Monday, September 30, 2013

Echo's One Year Photo Shoot

I shared one photo from this shoot on my incredibly sappy post about Echo turning one. Here are some more of my favorites and as always you can see the full set on my shutterfly 

I may be biased but I think she is just so pretty! I also got to put her in a darling tutu for the first time, so cute!

 We got a ton of lens flare since it was so sunny but I was ok with it since it always makes things feel a bit more dreamy. She was such a good sport and did wonderfully for the shoot. Of course being the proud mama that I am I ordered a giant print from the shoot to display in our house, oh yeah, I'm one of those moms ;-)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Simple Celebration for a One Year Old

With the approach of Echo's first Birthday I did a lot of reading up on first Birthday parties and ideas of how to celebrate. I had no idea what one does at a 1st Birthday party, the kids are too young for regular party games and as much as I love Birthdays I just couldn't get up any enthusiasm for throwing Echo a party. Instead of a party we decided to do a simple family celebration, here's what we did to celebrate this awesome little lady's special day!

We started off the day with a much anticipated trip to the zoo! Echo absolutely loves animals and even though it rained off and on we had a great time and had some amazing up close and personal time with the tigers and gorillas. An added bonus to the rainy day was that the zoo was practically empty so we had most of the exhibits to ourselves.

Echo got to ride the carousel for free for her Birthday and we let her pick out a toy from the gift shop. Her favorite animals were the golden lion tamarins and the birds.

After the zoo we went for lunch in midtown and then headed home while Echo grabbed a quick nap in the car. Then it was on to presents and "cake".

Here Echo is coloring with her new crayons

And here she is playing with her new blocks.

Opening presents
I really wanted to make Echo a real cake, I was actually very excited about it, however it turns out she's not a big cake fan. Her absolute favorite thing is fruit so I decided to make a cake out of that instead. I cute a seedless watermelon in to the shape of a cake and frosted it with whipped cream and decorated it with strawberries and blueberries. This is a great alternative to regular cake if you don't want you baby having sweets.

The cake was a huge hit, it's probably the most fun she's ever had eating anything.

After cake she had a nice long nap and a low key evening at home playing with her new toys. All in all it was a great first Birthday and one that she really enjoyed. Maybe next year I will be up for planning a big party for her and her friends but for this year I think something smaller was just the ticket.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

One Year Old

From Echo's one year photo shoot, I'll be sharing more from this soon!

One year ago today, my life was changed forever. My sweet, beautiful and brilliant daughter entered the world. I love her more than I can say, and it seems that every day my love for her continues to grow at an astounding rate.

She has grown and changed so much and so quickly. On the first of the month she took her first steps and now she is staggering around the house at top speed like a tiny sumo wrestler. She began coloring with crayons for the first time (as opposed to eating them.) I've watched her confidence grow by leaps and bounds. I've seen her go charging across a room full of strangers without hesitation and charm everyone she meets with her gap toothed smile. She loves animals and babies and books and dancing. She is at once fiercely independent and incredibly affectionate. I continue to be impressed by her intelligence and out going nature even at this young age.

I remember so vividly my first sight of her. She was so tiny and perfect and whole, with ten fingers and ten toes and perfectly formed little finger nails. I marveled at the small curves of her ears and her full head of hair and her dark, clear eyes. We had a rough go of it at first. She seemed so alien to me and it's no secret among those who know us that it took me a while to bond with her. I was so used to my alone time and my schedule and getting a full night's sleep. Even though I loved her desperately it was a hard adjustment for me. It took me a good few months after she was born to really feel the deep bond and connection with her that I expected to feel immediately. By Christmas of 2012 I was hooked.

Parenting has made me stronger than I ever thought possible. I never imagined I could survive on so little sleep for so long or that I would make so many sacrifices for my baby without thinking twice. Everything I have done for her is 100% worth it and I would do it all again and more. All the sleepless nights and frustration and worry are rendered unimportant by one perfect smile or hug or laugh from her. She lights up whatever room she is in and she has brought my husband and I untold amounts of pure joy. We just love her so much!!

