Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday Spiced Chocolate Chip Cookies

As promised, here is the recipe!  Without my Meeta, this recipe would not exist.  I would like to thank her for sharing her original recipe back in November of 2000.

Buddy Walk: The Ellie Bears!!!!! 
Holiday Spiced Chocolate Chip Cookies

2.25 cup       Flour
1 Tbsp         Baking Powder
1 tsp             Nutmeg (or less if you are not into the whole nutmeg thing)
2 tsp             Cinnamon
2 Tbsp         Water
12 Tbsp       Butter (aka 1 whole stick)  You can never have too much butter.
1 cup           Brown Sugar
1                  Egg
1 tsp            Vanilla Extract
1 12oz pkg  Chocolate chips (I used a mixture of milk chocolate and semi-sweet)
0.5 cup        Nuts, chopped (optional)

**Optional: Boil the 2 Tbsp of water & pour over 2 Tbsp of instant coffee.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
3. In a larger bowl, mix together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.
4. Alternate adding in the flour & water/coffee into the large bowl with the wet ingredients.
5. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.
6. Using a Tbsp, drop dough to a greased cookie sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes.

In theory, you are supposed to get 4 dozen, however, we live in a Texan household and everything is bigger so I only yield about 2 dozen or so.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Time Is Near. . .

...Happiness and cheer.  Fun for that all children call, their favorite time of year."


Yes, yes, I realize that it is still only November, however this is the only week until the New Year where we do not have 2-3 health care visits per week and it as after Thanksgiving.   Thus, I am celebrating our week of toddler-free torture by going full force on spreading the Holiday cheer and being all Christmasy.

Turn on 95.5 or any other all Christmas songs all the time station and sing along with me and Ellie Bear!  (Ellie is so clever.  There was a song with Fa la lalalala la and Ellie repeated "a lalalalala".)

Last week we took Ellie to visit with Santa.  We made this trek last year and Ellie slept through the entire ordeal. . . dressed as a reindeer.

Baby Bear last year


This year, she was most definitely awake and we did not know if she would cry or just stare.  She just started.  Then she smiled so big and beautiful when she saw me with my camera.  My perfect photo-op was unfortunately affected by the light-thingy that the professional photographers at the mall use and thus my shot became washed out and blurry.
Who is this guy?  I am not sure about this.
Well, maybe he will let me use his vest to pull to a stand.


Oh by gosh, by golly.  It's time for mistletoe and holly and also time for baking!!!!

I cannot cook.  Really, I cannot even bake chicken or saute it or broil it.  Andrew has some good cooking skills.  I will start to make dinner and then he creeps over to the stove and lifts up the lids and looks.  Then he stirs.  Then he sneaks stuff into the pot (without tasting it first, I might add).  I finally give up and let him take over.  Hey, I will gleefully give up the cooking!

Baking, on the other hand, is my specialty.  I LOVE baking.  Lemon bars, cookies of all kinds, pumpkin bars, fudge, cakes, cupcakes, homemade icings.  Sigh.  The presentation isn't all that great, but typically my goodies come out rather tasty.  The thing is, Andrew is a traditionalist, which is all find and dandy, but seriously, he will only eat sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate chip cookies with walnuts.  If I vary from these common, but ever-so popular confectioneries, I am left with a rather large amount of sweet, sugary treats just for myself.  The cookies then become breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, and late night snack.  After all, why should I let these goodies become stale and why should I eat an apple when there is a nice velvety chocolate cupcake with chocolate butter cream icing calling my name?  See, my thoughts exactly.

My little candy cane, sugar cookie, Christmas Angel

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, time for baking.  As a member of two mothers' clubs, I find myself baking a fair amount this time of the year.  Both clubs have cookie exchanges where I need to bake 3 dozen cookies for each event.  Everyone else bakes 3 dozen cookies and we, you guessed it, exchange.  I will then end up with all sorts of sweet, sugar yummies to bring home and shared with my lovey Andrew!  Since I will be exchanging baked goods amongst friends, I will make something different--my Holiday chocolate spiced cookies, which is actually a slight variation of a Meeta recipe.  You may find the recipe featured in the next post.  I would show you a lovely picture except my desserts are big on taste and not visual design.

