Ho hum

We have been puttering away in the woods on a few tiny trimming projects, but nothing too exciting. We are halfway through with 30 Day Shred with Jillian Michaels.  I find myself tired of it, wishing it was more visually progressing, and longing to take a long walk outside instead.  Despite the rain, I may actually do that later since our temperatures are oddly high these last few days. 

Silas and I went north on Friday to spend the night with my family and go shopping on Saturday, but we drove up on icy, crappy roads and ended up spending four and a half hours in the car Friday instead of just over 2 hours.  Miserable.  Silas is a champ in the car, but even he was devastated.  Yuck.  Saturday, we skipped shopping and took advantage of his great morning nap to drive home.  Get a load of how huge this guy is in his carseat.

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Remember this?

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He is growing unbelievably quickly.  It’s freaking me out. 

Shortly after we got home from Alex, Sara, Derek and Dylan came to visit.  It was fun, barring a whiny cat and and even whinier baby.  Poor Silas was overstimulated and a general disaster for the first time ever.  Not fun for anyone involved.  But it was still nice to see them and we were glad they made the long drive over!

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The weeks are passing quickly.  He is ten weeks old, cooing like a maniac, making hilarious noises when I sing to him, and swinging his arms at everything he can find.  He is especially fond of this purple toucan with the rainbow beak, and why shouldn’t he be?  It is quite a fetching bird. 

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The house projects aren’t worth posting yet, but once we make a little more progress, we will have an update for you.  We did get the giant dining table out and the pedestal table in, which frees up SO much space in our small house.  We are enjoying that this week.  Pictures to come! 

Two Months

The young Mr. Ballard is two months old!  We can’t believe it.

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He is turning into such a fun kid.  He is starting to interact more, screech and grin, and wave his arms maniacally.  Watch out!
At the pediatrics office this morning, he weighed 11 pounds, 4 ounces.  WOW.

Last week, we did 30 Day Shred with Jillian Michaels and were physically incapacitated for the first half of the week. Tim and I both felt great the latter half.  One week down, three to go!  It is so motivating to know that about twelve other family members are doing it, too.  Thank goodness for the cousins who gripe right along with me via facebook.

We made a last minute trip to Alexandria on Thursday, which was fun!  We got to play with Oliver and see my family for a few days.  We got home Saturday and Tim’s parents were right behind us to come stay for the holiday weekend.  Silas got to see all four grandparents in the same weekend!  Lucky guy.

This week marks the end of maternity leave, sort of.  I am going to start working Tuesdays and Thursdays for a few months beginning tomorrow.  It will be nice to ease back into a scheduled life again.

Health and Happiness

We think these two go hand in hand, so we are having fun with the challenge of getting as many nutrients as we can while sticking to a plant based diet.  We eat a few cheeses, and bacon or chicken every now and then, but for the most part, we are vegetarian leaning people. Here is a link that details some of the health reasons (though there are countless others quite worth knowing) for which you might consider doing more plant based meals.  If you are a hard core carnivore (ahem–Dads) and think this sounds awful, how about doing a Meatless Monday?

I looked high and low for a meal planning site that catered to our diet specifics, but I didn’t find one that felt easy enough for me to stick to it.  For me, this means not having to stare blankly into the cabinets wondering what I can whip up for dinner, hoping it is healthy, whole food based, high protein, high fiber, and low in fats that aren’t terribly beneficial.

Since I am on maternity leave and I love to cook, it is especially fun for me to spend time thinking about the kitchen in any way.  I came up with a quasi monthly meal plan that works for us so far.  The following recipes have been rounded up on Google and Pinterest, largely, and most of them are here in my Pinterest: Nourish board.  The soups are mostly old favorites, so if you’d like one or all of those, let me know and I’d love to share.

Sunday:  Lentils!

Sundried Tomato, Feta and Carmelized Onion Lentils, Lentil Shepherds Pie, Curried Red Lentils, Buttered Green Lentils, and Sundried Tomato Lentil Loaf
(We had the Lentil Shepherds Pie last night and Tim raved about it both here and at work.  I added a bay leaf to the cooking beluga lentils and used real butter, but otherwise made it as instructed.  You can always substitute dark, French green lentils for Beluga/black lentils.  I order black lentils 4 pounds at a time from Amazon, but they are hard to find otherwise.)

Monday: Soup!

The Best Minestrone, Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato, Red Lentil with Mint, Classic Potato, Black Lentil Vegetable, Zucchini Basil, and Vegetarian Chili

Because it has been terribly popular and is so easy, here is the best potato soup ever.  You’ll never go back.  Based on its simplicity, I feared it would be bland or lacking in some way.  It wasn’t.  It is a thick, creamy, perfectly tasting soup.  We had it with bacon and a little cheddar. 

