Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ava's First Haircut

Yesterday, we finally took Ava in to get her first haircut. I've been trimming her bangs when it got in her face, but Ava's hair was starting to become a mix of her first baby hair and the her thicker new hair. She was growing a glorious mullet in the back! It was getting so long and more prominent since her thicker hair was so much shorter. After we combed her hair, it still looked so crazy. Thankfully, my salon was able to cut her hair before my scheduled appointment. Aaron came with me and we did the haircut right in the beginning. She was in a good mood since it was still early enough in the morning. She was shy at first when she saw the staff, but she sat on my lap while my stylist went to work on her new do.

We love her new haircut! After she was done, she danced around on her tip toes like a ballerina in the salon turning around so we could see her new style.
The "before" picture on her birthday.

Ava sitting on mama's lap during her first haircut.

After: No more mullet! Her new bob haircut is so cute for Spring!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star Birthday Party

Homemade banner. Aaron put out Ava's 1st birthday picture as a flashback!
The weekend is over and Ava's birthday celebration was so much fun! Tomorrow Ava will turn 2! We hosted some friends on Saturday afternoon and turned out house into a Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star adventure. I picked that theme because it's Ava's favorite song. When she woke up on Saturday morning and saw the starry tablecloth she immediately started singing the song and pointing to the stars. She sings it with all the words pronouncing twinkle as kinkle. We lucked out with amazingly sunny, warm weather for this time of the year.

Balloon garland with stars.
Grandma and Grandpa arrived about mid-morning and as soon as they got there she was excited! Grandma took her to see the neighbor's horses so I used the time to prep for the party. The party was planned after Ava's afternoon nap so she'd be in a good mood and it worked. She had a long nap and woke up naturally as her friends started to arrive.

The birthday girl noshed on dried cranberries and goldfish crackers, fresh from her nap.
I did a lot of prep the week before. I made tamari roasted nuts, tortilla roll-ups, Mexican 7-Layer Dip with homemade refried beans, yellow cake cupcakes with chocolate frosting, and we put out a fruit platter, dried cranberries and goldfish crackers. I wanted to put snacks out that the young kids would enjoy.  I made Rice Krispy Treats for adult favors. One of our young guests saw Ava's gifts and was really sad that there weren't any for him. Then it was the perfect time to pull out the kid party favors. I realized why they invented party favors for little kiddos. His tears were all gone and his smile returned.

Aaron printed out a picture from Ava's first birthday ladybug party. It was fun to show how much she's grown in the past year. I told Aaron that we should continue that as annual tradition.

The kids had fun outside in the backyard. They balanced on our retaining walls and followed each other walking in a line. They ran and played out in the sunshine. At one point, I noticed the older kids were playing outside, but Ava wanted to be inside eating a snack. I realized she was at the table with the other two 2-year olds doing the same thing. It was adorable! Dominic, Maddie, and Ava sat together eating snacks with their parents nearby.

It was a low-key day, which was perfect! After our friends left, we did a FaceTime call with Megan, Aaron's sister. Ava and Colin were talking to each other! Our nephew is 4 months older than Ava and since Christmas they have really started to interact and play together. I asked her if she wanted to hug Colin and she reached down to hug the iPad. We'll all be together again next weekend when we drive out to Chicago to see our new niece, Grace, Colin's new baby sister.

This morning, I felt so pampered. As soon as Ava woke up Michele came in to get Ava so I could sleep in! Then Aaron's parents made us breakfast! We had buttermilk pancakes and bacon. Ava has turned into a bacon lover from daycare. They serve bacon every Thursday. We took a walk after breakfast before Mom and Dad B had to leave. Ava loves to ride in the stroller, but she asked to walk. After they left, I started cooking for my freezer meals exchange next weekend. Since we're heading to Chicago I had to finish everything today. Aaron put up Ava's new tree swing that she got from the Pierce's for her birthday. Ava had a blast playing outside with Daddy this afternoon while I cooked.

Here's some pictures from the party!

I love the way this fruit platter turned out. Thanks, Mom B!

She loved it when we sang Happy Birthday to her!

Ava liked the chocolate candy decoration but wouldn't touch the cupcake itself.

Violet enjoying the cupcake.

Maddie and Eli diving!

Dominic and his Daddy.

Watching car racing with Grandpa "PaGa" after her party.

Facetime with her cousin, Colin!
I hope her love for house work continues when she's a teen!

The kids decorated with stars!

Opening her presents from Grandma Anna! She loved the Dora gift wrap.

A family walk on a beautiful, warm Sunday morning.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Pizza Crust

Let dough rise and double in size.
Just before Ava was born, we started a weekly tradition on Friday nights to watch a movie and make a homemade pizza. We started out using the Trader Joe's fresh, uncooked pizza dough. I'd roll out the dough each week for the pizza. Both the white flour and whole wheat options were great! But recently, I started to make our own pizza crust. Aaron thought I was crazy for buying flour in bulk at Costco, but we use it with all the baking and now pizza crust that I make from scratch.

I really like the recipe from my favorite cookbook Feeding the Whole Family. The dough is hearty. You'll be satisfied by this crust by eating less pizza. That saves calories! Ava likes the thick crust and it's easier for her to hold. She prefers our homemade pizza over the daycare or restaurant pizza!

Use 1/2 recipe for dinner and wrap the other half for the next pizza night.
I make the pizza crust once every two weeks. It makes enough dough for two full-size pizzas. I use my Pampered Chef pizza stone to bake it. Parbaking is a key step to homemade pizza. If you put the toppings on the fresh crust, it may not cook through before the toppings are brown. 

Time savings: I'd recommend breaking this up in two steps. Make the dough and let it rise overnight or when you have a long afternoon at home. Then package the dough. Later come back to the dough to make the pizza.

Marilyn's Best Pizza Dough (adapted from Feeding the Whole Family)
Makes enough dough for six, 8-inch pies or two family size 

  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (up to 3)
  • 3 3/4 cups unbleached white flour (or 2 3/4 cups depending on your wheat flour)

  • To make dough: combine the yeast in lukewarm water in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer. Let rest for 10 minutes while the yeast comes to life. Gently stir in olive oil. Mix salt and whole wheat pastry flour. Using the paddle attachment, mix flour with water/yeast mixture. Beat until stretchy or elastic. Add unbleached flour to make a soft dough. Change paddle attachment to the dough hook and knead until the dough is combined. Cover and let rise for 1-2 hours OR overnight. **Often times, I let the dough rise overnight and on Friday morning, I do the next step to package in the refrigerator.
  • To make the pizza: deflate, divide and shape into 5-6 balls or 1/2 in making large thick pizzas.  Relax the dough for 15-minutes.Smaller balls will make 8-inch pizzas, which is fun for customizing toppings for family members. **At this pint, package the dough in plastic wrap, then a plastic bag. You can either refrigerate or freeze the dough at this point.
  • Preheat oven and pizza stone to 350 degrees. Shape the dough by using your finger to make tapping indentations rather than pulling the dough. I've also used the rolling pin too. Place the dough on the pizza stone or baking sheet coated with cooking spray. 
  • Parbake large pizza for 10 minutes. OR small pizzas don't require parbaking. Add toppings and cook on 500 degrees for about 6-minutes on the lowest rack. 
  • If you parbaked, add toppings then bake for another 11-12 minutes on 350 degrees.
    Pizza dough rolled and ready for parbaking.


Friday Night Family Pizza Dinner. Our favorite pizza combo is fresh spinach, olive, and cheese and we love it with Caesar salad. Time for a movie!
Ava's plate! She loves pizza and we serve her fruit on the side. When she's using her play kitchen she talks about making pizza.