12.28.2013

eight months

Our little lady is just over eight months old.



She loves:

Standing.
Anything she can shake, shake, shake.
Banging on anything.
Buttons and snaps.
Shiny things.
Pears.
Teething biscuits.
Other kids.
Saying "da da da da da da da da".

We love:

Her.






Hoping you all are enjoying a holiday season as full of joy as ours has been.






12.22.2013

holiday cheer: christmas sugar cookies

I'm not the only person who has fond memories of baking Christmas cookies with my family. My mom would let me and my siblings help roll out the dough, pick whatever shapes we wanted from our vast selection of cookie cutters, and of course, we each got to decorate our fair share of cookies after they were baked.


What I think of as my mom's recipe is actually my paternal grandmother's recipe and, I have to tell you, it's the best one out there. The cookies are chewy and the orange zest and extracts lend just enough citrus to make them taste light and fresh. They're also just slightly salty but the icing we use balances that out perfectly.

Do yourself a favor and make a batch of these cookies before your family gets together this week. They will thank you.

Christmas Sugar Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. grated orange rind
1/4 tsp. lemon extract
1/4 tsp. orange extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder

Cream together shortening and sugar. Add beaten egg, orange rind, lemon and orange extracts. Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth. Chill until firm. 

Place dough on lightly floured board or between parchment or waxed paper and roll thin with a rolling pin. Cut with cutters.  Place cut cookies on greased cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for about 12 minutes.  Repeat with remaining dough until all is formed into darling sugar cookies to be.

To decorate: 

Mix 1 tablespoon milk with food coloring. Add powdered sugar by the tablespoon until mixture is  thick. Use this to hold on colored sugar, cinnamon red hots, chocolate ants, etc.

Year in and out I look forward to making these cookies and I can't wait until Elia is old enough to help decorate them with me. Let's hope her cookie decorating skills don't peak at age six like mine did.



Happy baking everyone!  

What is your favorite holiday baking recipe or memory? 

12.10.2013

holiday cheer: baby's first christmas

We are getting very excited for Christmas around here.  The day after Thanksgiving, Elia found the perfect tree for us.


We've also met one of Santa's reindeer.


And even the big guy himself.


It's so much fun to expose Elia to so many of our favorite holiday traditions.

With only a few weeks until Christmas, I thought I'd do a quick gift roundup for all of the little ones left on your shopping list. I'm a fan of classic toys with minimal lights and sounds so that Elia can spend more time figuring out how the toy works and growing that little brain of hers instead of encouraging an environment of constant entertainment.  Here are some of my favorite holiday-themed gifts for babes:


1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8

1. Melissa & Doug Slice & Bake Christmas Cookie Play Set

I think every child has memories of baking and decorating cookies growing up and it's certainly one of my favorite traditions.  This wooden cookie play set will allow your kids to practice their baking skills all through the holiday season.

2. Maileg Rudolph Reindeer

This sweet stuffed reindeer is such a darling toy and perfect for snuggling up with on cozy Christmas evenings.

3. Hohner Kids Handy Jingle Bell

Elia loves shaking or banging on just about anything that will make noise right now. I looked everywhere for a baby-friendly jingle bell and I finally came across this gem. At only $3.25 plus free shipping, this is the perfect stocking stuffer for a baby!

4. Olivia Helps with Christmas

There is something about this little pig that I find downright charming. We only have one other Olivia book but as Elia becomes more interested in books, I hope Olivia becomes a favorite and can't wait to read this with her every December.

5. Santa Sack

We believe in keeping Christmas gifting pretty low-key so I don't anticipate every needing a whole sack to fill with Elia's gifts. This Santa Sack is so cute though that I could see buying it to hold seasonal kid's items.  I'm sure any kid would get a kick out of opening this bag every year as the holidays approach.

6. BabyLit: A Christmas Carol

If you haven't seen these books before, check them out now. BabyLit takes classic novels and makes them baby friendly by focusing on counting, colors, etc. I love the idea of exposing kids to literature young and The Christmas Carol is such a favorite - I just love this!

