Meet the Sullivans: December 2011

December 30, 2011

2011, Looking Back

When I look back on 2011 I can't help but feel like it flew right by me.

It was a rough year, but also a great year for so many reasons:

We celebrated by grandpa's 85th birthday, spent a few days at the beach in HMB and Carmel, celebrated milestones with family and friends, awaited the arrival of our friends' sweet baby boys, found out we'll be having our own little one, celebrated our first wedding anniversary, celebrated 30th birthdays, bought a new car, prepared for our baby and were showered with love in anticipation of his / her arrival.

With less than 48 hours left in this year it could also be the year our first baby is born!

2011 in pictures

Nikki Turns 30!

Nikki and I have been friends since the fourth grade. She moved to New York years ago when she and her husband got engaged and now lives in New Jersey with her husband Brian and adorable son Dean. Nikki is my very best friend, so it is hard to only see her a few times a year. You know you have a deep friendship when those short yearly visits still feel the same as they did years ago, nothing changes.

Nikki's actually 30th birthday isn't until mid January, but Brian came up with the (awesome) idea to celebrate it early while they were here for the holiday. Brian invited us all to surprise Nikki and have dinner at Sapore Italiano, an excellent little Italian restaurant that we love, the Friday before Christmas.

Brian told Nikki he was bringing her to our friend Matt's Christmas party, so she was definitely surprised to walk in and see us all waiting for her!

Nikki and her husband Brian. 

Keith, Gabe and Brian. These guys have been friends since way before Keith and I or Nikki and Brian became a couple, just as Nikki and I have been friends since before we met them. Isn't it every girl's dream that she and her best friend would marry guys that are also best friends?

My friend Jackie and I. We're due exactly 4 weeks apart! 

Ready to pop! 

 My friends Jen and Hilary.

Gabe, Keith and Blair hanging out before we sat down for dinner.

A few of Nikki's family members with her Dad Daniel. 

Keith and I. Doesn't my husband look handsome? He always does!

 You might remember me telling you about our tradition for 30th birthday gift giving with my friends from high school. We started a tradition of giving a gift from Tiffany and Company on Hilary's birthday back in September.

For Nikki, we chose a bracelet with tsavorite. Tsavorite is a garnet, which is Nikki's birthstone, but it looks like an emerald which is her son's birthstone. We loved the double meaning. 

 Happy Birthday to you!  Happy Birthday to you!  Happy Birthday, dear Nikki!  Happy Birthday to you!

 We love you Nikki! And I'm so happy we were able to celebrate your birthday with you!

December 29, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake Cake

While I've been searching through my external hard drive for pictures to upload to my new Mac I found these photos of the Pioneer Woman Strawberry Shortcake Cake I made in August. I thought I'd lost them, so that's why I never posted the recipe, but I'm so happy I found them because this cake was delicious and looked pretty beautiful too, right?

Strawberry Shortcake Cake 
For a printer-friendly version click here.

Ingredients

Cake
1 1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

Icing 
1/2 pound cream cheese, room temperature
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 pound powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound strawberries

Directions 

IMPORTANT: Be sure to use a cake pan that’s at least 2 inches deep! Before baking, the batter should not fill the pan more than halfway.

Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and corn starch.
Cream 9 tablespoons butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well each time. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined. Add sifted dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just barely combined.

Pour into greased and floured 8-inch cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, or until no longer jiggly like my bottom. Remove from cake pan as soon as you pull it out of the oven, and place on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.

Stem strawberries and slice them in half from bottom to top. Place into a bowl and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar. Stir together and let sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, mash the strawberries in two batches. Sprinkle each half with 1 tablespoons sugar and allow to sit for another 30 minutes.

Make icing: combine cream cheese, 2 sticks butter, sifted powdered sugar, vanilla, and dash of salt in a mixing bowl. Mix until very light and fluffy.

Slice cake in half through the middle. Spread strawberries evenly over each half (cut side up), pouring on all the juices. Place cake halves into the freezer for five minutes, just to make icing easier.

Remove from freezer. Use a little less than 1/3 of the icing to spread over the top of the strawberries on the bottom layer. Place the second layer on top. Add half of the remaining icing to the top spreading evenly, then spread the remaining 1/3 cup around the sides.

