Merry Christmas!

As we celebrate the day Christ was born,
we wish you a Merry Christmas from our family to yours!


The Force is Strong with This One

Eliza got to play with her first "lightsaber." I made the noises as she swung it through the air, energy crackling all around. Then she had a fierce battle with Preston during which she proved she was quite the Jedi. OK, I lied, there was no swinging or baby battle, just Eliza holding it tightly, studying it, and crying if she dropped it or I took it away.

Is there any greater toy made of repurposed trash than a cardboard wrapping paper tube lightsaber? Sure, it could be a sword, a telescope, or a baseball bat, but when I was a kid, it was definitely a lightsaber. I'd wield them so powerfully that the tube would quickly get bent and broken, and then I simply had to wait for mom to finish wrapping more presents for my arsenal to be replenished. I still have trouble recycling them, as I'd rather keep a stash hidden in the basement closet. You never know when the Sith will attack, and a good Jedi needs to be prepared.

Feliz Navidad!

Tonight we celebrated Christmas Spanish-style! After acquiring a paella pan many months ago (thanks Lynne!), we still had yet to use it. Being on vacation this week, it seemed like the perfect time for a culinary adventure. I decided we'd go with chorizo, shrimp, mussels, and scallops as the meats (decided to avoid the chicken), and green beans, red peppers, and onions as the veggies (not a big fan of peas, which I know are a common ingredient). It turned out to be a great success, although it did take twice as long to cook as the recipe we were using instructed. About half the bottom got deliciously crispy, but we have plenty of ingredients left to give it another go in a few days. This time, we'll make sure the entire thing gets a good crisp bottom layer, since that's the best part! Since the pan is bigger than our burners, we had to rotate which section was getting the direct heat, so it'll take some practice to master that.

Of course, it was so good that we ate way too much, and I could eat the mussels (Lynne the scallops) all day, too. Also, thanks to mom and dad for the great saffron and paprika they brought back for us from their Mediterranean cruise (among other great spices)!

p.s. Yes the scallops look like little marshmallows :)


So Sad

It has always been a sad thing to take the clothes that Eliza has outgrown down to the basement. Kirk was really sad to see this shirt to be taken down, too!

Tongues are Fun

Toys have been a lot of fun for Eliza this week. She loves sitting on the floor and picking up the toys and then also trying to reach the toys that are far away. Each time, she continues to see more reason to roll onto her belly to help her reach for things. She hasn't figured out how to get her body to actually move forward, but her mind definitely wants to get going! Eliza really loves sticking her tongue out these past few weeks.


Meeting Santa

I used to be quite a baker in college. But then you gain a few pounds...so I started looking for other hobbies. However, I am revisiting that abandoned baker in an attempt to perfect my skills before Eliza's first birthday. I used the annual neighborhood Santa party as my excuse to whip up some cupcakes!
Santa's hat worked out really well. I wouldn't try the beard again though since it was too hard to tell what it was.The kids didn't seem to care, and they even liked the fondant. I tried to make one that had some flavor and wasn't just gummy.
Eliza was a bit overwhelmed by all the kids running around. I think she was a little tired and not very smiley.She did like her new set of bongo drums that Santa brought her, but I think she played with her gold shoes even more!

All Over Arkansas

Last week I took a trip to Arkansas for work. We have some fantastic foundation partners in Arkansas who have made a huge difference in the state's public schools, and hopefully after my flurry of meetings we'll have some new corporate and foundation partners, too!

The trip started with a late night arrival in Little Rock. They do a nice job lighting the capitol building, which is modeled after the the national capitol in DC.

Also, in Little Rock I was able to see the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. Maybe next time I won't be as rushed and can actually go inside (by the way, none of these pics are mine since I didn't have a camera...thanks random people on Flickr!)

They say the museum looks a bit like a trailer, which was kind of funny. I did learn a great deal about the grounds though and the area's sustainability (and architecture), which was really cool. Next door is Heifer International, which has some amazing grounds and architecture of its own.

