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Cheers to a fun and picture-worthy 2013! May 2014 be filled with people you love and unimaginable adventures!

Happy New Year! xxo!

PS I posted a similar (shorter) video on Instagram a few days ago…maybe you saw it there; if not, follow me over there!: stephaniebrowngoat.

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We have had so much fun celebrating you as you turned FOUR!

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Not surprisingly, you awoke early with anticipation and excitement on your birthday morning and were surprised to see a pile of presents awaiting you on the table! Just as a sign of you getting bigger, we have you your first snowboard for your birthday! I’m so excited to watch you snowboard this winter with Dada! After opening the gifts, we celebrated with sprinkle pancakes and blew out your first birthday candle.

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I was lucky enough to have the day of your birthday off of work, so I had a special lunch with you at school and then we shared your birth story and pictures of your life with your friends at circle. You got to walk around the circle with a globe while friends said “The earth moves around the sun…12 months…52 weeks…365 days. That makes one whole year.” It was quite wonderful to see how much enthusiasm your friends had in celebrating you! On your birthday night, we went to one of your favorite restaurants for dinner, Phinney Market, and you chose creme brûlée for our special dessert.

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Then, we had a birthday party! You invited 9 friends to our house to watch Monsters Inc. and to eat pizza and cups of dirt. It made my heart happy watching you have such a fun time!

Oh, little man…where to begin? You are FOUR! Such a big boy now. Yet, in so many ways, your personality has stayed true to its younger self. You are quite opinionated and extremely passionate about your wants and needs. You never have trouble telling us when you don’t agree with what’s happening by saying (emphatically), “that’s NOT a good idea!” And, sometimes, during these emphatically passionate moments, you hurt my feelings and I have to take a million deep breaths and remember that in a few minutes you will be giving me your sweet kisses and rubbing my face in that way that only you do.

You love watching movies and looking at pictures of movie characters on our iPads. Our new bedtime routine involves watching two short movie clips or looking at pictures and then snuggling you and rubbing your back. You like to say, “come cuddle me,” which melts my heart.

You continue to love stories and I think you might be just as good as mama and daddy at telling them. You pace (or run) back and forth across the floor talking just as fast as your mouth will allow you to, letting your imagination run wild.

Some of the great things you say:
Do you want to see how high I can jump?

Did I like to do that when I was a little baby?

Just one more. No, mama, just one. Please, just one. You’re not listening to me!

For real life.

Hunting is bad, right? They kill animals, so hunters are bad guys.

What the heck?

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Poppins Mary (for Mary Poppins)

Can we go look for some jewels?

I wish I could go in the sewer.

Oh, lord Jesus, there’s a fiare. (fire)

When we have a baby, I will give her a bath and feed her in the middle of the night. And, when she grows up to be a big girl, I’ll help coach her baseball team with you and Daddy.

Mama, I have to tell you something. (Then a shared whisper)

Regaly (regularly)

Chempicals (chemicals)

Let’s hide from Dada.

I’m continuing the tradition I started last year by asking you this set of questions on your birthday…it was surprising to see the similarities in some of the answers one year later!

1. What is your favorite color? Green
2. What is your favorite toy? Sully and Mike from Monsters Inc.
3. What is your favorite fruit? Apples
4. What is your favorite thing to watch on TV? Beauty and the Beast and Monsters Inc.
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Salami
6. What is your favorite thing to wear? Mike (Monsters Inc) clothes (He has this on his wish list for Christmas)
7. What is your favorite game? Puzzles
8. What is your favorite snack? Cherries
9. What is your favorite animal? Giraffes
10. What is your favorite song? Beauty and the Beast soundtrack
11. What is your favorite book? Lorax
12. Who is your best friend? Preston and Hanna
13. What is your favorite cereal? Gorilla Munch
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? play on the playground
15. What is your favorite drink? Apple cider
16. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Dinosaurs
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Pancakes
19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? Oranges
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? Superman!

Past year’s birthday posts…look at how Jack has changed!
one!
two! and more two!
three! more three!

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I know that January 1st is but an arbitrary mark of time, but each year, I look forward to the promise of something new. For the excuse to take time to tidy up my life and to start off fresh.

