Friday, November 27, 2009

Keeping it simple...

Yesterday we celebrated as most American families did with food, football, and fellowship. Although not the traditional meal, we dined on a delicious Thanksgiving meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, yams, green beans, broccoli rice casserole, and rolls. Yum! And, with two desserts to choose from it was difficult to decide which to have first---Mom's pumpkin crisp or my chocolate fudge pie. Sitting at dinner it was and still is hard for me to put into words all that I am thankful for. I'll save my letter of detailed thanks for the Big Man upstairs and simply say that after a year full of immeasurable blessings, there's not much I'm not thankful for.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gillian Grace is 4 months old!

In 4 short months our little wonder has transformed our lives for the better. She has given our lives a purpose and filled it with meaning. It seems as though she's always been with us and it is hard to imagine life without her.

  • Gillian is wearing all 6 month and bigger clothes. In Carter's size 6 months fits perfectly for now, but it won't be long before she'll be ready for 9 months. Weighing in at nearly 12 lbs. at her 2 month checkup, we're interested to see at what weight she tips the scales this upcoming week during our 4 month well baby visit.
  • She has begun to roll over and has become quite the rolling machine. When she first learned to roll over she'd wake herself up during the night just to practice her new skill. So proud each time she performs her new trick, Gillian always looks for recognition and praise from her nearest observer.
  • Her focus has grown immensely. She can sit in her bouncy seat and watch an entire episode of one of her favorite shows.
  • She loves to touch and explore. The exersaucer is her newest favorite toy. With so much to feel, hear, and see Gillian can entertain herself for nearly half an hour.
  • She enjoys being read to. Nightly storytime with Daddy is a calming time for her.
  • She babbles all the time. No words yet, but she has become quite the talker. We may have to resurrect the nickname given to my Dad as a boy, Radio, for Miss Gillian Grace.
  • She has begun grabbing at faces when being held and talked to. Too sweet!
  • She laughs and giggles all the time. Sometimes she laughs so loudly that she actually startles herself!
  • She has mastered spoon feeding and gobbles up 2 oz. of rice cereal mixed with half a container of baby food fruit each morning. She seems to like bananas and applesauce the best, but she tolerates prunes and peaches just fine. She also consumes somewhere in the neighborhood of 28-34 oz. of formula each every day. Mmmm, big girl!
  • She still loves to stand. She can hold herself in a sitting position for about a minute before toppling over.
  • Bath time is still one of her favorite times of the day.
  • She goes to bed between 7 and 8. Lately she's been fast asleep by 7:30. She still wakes up a few times at night, usually because she has gotten herself stuck in a corner of her crib and needs some assistance. If she's not stuck, she can put herself back to sleep. She wakes up to begin the day between 6:45 and 7:30. She's getting it!
  • She takes two naps each day. The mid-morning nap usually begins between 9:30 and 10:00 and lasts anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours. She then goes down for an early afternoon nap around 2 or 3. Most of the time her afternoon nap is shorter and lasts an hour or two.
  • She loves to sleep on her tummy. She has begun to move her legs back and forth in an early attempt at crawling. Many times we'll check on her only to find her asleep on her tummy with knees drawn inward and booty in the air. How it can be comfortable is beyond me, but she seems to like it.
Keep growing, baby girl!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Check out this video taken of our Miss Gillian Grace this afternoon. Does she seem a little distracted to you?


video


It's been said more than once that I LOVE LOVE LOVE me some Bon Jovi, especially one Mr. Jon Bon Jovi. And, it seems that the age old adage, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree couldn't be more true! Normally very entertained by her new Baby Einstein exersaucer, today GG had a big distraction---Bon Jovi on Inside the Actor's Studio with James Lipton. I couldn't help but laugh as she'd play for a bit then shift her gaze toward the tv and smile as she caught a glimpse of my celebrity crush. Just the confirmation I needed to know that those nine plus months of singing along with the New Jersey rockers paid off---she's a Bon Jovi fan! Sorry Bret, it seems our lil' Gillybean has inherited her Mommy's taste in music!