Happy Birthday to my darling girl. With all the changes through the last year I can't imagine what is in store for us in the year to come but I am so looking forward to sharing each and every moment with you!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My Favorite Way to Eat Sweet Potatoes

Fall is officially upon us as of this weekend and I am really digging the fall flavors already. Somehow I am the only person in my family that loves sweet potatoes (I know, crazy right?) so whenever I eat them it feels like a special treat just for me. I always used to have them baked with brown sugar, cinnamon and butter but this year I have been trying a new combination of flavors and really loving it. This is a photo of my baked sweet potato with goat cheese and fresh sage and thyme. It's so yummy and the flavors go so well together. Any other sweet potato lovers out there? How do you like to eat them?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Autumn Bucket List

We are coming up on my very favorite time of year! I love autumn so much. In my mind the only good thing about Summer is that Fall is right around the corner. Now that I have a daughter with an autumn Birthday it is all the more special. Because of this birthday however I missed out on quite a few of my favorite fall activities last year. I was too overwhelmed by being a new parent and not ready to venture out as much as I normally would. Well not this year! In order to not forget any of the awesome things I want to do this fall I am making a list. There is so much to do this time of year that it's hard to squeeze it all in but I'm planning to give it my best shot :-) Things in italics are already done, hooray!

1. Apple Picking
2. Attend at least one festival
3. Camping
4. Get coffee at land of 1000 hills and walk by the river
5. Take Echo to feed the ducks
6. Hiking (Sope Creek?)
7. Have plenty of fire circles in the back yard, preferably with beer and/or s'mores
8. Go on a picnic
9. Make home made apple sauce
10. Make lots of time for sitting on our lovely back deck, enjoying the view and the nice weather
11. Resume our weekly walk to the grocery store (we had to call it quits over the summer because of the heat)
12. Do a fall photo shoot with Echo
13. Bake lots of bread
14. Sew a halloween costume for Echo (suggestions welcome!)
15. Take Echo trick or treating (probably just to my parents house but still)
16. Road trip! (it's in the works)
17. Carve pumpkins
18. Consume as many pumpkin products at Starbucks as possible :-)
19. Make lots of soup
20. Corn Maze
21. Make time for date nights with my wonderful husband :-)

Monday, September 16, 2013

DIY PJ Pants

I'm pretty proud of these because they are my first attempt at making pants! They actually turned out really comfy and I had no pattern so I basically made them up as I went along. Not bad for my first try! I used some fabric that was left over from table cloths I used at my wedding so they have a sweet, nostalgic aspect to them as well. What better way to curl up for a nap than with something that conjures up memories of your wedding day?

I modeled the pants after some PJs that I already loved the way they fit. If you lay the pants out flat it's pretty easy to see how they are made. I added 6 or 7 inches to the waist line because I knew I wanted to them to be gathered and I made sure to leave room for seam allowance all the way around but other than that i just traced and cut around the pants i already have.

Echo loves to help me sew as always :-)

I sewed elastic on the waist but then also added a draw string and contrasting flannel waist bad (this green flannel is my favorite fabric ever, so soft and comfy!) I used a safety pin to get my drawstring all the way through the waist band and the end combination of elastic and draw string is really comfortable and adjustable. I'm looking forward to more pant making possibilities in the future. I'm always so surprised whens something I make comes out wearable but this actually fits pretty well and like I said it's super comfortable which is the number one thing I look for in PJ pants :-)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Challah Bread

 I find I am getting more and more adventurous in my baking these days. Bread can be so intimidating but the more you do it the more you realize it really isn't that big of a deal. A year ago I would never have attempted a bread that was this complicated and lovely looking. I've made this recipe from Everyday Reading  several times now and it always turns out lovely and delicious.

Challah bread is a little sweeter and richer than some others I've tried and it is great for anything from sandwiches to French toast. Echo loved the beautiful braided shape as well as the taste and as you can see from the photos she couldn't keep her hands off it! Unfortunately I messed up my braid somehow (for some reason it's harder with dough than with hair) but it still looks pretty darn good if I do say so myself.

I encourage you to try this recipe even if it seems scary. It has a lot of steps but each one is really simple if you just take it one at a time. Who knows, after my challah success maybe I will even be up for trying bagels in the near future.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Camping on Cumberland Island

I have a big back log of things to blog about but I just can't resist doing this post first. This past weekend we took Echo on her first camping trip to Cumberland Island National Seashore. If you get off 95 which is the major road down the southern coast of Georgia and cross over to 17 it is an amazingly scenic drive through the small towns that dot the coast line. The area is rich in history and there are plenty of attractions to stop off at along the way making this a great road trip to take with a baby that needs frequent stops. Even stopping multiple times on the way down the trip only took us about 6 or 7 hours from Marietta.