Sugar Plum Bear-Bear
For us Theurers, Black Friday is actually Christmas-Holiday-Snowman-Penguin-Decorating Day.  All of the turkeys and pumpkins are packed away for another year and I dig out multiple sterilite containers full of knick-knacks, stockings, and tree trimming.  This year, due to the Bear's new found mobility (Super Bear!  Exceeding all expectations with cuteness and determination!!!!!), I really restricted the decorations.

We also have a bit of a tree issues.  Well, more like a space problem.  Since Andrew rearranged our living room to accommodate a rather large baby jail, I mean play-yard, we now have no space for our big tree.  After much discussion (~3 minutes), we opted to only up my old little tree in the bedroom.


While it may be a little Charlie Brown tree, remember that One Little Christmas Tree can light up a home.

Of course Amelie immediately tried sitting IN the tree which caused it to topple.  Tama then claimed the tree skirt as her new kitty bed and Sophie believes that she can fit under the tree.  (I apologize for the lack of picture of Sophie squeezing herself under the tree.  It was hilarious, but when she saw the camera, she came bounding over to me).

Ame Paws

Tama Boo
Truly, It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  Every where you go.  Really, everywhere. 

So let's embrace this Holiday season, start some traditions, bake and sew, and whip our the Bing Crosby and sing White Christmas and Mele Kalikamaka all while Decking the Halls.


References:
"Christmas Time Is Here" Vince Guaraldi (1965)
"Mistletoe and Holly" Frank Sinatra
"One Little Christmas Tree" Stevie Wonder (1973)
"It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas" Meredith Wilson (1951)
White Christmas” Iving Berlin (1942)
Deck the Halls”  author unknown, possible Welsch, then Mozart, then official in 1881

As many of you know, I follow many blogs written by people who care for those with special needs.  I like to consider it my own virtual support group.  While I may not have met these many of these people in person, I consider some of them friends.  One of my blogger friends has a new (11/22) baby with Down Syndrome.  She is absolutely beautiful and a strong little fighter.  I would like to ask for your thoughts and prayers.  She two severe heart defects and will be having risky surgery this Wednesday.  Thank you in advance for your thoughts and support. 


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful Holiday.  Families and friends gathering for wonderful, sumptuous food and in theory, remembering what they are most thankful for.  Counting their blessings.  Preparing to spread the Holiday cheer!
Andrew trying to prevent Ellie from getting into sharp objects


Most of the people have the day off of work or school which is ever-needed as the United States seems very fond of working long hours and having stores open 24/7.  For a time, I worked the night-shift as a floor nurse in the pediatric ICU.  I always chose to work Thanksgiving night as I had no family within a couple thousand miles so why not let those with family have the night off?  I remember families sneaking cookies to us and staff members' spouses bringing turkey into the staff room.  I recall Thanksgivings spent in the dorms where Megan would whip up an entire feast fit for the Queen of England where as I could only contribute macaroni and cheese.  Before all of that, I experienced the traditional Thanksgiving involving football on the TV and family members gathering in warm sweaters and laughter.

Oh yes, that stone wall really is inside of our house and it is awesome.

A Texas Thanksgiving is another Holiday entity entirely.  Yes, there is turkey.  Deep-fried.  Stuffed with crawfish (I avoided and kept the expired EpiPen nearby).  There are sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.  Papa Charles and Mama Dunja drove down from Plano with their famous pecan and apple pies.  Yet, we cannot imagine Thanksgiving without the BBQ sause from Rudy's or the smoked brisket.  Andrew smoked a 16 lb brisket throughout the night and morning to serve to 30 people.    Friends, family, friends' family.  It is such a joy because you never know just who to expect and who you will meet.

Brisket Prep a la Andrew

Wine, BBQ Sauce, and a huge yummy plate of Thanksgiving food!

