Thursday, December 18, 2008

Playing with our Food

The magic "I love to eat" switch has gone on in Claire, and now mealtimes are the highlights of her day. In the span of two weeks, she's gone from reluctantly accepting a spoon in her mouth to gobbling up anything you put in front of her. Her pincer grasp is developed enough that now she loves to work on feeding herself. Today I tried diced pears, sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs so they'd be less slippery. It was messy, but worth it!

While I was shooting Claire's new feat, Gabe asked for a turn in front of the camera. Here he's sporting his "big-boy" muscles and new big-boy haircut.

Like Father, Like Son

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Getting Ready for Christmas

Two days before it snowed, we took the kids to the tree farm nearby and Jesse (with Gabe's help) cut down our tree.
Now it's up and Claire is VERY interested in it. Even though she's not quite crawling, she somehow finds a way to scoot or roll over to the tree and play with the "tattle bells" that I always hang at the bottom of the tree to let me know when a kid or cat is messing with the tree.



Then, last Friday Abby and Reese Vivoda and Claire and I almost finished all of our Christmas shopping. The girls were troopers until the last 1/2 hour before going home, so we got very lucky with getting through our lists. The next morning I started wrapping up our gifts, and Gabe swiped my "stickers". What a great helper. :)

Snow Fun



Now that the snow is here to stay, Gabe and Paddington have been having a blast being outside. Mama and Claire, not so much... Although after watching P's and Gabe wrestle in the snow on such a beautiful sunny day, I couldn't resist donning the Sorel's and Baby Bjorn (even though Claire is almost too big for it) to be able to capture these fun moments on camera.

The cats used to love being outside, but they, too, are fair-weather fans now the ground is snow covered.

New Games



Over Thanksgiving weekend Claire tried out her first spin in the walker. Gabe was quite excited to drive her around in it, and even more excited when we took her out so he could ride it himself. :) Claire didn't seem to mind being steered around the house - anything that Gabe does is awesome in her book.

Gabe has also taken a liking to playing games on the computer. It's scary how quickly he picked up using the mouse and how well he can play "Thomas Game" (on Sproutonline.com) or "Trucks" (on Crayola.com).

Peek-a-Blue Eyes!

Denver Trip

Several weeks ago my whole family went out to Denver to see Erni's new digs: her boyfriend Adam's house (where she currently resides), her hospital where she works, basically everything that she now calls "home". Over the weekend we ventured up into the mountains and shared an early Thanksgiving before the Hecks and Jilly went back to WI. Mom, Dad, the kids and I stayed till Thursday, and had some fun. Here are a few of my favorite moments - can't wait till Erni and Heck get around to posting their pictures too that I can link to.... ;)


Jilly and I posed for a photo while the kids slept in the car.


Grand Lake, CO


Gabe konked out through much of the drive to the mountains. I guess playing with his new basketball wore the poor guy out.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Gotta Brag - We are gorgeous!

We had our portraits professionally done a few weeks ago by a fantastic local photographer, and I am over the moon at how great they turned out. You can view the images here.

Seeing ourselves through the eyes of a photographer helped solidify in Jesse and my minds that Wow - we are now a family of FOUR. Quite a force to be reckoned with... :)

Monday, November 10, 2008

More Double Trouble



One of Gabe's favorite phrases these days is "Mommy, I want two babies" - which means that he wants me to carry him while I carry Claire. And I think if Claire could talk, she would say "Me too!" a lot. They both want to be doing what the other one is, almost all the time. It's so fun to watch them start to play together, and even more fun when they both enjoy the same activity, like laundry-basket races. The other night Claire laughed the hardest I've ever heard when she watched Gabe (who was in the buff after bathtime) throwing balls out of his inflatable ball house. Never a dull moment around here, that's for sure.

Halloween





The Enwalds came up to teach Gabe how to trick-or-treat his first time as a "big kid". Nani and Baa stayed in with the babies while we parents took Ben, Grace, and Gabe (aka the Dark Knight, Princess, and Dragon) to trick-or-treat in the UWRF dorms and a few surrounding blocks. I think it's safe to say that fun was had by all - and that you should never trust a dragon with a knight's sword. Claire seemed to really enjoy having someone "her size" to play with, too. Auntie Kate and Uncle Huck were waiting for us when we got home - Huck gave Ben a good scare in his gorilla suit.

