Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A few photos

 Ben curling up next to Elizabeth while she has tummy time.

Maybe Ben has been whispering tips for escaping the Miracle Blanket, because Elizabeth has almost achieved it at 2.5 months. It took Ben at least five! She was fully swaddled when I went to take my shower and had busted her legs out of the pouch and was trying to wriggle free of the arms by the time I got back. She usually sleeps pretty well with just a sleep sack, but sometimes we swaddle her when she is flapping her arms so much it's keeping her awake. 

Note that Elizabeth is wearing her "I'm a Quiet Baby" shirt from our financial planner at Northwestern Mutual and blatantly ignoring the instructions. 

The many hats of Elizabeth:

Above is her sun hat that's still a little big and ends up flopping in her eyes a lot. Below are two super-soft hats that one of Elizabeth's Grandma's co-workers knitted. I need to ask her what yarn she used because it is lovely!


Jerry recently picked up a kalimba (thumb piano) for Ben at Ten Thousand Villages in Overland Park. He really liked this scene in the documentary "Throw Down Your Heart" with an amazing kalimba player and was thrilled when my friend Stacey brought hers for him to play last April.

He is so excited to have his own and is planning to bring it to show & tell tomorrow. I think he must have some of the more unique show and tell choices at preschool!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Trip to the zoo

Yesterday I took Ben and Elizabeth to the Kansas City Zoo. It was very busy because it was spring break for most of the local schools and the weather was gorgeous. But one of our Christmas gifts from Jerry and Herb was a family membership to the zoo for the year (thank you again!), so we got to skip all of the insane ticket lines which filled the sidewalk and go right in. It is also nice because we can take several short trips and take our time at each exhibit without feeling pressured to rush and see everything in one day.  We ended up having lunch there and staying about 2 1/2 hours, which was probably a little long for Ben's little legs, but he did remarkably well. He did see other kids in wagons and ask me if I could go back for his, which was at home. Today he says his favorite part was the tiger "snoozing for pictures." Elizabeth spent most of the time napping in the Moby wrap.

We had fun watching the big orangutan slide down the ropes and the baby swing around, pass a stick out of the cage to a visitor and then take it back again. The zoo is planning to redo the old tiger and orangutan habitats over the next few years; the sketches looked impressive.

I had forgotten how big emus are! Ben declined to call to it with the sound that his daddy has taught him that emus make, which is "e-mooooooo!"

The kangaroo exhibit is an open one and most of the animals were sunning themselves on some grass. This mommy & joey decided to hop over and try to get through this fence, beyond which was an enclosed area with some other kangaroos or wallabies. She hopped down the sidewalk about three feet away from us! We saw the joey's ears pop out of the pouch very briefly but didn't get a good look.

We made it through the Tiger Trail/Asia and most of the Australian area before backtracking so Ben could play on the playground. 

After lunch we stopped and watched the sea lion and polar bear before heading home. Ben also says he liked watching the sea lion "splash back in the water." He is excited to go back again and ride on the train and possibly the animal carousel.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Elizabeth is two months old!

Elizabeth had her two-month checkup Tuesday afternoon. Everything is looking great. Here are her stats:

Length: 23 1/4" (83rd percentile)
Weight: 11 lbs, 4 oz (63rd percentile)
Head circumference: 37.5 cm (19th percentile, which doc assures me is fine!)

In comparison, Ben's 2-month stats were:
Length: 24.75" (95th percentile, about the size of a four-month-old per the doctor)
Weight: 14 lbs., 8 oz. (97th percentile)
Head circumference: 40.8 cm (75th percentile)

In the past few days Elizabeth has started smiling and cooing, which is adorable. She is generally a mellow baby unless she is hungry or you're not holding her in the exact position she prefers at that very moment. She seems to like being snuggled in one of our wraps, particularly if I'm moving around while wearing her. She isn't a huge fan of extended tummy time but does hold her head up well. Her eyes are starting to look lighter so we're waiting to see if they'll turn green like mine. We looked back at Ben's photos and his eyes were already brown by this age.

