Monday, September 26, 2011

Ava's 18-months!

I'm ready for bed, Mama.
Ava has grown up so much in the past few months!

Height: 33 1/4 inches
Weight: 23lbs 4oz
Shoe size: 5

Ava continues to be very tall for her age and her feet and hands are very slender. Even though she's slightly more than average weight, she looks thinner because of her height. I was a bit worried because she still eats so little. I'm so thankful that Ava is growing so well on mama's milk! We just went in to her doctor's office for her 18-month well-baby check and she had one vaccination and a flu shot. I'm hoping her healthy streak continues this winter! She did so well last cold and flu season with the breastmilk antibodies protecting her from the nasty bugs.

Ava's Fall art projects from daycare last week about apples and apple trees.
She is a very busy toddler! Ava enjoys music and loves to sing and dance to all types of music including nursery rhymes. She likes to hum and sing songs. You can definitely make them out! Her favorites are Row Row Row Your Boat, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Itsy Bitsy Spider, the ABC song, and Thumbkin.

We transitioned her to a new daycare last month and she absolutely loves it! The smaller class size is very good for her and it gives her the chance to do lots of activities during the day. She has bonded well with her new teachers and likes to sit on their laps and she asks them to read her a story. Ava plays with her new friend, Amy, who is just a couple months older than her. They have a screened porch and a playground with a fun slide.

Last week Ava's class focused on apples and apple trees. She brought home these cute art projects on Friday afternoon. Then during our family pizza movie night, she started to say Apple. She said A-a-ple, then said Apple very clearly! I realized it was because of all the apples they discussed in class! She loves it!

Look who's walking Bena
Ava really loves to be outside. She often asks us to take her on a stroller ride on our street when we get home from daycare. With all the trees around our house, we're talking about the leaves changing and falling to the ground to prepare for winter. She likes to play with the leaves on our walk. The other night, Ava insisted on holding Bena's leash as we walked. Bena is very strong, but since she knew Ava was holding her leash, she was very gentle. It was very cute! Thankfully, our street has only local traffic so it's great for walking with the baby. The weather is cooler and the leaves have changed to orange, red, yellow, and brown. This is my favorite season!
Enjoying an evening walk with Mom, enjoying the Fall leaves.

Snuggling with Mommy before the walk.

Munching on granola bars before the 5k walk.

Ava talks a lot! Her language is developing well. Sometimes she launches into a big story and I have no idea what she's saying, but some of her words are very clear and she's starting to make simple sentences.

Ava's favorite words:
  • No (she loves to say that really loud to show her independence!)
  • I did it!
  • Go!
  • Apple
  • Animal
  • More (she pronounces it "moi")
  • Mama
  • Daddy
  • Bena (Nena)
  • Baby
  • Bye-bye
  • Corey (her friend) she loves him! When we went home after visiting Corey last weekend, she said "Bye-bye good boy, Corey." So cute!
  • Colt (her friend)
  • Cup
  • Yah!
  • Wee - when she goes down a slide or down the bed to the floor
  • Woh - when she's excited
  • Row, row - to sing "Row row row your boat"
  • Um - something new she says all the time when you ask her a question. Silly!
We taught Ava to slide off the bed on her tummy and she loves it! Since she sleeps with us in our bed a lot, we wanted her to learn how to get down safely. She is an expert stair climber now, taking her time up each stair. We give Ava simple instructions and she responds.

Hanging out with her friend Corey!
Go Bears!
Last weekend, we went to the Corporate Challenge event and did a 5K Fitness Walk for ExactTarget. It was 55 degrees and cool. We were glad that it didn't rain and stayed warm with the exercise. We carried Ava in our pack and it was great. I had to switch her to Aaron because she was asking to nurse when I had her in the pack. She was a little anxious by the end, but we entertained her until the end.

Ava is a big helper. She likes to help in the laundry room, except folding clothes is a challenge because she wants to snuggle with all the clothes! In the kitchen, she likes to measure the ingredients with spoons and cups. She's pretty good at transferring ingredients to bowls without spilling too much. Ava likes to stir and even sprinkle chocolate chips on brownies before they go in the oven. I let her play with the beans that are soaking in the water before I turn on the slow cooker because she loves the texture. 

My last picture is Ava with her Chicago Bears cheerleader dress that we randomly found last summer at a secondhand store. She's a young Bears fan and when Daddy was watching the game she clapped! It was very fun!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tomato-Zucchini-Feta Focaccia Bread

Last month, I made this focaccia bread for my La Leche League study group meeting that I hosted at my house. Since the group was coming over mid morning I decided to serve brunch foods. I made this focaccia bread, blueberry-oat muffins, and served sliced apples. Here's what was left of the bread after the moms, babies, and kids left that day. The night before, I made the focaccia bread, but we forgot to set the oven timer and it burnt to a crisp. So the next morning, I woke up early and make it again. I think it's better that way because it was fresh for when my guests arrived. My only regret was baking it on a cookie sheet instead of my pizza stone. It was a bit over done on the bottom from the cookie sheet in the convection setting of my oven.

