French Macarons.

I co-hosted a meet & greet baby shower this past Saturday for a dear childhood friend at my house.  I really enjoyed the months prepping for it and decided to try several new recipes (more posts on new recipes to come).  One of which was French macarons – the easy version!  Not only did I learn how to properly pronounce them (macaron instead of macaroon), but I learned how to make them!  This recipe is an easy macaron recipe and it worked great, even for my first try!  Before I decided to try my hand at the French macaron I called several local Seattle French bakeries and they charge typically around $2.50 per macaron – say what!?  After hearing what it would cost for half a dozen macarons I instantly decided to take on the challenge of making my own and now I will be making my own from here on out!

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I researched recipes for about a week before I settled on the one to try.  I had to purchase a few new ingredients to me; almond meal flour, gel food coloring and caster sugar.  Thank goodness all are sold on Amazon because I didn’t have to go out of my way to specialty stores to find them – just a quick order and they were placed on my front porch in two days, score!

I hope you decide to give them a shot – so fun for special events!  I actually made them a week before hand and they froze beautifully!  I will do the exact same thing the next time.  I also used my silpat which worked perfectly – love that thing.  The only thing I would do differently next is to get one of the paper templates for help with dropping the liquid shell mixture so that they are uniform.  Mine were pretty close in size, but would make them look a little more uniform.

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French Macarons ~ The Easy Version

Makes around 15-20 macarons — Prep time 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup almond meal flour
  • 2 medium egg whites
  • Small pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup caster / fine sugar
  • Gel food coloring if desired

Filling:

  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • Added flavoring, for instance vanilla extract or other

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 300°F (no fan).  Mix the powdered sugar and the almond meal together well in a bowl and throw out any lumps.

In a separate large mixing bowl whisk the egg whites and salt until they form soft peaks.  Add the caster / fine sugar, a little at a time and continue to whisk until the whites are very thick and glossy.  Then add your gel food coloring to the desired color.  Gently stir in the powdered sugar and almond meal mix.  The mixture should become loose and less airy – this is what you want. 

Using a piping bag with a 1 cm / 1/3″ nozzle, fill with the shell macaron mixture.  Place the silicon mat or paper template onto a baking sheet.  Pipe a small blobs onto the baking sheet remembering that less is more because the mixture will settle and form into the allotted spaces.

Gently tap the baking sheet a few times on the work surface to help the macaron mixture to settle and to break any air bubbles, then leave to dry for 20 minutes – the surface of the macaron will become smooth and shiny

Bake the macarons in the preheated for 7 – 8 minutes minutes, open the door to release any steam, close the oven door and cook for a further 7 – 8 minutes.  The macarons are cooked when they feel firm and are slightly risen.

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Slide the mat or greaseproof paper onto a wire cooling rack and leave to cool completely before handling, this will prevent cracking.

Make the Filling – beat the softened butter until it is fluffy, then gradually beat in the icing sugar.  At this point you can beat in any flavourings you may choose to the filling.

Place approx 1/2 a tsp of the filling to the flat side of one macaroon and sandwich together with another then twist ever so slightly to create a bond.  Continue with the remaining macarons.

The macarons can be eaten immediately but will benefit from being refrigerated for 24 hours as this will make them even more chewy and tasty.  They also freeze very well as noted above.

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 Enjoy!

Three Years Old {Olivia Haven}

My baby is going to be three years old on the 10th!  How did this happen?  These last three years of being a mommy have been the best ever and I feel so incredibly blessed.  We have had so many wonderful moments full of giggles, smiles, hugs, kisses, tears, bruises, bumps and lots of love.  We have grown together and life with Miss Olivia is pure joy, with a side of the terrible twos-threes and we wouldn’t trade this journey for anything.  I have been so emotional lately thinking about her turning three.  She is such a precious blond curly blue-eyed little lady.

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We were able to gather our immediate family, friends and Livie’s little pals for a special lunch in honor of the birthday girl this past Saturday at a local pizza parlor.  We went with the pizza party theme and she loved every minute of it.  A special thanks to everyone who came to wish her a happy 3rd birthday and for all of the lovely gifts the little gal received.

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Here are some special pictures from the day – most taken by Grandpa Jim.