Tasty Tuesdays

With one of the year's biggest cooking holidays being just over a week away, I planned this week's menu to include quick meals that would be relatively inexpensive to prepare. On the menu tonight, a taco bake casserole. With just a few simple ingredients, this meal can be table ready in just under half an hour. Olé!

Taco Bake
1-2 lbs. ground beef
1-2 pkgs. taco seasoning mix
1 c. water
1 1/2 cans crescent rolls
1/2 to 1 reg. size bag corn chips
1 1/2 c. sour cream
1 1/2 c. Cheddar cheese

Brown the beef, drain. Add seasoning mix and water. Simmer 5 minutes.

Line 9x13 pan with the rolls. Bake rolls at temperature listed on package for 5 minutes. Crumble 1/2 of the bag of chips and put over rolls. Top with meat mixture, sour cream and cheese. Sprinkle with remaining chips. Bake 11-13 minutes, 375 degrees.


The Dish---Last Week's Recipe
Chocolate Fudge Pie

I'm pretty sure that whoever coined the phrase, "Easy as pie..." never actually tried baking a pie. Although the pie can be made successfully without it, a double broiler would have made melting the chocolate much easier. Having a large grater for making the chocolate shavings would have also been helpful. With only a small grater, creating chocolate curls for the topping was impossible! Only after beginning the recipe and then realizing that I didn't make it home with unsalted butter (and yes, it was on my list), I substituted the missing ingredient with regular Land O'Lakes salted butter. Having never made this pie before I cannot tell you if the change from unsalted to salted butter effected the taste, but can say that the chocolate fudge part of the pie lived up to its name as it was chocolately fudgey deliciousness!

Being a baking novice, I didn't realize that pie crusts could be found on the frozen dessert aisle of the supermarket. Duh! Instead, I purchased a ready-made graham cracker pie crust from the baking aisle. The graham cracker crust was tasty, but if I don't make my own pie crust next time, I will plan to use a frozen pie crust. A frozen pie crust would have also helped the first direction in the recipe---bake pie crust for 20-25 minutes until golden brown---make more sense. Other than that one step in the directions, which I now understand, I found the recipe easy to follow and all the preparation/baking times accurate.

Knowing that my Dad would provide an honest critique of the pie, I sent a few slices home with Mom. Both Dad and Mom agreed that the pie was divine and shortly after arriving home the pie was gone! With approval from Mom and Dad and a happy hubby to boot, I decided this recipe was a success and a keeper. I've even been asked to make it next week for Thanksgiving! With not much room to improve upon taste, I'll focus all my efforts on improving the overall look of my pie. Let's just say mine didn't quite turn out like the picture in Real Simple.

First slice---Not so much of a slice really! I've heard that the first slice is the hardest to get out but give me a break!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Oh, Tiddliwinks!

As mentioned previously, last week Gillian Grace and I left a sick Daddy at home and headed to Pensacola for a visit. Little did we know that Gammie and Grandad had a surprise waiting for us---a nursery for Gillian. Never having been a fan, Gammie and I bid a fond good riddence to the pack n' play. Not only did Gillian sleep more soundly that first night, Gammie and I both slept more comfortably knowing that Lil' Bit was safe and secure.

Earlier in the week, Gammie and Grandad got a wild hair and decided to transform a guest bedroom into a nursery complete with new crib, bedding, and changing table for GG. They planned to keep it a secret and let us discover it on our own during a future visit. It just so happened that our visit came sooner than excepted. I was surprised by the nursery, but not my parents' continued show of thoughtfulness. As though able to anticipate our needs, my family has been extremely generous with us since Gillian's birth. Whether lending a hand with GG, staying up with her at night so we can sleep, cooking us dinner, or making sure we have groceries, my parents have and continue to go above and beyond the call of duty. We could never begin to thank them enough for all that they've done.