7. Uncle Goose Merry Christmas Blocks

I've been a huge fan of Uncle Goose blocks since I discovered them a few years ago. They have everything from classic blocks to foreign language blocks (Arabic, Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, Swedish, French and more!) and even hieroglyphic and Braille blocks. Beyond this, they are made right here in Grand Rapids so by buying them and from the area, you'd be shopping local, which is a huge plus.

8. Manny & Simon Reindeer and Sleigh Wooden Push Toy

There is something beautiful about the simplicity of push toys and this sleigh and reindeer set is just gorgeous. I love the smooth, clean lines and I think that between the wheels and antlers, this would keep E busy for hours.

Now you've seen some of my holiday favorites for babies, what are some of your favorite toys and gifts for the babies in your life?



11.24.2013

seven months

Elia is a seven-month old, officially closer to a year than she is to being newborn.  She is alert and curious, always eager to check out what others are doing.



She is sweet and less cuddly than ever, except when she's tired.  She has taken to napping less but still sleeps through the night.  She is forming opinions.



She brings joy to people everywhere she goes and that makes me so grateful; I hope that's a trait she carries with her throughout her life.



She is seven months old and we just can't get enough.

She also wants to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.


Gobble, gobble.

11.20.2013

holiday cheer: home decor

Technically, this is a lifestyle blog and, you may have noticed, our current lifestyle is baby. Still, life can't be all bottles and diapers so I thought I'd write a few posts on holiday goodies and ideas.  It's a little early to post about Christmas but, of course, it's always good to be prepared and I know that I will be cutting down my Christmas Tree in just over a week. Plus I spotted this today so I'd say the holiday season is upon us!


I'm one of those people who loves a festive home but doesn't like to go overboard with decor. A few baubles here and there, a few gold and silver accents, a live Christmas tree, and some evergreen-scented candles and I'm good to go.


1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 

1. Illume Balsam and Cedar Garland Glass

I got last year's version of this candle as Christmas gift and I loved the look of it so much [gold polka dots - what's not to love?] that I kept it out on my desk all year long. The balsam and cedar scent fill our living room with the scent of Christmas all season long.

2. West Elm Boxwood Round Wreath

In my opinion, boxwood makes for the perfect wreath. Faux or real, it tends to look great and doesn't need to be accessorized with extra glitz. Hanging one each of the small and medium above a fireplace would be so darling. These wreaths would also be great on a front door in the spring - I have a similar one on our door.

3. J.R. Watkins White Pine Hand Soap

J.R. Watkins is the best and their White Pine Hand Soap is no exception. It's a limited edition to get to Target and stock up!

4. West Elm Papier-Mâché Animal Sculptures

Okay so maybe this doesn't quite fit into my subtle holiday decor aesthetic but last year I kept seeing white reindeer busts pop up and this silver version is so fun. Plus, who isn't looking for something different to put above their mantle?  This fits the bill.

5. Threshold Faux Fur Ivory Throw

Nothing says winter wonderland like a cozy fur blanket. At $34.99 the price is right on this one so cuddle up!

6. Threshold Pine Tree Snowglobe

Snowglobes remind me of childhood; there is something so magical and enthralling about the snow falling around the figurines. The white tree puts a grown-up spin on a childhood favorite.

7. Lindsay Letters O Holy Night Canvas

Beautiful song, beautiful lettering, beautiful art. Lindsay Letters prints are scattered around our home and I've had my eye on this canvas for a while. For a more economical option, check out her prints and make sure to browse her shop for other holiday and home prints.

I hope you like these goodies and have a fabulous time decking your halls in the coming weeks!

11.10.2013

little lion (wo)man

Aunt Sandy, this post is for you.  I promise to update more often.

For Halloween, Elia dressed up as a tiny lion.  She was every bit as ferocious as you'd imagine.


Roarrrr! (Not ferocious in the least.)



Since our only pictures of her in her costume on Halloween were dimly-lit iPhone photos, we thought it would be a good idea to take a few more photos of her in her costume today.


Sweet child, you are far too patient with your parents.