  • 5 lbs russet potatoes, diced, NOT peeled
  • 3-5 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 56-64 ounces broth or stock
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • bacon, sour cream, chives or shredded cheese for garnish

Combine first 4 ingredients in your crock pot, cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 5
OR
Cook on stove top:  just garlic and onions for 5 minutes, then add potatoes and broth for 25 minutes or until potatoes are done.

Remove 1/3 to 1/2 of your potatoes and blend them with some broth from the pot.  Add in the cream cheese.

Stir back into the soup and serve topped with bacon, sour cream, shredded cheese or chives.

Tuesday: Pasta!

Sundried Tomato Pesto, Spinach Gorgonzola Pesto, Amatriciana (with bacon) and Lemon Basil Pasta with Vegetables.  Or try one of these for a healthier, more authentically Italian pasta dish.  We love pasta, and we eat Barilla Plus because of the nutritional kick of a chickpea flour base.  Super high fiber and as much protein as a chicken breast.


Wednesday: Salad!

Goat Cheese/Walnuts/Pear, Romano/Sundried Tomatoes/Basil, Feta/Dried Cherries/Walnuts, Chicken/Bleu/Apples, or any other combination that strikes us as we stare into the fridge.  We love to make a classic balsamic dressing, but we buy a champagne vinaigrette regularly as well.


Thursday: Quinoa!

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers (we used feta, cherry tomatoes, onion, garlic and basil and it was lovely!), Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa, Quinoa Tabouli, Spinach Romano Quinoa, Quinoa Patties and Mushroom Quinoa Pilaf


Friday: Homemade Pizza! 

The nutrition here comes from a high protein, high fiber flour or no flour at all, thereby removing my usual guilt with pizza.  I have a few dough recipes I want to try, including one that uses only an egg, cooked grains (rice or quinoa or whatever you have) and parmesan, but I can’t find it.  I also want to do the cauliflower crust, but I fear Silas would despise me for it.
This week we are doing this one:

2 1/2 c. flour
2 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. olive oil
3/4 – 1 c. water
Mix flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add 3/4 cup water and oil. Stir with fork until blended and forms a soft ball. If dough is too stiff, add more water, a tablespoon at a time. It should be soft, but not sticky. Knead about 3 minutes on lightly floured surface until smooth.Cover with your favorite toppings and bake at 400F for about 15-25 minutes, or until bread is baked and cheese is bubbly.

Favorite toppings of ours include carmelized onions and bleu cheese on a garlic rubbed olive oil crust, sundried tomato with asparagus and goat cheese on a tomato based sauce, caprese, or a heap of vegetables leftover from our fridge.

Saturday: Gourmet Sandwiches!

Good sandwiches start with good bread.  This is a great article to help you get the most nutritional bang for your buck as far as grocery store bread goes.  Avocado, Spinach and Goat Cheese, Bean Burgers (we have used kidney beans and steak seasoning in place of black beans and seasoned salt–get creative!), Caprese melts, Sauteed Tomatoes and Spinach with Goat Cheese, Roasted Veggies, and Hummus and Fresh Vegetable Wraps.  Any great ideas for interesting sandwiches?  We’d love to hear them.

Big week in the woods

It’s a big week for us.  You know why?  Because we’re going to do 30 Day Shred and it starts tomorrow.  The fun part of 30 Day Shred (if there can be a fun part) is that a ton of people are doing it with me–cousins Abbi and Maggi and Maria, siblings Logan and Kait and Vanessa, my husband, my aunts Leanne and Jenny, and my friend Jess.

It’s also a big week because it’s the last one in Si’s first month of life.  Crazy shiz. Our week included our first errand outing since Silas was born.  We went to the library and Kroger.  Yee haw!  He slept the entire time.

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Tim spent yesterday finishing out the bathroom with some paint and trim and caulking action.  Way to go, Timmy.  Cheers to motivation for home improvement, which isn’t always easy to find around here.

While he did that, Silas and I practiced sticking our tongues out and cooing.  It was pretty great.  He is so studious.  He must have gotten that from Tim.  His hair is for sure coming in and he not only has a darling widow’s peak, but also a wicked cowlick, as you can see below.  That will make for some interesting childhood haircuts, I bet.

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Si is going to keep us in line with this whole workout commitment.  When we feel like skipping a day, we’re going to refer back to this picture where he looks something akin to Uncle Sam with his accusatory pointer finger.  Or he could be cheering us on, telling us that we’re #1.  Or maybe he’s just a little behind the times and meant to learn this in time for the ND game.  Oh well.