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We love you so much Olivia and wish you a very happy 3rd birthday which we will be continue to celebrate throughout the next week.  I will always remember and relive the day that you made me a mommy on November 10, 2011 at 5:02 pm – best day of my life sweet girl.

xoxo

Happy Halloween {2014}

Happy Halloween from my two little pumpkins!

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These dolls are getting ready for a fun day of Halloween festivities which includes having some family and friends over for some dinner and trick-or-treating and boy are they excited!  This is Livie’s third Halloween and Leigh’s first!  It is hard to believe this is the third for Livie and I have been pregnant with both girls the last several years during the holiday :).  This year it is extra exciting because it falls on a Friday so everyone can stay up a little later to celebrate the holiday.

The girls did have a great day yesterday celebrating at their daycare / preschool with a Halloween party with all of their friends!  They had an excellent day and earlier in the week we made pumpkin cookies with frosting and special Halloween sprinkles – Livie did more eating of the frosting and sprinkles than helping, but it was a lot of fun.

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Have a Safe & Happy Halloween!  xoxo

Leigh Stella {Seven & Eight Months}

I am combining Leigh’s 7 and 8 month updates into one post! Miss Leigh is 8 months old today!  My baby is changing and getting so big.  I can hardly believe that she will be a year old in four short months.  Time is going so quickly with her and I can’t believe my little sweet bundle of a newborn is now a crawling, standing, climbing girl!

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She is awesome, my sweet babe.  I take both girls to things and I am pretty much guaranteed that Leigh will behave and be her sweet little self.  Olivia on the other hand, is a handful of the “terrible two” variety…I could supply some good stories for you, but this post is all about Leigh so I will hold them for another time :)

PLAYING

Leigh is into everything and wants to be in the midst of Livie’s playing chaos all the time.  She loves to be with her big sister and you can  tell she wants to do whatever Livie is doing.  Leigh started crawling at the start of 6 months so we have been busy with her mobility.  Shortly after crawling started she began to pull herself up to standing.  She does this on everything and is pretty confident with it.  She will go one-handed, my little daredevil and loves to climb.

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Leigh’s favorite game is to be chased by Livie – she will crawl real fast around and just giggle away, it’s so funny!  She also enjoys maneuvering around to room to room finding fun treasures that Liv has left around and sometimes she may get a yummy crumb from a snack from her dad or her sis :) .  Oh the joys…I try my best to keep things picked up and grab crumbs when I see them!

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Leigh just loves to be with people and play.  She is the happiest when we are right there with her.

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EATING

Leigh is eating three solid meals a day.  Below is her current feeding / sleeping schedule.  She is doing really well with solids – I am doing a mix of purees and small chunks for her.  Examples of what she eats:  breakfast – Stoneyfield YoYo Baby yogurt (she loves her yogurt), eggs, oatmeal with some sort of fruit, puffs; lunch – fruit and veggie puree, puffs; dinner – veggie puree (sweet potato, winter squash and carrots are her favorite), avocado.

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Leigh’s “Typical” Schedule:

  • 5:30 am – milk 5 oz
  • 7 am – wake for day
  • 7:30 am – solids and 5 oz milk (she will drink this 5 oz throughout the next few hours)
  • 8:30-10 am – nap
  • 10 am – milk 5 oz
  • 12:30 pm – solids and 5 oz milk (she will drink this 5 oz throughout the next few hours)
  • 1:30-3 pm – nap
  • 4 pm – milk 5 oz
  • 5:30 pm – solids and 5 oz milk (sometimes she drinks 3-4 oz)
  • 7 pm – milk 5 oz – only formula feed
  • 7:15 pm – asleep for night
  • 12-2 am – night feed happens 6 out of 7 nights a week – 5 oz +/- 1 am

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She has been doing really well with eating. We have taken things pretty slow, about the same pace as with Olivia and she has always been a pretty good eater.  She is usually ravenous at each meal and ready to eat.  She can eat an entire yogurt in one sitting along with puffs and egg.  She is doing great and needs those extra calories for how much she does now.  She is always moving and standing and that takes a lot out of the little gal.

