Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Homemade Bread Sounds So Good...

So this makes me think about the possibilities of a bread machine. I would love to have homemade bread more often around since Eli loves to eat a slice of bread with his lunch or dinner (and I probably would too if I had tasty bread around).

Do any of you use a bread machine or have you heard of any specific brands that seem to work well? I've seen a whole spectrum of them online, on Amazon ranging from:

Sunbeam 5891 - $44.38
Breadman TR875 - $79.95
Panasonic SD-YD250 - $119.31
Zojirushi BBCCX20 "Home Bakery Supreme" - $172.34 (this seems like a lot to spend on a bread machine!!)

I'm leaning toward getting the cheapest one for now - the Sunbeam - since it has great reviews and seems like a decent machine for my purposes - to make white and whole wheat bread, maybe some cinnamon bread once I'm done with Healthy Living :)

Let me know if you have any recommendations though! Or good recipes!

*On a side note, it snowed a TON today... I'm trying not to be grumpy about the city's street parking rules when there is more than 2 inches of snow... (this is when I really hate our lack of a parking space or garage), However, tonight I had to park both cars 2 1/2 blocks away because the closer side streets were full. Tomorrow I'll have to trudge through the snow with Eli to be able to go anywhere. Who needs a treadmill when you can carry a 20-lb, bundled baby and big ol' diaper bag through the heavy snow? :)

So all of you with garages... ENJOY THEM!

And one other comment - yesterday I successfully talked the city parking guy out of giving my friend a ticket!! Her car had been in a 2-hr parking space longer than 2 hrs, and I saw his parking jeep stop next to the car, getting a ticket ready. I was just leaving our playgroup and was parked behind my friend's car, so I ran over and relentlessly talked him out of giving her the ticket. My favorite quote from the grumpy parking guy?

Parking guy: "YOU THINK I DO THIS FOR MY HEALTH??" - when I asked him if he was really giving her a ticket (in the beginning of our lovely conversation) So my advice when battling a parking officer... play on his emotions and focus on the baby/kid factor, and you may just succeed!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Walking in the Windy (and Snowy) Wonderland

Tonight Ben had a meeting and was taking our newer car, which left me home with our 14-yr-old junker that is basically only used for Ben's fishing trips. The dashboard light in that car has stopped working, so it's not very safe to drive at night (and we only have one car seat, which isn't easy to switch back and forth). I was still needing to get my exercise in for the day, and my friend had made her delicious mint brownies that are so good that I was willing to use a healthy living free point (for sweets) to indulge a little... so I decided to brave the elements and walked over to her house.

I bundled Eli up, strapped him in the stroller, covered him with the rain cover (it does a good job of protecting him from the strong winds), and off we went on our 15-minute walk to Rachael's house. My face was chapped and I had a runny nose by the time we arrived, but it was actually a little invigorating - and the wind added some resistance (to help burn off the looming brownie calories...:)

When it was time to walk back, I opened the door and found that the weather had turned for the worse. It was FREEZING (in the single digits) and there was an inch of snow already on the ground. The wind was gusting so the snow was blowing all over the place. I ran most of the way home and felt pretty frozen. Thankfully Eli was warm and protected inside the stroller, which is all I really cared about. I could hear him making noises as I pushed him the stroller - I'm sure it was fun for him to see the snow swirling around us.

My only problem is that now I'm feeling a little ill from too many mint brownies...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Thoughts on President Hinckley

I've been thinking all day about the passing of President Gordon B. Hinckley (at the age of 97), who was prophet of our church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). I lost track of the number of blogs that I read today that mentioned him - it was neat to see how many blogs that I read/follow are written by other LDS girls. I really liked the NYTimes article today talking about his life, and I also thought my friend Wendy's blog post on President Hinckley's gave an interesting perspective (she's a Fox producer in Washington DC). BYU made a cool slideshow with some great pictures of him throughout the years participating in various school events.

But I guess I just want to say is that I'll miss President Hinckley. When I was in college, he spoke each year at a BYU Devotional, and I loved standing and watching him walk into the Marriott Center and wave to the crowd. I'm thankful for his service and heartfelt devotion to what we believe and will miss hearing him speak at the next General Conference.