10.19.2013

six months

This month's photo shoot came on day two of a nasty cold. Since last month, Elia has grown so much and she keeps amazing us every day. Today, she finally rolled from her back onto her belly. Once she did it, she just kept on doing it, over and over. She must have wanted to wait to roll both ways until she knew she would be a pro at it.

video


Because it's October, we thought Elia should go trick or treating for her monthly fun photo.


And then we went to her chair.

At six months she is interactive.




Curious.






Sweet.



Loves her feet.



Teething. (We're up to two teeth now.)


And a constant source of joy.


Happy half birthday to you, darling girl.

10.13.2013

apple of my eye

After a September that ended more summery than it began, fall has descending upon West Michigan. I think many people count fall as their favorite season and you can find the Neckers family on that list. 

On Friday night, Elia kicked off our weekend of fall fun by biting my finger with her very first tiny tooth while we were at happy hour. Pictures forthcoming - in theory, it's very cute that she has a tooth but her tooth is just budding and every photo I've attempted to take of it has shown only drool and lips, charming only to her mother, I'm sure.

We spent Saturday morning at Robinette's, an autumn staple. Following the obligatory hayride, which Elia slept through, and a delicious doughnut and cider combo, we took E out to the orchard to see the apples up close.


She liked the apples to much that she picked one. Applesauce is her favorite food so we should've known. 

That afternoon, we were playing outside when Elia decided to really overachieve. I moved my hand from her back for a few seconds and the next thing I knew, five minutes of unsupported sitting had gone by.  



Her first tooth and sitting up within twenty-four hours! She is growing up so fast and we're so proud of her.

Happy fall!

9.22.2013

five months

Five months and five days ago, Elia graced us with her presence. Since then she's been filling our lives with joy.

 


This month Elia loves her hands and feet. She got sick for the first time. She took her first airplane ride. We spent a weekend on Mackinac Island so along with that came her first carriage ride and visit to the Grand Hotel. We could list thing after thing - what an amazing thing it is to have something new happen to you almost every day.



The above picture is a pretty accurate representation of Elia right now, always in motion, discovering her world. Soon she'll be mobile, not just moving; we should start baby-proofing the house now.

If you've been anywhere near Grand Rapids lately you know that we are in the midst of the fifth year of ArtPrize. Todd and I love how ArtPrize livens up downtown each fall and in honor of one of our favorite times of year, Elia went artiste for her monthly photo.



Happy five months, Elia! We love you so.

8.19.2013

four months

Elia turned four months on Saturday.


She decided she'd try rolling over to celebrate.


When she's not smiling, it's usually because her mouth is full of one of her hands. 


Today the doctor assured us that she's a genius. We told him not to worry, that we already knew. I mean, who else has a four-month old who can hold onto things? Or giggle? No one, right?  I didn't think so.


He also told us that we can start giving her solids whenever we want to. He told us to go home and giver her a banana if we'd like. Solid foods? That's bananas. I decline for now.  Surely my tiny baby isn't ready to eat anything but milk yet, is she?


Well, she did roll over after all...


Don't grow up too fast baby girl.
 

7.28.2013

set apart

This morning, in front of family, friends, and our congregation, Elia was baptized and welcomed into the body of Christ. We as parents entered into a covenant, a promise to guide our daughter in her faith. As Christian parents, this is the most important promise we can make to our children and it's a big responsibility but one we take on happily.


We are so blessed that four generations of family was there to witness this special day.


One detail that made it even more special to me was Elia's baptismal gown. It was made with love by my maternal grandmother for my brother Matt's baptism in 1981 and used again, along with handmade booties and bonnet, at my and my other sibling's baptisms. Grandma J is no longer with us but it was wonderful to have her represented today.




You'll notice that the gown was also embroidered with love by my mother with our names and now Elia's too. It's such a special garment and I hope the tradition will continue with any future nieces, nephews, children, and grandchildren that we have.

Of course, any joyous occasion deserves a bit of celebrating so we had everyone over for a celebration luncheon following the service. An indoor summer picnic was just the thing.


 

What a happy day we had. Happy baptism day, Elia!


Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. - Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV)