Monday, December 17, 2007

Hattie's 6-Month Birthday

To celebrate Hattie's 6-month birthday we had our friends the Rookses and the Lundeens over to enjoy some food, wine, and my favorite Christmas movie, White Christmas. Natalie, Soren, and Hattie enjoyed crawling around and playing together (or at least near each other). In honor of the movie, I created an all-white menu. Sorry, no pictures this time. We enjoyed gorgonzola and carmelized onion tartlets, Italian white bean and sausage soup, bread, salad (technically that was green), white wine, and hard apple cider. For dessert: rum balls (which I rolled in powdered sugar), hot cider, and mulled wine. The food was not as striking as our all-black Halloween menu, but it was just as tasty!

Andrea made Hattie an adorable hat for her birthday. I had mentioned the other day that Ryan wanted Hattie to have a hat with ear flaps. My talented friend went home and invented a pattern for one, complete with ties that have become Hattie's new favorite chew toy. Thank you Andrea!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hattie's Own Blog

There are too many adorable pictures of Hattie that don't fit within the no-color policy for this blog, so I started a blog just for Hattie. It is called The Adventures of Hattie Rose. Here I will chronicle her milestones and try to keep photos updated. I'm starting at the beginning with her birth. It might take me awhile to catch up with where she is now, but I'll get there.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Christmas Meme

Daja tagged me to write about Christmas by answering a set of pre-written questions about the holiday. If you want to learn about how I celebrate with my family and friends, read on. (Spoiler alert: Eggnog is involved.)

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?

Wrapping paper, color-coded by who the gift is for (my side of the family, Ryan's side of the family, and friends) to make sorting easier.

2. Real or fake tree?

Real. Even in our tiny apartment we had a real tree that was no taller than 2 feet!

3. When do you put up the tree?

When we have time to go together to choose one. Usually in the first couple of weeks of December.

4. When do you take the tree down?

We left one up so long that I re-decorated it for Valentine's Day!

5. Do you like eggnog?

I love it, but am very picky about it. My favorite is Strauss Family Creamery Organic Eggnog. It's not too sweet or too thick.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?

Once, when my Dad was unemployed and money was tight, my mom made us all rice socks--just festive toe socks filled with rice that could be microwaved (a huge blessing in a house with no central heat). Though I have had several replacement rice socks and bags since then, I still keep that one because it reminds me of how special that Christmas was and how much the Lord blessed us during that time.

7. Do you have a nativity scene?

Five, actually. I have a hand-carved wooden one that was given to me as a high school graduation gift from the parents of one of my sister's friends. There's also a glittery traditional one given to us as a wedding gift by the worship director of the church Ryan and I grew up in; a Vietnamese one with people who look like thimbles that Ryan gave me last December 1 (the day we always set up our nativities); a Playmobil nativity that I got for our then-not-yet-born baby last Christmas; and, finally, an African nativity made from banana leaves that Ryan got for us for this December 1. Ryan wants to collect nativities from around the world and hopes to get a new one every year.

8. Hardest person to buy for?
Bret Rooks.

9. Easiest person to buy for?
Ryan. I end up finding so may great presents around Christmas time that I put a few away for his birthday in January.

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Some "lump of coal" jelly beans from a former employer in lieu of a Christmas bonus or even paid time off for Christmas day.

11. Mail or e-mail Christmas cards?

We will be mailing our first Christmas cards this year (kind of a requirement now that we have a baby).

12. Favorite Christmas movie?

White Christmas. I love the music and cry every single time I watch it.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?

December of the previous year. I always stock up on stocking stuffers at the after-Christmas sales. I also make a point of going to the end-of-summer sales in June to finish my stocking-stuffer shopping.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?


15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

Fondue on Christmas eve, and Ryan's chocolate chipotle cookies with hot chocolate made from scratch.

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?

There can never be too many clear lights!

17. Favorite Christmas song?

O, Holy Night (especially when Ryan sings it).

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?


19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?


