Friday, December 30, 2011

Gingerbread House Party

Earlier this month, Ethan hosted a Christmas party for his friends from daycare. 

We started off the party with hot chocolate and sugar cookies. Following our snack, we played Pin the Red Nose on Rudolph

The main event was decorating candy houses that I assembled the day before out of graham crackers. 

Each child received an apron that they could take home and got to work on their creations.

I wrapped each house up in a cellophane bag so the kids could take home their candy cottages. 

The party was a success and I was so thankful to my Mom and good friend/fellow mommy, Samantha, for helping with the house assembly. Their extra sets of hands came in very useful for piping on frosting and holding on candy to dry.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thanksgiving Family Pictures & Recap

I loved Thanksgiving this year! I had an excuse to eat for two and wore elastic waist pants with no shame. I may wear elastic waist pants every year, pregnant or not, going forward. 

When we arrived at my parent's home for dinner, I grabbed my nephew and made him take some quick pictures of my little family in the backyard. I can't remember the last time we had a picture with all three of us in it at the same time. (Actually, I guess it's all four of us ---> check out that baby bump below.)

For being quick pictures taken on my cheap camera by a 16 year old, I think they turned out great!

During the day, I spent lots of time in the kitchen preparing for the big meal. I made dinner rolls, chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin pie, a relish tray, and sweet potato gratin. 

I made Bobby Flay's Sweet Potato Chipotle Gratin by popular demand. The recipe only has three ingredients but has such a depth of flavor and has a "wow" factor presentation. The recipe is from my Mesa Grill cookbook by Bobby Flay but you can find the recipe online on Food Network.

I tried a new recipe for dessert this year. It was also from Food Network and is Sunny Anderson's Hazelnut Pumpkin Pie. The pie had a very creamy texture that was a mix between cheesecake and traditional pumpkin pie. I found the recipe on Pinterest and am so glad that I tried it even though I'm not a huge fan of hazelnut. Several people commented to me that it was the best pumpkin pie they had ever tasted. It will likely become my go-to recipe for pumpkin pie in the future.

Food photos from I was so busy running around on Thanksgiving that I completely forgot to take any pictures.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Baby #2 is on its' way!

Thanksgiving day seems like the perfect day to say that Baby Knowles is coming in May. Yep, the turkey isn't the only thing in the oven today.

We are so thankful for this addition to our family. I shared my struggles with infertility and being diagnosed with PCOS back in this post but will share some more information below since it's something a lot of people have had questions about. It's been a long journey, but I am now in my fourth month and ready to share with the world. If you aren't interested in all the talk about infertility treatments, and I don't blame you one bit, you can skip ahead to the pregnancy section below.

Fertility Treatments

(Please remember, this is just what I did and what worked for me. I'm not recommending this regimen or medication to anyone. My only advice would be to find a reproductive endocrinologist that you are comfortable with and that takes the time to listen to you and devises a plan that is customized to your specific goals and how far you are willing to go during treatment.)

We have been trying for a second child for about three years. Within those years, we have taken some breaks while dealing with career changes, emotional drain and other events that arise in a family that required our focus and energy.

My first step in seeking medical treatment was to see my regular OB in Hays. I was prescribed a drug called Clomid that is supposed to make your body ovulate. Due to my PCOS, I do not ovulate regularly, if at all. Unfortunately, my body did not respond to the Clomid. After trying various dose strengths, it was clear this drug was not working for me.

I was referred to the Center of Reproductive Medicine in Wichita, KS. This clinic is wonderful and I couldn't recommend Dr. Tjaden and his support staff more. His nurses took amazing care of me. However, going to Wichita was a draining experience. Wichita is about a four hour drive from Phillipsburg. With all the monitoring that needs to be done under fertility treatments, and at short notice, I was sometimes making the drive back and forth from Wichita every other day. Often my appointments would have to be first thing in the morning, which meant the additional expense of hotel accommodations on top of the gas, meals, etc.  Our insurance also didn't cover any fertility testing or treatments, so all appointments, lab work, ultrasounds, medications, etc. were out of pocket. It's impossible to put a price on the blessing of a baby, but boy, the price of getting pregnant with this one is staggering.