No teeth yet! She is a gummy babe who is a teething machine – drool for days.  Baby needs to get some teeth so she can get really chewing those chunks….she is doing great gummy her food though.  Again, can’t help compare, but Liv had her first teeth at 5 months.  Seriously any day, I feel for them every day :) .

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We have also started supplementing one bottle a day with formula. We started two weeks ago and she sucks it down like its breast milk.  She just likes to eat and it doesn’t matter which was a relief.  I was getting low on milk sometimes and my freezer stock was down so to ease my mind and make things nicer for me we decided to give in and allow one bottle for now.  The first time to let go is always hard, but now I feel really good about it.  I am still pumping 6 times a day (typically 4 am, 7 am, 9:30 am, 12:30 pm, 4 pm and 8:30 pm) and she is eating around 35-40 ounces a day.

SLEEPING

As you can see from the schedule above Leigh is sleeping pretty well. This last month she went several times sleeping through the entire night without a wake-up to eat.  7:15 pm to 7 am is amazing!  I also got the longest stretch of straight sleep that I have gotten since she was born a few weekends ago – 8 hours  and it was glorious!  I was severely in pain and went straight to the pump, but it was so worth it!

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She loves her crib and sleeps in every way and direction imaginable. She is a really sound sleeper at night and goes right back to bed after her night feed if she needs it.  She loves her blankies in her bed – her Giraffe blankets are her favorite and her two small ones are her lovies.

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Leigh goes in for her 9 month check-up on Halloween!  We went in for a flu shot today and she weighed 19.6 pounds.

FIRSTS & OUTINGS

First time on a swing

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First time riding in a shopping cart like a big girl

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First time taking a bath like a big girl

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First visit to the San Juan Islands & First ferry ride

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Met her new baby friends – Lucas and Caroline

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Went to some fun restaurants – Blue Water Bar & Grill, XXX Burger, The Ram and Nordstrom Café – First time in a restaurant high chair

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Celebrated birthdays – Grandpa Jim’s birthday, Grammy’s birthday and buddy Abby’s 1st birthday

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Enjoyed lots of play and spending time outside enjoying the end of our nice summer

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Leigh Stella – Random Facts at Seven & Eight Months:

  • Stats:  19.6 pounds on 9/26, we’ll find out all of her measurements at her 9 month check-up on 10/31
  • Diaper Size:  size 5 at night and cloth Bumgenius 4.0s
  • Clothing:  9 – 12 months and some 12-18 months
  • Likes:  standing, pulling herself up on everything, crawling, playing with her sister’s toys, eating, sleeping, her blankies, bath-time with her sister, playing with her sister
  • Dislikes:  being hungry, tired, tight clothes

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Gah, love my girls – can’t get enough!  Happy 8 months sweet Leigh-Leigh!  You both amaze me every day! xoxo

Summer Trip Wrap-up 2014.

We have had a really spectacular summer weather and trip wise – it has been great!  I do wish that our weather was generally nicer all year around so that we didn’t have to cram everything into the three months of summer weather that we have here in the pacific northwest.  Maybe things will eventually change with global warming, but for now we will relish in our summer months.  I sure am glad our trips have come to an end and we can enjoy bumming around the house and be home for football season ~ Go Huskies & Seahawks!

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I only classify our trips this summer as “trips” and not “vacations” since they have not been in the least bit relaxing with the kids and our only trip without the kids was a marathon of driving and events.  We need a “vacation” that includes laying by the pool/beach, dozing off in the sun whenever we feel like it, not constantly cleaning up after others, maid service and sipping fruity drinks…we are trying to plan for one of those next year and I truly cannot wait.

WHISTLER, BC {Lauren & Bryon’s Wedding}

The start of summer trips for us started in June with the kick-off of a trip up to Whistler, BC for a best friend’s wedding ~ Lauren & Bryon!  This was the first official time away from Leigh so it made it a bit bittersweet being away from my little babe overnight.  Leigh got to have her first overnight at Grandparent Petersen’s house with big sister Olivia too.

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They had a really fun weekend with the grandparents – we really appreciated their help with the girls while we were away.  We had a nice time away, but it was pretty quick with driving five hours and waiting in line at the border for an hour plus on the way home, no bueno!

