The One With the House.

I am loving my friend Katie's new blog, The One With the House. This dear woman moved back to Portland a couple of years ago after a four-year stint in sunny Arizona. She recently bought her first home and her blog is documenting the progress. I have to say… I'm a little jealous. Scratch that- totally jealous! What a fun project! 

Katie's house

Not only is she gutting and completely remodeling an old home in one of my favorite cities, she knows how to GARDEN. And she'll have her own CHICKENS. Yep. I adore that about her- she's always been so crafty and DIY and I wish she lived here still so I can learn awesome things from her! However, I think if we tried to keep chickens in this heat, they would roast alive in our backyard. Save us a step, I suppose.

Anyway, I just wanted to share her link because it's so much fun and I'm totally missing her these days. She's been there for some of my favorite times of my 20s, and I can't wait to go visit her so I can catch a glimpse into this amazing life she's building for herself!

Dang it… all of my closest friends have moved away from us. Doesn't change that they are my closest friends, but… perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if we up and moved to Nashville after all. I'd just have to convince my family to come along too.

Peach Festival.

Last night, I saw on Twitter that there was going to be a Peach Festival this weekend at Schnepf Farms. Since peaches are Cody's absolute favorite food of all time, we decided that it was a must that we go- especially since you can pick your own peaches from their orchard. 

I tweeted and FB'd that we would be there, and our friends Sarah and Jeff saw my posts and decided to meet us there. It was so fun to see them- especially since we haven't seen them since Linnea was two weeks old! We watched a pit-spitting and pie-eating contest, rode the hay ride, ate some amazing peach pie, lusted after the peach cinnamon rolls they had in their bakery, and headed out to the orchard to pick our peaches! Our day in photos:

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Our driver:
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All of us on the hayride:
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Found a little friend on my peach… I wasn't willing to share:
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Yes, I realize it looks like I'm not wearing pants in this photo:
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Hanging out with Sarah:
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We brought home several pounds of delicious, pesticide-free peaches, and now we just need to figure out what to do with them. Now I need some recipes from YOU! Peach pie? Peach preserves? Other ideas? Shoot 'em my way!

First trip to the zoo.

Last week, Linnea and I went to the zoo with my dear friend Jessica and her little man, Cruz. Jessica's family gave her a year-long zoo membership, so we got to go for free, which was great! I can't wait until Linnea is old enough to notice the animals and tell me the sounds they make and be totally enamored with them. Something tells me with all the animal lovers in our family that we will have another one on our hands 🙂

We snapped a couple of pictures in between chatting and picnicking by the lake and they are just too cute not to share. Enjoy!

I had to take a picture of a tiger because those were Mum Mum's favorites. That and they are simply beautiful animals!

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Jessica and Cruz admiring the tigers.

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Linnea and I checking out the lions. (OK… I'm checking out the lions. She's just trying not to be blinded by the sun.)

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FLAMINGOS! My favorite! Plus they're PINK!

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I'm not gonna lie, I'm secretly hoping that someday someone "flamingos" my front yard. That would be simply amazing. And I would totally leave them up until the HOA nazis start fining us. Ha!

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Such a fun day! We're gonna go again before the weather gets too warm to enjoy the zoo. Jessica, Linnea and I are heading out to the OC next month to visit my BFF Amber and that will be such a fun girls' weekend! I can't wait to take Linnea to the beach!

On another note, today is my baby girl's three-month birthday. I can hardly believe it! Time really does fly when you become a mommy. 

A thank-you note for a priceless gift.

Cody and I have some fantastic friends- I could write blog after blog about all the wonderful people we have in our lives. But this post is about one couple in particular- Jason and Jessica Williams- who have been so thoughtful, supportive and generous to us as we have prepared for and entered into this new season of our lives.

I found out that I was pregnant on May 13, 2009. Before I even knew I was pregnant, somehow Jessica knew right away- so in a sense, she was the first to know! I woke up that morning feeling very fatigued and kind of shaky, and because when I was in college I was borderline anemic, I thought that maybe that was the issue. Since we had moved to the same part of town as the Williams, I sent Jessica a message asking if they had a good family doctor she could recommend. Her response? "ARE YOU PREGNANT?!!!!" Ha! Furthest thing from my mind, and by the way, ARE YOU TRYING TO GIVE ME A HEART ATTACK?!!!! I assured her that the idea was absurd and she was entirely crazy, but when I recalled all of the bread pudding I had consumed in recent weeks at work, and I realized that the idea may, in fact, have some merit. That afternoon, two pregnancy tests indeed confirmed my status as a mom-to-be, and I sent Jessica a message telling her that she was right. And we were so freaked out and PLEASE PRAY FOR US. Hard.

I was immediately met with the most amazing support from this dear friend who had recently ventured into new mommyhood herself. She came along side me and promised me that not only would everything be absolutely amazing when our little one arrives, but that if we needed anything, she and her hubby were there for us. Our lives had followed parallel paths in so many ways and it was exciting- and reassuring- to have someone to share the journey with.