20. Angel on the tree top or a star?

Star. I don't really like most depictions of angels.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?

I guess both. We open presents with Ryan's parents on Christmas Eve morning and my family on Christmas morning. Ryan and I usually open our presents for each other on Christmas night.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?

The song Frosty the Snow Man.

23. What I love most about Christmas?

It is SO romantic! I also love purposefully and consciously preparing for Christmas through celebrating Advent.

Now, I tag Flo and Jen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Baby junk food

I have been very proud of the fact that through my entire pregnancy--and the first few months of Hattie's life--we have avoided getting on any mailing lists for baby junk mail. However, a couple of weeks after applying for her birth certificate, when she was 3 1/2 months old, the mail began to arrive (it kind of makes you wonder what the government is doing with your personal information). Yesterday I arrived home to find a large, brightly colored box on my front porch. It was clearly from a formula company. The outside of the box contained the following messages, aimed at families with children 9 to 24 months:

"The fact is: Many toddlers aren't getting adequate nutrition." "He's growing--and so are his nutritional needs. Will milk keep up?" "The fact is, milk lacks some key nutrients toddlers need. Next Step LIPIL gives you a better alternative."

The clear implication to both Ryan and me after reading the outside of the box is that you are depriving your older infant of valuable nutrients by breastfeeding, and only this formula can provide proper nutrition for them.

In my anger and frustration, I opened the box to do some further investigation. Upon reading the fine print of the package insert (and what average person reads the fine print?), I found that the company is actually comparing their formula to cows' milk, not human milk--but at first and second glance you would never know that. The nutrients that this "toddler formula" claims to provide are Vitamin C, iron, Vitamin E, and DHA and ARA--all nutrients that are abundant in breast milk and healthy whole foods. Also, a closer look at the packaging reveals that those nutrients make up less than one percent of the total ingredients.

The ingredient list itself is printed in the tiniest font on the can of formula. It reads as follows (with my comments in parenthesis): nonfat milk (babies need fat for brain development), vegetable oil (probably to add fat), CORN SYRUP (gross!), and 29 other ingredients (yes I counted them) I cannot pronounce. They want people to put this garbage into the body of a baby!

On the package insert, they compare the nutritional content of the formula to several "commonly consumed" toddler foods. These foods were macaroni and cheese and chicken sticks, with nutritional figures that reflect the highly processed and pre-packaged variety. Again I say gross! I'm sure that comparing this formula to anything actually considered real food would leave the formula looking very poor indeed.

The whole thing just made me sad and angry at the state of our world--that something that can hardly be called nutrition is being sent directly to people's front doors and freely marketed as superior to good food choices. There is absolutely nothing that is nutritionally superior to breast milk and healthy solid foods for older infants and toddlers.

The real fact is that breast milk constantly adapts and changes to provide for every nutritional need of a baby from birth through toddlerhood and beyond, as well as provides support for their immune system.

What is worse, this formula costs $23 per can. Breast milk is free.

I suppose the only good thing that resulted from this mysterious package arriving at our door is that Hattie loved playing with the colorful cardboard box (which I can recycle after it has been appropriately chewed and mauled).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The end of the world as we know it

We arrived home Saturday night from visiting our wonderful families for Thanksgiving. After Hattie expressed much delight at being in our own home again, we placed her on the floor to play while Ryan and I unpacked an organized the house. Ryan called me from the other room and we both witnessed Hattie CRAWLING for the first time. She was chasing her red ball around the living room. She can now get anywhere she wants to go using her low to the ground combat-style crawl (technically, in the child development world, hands and knees crawling is called creeping). She can move surprisingly quickly when she is motivated. So, we spent Sunday cleaning and beginning to baby proof our house. This is the first time we have lived in a house large enough for a full sized Christmas tree and, now, gone are my hopes of having at least one Christmas without a mobile baby interested in touching, exploring, and pulling on everything.