*If you're not LDS and curious about what happens next, there is information here about the appointment of our new church president.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Eli's Favorites at 8 Months

Eli loves anything that rattles/make noise
Eli LOVES this stuffed sheep and snuggles with it. The sheep's name is Bob and was a gift from my friend Judy.
Eli LOVE LOVE LOVES this Leapfrog table - he will lunge off of our laps when he sees it - and it's really helped his balance because stands at it for long periods of time (and doesn't really need our help anymore, though we usually sit close to him anyway). When he occasionally falls down, he just falls on his bum and wants to be back up at it right away. We think it's so cute! (though Ben and I have the songs stuck in our heads)
He loves this toy so much that it is worthy of a few pictures :) Notice Bob in the background.
The words/music can be in English or Spanish, so he will easily be bilingual :) Well, maybe not that easily, but I think it's a cool feature. All of his Leapfrog brand toys have English/Spanish options.
Here is the sweet boy in his church clothes today. I love seeing him dressed up!

Tagged - again :)

I'll try to keep this brief since I've done one tag before. I was tagged by my friend Stacey who lived here when we first came to Chicago, but she and her husband have since moved to Arizona and then to Oklahoma, and are returning back to Chicago! (Makes me feel like we've lived here a long time now) I'm not tagging anyone else, so sorry to change the rules... most people I know have been tagged a few times.

5 Things I Was Doing 10 Years Ago:
1. Cheerleading for basketball
2. Applying to colleges, getting acceptance/rejection letters
3. Driving a 1985 Toyota Camry that I bought for $1500 (am I remembering that right, Dad?)
4. Graduating from high school
5. Working at Gurnee Cinema

5 Things On My To-Do List Today (for tomorrow):
1. Call HP about our stinky computer that gives me way too much grief
2. Make baby shower invitations for a friend
3. Go to the gym
4. Take a walk outside in our 40-degree weather (whoo hoo!!)
5. Clean the bathroom

5 Snacks I Enjoy (these are when I'm not doing the Healthy Living Challenge...can you tell I'm in withdrawal??):
1. Kettle corn - yum!
2. Peanut m&ms
3. Chex mix
4. Fannie Mae vanilla buttercream chocolates
5. Honey-wheat pretzel sticks (I actually eat these on my challenge - they don't seem like bad snacks)

5 Things I'd Do if I Were a Billionaire:
1. Buy a charming, beautiful house - not necessarily enormous, just tasteful and in a pretty location
2. Have an indoor lap pool so I could swim every day
3. Take really cool family vacations
4. Have a personal shopper help me know what to wear
5. Create a nicer adult group home for my brother and fund its activities/outings

3 Bad Habits:
1. I am a HUGE procrastinator
2. I take on more than I can often handle/my optimism for what I'm capable of sometimes gets the best of me
3. I stay up late on a regular basis (and take naps when Eli naps - when I could be WAY more productive)

5 Jobs I've Had:
1. Nanny
2. Locksmith at BYU, and Secretary for the Services for Students with Disabilities office at BYU (try saying that every time you answer the phone...)
3. Marketing Assistant for the BYU Office of Information Technology
4. Web Editor for the BYU eBusiness Center
5. Marketing Assistant for PEPID

5 Things You Probably Don't Know About Me:
1. I once received a letter from one of the movie companies saying they knew I had downloaded one of their movies (I think it was Spiderman?)on an illegal file-sharing site (this was on campus when I was working full time at BYU after graduation... I was blindly led to believe by the Office of IT guys that it was fine - obviously I know now that it wasn't!!). The funny thing is that I didn't get fired from my job - my boss was old and didn't really care (she was the one who first received the letter and tracked it to my IP address). Ben and I do think those ads about piracy before a movie that say, "You wouldn't steal a car, would you?" are so over the top...
2. I am so messy when I brush my teeth.
3. I hate brownie, cake, and muffin mixes and can smell the preservatives in the baked good when someone makes them
4. I loved cheerleading in high school but really don't enjoy dancing - I am way too self conscious
5. I had an emergency appendectomy when Ben and I had been married for just 5 months (I was so embarrassed at the time because I threw up so much before going to the ER)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Google Web History

I love all things google! I wanted to share one product of google that I am really impressed with - Google Web History (you can learn more by googling - Google Web History :). It keeps track of your web activity each day so that you can click on a calendar day and see what sites you visited.

I visit a lot of web sites each day, and it's nice to have a record since I often click from one blog to another, or learn about a cool product or site from somewhere, click on it, and then forget what it was called or where I learned about it. With Web History, you can do a search in just the sites you have browsed, which is pretty cool.