Mom mentioned wanting some artwork for Gillian's Pensacola nursery. After browsing a few stores and coming up empty handed, I decided to try my hand at painting. I decided to return the favor and surprise Mom during our weekly visit with a few personally handpainted pictures for the nursery. I purchased a few canvases, paint, and brushes at Michael's. My inspiration for the pictures came directly from the crib bedding Mom and Dad purchased---ladybugs, dragonflies, and flowers. Using templates I created by drawing free-hand on white paper, I traced the images on each canvas. I then painted each background and the images on each canvas. Going for whimsy not perfection, I was pretty pleased with my first attempt at painting. What do you think?



Flowers
Dragonfly
And, my favorite---the ladybug

Love. Love. Love the lamp. Good eye, Gammie!
Gillybean's new crib and bedding at Gammie and Grandad's
Tiddliwinks Ladybug quilt in GG's Pensacola nursery.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Our New Look

It doesn't take long for me to grow weary of something and get the itch for change---thus our blog's newest look. Not only does our blog look different, but you'll notice that the title has changed as well. With our blog chronicling the almost daily happenings in our family, the new title just seemed to fit. Rest assured all you Gilly-holics, Miss Gillian Grace will still be the the topic du jour on most occasions.

Thanks Bret, for all your help with our newest layout. After a hard day at the office, your tireless devotion to your wife and family are commendable. Although I consider myself to be somewhat of a computer aficionado, HTML coding still sends me running for the door. It was then that Hubs stepped in to save the day. My husband, my hero!

Gillian's Grace

Children are a heritage of the Lord
Psalms 127:3

In mid-October, Bret and I presented Gillian Grace for the Sacrament of Baptism at our church here in Mobile. At Dauphin Way United Methodist the baptism ceremony is very brief, lasting no more than a few minutes. Gillian Grace was brought before the congregation along with another baby, Russell Lawrence. Having never attended a church service prior to her own baptism, we were unsure of how the morning's events would unfold. But, as we have come to expect, Gillian Grace was quite the little lady. A very composed GG instantaneously took to her new surroundings and was not the least bit intimidated by the unfamiliar faces nor the vastness of the Sanctuary. With eyes wide, mesmerized by the stained-glass, Gillian seemed more at peace than I had ever seen her before. Surely, the presence of the Lord was in this place.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of her counterpart, Mr. Lawrence or Law as he was referred. Born just days before our Gillian Grace, Law wanted no part of the baptism. His disdain for the ceremony began shortly after his family's arrival to the front of the church and didn't let up until he was given a bottle after returning to the pew. Refusing to allow anything to detract from our moment with our daughter, Bret and I focused on the words of Reverend Gormon Houston, trying our best to tune out the wails of one Mr. Law.

Gillian's love of all things wet was once again confirmed when she reacted favorably as Rev. Houston sprinkled the Holy water upon her head. Her smile and soft coo prompted a simultaneous chuckle from the congregation. As the ceremony drew to a close, a collective awe could be heard echoing through the Sanctuary as Reverend Houston and Jorgensen carried Gillian Grace and Law down the center aisle as the congregation shared a prayer for their salvation. There were many memorable moments that day, but for me there was a particular moment that still gives me goosebumps. Struggling to fight back tears, Bret gently touching my hand, the congregation vowed in unison to surround our darling Gillian Grace with a community of faith, hope, and love so that she may grow in love for God and in her service to others during the recitation of the Sacrament of Christian Baptism. Soaking in the words, and realizing the endless love and support surrounding Gillian Grace, that moment simply took my breath away. It's always been said that children are a gift from God. I know believe that the love of the church family is the gift wrapping.


Gillian Grace's gown was made from my Mother's (her Gammie's) wedding gown. Through a friend, Mom was introduced to Celina, an ingenious Greek seamstress. Within a few weeks, Celina was finished with this truly one of a kind gown. With this garment, a new family tradition was created. This gown will be handed down from one generation of women to the next and all who wear it will one day grow old enough to appreciate its significance.