Leave plain OR garnish with strawberry halves.

IMPORTANT: Cake is best when served slightly cool. The butter content in the icing will cause it to soften at room temperature. For best results, store in the fridge!


Looking at these pictures makes me want to make this cake again!! Yum!

December 27, 2011

38 weeks!

I am officially in the home stretch of this pregnancy. I am 38 weeks and 3 days today. Here is a peek at what Tiny Baby looks like in there:


Pregnancy Highlights:

How Far Along: 38 Weeks

Size of baby: Weighs about 6.8 pounds and is over 19 1/2 inches long (like a leek). Dr. Dupont says that if she had to guess the size of the baby from feeling around my abdomen she would guess that it is about 7 pounds now and will be in that 7 pound range at birth. 

Total Weight Gain/Loss: My weight has stabilized, which is wonderful for the obvious reasons, but also because there is an old wives tale that says that when your weight stabilizes labor is on its way. 

Maternity Clothes: Getting dressed to go out somewhere can be a challenge these days. Thank goodness I'm no longer working! I really just want to wear yoga pants and Keith's t-shirts all day, but wouldn't be caught dead in those things out somewhere. I'm looking forward to buying "normal" clothes and shoes again. I envy anyone wearing a cute pair of heels. 

Gender: Its going to be a surprise! We can't wait to meet him or her! 

Names: We have names for a boy and girl ready to go! Emily Elizabeth or Owen Edward. 

Movement: Tiny Baby really likes to wiggle. When we're laying in bed at night we watch what we assume is the baby's behind move from my right side to the center and back and forth. Poor little one has run out of space and must just be trying to get comfortable. 

Sleep: When I remember to take Pepcid in the morning I am usually able to sleep pretty well, otherwise I end up waking a few times during the night feeling sick. Heartburn has been the very worst of my problems. Rolling over can be difficult, but its not too much of a challenge. 

What I miss: Shopping at regular stores and wearing cute shoes. I've had enough of maternity clothes and flats. 

Cravings: Diet 7up with ice or vanilla milkshakes. 

Symptoms: Well, my wedding and engagement rings are completely stuck on my finger. I have tried everything on God's green earth to get them off, but they will not budge. My doctor said to not worry about them unless they become uncomfortable or my finger starts to turn purple, which she doubts will happen. 

Also, I went for my 38 week visit today and talked with the doctor about how my hands have been falling asleep lately. When I wake up they feel stiff and sore and sometimes they're asleep. Luckily the feeling goes away once I get moving. Dr. Dupont said this is normal and nothing to be concerned about, but that it could last for up to 3 months after the baby comes. 

Best Moment this week: Last week when we still thought there was a chance that Tiny Baby might crash Christmas Keith came home with a gift with a tag that said "For: Tiny Baby Love: Mom and Dad". He said he wanted to make sure we had something under the tree our little one if he or she showed up early. I thought it was really sweet that he was thinking ahead just in case. 

Tiny Baby's room is still not compete, but here are a few shots of what we've done so far. 
The teddy bear lamp was in my room growing up. It was painted and given to me in '85 by my grandmother Elizabeth, as it says on the bottom of the lamp.

Check out all the stuffed animals! Keith bought the Pluto and the Dumbo for TB (Tiny Baby). Pluto was a bribe. Early on Keith made a deal with the baby that if he / she kicked for him he would buy a stuffed animal for TB. The Dumbo was TB's gift under the tree in case baby was early. The and the others have been gifts, except for Lou Seal whom we made years ago at a Giants game. The light colored lamb was given to us by my co-workers and sings "Jesus loves me".

Our bags are packed and ready to go!

We're going to have newborn photos taken in the hospital, so I bough this adorable headband in case TB is a girl.

The baby's bag is packed to the max with swaddling blankets, a variety of gender neutral clothes and matching hats, diapers, burp cloths and a matching nursing cover, a lovie from grandma, and a big soft blanket.

Going home outfits for our little guy or gal. When I saw these I thought they would be just so perfect. I like that they are virtually the same with the exception of the color.