To me, the transition to a mobile baby is scarier than transitioning from no baby to having a baby. Yes, Hattie changed our lives tremendously the moment she was born, but now she is changing our house. Ryan's beloved books will need to be moved out of arms' reach (and that reach will only get higher in the coming months), furniture that can easily topple must be removed completely, outlets must be covered and cords hidden, floors vacuumed and mopped much more regularly. I can no longer leave Hattie to play on the floor while I do the laundry, cook dinner, or run to the bathroom. She has already developed that bizarre baby ability to bypass the toys meant for her in order to find and insert into her mouth the one potentially harmful thing that I forgot to move off the floor (yesterday it was the phone book).

So, yes, this is the end of the world as we know it, but I'm sure the unknown and the joy of watching Hattie learn and grow will be far more rewarding that the comfort of everything being the same.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Avila Valley Barn

We went to Avila Valley barn this weekend with friends visiting from out of town. It was nice to be there without all of the crowds before Halloween. The kids loved the animals, even Hattie was smiling and kicking when she looked at the goats, emus, and ponies. Here are some photos of our adventures. Just chillin on some gourds.

It's a bird, it's a plane....

Hattie thinks her friend Nate is SO funny!

Delicious corn.

Ella the wild child!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

8 (Other) Random Thoughts About My Kitchen

Sarah tagged me to write eight random thoughts about my kitchen, which is technically her kitchen. But I do visit it occasionally ...

1) We have two whole shelves devoted to nothing but tea, from Orange Dulce to Rooibos Chai. One day a few years back, we decided to become tea people, and have stocked up on the stuff ever since. We have black tea, green tea, white tea, red tea, tisanes ("teas" made without actual tea leaves ... basically anything floral or herbal or whatever), and a bundle of dried plants that Sarah calls "Greek Mountain Tea," though I've never seen her use it to make a drink.

2) Our freezer is stocked with Otter Pops. There's not much else to say about this one, aside from the personal slogan I developed for the product in college: "Otter Pops ... That's something my body needs anyway."

3) I keep the clock on the microwave set 10 minutes fast. For some reason, I enjoy looking at a clock and knowing that it's not really as late as the clock says it is.

4) When I was but a fresh-faced young lad, my dad cooked me pancakes practically every Saturday morning (and other times too, but the Saturdays were the best), and I've unofficially adopted Saturday mornings as the times I cook breakfast for Sarah. She--ahem--doesn't really like pancakes, but she does like scrambled eggs and omelets, so I oblige by making scrambled eggs and omelets that turn into scrambled eggs. I'm just not good at making omelets, but I still try.

5) When I cook, I cool by smell. This is not technically a thought limited to my kitchen in particular, but it's close enough. Sarah cooks by what "feels right." I use my nose, mainly for spices.

6) We have several different types of cheese graters, and since I enjoy grating cheese--it's so satisfying to watch that pile grow!--I'm almost always the one who shreds our cheddar or Monterey Jack or Gouda or what-have-you . My grater of choice features four sides, each with a different grating option, but I only ever use one side.

7) We have a cabinet in which we keep all manner of liquors (Kahlua, Irish cream, etc.), but I keep a few bottles used most often on top of the refrigerator: vodka, rum, and Scotch (which I drink neat).

8) I have long been fascinated by empty glass bottles, and our kitchen window sill is lined with samples of all shapes and sizes. There used to be more bottles, but I broke one or two when closing the window once.

Now, I tag Bret. And James Van Lommel, if he ever sees this.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The baby sits up

Last night Ryan called me from across the room to look at Hattie. He had been supporting her in a sitting position on the floor and let go for a moment to see what she would do. She sat there for about one minute, just looking back and forth between us like she wanted to say, "What are you getting all excited about? This is no big deal." Then she toppled to the side and began reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. She refused to sit up again so we could take pictures, so here she is reading.

"On Tuesday he ate through two pears, but he was still hungry."

Maybe I want to eat this book ...

"He was a beautiful butterfly!"

Friday, November 2, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

(Hattie as Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" chewing on her favorite natural wood teether.)