The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks Simply in Season. I used tomatoes, zucchini and feta because it's what I had on hand. You can experiment with different combination of toppings.

Focaccia Bread by Simply in Season
Serves 6

1 cup warm water
1tbs active dry yeast
Combine in a large bowl, stirring until yeast dissolves.

1 cup whole wheat bread flour
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
Mix in, stirring until smooth.

1 3/4 cup-2 1/2 cups bread flour
Add enough flour to make stiff dough. Knead 8-10 minutes until elastic (I used a stand mixer). Place in a greased bowl, turn to grease both sides, cover with a damp cloth, and allow to rise until doubled in size, 45 minutes.

Pat and stretch to fit a greased 10x15 jelly roll pan. Lightly rub top of dough with olive oil. Cover lightly with a damp cloth. Let rise 10 minutes. Top with the toppings below.

2 tbs olive oil
Sea salt
1/4 cup feta
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup grape tomatoes, havled
1/2 cup zucchini, thinly sliced
Fresh or dried herbs. if desired (I used dried oregano).
Sprinkle with sea salt. Gently press toppings on the surface and sprinkle with cheese and herbs.. You can drizzle more olive oil on top if you'd like.

Bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees until the crust is lightly browned, 12-20 minutes. If the bottom is down before the top is down, finish under the broiler. Serve immediately.

Friday, September 9, 2011

State Fair Visit

Ava was afraid of the calf

Sharing pizza
Since we moved to Indy, we started a tradition of going to the State Fair. It's only 20 minutes from our house and with all the animals, it's fun to explore on a weeknight when it's less crowded and hot.

I love the State Fair because I never went to Fairs growing up in California. Last year, we took Ava when she was only about 5 months old and she loved it! This year, she was more tentative of the animals. We took her through the animal barns and she got to see horses, sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle up close! Aaron tried to get Ava to pet the sweet sleeping calf, but Ava was too afraid. She didn't mind the sheep or goats, probably because of their smaller size. The horses scared her quite a bit when we tried to get her to touch them through their cages. I'm surprised by how close you can get to the animals.

Heading home after a fun night!
We shared a buttery ear of corn and slices of pizza for dinner. And for dessert, we shared an elephant ear with cinnamon sugar. You can guess that Ava loved it! We decided against taking her in a stroller for more freedom to move around the Fair. She likes riding in the baby carrier or on Dad's shoulder!

Sadly, we parked right by the site of the stage collapse that happened just days before our visit. That was sad to think about the horrific accident. They kept the stage in tact due to their investigation. It was eerie to be there only a few days after the accident, but we were glad to take advantage of the Fair since it's only once a year.

Our nursing picture at the Lactation Station
During our visit, we stopped by the Lactation Station to nurse and I was happy to see that it was very busy. There were three other moms and baby pairs using the Lactation Station while we were there. Ava felt refreshed after a short nursing session and then we met up with Aaron for one last walk through the Fair before we headed back to our car. At the Fair this year, our nursing picture was featured in the main Lactation Station. We posed for the photos in April and they will use them across the State of Indiana for breastfeeding awareness and education programs.

Enjoying the State Fair is a fun family tradition to look forward to every August. It will be fun to see what Ava enjoys next year!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Zucchini Brownies

Zucchini is a tricky vegetable in my house. Aaron doesn't like squash so I'm always thinking of ways that he will eat and enjoy it. I usually cook it as a side dish for myself, but this time I wanted to experiment. Ava won't try summer squash since I started offering it to her in the whole form. So I pulled out one of my favorite cook books last night for some inspiration. Simply in Season is based on cooking with seasonal produce. The summer section is the largest because that's when most of the produce is plentiful from your neighbor's gardens and local farmers. The authors created Simply in Season honoring their Mennonite heritage of being mindful of earth's resources and sharing with others. I like the Mennonite traditions of multicultural flavors in the cooking and this cook book is a perfect companion to my weekly seasonal produce box.

And last week, I received two local yellow zucchini in my produce box. I made Zucchini Brownies, which is a popular summer treat here in the Midwest because zucchini is plentiful. I was hoping that Ava and Aaron would enjoy the brownies. When Ava woke up from her nap, we mixed the brownies and she enjoyed sprinkling the chocolate chips on the batter before it went into the oven. And after dinner, we offered her a small piece and she loved it! This dessert is sure to please the whole family, even though it's not too sweet. The nature moisture from the zucchini gives the brownies a soft and springy texture. So if you're finding yourself overrun with zucchini, you may want to give this a try!

Zucchini Brownies - Serves 18-24

1 cup flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup baking cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Combine in a large bowl

2-3 cups shredded zucchini
Stir in

1 egg
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
Combine in a separate bowl and beat with a whisk. Stir into zucchini mixture. Spread evenly into a greased 9x13 inch pan.

1/2 to 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Sprinkle on top of the batter. Bake in a preheated oven at 350F degrees until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (35-40) minutes. NOTE: Convection 25 minutes.