Dear Denali: Four Months

by LeeAnne on September 23, 2014


These last few weeks have been so very good. I’d read about how babies change significantly at around three months, and with you, it’s true. You are markedly more alert and happy during the day (even in the car!), and you sleep really well at night and at nap times. We’ve also fallen into a mostly predictable and reliable schedule. I know patterns will change and evolve, but it’s really nice right now.

You continue to be very observant and curious: feeling the texture of the wall by your changing table, staring at the pattern of fabrics, following the shimmer of my engagement ring with your eyes. You’re full of personality: You smile easily, make hilarious expressions, and—perhaps your biggest development since last month—you have found your voice. You babble all the time. You “talk” to Daddy and me, and even to toys, lamps, and the owl poster in the living room. You have the most earnest expressions when you’re babbling; you really believe you’re communicating. One morning, you started blowing raspberries, and we made them back and forth for an hour while I made two cakes. Now blowing raspberries is pretty much your favorite thing ever (video).

Physically, you had a big growth spurt over the last month. You flew through your 3-month clothes. Some outfits only got one wear! Most 3–6s still fit, but you’ve moved on to 6-month sleepers. You’re still working on rolling over and have only done so a few times (both back-to-front and front-to-back), but you often roll onto your side while playing. We practice sitting, and you do well with a little support. I hold onto your hands and moving them around, kinda like we’re dancing. You love flipping through the pages of your board books and just started holding your own bottle.

You’re a big fan of Sophie, the teething giraffe. I keep her in your car seat, and you suck and chew on her ears and neck whenever we’re out and about. You’ve also been sucking on your hands a lot lately, especially your left pointer finger. You’ve all but forgotten about your Binkys. You spit them out immediately, so we’ve just kinda stopped offering them. Despite all this dexterity, you still sometimes seem surprised by your own hands, turning them slowly in front of your wide eyes.

You had several firsts in recent weeks. Your first BART ride was to meet my friend, Kate, for lunch in Berkeley. You loved looking at all the people, the scenery flying by the window, and even the BART signage. You stared at the emergency procedures poster so long, I thought for sure you had figured it all out. (If we’re ever stuck in the Transbay Tube, I’m counting on your expertise!) About halfway through, you fell asleep, although the loud clap! of a passing train startled you awake. You also had your first childcare experience, when I attended my first MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) gathering at church. I wasn’t sure what to expect from your reaction. Turns out, you were a doll and charmed everyone.

The only time you’re really fussy and challenging is when we go out at night. I can’t tell if it’s just a bad time of day for you, or if you don’t like being among lots of people, or if you’re tired and can’t get settled outside familiar environs. Or all the above. But you have a hard time when we go out to dinner or spend the evening at a family birthday party. You cry loudly and will not be soothed by the usual tactics. For the first time since you’ve been born, we’ve had to do some leaving early—and even some leaving just after arriving! (For the record, you’re a great lunch date. You either fall asleep, or enjoy a bottle and sit happily on my lap.)

Let’s see, what else? We’re no longer swaddling you; it’s all about fleece and terrycloth sleep sacks now. You’re getting some color to your eyebrows, and your eyelashes have grown rather long. You also have random patches of longer hair on your head, which is kind of adorable. You respond to my voice, even when we’re in a crowded room of people. You watch me closely when I’m eating, and one day, you shoved your fist into my salsa. I think you’ll be ready to eat solids soon…

Month 4 Stats
Weight: 14 pounds, 13 ounces (65th percentile)
Height: 24.75 inches (64th percentile)
Clothes: 3–6 months, some 6 months
Diapers: Size 2
Food: 5 six-ounce bottles per day. Occasionally, one additional bottle in the middle of the night.


