Eliza Babbles with Lynne

Another Eliza Video!

I think I figured out the video problem...the files udner 100MB seem to work better. So here's one of my favorite videos, of Lynne bouncing Eliza on her knee as she giggles! This is the most giggling she has done, which is excellent to have on video.


Eliza Videos!

Having trouble posting a few of these, so her's one video for now. Eliza really responds to "dada." :)

The Garden

I realized that I write often about our garden, but I hadn't posted any full pictures. So here they are! We dug up the sod along the fence line this year to add to our quarter-cicle garden in the far corner, which came unsodded with the house. This gave us ample space for lots of things to plant, and next year, after seeing what worked well this year (i.e. what we have too much of!), we'll plant more diverse things.
Here's a shot of most of the backyard and garden.
Some flowers that get beautiful right behind the house

More colorful flowers behind the house

Jalapeno peppers! Last year we had two small potted plants we bought as starters, and this year, we planted one starter and the rest from seed and they are doing great! I've already eaten one that was way ahead of the pack, but there are dozens growing now, and the plants from seed are just as big (or even bigger) than the starter plant.

So I planted a lot of leeks and green onions. I find leeks to be expensive at the store, so apparently I planted a lot of them, just in case. They aren't huge, but they are larger than full size green onions at this point, and even though they are still immature, they taste great chopped up.

Here's a pic of the back corner, which was our entire gardening space last year. You will see the following:
-massive chive and flat leaf parsley in the front
-blank rows that used to be home to a lot of spinach. it was delicious, but sadly died out about a month ago, and we don't know why (maybe when you start picking it, the plant doesn't like it?)
-rows of swiss chard, so good (and also way cheaper to grow than buy in the store)
-a lettuce mix (mesclun I believe) that has some green leaf, red leaf, arugula, bitter frondy things, some mini-romaine type leaves, and some curly greens
-misc. green onion and leeks around the edges
-mint that I almost forgot about from last year that popped up along the edge
-garlic in the back
-yellow tomatoes in the back corner. we gres these last year and one plant yielded more than 50 tomatoes. this year we are harvesting less, but we're just happy to have any. many of our friends haven't had luck with tomatoes this year, since it wasn't hot enough (or dry enough?) and many others have had tomatoes that stay green and don't change color

Here are our yellow and misc. bell pepper plants. we heard they didn't do well from seed around here, and the tall one we bought as a little starter. he's doing great and has a few peppers already getting a nice size. the ones from seed are still pretty small, but we'll see!

More swiss chard along the north fence line! It takes a lot of this when you wilt it down (with some olive oil and onions, yum!) so you need to grow a lot if you want to eat it often (which I do).

More lettuce! It actually grew far better along the fenceline than in the corner, so I'll probably plant it here again next year, but definitely won't plant as much of this variety. I'll likely do some specific kinds, like a batch of romaine, because I love a good Caesar salad.

Anyone need any basil, thai basil, or sage? We have a ton, and we already made a boatload of pesto. We also have dill and cilantro growing.

Okra up close! So good in so many ways! these were from seed and are doing great.
Here are some shots of the okra plants, definitely a few feet tall now.

That's it! You can see I'm already planning for next year. Also, not pictured is the raspberry bush that almost died, I had to move, and now is doing OK and should produce fruit next year. The blackberry starter sticks failed miserably, so next year I will have to get some starter bushes. Cucumbers and radishes for sure (even though Lynne doesn't like the latter), but I'll take suggestions on things you've had success with, so let me know!


Dinner Out

We live less then half a mile from The Meridian which is a really great restaurant. It has become quite a meaningful place as it was the last meal we had before Eliza was born. It was also the first restaurant that Eliza ever went to with her Great Aunt Janet. And this week her Great Aunt was back in town and invited us to go there again with her and her friends. Eliza dressed up for the evening and got to wear a sweater that was knitted for her daddy when he was a baby. After a three hour meal Eliza made not a peep and it was once again a great evening!

Getting Ready for Some Football

Not that we want summer to be over but...38 days until the season starts!


Return from St. Louis

The last four days (Tuesday through Friday), I was in St. Louis for work, and it was tough being away from Eliza for so long! The trip was very productive; some great meeting with St. Louis corporations I hope will partner with DonorsChoose.org, local education leaders, the mayor (briefly), quality time with our founder, Charles Best, and the opportunity to help honor some amazing kids (Huggable Heroes) with Build-A-Bear Workshop and their wonderful CEO Maxine Clark. I even met a woman who went to Fremd, my high school back in suburban Chicago, whose daughter was a Huggable Hero.

I did get some good food on the trip, including sushi, a cajun/oyster place, a great steak sandwich, and, of course, a stop at my favorite micro brewery, Schlafly's, to get some cases of beer to bring home to Indiana.

When I got home, I found a garden out of control and had to spend some time Saturday cleaning it up. Also, I was excited to have a few Okra pods that were ripe, and I promptly cooked them up for lunch along with some swiss chard from the garden. The jalapeno peppers and a few bell peppers are starting to come in and will be ready soon (I had the first pepper last week, but it was "accelerated" compared to its classmates). The lettuce continues to thrive and give us no possible way to keep up, so looks like our friends will get lots more free lettuce from the Smileys! Before I left, we also made a bunch of pesto to freeze since we have tons of basil.