We are looking forward to getting out a little and enjoying this crazy beautiful week of weather - estimates are 80s for the rest of the week!

More Photos

Elizabeth has been especially photogenic recently, as she becomes more aware of and interested in what's going on around her.  Below are a few of the better shots.

Homemade bagels

Homemade bagels were one of the things I had on my list of recipes to try while I'm on maternity leave. I haven't tried many recipes with yeast dough but would really like to explore that. I used a recipe that our friends Neilam & Jen recommended. They were a lot easier than I expected and the taste and texture turned out well.  Unfortunately, the camera seems to have eaten the pictures and neither Dave nor I can find them on our computers. But I know my mom and a couple of other friends were thinking of trying them so here's how they turned out:

The recipe I used, originally from Nigella Lawson, was found on Bri Says: "Seizeon That Food!"  I made some plain, some onion & salt, some poppy or sesame seed, and several everything bagels.

A few notes:
  • Jen recommended using brown sugar in the poaching liquid, which saved me from having to buy malt.
  • When forming the bagels, it turned out much better when I rolled the dough into a ball and then poked a hole in the center rather than making a long rope and then looping that. The rope method didn't always stay together in the poaching liquid. Annie's Eats  has a photo of this, but uses slightly different process for the rest of the recipe.
  • Next time, I would try not to stretch them out so much, as some of them were flat and skinny, making them difficult to slice.  
  •  Some of the bagels stuck on the greased cookie sheets, even though I re-greased while the bagels were poaching. Next time I'd use parchment paper (or maybe a Silpat?) and spray that with a non-stick cooking spray like Pam. The Annie's Eats bagel recipe also recommends sprinkling the parchment with cornmeal or semolina flour before replacing the poached bagels on it & baking. 
  •  If I was going to make bagels with mix-ins in the dough, like cinnamon raisin, I'd do that after the first step Bri lists. With toppings, as with an everything bagel, I sprinkled them on after the poaching while the dough was still wet.  
  •  "Everything” topping from, found via Annie's Eats (makes more than you need, so store it in a Tupperware)
    • 4 teaspoons poppy seeds
    • 4 teaspoons sesame seeds
    • 4 teaspoons dried garlic flakes
    • 4 teaspoons dried onion flakes
    • 2 teaspoons kosher salt or coarse sea salt 
  • Some of the bagels, especially the everything ones, got a little chewy after 3 days or so, so I'd recommend freezing the ones you won't use by then. They defrost and reheat well. 
Next on the baking experimentation list: bread/baguettes and pizza dough!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mmm, cake

Dave chose the Martha Stewart Rich Chocolate Cake with Ganache Frosting for his birthday this year. It was delicious and looks impressive (even if you have a three-year-old helping!), so I thought I'd share it here. It isn't a difficult recipe, though the multiple chilling periods for the ganache make it a little time-consuming. I originally found the recipe adapted into mini-tortes on Annie's Eats

We made a few minor changes from the original recipe:
  • Used 8"x2" cake pans because Hobby Lobby didn't have the 7"x3". One of the commenters on Martha's recipe made the same substitution and noted that she baked the cakes for 35 minutes instead of 45, so I'd start checking ours at 35 next time to avoid overcooking.
  • Used instant coffee granules because we didn't have instant espresso. Either way, the purpose is to enhance the chocolate flavor. It doesn't actually make it taste like coffee.
  • Used bittersweet chocolate for the top layer of ganache because it was what we had on hand.
  • Melted the ganache ingredients in the microwave instead of a double boiler. It's easier, and if it's good enough for Alton Brown, it's good enough for us.
  • Left off the chocolate shavings & truffle eggs. It looks impressive even without that. 
  • Martha's recipe says it's 8 servings, but I'd estimate we got at least 10 because we used 8" cake pans and due to the cake's richness and density.