Under the care of the Center of Reproductive Medicine, we finally were able to find a combination of medications that worked for me and that my body responded to. It took a lot of different testing, trials and errors to find the right combination and regime and it wasn't a quick or easy process.

I took a drug called Femara, which is similar to Clomid, and is designed to make your body gear up to ovulate.

After about a week on the Femara, I started injections of Gonal-F. I had to give myself the injections into my stomach every night. During this entire time, I was being monitored in Wichita every other day with internal ultrasounds to see how many follicles were developing in my ovaries and how many looked like they would mature and release. I didn't want to become the next Octo-Mom!

Once I had enough mature follicles within the preferred size range, I took an injection of a medication called Ovidrel that would force my ovaries to release the mature egg(s). After the final injection, I took Prometrium during the two week wait to help optimize the conditions of my body for hopeful implantation.

I was very excited when test day came and I got a positive pregnancy test. After several years and too many negative tests to count, seeing a positive was almost unbelievable. I thought about telling Jim in some creative way, but I couldn't keep it a secret the moment I saw him. 


This is from my first ultrasound, taken at 6 weeks. Doesn't it look like a profile of a gummy bear?

Morning sickness, or all day sickness, and exhaustion took their toll during the first trimester. I was actually in the hospital for dehydration at one point because I just couldn't keep anything down. I was also traveling all over the place for work during this time, like my trip to Savannah, and I'm sure I was a walking zombie during a lot of that time.

Glamourous bathroom self portrait of my belly at 8 weeks. A little bloat making its' appearance. 

We told Ethan he was going to be a big brother the day before Halloween. We waited to tell him until we felt we were in the clear and ready for everyone to know. We purchased the books below and explained to him that we bought them to help teach him about the new baby and that he was going to be a big brother.


 Ethan is very excited about being a big brother and is currently hoping it is a little sister.

Halloween Day
The second trimester brought with it more energy and less constant nausea and throwing up. I still get sick occasionally in the evenings, but nothing to complain about.  Here's a picture of my bump from yesterday in my office. 

I can't believe how much quicker I am showing the second time around - crazy!

Again, I have so much to be thankful for today. Plus, I get to wear elastic pants and have an excuse to "eat for two" today. Pass the pumpkin pie!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Savannah Marketing Conference

Earlier this month, I headed to Savannah for the first time. I went as a representative for the advertising agency I work for at the Caterpillar North American Marketing Conference

The hotel we stayed at was beautiful and located right on the water. It also has a luxurious spa and I was thrilled when my company treated me to an hour long massage

On top of the spa, there were lots of other amenities that made the stay enjoyable. There were warm chocolate chip cookies in the lobby and a Bloody Mary bar in the afternoons. In the evenings, the patio area would have fire pits lit and made for a great place to relax with a couple of drinks after a long day of client meetings. 

I took advantage of the running maps they provided on two occasions during my trip. It was beautiful to run along the river front and watch the large cargo boats coming into harbor.

In order to get to the Savannah River Walk/Town, you had to take a water taxi from the hotel.

Our first night, we headed to the River Front to find some food. We lucked out when we went to a little hole in the wall bar and were amazed at the high quality of the menu. (sorry for the dark picture) Jumbo crab legs dipped in butter? Yes, please!

After filling our bellies, we went to the Dueling Piano Bar - Savannah Smiles to check out the location and musicians. We would be hosting a party here in a couple of days and wanted to make sure everything was set for our big night.

Required, over processed party picture.

Following our fun night out, it was time to get to work. We worked at our booth in the vendor expo all day for the next two days and enjoyed getting to visit with clients that we usually only get to talk to over the phone. 

On the first day, they unveiled the new Caterpillar Nascar vehicle. I had to take a picture for Ethan.

On Monday night, we were treated to a dinner by the event organizers. The evening started with a ferry boat cruise with passed appetizers and drinks. The drinks were great but the appetizers were cold and only two options were available that I ever saw.

We existed the boat the historic Fort Jackson, which was built in 1776. Can you see the white tent in the background? That is where they had an oyster bar set up. Inside the fort, they had banquet tables set up and we enjoyed a dinner buffet of traditional Southern foods.