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Out here in the woods, we are spending January trying to decide what our goals for the next year will be.  It has been more difficult this year to identify what we want as well as how long it may take to get there.  I attribute that to new parenthood and the transition it brings.  We have some big ideas and have made no commitments yet, but I think the real goal for us this year is to be open to life and suspend expectations.

Secondly, we are going to aim to enjoy each others’ company.  Last year was spent with a gutted house, failed and successful renovations that were above our skill level, a pukey and hormonal wife, and adjustment to life with a newborn.  It turns out we didn’t spend much time enjoying each other or the moments we were experiencing together.  Time to reclaim some of that, even with an infant in the mix.  Any book recommends or tactical approaches for this, veteran married friends?

Finally, this is what our woods looked like the morning after our snow melted.  It is so beautiful out here.

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Reports on 30 Day Shred to come.  Wish us luck!

7 Weeks

I can’t believe this guy.  We accomplished a lot in the last week.

  • We tackled full time cloth diapering!  Just in time since we have 2 disposables left from all the hand me down diapers from cousins.  Couldn’t have timed that better.
  • Silas officially doubled his birth weight (and then some) and was dubbed “little hoss on the prairie” by yours truly.  I was pretty proud of that one.  Over 10 pounds!
  • He decided to go on a pretty consistent wake-eat-sleep schedule, which makes for one happy Mama.  He also is napping in his crib like a champ.  Liberation at last!
  • I got the go ahead to work out and found Postnatal Pilates easy.  Upgraded to one of my old favorite Pilates workouts.  OUCH.  Regressed back to Postnatal.
  • Outgrew 0-3 month clothing after a week, mostly thanks to the bulky cloth diaper booty he’s got working, but also because of his little buddha belly.  Good thing he wore all the cute stuff at least one time!

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2012, you were one crazy beast.

Seeing everyone’s blogs about 2012 in review, I started thinking about what a whirlwind this year has been for us.  Since I tend to overshare, you already know what happened in the last year, but I’m going to tell you again anyway.

January:
We went on our unbeknownst babymoon to Jamaica, courtesy of my nanny family.  It was truly relaxing, which is hard for me to attain.  While we were there, we found out the bank accepted the offer on the 5 bedroom farm house of Meg’s dreams.  Came home and found out the bank decided they wanted a different loan type.  Got tired of the foreclosure bull crap and reinvested our energy in house hunting.  Saw the house in the woods for the first time.  Meg cried.  Tim glowed with excitement.  We made an offer.

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February:
Our offer was accepted and we moved in February 25th with the astounding innocence and ambition of all first time home buyers.  Proceeded to rip out all the walls in 1000 square feet, creating an inescapable disaster.  Decided to stop trying to get pregnant after several months of trying in order to spend a year fixing up the house.  Started blogging to try to reserve some sanity in the home renovation process!

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March:
Found out we were pregnant.  Smiled and panicked at the same time. Oliver turned 3!  Gutted the kitchen, cut out the floor in parts, pulled out some really wicked insulation.  Realized this house had a lot of personality…as in Dave Chaney (the man who built it) took a little more creative license in repairs than he should have.  Promptly turned the poor man’s name into a verb, and not a becoming one.

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April:
Gagged.  A lot.  Began extensive drywalling as rookies. Installed kitchen cabinets and laid the flooring ourselves!

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May:
Gave the yard a makeover…and then the deer ate every last bit of it.  Oh well.  Drywall finishing, sanding, and painting time.  Kait and Oliver came down for Memorial Day.  Sara, Derek, and the boys came over for their first visit to the woods.  Went to Alexandria for Mother’s Day, which was lovely!  Painted the cabinets and installed the counter top.  Suddenly it felt liveable in here.  Happy Birthday to all the Mays!

June:
Painted the Nursery, but it was still full of lots of home repair crap! Finished out the entryway and painted the first round of baseboard and trim.  Spent Tim’s first Father’s Day poolside in Alexandria.  Adopted Mama and Francie kitties and they caught five mice in five days.  GROSS.  Not a single mouse since then!  Not even in the winter.  Success.  Worked on simplifying life before baby, and I really thought my belly stuck out.  I was wrong.

July:
It’s a boy!  Spent a few weeks adjusting since every family member had convinced me it was a girl.  Celebrated the fact that Oliver handed down his entire wardrobe, collection of toys, and all of the best baby essentials.  Lucky, since we had poured all of our money into the house at that point.