Though we have barely blown out the candles in our jack-o-lanterns, we are beginning to get the inevitable "What do you want for Christmas?" questions from friends and family. For everyone's convenience, and because Sarah constantly misplaces the long list of books that Ryan wants, we have each created an Amazon wish list. Feel free to browse it for ideas, or even just ignore it.

Hattie's list is the default, but links to Ryan's and Sarah's lists are on the sidebar on the left-hand side of the web page. Just click here to get to our wish lists.

When Hattie was 1 week old, Lisa Maksoudian took some beautiful pictures of her. We were unable to purchase all of the pictures we wanted, but Lisa has a list of the photos we would love to have if someone wants to get them for us. She can be contacted at for more information.

Hattie really loves the toys and other products from Nova Natural Toys (where we purchased the teether pictured above), especially since we're trying to become a plastic-free home! She also has a wish list at A Toy Garden. We just discovered that they have the cheapest naturally dyed play silks which are another one of Hattie's favorite toys. She carries her piece of silk around with her everywhere!

We hope this helps answer some questions, but of course we don't need any of it. The thing that is most important to us is to spend time with family and friends this holiday season, to make joyful memories and create our own family traditions.

What do YOU want for Christmas?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ghoulish Dinner

In our excitement to finally live in a house where we might get trick-or-treaters we stayed home and invited friends over for Halloween this year. While we only had two knocks at the door all night, I had a wonderful time preparing a spooky dinner.

Ryan and I have long established Halloween as a gift-giving holiday (I think we just like excuses to get each other presents). This year, Ryan gave me my gift a little early so that I would have time to figure out how to prepare it. My gift was squid ink pasta. It looks and tastes like regular spaghetti, but it is made black using squid ink. Inspired by his gift, I gave myself the culinary challenge of creating an all-black meal. It was quite a success!

Here was our menu:
Appetizers (in the photo above): black grapes, porter soaked cheddar cheese with pumpernickel toasts, spiderweb eggs (below), and pumpkin seeds.

Dinner: Squid ink pasta with pesto, prosciutto, and mozarella-and-olive "eyeballs," salad, bread, and a blood-red black currant and brandy cocktail (I tried desperately to find black vodka for the occasion, but apparently it is on back order at the two stores in town that carry it).

Dessert: Pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (my first baking from scratch since before I was pregnant with Hattie), and Trader Joe's ice cream sandwiches rolled in mini-chocolate chips. I probably could have done better creating a black dessert, but I was more focused on the dinner foods.

The evening was rounded out by watching the original Night of the Living Dead, in black and white, of course!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Adventures in Pumpkin Carving

Last night around 9:30 we realized we had yet to carve our pumpkins for Halloween. We decided to start carving even though we would be up late. Ryan covered our kitchen table in an old newspaper, made me a cup of tea, and started designing his pumpkin. My favorite task is picking the seeds out of the pumpkin guts and roasting them, I was able to do that for about 3 minutes before Hattie needed to nurse, but after awhile she decide to help. Here are some pictures of our first jack-o-lantern carving as a family of three...

Hattie playing with pumpkin guts- she is her mother's daughter!

Hattie is the Great Pumpkin!

Ryan's Masterpiece

Sarah's Masterpiece

Monday, October 29, 2007

8 Random Thoughts About My Kitchen

I have been tagged by Andrea to share about my kitchen.

1) My counters are pink and brown tile (my current favorite color combination for just about anything). They are probably the original tiles that were put in the house when it was built in the 50’s. So retro and totally feminine, I love it!

2) Like Flo, I wear an apron whenever I cook (and most of every day actually). In the summer of 2006 Ryan's mom created the “Apron of the Month Club” for me. At the beginning of each month a package would arrive in the mail containing a unique hand-made apron of her own design. I now have a different apron for every month. The apron I am currently using has jack-o-lanterns on it, a full skirt, and a pocket large enough to fill with candy for trick-or-treaters (she thinks of everything).

