Friday, February 27, 2015

Give Thanks Friday

Another week is coming to a close so it's time to sit back and count my blessings from this week! This has actually been a really wonderful week (despite all the snow.. but I can't complain because we definitely need the moisture and we still haven't gotten anything like they're getting on the east coast) and I'm looking forward to beginning my birthday month on Sunday!

Again, if you're needing to put things into perspective or are looking for a little end of the week pick-me-up, I encourage you to sit down and jot down your biggest blessings from the week--we all have so much to be thankful for!

1.) Last Saturday, my guys and I spent the entire day thrifting around north Denver and it. was. perfection! We had a nice Burger Saturday lunch at Rock Bottom Brewery (their bourbonzola burger is kinda my jam), thrifted our little hearts out, and then miraculously made it home during the huge blizzard. It was such a fun day (despite almost being sideswiped by idiots who can't drive in the snow) and I can't wait to have more family weekends like it!

2.) I'm thankful to live in such an awesome city with so many hands on things to do with our son! We're used to going to the park every day but since it's been so cold and snowy, we haven't been able to--that being said, we've been taking full advantage of our (amazing) nearby library and toddler gym! Gotta wear out an active boy somehow!

3.) For Valentine's Day, Brandon gifted me a mother's necklace and it finally came in on Monday and I absolutely LOVE it--for now, the middle stone is my birthstone and the two outside ones are Jackson's. It's so beautiful and I haven't taken it off since the UPS guy dropped it off. 

4.) The best part of snowy weather? Lots and lots of baking/cooking (including this banana bread)!

5.) I'm thankful this week for new friends! Brandon and I have gone to dinner with one of his supervisors and his wife a few times now and have had a wonderful time! Last Sunday, we even had them over to watch the Oscars (have I ever mentioned that I'm an Oscars freak and make everyone fill out ballots?)! Speaking of Oscars, Brandon and I tied in our ballots this year which was really, really disappointing to me so we owed each other a back rub. 
Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Shrimp & Tortellini with Tomatoes & Mozzarella

Last Friday was the first Friday of Lent and I had the urge to do something a little different than our regular fish sticks and mac & cheese. When I found this recipe from Taste of Home, I knew it was the perfect recipe and (with a few Sandmeier family approved modifications) it was!

Enjoy this rich, creamy, and flavorful dish this Friday night and beyond!

Adapted from Taste of Home
  • 1 package (9 ounces) refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 1 pound peeled, deveined & uncooked medium shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cans basil, garlic, & oregano flavored diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup half & half cream
  • 1 teaspoon oregano 
  1. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Meanwhile, cook shrimp in oil until shrimp turn pink. Stir in the remaining ingredients (minus the tortellini and mozzarella), reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Drain tortellini; stir into shrimp mixture, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over top. 
 Both Brandon and Jackson loved the taste of the dish and even ate all of their tomatoes (which is a big deal, ha)!! It's definitely a crowd pleasing dish that I plan to make again and again. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

{this moment}

I found the prompt for this post on one of my favorite blogs (Little Miss Momma) and thought I'd give it a go!

{this moment} – A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
inspired by SouleMama  

Monday, February 23, 2015

Jackson's 14 Month Update

Our little Fun Sized Brandon is now 14 months old and manages to get cuter, smarter, and ornerier (in a good way.. if that makes sense) every day! We're still waiting for him to start walking but I have a feeling it will happen any day now.. somebody please slow down the time!