Mom's wedding gown and veil.


With so many pictures of Gillian's baptism, I thought it best to put them in a slideshow. The slideshow takes a few seconds to begin. Happy looking!


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tasty Tuesdays

With the holidays upon us, there's never been a better time to start thinking about cooking. Each Tuesday I'll try to feature one recipe that I plan to cook within the week. The weekly recipe may be an entrée, side dish, appetizer, or dessert; and it could be a family favorite or one I've recently discovered.

This week's recipe is Chocolate Fudge Pie from the November issue of Real Simple. With only a few hours remaining before Tuesdays slips into Wednesday, I've finally found the time to post the first of many Tasty Tuesday recipes.

In addition to new recipes each week, I'll also fill you in on how last week's recipe panned out. If any of these recipes get your taste buds watering, please give 'em a try in your own kitchen and leave a comment letting me know all about your experience and opinions regarding the featured recipe.

Happy Cooking, everyone!

Chocolate Fudge Pie
Serves 8
Hands-On Time: 20m
Total Time: 4hrs
Ingredients
  • Basic Flaky Piecrust
  • or 1 store-bought piecrust, fitted into a 9-inch pie plate
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped, plus more shaved for topping
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375º F. Place the pie plate on a baking sheet. Prick crust with a fork and line with foil. Fill to top with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the edges are firm, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake until just golden, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Reduce oven temperature to 325º F. In a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs, salt, and ½ cup of the sugar until fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Fold a third of the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder.
  4. Pour the combined mixture into the crust and bake until puffed and beginning to crack, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool for 1 hour, then chill.
  5. Beat the cream with the remaining sugar until soft peaks form. Spread over the pie and sprinkle with the shaved chocolate.
By Sara Quessenberry, November 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monkey See, Monkey Do

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then my friend Tracey should feel pretty darn good about herself right about now. For those of you that have been keeping up with our blog since its inception, it will come as no surprise that I have once again "borrowed" an idea from her blog. After first learning the name Leelou from---you guessed it, Tracey---I have now stumbled across a great giveaway on Leelou's site. Over the next several days, Leelou will giveaway some of her favorite items. To become eligible to win her first favorite, a Joovy Caboose stroller, participants are asked to make a list of their favorite things and post them to their blogs. Now, I know what you might be thinking---another stroller seriously? Well, the Joovy Caboose isn't just any stroller, it's a lightweight collapsible stroller very similar to the umbrella strollers moms have sworn by for years. And, since I'm always looking for ways to make life easier, entering Leelou's Swag Giveaway for a chance to win this stroller seemed like a no-brainer. So without further ado, here are a few of my favorite things.


HomeGoods
Although I've never claimed to be a diehard frugalista, who doesn't enjoy finding name brand merchandise at drastically reduced prices? There's a certain satisifaction that I get from finding an inspiration room and then making it come to life for less with items from HomeGoods. In fact, I 'm such a fan I once made hubs stop at every store between here and West Virginia. If you're lucky enough to have a HomeGoods in your area, you definitely owe it to yourself and your wallet to check it out.




Target
Love, Love, Love, Target! I could spend hours in this store. With everything under the sun at affordable prices, who isn't a fan?







Cars
Ever since I was a young girl, I've had an automotive love affair. The blame for my expensive obsession rests squarely at the feet of my Dad, for whom car shopping is a sport. Dad and I still enjoy browsing the car lots on Sundays of course, when the sharks are not circling. With our growing family, we're currently in the market for a new car. Finally, after years of saving we're finally ready to buy! Our only problem, and it's a good problem to have, my dream car is getting redesigned. Never one to settle when something better may be lurking on the horizon, we've opted to postpone our purchase until Lexus unveils it's newly revamped GX 460 this winter. After months of wanting, I know this purchase will be worth the wait!