I love the exercise of starting off the new year by reflecting on the year past and making goals for the full year of days to come. As I sit in a quiet living room at 10am on New Year’s Day while both of my boys are still slumbering in their beds after a lovely and intimate New Year’s Eve celebration with some dear friends, I find comfort and hope in the reflection and planning.
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Please allow me to share with you some memories that shaped last year for us as well as my goals for the year that is already starting to unfold.

2011 was filled with ups and downs for our family-
My dad had open heart surgery in February followed by a complicated hospital stay due to Heparin-Induced Thrombocytopenia.
In March, medical school Match Day found us holding the letter revealing that David got his first choice of residencies…we were moving to Seattle!
In April, David ran the Boston Marathon! and I learned of my diagnosis after my first of what is sure to be so many MRIs.
We endured a messy and grueling move from our Atlanta home of four years in May…I hope we don’t need to move again for a long while…whew! Our move was followed by a wonderfully long visit in Pensacola with family that extended into early June.
June was a month of the old and comfortable and the new and unknown…we went to our 10 year Davidson College reunion and then a few days later, landed in Seattle to start a new chapter of our lives. Shortly after our move, David started his internship year of surgery- grueling hours and lots and lots of hard work.
We visited Oregon for the first time in July…a true perk to being in the Pacific Northwest are all the new destinations waiting for us to explore!
I started my new job in August and I am so, so happy in my new position as an outpatient dietitian!
We lost Granny in early September and I still fell like I’m trying to wrap my head around the immense loss.
In October, we made our first visit to California. California, we love you and promise to be back soon!
David’s sister moved to Washington in November along with her charming boyfriend and we are so, so glad to have family close by again!
And, December felt like a month long holiday celebration with family visits, time away in Easton, and festive gatherings that made us merry and our lives brighter.

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Our goals for 2012 include:
starting my treatment regimen
writing more- both here and for magazines
finishing up David’s surgery intern year and starting radiology!
teaching Jack how to use the potty
transitioning Jack from his crib to his big boy bed
running another half-marathon
allowing ourselves to just. be. happy. It appears that we- Americans- tend to see happiness as a sign of laziness or as a fleeting moment that ends while we are busy moving to the next item on our invisible to-do lists. Well, I don’t know about you, but I like to be happy. I plan to make searching and holding onto happiness one of my most important goals this year.
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Happy New Year to all of you! I hope your year is full of peace, hope, love, and good health.
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*top and bottom photos were taken on January 1st at Kerry Park viewpoint in one of our most favorite areas of Seattle. I would like to point out that the day was warm (57 degrees), sunny and clear- see the view of the Space Needle and Mt. Rainier??!

**other photos from our New Year’s Eve celebration…note the 3 drinks in front of David! We rang in the New Year with the Central Time Zone by banging pots and pans with wooden spoons on our deck.

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Last year, we started a new holiday tradition, a Beer and Apps Dinner with my mom, dad, and sister. As I was dreaming it up, I loved the idea of spending a festive night at home with our nuclear family (we typically celebrate Christmas with 30-40 boisterous family members so a night for “just us” seemed magical) sharing good food, tastes of new beers, and lots of laughs. Two nights before Christmas, we cooked, poured beers, and created lots of merriment. My hope in making it a regular thing came true, at least for one more year! We did our annual Beer and Apps night a bit earlier this go round since David, Jack, and I are staying out here for Christmas, but it was just as much fun and equally yummy!

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These are this year’s beer entries arranged in order of the group’s taste preference. This year’s winner: Pike’s Auld Acquaintance Holiday Ale brewed right here in Seattle! It has a nice toasty amber color and tasted of citrus with subtle holiday spices. (A note, mostly for the participants, last year we choose: Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock as our winner.)

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My parents made a deliciously spicy baked Brie from Sunset Magazine. They seasoned a wedge of Brie with cumin seeds, cayenne pepper, rosemary, and cracked pepper and baked it until it was oozing. We scooped it up with a warm baguette.

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Jack really got into the toasting and loved that our volume of “Cheers!” rose with our beer tastes!