Crawfish-stuffed Deep Fried Turkey

Traditionally, Thanksgiving is served outside at our dear friends Rico's and Michelle's house.  This year, Rico labored intensively over a beautiful wooden pergola covering the entire patio.  Thanksgiving was to be served under this gorgeous pergola.  After all, in Texas we serve the Thanksgiving meal outside.  Right next to the blooming roses.  Remember me complaining about the heat?  Hmmm. . . .well, in a 30 minute time period, just before serving the meal, the winds picked up and the temperatures dropped a good 30 degrees.
Baby Train!  After which Ellie will use Graham-Bam to pull to a stand.  After all, isn't that what people and babies are for?

Grandma Kisses
We have very clever and innovative friends.  It brings me great pleasure that this year we experience our first Thanksgiving in a workshop/garage.  It was awesome.  Surrounded by power tools and plywood.  It felt just like home :-)  All of the tables and chairs fit and we were protected from the chilling wind as temps dropped into the 40s.

Spoons!

Doesn't Rico have the best workshop? The tables continue back, around to the right.


Andrew and I feasted until we would pop.  Ellie enjoyed some of the food along with her styrofoam, I mean, rice crackers.**  Another fantastic Thanksgiving.  Now it is time for me to research flour and come up with some Christmas goodies that Ellie can eat without requiring her EpiPen.
Papa Charles with Chunky Ham
Amelie taking up residence in Charles' briefcase


Now somebody mentioned something about covering the water pipes and plants? . . .

**The Bear-Bear has an anaphylactic allergic reaction to oats (think throat swelling, hives, and wheezing).  Bizarre, I know.  Scary to be sure when she tried infant oatmeal for the first time.   While she is not allergic to wheat, we must avoid all baked goods and flour products that might have cross-contamination with oats.  Many oat, barley, and wheat flours are processed in the same plants and many restaurants serve oatmeal or whole grain dishes.  Hence, the Baby and Toddler Rice Mum-Mums that we carry everywhere for snacks.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Chunky Ham?

We call her the chunky chicken of the chicka boom-boom.  Then a chunky turkey in honor of Thanksgiving.  Now a chunky ham?


Thanks for showing me the inside of your nose, Ellie.

Yesterday my dear daughter has discovered that certain facial expressions are desired when a camera is pointed a person's face.  Instead of her usual wide mouth "hi ya mom" smile, she has now adopted her father's closed mouth smirk.  Yes, my little Ellie Bear is posing for the camera.  It is hilarious, but I love her "hi ya" grin.

No lie.  The Bellie Bear had this big look of concentration etched on her face as Awa Dunja was coaxing her to cruise along the play-yard.  Bear saw me with the camera and bam! struck the above pose.



See, there is it again.  All bundled-up for shopping (more on that later) and attempting to remove her hood.  She sees the camera and cue smirk.


Okay, we tricked her.  Dunja is tickling her and hence the "Hi Ya Mom" grin.

Here's to hoping that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that no one was trampled during the crazy shopping frenzy of Black Friday.

Us Theurers had a fabulously tasty Texan Thanksgiving in a garage with family, friends, and other people's families :-)  Bliss.   Again, more on that later.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chunky Turkey Blessings

Can you believe what a difference a year makes?

Chunky Baby Cheeks 1 year ago


The past 365 days have been wonderful, challenging, and a whirlwind.  The journey continues and I am so thankful for the people who have been and who still are a part of this journey.

I am forever thankful for my hot, sexy husband who also has the fabulous qualities of being sweet, humorous, gentle, and considerate.  I am thankful for the flowers he bought me at Costco last month and I am thankful that he buys me M&Ms while shopping for his cough syrup just because he understands my chocolate addiction.  I only hope that I can be as thoughtful and loving as him.

I told you he was super hot and sexy


My darling little chunky turkey Ellie has brought such light and love into our family and her amazing cuteness and determination has affected so many people.  For receiving the miraculous gift of Ellie, I am thankful.