3) Our kitchen does not have a built in dishwasher. While I was in labor with Hattie, Ryan's parents bought and set up a stand alone dishwasher in our kitchen. It has been such a blessing!

4) I love washing dishes (even in my pre-dishwasher years), but I hate putting them away. On more than one occasion I have left clean dishes in the dishwasher until it “emptied itself” because we used all the dishes directly from the dishwasher.

5) I tend to be very ecologically minded and try not to create unnecessary waste. My one splurge is aluminum foil. I despise washing large baking sheets and big pans (especially if they are greasy); I always line them with aluminum foil so that I can just throw the mess away.

6) I have one drawer in my kitchen that has nothing in it. I am tempted occasionally to fill it, but it is kind of luxurious feeling just to know that it is there.

7) The house came with a vintage O’Keefe and Merritt oven. It is small and not very pretty, but it cooks food more efficiently than any other oven I have ever used. Unfortunately the door to the broiler fell off in my hand when I tried to use it for the first time a few weeks ago. Because replacement parts are so hard to find (and expensive) our property managers plan to replace it. I will be sad to see it go, but am also excited to have a new oven! It is probably for the best since Hattie will be crawling soon and the doors on the old oven get really hot.

8) While I recently switched to using my own home made cleaners in our house, I stumbled upon Method’s Cinnamon Bark all-purpose cleaner last week and had to try it. I have been using it to clean my kitchen counters and it makes the whole house smell like I have been baking all day, even though I have not baked a thing in over a year (unless you count Trader Joes pre-formed frozen cookie dough).

I tag Ryan, Jen , Jesse & Kelly

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sarah's First Post

We have not posted a thing since Hattie was 5 weeks old. Ryan just taught me how to post on our blog, so hopefully I will be able to update it more regularly.

Hattie is 4 months old now. She loves to laugh, wiggle, and chew on toys. She is rolling over and trying desperately to crawl (mommy and daddy are hoping it takes her a few months to figure this out). She is fascinated by turning the pages of books, I think she has already developed Ryan's love of reading!

Here are some recent pictures of Hattie Rose. There are a few more I want to add, but Ryan has a strict "no color" rule for this blog, so I'll have to figure out how to convert them to black and white first.

Chewing on blanket

Hattie at Avila Valley Barn

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Innocents abroad

Hattie joined us for the longest road trip of her life when we drove to Santa Barbara to attend the wedding of our friends Peter Michealsen and Xanthy Chu. Unsure as to how our five-week-old would handle the drive, we steeled ourselves for as many pit stops as necessary and began our journey a couple of hours earlier than necessary.

Much to our surprise (and delight), Hattie took the whole trip in stride. In fact, she seems to enjoy outings. She stays calm (usually) when buckled into her car seat, stares with wide-eyed wonder at new places, and curls comfortably into strangers' arms. Strangers to her, that is. They're our friends.

To be honest, Sarah and I were a tad apprehensive about the event. I knew Peter and Xanthy through Intervarsity at Cal Poly, and alumni weddings tend to double as reunions that stretch far into the night. While I reconnected with plenty of friends I hadn't seen in a while at the Michealsen-Chu affair, the ceremony and reception together clocked in at a neat five-and-a-half hours. It was the perfect length for a baby-toting couple.

We had tentatively planned to stay the night with some friends of Peter's family, but the success of the trip down inspired us to brave a drive back. Despite one minor crying episode, the return was as uneventful as the departure.

The wedding itself was a mix of East and West. While the ceremony stuck to fairly standard U.S fare (white dress, men in suits, etc.), the reception reflected Xanthy's Hong Kong roots, with the new bride in red and the groom in a custom-made black outfit to match. He's a Swede and fairly tall, so I think the style was adapted a bit for his frame. Still, the effect was impressive, especially when they danced to Paul Simon's "Something So Right."