Rich Chocolate Cake with Ganache Frosting and Truffle-Egg Nest

Martha Stewart Living, May 2007 
Adapted from Martha 


  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Whipped Ganache Frosting:
    • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Top Ganache Layer:
    • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
    • 3/4 cup heavy cream
    • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • Optional:
    • 1 pound bar of milk chocolate for chocolate shavings
    • Truffle Eggs


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat two 3-inch-high, 7-inch-round cake pans with cooking spray; line bottoms with parchment paper. Coat parchment with cooking spray, and dust with cocoa powder, tapping out excess.
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa and espresso powders and water; whisk until dissolved. Whisk in sugar until smooth. Remove from heat, and whisk in eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda, and salt; whisk until combined.
  3. Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 45 minutes (start checking @ 35-40). Let cool 20 minutes. Unmold, and remove parchment; let cool.
  4. Make whipped ganache: Put 8 oz. chocolate and 1/2 cup cream into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until smooth. Alternately, melt in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir, and repeat in 15 second increments until melted. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until the consistency of stiff cream cheese, about 10 to 15 minutes (ours took about 20). Whisk until fluffy and smooth.
  5. Trim tops of cake layers level. Place 1 layer, cut side up, on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Spread with 1/2 cup ganache frosting. Place remaining layer, cut side down, on top. Coat top and sides with remaining cup frosting. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
  6. Put remaining 8 oz. chocolate, 3/4 cup cream, and corn syrup into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, and stir until smooth. Let cool 5 minutes. Pour over cake, and then refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. Transfer cake to serving dish.
  7. Optional decorations:
    1. Using a chef's knife, scrape milk chocolate bar at a 90-degree angle, forming enough curls and shards to measure 1 1/2 cups. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, and refrigerate until ready to use.
    2. When ready to serve, form a nest with chocolate shavings on top, and fill with truffle eggs.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Good Day

Warm weather, a cheerful Ben, a visit to the fish and ducks at Bass Pro Shop, and a smile from Elizabeth. Can't ask for much more from a Saturday!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Photos, part 2

By grandparents' demand, here are a few more recent pictures of life at our house:
The weather has been crazy, with dustings of snow followed by 60 degree days. Today is supposed to be 70 and windy. Beautiful, but wreaking havoc with our sinuses! Ben has loved going outside to ride his tricycle and argues when it's time to come in.

Dave's birthday was last week, so Ben helped me put two layers of ganache on Martha Stewart's Rich Chocolate Cake with Ganache Frosting, found via Annie's Eats. It turned out very good - rich and dense and delicious! It was an easy cake to make as well, but required several chilling periods for the ganache. I would definitely make it again. Elizabeth napped in the Moby while we worked on one layer.

Elizabeth smiling at the lion from my 427 Girls. She really seemed interested in it that day. She's on a hand-crocheted blanket from our friend Mikaela, who also made one for Ben when he was a baby.

Ben came down for breakfast last weekend and said, "I want to spell 'Opa.'" He did it without help, then proceeded to add a bunch of other random letters and ask me what it now spelled. I'm not sure what this face was about, but he wasn't actually mad!

I made some new play dough last week and while it was cooking, Ben had a ball with extra flour. The amount of time he was absorbed in measuring and pouring it was definitely worth the clean-up! He loves wearing his custom apron from Dena!

Photos, part 1

Elizabeth is 7 weeks old now and continues to prefer cuddling herself into positions that look incredibly uncomfortable. But woe to the person who tries to readjust her! She has been sleeping through most of the nights, which is lovely, but spent last week demanding to be fed so frequently during the day that it was still exhausting. She is starting to attend a little more to things around her; she seemed to like the sound of a chime toy we got from Ben's baby stash and stopped crying yesterday when we started listening to music.
We took Ben bowling for the first time a few weeks ago. He and our friends' kids lasted a few frames before running off in search of the games and vending machines with the most flashing lights and loud sounds. When Rob commandeered the dinosaur-shaped kiddie bowling ramp, they came back and had fun finishing off a few more frames. Thankfully, this hasn't brought about the return of "GO BOWLING!" which Ben had been using as a bizarre preschooler epithet a few months back.  We still can't figure out why he decided it was some sort of an insult!

A few more Elizabeth pictures:

This isn't exactly up to the level of the Angry Faces of Ben collection, but she really does look a lot like him!