finding out the sex of the baby. It stresses me out that people want to know and stresses me out that I care!
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    Monday, July 4, 2011

    Two years down!

    It's almost impossible for me to wrap my brain around the fact that Jarrod and I have been married for 2 years. On one hand it feels like yesterday that I was driving from Slidell to the airport to pick up my sister/maid of honor for some pre-wedding fun.

    It feels like yesterday that Jarrod and I shared some very special moments before we were married. I never thought I wanted to see my future spouse before the ceremony, but logistics got the better of me and we shared time in the sanctuary just before I walked down the aisle. To date, those moments are on the top of my list of best moments ever.
    On the other hand, it feels like it has been a million years since I wrote this post about our first anniversary celebration. In the past year Jarrod and I have had some incredible changes in our lives.
    It's been a big year. We moved everything we own from the only place our new family had ever lived together. We picked out a house together and vowed to live in it for 2 years. We made commitments to each other, our jobs, our church, our friends and family, and our pets. We cooked a lot! 

    I've also learned a lot. I've learned to let some things go. The house isn't going to be spotless and Jarrod's not going to remember everything I ask him to do. I'm not always going to remember to have patience with him and sometimes I'm going to blame him for things that have nothing to do with him. I wrote very recently about how wonderful Jarrod is, so I don't feel obligated to do that again. But I will say that our 2nd year of marriage was better than our first and better than I could have ever imagined.

    We packed a lot into our 2nd year of marriage. I'm really impressed with how well we've handled things. Change is not one of my strongest points, and we've had a lot of change. Our communication still needs work, but has gotten exponentially better than it was 2 years ago. Year 3 will prove to bring challenges and changes that we can't even begin to imagine, but we're excited. 

    By the time we hit 2.5 years, we'll either have a little one or be anxiously awaiting his/her arrival. Obviously we couldn't have planned the due date being on our 2.5 year anniversary, but it seems like a great time for a baby. It has been an incredible 2 years and I can't wait for the next 60+ :-)
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    Our Anniversary: A Journey Through Food

    Jarrod and I have become foodies. We love learning about food, cooking, trying new recipes, and most definitely eating. We typically plan celebrations around food. Because of a meeting I had on the morning of the Saturday of Anniversary Weekend, we decided to stay the night in this small Texas town at a Bed and Breakfast. We enjoyed some delicious meals, great scenery, and a relaxing few hours away from our busy lives.

    I'll write more about the B&B and share some of the incredible photos we got, but for now, you can experience the view from some of our anniversary shots. The B&B was right on the ridge of a cliff and was incredibly beautiful. The grounds were very well kept and we enjoyed just wandering around snapping photos.

    After exploring, we got ready for dinner in town. Jarrod read reviews and found a quaint little restaurant on the town square that had delicious food. I ordered the chicken Marsala with cream cheese mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables. Jarrod got the cocoa-rubbed pork with the potatoes and veggies. We split the spinach and artichoke dip with homemade tortilla chips as an appetizer - one of our favorites! It was all delicious.

    We were much too full to eat dessert at the table, but too excited about our options not to order! I got the bread pudding, which I found out in the room was actually caramel chocolate bread pudding - delicious! Jarrod got the creme brulee. Both were incredible, but not photo-worthy by the time we got them back to our room at the B&B.

    After dinner we enjoyed the beautiful outdoors and sat on the porch swing watching the sun set, listening to the foxes play, and watching the stars. Gorgeous and so relaxing!

    On Saturday morning I woke up early for a morning walk before our 8am breakfast time on the patio. Our breakfast was set up on our own personal patio, complete with binoculars for watching the animals.

    We had several delicious choices for breakfast, but I ordered the stack of pancakes with bacon and an apple juice. Jarrod ordered the baked eggs, also with bacon and a bread basket of biscuit and scone. I don't know what was better - the incredible food, the gorgeous scenery, or sharing it with my favorite person. It was decadence.

    Shortly after breakfast, it was time for me to get ready for my meeting. We got ready, packed up, and headed back into town. After an energizing and exciting meeting, Jarrod and I stopped at a local barbecue joint that received great reviews. It was definitely Texas BBQ! I ordered the turkey plate with fries and corn and Jarrod got the sausage and brisket with fries and coleslaw.

    The eve of our anniversary Jarrod cooked a delicious meal of grilled shrimp and fried rice. Jarrod takes great pride in doing his research to find the best recipes, scoping out the best ingredients, preparing his mis en place, and making an incredible meal. As you can tell from the recipes, these weren't just standard grilled shrimp and fried rice - these recipes utilized fresh ginger, scallions, green onions, shiitakes (we used fresh!) and long grain rice. While the shrimp was a little harder to come by than we're used to in Louisiana, it was fresh and in the shells. Delicious!!!

    All in all, we had an incredibly meaningful and romantic weekend full of food! I love that we can celebrate with a casual dinner at home made with so much love. It's cheaper than going out, much more fun because we can wear our jammies, and creates memories of cooking and eating together around our own table. We both thought about what our anniversary dinner will be like next year with a 6 month old. Perhaps it will include more mild flavors (or not) that we can share with our baby around this same table. I love the idea of sharing our love for food, cooking, and flavor with our baby from a very early age. Rather than viewing a baby as cramping our style for our anniversary, we thought about how exciting it will be to share this day with our little one.
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