Halloween and Life in the New Neighborhood

So, I’ve never been huge on Halloween, but it’s one of those events that has taken on new meaning since having a kiddo. Over the past few years, I’ve rediscovered the fun of dressing up and have had fun coordinating costumes with L. I’m trying to take advantage of it for as long as I can. I know there will be a time in the not so distant future where she’ll pick something I’ll have difficulty coordinating with… or worse, she won’t WANT me to coordinate with her. So, this year I took hers shopping and let her pick which costume she liked. She picked the bumble bee, so I naturally had to be the beekeeper. Fortunately for me, this was relatively easy (I like to coordinate, but I’m also lazy so I’m not the type to spend hours planning and crafting an outfit). I already had rain boots and a straw hat at home, so I ordered a painter’s suit and mosquito netting off Amazon (seriously, I have an Amazon problem… Prime has been worth every penny). Here is the end result:

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While this wasn’t L’s first Halloween, this was the first year we took her out Trick or Treating. We probably could have taken her last year, but she was just as content handing out candy, so we didn’t bother taking her around the neighborhood. Now that we’ve moved, there are a lot of families in our new neighborhood, including our neighbors who have 2 little boys around L’s age. So, we made plans with them and another one of our friends with 2 kids to go out together.

As suspected, L followed the lead of the other kids and picked up on the concept pretty quickly. She followed the others up the driveway and I watched as she politely held up her bag, then gleefully ran back down the driveway to show us her treat. “Mama, look!” she cried as she opened her bag so I could see, “I got candy!”

“That’s great, honey!” I replied, almost equally as thrilled. Her excitement = my excitement.

She ran to the next house, and the house after that, and the one after that. This trend continued for the next few blocks, until she had a half-full bag of candy, which is quite a bit for a kiddo her size.

We headed back to the house, and our neighbor set up his fire pit in the middle of the cul-de-sac and blocked off the street so the kids could run around safely. The adults enjoyed pumpkin beer while the kids had a blast goofing around with each other till L was so exhausted she asked to go to bed (parenting win!)

There’s something about this new neighborhood that makes me feel like our family found the place we are meant to be, live, grow… like we are finally, truly home. Without siblings of her own, nothing makes my heart more full than watching L play with the other kids in our neighborhood. As for JD and I, we’ve made some pretty good friends of our own. We had amazing neighbors at our old house (who we are trying to convince to follow us to our new neighborhood), but now we have a community of people we love.

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Thursday Tip: Spinach Salsa Queso Dip

I don’t know about you, but with it being the holiday season, I have a series of potlucks on my calendar. I’m always looking for something quick and easy but also tasty to bring in.  In case you hadn’t figured out from previous posts, I LOVE my slow cooker (see here, here, and here), so when my office was having a dip contest, I once again turned to my trusty slow cooker.  This recipe only has a few ingredients, is super easy to make, and I don’t mean to brag (okay, maybe I do), but I won the dip contest, so I can assure you it’s quite tasty.

Spinach Salsa Queso Dip

INGREDIENTS

10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 lb reduced fat Velveeta cheese
8 oz light cream cheese
12 oz salsa
cilantro, optional

DIRECTIONS

Cut Velveeta and cream cheese into smallish cubes.  Combine all ingredients in slow cooker.  Cook on low for approximately one hour, stirring occasionally.  Serve warm with tortilla chips.

Note: You can also heat using the oven or microwave.  For other cooking options, see original post here.

Halloween Recap

Although this wasn’t L’s first Halloween, in some ways it felt like it.  Last year, she was only 9 months old, so Halloween equated “this bulky thing you put on me is weird and annoying, mom.”  She looked darn cute though!

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This was also the first year since JD started with the police department that I can actually remember him having the night off.  We debated taking advantage and actually taking L trick-or-treating (who knows what his schedule will look like next year), but decided she’s probably still a little too young.  Instead, we hung out on the porch and handed out candy.  As it turns out, L was probably just as happy doing that anyway.

I was a bit worried that all the kids in costumes would freak her out, or that she would catch on to the fact that she was giving away all of our precious candy (leaving none for her), but she actually took on the role of Official Candy Giver-Outer enthusiastically.  She spent most of the evening parading around with the candy bowl, and when she saw kids coming up, she would take a piece of candy out of the bowl and put it in their bag, then wave as they walked away and say “bye!”

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It’s funny how parenthood makes you see things from a fresh perspective, how something like Halloween, which I stopped appreciating several years ago, is new and exciting again.  Now I get to see things through L’s eyes, and there is so much joy in that.

New Year’s Eve, LEO Style

Ah, New Year’s Eve.  A time for celebration, for fresh starts, for fun parties, for kisses at midnight, and… well…. if you’re a LEO, shootings, domestics, assaults, and general asshole-ishness that really start your New Year off on a sour note.

As I mentioned, JD had to work New Year’s Eve this year, so I spent the evening curled up with my Double Stuff Oreos.  Although low-key and boring by most standards, I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to trade with JD.

Besides the fact that they are out in the cold, separated from their loved ones, holidays are some of the worst days for LEOs because those days have a high rate of domestics and various other depression-driven or alcohol-infused incidents.