They had re-enactment soldiers for entertainment that played fiddles, banjos and also fired the cannons. I'm sure Jim would have loved to see the cannons in action. I was amazed at how long it took them to prep the cannons before firing and how much black smoke was produced.

These would be my co-workers/bosses posing with some of the soldiers. Needless to say, we were having a great time!

I found a few hours during the last day to sneak away to explore the Savannah River Walk district. This would be Paula Dean's restaurant, The Lady and Sons. (I was disappointed that I had just eaten and didn't know that I was going to be able to head over, otherwise I would have skipped the provided meal for something that I'm sure was much better in town.)

Walking the streets was very difficult. You definitely need flat shoes in Savannah. The cobblestone is very rough and several people reported tripping and really scraping themselves up during the evening outings.

The stair cases between the different street levels are also very steep and rickety. (You can kind of see one in the shadows of this picture.)

For our last night, we hosted the evening's activities with an open bar, buffet dinner and entertainment from the Dueling Piano bar that we had gone to earlier. The food was amazing (we had it catered in, not provided by the bar) and far surpassed our expectations. 

Here I am with a couple of my coworkers on the water taxi on the way over to our party. Following this, pictures are not being posted to protect the innocent. ;)

After a very late night, we headed to the airport in the a.m. and I was very ready to be back home. I arrived just in time to tuck my birthday boy, who turned 5 that day, into bed.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chocolate Cream Pie

The other day, on Facebook, I updated my status that I was craving a piece of my Aunt Libby's famous cream pies.

Soon, many people from my family were chiming in with their own desire to also have a piece of her cream pie.

My cousin, Jonathan, who is my Aunt Libby's son, responded to my craving post by posting a picture of the pie Aunt Libby had made for him that day. What a jerk tease! 

The craving did not go away and I decided that it was time to take matters into my own hands since driving 10 hours to visit my Aunt Libby wasn't going to happen anytime in the near future. I decided to make my first ever cream pie.

I found this recipe for "Grandma's Chocolate Pie" by the Homesick Texan and it looked like a winner. (I also used the crust recipe that is linked from this post.)

I was surprised at how easy the crust was to make and how quickly it all came together. I usually shy away from pies because the crust intimidates me but this helped build my confidence a bit. 

It was delicious! I happily shared some with my Dad, who is just as big of cream pie fan as I am.

Funny Side Story: 
When I was probably about 5 years old, my Aunt Libby hosted Thanksgiving at her home. The adults all sat in the formal dining room and us cousins sat in the kitchen at the breakfast nook. The counter was lined up with all kinds of various pies - pumpkin, pecan, apple and various cream pies. My family takes dessert very seriously. While the adults were in the other room eating their main course, I ate the very center out of every pie with my fingers. I wanted to see what kind they were.

I'm pretty sure that I would be tempted to do the same thing today.

Friday, October 21, 2011

5th Birthday Celebration

Ethan turned five years old on Oct. 5th. I can't believe how quickly he has grown. To me, five just seems like such a big boy. Officially out of the toddler ranks and completely in the little boy category. Luckily for me, he still wants to cuddle up with his mommy and I'll happily share cuddles and bedtime stories with him as long as he'll let me.

Ethan chose to have a Construction Vehicle theme this year for his party. We decorated all the tables with various construction vehicle toys and invited our immediate family over for cake and ice cream.

I made Ethan's cake and was pleased with how it turned out. Ethan advised me on what colors to choose for the lights and where they should be placed since he is much more knowledgable than I am when it comes to bulldozers. He also loved eating the chocolate rocks and dirt. 

Since the large chocolate donuts I used for the back tires only came in packages of 12, I placed some of the extras on plate with a "Spare Tires" sign.

Birthday boy turned shy when it came time to sing "Happy Birthday" and blow out the candles.

A happy birthday boy!

After eating cake and ice cream, it was finally time for presents. Since his birthday had been four days earlier than his party, it had been hard to wait. (Of course, we'd given him our presents on his actual birthday so he wasn't that deprived.)

Happy birthday my dearest baby boy! I have loved being your mommy and you make me and Daddy so proud...and laughing all the time with your silly games and looks with your mischievous eyes. I love you more than you will ever be able to comprehend. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Reminiscing Photos

Ethan is starting to think about Halloween and what he wants to dress up as this year. So far, we are completely stumped. I showed him pictures last night of his previous Halloween costumes. It was fun to travel down memory lane with him.