Diaper caddy, another gift from my sweet co-workers!  I ordered the matching baskets to use under the changing table for all the other millions of baby odds and ends we now have!

TB's cool cousins! The boys are seriously out numbered in our family.

Another look at the crib bedding. I love the Peter Rabbit bedding. 

The room is definitely not complete. 

I'm still trying to figure out which glider I want. I feel like Goldilocks every time we go to check them out. I can't seem to find one that is soft enough, the right color combination and size etc. 

I ordered an adorable print from an Etsy seller to go on the wall, but unfortunately it has been quite the irritating process to actually be in possession of the thing. 

I ordered a decal for the wall that still needs to be put up.

And we're still working of knobs for the dresser. 

So, I have lots to do before I can show you the rest! 

Our Christmas 2011

A few photos to sum up our Christmas this year...
 On Christmas Eve we prepped the house for Christmas Eve dinner with our families. I made Paula Deen's Blue Potatoes au Gratin, which I will share with you this week!

We went to Mass all together and then came home for appetizers and dinner.

 Keith and our niece Jessica.

 The table all set for dinner.

 Nieces Natalie, Holly and Amanda siting down to start dinner.

 Keith's sister Teri, my mom Vicky and grandpa Bob.

Sadly, I didn't take any pictures on Christmas morning, at Keith's brothers or my grandpa's for dinner.

BUT I did take a picture of the delicious red velvet cupcakes with marshmallow coconut frosting made by my sister Kathee. I will have her send me the recipe so I can share with you all!

I really need to get better at taking more pictures and getting all the details. I usually get so caught up in all the fun and forget to break out my giant camera. Being 1 week 5 days from Tiny Baby's due date probably contributes to the photo taking laziness as well!

December 23, 2011

Gingerbread Houses 2011

Every year Keith's mom, Barbara, buys each of her children's families a gingerbread house to make together. Keith and I have been making ours together since we started dating over 7 years ago. Here is our creation from 5 years ago. 
Our Gingerbread House 2006 
Check out how dark my hair was! That was the very last time I dyed it. And Keith is squatting down to fit into the picture with me and the house. This year we decided we would all compete for who could make the "best" house. We all really haven't been taking it too seriously, but it has been fun seeing everyone else's houses!

Here are the houses for 2011:
The Canevaro Family 
(Keith, Kelly, Nick and Natalie)
The Sullivan Family
(Kevin, Christina, Brandon and Megan)
The Isaacs Family
(Mark, Teri, Jessica, Amanda and Holly)
The Sullivans
(Keith and Colleen)

Don't they all look great? I love seeing other people's creations to get ideas for next year! Below are a few more shots of our house, from every angle of course! 





This is likely my last post until after Christmas, so Merry Christmas everyone!!!

December 21, 2011

Will it be a Boy or Girl?

There are less than 3 weeks left until we'll know for sure, but for now its fun to guess if this baby is a boy or girl.

Everyone likes to put in their 2 cents and take a guess. Some people look at my belly and guess that this is a boy because I am carrying the baby all in front and my belly kind of comes to a point. Others say they just know its a girl.

Most of the people we know who have had or are having babies have had boys, so Keith thinks we have to be having a girl. I remember learning in high school Biology that the sex of the baby is determined by the dad, and since Keith's dad and brother both had boys first, I think we will too. 
 So, for fun I answered the following questions from parenting.com:

High or low? If you're carrying high, break out the pink. If your bump is low, you're carrying a boy.

High, I have a little table to hold drinks or to rest my hands on. Recently my little "table" has been dropping...

Salty or sweet? According to legend, 140+ beats per minute indicates a girl, and below 140 a boy.

Sweet. I've mainly had cravings for fruit, diet 7up with lots of ice and the occassional vanilla milkshake.

Baby's heart rate? Craving ice cream every single day? Some people believe this means it's a girl. If you have to have salty or sour stuff, then it's a boy.

The last time I checked it was above 140 beats per minute.

The Chinese Birth Calendar is an ancient method uses your age at conception and the month you did the deed to determine gender.

According to the calendar we're having a girl.