If you click on Trends - it shows your top queries, top searches, and top clicks. This can be viewed for the last 7 days, last 30 days, last month, last year, or of all time. (I think it's funny - in my last 30 days category, my #1 top search query was vegetables, which would not have been the case a few months ago...)

It even remembers map searches, which I think is really useful. It's fun to look back and remember the crazy road trips ideas I've had recently... (i.e. - Chicago to Pittsburgh, to visit my friend Stephanie, or Chicago to Atlanta, to visit my friend Amber).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More pictures from the photographer

Last week we got the CD of pictures from the photographer (Jamie Hammond). I uploaded them onto my picasa web album for those of you who care to see them all. I'm really happy with the way they turned out! Oh to be in sunny San Diego right now...
Here are a few fun pictures:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Carrie had her baby!

Since many of you know my friend Carrie (she was the cute preggie in the post a few weeks about about playgroup), I wanted to share that she had her baby! She has two boys and didn't find out what she was having this time, so it was a fun surprise to learn she had a third boy. He came three weeks early and was 8 lbs, 5 oz! Everyone is doing well and they are naming him Jacob Arjen (Arjen is Dutch, pronounced Ar-yen).

It's crazy to think Eli was once this small! Baby Jacob is very cute and has different features that remind me of both boys. I would post a picture of the whole family, but I think Carrie would be mad at me for including a picture of her in the hospital :) Congrats Christensens!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Temperature as I'm typing this: Actual: Negative 1 degree. Wind Chill: Negative 18 degrees. But at least there's sunshine!

It's cold. BUT - the sun was shining today! I decided to bundle up and brave the morning chill to take some pictures down the street at our beach (on Lake Michigan). Ben took this fabulous picture of me :) It was a day to make your nose hairs freeze...
Here is the lighthouse at our beach. I took a tour last summer with Ben's mom - we walked all the way up to the top, which gave us a cool view of the area.
No lifeguards today! There wasn't a soul on the beach - I was the only crazy person there braving the wind and freezing temps.

Ice chunks in the water:

The water was warmer than the air, so there was water vapor as shown in this picture (looked like steam to me, but Ben says the correct term would be water vapor, according to chemical engineering terminology)

More snow/ice chunks along with waves:
I loved the blue sky and the clouds. More water vapor and mounds of snow/ice:
I was outside for about 6 minutes total, but by the end my eyes were watering and my fingers were numb (I had thin gloves on so I could take the pictures). My glasses were fogging up and when I got back in the car I noticed a tear had frozen on my glasses:

Crazy! Chicago really is a cool place, despite the cold :) It makes us tough!


Friday, January 18, 2008

In the Bleak Mid-Winter

Chicago is often so gray, all winter long. Earlier this week, it was pretty cold outside but the sun was actually shining... I was so excited that I wore shorts to the gym. I went to the post office afterwards (still in shorts) and got some weird looks.

Today it's gray and bitter cold. Tonight the low is 3 degrees, and tomorrow the high is 7! Then you factor in the wind chill and it's going to be cold cold cold.

Good thing we have radiator heat, controlled by the building. Our place is TOASTY warm. Often too warm. But today I'm grateful to be cooped up in my cozy, warm little place. So what do you do on such a gray day? Here are some things that have kept myself and Eli entertained...

-Holding Eli and singing silly songs as we walk around the condo. He likes to sing along with me, it's very cute, with lots of "Ahhhhhhhh" and other little sounds.

-Showing Eli the area that I've posted our Christmas cards (yes, it's January 18 and they are still up in full force). I tell him about the people in the pictures and he always smiles when I show him ours.

-Watching the computer's screen saver. It fades in and out and totally keeps Eli's attention for a few minutes. It's like he's playing peek-a-boo with it. (exciting stuff, I know)

-Reading magazines. Eli is definitely my child because he loves looking at magazines with me. (and eating them, ripping them, etc.)

-Reading books. Eli's current board book faves are Chugga Chugga Choo Choo, Goodnight Moon, and Barnyard Dance. He likes turning the pages and I think it's very cute.

-Playing catch. We have a soft ball that I like to throw back and forth with Eli. Mostly he just pushes it a little, I grab it and say good job! and put it back in his lap.

-Napping (usually just Eli). He finally takes a somewhat consistent two naps a day that last anywhere from 1 1/2 to 2 hours a day. If I'm lucky he'll do 3 hours on a rare occasion. What do I do? Read the news, work on my freelance writing/articles, read blogs, clean the house, call old friends, edit my pictures, read magazines, make cards, clip recipes (thinking I'll actually make them, when in reality I have a hard time making dinner), and research random stuff about things like photography, photoshop, writing, etc.

While it can be isolating sometimes to just stay home on these really cold days, I really enjoy the quiet time with my little guy. I'm glad we just have 3 1/2 more months of winter before the sun shines again :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Eli's Facial Expressions

Eli at bathtime...with a mohawk:

Drying off after the bath:

MESSY mealtime... tonight I was washing all of his bibs so I didn't have any to use at dinner (but looking back, I should have completely stripped off his clothes -this onesie is FILTHY! Eli's latest food love - plums. He enjoys holding the plum with both hands and chewing/sucking on it until he gets some juicy bites.

It is the funniest thing to watch, but he gets so messy by the end (the juice drips down his arms and all over his face). He also loved pasta with spaghetti sauce tonight, so that is what added the red to his previously white onesie...

Monday, January 14, 2008

It's Hard to be Healthy

I just have to say - I have been on this healthy living challenge for a whopping one week (11 weeks to go), and it is HARD!! I've realized that before this week, I was eating a lot of junk along with the healthy stuff. Last week I had many pangs for something sweet, but then feel happy when I was able to resist the urge.

Tonight we ate at our favorite bbq place (Merle's) and in the past, I would always get their tasty fries along with the bbq pork sandwich. It was ROUGH watching Ben enjoy the basket of fries while I chowed on bbq pork and a salad. I almost gave in and used one of my three free points for the week, but that seems dangerous when it's only day one of the second week of the challenge.

The good news is I did lose some weight last week, and I feel better from exercising each day and eating just healthy foods. It's amazing how not-so-great you can feel after snacking on the sweet/salty stuff. But it's also amazing how STARVING I feel by the time I go to bed (since I don't eat anything after 8:30). My body is still adapting to these better habits... :)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Family Ties

It's funny that while Eli is only 7 1/2 months old, we definitely notice familiar traits...

He and Ben both like a variety of foods (though he has recently declared his distate for baby food, and any time we try to feed it to him he presses his lips together). Eli currently enjoys bananas, turkey, cheerios, fruit puffs, avocado, apples, and bread. He loves being in the jumper, and Ben's mom always says Ben was a fan of a similar thing when he was a baby.

On the other hand, I see a lot of myself in Eli - he resists going to sleep, no matter how tired he is... sometimes he stares pretty seriously (Ben says I do this to him sometimes when I'm waiting for him to answer a question or say something). Eli is very determined and insistent (sometimes I am this way to a fault). Eli hates pears - and my Gram and I hate pears too). We both have long toes and sleep on our stomachs.

I've also been thinking about my similarities with my brother. Davey is my one and only sibling and a complex character. He is mentally handicapped and has had a slew of health issues, one of which included a long fight with leukemia that started when he was 4 and I was 8 years old. I ended up being his bone marrow donor, and this probably has no real relevance, but sometimes I wonder if some of my kooky traits were passed on in the transplant. Davey and I are both picky eaters and passionately hate certain foods. We love reading the newspaper (including perusing the Sunday ads), getting the mail, and browsing the internet for good deals. And we both can be a little intense. :)

Okay, so some of those things we may have picked up from my parents or from being around each other growing up. But it's sometimes a little strange watching my brother do the same exact things that I do!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Family Pictures on the Beach

We did family pictures while we were in San Diego - the photographer, Jamie Hammond, was terrific! She lives in Arizona, but was in California for the holidays so it worked out great. Here are a few from the ones she posted on her blog. (on her site we're listed as the Severman family - that's a new variation :) We'll get a CD with all of the pictures in the next week or so - I'm excited to see them!

Photoshop Tutorials - Sprague Lab

Sorry for multiple posts today - but I know a lot of you are getting into digital scrapbooking, so I wanted to mention this site that I found yesterday with great photoshop tutorials with a lot of scrapbooking applications: Sprague Lab posts a new tutorial each Friday, and the site has an index of all of the tutorials posted so far. I tried a few and thought they were really easy to follow and informative!

Do any of you have favorite Photoshop sites?