Best Movies of 2013

by LeeAnne on February 25, 2014

(Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be wrapping up a bunch of old partially written posts and back-dating them, so I that can move forward with this very outdated blog. Just warning ya…)


It was a very good year for movies, don’t you think!? With the Oscars around the corner, it’s time for me to finalize my favorite films of 2013.  I love watching movies—especially in the theater—and I caught 43 new flicks this year.  Whenever I see a new movie, I insert the title into a running ranked list.  Then, at the end of the year (actually, a month or so into the next year, as many new releases are scheduled over the holidays), I make adjustments based on how strongly the movie’s story still resonates.  So without further adieu…

1. American Hustle
2. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
3. The Place Beyond the Pines
4. August: Osage County
5. About Time
6. Hunger Games: Catching Fire
7. 12 Years a Slave
8. Gravity
9. Inside Llewyn Davis
10. The Wolf of Wall Street

Honorable mentions: Austenland (for making me laugh out loud so very, very hard; a Pride and Prejudice fan’s must), Saving Mr. Banks (for Paul Giamatti, who slays me, always), 20 Feet From Stardom (for making me appreciate back-up singers), Captain Phillips (for Tom Hanks in an Oscar-worthy final scene), Short Term 12 (for Brie Larson, star in the making), World War Z (for making me like a zombie movie – what!?!?), The Great Gatsby (for eye candy), and Thor 2 (for Loki, who needs his own film franchise).

What I wish I hadn’t wasted time on: Quartet (we don’t even get to hear them SING!?), Despicable Me 2 (not the same magic as the original), and Gangster Squad (was it supposed to be satire?)

What I didn’t get around to seeing but wish I had: Mud and The Book Thief.

Now it’s your turn. What were your favorites? Please share them in the comments!

P.S. – I’ve been making movie-related top 10 and best-0f lists for a long time. Here’s where you can find them for 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, and 2003.  And, I also have a Top Movies of the Decade list, representing 2000 to 2010.



A New Year

by LeeAnne on January 26, 2014


Sooooo… it’s basically been a year since I’ve posted here! Oops. There is so much to catch up on that I just won’t even bother. Let’s just press ahead, shall we?

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know, but the biggest thing going on in my life right now is that I am nearly six months pregnant.  O.o  I am excited and scared.  True joyfear.  In our premarital counseling, Paul and I discussed a mutual desire to start a family about two years into our marriage.  But I never felt ready and kept pushing it back further and further.  We’ve now been married five years, and I just had to face the fact that I’ll never feel ready and I’m not getting any younger!  So, at 34, we are anxiously expecting our first child, a girl, in May.  I am very grateful that it’s been a fairly easy and healthy pregnancy thus far: no morning sickness, only six pounds gained.  But I do feel behind on preparations.  We don’t have a name picked out, a nursery set-up, etc.  I’m sure I’ll get my act together at some point…

The image above was our social media announcement last fall.  I had fun carving the pumpkin and making cartoon versions of our features.  Unfortunately, it does look like I’m eating my baby… :/


Winter 2013 Mix Tape

by LeeAnne on February 23, 2013

WebI’m not very good at this blog thing, hehehe. *Sigh.* But, I do have a new mix tape for ya! As always, I’m not the world’s hippest music fan. I’m just a music fan. These are the songs currently in heavy rotation on my iPod, whether new, new-to-me, or old favorites that I’ve come back to for one reason or another. I like to put all my current faves into playlists by season, like a soundtrack of my life at that particular time. I often burn a copy onto CD for my sister, and occasionally other friends, so I eventually spend some time arranging them into what I think is a nice progression.

Anyway, I was soooo excited to have some new music from The Civil Wars while they are on hiatus (or are they broken up?). They co-wrote the soundtrack to the food documentary A Place at the Table, and I really dig the first “single” from it. Also, I could listen to “Promises” all day every day. Just sayin.

1. “Sunshine Goodtime” – Minnutes (iTunes)
2. “Hello Hello” – Missy Higgins (iTunes)
3. “Next to Me” – Emeli Sandé (iTunes)
4. “Brokenhearted” – Karmin (iTunes)
5. “Promises” – Nero / Skillet Remix (iTunes)
6. “Sweet Nothing” – Calvin Harris feat. Florence Welch (iTunes)
7. “Madness” – Muse (iTunes)
8. “Under the Stars” – Morning Parade (iTunes)
9. “Feel Again” – OneRepublic (iTunes)
10. “Red Hands” – Walk Off the Earth (iTunes)
11. “I Will Wait” – Mumford & Sons (iTunes)
12. “Come to the River” – Rhett Walker Band (iTunes)
13. “Long Time Gone” – The Civil Wars & T Bone Burnett (iTunes)
14. “All My Tears” (acoustic) – Jars of Clay (iTunes)
15. “Playing Dead” – Breathe Owl Breathe (iTunes)
16. “Stars” – Grace Potter & The Nocturnals (iTunes)
17. “When I Was Your Man” – Bruno Mars (iTunes)
18. “Carry On” – Fun (iTunes)

To check out past mix tapes, go here, here, here, and here.


InstaFriday No. 18

by LeeAnne on February 15, 2013

Whew, it’s been a while. Lots of photos to catch up on! Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Valentine’s Day! Hehe. I’ll get to about half of my recent iPhone photos here and the rest next Friday. Here’s what life’s been like around here…


1: I made mini muffins for my in-law’s all-day Christmas Eve gathering: banana nut, blueberry, and pumpkin chocolate-chip. They were a hit. I don’t think any of them came back home with me!

2: Paul opens gifts with the kids. :) I love this picture of him and Nomnom. He jokes that he doesn’t “like” the cats, but he totally does.

3: Best. Christmas. Gift. Ever. Paul got me a Cameo Silhouette. Naturally, my first project was to make him a thank-you card. :)  Love how easy it is to make cuts of any fonts installed on my computer. It’s going to be so fun to play with this.

4: Our newest Christmas ornament, from our trip to Hawaii. Paul and I have been collecting ornaments on our travels, and it’s so fun to unpack them and recall the special memories.


5: Happy New Year! I had a little fun with the bowl of confetti while waiting for midnight. :)

6: Human disco ball. I bought this cute sequined sweatshirt by American Rag. Unfortunately, the construction is a little obnoxious. The sequined material was run through the seam and cut, so the sharp edges of sequins keep cutting me, especially under my arms. I was a wreck the first day of wear. My current temp fix is to cover the seams inside with masking tape, LOL. Need to have someone sew in a panel.

7: It’s always sad to say goodbye to the Christmas tree…

8: And even more sad to say goodby to family. My brother- and sister-in-law, Ryan and Ashlee, moved to Nevada right after Christmas. I will miss them and my cute niece Grace.


9: Socked in with fog on a winter morning. Oh, Bay Area.

10: As usual, I came home to find my cat-kids, Nomnom and Pepper, napping together on the couch.  It’s so funny how cats have certain spots that they like to be at different times during the day.

11: The first step is admitting you have a problem. Actually, I have a lot more than this now. Addicted to washi tape.

12: Working on save the date cards for my little sister, Lindsey.  She’s doing a lot of DIY for the wedding and is stamping and embossing the finished stationery.


13: For the family Super Bowl party, I was in charge of pretzels and cheese. So, I tried out some cheese dip recipes ahead of the gathering. This was a beer-cheddar-gouda dip. It was delicious, but I could never get the consistency quite right. I also made roasted jalapeno-white cheddar, which turned out perfectly.

14: One of the two snack spreads at my aunt and uncle’s house. So festive!

15: My adorable parents.  I have no idea where they got these shirts.  They almost look like true Giants fans (in truth, no one in my immediate family really watches sports, hehehe).

16: Lily, my aunt and uncle’s dog looks adorable in her 49ers scarf.


17: I spent a day in the city (San Francisco) for a Folio workshop on magazines and digital media.  It was pretty cool.  I learned a few new tricks for social media and met many of the editors of Sunset, which I read regularly. I thought I’d spend a couple hours shopping afterward but I was pooped. I basically just walked through Antho in a haze.

18: Paul and I getting ready for a date night.  I think in this picture, we were seeing The Hobbit.  I see so many movies, it’s hard to keep track!

19: A birthday cake I made for my mom. It was a box cake with can frosting (spice and cream cheese), but I made sure to make it extra pretty with cute Wilton sugar flowers.

20: The second in Diablo‘s quarterly City Series, the Lamorinda Book, arrived.  It’s fun to work on something a little different.

That’s it for this week!  Join in the fun by linking up your photos with Life Rearranged.

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Best Movies of 2012

by LeeAnne on January 13, 2013


With the Golden Globes being broadcast tonight, it’s time for me to stop stalling and name my favorite films of 2012.  I love watching movies—especially in the theater—and I caught 47 new flicks in 2012.  Whenever I see a new movie, I insert the title into a running ranked list.  Then, at the end of the year (actually, a month or so into the next year, as many new releases are scheduled over the holidays), I make adjustments based on how strongly the movie’s story still resonates.

This year, I was absolutely charmed by Moonrise Kingdom.  Wes Anderson movies are always creative and interesting, but this was the first one I connected with on an emotional level.  (My friend Aaron will rejoice that a Wes Anderson movie has finally made one of my lists.  Hehe.)  I loved the naive and adventurous kids, the dry humor, the detailed sets and costumes, the music, even the gorgeous Jessica Hische typography on the posters and credits.  If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.  Here’s my full list…

1. Moonrise Kingdom
2. Argo
3. The Hobbit
4. Les Miserables
5. Zero Dark Thirty
6. Silver Linings Playbook
7. Anna Karenina
8. Bernie
9. Lincoln
10. Your Sister’s Sister

Honorable mentions: Looper (for bringing some much-needed originality to the silver screen this year; so many book adaptations and sequels!), Django Unchained and The Master (for having such memorable characters and incredible performances), The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall (for elevating their respective series), First Position and The Queen of Versailles (for introducing some interesting people, and making me laugh more than documentaries normally do), Beasts of the Southern Wild (for Quvenzhane Wallis… whoa), The Impossible (for making me feel as though I experienced the tsunami; that film just gutted me), and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (for re-inspiring me to live a full life).

What I wish I hadn’t wasted time on: To Rome with Love, Five-Year Engagement, and The Vow. Where have the good romantic comedies gone!?!?!

What I didn’t get around to seeing but wish I had: Life of Pi, Amour, Mansome, and Pitch Perfect.

Now it’s your turn. What were your favorites? Please share them in the comments!

P.S. – I’ve been making movie-related top 10 and best-0f lists for a long time. Here’s where you can find them for 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, and 2003.  And, I also have a Top Movies of the Decade list, representing 2000 to 2010.


InstaFriday No. 17

by LeeAnne on December 28, 2012

Hello! I hope you had a very Merry Christmas! Mine was a whirlwind of fun—lots of time with family, great food, and fun gifts. Here is what my life looked like during the first half of December, according to my iPhone. I’ll catch up with Christmas photos next week.

1–4: The family headed to Tracy to see my sister perform in Anastasis Ballet Company‘s production of Handel’s Messiah at the Grand Theatre. We started the evening with a feast at Famous Dave’s; we pretty much stop here every time we’re in Tracy. Can’t say no to brisket. Then, we headed to the theater for the performance—and the army of cute ballerina sheep for sale in the lobby. Lindsey was gorgeous, as always!

5: There was no room at the inn—and there is barely enough room on our mantel for the nativity scene!  I love it, though.

6: Paul with our Christmas tree selection. We decided to not open it in the lot, so the shape was a surprise when we untied it at home. We chose pretty well!

7: I pulled together our Christmas newsletter in record time this year. It’s a great way to look back on the year and get it on record.

8: We’ve been in our condo for a few years now, but this Christmas was the first with a wreath on the door. My awesome dad helped us install a knob on the inside, where we can tie ribbon (the shape and size of our door didn’t play nicely with standard wreath hangers).

9–12: For the second year in a row, I hosted a Christmas Craft Party and Cookie Exchange. So much fun! I invited family and close friends, and asked them to bring four dozen of the same cookie. We gathered to work on various projects—from writing Christmas cards to knitting blanket gifts to grading end-of-the semester papers—while listening to holiday music. Then, we swapped cookies!  We each left with four of each kind in a keepsake container as well as a print-out of all the recipes from the night.  I brought my bounty to work the next day, and they were a hit!