Legend has it that the Mayans determined a baby's sex by looking at the mother's age at conception and the year of conception. If both are even or odd, it's a girl. If one's even and one's odd, it's a boy.

Well, I was 29 and it is 2011.

If you're breaking out like crazy, blame it on your girl babe. The belief goes that girls steal their mother's beauty, hence, those annoying zits.

No break outs here.

Pop off your wedding ring -- if you still can! -- and tie it to a string. Hang it over your belly. If it swings in a circle, a little guy's in your future. If it goes back and forth, you've got a girl.

My friends Jen and Rosanna and I tried this a few months ago and the ring swung in a circle. I would try it again, but I can't get my rings off not matter what I try! And we've tried everything.

So that's 6 points for a girl and 1 for a boy, but we'll have to wait until Baby Sullivan arrives to know for sure!

December 19, 2011

Follow By Email!

I use Google Reader to follow the countless blogs I read and its really a great way to stay on top of all the fun posts and things happening on my favorite blogs. A little screen shot of what I'm working with:



Unfortunately, I don't have the time to read each blog every single day (I wish I did!), but I do try to check in with my top 5-10 blogs almost every night. But recently Google started letting bloggers include a little gadget that will allow readers to keep up with posts via email notification.

SO, I thought it would be a great idea if I added the gadget to the right, so if you'd like an easy way to keep up with new posts without feeling like you need to check in (because you'll get an email when I post something new), please add your email to my list!

I'm so happy to have you all reading or following or just visiting. It really makes me so happy and excited to have people who are interested in my little blog!

Kevin's Healthy Caesar Dressing

Keith's sister Kelly and sister-in-law Christina threw a baby shower for us at Christina's house last weekend. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of the wonderful event or all our loved ones who came to celebrate our little one. BUT, what I do have is a spectacular Caesar Salad Dressing recipe to share with you!

Keith's brother Kevin is really into healthy living and he mixed up this dressing for the Caesar salad they served along with dinner. The recipe comes from the cookbook Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. I love Caesar dressing, but haven't eaten it since before I was pregnant because of the raw egg that is usually included. Well, Kevin excluded the egg from his dressing and it was still fantastic! We enjoyed it so much we asked Kevin to share the recipe with us, and luckily he was more than happy to!

Healthy Caesar Salad Dressing
For a printer-friendly version click here. 


Ingredients
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon raw wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan cheese (we used WAY more than 1 tbsp--more like 1/2 c!)

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 egg yolk
2 anchovy filets
1 garlic clove, peeled and mashed

Directions
Combine ingredients and blend together. I used my immersion blender to mix ours, but you could use a mini-prep or blender too.

If you don't have an immersion blender I highly suggest you purchase one as.soon.as.possible. This is the one I have. It is my favorite kitchen tool and it is so easy to clean and store, and it has so many uses.

Big thanks to Kevin for the great recipe!
Keith and Kevin at our wedding.

Below is the photo of Kevin that Keith wanted me to add. Kevin is giving his best man's speech and Keith just loves this picture--typical brother stuff! 


December 13, 2011

Artichoke Dip with Fontina

Who doesn't love a warm cheesy dip? This is a great one and it was pretty easy to make! I skipped the wine in the ingredients because some of the kids would be eating it and might not like the flavor if the wine were included, but if I were making it just for adults I would have definitely added it.
Artichoke Dip with Fontina
For a printer-friendly version click here.  
 
Ingredients
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced small
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 cans (14 ounces each) whole artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine
4 ounces Neufchatel cream cheese, room temperature
2 1/4 cups cubed fontina cheese (about 3/4 pound)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
8 pitas, each cut into 6 wedges

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add artichokes and wine; cook until liquid evaporates, about 8 minutes.
  2. Remove skillet from heat and stir in Neufchatel until blended. Fold in 1 1/4 cups fontina and parsley. Transfer mixture to a 2-quart baking dish; sprinkle with 1 cup fontina. Bake until golden and bubbling, 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss pitas with 1 tablespoon oil; spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm dip with pita chips.
I'm linking this recipe up with 33 Shades of Green for Tasty Tuesdays today. Check out all the other recipes posted over there--I always find a new recipe or blog to follow when I do!