Healthy Living Challenge

I have a friend here who has organized what is called a "Healthy Living Challenge" - basically a contest where everyone pays $20 and embarks on a 12-week challenge of eating, sleeping, and exercising well. Here are the rules in case you want to start something like this where you are:

Daily Habits - 8 points/day or 56 points per week maximum

1. Drink 64 oz. water
2. 30 min. exercise (doesn't have to be consecutive)
3. 7 hours sleep minimum (doesn't have to be consecutive)
4. 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit (in general, 1 C. = 1 serving)
5. No sweets: no candy, cakes, donuts, etc.
6. No unhealthy snacks and no soda
7. Healthy food choices at meals (at home and dining out)
8. No eating after dinner/8:30 p.m. (no eating after you're finished)

*Each week we'll have 3 free points to use for any missed points. The total # of points though will never exceed 56 points/week.

*There are 3 sick days during the 12 weeks - so all points on the day are free (like on Fast Sunday).

*Sunday you get a free exercise point

Each week we'll email our points to the challenge host and she will post the spreadsheet of results on Google Docs. At the end of the contest, the top 8 winners win money. (the actual prize winnings are dependent on how many people sign up)

So it's Day 2 of the challenge. Yesterday went pretty well, but I think I'm in no-sugar detox at the moment... it's rough not eating sweets!! My goal is to lose the rest of my Eli weight, to strengthen my abs and get my cardio ability back to where it used to be (pre-Eli). The biggest food challenge will be avoiding candy and getting 3 cups of vegetables in each day.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Strange Dream

I was pretty tired this morning, so when Eli went down for his morning nap, I gave in the urge and took a nap as well. I don't usually remember my dreams, but I had a CRAZY one this morning! Here are the things I remember:

1. It was raining pretty hard outside, and water started seeping through the walls. Mice were also seeping through the walls (didn't make sense) and I was freaking out and holding Eli on the couch, not wanting to get down.

2. Then there was a car accident right by our place - I went outside to see if they needed help, but things were just super chaotic. The accident was with a city vehicle and a tour bus... and the kicker was that the bus had Mormons in town from Nauvoo, here to perform something pioneer-ish so they were all in costume (it was so so weird).

3. Later, two scraggly, long-haired paperboys with British accents came pounding on my door to see if I wanted a newspaper subscription (I have one already).

I woke up to Eli alternating sounds of "ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba" and yelling from his crib. I felt so disoriented! (but glad none of this really happened)

Any explanations or interpretations??

Friday, January 04, 2008

Lunch with Aimee and Carrie

Today I enjoyed a lunch with Aimee B. and Carrie C. and their kids. I see Carrie on a pretty regular basis since she lives pretty close, but Aimee moved out of our ward a few years ago and we try to get together when things aren't too crazy. Aimee and I moved here at the same time and became friends through church. It was fun to realize we were married on the same day (Dec. 16 2000) in the same temple (Bountiful Utah Temple), just a few hours apart!

Five years ago, Aimee had a little baby named Billy and I was nannying for baby Drew, who was about 6 months younger. We started doing a playgroup with our Australian friend Abbey and her little boy Jacob (she now has three kids and the family is back in Australia), and now years later, it's turned into a thriving (most of the time) ward playgroup with an email list of 40+ moms/nannies. We meet weekly, taking turns at different homes during the cold months and meeting at different parks in the warmer months.

Here is a picture from the playgroup about a year after I first met Aimee and Abbey, when Carrie and a few others had moved into the ward. Aimee was nannying at the time, so she has a little girl on her lap too. Here we are in 2004 at the Chicago Botanic Gardens - Aimee, Carrie, me, Debora G., Meta V., and Abbey:
And here we are today - Aimee now has three kids, Billy, Fiona, and Kortney, and Carrie has two kids, Alex and Sam, and is expecting her third next month!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Christmas with the Stuarts

This is backtracking to the Saturday before we left for California - we celebrated Christmas early with my family. We had delicious tortilla soup for dinner and enjoyed sharing gifts with each other. Eli loved playing with all of the ribbon on the packages!

In the collage below - the funniest moment was when Davey opened a present from "Santa" that was delivered early (probably some organization that gives to places like his group home) - it was a couple of CDs of country singers like John Denver - my dad said, "You got some classic country CDs!" and Davey said, "I don't like classic country!" I thought it was sweet though that Santa was trying to make the gift personal - Davey loves most current country music... sorry Santa!
Eli is sporting his sweater from Italy (we're not sure what the words in Italian mean, but there is some English too). The sweater has this huge hood, it's cute!
Eli's many facial expressions throughout the night

My parents brought back some fun gifts from Italy - Eli loved this huge frog stuffed animal (and anytime I hold it up or play with it, Eli laughs and laughs...)

Thanks Mom, Dad, Davey, and Gram for all of the thoughtful gifts!