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The wedding was so beautiful, food and music were phenomenal and the details were perfect; loved seeing my gorgeous friend get married to a great guy and it was nice to have an adult conversation too!  My parents attended the wedding along with some of our very best friends and family friends – we had such a nice time catching up with everyone.

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Love Whistler and so glad we were able to make the trip to celebrate an amazing couple!  I am excited to head back to Whistler and take the girls in the next few years.  Such a special place that I grew up going to and want to share it with them too.

LAKE CHELAN – WAPATO POINT {4th of July with Family}

The next week we were getting packed up and ready to head over to Lake Chelan for four nights to celebrate the 4th of July with Jeff’s parents and sister’s family.  This was the first trip all together with the babies!  Jeff’s sister had a baby girl in late March and we couldn’t wait to get all three girls together for our inaugural trip together.  All of the kids did great – we did have our hands full!

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Livie enjoyed her third trip over to Lake Chelan and this was Leigh’s first trip which made it special, well technically it was her first trip – I went over there pregnant with her twice last summer :) .  This year I got to enjoy the wine and “pump and dump”!  Jeff and I took the girls and made a quick stop at Nefarious, our favorite winery over there and enjoyed a glass together (chasing the girls around :) ).

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Liv had a blast swimming, running around with other kids, playing on the play-sets, walks with mom and dad and building sand castles.  She was in her element and loved it.  Leigh also enjoyed a dip in the pool for her first time.  The trip was a lot of fun.  Our first road trip with both kids – we had our first official trip down to Palm Desert when Leigh was just four weeks old.

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We always look forward to our Chelan trips and this one didn’t disappoint.  We are already looking forward to next year’s trip and long walks in the sun with our girls.

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LAKE ROOSEVELT – WILBUR {Petersen Family Reunion}

After Chelan we had a week break and then it was time to re-pack the beach bags and load up the suit cases for another road trip over to Lake Roosevelt, Wilbur!  The annual Petersen family party on the lake is something special we look forward to every year; catching up with family, eating delicious food, water fun and enjoying the lake views.

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We went over Friday morning this year and stayed through Sunday.  We were able to visit with family Friday evening, enjoy the party Saturday and a nice breakfast on Sunday with everyone.  It is such a nice time to see everyone and spend a lot of time outside.  We love our walks up the canyon and around the harbor.

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Both girls got lots of time visiting with family.  Leigh was passed around and Livie had a blast running around with her older cousins!  It made it so nice for us to have the help so we could enjoy visiting with everyone.  Always such a nice visit!

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SAN JUAN ISLANDS {Island Trip}

After Wilbur we were able to come home, enjoy some time to re-group, a visit to Olympia for a wedding, afternoon at Lake St. Clair and some visits with friends before the next trip, my ultimate favorite place on earth – the San Juan Islands.  We started a great tradition with our good friends to make the trip every early August.  Last year we stayed on San Juan Island with a day trip to Orcas and this year we stayed on Orcas with a day trip to San Juan.  Next year we are going to do San Juan Island with no day trips, just enjoy the island and relax.

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We took the kids this year; three babies under 6 months and we survived and had a great time!  It was a lot of work for everyone, but such fun memories made.  Loved having four nights up there to enjoy.  Leigh and Natalie experienced their very first ferry ride too – it was Xander’s second and Liv’s 5th ferry ride.

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Olivia had a great time with some of her most favorite people and had three babies to hang out with, a great pool to swim in, a play-set outside of our townhouse and a breach to explore – pretty happy little girl.

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All of the babies did really well – Xander had his first dip in the pool ever, Leigh enjoyed crawling all around and Natalie had a great time playing.  They enjoyed their stroller walks, ferry rides and visits to Eastsound.  We were pooped when we got home and enjoyed sleeping in our own beds.  I am already anticipating the trip for next summer and getting our stay booked!

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Babies make everything that much more fun and that much more work ~ great adventure we all had together.  Love these babes and people so much.  Looking forward to SJI trip 2015!

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OLYMPIA {Golf Tournament & Grandparent Visit}

Jeff played in an annual golf tournament with a good family friend and I always venture down every year to make a summer visit to my parent’s house and relax on their deck.  This was Leigh’s second weekend overnight at my parent’s house in Olympia – she visited with me in late May for an overnight and came down for a day at the lake with us in early August.