Hoodies
If you see me, you can be sure that I've brought along one of my favorite accessories---a hoodie. I've always got one zipped up over a tee, tied around my waist, slung over my purse, or in the backseat of my car. With enough hoodies to spare, I can be sure that I've always got one when I need it even if it is laundry day!




Girly Girl Shoes
What woman doesn't covet a good pair of heels? Especially expensive ones like these Christian Louboutins. After years of being teased relentlessly by my father, I have now traded in my flip flops for more sophisticated footwear.


Flip Flops
Okay, so I'm not a totally reformed flip flop junkie. Besides after wearing a pair of five inch heals my tootsies need a reprieve.









Mexican Food
One word---Yum!







Hot and Spicy Pickles
Something my mom introduced me to while I was pregnant (you know pregnant women and their pickle cravings), these pickles have become a staple in our house. A woman out of Destin, Florida makes these pickles and sells them at a local store in Pensacola. Between Mom and I, we like to think we keep her in business. Just last week we spent nearly $50 on pickles alone as we cleaned out the store's entire stock! Gotta have 'em!


Octane Q37 Elliptical
Isn't it obvious? I love food and with hopes of regaining my pre-baby figure, I need to exercise. It hasn't even arrived yet, but this elliptical has already become one of my favorite things. My uber generous parents, purchased this elliptical for me. Now, I have no excuses when it comes to exercise.



Bon Jovi
The 80s may have been their heyday, but this band still rocks my world nearly thirty years later. Having been a fan for many years, my infatuation with front man- Jon Bon Jovi was taken to a whole new level after seeing the band in concert last year in Fort Lauderdale. Even a bomb threat at the Bank Atlantic Center couldn't dampen the mood as the New Jersey native and his band rocked until the wee hours. With a new tour this spring, I can only hope another show lies in my future.


Gator Football
There's nothing quite as enjoyable as spending a Fall afternoon watching college football, especially if your team happens to be the 9 and 0 reigning National Champion, Florida Gators! As a proud graduate of UF, it doesn't get much better than Gator football!




Christmas
There's no big surprise here. I love holidays and birthdays. Any excuse to decorate or shop is aces in my book. Besides the obvious and very important religious implications of the holiday, there is just something extra special about Christmas. It's a magical time of year that can make a 90 year old Granny feel like a kid again, turn a Scrooge into a Salvation Army bell ringer, and melt the frostiest of hearts with a Carole of peace and joy. Aren't we lucky that the season is upon us?


With most of my favorites being "things" I wanted to mention that there are just some favorites that money cannot buy. Family and friends trump anything I could find on a store shelf and, to quote the Mastercard commercial, are simply priceless.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

If it's not one thing...

The old adage, if it's not one thing---then it's another, definitely couldn't be more appropriate these days. Last week, Bret came down with the flu. At first we thought he had a severe cold but when his symptoms worsened and his fever appeared, we decided it was time to make an appointment with a doctor. Worried about Bret and growing tired of him finding reason after reason for not calling a doctor, I made an appointment for him myself. After seeing the doctor and learning that he did in fact have the flu, Gillian Grace and I packed up and headed to Pensacola to stay until Bret was feeling better. With Bret on the mend, GG and I returned home yesterday only to learn today that we're now under a hurricane advisory until tomorrow night. Yes, you read that correctly, Hurricane Ida is forecasted to make landfall somewhere along the Gulf Coast Monday night. Currently, the forecast cone has Ida coming ashore as a Category 1 hurricane near the Florida/Alabama border---just about 40 miles east of us. We'll be up with the sun tomorrow morning with plans to hit the neighborhood Exxon to fill up our cars and our gas cans for the generator in the event we should lose power. Knowing that this is just one of those things I cannot control, I'm trying my best to not worry. Ida is like that annoying relative that insists on visiting even though you'd do almost anything to keep her away. Here's hoping that Ida's visit is brief and so unmemorable that it'll be like she was never here.