The best part of coming home though was to see Eliza (and Lynne :) and see how much she has grown in a mere 4 days. She's definitely bigger, still tall/long, and no babbling a lot more. Of course, she's in a great mood most of the time, too!


Dressed Like My Friend

Just hanging out....

People say we look like sisters...I think our smiles are even the same!

She told me a very funny joke but you wouldn't get it...it's only for us kids:)

Sweet Trip AL

Eliza took her longest trip so far down to Birmingham to see Katie and Harris get married! Here are some pictures of our trip. It was a beautiful weekend and great fun to travel with our little one. Otis got to stay with his Grandma and Grandpa Steckbeck and he loved all the freedom that they gave like no leash at the lake and sleeping all night with them in bed!

The photos of the bride and groom are from their photographer, Amelia Strauss, and her blog is a great one to check out!

Great goodies at the Bride's Lunchen!

The day is here!

So tired after the whole experience!


Tall as a Weed

Eliza had her three month check-up today and Dr. Cumming said she was looking great. She comes in at 12lb. 12.5oz and is 25in long! She grew 17oz and 2in in less than a month. That puts her in the 70% in weight and the 92% in length. She got one shot today and has been a bit more fussy tonight and very tired.

Image found on flickr.com


Eliza videos

For those who don't get to see Eliza enough, and photos just don't cut it, here are a couple videos of Eliza from last week!


Eliza = Happy Baby

Here are some pics of Eliza from this week!

All together now..."awwwwwwww."

When she's smiling and you try to take her picture, the flash startles her!

Lynne's mom knit the green top.

A happy baby!

If it weren't for the purple, she'd be in camo!

We found her holding her burp cloths like blankets, so we've started her out on a little lamb blanky, and she really likes it.

Getting ready to suck on the lamb's ear!

I better not roll over!

It must be a rule that we photograph sleeping pictures of each other.

Delicious Food

Last week was a good week for home cookin'! Since Eliza joined our lives, quality home-cooked meals have been at a premium. Usually a couple days a week we'll make something special and delicious, but the rest of the week are quick meals to be "cooked" and eaten in periods where Eliza is sleeping, thoroughly occupied with staring at the ceiling fan, or otherwise distracted. Imagine microwave quiches and other quick treats from Trader Joe's, hotdogs, sandwiches, and pizza (although our home-made pizzas are quick and excellent, but I wouldn't call them gourmet). This week, however, we had back-to-back-to-back nights of some restaurant-quality home cooking.

On Tuesday, Lynne made Chicken Piccata, which she has become excellent at, and it was her best yet! On Wednesday, we had scallops with veggies over angel hair pasta in a white wine sauce, and it was wonderful. On Thursday, Kirk had a craving for Chinese, and we realized we never really cook "chinese" food at home. Sure we make lots of thai, sushi, tempura, and pan-asian fare, but "chinese" (by which I mean americanized chinese food) is something we just never think to make. Kirk found a great cashew chicken recipe, and with a sizzling wok, delicious homemade sauce, and quality cuts of chicken (as opposed to what you get at a chinese restaurant), it was a great success. A pic is below.

One thing we both really enjoyed was a thinner yet very flavorful sauce as opposed to the thick and overly sweet sauces you get with takeout, and meat that wasn't overly breaded, so you actually ate meat and not just fried nuggets of batter. Definitely more PF Chang's caliber than Panda Express, and plenty of leftovers. Maybe I'll have to learn how to make fortune cookies next?

The New Laptop

After 8 years (yes, that is a loooong time for technology to last!), we have our first new laptop computer, a Dell 17" Studio. It's been wonderful, and compared to our old laptop, it has the following features:

-a battery that works, which means Lynne can actually use it in the family room while watching Eliza!

-500GB hard drive as opposed to the 20GB we were working with on the old computer, which meant we kept having to back things up to an external HDD

-4GB RAM, as opposed to 256MB that caused the old computer to freeze when more than two applications were open (or too many IE tabs)

-a huge 17" widescreen that wasn't a distorted orange color in the corner like our old laptop

-a DVD RW drive so we can actually make dvds from Eliza's videos and not rely on friends to burn them for us

-built-in wireless card, which is the norm, but so much nicer than trying to get my old laptop to recognize the Netgear wireless card we had to install years ago

-great sound system, so I don't have to connect it to a stereo to listen to stuff, ala my old computer

-sub 2.0 drives (or whatever version is newest) that are about 10 times faster than our old USB connections, which makes a big difference when uploading pics and video

Overall, it has been wonderful, but rest assured friends, the old laptop is still up and running and is hosting our printer network, so we'll see how long it can hold out. Here's a surreal shot of 3 laptops open on my desk (one is my work computer), which still seems very weird.


Eliza's Sitting Up

Eliza's neck is getting stronger, and she is trying to sit up more often. We put her in her Bumbo for the first time, and she really liked it! Just in case, we put a magazine behind her for support, but she really didn't need it.

Here's a picture from her most recent bath. Lynne's mom helped out, and Eliza really liked it.

Are you staring at my belly-button??

One of the funniest pictures we have...Eliza with a faux-hawk! She's making a ridiculous face to match her ridiculous hair.