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The girls and I stayed Thursday evening through Saturday morning and had a nice visit with Grammy and Papa.  It was nice to be with Jeff when he was at the house in the evenings.  Liv had her first real haircut by my mom on the deck after I had mine :)!  Her hair was so uneven and long in the back, she was working a real nice mullet which is now all nice and even.

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Leigh was everywhere, crawling from room to room and standing up on everything.  She had a blast in her new surrounding exploring.

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Well, the summer marathon was pretty awesome and the memories we made were priceless with family and great friends.  Now we are looking forward to settling in and enjoying fall.  We are having a big week at our house; Jeff had his first day at Starbuck’s corporate today, Leigh turns 7 months tomorrow, along with a nice long weekend ahead to spend together.  Happy Fall everyone!

Leigh Stella {Six Months}

Leigh is 6 months old!  It has been such an amazing half a year and one that went by so fast.  I can’t believe my baby is getting so big and is doing so much.  We have already made so many awesome memories with our sweet girl since she has been with us and I really can’t imagine life without her.

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Leigh Stella continues to be such a good, happy baby who is always smiling, moving and playing.  She is mobile which began when she turned five month or so.  She looks like she is so close to crawling and does the back and forth rocking on all fours; however she makes her way to what she needs by scooting herself around and makes tracks!  We are excited to see if she is content with the scooting or if she will decide to pick up and start crawling.  Her big sister started crawling at 8 months and began walking at 11 months, we’ll see what Leigh decides to do.  All we know is she is one busy little lady!  We just moved our family room furniture to be able to rope her in when she tries to escape :)…It is so nice that the house is already baby-proofed this time around – we just need to put up some of the gates downstairs again.

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She sits up so good (she has been sitting up since 4 months) and can last for a long time.  She did a good 3o minutes this morning with no problem, her core is so strong now which makes it really nice to just be able to put her down and she can play with her toys contently for a period of time and see what is going on around her so well and be on big sis’s level too.

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PLAYING

Leigh girl loves to play and can last a long, long time now.  It makes life so much more fun and frankly way easier, especially with two.  I love to watch both girls play together – they love each other so much.  They are the sweetest of sisters and Livie is so good with her.

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Leigh does the best just sitting up playing with toys on the floor, then in her seat sitting up playing with toys and lastly in the jumparoo.  That is the circuit.  Less jumparoo lately for sure and more floor time playing and scooting everywhere.  The play mat is pretty much non-existent now and she just rolls over and scoots around.  She is so much fun!

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EATING

She continues to do doing really well with solids.  I haven’t really pushed a lot of new things and we are taking things really slow especially since we started when she was 4.5 months.  She typically has a little oatmeal, apple or banana at breakfast with breast milk and then sweet potato at lunch or dinner with breast milk.  I give her the solids first and then she sucks down 5 ounces of milk right after.  She loves her milk – going strong with breast milk.  I just hope she becomes as good of an eater as her sister has been through the years, that’s all I can really ask for.  We are doing the exact same thing we did with Liv for Leigh; purees when they are real young then move to feeding themselves.  I have started giving her puffs that she puts in her mouth and also have the mesh feeder that I am trying to get her into.

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SLEEPING

Sleep really hasn’t changed that much since the last month’s update.  She takes two good naps per day with a cat nap or two.  She goes down around 7:30 pm and wakes up for the day around 5:30 am or so.  Some nights it is a challenge to keep her up until 7:30 because she is so tired from playing and just wants to go to bed, sometimes as early at 6:30 so we really try to just keep her entertained and up a bit longer.

She has been sleeping in her crib now for some naps and went all night last night in her crib (until I pulled her into bed at 4 am…).  The easy answer for us though is the swing – she loves her swing, but is way too strong and can easily flip out in it.  I have walked in several times with her just about rolling out of it so I am always on pins and needles when she is in it.  The only time I am not is at night when she is really tightly swaddled and in a deep sleep – then she doesn’t move and really can’t because her swaddle is so tight thanks to dad.

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Another fun development is her sleeping on her side and on her tummy.  We think it is great and just want her to be comfy – she is past the age and development of worrying about her sleeping on her tummy.  Girl can get out of anything and does what she wants.