My favorite stop was dinner at Bosco's a local brewpub known as THE restaurant for beer lovers. I had a nice dinner of chicken puttanesca which included the best sweet potato fries ever, but the real highlight was the beer. After chatting with the waitress (and probably because I was one of only a few people there that late), she brought me samples of 6 of their specialties, which were all very good. They included:

-Bosco's Famous Flaming Stone Beer - a very flavorful light beer
-Downtown Brown - and English-style nut brown ale, it was fantastic
-Isle of Skye Scottish Ale - I'm a big fan of scotch ales, and while this wasn't as good as the autenticly Scottish McEwan's, it was incredibly good, and I'd probably rank it above Schlafly's which I really like. This one had a hint of vanilla that was a nice touch, too.
-Bosco's Schwarzbier - a German-style black beer that looks like a stout but tastes much milder. I really enjoyed it but definitely felt like something as strong as it looked.
-Hook Slide Ale - a cream ale that was pretty good
-Bosco's Stock Ale - a colonial-era beer that uses extra hops (Clusters and Willamette) and cane sugar. It was unlike anything I have had before, and I really enjoyed its depth.

I ended up with pints of the Scottish Ale and Stock Ale and really enjoyed my Bosco's experience. I'll likely stop by next time I'm in Arkansas (or Memphis or Nashville).

I also had a fun lunch at Cotham's in the City, which is near the state capitol and a staple of locals and politicos alike. Known for their bugers and catfish, I enjoyed fried catfish, french fries, fried okra, hush puppies, and fried corn fritters (yep, they sure fry a lot down south!). It was all really good, except the hush puppies which were pretty bland.

After meetings in Little Rock, I had to rent a car and drive over 3 horus northwest to the Fayetteville/Bentonville region for more meetings. Although I heard the drive was quite scenic, it was late in the evening so I couldn't see anything. I got into Bentonville very late, but had great meetings the following day. Rolling into Bentonville at midnight, I was able to see the empty town square all lit up with stunning Christmas lights, which was beautiful and a nice way to be welcomed to the city.

After a downtown Bentonville meeting (and by downtown, I mean small town square), we stopped at Sam Walton's very first 5 and dime store, which has been turned into a Walton and Wal-mart museum. It was fun to look around and see the place where this mega-corporation began.

In the Walton museum the even preserved Sam's original office from the 50's.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip, and I look forward to my next visit. The Arkansans are wonderful people and were incredibly hospitable and welcoming. Hopefully more corporations and foundations there will start funding classroom needs through DonorsChoose.org!


High Five!

Eliza has learned how to give a high five! After working with her on it for the last few weeks, she did it over 7 times tonight! She’s not even 8 months old yet, so we are quite excited. Up next, a more difficult challenge…learning how to Boiler Up! Hopefully she’ll have that down by March Madness.


Dinner Made by Friends

It was Alex and Sonja's turn to cook our rotating gourmet meal, and they did an outstanding job this weekend! See their post with all the amazing food! We loved it all and will be making the dessert and soup ASAP! During the evening we got some great shots with Alex's camera, too. This helped us space out the courses so that we could take more in! Thanks again for having us over and a job well done!

Playing the piano with daddy.

Eliza and Luna under the tree!
"Are you thinking what I am thinking?"
"Exactly, Otis is going to be so mad at me when I get home."

First December

Eliza has found a few new things that she loves.
Playing in her highchair...with toys...but we are still working on liking solid food.

Her first Christmas tree. She really loves it now that it is all decorated!

Laying on her belly to play with toys and kicking her feet around.

Her first snow this morning. We haven't gone out in it yet, but can't wait to see her try to eat it!


Thanksgiving Day

Waiting for the food!
We have much to be thankful for. Family, health and Eliza- just to name a few.

All dressed up and jumping in her fancy shoes.

Dad's oysters are the best!

Cider martini to start

Pear and butternut squash soup

Pear salad

After an intermission, we moved into the dinning room for the real meal!
Cranberry mold
Oyster stuffing - Kirk made it and it was soooo good!
The only good kind of brussel sprouts that we have had and mashed potatoes
Chocolate corks served with ice cream and a strawberry liqueur


Pre-Thanksgiving Meal

Here was our first dinner in Michigan. We had lamb shanks and couscous with the last of the Swiss chard from our garden. Dad mixing the sauce for the shanks.

Eliza learning to drink from a cup!