My family is such an amazing support system who have seen me at my worst and at my best and they still provide me with unconditional love.  My parents have inspired me to parent as they have parented and I thank them for for their love and for equipping me with the tools to become a successful, independent woman.

Of course my world would not be what it is without my dear friends.  Friends for years and friends I have only known a short time.  Friends of the past and current friends.  You are all very dear to me.  The support, the kindness, the lending of a shoulder, the lending of an ear,  your fashion sense, your parenting tips.  For loving my dear Ellie for the wonderful person that she is and for pushing me to be the best person that I can be.  Thank you, my dear friends.

Tama: Ooh cat nip.. llooovvvveee the cat nip.
Tama, Amelie, and Sophie dog, I am thankful for all of your antics which keep me laughing for hours on end.  You guys are an endless source of entertainment (and clean up).
Sophie & Amelie:  You can just tell that these two spell trouble



Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just When I Think I Might Be a Texan

Do you see that sassy little look?  She thinks Andrew = stepping stool
. . . This December, I would have lived in Austin for four years.  My home with Andrew is the house that I have lived in the longest since I left my birth place of St. Louis and high-tailed it to the big East Coast of Philadelphia for college (and then to Oregon and then back East).


See!  She is actually using his face to stand and he is letting her

Even though my frequent moving, selling all of my belongings, and cross country jaunts might have seemed to many like a habit or wonder lust, I do not do well with change.  It has taken me nearly this long to finally feel like I claim Texas as my home state.  I have my big pick-up truck.  I had BBQ at my wedding.  I eat at Whataburger on a weekly basis.  Smoking a brisket for 18 hours in my backyard seems normal. I now listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan on the radio voluntarily.

I would just like to point out how Ellie is multi-tasking--standing using Andrew, manipulating her blanket, and playing with the sock monkey and the Leap Frog table

Then there is a little tap on the shoulder from Mother Nature that reminds me that my blood is not accustomed to 80+ degree weather with 80% humidity at the end of November.  My body says "wait a minute!  Is it June????  It feels like June in STL or Philly.  This isn't Autumn.  We are not having Thanksgiving turkey this week or going Christmas shopping anytime soon!"  While most of my family and college buds are wearing fuzzy socks and sipping on hot cocoa, Ellie and I are running around in shorts and tank tops.  Andrew always wears shorts sleeves and shorts so I will leave it at that.  In the northern East coast, the leaves are changing various colors of ruby red, bright yellow, and burnt orange (sorry, Longhorns on my mind--proof I am converted).  Yet here, some of the trees are shooting acorns off the roof and my geraniums are blooming beautifully.
Sophie of the Puppy Princess Paw-Paws enjoying a game of fetch

Sophie Dog waiting for Ellie to throw the frisbee.  Yes, I wrote Ellie.

While it does not feel like "The Holiday Season" to me and I moan and groan for cold weather and for footie jammies for Ellie, I am indeed thankful for:

1. Backyard playtime with Ellie & fetch with Sophie Princess Puppy Paw-paws
2. The quality walks Andrew enjoys with his daughter and puppy
3. Eating outside at restaurants without being attacked by the vicious mosquitoes
4. Smoking a brisket outside for Thanksgiving without freezing our hineys off
5. Not having to scrape the windshield of my big-honking-truck-a-sauras

Super Ellie.  Ta Da Ta Da.  

I shall wear this bib as a cape to give me the super baby power of cuteness.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Many Faces of Ellie + 14 Mon. Progress Report

Serious Bear

Thinking Bear


This past Wednesday Ellie showed off to our developmental therapist.  As usual, Jan was very impressed with Ellie's determination and progress.  Her standing is much steadier and less wide-based.  Ellie is pulling to a stand at a greater speed and is cruising very well.  We have new exercises.


Ticklish Bear
Speech:
Ellie still says "bababa, lalala, dadada, wah wah" and new "mon mon" and 4 times now "mama".   None of these sounds are person specific.  As in she does not associate "dada" with Andrew and "mama" with me.  Jan recommended creating a "Me Book" in which I place pictures of Andrew, myself, Ellie, Tama, Sophie, and Amelie.  Each picture is labeled with "Mama" or "Dada" or "Ellie" or "Dog" or "Cat".  Ellie likes the book. . .especially the plastic picture coverings.