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OTHER STUFF

Leigh has been teething for a while now, for months actually, but no teeth yet.  She has been doing the puckering sound with her month for over a month and they say that is a true sign that they are near…I have no idea.  Liv had her two bottom center teeth come in just before six month.  We feel every day for those little pups.

She also got her first ear infection, poor babe.  We went to Wilbur this last weekend for a yearly family party and on the way home she was really whining and had a little green snot.  We decided to take action and take her in the next day, Monday, even though she had her six month appointment that Friday.  She had an ear infection in both ears, but the good news was that we did catch it really early on so she only had to be on amoxicillin for half the time and on her Friday appointment was checked and was just about back to normal.

Speaking of her six month appointment – she did awesome!  She was smiley and moving everywhere for the doctor and just did the normal hesitant cry once she realized that she just got poked and then once I grabbed her and put her over my shoulder she smiled at the nurse.  We have one tough little girl.  The rest of the day was no problem; she ate right when we got home, played for a long time and entertained herself and then took a nice long nap.  Pretty typical and it was a great day at home with both girls.

Leigh has always been a talker, babbling, but now she has really found her voice.  She has been doing the screeching and loud screams – just testing out those vocal cords.  It’s pretty funny to listen to.

FIRSTS & OUTINGS

Lots of fun first this last month for her too; first full weekend away from mom and dad (best friend’s wedding in Whistler) staying at Grandparent Petersen’s house for the first time, first trip to Lake Chelan / Wapato Point with family for the 4th of July, celebrated her first 4th of July, first time in the pool…

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…first time to Hanson Harbor / Wilbur on Lake Roosevelt with family, meeting the Petersen side of her family, fun play dates, dinners with good friends and lots of other fun stuff with her parents and sis.  Summer is just eventful in itself…we have lots to look forward to this next month too; birthday parties, meeting new baby buddies, Orcas Island / San Juan Island trip and get-togethers with family and friends.

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Welp, you are pretty awesome Leigh – love my baby girl so much.  You are truly amazing – can’t wait to watch you grow and see what the next six months has in store for us.

Leigh Stella – Random Facts at Six Month:

  • Stats:  18 lbs, 2 oz (91%), 26″ long (62%-I don’t think they stretched her out fully though). 43.2 cm (74%) at her 6 month check-up on 7/25
  • Diaper Size:  size 5 at night and cloth Bumgenius 4.0s
  • Clothing:  9 – 12 months and some 12-18 months
  • Likes:  being the center of attention, rolling around on the floor and scooting everywhere, sitting up, eating her solids and breast milk, talking, swaddled, held/snugged, eating, bubble (binky), play time, baths, watching big sister
  • Dislikes:  being hungry, tired, gas pains

Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Shells

I love comfort food, even in the summer time.  Everyone needs a little comfort in their lives – especially when we are all so busy running kids around these days.  Meals that are semi-easy to make, relatively healthy, create delicious leftovers and perfect for freezing and eating later are just what I need more of in my life!

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I finally got around to making this recipe last night and we all really enjoyed it!  Ended up bringing half of it to a couple who just had a baby – perfect prepared meal for new parents.  Just place the prepared shells in a foil disposable dish with marinara sauce and it is ready to bake.  Add a vegetable and a side of crusty bakery bread and you have a nice well-balanced meal.

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Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Shells
Adapted from A Healthy Slice of Life and Skinny Taste blogs

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of Jumbo Shells (approx. 38 shells)
  • 1 garlic cloves, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups part skim ricotta cheese
  • 10 oz reduced fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 egg
  • 2, 10 oz packages of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed well
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 Tbsp chopped or leafs of fresh basil for garnish
  • 5-6 cups of prepared marinara sauce

Directions:

Boil water and cook shells according to the package directions.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl combine the spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, egg, salt, pepper and garlic – mix well to combine.

Prepare a large baking dish with marinara sauce, covering the bottom.  Once shells are cooked and cooled fill each shell with the spinach and cheese mixture (approx. 1.5 to 2 Tbsp) and place the prepared shells over the marinara sauce.

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Top the shells with the other half of the marinara sauce, cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.  Uncover foil and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Serve with additional sauce as desired and garnish with fresh basil.

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Enjoy!