The visitor

On Wednesday night, as I was wrapping up hanging out with my friend Bret, we found a large, striped beetle crawling in the driveway in front of his house. It slugglishly trundled along, then split its back open to reveal wings and rise dramatically into the air ... and then straight into a wall. It repeated this several times. Not wanting to see it bash itself senseless, we corraled it into a Ziploc container and I drove it home to photodocument it and release it into the wilds of my backyard.

Upon closer examination, I discovered that it had given itself a sort of insect equivalent of a bloody nose. I also found that it had swiveling horns and a fuzzy underside. My wife decided it was a cross between a gremlin and an animal she can't remember now. Possibly a lemur. It did seem to be a mix of several different bugs, but I seriously doubt it had any true mogwai ancestry. To play everything totally safe, we made sure it didn't get wet.

After the photo shoot, I released the beetle onto one of several lawns behind our house. I watched it crawl slowly in a random direction and bid it farewell. A few minutes later, it reappeared at our kitchen window, climbing the screen in an attempt to rejoin our family. As touching a gesture as that was, I decided to recapture it and release it on the side of the house, where tempting fluorescent lights wouldn't it lure it back with false promises of whatever it is beetles long for inside human habitations.

I haven't seen it since.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Picture this

After several dozen photo shoots under my decidedly rookie eye (have you checked out the link to my photos over on the right?) Hattie participated in her first-ever professional photo shoot on June 22. Lisa Maksoudian (an award-winning photographer who, among other commendations, took best of show in the 2006 New Times photo contest) came to our house for a multi-hour session, and posted a sneak peak at some of the results on her image blog. See them at Hattie is the baby modeling under the pseudonym of "h" if you don't recognize her.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Here's a larger shot of the two blankies.

Everything old is new again

My dad announced that he had a surprise waiting for our new baby, so when Hattie was born, he gave us a "Happy Birthday" bag with his handiwork inside: A crocheted yellow blanket with a silk border. To the untrained eye, such a gift may seem like a typical baby present, but this particular item was unique for two reasons. The first: My dad crocheted the blanket himself, and my mom added the silk edge. The second: The blanket is a replica of Yellow Blankie, the essential bit of cloth that I clung to, Linus like, all through childhood. And junior high. And high school. And maybe a little in college. After almost three decades of constant wear and tear, Yellow Blankie was looking a bit worse for the wear. But now, there's a new blankie to carry the next generation of the Miller clan through her formative years. And maybe into her time as an undergrad. Thanks, Dad. (And Mom!)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Early elitism

Never being one to start small (except, perhaps, in physical mass), Hattie's first encounter with the world of literature was Pablo Neruda's Las Odas, from a bilingual edition, Odes to Common Things, which was a wedding present from our friends Brian Leonard and Angela Barley. I would have thought she'd ease into reading with something lighter, like, say the collected works of Dr. Seuss, or something by Shel Silverstein, or maybe even Edward Lear's Complete Nonsense (a wedding gift from our friend Joel Short). But no. A scant 24 hours after she was born, she was listening to the Nobel laureate's "Ode to the Table." Here's an excerpt:

"The world

is a table

engulfed in honey and smoke,

smothered by apples and blood.

The table is already set,

and we know the truth

as soon as we are called:

whether we're called to war or dinner

we will have to choose sides,

have to know

how we'll dress

to sit

at the long table,

whether we'll wear the pants of hate

or the shirt of love, freshly laundered.

It's time to decide,

they're calling:

boys and girls,

let's eat!"

She obviously took this poem to heart: There was both honey and blood at her birth, and some apples in the background. I didn't see any smoke, though. She has since worn the shirt of love--many shirts of love, in fact, freshly laundered after each spit up. And she has heeded the call to the table with great gusto, sometimes eating for two hours at a stretch. Needless to say, Sarah has been tired from all of the late-night nursing sessions, but I'm happy to know that Hattie has been nourished in mind as well as body.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Hattie is here

Harriet Rose Miller was born at 11:07 a.m. on June 14. She was 7 pounds, 1 ounce. She's four days old here, and we have no idea how much she weighs, though it's probably not too much more.