Thursday, May 29, 2014

Baby Love

It's been a baby-lovin kindof weekend.

1. Henry - On Friday Brandon and I headed to Maryland to spend Memorial Day weekend with family and friends. Our first stop was the ever important Wachter household, where we were welcomed with hugs and excitement. Actually, I don't think Brandon even made it inside the house before the boys were taking him to see the chickens, their homemade boats, and running an obstacle course around the back yard. Which was fine by me because it gave me lots of time to catch up with the incredible ladies of the household and cuddle this sweet, amazing little man!

2. Reagan Grace - My SIL has been due any day with her 2nd child. Of course the baby didn't come before we headed out of town (as I oh-so-nicely requested) or wait for us to return. Instead Reagan made her arrival at about 11 p.m. on Friday night! Brandon and I gushed over photos and did some midnight facetiming - but we were finally able to meet our newest niece Tuesday night. I know I'm biased, but she really is the cutest thing! 

3. Mikey - One of our reasons for heading to Maryland this past weekend was that our nephew (and Brandon's godson) was turning 1! My in-laws ending up flying in from Minnesota for the party as well so we had a mini family reunion. Mikey was not so interested in eating his cake as he was into smashing it, and big sister Gianna made sure Michael knew the proper way to open presents.

And just to round things out, another friend welcomed her daughter Saturday morning and 2 friends announced little ones on the way this winter! I guess we've officially reached that stage of life :)

Monday, May 19, 2014

My Man's Heart

"The way to a man's heart is through his stomach."

Okay, well this proverb might not be true for every man....but it most certainly is for mine :)

One of my absolute favorite parts about being a wife is cooking for Brandon. Dinner, snacks, breakfasts, whatever - I love trying new things I think he might enjoy and seeing his reaction. It doesn't hurt that he is always very complimentary!

At times, Brandon can be a little tricky to cook for, but that's become part of the fun! When we began dating he was convinced he hated most green things (although he forces himself to eat a good 2 cups of spinach a day simply because he knows it's healthy), would never touch a bean, and would look for the next course if I tried to serve a meatless meal.

Overall, he is a very healthy eater and is consequently always willing to try something if I start with "this is really healthy for you!" Which seems a little ironic considering most would shy away from something that started out that way and I am predominately drawn to trying something new if "chocolate" is in the title!

This weeks baking adventure was Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels. It really wasn't much of an adventure because Brandon loves soft pretzels. But, finding a good whole wheat substitute is not always easy.

Overall - this is a 4-star recipe that I foresee becoming a regular occurrence around the Raatikka household!

My pros:
- amazingly easy to make
- no strange ingredients (all I use on a regular basis making this an easy snack to throw together at any time or a fun last minute appetizer)
- quick - the recipe boasts 30 minutes, but given that it was my first time it probably took me about 45 minutes from start to finish (note - I did do the baking soda bath)
- freeze well 
- delicious
- 100% whole wheat

Brandon's feedback:
- "These are so good!"
- "Next time can you make cheese sauce too?"
- "Ooooh no! Next time can you make garlic butter sauce?"
- "I need another."

An so, such a food experience like this can only be summed up in the most appropriate hashtag - #happyhusband.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Glitter, Glam, and Tummy Mommies

This past weekend we celebrated the 5th birthday of our resident fashionista - Alexis Jacqueline. Lexi is a girly-girl to the core. She is happiest when she is decked out in a fancy dress, bracelets, nail polish, lots of lip gloss, and of course her heels. You can frequently find her singing and dancing her heart out - but at some point she’ll probably crash in your lap, as she loves to cuddle. The first year of her life she was actually a fairly solemn baby who I don’t remember smiling much....but that didn’t last for long!

Lexi (almost 2)

Lexi’s birthday party was a true picture of the beauty of open adoption. Among attendance were my parents, my brother and his family, and Brandon and me, as well as Lexi’s birth mom, birth grandma, and birth uncle. 

When my brother and sister-in-law started down the path of open adoption I admit I was incredibly skeptical. Having an open adoption looks different for every family - some might have a semi-open adoption where they exchange letters, pictures, and information, while others involve regular contact between the adoptive and biological families. My initial concerns with an open adoption were that it would only cause more confusion with the adoptive child - would it make them think less of my brother and sister-in-law as “real” parents? Would it be harder for the child to feel a part of our family?

I can tell you, my initial fears were SO far from the truth.

Lexi (1 month) in the arms of her "tummy mommy" at a family BBQ

Lexi clearly loves my brother and SIL and seems them as her parents, but she also clearly loves and has a beautiful relationship with her “tummy mommy.” And while her story is not mine to tell, Lexi’s birth mom is an incredible example of how making an adoption plan can open many doors for someone who isn’t ready or able to parent on their own. She is an amazing woman who I am so proud of and who we consider part of our extended family. I feel blessed to know her and to be able to talk to Lexi about her.

No child ever suffered from having too many people to love them.

Lexi (18 months)

Alexis brings so much joy to our family. And while I may think that her choice of strawberry birthday cake from a box was utterly disgusting, I can’t imagine life without her. Even more so, I can’t wait to watch her grow into the beautiful young woman I know she will become - considering all the family she has in her life to encourage her along the way.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Oreo Truffles

I brought these incredible chocolate bombs to our family Mother's Day gathering this weekend. They were an instant hit! Beyond their great taste, they have the power to make you look like a decadent chocolatier, without actually requiring much time or skill!

All credit for this recipe goes to my new favorite baking site - Sally Bakes

You will need:

A package of Oreos (you can use any flavor, depending on your tastes)

Baking chocolate (I actually found out that I needed about 3 of the Baker's sized packages)

Cream Cheese (8 oz - softened)

Decorative Sprinkles

1. Crush the entire package of Oreos in your food processor to the point where you have a package of Oreo crumbs.

2. Mix the Oreo crumbs and cream cheese. (I used my stand mixer set to low)

3. Roll the Oreo mixture into small balls and place onto a wax paper covered cookie sheet. (I used my slip mat and it worked great!). Your mixture should yield 30-35 balls. Place the cookie sheet in your freezer for at least 30 minutes.

4. Melt your baking chocolate according to the packaging instructions. To keep the chocolate hot and easy to work with, I melted my chocolate in smaller portions (about enough to cover 10 balls each).

5. Fully coat your frozen truffles with chocolate. 

6. Place your coated truffles back on the cookie sheet and immediately decorate them to your liking.

7. Allow the chocolate covered truffles to set in your refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Welcome to Hotel Brandon

In the months leading up to our wedding, my nieces were constantly asking when I was going to move into Uncle Brandon’s "hotel." Logically his apartment building had lots of people living in close quarters - just like a hotel. We promised them a sleepover after we got married. So this past weekend Brandon donned his suit and played the role of bellboy, chauffeur, and concierge.
Well, he didn’t really wear a suit (but he thought about it!).
He did however drive a minivan as we shuttled the girls to dance lessons, and planned and participated in various activities (i.e. dandelion picking, Barbies, impromptu dance parties, and frequently appearances by the tickle monster and the groggy monster - who is the in-resident monster who gets a 7 a.m. Sunday morning wake-up call when he’s used to sleeping in until 9).
I was there too, but lets face it, I’m old news now that I have a fun husband!
We really did have a blast. At (almost) 5 and 7 the girls love imaginative play and are hilarious to watch interact with oneanother. Plus - upon request they brought their copy of Frozen along so Brandon and I could finally get on board with the latest Disney craze. And so I fell asleep asking myself over and over and over again if I wanted to build a snowman, and woke up to my man singing "Let it Go" in the kitchen.

This man - is going to make a GREAT dad someday!
Ballet class - aka. bar wrestlers
We grabbed a pizza dinner with my parents who were babysitting Isaac - nothing like a little cousin time!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Wisdom of Mothers

During a conversation about adjusting to living together as newlyweds....

Mom: Did I ever tell you how I got your dad to pick up his clothes?

Me: no...

Mom: Everyday he would come home from work, take off his clothes, and hang them on the doorknob.

Dad: Until one day there was no doorknob....

Brandon: (looking at my sweet, compliant, thoughtful mother) You didn't!

Mom: I never yelled, got upset, or nagged him. One day I just got out the screwdriver and just took away the option of hanging up his clothes there. Problem solved!