Me Book



Gross Motor: 
Push-Pull toys.  Our dear friend Angelika has lent us a blue hippo push-pull toy.  Jan has us weighing the toy down using canned goods.  Wet cat food goods to be exact.  We then place Ellie's play puppy in the toy to encourage her to pull up and push the toy.  Sometimes she pulls which is apparently good as she must engage her core muscles to stay standing.  Sometimes, she pushes and then takes 3 steps!!!!  

Cross-legged Autumn Baby




Fine Motor:
Cat food cans.  As expected, Ellie likes to see what is in the push-pull toy.  That means she removes the cans of cat food from the toy.  Our new goal is to get her to stack the toys (fine motor) while in a squatting position (gross motor).  As you can guess, why squat when it is easier to sit?  Or why stack when it is more fun to bang the cans together?

Cat-Food Storage Contraption


Ellie is still rocking her inferior pincer grasp and hasn't quite figured out how to perform a regular pincer grasp or to point.  To help her achieve this skill, Jan recommended glueing pretty things to the bottom of an egg carton.  That way Ellie will be enticed to explore the bottom of the egg carton and only one figure will fit.  It sounds great. . . in theory.

Ellie Giving the Egg Carton as a Peace Offering to Sophie.  Egg Carton = Excellent Teething Ring


Leaf Investigator

Clapping Bear

Tired of Mom Taking Pictures Bear

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tights, Leggings, & PJ Bottoms

I love tights.  On Ellie that is.  I am not a big fan of wearing tights or panty hose or whatever you want to call those torture devices.  They become baggy at the ankles and cut off the circulation to your gut and for what?  Just to get a snag in the nylon. However, cute, warm, happy tights on a little kiddo is just darling.  Oh snuggle little Ellie Bear-Bear!

Stripes!  Cute huh?  Nothing goes with them though.

What better than boots, tights, and a little jean skirt that buttons up the front?

Of course not one hour into playgroup, Ellie's reflux rears its ugly head and we have a huge spit up down the front of her shirt.  Then, of course, she crawls through it.  

Never fear!  I have spare clothes, er pajamas in the car.  As it turns out, the PJs look like a cute shirt and leggings when paired with the jean skirt.  The ladies at the Walgreens were commenting on her "cute polka dot leggings".  That's my Ellie: the ever-stylish-chunky-chicka-boom-boom.
Still a "Little Miss Sassy Pants"


PJ Bottoms Vs. Leggings


I apologize for the strange formatting today.
I

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Inspiring Message

I have been meaning to post this video on my blog for a few days now.  Some of you may have watched part of it when I posted it on FB.  Yes, I realize that it is from 2007, but I strongly believe that the message still and always will apply.  Yes, I realize that it is 9 minutes long so for those of you with a shortage of patience (like me), watch the last 3 minutes.  However, the first 6 minutes are relatively entertaining.  So, if you can, watch the whole thing.

Soeren Palumbo's R-Word High School Speech

My little Ellie Bear is only 14 months-old and yet I dread the day that she will come home in tears because someone (or people) teased her.  I dread the day that she will be called "stupid" or "retard".  Right now we attend a playgroup with kids all born in 2009.  It is a fabulous playgroup and every member gives me hope.  All of these mothers have become my support group and dear friends.  They root Ellie on and when she does something such as standing or clapping, they become so excited and shout out to me because Ellie's triumphs are theirs.  All of the 2009-ers see her as "just another baby".  They climb over each other and grab out for the same toys.  The older siblings refer to her as "hey baby" because they do not see her as being different. . .yet.  When does that change?  When do these 3 yo & 4yo kiddos go from seeing just another baby to someone that is different?  Kindergarten?  Late elementary school?  Or do they learn it from adults?  I wish I knew the answer. . .


Just to put everyone into the Holiday spirit:

Deep conversations with a reindeer