Echo in her new, big girl car seat.

On the way down we stopped at a petting farm just outside of Savannah to let Echo see the animals. She was fascinated and loved pointing at all of them! A little further down the line we stopped in Midway, GA to view a 19th century cemetery and stretch our legs. There is something so magical about the live oaks and Spanish moss, not a bad place to be laid to rest. 

This is the grave of a lovesick man who committed suicide and was originally buried outside the walls so that he was not on consecrated ground. When the graveyard was later expanded he made it inside but his tomb is continually upturned and broken by this large tree. Legend has it that the cemetery doesn't want him there because of his unsavory end. 

One of our alligator sightings, there were several
 After one final stop in Darien, GA for lunch we continued on to stay the night in St. Mary's before catching the early ferry out to the island on Saturday morning. St. Mary's is a lovely little seaside town with some truly fantastic seafood. We had a wonderful dinner in which Echo discovered her lover for crab bisque and then played and relaxed at the docks and waterfront park in St. Mary's down town.

Mom and dad relaxing on a swing overlooking the harbor

 The next morning we were up bright and early to catch the ferry. You have to make these reservations about 6 months in advance so we didn't want to take any chances missing it! While we waited we also got Echo a little passport for the National parks. Now she can get a stamp at every National park we visit!
On the ferry. Echo is really tired here but she had a really great time on the trip, I promise :-)

Approaching the island
 I had visited Cumberland Island once before but had never camped here before. I really can't rave enough about Cumberland, it is such a magical place to visit!

Echo enjoyed playing in the dirt at our campsite which was spacious and very private due to the thick undergrowth of saw palmettos. The ground was nice and soft because it was so sandy which was a nice change from the gravel pads you find at many camp sites. The down sides were the heat and the insects. I wanted to go later in the fall when it would be cooler but they were all booked up for October by the time I called. At least our campsite was a very easy walking distance to the beach!

I wasn't sure how Echo would react to the ocean, it seems to me like it would be pretty scary if you had never experienced it before. My worried turned out to be completely unfounded, she loved it! She was completely fascinated by the wet sand and charged right out in to the waves. There's no telling how far out she would have gone if we hadn't been there to reign her in. She and Eric jumped waves together and she laughed the whole time. I have to say, I was pretty impressed with her spirit of adventure.

After our swim we took the short hike over to the Dungeness ruins. This was once a vacation home built by the Carnegies in the 1880s. Unfortunately it has fallen  in to disrepair but the ruins of the mansion and it's support buildings are still quite impressive.  It was probably only a two mile hike from our camp site but it felt longer because of the heat. Echo slept through most of it :-)

We had quite a few wildlife sightings including wild turkeys, wild horses a snake and two possums. I'm told there are armadillos on the island but haven't seen any in my two visits. Echo particularly liked seeing the horses. 

Hiking with Echo is pretty easy now that she can sit on our shoulders. We opted to not take her baby carrier because we had such limited room (everything you take to the island has to go in on the ferry and then you have to hike it to your campsite) but we did ok without it.

We had an amazing time until it was time for sleeping it was so hot and stuffy in our tents but the bugs were terrible if we left them. Echo hated the tent and wouldn't sleep in it so we ended up walking her up and down the beach all night. At one point Eric and I took our beach towels out to the beach and slept out there for a little while (the wind on the beach kept the bugs at bay). My parents were so hot and uncomfortable in their tent that they went and sat on the rocking chairs by the dock for a good part of the night.

In retrospect we probably shouldn't have taken Echo to campsite on an island for her first time camping. There was no option to bail since we had to wait for the ferry to come the next morning. I think we will be waiting until she is a little older and sleeping through the night better before we take her camping again.

In spite of all that we had a pretty fantastic time and are already looking back and laughing at our sleepless night on the beach. One other positive was that she slept for 8 hours straight the night we got home and I got my longest stretch of uninterrupted sleep since she was born! I have such a fond place in my heart for Cumberland island, if you haven't had the chance to do so yet I highly recommend you make the short trip down there from Atlanta. At least for a day trip if not for camping.