Here's what our month looked like:
There's a story to go with this picture.. Yesterday Jax supervised while I made a few pre-made Pillsbury chocolate chip cookies (he was teething hardcore and I felt bad)--anyway, he stood on the step stool while I cut the dough and put it on the baking tray. At one point I was talking to Brandon and wasn't paying super close attention to the dough or to Jax and noticed one of the raw cookies was missing--Jax had snatched it up and stuffed it in his mouth while I wasn't looking (I was panicked that he'd wind up with salmonella but that fortunately didn't happen)! Then after the cookies were finished, Brandon watched Jax sneak off to the kitchen, move the step stool next to the window so he could see outside, notice the cookies, crawl back down, move the step stool next to the oven, and then climb up to steal another cookie. Do you see now why his nickname is Stinker??
Weight: 19.5 lbs. (taken on bathroom scale)

Length: 30 inches

Nicknames: Jax, Jacksie Boy, Stinks, Bubby, Baby

Wearing: 12 & 18 month clothes (18 month shirts fit pretty well but the pants are still way too long); Size 3 diapers

Sleep: He'll typically sleeps 3-4 hour stretches before waking us up to be reassured and nursed.. I'm hoping to have him completely weaned in the next two weeks. We usually bring him into bed with us at around 6 and he'll sleep another couple of hours.

Jax likes: His kitty, playing outside, going for walks, anything electronic, Elmo, crafts, playing with friends, showing off, riding in the big part of the grocery cart, pushing around his little shopping cart, snuggling, Facetime, going up and down the stairs, jabbering/answering questions, balloons, people watching, Costco, slides, markers, stickers, and doing the hand motions to songs (Itsy Bitsy Spider, Patty Cake, and If You're Happy & You Know It)

Jax dislikes: Having to sit still for too long, long car rides, sitting in the front part of the grocery cart, diaper changes/getting dressed, when mommy & daddy left him overnight (yep, kids gotta be weaned), having to wait for samples at Costco, and being told no

Food: Favorites are still Greek yogurt, tomatoes, chicken, oatmeal, Belvita Breakfast Biscuits, peanut butter, fries, dip of any kind, veggie straws, snap pea crisps, cheese, and anything sweet.. we're still working on overcoming this (hopefully) phase of picky eating.

Teeth: 4 teeth on bottom, 3 on top, and one about to pop through any day!

Happenings: Family day at the World of Wonder Museum; adopting Bella; lots of park days; first Heritage dinner; Grammy's birthday; lots of playing at the library; MOPS; dinner with Aunt Millie; staying with Grammy & Grandpa when mommy & daddy went to Vegas; second Valentines day; second Ash Wednesday/Lent; visits to Grammy & Grandpas; and several snow days. 

~I'm pretty sure that adopting Bella is one of the best decisions we've ever made! She and Jax absolutely LOVE each other and chase each other around the house and play together. Jackson loves his kitty and we couldn't have found a better one for him!

~Jackson is obsessed with commercials and it is hilarious! He will play during the show and then stop whatever he's doing and speed crawl into the room as soon as he hears a commercial. His favorites are the ones for Hep C, Quicken Loans HARP, and any type of term life insurance.

~Jax is getting to be quite the little helper and enjoys helping mommy clean and do laundry! He also likes helping dad fix and build things (he's always right by his side mimicking whatever Brandon does)! Speaking of mimicking..

..remember last month when I first mentioned his fake smile (that I'm pretty sure he picked up from me)? Well, the other day he was jabbering while we played and I kept asking him to say mamma and he'd respond "Dada?" No.. Mamma. After awhile, he started doing his fake smile and was saying "Dadadadadadadada" as if he was mocking me. Again, do you see why we call him stinker??

~Jackson has started to clasp his hands when we pray before each meal and it is quite possibly the cutest thing ever! Also new this month: Jax is fascinated by family pictures of any kind and likes to point at photos in books and on our gallery walls and have you tell him who everyone is (his favorite is our patriotic wall downstairs--we have service pictures of my Great-Grandpa, Grandpas, one of Brandon's Grandpa, and then one of Brandon. When we get to Brandon's picture, Jax gets the biggest smile and says "Dada!"). 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Give Thanks Friday

If you've been visiting my little corner of the Internet for awhile, you may remember the "Give Thanks Friday" posts I'd do every week (before the Friday Funnies, which I also no longer do.. I need to learn to stick to one thing!). Well, I've decided to bring it back during this Lenten season to help me put things into perspective and to encourage myself to always count my blessings. If you're looking for a little pick-me-up, I encourage you to join me!
Here are 5 things from this week that I am most thankful for:
1.) Since Jackson is sleeping in his crib now, Brandon and I have been going to bed earlier each night and watching a movie & Fallon before going to sleep -- it's a fun way to unwind after a long day and it gives us a chance to just relax, cuddle, and talk. Anyway, our TV was starting to go out and completely died after a few days (which is NOT good when your addicted to "The Tonight Show").. instead of having to go out and fork over a few hundred bucks for a new TV, my genius of a husband figured out how to solder the board and fix it! I'm extremely thankful for my smart and resourceful hubby!
2.) Brandon had Monday off from work and we enjoyed a fun day together as a family! Since it had snowed, we bundled Jax up in his little snowsuit, hat, and gloves and built a snowman, threw snowballs, and just played around in the snow--even Bella got in on the action and (cautiously) walked along the sidewalk while we played. 
3.) Sticking with weather, I'm very grateful for the (mostly) beautiful spring weather we've been enjoying in CO! Jackson and I go for walks, play in the backyard, and venture over to the park almost every afternoon which has been heavenly! I'm so looking forward to this spring and summer with my little nature boy.
4.) I'm so excited that Brandon and I are able to travel quite a bit this year! We just returned home from Vegas and are now getting ready to attend a friend's wedding in Kansas City in a few weeks. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that we'll get to take another baby less trip (it depends on whether or not Jacksie Boy is weaned by then) but if we don't, it'll still be a blast!*
5.) I'm so excited that Jax will get to grow up visiting grandparents in the country! My parents live just outside of town on 35 acres and have a beautiful back patio and neighbors with horses; Brandon's mom & stepdad have a farm with lots of animals and beautiful acreage; and Brandon's dad and stepmom live outside of Knoxville in a beautiful country club area with lots of trees and lush land.. I'm looking forward to Jackson making lots of fun memories at all of their homes!
This is only a few things I'm thankful for and now it's your turn! Tell me what you're most thankful for.
*Albeit a bit more stressful (with extra packing, flying with baby, etc.) and expensive.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lenten Reflections

I cannot believe that today is Ash Wednesday!

Can 2015 please slow down just a hair??

Actually, I love Ash Wednesday and the entire Lenten season--it's such a peaceful and joyous time in the Catholic Church (and Christian faith in general) and always leaves my soul feeling renewed and inspired. However, it hasn't always been that way for me and I would give things up for Lent for all the wrong reasons.

In 8th grade, I gave up junk food and pop so I could fit into my cotillion dress.

My senior year of high school, I started running a few times a week so I would look better in my prom dress.

My junior year of college, I gave up drinking on weekdays and cursing (partly for God; partly to break bad habits).

Do you see a pattern here?

How was losing weight so I'd look better in a dress giving glory to God (the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit)? How was being selfish and binge drinking on Sundays really turning away from sin? In short: It wasn't and it was actually driving my heart into a darker place.

During college, I wasn't going to church and probably wasn't making the greatest decisions (I could write it off as being a college student trying to find myself but I'm not going to make excuses). I have always believed in God and have always prayed but was I showing God to those I encountered? Was I being the best Christian I could be?


A few years ago, it finally "clicked" with me; I needed to be a better person and better Catholic. For Lent that year, I picked up my Bible (for the first time in who knows how long) and read a different excerpt each night before bed--I was finished giving up silly things for Lent that weren't bringing me closer to God. Do you want to know something? That was by far the most spiritually fulfilling Lent I had ever experienced.
Last year, I downloaded the Laudate app on my iPhone and dove into the daily scriptures and reflections each night before bed. I also read Fr. Robert Barron's Lenten Reflections every day during Jax's nap and learned so much! And although I vowed to no longer give things up for Lent, I gave up sweets (I have literally no willpower when it comes to sugar) and talked to God every time I had a sugar craving.

I'm looking forward to the start of another Lent and am excited to get closer to God by once again reading from Laudate each night before bed, following along with Fr. Barron's daily reflections, participating in the Love Dare (to help strengthen our sacrament of Matrimony), reading from The American Catholic Almanac (review coming soon), and by once again starting my "Thankful Friday" post here on the blog (I find that reflecting on and writing out all of my greatest blessings helps me to appreciate them even more).

I'm so excited to begin this Holy season of Lent and pray that you all have a blessed 40 days and 40 nights.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

V-Day with the S-meiers

Is it just me or do holidays get to be more fun when you have kids?

I've never been a huge fan of Valentines (it's up there with Halloween) but since having Jax, I've been wanting to start fun Valentine traditions complete with decor, treats, and lots of love.

This year did not disappoint!

We started our Valentine weekend on Thursday with the 2nd annual tagging of Brandon's car--last year, tiny 2 month old Jax and I drove over to Brandon's work, found his car, and surprised him by hiding balloons, snacks, and love notes inside. This year, we did the same (only it wasn't really a surprise since I couldn't find his car anywhere and finally had to call to ask him where he parked, ha).

Surprise or not, we had a lot of fun picking out snacks, balloons, and decorated cards to give Brandon!
Gifts for my guys: Brandon gets the snacks, Jax gets the balloons.
On Friday evening, Jax & I ran over to Krispy Kreme to pick up breakfast, Brandon & I exchanged gifts (he gave me a beautiful mothers necklace and I gave him a nice frame to display his poker chips in), and then Brandon made a midnight run to Walmart to pick up some Children's Benadryl to give to our poor, congested allergy boy. Luckily, Jax was doing better by Saturday morning and we spent the day eating donuts, cleaning out & organizing the garage, attending church, visiting my brother at work, Facetiming with Brandon's dad & step-mom in Tennessee, pigging out on calzones & cheese fries, and laying in bed watching SNL. 
Can we start every Saturday like this?
Headed to church with Full & Fun Sized Brandon (Jax and I had to wear red!)

It was truly a perfect day and reminded me that I am so blessed to be living this life with my two guys (and kitty). I can't wait until next Valentine's when Jax is a little bit older and can get into the festivities a bit more..

..actually, I take that back! The time goes by too quickly as it is so I can wait until next year.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cookie S'Mores

Okay gang, I'm mixing it up a bit today!!

I typically try to keep my recipe posts to Wednesdays (whenever I do have a recipe post!) but am posting it today because I have a special kick off to Lent that I'll be sharing instead on Wednesday..

..which means you can enjoy these amazing Cookie S'mores from my girl Ruthie a few days early! You're very welcome!

You can find the full recipe on Ruthie's blog -- Jackson and I made some on Friday and they were fabulously crunchy, decadent, and chocolatey. In addition to the chocolate chips and marshmallows, I also added toffee bits and highly recommend it. 

Since tomorrow is Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras, I highly recommend you make and eat a ton of these. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

B&A's BA Vegas Trip

What a week!! My teething toddler is taking an evening nap and I am finally able to sit down at my computer to catch up on work and blog.. it feels good to be back!

Brandon and I had an absolutely fabulous time in Las Vegas! We left early Saturday morning (we left for the airport a little before 6 for an 8am flight) and returned late Sunday night (our flight left at around 9pm and we didn't get home until 12:30.. waaaaay too late!) to an overly tired baby and Grammy.. more on that in a sec.

In the meantime, here's a few pictures and stories:
First night away from Jackson=extremely detailed notes for Grammy & Grandpa
Brandon and I both had a few leftover Starbucks gift cards from Christmas and decided to get our fix before leaving Denver--it turns out there is only one Starbucks at DIA and that it is hiding in the far corner of some obscure terminal. We had to hustle to get our fix but it was totally worth it (hence the Snap caption)!
Since we landed in Vegas a little before 9am (and because we couldn't check into our room until 3pm), we decided to check our bag in with the bellhop and do a little gambling. We figured that since Ellen seems like such a kind and generous person that I'd have tons of luck on her slot machine. Nope.. Ellen stole my money within seconds! Brandon was the big winner of the trip and won a whopping $10 on a penny slot (we maybe bet a total of $6 altogether.. we're very cheap, ha)!
We scored a sweet 2 for 1 Groupon to Pampas Brazilian Grille at Planet Hollywood -- it was amazing!! We ate our weight in delicious meats, salads, sides, and sipped on refreshing mojitos. Yum!
"Let's hold hands and act like we're really in love!"
"Why are my eyes closed?"
Typical Brandon & Annie..

After walking half the strip, eating too much food, and drinking too many beers, we decided to head to our room to take a nap (side note: definitely do the pre check in wherever you're staying--it's free and they'll give you your room keys ahead of time and text you your room number when it's ready! Super convenient and helps you skip the long check in line). We stayed at the Luxor because we're cheap and heard the slanted elevators were an experience all of their own.
View from our room -- it was definitely a great value (and overall a clean room) but both Brandon and I decided that we'd rather splurge a bit more next time and stay at a hotel that's a bit more central.
Headed to MGM for our show!
When Brandon and I got engaged, we started the tradition of seeing a Cirque du Soleil show whenever we vacationed--this time, we saw Ka and agreed that it was by far the best Cirque that we've seen. If you're looking to see a show while you're in Vegas, we highly, highly recommend it!
After Ka, we did a little bit of shopping and decided to grab a cab to take us to Fremont Street (mistake #1). $30 later, we arrived to an overly crowded, loud, and extremely raunchy Fremont (it makes the Strip look like Disney World in terms of family friendliness). We were both so exhausted from not sleeping much the night before, day drinking, and walking that we quickly made our rounds up the street, ordered some food at a diner, and hailed a cab to take us back. Another $30 later (yes--we're the idiots who took a taxi instead of the shuttle..), we were back at the Luxor. The rest of the night was spent staring at the TV and not moving. #wecanthang
After a wonderful night of uninterrupted sleep, we decided to take in the buffet at Excalibur and once again eat our weight in (this time) delicious brunch foods. You guys: The Buffet at Excalibur is the best! $20 per person got us all kinds of delicious foods, desserts, coffee, and mimosas--the staff was also extremely friendly which is always a plus. We will return!
Yummy (and I'm not just talking about the food.. *awkward Annie wink*)
Double fisting it!
The rest of our day was spent going up and down the strip, a bit more gambling, and stopping by Harrah's so I could get this picture. Why did I have to have this picture, you ask?
This is why! My aunt and I took a picture with this statue when we went to Vegas for my 21st birthday and it's become somewhat of a tradition (also, can you spot the baby bump in that last picture?)! Also, can we talk about how much more conservatively I dress these days? Ha.
We ended up arriving at the airport 3 hours before our flight (our feet hurt soooooo badly from all the walking) and enjoyed just sitting, people watching, and playing Trivia Crack back and forth on our phones. Our flight ended up being delayed -- of course -- so we arrived home even later than we'd anticipated but were glad to be back! 

Since our flight was getting in so late, my dad had to go home earlier in the evening (for work the next day) so my mom watched Jax by herself. Poor teething boy (and poor grandparents) had a rough time.. we left before he woke up on Saturday morning so he was pretty confused but did well during the day. 

Nighttime was a different story..

My parents had a hard time getting him to go to sleep and my dad ended up driving around with him most of the night (Yes; I do have the best parents ever). My mom was miraculously able to get him to sleep in his crib on Sunday night and got a little rest herself while she waited for us to arrive. Jax ended up waking up at around 1:30am so my mom, Brandon, and I all went up to see him and he clung to me like barnacles on a boat--that kid was ready to nurse (as was I)!

Since we've returned, Jax has had a hard time sleeping in his crib (probably because he thinks we're going to up and leave again) but is getting better. We have a friend's wedding next month that we were hoping to attend without Jax but it sounds like he might be coming with us after all--and that's okay!

Baby steps, right? 

Overall, Brandon and I had a wonderful vacation! It was so nice to get away for a night as husband and wife and not worry about waking up for the baby, cutting up food into tiny pieces, changing diapers, etc. (though I must say I did still miss it and we talked a lot about our little munchkin on the trip). 

I can't wait for our next vacation!

Though I'm thinking next time we'll go somewhere where we can just lay on a beach and not walk.. at all.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

{this moment}

I found the prompt for this post on one of my favorite blogs (Little Miss Momma) and thought I'd give it a go!

{this moment} – A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

inspired by SouleMama 

Monday, February 9, 2015

How to Entertain a One-Year-Old

As I've said before, the laid back days of having a newborn are long gone.. in fact, we're now in full blown toddler mode! Jackson is definitely his own little person with lots of personality and opinions and I want to make sure he keeps learning, engaging, and growing. With that being said, I've tried to find different hands on activities for him to do that build his motor skills and keep him busy (this kid will not sit down to watch a movie which is both a blessing and a curse).

Here are a few of the different activities/crafts we've tried so far:

The Homemade Ball Pit

One of my friends gave me this idea.. I bought a 150 count bag of ball pit balls and poured them into his pack and play--he had a blast sifting through them but was more interested in putting them back into the bag (pictured). This little activity has gifted us with hours of entertainment and I plan to continue using the balls for future activities (like learning and sorting colors)!


I never knew that a one-year-old could grasp the concept of stickers until we went to dinner at a place that had them on the kids menu--Jax was hooked! I thought he'd be too young to really get it but he's been stickin' away! We're currently decorating Valentines for family which has been fun for both of us--he loves choosing which sticker to use, putting it on the card, and then scribbling around them with his (washable) markers.

Edible Play-Doh

I made this edible peanut butter play-doh and gave Jax a few cookie cutters, plastic utensils, and bowl of sprinkles and let him go to town! He was a lot more interested in the sprinkles than he was the play-doh (for the record, the dough tastes amazing) but it was a fun thing to do on a snowy Colorado day.

2-Ingredient Play-Doh

Who would have thought that mixing conditioner and corn starch could make such an interesting toy? This was another snow day activity that we did (recipe here) and it was a hit! This was much tackier and easier to mold than the PB dough and Jax seemed to like playing with it more.

Sift & Find Bottle

Our local library has a little shelf with "I-Spy" books with these bottles and I thought they were the coolest thing ever! To make ours, I used an empty water bottle, about 1 1/2 cups of rice, and little knick knacky things I found in my office (giant paper clip, clothes pin, cotton ball, etc.) and let Jax shake the bottle around to find the different treasures. He may still be a little young for it but he seems to be understanding it a bit more each day.

These are a few of Jackson's and my favorite things to do when we're home (other favorites include building blocks, Little People play sets, chasing the cat, and crawling through tunnels). What types of hands on activities do your toddlers enjoy?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Guess Which Old Time Celebrity Jax Looks Like

Have I ever talked about how I plan to make a book out of all my blog posts to one day give to Jackson? It's one of my biggest reasons for blogging--so I'll always remember all the milestones, vacations, and little details. Well, today's post is none of the above and I'm sure Jax will one day read this and roll his eyes.

Sorry future Jax.

Anyway, I'm a total shutterbug when it comes to my little guy and sometimes I notice him resembling other people (namely old time celebrities). Today I am sharing one of these pictures with you and letting you guess which old celeb Jax looks like.


Rockies Game -- May 2014

Which old time celebrity does Jackson look like?

Any guesses?

Here's your clue:

That's right; my (then) 5-month-old looks like the late, great Tony Randall!

Sorry, Future Jax..
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