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Auntie Jessica egged him on, of course, and they had a bit of a “Cheers!” screaming match, which was actually really funny! It turns out, you can scream louder when your mouth is open wide!
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David and I made a yummy cheese dip that I saw in the NY Times, we of, course, adapted if to make it our own:
Queso Fundido With Chorizo, Jalapeño and Cilantro

7 ounces dried chorizo, diced small
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound Monterey Jack cheese, grated
Tortilla chips
Lime wedges

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring, until browned, about 8 minutes.
In a medium bowl, mix the jalapeño, scallions, and salt. Add the cheese and toss well.
Heat the broiler. Combine the chorizo and cheese mixture and pour into individual ramekins. Broil until melted and bubbling, about 4 to 5 minutes. Serve with the chips and lime wedges on the side.
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It was good, although we had trouble keeping the cheese oozy and dip-able. Still, it had excellent flavor…and Jack was able to indulge in one of his favorite pastimes- eating sour limes!
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I think it is safe to say that by now, you know my love for traditions! I love these new holiday traditions that we are creating for ourselves as well as the ones we cling to year after year- drinking egg nog, watching our stack of holiday movies, listening to Christmas music, eating sweets DAILY, opening new pajamas on Christmas Eve.

And, a new tradition for our immediate family that is of the upmost most importance to us- our present rule:
For all the years to come, we plan to give each other-
something you want,
something you need,
one little something,
and something to read!
Stockings fall outside of the rule and are free to have fun with. I just love the way this rule helps to keep us centered on the pure and meaningful, while allowing us to let go of the frivolous and unnecessary.
Again, Merry Christmas to all of you! I hope you and yours have a peaceful season full of the things that matter most. xxo

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We hosted our first Seattle dinner party! And, it was wonderfully fabulous. Christa and I found inspiration for our dinner in the June issue of Real Simple in a spread featuring dinner party menus that used grilling as the main cooking technique. This made me super excited because this summer we got a brand new, shiny blue Weber grill from my parents that we are always ready to use (thank you, mom and dad!). We decided to borrow dishes from the veggie and surf menus in Real Simple to create our own tasty and fun summer meal.

To start, we grilled a few pitas and a block of feta cheese seasoned with sundried tomatoes, basil, and garlic. I found the cheese at our farmers market and it’s from Mt Townsend Creamery. We drizzled the feta with olive oil and wrapped it loosely in foil. After about 20 minutes of grilling, the cheese was creamy and delicious served with charred pita pieces.

We wanted the main dish to be inspired by our new northwest home, so we chose to grill wild caught salmon from Loki Fish Company, a company that also sells at our weekly farmers market. The color of the fish was enough to stop you in your tracks, but the taste was perfectly unforgettable. I’ve really never had salmon that tasted quite like it…is was oh SO good.

Grilled salmon with fennel and lemon:

Heat charcoal in the grill. In a medium bowl, toss 1 fennel bulb (very thinly sliced) with 1 lemon (also very thinly sliced) with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place the salmon directly on the grill, skin side down, and season with 1½ teaspoons kosher salt and ½ teaspoon pepper, and top with the sliced lemon and fennel mixture.
Cover the grill and cook until the fish is cooked through, about 30 minutes.

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Jack loved being near the grill and is fixated on pointing at it and saying “hot!”. However, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know what this hot concept means since he threatens to go to close every time!
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Christa brought a wild rice and pine nut salad and a green salad with radishes and snow peas. Both were delicious and refreshing served next to the warm dishes.

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We served the food with a local dry riesling which paired perfectly. It was an amazing dinner shared with wonderful friends. I just love a good dinner party, don’t you? Cheers!

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We spent the long holiday weekend in Bend, Oregon with many friends, old and new. It was such a great time…the perfect mix of baby-centered fun, adult friend good times, and quiet down time amidst the spectacular scenery that IS Bend. Here are a few of my favorite camera-captured moments of the weekend, I wish we could blink and be right back:

We made a family stop in Portland en route and had a picnic lunch and playground time in the Pearl District.

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Bend has a wonderful park with a path along the Deschutes River…we had fun exploring it!

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Our sweet babes (and the future power couple!):

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Some fourth of July hanging out and goodbye time before we had to hit the road back to Seattle:

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Thank you, Christa and Nash for opening the doors of your vacation home to us!

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