As the clock ticked down to the New Year, Loralai and I were safe at home in bed, and JD was out in the woods, looking for a man who was threatening to commit suicide.  At midnight, he could hear the fireworks and helicopters from the downtown celebration, while shots from automatic weapons rang out in his district.  He was alone in the cold darkness- no celebration, no loved ones, no kisses at midnight.  For a minute, he said he even had some flashbacks to Afghanistan.

No matter the day, time, or weather, our LEOs are forever out there, literally putting their lives at risk to protect the cities they serve.  And the thing is, most people don’t care or give it a second thought.  The wonderful thing about our LEOs is that they don’t do it for the thanks; they do it because they are called to a life of service, no matter the sacrifices.

I wish JD wasn’t alone at midnight.  I wish he could have been curled up at home with me.  I wish we could have shared a kiss at midnight.  But after a night like New Year’s Eve, I was thankful that he came home to me in one piece.  In this life, that’s all you can really ask for.

Making the Most of It- Loralai’s First Christmas

Holidays in our household are always strange.  With JD’s schedule, there’s a high probability that he will be working or on a night shift schedule and sleeping most of the day.  This Christmas was no exception.  He’s on his night shift month and had Christmas Eve off, but had to work Christmas Day night (if that makes sense).

LEO Life = Making the Most of It

We didn’t have any family coming to visit us (unlike last year, when EVERYBODY came to stay with us over Christmas so we could have my baby shower, and we had 9 people packed into our tiny 3 bedroom house… talk about chaos) and JD’s family all went up north to celebrate with extended family.  We were all alone, basically, but honestly, after the year we’ve had with the new baby, seemingly continuous visitors and quite a few trips of our own, I was so, SO ready for a quiet holiday at home, just the 3 of us.

I woke up with L on Christmas Eve morning and decided to treat Christmas Eve like Christmas day, since it was the closest we were going to get.  I made chocolate chip waffles and bacon, and L and I sat down to breakfast together while JD snoozed away (I must say, it’s nice to have L as a little companion when JD is working or sleeping, especially on days like this).  I saved breakfast leftovers for JD’s belated breakfast, then got a jump start on the slow cooker pork tenderloin for dinner.  It was one of those rare, rare times that I felt really happy being in the kitchen cooking.  Maybe because it felt holiday-ish on a day that otherwise might have felt like a regular day?

Anyway, JD woke up mid-afternoon and we decided to open presents before dinner.  We knew we were going to open presents Christmas Eve because of JD’s schedule, and didn’t want to wait too late in the evening so that we could allow L time to play with all of her fun stuff.

She liked the wrapping, especially the bows.

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But needed a little help getting things open.

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We probably could have just skipped all the other gifts and given her this cardboard bear and she would have been a happy camper.

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But she got plenty of other things that were huge hits.

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We could tell she was on sensory overload from all the new stuff.

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She’s gonna be so bummed when we take down the tree.

IMG_1784So, after gifts, we had our family dinner, then caught the end of How The Grinch Stole Christmas before we put L to bed.  It was a great little family holiday, both relaxed and quiet.  And the thing is, I’m not mad that we had to celebrate Christmas the day before or not have a “real” Christmas morning or that I spent Christmas night watching White Christmas alone.  There is always time for celebrating family and togetherness, you just have to find it.  And in our family, we always, always find it.

My only regret?  Not thinking to get out our nice camera and checking the lighting before I just started haphazardly snapping pictures with my phone.

Oh well, you get the idea.

Happy first Christmas, Loralai!

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Thursday Tip- Mint Chocolate Cookie Recipe

A friend of mine introduced me to this cookie recipe back when we were in college.  It’s been a holiday favorite ever since.  Careful- they’re addicting!

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 3/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons water
2 3/4 cup margarine
2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
2 boxes andes chocolate mints

 DIRECTIONS
In a large saucepan over low heat (or in microwave) cook margarine, sugar and water until margarine is melted.  Add chocolate chips and stir till completely melted.
Pour into large mixing bowl and let stand 10 minutes.  Then, at high speed on the mixer, beat in eggs one at a time.  Reduce to low speed and add dry ingredients beating until blended.  Chill dough at least 1 hour.
Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheet with foil (this is important), roll dough into balls (about 1 tsp in size).   Place 2 inches apart.  Bake 12-13 minutes- NO LONGER.  They will crisp as they cool.
Remove from oven and immediately place a mint on each cookie.  Swirl mint with spoon when slightly melted.
Makes 4-5 dozen cookies.
Jenny’s Shortcuts and Tips:  I don’t wait the 10 minutes or the full hour and the cookies still come out fine.  I do put the dough in the fridge for at least a little bit before I put it on the cookie sheets otherwise it’s super gooey and sticks to my fingers.  Definitely put the mints on as soon as you take the cookies out of the oven, otherwise they might not fully melt.  The cookies are best when they’re soft- I generally bake them for 10 minutes and check if they need to stay in there another minute or 2.  Have fun and enjoy! 🙂