My little pumpkin at about 3 weeks old.

Puppy - my personal favorite. His favorite toy at this age was a stuffed Dalmatian and this costume was just too perfect.

Mater from the movie Cars.

Idolizing his Daddy.

It's going to be hard to top some of these adorable looks from previous years, but we're up to the challenge. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

PCOS Awareness and My Story

September is PCOS Awareness month. Since I have been diagnosed with PCOS, and had no clue what is was before my diagnosis, I thought I would share it on my blog. Warning, things are going to get personal and probably TMI, so stop reading now if you are uneasy talking about womanly issues.

If you don't know what PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is, here is a description:

Often called the “Thief of Womanhood”, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) affects as many as 10% of women.  It can rob you of your fertility, cause irregular periods, lead to insulin resistance and obesity, as well as, depression. High levels of androgen hormones in women with PCOS can cause acne, excess facial and body hair growth and male-pattern hair loss. The long term risk factors for diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers are higher if PCOS is left untreated. (source: PCOS Diva)

 I have always had many of the symptoms, but never knew there was a root cause. I have had to battle heavy periods, 60-90 day cycles, and  work very hard to maintain my weight due to the insulin resistance and a low thyroid. The insulin resistance affects my blood sugar when eating and also makes me have uncontrollable sugar and carb cravings...all.the.time. 

The worst side effect for me has been dealing with adult acne. The older I get, the worse it seems to be getting. The other thing that has been getting worse is my PMS symptoms. Jim could testify to my extreme moodiness and irritability that can last weeks due to my long cycles. Not fun for me or anyone that has to put up with me. 

I found out that I had PCOS after I started seeing a Reproductive Endocrinologist when we decided to try for another child and found that we were having issues. 

It turns out that I do not ovulate...hence the very long cycles. My body will gear up to ovulate and then the follicles will turn into cysts instead of releasing an egg. The build up of these cysts in the ovaries can be pretty darn painful.

Some of the treatments for PCOS to reduce the symptoms include weight loss, low carb diets, Metformin (which has traditionally been used to treat diabetes), and birth control pills. Unfortunately, there is no cure for PCOS but these are things that can help with managing the symptoms. 

For myself, I have been through many, many rounds of oral medications to try and get my body to properly make mature follicles and then using a "trigger shot" to get the egg to release. Unfortunately, my body completely refuses to respond to oral stimulation medications.

The next step that I took was to give myself injections of Gonal-F. These injections of hormones do appear to be getting a better response from my body. Now we're at the point of trying to determine what dose works most effectively for my body. 

Being diagnosed with PCOS and infertility was heart breaking at first. I always imagined that I would have a handful of children. Now, I'm very thankful for Ethan and thankful for the team of specialists in Wichita that work with me and encourage me through the process of fertility treatments.

Alright...I warned you that it was going to get personal and TMI on here so no complaining. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pintrest has my Interest

Have you heard of Pintrest yet?

Pintrest is an online tool that you use to tag photos of ideas you see on websites and those photos are posted to your online bulletin boards and linked to their original source for future reference. It's basically a visual bookmarking tool. You can also connect to your friends and follow their boards to see what ideas they are pinning. I love browsing what other people are pinning and repinning those clever ideas onto my boards for future reference.

I started out primarily pinning recipes and house decorating ideas but I've expanded my categories as I have continued to be inspired. 

Here are few of my favorite "Pins" from a couple of my various categories:

Health & Fitness
(I like to post motivation and healthy recipes on this board.)

(Crafts & lots of ideas for Preschool snacks)

Home Decor Inspiration

(Hairstyle tutorials, outfit ideas, my shopping wish list.)

(My most utilized boards. I finally separated them out into savory and sweet categories.)

Birthday Party Planning
(Gathering lots of ideas for celebrating Ethan's big 5th birthday!)

Pintrest is a total time-suck for me. I get lost browsing all the ideas and inspirations. It's a great site to play around on when you are needing to waste time and it also helps keep me organized with the recipes I'm wanting to try, kid activities I'm planning, etc.

If you would like to view my pins or connect, my Pintrest profile is:

Happy Pinning!