13: Brett and Lindsey get silly at Sauced before the debut of Smuin’s Christmas Ballet in Livermore.

14: I totally snapped this photo of Smuin during their snow-fight at bows.  I figure it’s best to risk getting kicked out at the end of a performance…

15: Also new in Livermore this year: The Living Bethlehem. This production was pretty impressive, with hundreds of actors in costume, livestock, and architectural replicas. They have a few kicks to iron out for next year—like raising the stage for the nativity a good 10 feet (couldn’t see a thing)—but it seemed to be a success.

16: Winter means peppermint brownie cake pops at Starbucks. Mmmmm…

17: Sales reps Toni and Ali are festive in their reindeer antlers at the Diablo holiday party at Elevé.

18: The December issue exudes a wintery feel.

19: Diablo‘s annual Threads of Hope Awards returned to the Orinda Theatre. I love that they replace the movie poster displays with event-specific posters. So fun!

20: Saying goodbye to great interns is no fun. Mararons make it a little easier.

That’s it for this week!  Join in the fun by linking up your photos with Life Rearranged.



Mini Chocolate-Peppermint Sandwich Cookies

by LeeAnne on December 16, 2012

Whew! I’m recovering today from hosting my second annual Christmas Craft Party and Cookie Exchange. It was sooo much fun! About 15 ladies came over to work on their December projects, from writing Christmas cards, to sewing and crocheting Christmas presents, to grading school papers. We listened to holiday music, munched on snacks, and shared a lot of laughs. Then, we exchanged cookies! Each person explained their recipe (and any special story behind it) and then we filled up containers with four of each kind. I’ll post later with some photos from the party. In the meantime, here’s the recipe I used for my cookies, so you can make them—right now!

These sandwiches are super soft: The chocolate cookies are brownielike in texture, and the filling is a firmed up buttercream with a mild peppermint flavor. Crushed candy canes around the edges offer crunch and burst of flavor. (In my test batch, I also tried sprinkles, which were nice, and colored sugar, which made the cookies too sweet and overwhelmed the peppermint flavor. I found that crushed candy canes complemented the flavor really well and just looked gorgeous.)  While the cookies may seem giant in the photo above, they’re actually only about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Gotta at least try to keep decadence in check…  Here’s the recipe!

Mini Chocolate-Peppermint Sandwich Cookies

Cookie ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour, lightly spooned into measuring cups and leveled
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons regular (salted) butter
1 tablespoon water
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Filling ingredients:
1/2 cup regular butter (1 stick) at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
milk, as needed for consistency
Food coloring, sprinkles, or crushed candy canes (optional)

Cookie directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, and set aside. Melt chocolate chips, butter, brown sugar, and water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until smooth (sugar will still be grainy).  Transfer mixture to a large bowl and beat in egg. Gradually stir in flour mixture until just combined. Roll dough into 1/2 inch balls. (I used a small cookie scoop, and then divided that amount of dough in half.)  If dough is too soft/sticky to work with, let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to firm up. Bake until just puffed in the middle and edges are set but centers are still soft.  About 8 minutes for an insulated cookie sheet, less for standard. Let cool on baking sheets for several minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Cookies will flatten as they cool.  Yield: Roughly 64 cookies for making 32 sandwiches.

Filling directions:
Beat butter until smooth and creamy. Mix in peppermint extract. Gradually mix in powdered sugar, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add milk by the teaspoonful until a spreadable, but not too soft, consistency is reached.  Add food coloring if desired. Place mixture in a pastry bag—or zip-top bag with corner cut off—and pipe onto one side of cookie.  Gently place another cookie of a similar size on top.  Roll edges in sprinkles or crushed candy canes, if desired.

Adapted from here and here.


Hello, December

by LeeAnne on December 7, 2012


Wearing: Purple and white polka dot pajama pants and an old tee—my evening chillaxin ensemble. And NO socks, never socks alone on carpet. Shudder.

