Jessica’s baby shower.

Whew… what a week! Alex and I threw Jessica's baby shower today and it was so much fun! We went with a Vintage Circus theme a la TomKat Studio, complete with frilly and feathery hairpieces for the mom-to-be and smaller ones for ourselves. Our friends Rachel and Joy were so helpful in pulling everything together- not to mention it was held at Joy's AMAZING new home!

We hosted an open house as opposed to a formal shower with games, etc. None of us are big on baby shower games, haha. We had all kinds of food and drinks that you would find at a circus- popcorn, mixed nuts, candy, peanuts in the shell, Mexican Coke, and lots more. It was incredibly relaxed and good to gather with dear friends and Jess's family.

Here are some pictures… enjoy!

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Welcome to your shower!

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Jess LOVES Coke, so of course that had to be our featured drink!
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An old-fashioned popcorn maker… so fun and SO vintage circus!
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Joy and her adorable little peanut zippin' up the stairs!
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Alex and me hostessing it up.
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Jess and Joy.
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Lots of fun presents… including a so-ugly-you-can't-help-but-adore-him, yellow, googly-eyed monster. Can you spot him? (I mean, seriously… how could you not?)
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Another one of THESE? I'm not sure I can handle it… the cuteness, that is.
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All of us girls after the festivities- Rachel, Joy, Jess, Alex and me.
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Jess with her sweet mom and sisters and Cruzer.
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Love this girl like a sister! Happy shower day, Jess!
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We can't wait to meet the newest addition to the Williams family!

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.

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!

Babysitting and photo fun

For those who know Cody and me, it is safe to say that when it comes to babies, we have absolutely no clue what we are doing. Although I have a brother and a sister and a nephew who is more like a brother than a nephew, I grew up an only child, and Cody grew up the oldest of three. I remember when I was eight years old I begged my mom for a little brother or sister because my friend who lived down the street just got a new baby sister, and she was so cute, I wanted one too. Needless to say I never got my wish, but I wouldn't change a thing. I liked my life growing up as an only child- it's not as lonely as people who grew up with siblings will try to make you believe, I promise. And while we all have our issues, I would like to think I'm not a total screw-up as a result. 

Yesterday, Cody and I spent the afternoon with our friend's little 7-month-old, Cruz, while his parents Jason and Jessica Williams were out doing a photo shoot for their new business, Session 9 Photography. Jay and Jess are two of the best people we have ever had the privilege of calling friend, and their little boy is so adorable you could just eat him up. So it was a no-brainer to embark on our first babysitting adventure as a couple with Cruz at the helm. 
What a day! We had fun rolling around on the floor with him, keeping him entertained with his toys and various ridiculous faces, watching Finding Nemo, taking him for a ride in his stroller through their neighborhood, marveling at the sheer volume of spit-up that a single child can produce, and learning that baby wipes aren't meant to be thrown by themselves into a Diaper Genie (definitely something I will NEVER FORGET AGAIN). Cruz is such a happy baby that even when he's fussy he's still a joy to be around. And I am so happy that we have this particular family alongside us through this totally unpredictable journey we find ourselves on, because their own experiences and uncertainties parallel ours in so many ways, and things have turned out more than fine for them. It's such an encouragement to both of us. 

On another note, Cody and I are going to start taking belly pictures in the very near future. I'm not showing yet, but it will be fun to document the progress over the next several months. If I were funnier and more creative and also 25 weeks further into my pregnancy, I would have thought of this first, but I digress. 

We have our first photo shoot with Session 9 next weekend and we are SO EXCITED. I say first shoot because they will be doing our maternity and hospital shots as well! The only experience I have had as a "model" was at our wedding- and funny story, I was so barfy at our wedding that I spent half the time that would have been spent taking pictures in the bathroom, and now I'm in my first trimester and am feeling barfy all the time… so I'm 0 for 2 at the moment. Good news is that I haven't actually "finished the job," if you know what I mean; I just constantly feel on the brink of it. It will be fun to get all decked out for this shoot since these days my favorite thing to do is not wear makeup so I don't have to make the effort to take it off at night, because that is A LOT OF EFFORT. I am anxiously awaiting my blood test results from the doctor so they can tell me that yes, I am indeed anemic, and then they will give me a magical pill that will take the edge off the simply unreal fatigue that is brought on by this building-a-human-being business, and I can finally wake up from this haze I have been living in for the past month and start to feel normal again. 

And yes, I am fully aware that "normal" as I once knew it has ceased to exist. This "new normal" will be quite a ride.