August:
OK, my belly really did stick out in August.  Discovered Downton Abbey.  Took lots of trips to the lake.  Still felt really sick and wondered why people had more than one child.  Painted the crib and hung art on the living room walls at long last.  Log and Ness eloped to Alaska!  Happy Birthday to Mom, KP, Kathryn, Henry, and me! Exciting month.

September:
Baby shower!  So lovely. It was absolutely perfect. I finally felt good by the end of September.  Celebrated Log and Nessi’s wedding…until Ness broke her ankle at the reception.  Party foul.  People came from far and wide to celebrate the impending arrival of our Boo Boo!  Sweet families.

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October:
Happy Birthday to Tim and Roger!  Discovered the TV series, Castle.  Felt reeeeally pregnant.  Committed to nursery art and started working on the details of Baby GB’s space finally.  Took last minute pregnancy pictures before it was too late.

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November:
Baby shower in Onarga on the 10th.  It was beautiful and such a nice, intimate gathering of family and friends.  On the 20th, I was in labor!  Good thing we had that shower when we did.  Welcome to the world, Silas Peter Thoreau!  Our parents all stayed for Thanksgiving and cooked for us.  It was wonderful!

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December:
Did we even have a December?  My brain wasn’t working.  I felt like a sleep deprived, not pretty, puke covered milk factory.  Kait and O came to visit, and we got the money shot.  By Christmas, I got it together a little bit and it was lovely to make the rounds and introduce Boo to the extended families.  We headed into the new year with our neighbors playing folk songs on their instruments and a sense of tempered wonder about what the next year will hold.  We are happy to greet 2013 and all the new experiences it brings!

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Happy Birthday to my Dad!

Today is my Dad’s birthday.  It is also the biggest Notre Dame game of all time in way too many years, which is probably going to be his favorite present this year.  Happy Birthday, Dad!  We love you and appreciate all the man power you have put into our home this past year when we had no idea what the heck we were doing.

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Odds and Ends

We have been realizing the house needs a few ton of finishing touches, but not really feeling motivated to do them yet.  As it happens, we got a little glimmer of motivation yesterday to do the trim pieces in the A-frame.  It doesn’t seem like much, but it looked hideous and gaping before, so even though it still needs to be caulked and touched up, the trim is up and looking so much better.

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After this, I got a little energetic and started painting the bathroom what I thought was a super milky, pretty, robin eggy blue.  It turns out the lighting in there is hinky and it looks more green than I anticipated.  It isn’t a total flop–the color is fine, just not what I intended.  It looks pretty with the white and goes well with the original artwork we liked in there. 

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Today, we intended to take Silas to UU service and we did!  Doesn’t he look handsome?

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We also intended to finish the bathroom painting and do some more trimming work around the bath ceiling, but instead we had friends over to watch the Colts game.  It was a nice relaxing end to the Sunday, even if we didn’t get much done.  Here’s hoping for some good naps this week so I can surprise Tim with finished projects!

Who’s stoked about the Notre Dame game?  These fellas.  Know of any ND fans in Bloom who want to come over?  It will be a measly 2.5 person party tomorrow night, but we’re still stoked.

I wish I had an outfit like this.

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The Nursery

So, my dear friend and cousin’s cousin, Misha, has been asking me for pictures of the nursery.  In my head, I thought I had already blogged them.  Bless her heart, she was really subtle about reminding me that I never did get around to putting them on here for all to see.  I posted the mobile and some in progress art work, but never the full nursery. It’s time!

We wanted something simple and functional without screaming baby or bears or ducks or anything else, and this is what we ended up with.  We think it’s a sweet collection of “us” things, including a few transcendentalist quotes (both Thoreau and Emerson) and the Chicago skyline, as well as a few encouragements for kindness and optimism.  We had under $200 in the entire room, thanks to lots of hand me downs from Oliver and the crib from my Mom.  Pretty great!  Our budget was about -$5 since we found out we were pregnant after gutting our entire living space.  Oops!  Here it is:

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The big framed artwork pieces were courtesy of Misha and Aaron, the smaller ones I printed and framed.  The changing table was second hand and weighs a ton, so it’s staying right where it is for now.  Our crib was free from craigslist via my Mom, the mobile was a DIY project at the end of my pregnancy, and the baskets beneath the DIY book ledges are from Target.  Oddly, those baskets are the most expensive thing in our entire nursery, but I LOVE them and they are so worth it.  The fabric on the window is called Remix Bermuda Stripe, and they also have a coordinating chevron for all of you chevron fans.

We didn’t really get to put finishing touches on the nursery or have time to over think it since I went into labor early.  Now we are trying to balance being totally enamored with Silas and being exhausted from middle of the night bellyaches to care about the details, but all in all, we love the way it turned out.