Cuddlebear & Crazy Climber




The colder weather isn't keeping these kids down! we just add more layers & keep right on playing...

Double Trouble




Here are more examples of the two kids becoming siblings and learning to do stuff together. A few weeks ago we discovered Claire was big enough to share in the wagon action, and we've also discovered that baby food must taste better when delivered by Big Brother Gabe.

Return of the Ducky Tub


Claire loves to kick her legs so much that the infant tub seemed like it might capsize under her, so we've upgraded to the ducky tub in the big-kid bath. Fortunately, I can often kill two birds with one stone this way and get both kids bathed at the same time. Unfortunately, to do so usually requires both parents in the room at once. It's really fun though because they are starting to interact as siblings, not just two kids with the same set of parents. Gabe will get annoyed if Claire splashes water and it hits him, yet he has no qualms about dumping water on her to "help wash the baby".

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Return to being Milwaukee-ans


...At least for a week. After a fun-filled weekend of exceptional hospitality in Madison with the Rozas duo, the kids and I headed to Milwaukee with Kate and 'Huck' to catch up with all the folks we've been missing from that neck of the woods. It was awesome to see the Posnanskis, Steinmeyers, Peggy, Wielebskis, Wootens, Enwalds, and especially to have extended quality time with the Heckers. The icing on the cake came when Erin & Adam, Mom & Dad, and Jilly all joined us at Casa de Hecker the following weekend. I only took a couple of blurry photos with my camera-phone, but Heck and Carl got some sweet shots that you can view - (click on their names and it will take you to their photo galleries.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Vote!

I am so glad that there are only 2 weeks left till Election Day. I, for one, am tired of the campaign ads that reduce my enjoyment of the little TV time I get between episodes of Curious George and Thomas the Train. However, I think it is not only our right, but our duty, to get out and vote, so last week I completed my voter registration for our new address. Today I sat down to finalize my voting decisions, and I found a great website to help make sure that I had chosen the best candidate for my personal views. Maybe it will help you out too: http://www.speakout.com/VoteMatch/Pres2008.asp You answer a quiz and based on your responses, it tells you which candidate best matches your values. It also describes what some of the buzzwords floating around mean, which I found useful. Check it out, or not, but whatever you do, get out and VOTE!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Heartbreakers and Monkeys



These two are going to be huge trouble for us when they get old enough to plot against us! Who could resist these charms?!? Not me, and certainly not Jilly. :)

First Family Vacation


Recently, Team Gilles took its first family vacation as a foursome... A flight to Boston to attend my cousin KP's wedding. We had 'Nani and Baa' as backup on the flights with us, but didn't require their assistance nearly as much as I feared -- our kids were great travelers! Once we were there, we stayed with the Baglieris (our parent-partners-in-crime in the family) where we were treated to fabulous hospitality and lots of fun moments, especially since their son Nick and Gabe are only a few weeks apart in age. Big sister Ashley was a mini-mom to baby sister Claire too.... And that was only with one of the families we were priveleged to hang out with for 4 too-short days. I think Gabe's highlight was cutting a rug on the dance floor - check out this and other fun here: http://picasaweb.google.com/jesse.gilles

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What's For Dinner

We recently tried an extremely easy dish from Rachael Ray - "Chicken Noodle Hold the Soup". There were very few ingredients, so I expected it to be a little bland, but it was actually quite delicious. Check it out if you are in the mood for cozy, comfort foods.

Also, if you are looking for an easy, impress-your-guests dinner, try "Flank Steak Pinwheels" - they were divine, and easy enough for a mom to do during the 20 minutes the kids sleep at the same time!

Rollover


Claire was hanging out on a towel right after a bath last Friday morning, enjoying the baby gym, when all of a sudden she decided to roll over for the first time! Even though I was only an arm length away from her changing Gabe's diaper, I missed it. I looked over and saw her cute butt in the air, with a big triumphant smile on her face. Little stinker. At least I had time to grab the camera to snap this photo!

Beauties















Claire and Auntie Kate had a lot of fun hanging out Labor Day weekend. They took a break from watching Gabe cruise the yard in his Tonka Truck for me to snap this photo.