Watching: I caught up on Project Runway All Stars earlier this evening. I’m only watching two shows right now, which is nice (I stream Project Runway and Parenthood for free online).  I need to cut down on the evening Internet time, though.  All the hours I’ve saved ditching TV I’m beginning to put right back into another screen.

Drinking: Sparkling ICE in orange mango. Sooo good. Paul and I first stumbled across this brand during Livermore’s Chili Shooters Stampede. At the event, you get a commemorative shot glass, visit participating restaurants to fill your glass with chili (from brisket chili to veggie Mediterranean chili, and everything in between), and vote for your favorite. We got pretty thirsty and saw this flavored sparkling water for sale in a wine bar. Months later, we were happy to discover cases of it at Costco and stocked up.

Needing: A recipe for the cookie exchange I’m hosting a week from tomorrow.  I think I’m going to choose pumpkin molasses sandwich cookies with cream filling (swapping the cream cheese filling in the recipe—yuck—for a mildly sweet cream filling from Pioneer Woman).  Can’t wait for the test run this weekend!

Feeling: Sleepy. It’s been a long week. The Diablo team is shipping our January issue, and in the midst of it, I attended a day-long digital media conference in San Francisco, the company holiday party, and our Threads of Hope event.  With all the lost hours, I was getting in early most days to stay on schedule.  *Yawn.*

Digging: I’m a big fan of This American Life, but I particularly enjoyed the most recent episode, “Animal Sacrifice.”  I think I went through the entire spectrum of emotion in an hour!  It’s interesting, touching, disturbing, and hilarious.  If you don’t already listen to this show, I implore you to subscribe to the podcast via iTunes and check it out (older episodes can be streamed on demand through TAL‘s website).  I’m seeing Ira Glass speak in Berkeley in February, and I can’t wait!

Thanks to Tina at Life Love Paper for the Currents inspiration!


Autumn 2012 Mix Tape

by LeeAnne on December 5, 2012

Oops, almost forgot to post my playlist for the season!  I have to say, this is my favorite playlist of the year.  I’ve gone through it dozens of times and I’m not even close to being sick of it.  There have been some great new artists and new albums catching my attention in recent months, including dubstep violinist Lindsey Stirling’s full-length debut, trendy Icelandic imports Of Monsters and Men, and a crazy-good new album from an older favorite, Brandi Carlile.  I’m apparently obsessed with Jack White’s cover of “Love Is Blindness,” as it was also on my last mix (didn’t realize I’d repeated it until I was preparing this post, LOL).  Like “Love Is Blindness,” I was introduced to “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons via a movie trailer—this time, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  I’m currently on the hunt for a stand-alone download of the “One” cover by Damien Rice, used in the trailer for The Impossible.  My advice: keep your Shazam app at the ready during movie previews!  ;)  But let’s get to the list: Here are the songs currently in heavy rotation on my iPod, whether new, new-to-me, or old favorites that I’ve come back to for one reason or another. Click the iTunes links to preview.  And, enjoy!

1. Too Close – Alex Clare (iTunes)
2. Moon Trance – Lindsey Stirling (iTunes)
3. Brotsjór – Ólafur Arnalds (iTunes)
4. Burn It Down – Linkin Park (iTunes)
5. Follow Me – Muse (iTunes)
6. Love Is Blindness – Jack White (iTunes)
7. Kiss With a Fist – Florence + the Machine (iTunes)
8. Now Is the Start –  A Fine Frenzy (iTunes)
9. Closer – Tegan and Sara (iTunes)
10. All the Rowboats – Regina Spektor (iTunes)
11. Lily Love – The Chieftains & The Civil Wars (iTunes)
12. Hard Way Home – Brandi Carlile (iTunes)
13. Lakehouse – Of Monsters and Men (iTunes)
14. Be Here Now – Ray LaMontagne (iTunes)
15. Turning Page – Sleeping At Last (iTunes)
16. Stay – Sara Bareilles (iTunes)
17. Great Day – Paul McCartney (iTunes)
18. It’s Time – Imagine Dragons (iTunes)
19. Some Nights – Fun (iTunes)

To check out past mix tapes, go here, here, and here.