As Cody and I were getting ready to start a new chapter of our lives, the Williams were starting a new venture of their own as photographers. Because they were just starting out, they offered to do a shoot with us to build their portfolio, and also offered to do my maternity photos and, if I wanted, birth photos as well. Little did any of us know that their business would literally skyrocket within weeks- I also had no idea the precious treasure they were so generously giving us: our new baby's life in pictures. So here are a few of my favorites from start to finish.

Exactly one month after learning we were expecting, we had our first photo shoot:

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Thanksgiving weekend we did our maternity shoot:

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Jessica surprised me by taking pictures at my baby shower as well! Thoughtfully planned by my BFF Amber and Kelly:

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Then, when Linnea decided to arrive early, Jessica was there to shoot the first pictures ever taken of her:

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And finally… the newborn photos, taken by Jason:

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Jay and Jess-

You are an amazing, inspirational team as photographers, parents, and husband and wife. Thank you so much for these precious moments you captured for us. We will cherish them- and your friendship, wherever God leads you- always.

With love,

The Alley Family.

Home stretch.

Today was the second in my weekly checkups before baby L.J. arrives, and all seems to be right in the world. Aside from testing positive for Group B Strep, which fortunately is common and simply requires that I be on antibiotics during labor and delivery, everything else is progressing as expected. I've started experiencing pre-labor, which is nothing to get your underpants in a bunch over as it's not the same thing as the first stage of labor, but still it's a good sign that we're on track for an early January arrival. Basically, the baby's head is in position for delivery, I get up to pee about five times every night as a result, I get crampiness and backache very similar to the ones I got when Aunt Flo stopped by, I've started having painless contractions, and according to the doctor, I'm dilated to 1 cm (out of 10). Baby girl weighs in at a little more than six pounds right now, and the doctor says that if I don't deliver in the next ten days (which is an unlikely scenario anyway), she'll be around 7.5 pounds at birth. The doctor guessed we're in for another two or three weeks, which puts us right at her due date- and although I have just had this "feeling" that she would be early, I have no complaints about her being on time because overall I feel pretty darn good.

That, and we still have some things to take care of in order to be ready for her to actually be here.

The nursery, however, is nearly finished. Cody has been working tirelessly to get our old dresser sanded and painted and ready to be filled with all sorts of baby clothing goodness. Man, is this kid gonna be dressed well. I've been sewing up some goodies and still have some projects on deck that I'm hoping to tackle sometime in the midst of the holidays, my husband's 30th birthday, the new year, and the birth of our child… deep breath. It's not like we have anything going on…

My baby shower was last weekend and I couldn't have imagined it more perfectly than it turned out to be. At some point I decided that I was going with a vintage bird theme in the nursery, and that theme was carried through in my shower, complete with carefully decorated birdhouses, bird nest cupcakes, a scrapbook full of notes, advice and encouragement from attendees, and a photo collage of some of our maternity photos from our shoot with Session Nine. Everything was set up so beautifully and in such an incredibly thoughtful way that I had to hold back tears when I walked in, I couldn't believe the effort and care that was put into everything. My BFF Amber, who flew out from Laguna Beach to throw the shower along with my dear friend Kelly, went above and beyond to make little Elska's shower absolutely perfect. My mom and grandma made the delicious food, Jessica was there taking pictures, and Renae was there helping set everything up as well. All I can say is that I have the absolute best friends a girl could ask for- and baby L.J. is going to have a whole slew of Aunties doting on her when she makes her debut in the very near future!

I didn't take any pictures at the shower because Jess had that part covered, so once I get those from her I'll be sure to post them for your enjoyment. Also, stay tuned for maternity pictures- those turned out beautifully as well. My blog is so boring because I never have any exciting pictures to post! Ha! Rest assured, that will be changing soon- after all, we'll have a precious new photography subject in our household.

Preggatinis

I was watching Better Arizona this morning and they did a segment on "cocktails" for pregnant moms that looked simply fabulous! The author of the recipe book Preggatinis, pseudonym "Liquid Muse," showed viewers how to make a couple of different recipes, including the Berry Berry Basil Mojito, which I am so excited to try I can hardly stand it! Here's the video from the show, and the recipe:

1 T strawberries
Healthy pinch of basil
2 t sugar
Juice of half a lime
Fre alcohol-removed white zinfandel

In a tall glass, mix strawberries, basil, and sugar, and mash together until you see the juice of the strawberries begin to dilute the sugar. Squeeze in lime juice. Fill cup with ice, and top off with the white zin.

LOVING this idea. I had a chat with my BFF today about baby shower themes, which we will get more serious about once we know whether we're having a boy or a girl, but I'm sure that Preggatinis of some form or another will be part of the fun!

Recipe on-the-fly.

Last night after returning from a fantastic weekend in Sedona with some of our dearest friends, I began flipping through one of our cookbooks and came across a recipe for bow tie pasta with red pepper sauce and peas that looked pretty tasty. But because we simply didn't feel like getting back into the car to go get the necessary ingredients after a long trip home, I decided to see if I could improvise with what we had on hand. What I came up with was actually quite tasty! There's nothing better than making a great meal with little notice using what's already sitting in the pantry.

I started by chopping five cloves of garlic into eighths (I didn't finely chop them because they are too easy to burn for a novice like me) and sautéing them in olive oil for a few minutes. I then added a can of diced stewed tomatoes that were lightly seasoned with herbs, some julienne cut sun-dried tomatoes, Italian seasoning, basil, coarse sea salt, and fresh-ground pepper, and let it simmer on low for an hour or so before I began preparing the rest of the meal.

The rest of the meal consisted of whole wheat fusilli pasta and cooked frozen peas. I thought we had regular frozen peas and was worried that the sweet peas with butter sauce wouldn't work with the recipe, but I decided to chance it and it was delicious! The butter sauce was light enough that we couldn't taste it- only the sweetness of the peas came through. 

Cody made chicken breasts marinated with garlic and herb sauce, and we sliced that up and put it on top. I preferred mine without a lot of chicken but it added a good bit of protein to the meal, something that my pregnant body needs much of these days. 

Tonight, I'm going to make salmon cakes with French cut green beans, yet more ingredients we already have on hand to make a great meal. 

On a slightly unrelated note, I went to the grocery store to stock up for the weekend with my budget-friendly-and-delicious-too-cooking-sensation friend Jessica. This girl is a champ at coming up with delicious meals on a budget, and that's exactly the goal we had in mind for our weekend jaunt up north with our group of six. We purchased the ingredients for five meals for six people, including snacks, for less than $100! It came out to a little more than $30 per couple for three days' worth of food. The only meal we didn't make ourselves was lunch on Saturday because we were in Flagstaff. I take no credit for any of it- she came up with the meal plan and made the shopping list- but it was great to shop with her because I learned a lot about saving on food for a family. 

We had a fantastic time. The house where we stayed, which belonged to our friend Alex's parents, was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to, but most of all Cody and I enjoyed bonding with these two amazing couples with no agenda except to rest and relax. Our pups, THOR! and Hanalei, were clearly in heaven, what with encountering a tiny human for the first time (which was a great run-through for us!) as well as access to floor-to-ceiling windows where they could watch every conceivable desert creature scurry by. Cody and I didn't take any pictures, but being the professional photographers they are, Jason and Jessica documented our time there, complete with a mini photo shoot in Flagstaff, so stay tuned. 

We can't wait for the next trip. But for now, it's dinner time!

Weddings and parties and scary baby faces, OH MY!

I just let out a big ol' sigh of relief: the summer wedding madness has come to an end. While it was so much fun and such a blessing to be an attendant in two of my dearest friends' weddings, I have to admit that I am glad it's behind me. Three out-of-state weddings in the span of three weeks was indeed a daunting task for us, but no doubt worth it to witness my friends marry some great guys. Here's a picture of my BFF Amber and me pre-ceremony:

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She was a gorgeous bride.

Found out another friend from college is pregnant and due two days after me. I say we just all get together in the labor and delivery room and have a party since there are enough of us to have a legit fiesta. Celebrate by throwing back a Hoegaarden or two, perhaps the ones that are sitting in my fridge right now, mocking me in all their white, wheaty, delicious glory. For now I'm just living vicariously through my husband and anyone else who comes over to partake of our beer stash, catching whiffs as I pop the caps and hand them out to guests. You may catch me hanging on to the bottle a little longer than I should when you try to take it from me. DO NOT TAKE THIS BEER FROM ME. IT'S ALL I HAVE LEFT OF MY YOUTH.

Amber and Matt got married in the same church he grew up in, which is so old that it didn't have an air conditioner until this summer, a Catholic church full of all the traditional stained glass, statues, and carvings you would expect. Fortunately, because Amber is not Catholic, we did not have to sit through a full Mass, but what we did have to endure were the horrific baby faces staring down at us from above. Amber warned me about this, but really, nothing can prepare a first-timer for the sheer terror they invoke deep in the pit of your soul. Apparently they had been there all along, carved out of the wood frames around statues of Jesus and Mary, but some genius decided that they should be painted in "lifelike" colors, and let me be the first to tell you that there is nothing natural looking about these evil cherub wannabes. They all looked like demon seed and one in particular looked like a vampire because the red paint (yes, red) they used to paint its lips was running down both sides of its chin. The eyes were wide open and were the kind of creepy that no matter where you stood in the church, it always looked like all four of them were watching you. All the time. NOT OK.

Amber's sister Brandie, a fellow bridesmaid, was seven months pregnant at the time of the wedding.

Me: "Did you SEE those baby faces? How can they not think those are THE MOST TERRIFYING things their parishoners have ever seen? Ever?"

Brandie: "I'm going to have nightmares about them…"

Me: "You and me both."

Brandie: "Ha. You're going to have a nightmare that you're going to give birth, and your baby will look like that!"

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