Digger


During Labor Day weekend, we picked up a load of pea gravel to complete the playset. We put this in the sandbox area instead of sand (more fun with trucks and less mess to track into the house!) As you would imagine, this is now Gabe's favorite part of being outside, and he will spend hours hanging out at the "rock pile". I think this may have been the first activity he did for more than an hour completely by himself!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Claire Tries Solids


During Labor Day weekend, we gave Claire her first taste of solid foods. As you would expect from a 17-pounder, she took to it like a duck to water.







However, I think she preferred the taste of Uncle Huck's fingers to the rice cereal. The whole weekend, if she got fussy, we just had to stick Huck's thumb in her mouth and she would calm down. Hey Huck, can we borrow your hand until Claire is done teething?

Monday, September 1, 2008

What's For Dinner

By popular request... another one of my recent favorite creations.

Hilly's Chili Dogs in Blankets
o 1 pkg (n=8) beef wieners
o 2 pkg reduced-fat crescent rolls
o 1 can bush’s chili beans in sauce (note: this is beans only, not canned "Hormel Chili" or the like – you want the flavor of chili but not the added fat)
o shredded cheese
o onions (opt)
Preheat oven to 375 (the temp on the crescent rolls). Roll out the crescent rolls into rectangles, so that 2 triangles make 1 whole piece. (A normal-sized can will make 4 dogs). Squish the triangles’ seam together so it stays together. Lay the hot dog lengthwise on the crescent roll. On one side, spread some chili beans next to the hot dog and top with cheese and onions. Be careful not to overfill! Roll the crescent roll so the seams touch and pinch together, then lay seam-side down on a baking sheet. If desired, sprinkle top with a little extra shredded cheese. Bake for about 15 min or till the crescent rolls are nicely browned. Delicious, fast, and little cleanup - What more can you ask for?!?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Blondies

Another entry in the "baked goods are bliss" category: my recipe for Blondies.

Best Blondies Ever

Adapted from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” and the Blondies episode on “Throwdown with Bobby Flay”

1 stick unsalted butter, plus a little to grease pan
1 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
pinch salt
1 c flour
Add-ins: use as many or as few as you like:
½ c each butterscotch and/or chocolate chips
½ c coconut
½ c toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Melt butter over low heat. Transfer to a bowl and use an electric mixer to beat in the sugar until very smooth, then beat in the egg and vanilla, stirring down the sides of the bowl periodically.
Add the salt, then gently stir in the flour. When batter is uniform, add the “add-ins and stir in by hand till combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake 20 -25 minutes or until just barely set in the middle. (If in doubt, it’s better to underbake than overbake). Cool on a rack before cutting. Store, covered and at room temperature, no more than a day.

Bathing Beauties



My mom showed me two photos she had found of Kate and I when we were the same ages as Gabe and Claire, and we were noticing the similarities between the kids and us girls. This got me to thinking about whether Claire looks like Gabe did at this age, so I dug through our photo achive and found two to compare. What do you think? Are they twins or just siblings? I'd love to hear what anyone else thinks...

Claire Likes To Play


Claire is now big enough to hang out in the exersaucer. While she has the body strength for it, she lacks the attention span (unless Gabe is playing with it too.) It's crazy to see her enjoying herself upright and makes her look like a mini kid instead of a baby. I can't believe she'll be 4 months already this weekend! We are getting excited to introduce her to the world of solid foods soon too - which will be very sweet, for both her and me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Color Fun


In honor of school starting.... I found a fun color quiz honoring the best part of going back to school, a new box of Crayola 64 crayons with the sharpener in the back. In the quiz, you pick crayons out of a box and choose the "real" name. So much fun - it brought me back to the days of road trips in Grandpa's motorhome and art class once a week. I even remembered what used to be one of my favorites,"Tickle Me Pink".
Check it out: http://www.crayola.com/promos/64boxBirthday/colorQuizzer.cfm

PS -- I got only 9 mistakes - can you beat that Kate?!?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What's For Dinner

When Gabe actually lets me watch the TV instead of watching Diego or Cheech, I love to watch shows on the Food Network or pull them from magazines and then experiment with the recipes in my home "test kitchen". I'm going to try to feature some of my favorite recipes I've found/created/tweaked in blogs called "What's For Dinner". So here goes:

Monday night's dinner: BBQ-Spiced Chicken (ala Rachael Ray) with Black Bean-Mango Salad (invented by me)

BBQ Chicken Rub
1 T Grill Seasoning
2 T chili powder
½ T cumin
1 T. coriander (ok to omit if needed)
3 T brown sugar

Combine above in a Ziploc bag. Add 4-6 chicken breasts and drizzle with EVOO. Close bag and massage chicken to coat well. Marinate in refrigerator at least an hour, up to 24. Fantastic when grilled!

Black Bean and Mango Salad
2-3 c rice, cooked and COOLED
1 can black beans
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, diced
¼ red onion, finely diced (about 1/3 c)
3-4 T cilantro (about ½ handful)
juice of ½ lime
3 T EVOO
1 t chili powder
1 t cumin
½ t seasoning salt
pinch of ginger
2-3 dashes of tobasco, if spiciness is desired

Combine all – great as a side dish or even wrapped in a tortilla, burrito-style.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Cutest Story


Gabe did the cutest thing today. We were trying to convince Gabe that it was naptime, and Jesse tried to entice him by taking his cup to his bed and lying down in it. Gabe called his bluff though, and instead gave him a kiss and said "Night-night Dads", just like we do for him at bedtime. ('Dads' is what Gabe calls Jesse - because he randomly puts an S on certain words.) To top it off, he then asked "Fan Dads?" and "Cheech Dads?" and turned on his fan, his music, and shut the door to his room. Talk about monkey-see, monkey-do!

Adventure in Our Own Backyard

We are the proud new owners of a cool jungle gym, thanks to Jesse's generous boss (whose kids had outgrown it) and my Dad's sweet truck (and tools, and enthusiastic help with both disassembly and assembly).

I'm amazed that we got it deconstructed at Dale's and reconstructed at our house so quickly -- Gabe was already playing on the slide part before dark yesterday,
and we got the swing side up in only a few hours today.

I tried to teach Gabe how to "pump" on the glider swing, but he figured out the rest all on his own.

Seeing how much Gabe is enjoying it makes Jesse and I jealous for an adult sized playset!

Friday, August 15, 2008

My Other Passion

Lest you think the only thing I do is care for our kids, let me let you in on my other favorite thing to do: bake. While I don't have the time lately for multi-day home decorating projects, or even an afternoon to throw pottery on the wheel gathering dust in the shop, I seem to always be able to sneak in an hour or so to bake a pie, cookies, brownies... I'm getting hungry just thinking about what I could make.

Anyway, I want to share some of my favorite goodies with you; here's a fabulous pie recipe that I made this week. (Thanks Becky for sharing it with me!)

Apple-Raspberry Pie
Step 1: Put crust into pan, or use a premade pie crust
Step 2: Combine 1 T lemon juice with 5 cups apples, peeled and sliced
Step 3: Add to apples 1 (10 oz) container frozen raspberries in syrup, drained (reserve 1/2 c liquid for sauce)
Step 4: Heat in a pan on stovetop the reserved 1/2 c raspberry syrup, 1/4 c sugar, 2 T corn starch, 1/2 t cinnamon. Stir until thick; pour over apples and raspberries and put into crust
Step 5: Make streusel topping from 3/4 c flour, 1/2 c brown sugar, 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/3 c butter (softened). Cut together till crumbly. Put on top of apple mixture.
Step 6: Put pie plate on a baking sheet and bake at 375 for 40-50 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.
Sooooo Good!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Jesse and I have a new fave pastime when the kids are both asleep. Several friends turned us on to the TV show "Flight of the Conchords" which we are viewing via our Netflix subscription. If you don't already know about it, seriously check it out - it's so hilarious. (I find the experience is enhanced if viewed with an alcoholic beverage in hand - my favorite is a margarita on the rocks.) :)

Smiles and Belly Laughs


Claire is such a smiley baby, which is so much fun. Yesterday Jesse was tickling her when he got home from work and she actually belly laughed for the first time! Figures that Jesse was the one to get her to do it... She's also decided that sucking her thumb is an acceptable substitute for sucking on mama -- hooray for that. She does it all backwards though -- with her palm open and her fingers on her face. As long as it gets her to fall asleep on her own (and she doesn't do it till Kindergarten), I'm all for it.